Tom Petty: New Single The Sublime “You Saw Me Coming” From The “Upcoming” ‘Finding Wildflowers’

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As long time readers of B&V know, I am a huge fan of Tom Petty and his Heartbreakers. I’m not sure any of his true fans are really over his sudden, tragic passing (RIP Tom Petty, 1950 – 2017, A Devastating Loss: The Composer of the Soundtrack to My Life Is Gone). Heaven knows, I’m not over it. And, as many of you know, all of us down here at B&V were anxiously awaiting for the Petty camp, his daughter and the band, to release the expanded version of Wildflowers, (Tom Petty: ‘Wildflowers & All The Rest – Deluxe Edition (4 CDs)’ – A Petty Masterpiece Lovingly Revisited). The box set, for a time anyway, became my “White Whale” as it seemed like I’d never get my hands on it…

As early as its November 1994 release, Petty had made comments in the press that he had originally intended Wildflowers to be a double album. His first marriage was crumbling and there had been conflict between Petty and some of the members of the band (notably drummer Stan Lynch but also bassist Howie Epstein) over Petty’s decision to “go solo” in recording Full Moon Fever. All of that turmoil led to a creative tsunami for Petty. He holed up in a studio with producer Rick Rubin and guitarist Mike Campbell with Benmont Tench close by and recorded what could arguably be called his greatest album. From quiet acoustic tracks like the title track to explosive rockers like “You Wreck Me” it covers the Petty waterfront. It is probably my favorite Petty album in a career chock full of great albums.

As the Heartbreakers neared their 40th anniversary, Petty began to talk more and more about how he wanted to revisit and release all the material from Wildflowers in its original double-LP configuration. I heard an interview during the 40th anniversary tour, which I was lucky enough to see (Concert Review: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Kansas City, 6/2/2017), and he mentioned it even then. I could feel it, the expanded Wildflowers was getting close to becoming a reality! At the time the only track I had from those sessions, outside the original LP, was a bootleg version of “Girl On L.S.D.” It’s a novelty song, much like “Boy Named Sue,” but it always makes me smile. It’s lighthearted and funny. I wanted an official copy of that and I wanted whatever other brilliant songs he’d left in the can… and then, sadly Tom left us.

As seems now typical with rock stars, I don’t think he had his estate properly buttoned up. After his first marriage ended he remarried… the second wife thing often causes conflict on these music estates. His daughter got into the fray as well and thus the box set for Wildflowers was again pushed out… so close, so out of reach. Finally, in 2019, all of the legal issues were settled. Petty’s daughter Adria was at the helm of his catalog and along with a great box set, American Treasure (LP Review: Tom Petty, ‘An American Treasure’ – A Different Path Through a Brilliant Career) it appeared Wildflowers – All The Rest was set to finally see the light of day. Singles began to trickle out and I was delighted. I placed my order for the big 4-CD package and sat waiting by the mailbox staring at the postman like he was bringing me a birthday card from my grandmother, which was usually stuffed with currency. The due date for my box came and went and nothing… It turns out the US Postal Service delivered my box to the wrong address and the scoundrels who got it, kept it. I can’t begrudge them too much, it’s rock n roll. The second order came in scratched… completely unplayable. I should have gone with vinyl but for some reason I wanted this on CD… maybe because I’d bought the original on CD…

Eventually, I finally got a workable copy of the album and really loved it. I was surprised that the All The Rest disc was a mere 10 songs. When I realized the studio version of “Girl On L.S.D.” was not on the album I was distraught all over again. There was a fine live version where Petty chuckles as he introduces the song, but it wasn’t that studio version I was hoping for. There were a couple of other tracks I was familiar with, notably “Drivin’ Down To Georgia,” that were also missing. It was then that I found out that there was a 5-CD version of All The Rest. Despondent, I couldn’t help but think, “Fuck, I can’t win for losing here.” The 5-CD thing was an extra $100 and I couldn’t help but think, Tom Petty who once threatened to name an album ‘$8.98’ when his record company threatened to increase the LP price a dollar to $9.98 would not have stood for this douche fuckery. I had heard he’d wanted to make the bonus material available for purchase without having to re-buy the original, but that might just be rumor. Regardless, in the ‘Super Deluxe,’ 5-CD version of All The Rest the fifth disc, entitled Finding Wildflowers had 16 additional songs on it. And yes, for those of you keeping score, “Girl On L.S.D.” is on the fifth disc. So is “Drivin’ Down To Georgia” among others. I was so close, and yet I’d purchased the wrong version. I put the music in and let it soothe my rattled nerves over the experience. I really did love the disc of live tracks from All The Rest so I just turned that up loud.

This week, I’m slowly coming out of my Black Crowes (Review: The Black Crowes, ‘Shake Your Money Maker – 30th Anniversary’ – Revisiting Their Classic Debut) and Neil Young (Review: Neil Young, ‘Archives Vol. 2 (1972 – 1976)’ – An Epic Deep Dive Into The Ditch Trilogy And Beyond) immersive, addictive fog and discovered that the Petty camp has relented and is releasing the fifth disc as an album in its own right, Finding Wildflowers. It seemed at first to me to be a cash grab. But if its only $20 instead of the additional $100 the 5-CD version of All The Rest would have cost me, I figured, why argue with this? As part of this last bit of Wildflowers they’ve released a new song “You Saw Me Coming” and holy crap, after about 20 listens this afternoon, I felt compelled to write about this song immediately. It’s amazing.

I ran down and played this song for the Rock Chick and she looked over at me and said, “This song is amazing… how did they leave it off the original album?” I married well above my station folks, a truly brilliant woman. This song has an almost ethereal quality to it. The drums/bass drive the song forward. It’s not hard rocking, it’s not mellow… its just intense. There’s a guitar figure that Mike Campbell plays through out the song that bores into your ear and seemingly into your soul. “You saw me coming… then you watched me go…” Ben Tench’s piano insistently plays throughout the track. It’s a classic “good riddance” track. If you like Petty or you dug Wildflowers but did’t jump in on the box set, I urge you to check this track out. It comes with a beautiful video of landscapes – desert scenes, ocean scenes etc – but no images of Petty or the band. I’ll leave it here so you can take it in and hear the track:

It’s unclear to me why the label “alternative version” is slapped on each of the tracks on Finding Wildflowers as there are a handful of tracks that have never been released, but hey, who am I to quibble. The album comes out in early April but I hope you spend your beautiful early spring day with this tune cranked up.

Cheers!

Review: Neil Young, ‘Archives Vol. 2 (1972 – 1976)’ – An Epic Deep Dive Into The Ditch Trilogy And Beyond

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“Heart of Gold – This song put me in the middle of the road. Traveling there soon became a bore so I headed for the ditch. A rougher ride but I saw more interesting people there.” – Neil Young, from the liner notes of his superb greatest hits LP, Decade.

I have been extremely impressed with some of the archival releases we’ve seen over the last few years doing B&V. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the wonderful sets we’ve seen from Tom Petty and Prince who both released some great stuff from “the vaults” last year – Tom Petty: ‘Wildflowers & All The Rest – Deluxe Edition (4 CDs)’ – A Petty Masterpiece Lovingly Revisited and Review: Prince, ‘Sign O’ The Times – Deluxe Edition’ – An Embarrassment of Riches respectively. However, with Petty and Prince there’s the sad undercurrent that both artists passed recently in an untimely, surprise fashion which has allowed the guardians of their estates to cull through the archives for those releases. With all due respect to those artists, nobody has an “Archive game” like Neil Young. I love what Springsteen has released over the years, in particular Tracks and all the live vintage concerts he’s released (especially from 1978). Similarly, Dylan’s Bootleg Series has been full of spectacular finds (Dylan’s Bootleg Series – A User’s Guide). All of that has been great, but Neil Young’s archive stuff truly ranks right up there with them, if not above them. The thing that is astounding to me is that all three of those artists – Bruce, Bob and Neil – are still alive to curate the archives which makes it more fascinating. We get their perception and take on their history.

Springsteen has, of late anyway, been focused on releasing vintage concerts in their entirety from 1974 to the 2010s. There are rumors that Tracks 2 is in the works for 2021 in lieu of a tour. Dylan has done that as well, releasing singular concert documents but he’s also released batches of unreleased material usually covering a certain time period in his career. I actually think Neil started all of this with his superb “greatest hits” package Decade from 1977. Neil eschewed any formulaic “greatest hits” record and turned it into a 3-LP vinyl set that was more career retrospective than greatest hits. It culled tunes from almost every LP he’d done up to that point, over the previous decade (hence the name) with the Buffalo Springfield, CSNY, with Crazy Horse and solo. He included deeper albums cuts but more importantly he included a handful of unreleased tracks. I have Decade on vinyl… I bought in college as it seemed like the right place to start my Neil Young collection and I cherish it. I think the make-up of Decade is what inspired Dylan to put out his first box set, the brilliant Biograph, which was made up of hits, deep cuts, unreleased stuff and live tracks… hmmm, sound familiar? And, as I’ve said before, Biograph launched the “box set” industry. It begat Crossroads (Clapton) which begat Storyteller (Rod Stewart)…but perhaps I’m getting off track here. Suffice it to say you wouldn’t have Clapton combining his work with the Yardbirds, John Mayall, Cream and Blind Faith on one big box if Young hadn’t given him the idea on Decade. 

There were rumors dating back to the early 80s that Young was going to do Decade II. For years I’d heard he was “working on it.” I think at some point the technology changed and the ability to pack a box set with 10 or 12 CDs appealed to Neil. It allowed him to really dig into telling the retrospective story of his career. Eventually he shelved the whole Decade II project in favor of his Archives series. Eventually he even launched an archive website, https://neilyoungarchives.com, that is simply astounding in the depth and breadth of material. There’s a subscription fee, but if you’re into Neil, it’s worth it. Finally in 2009 Neil released The Archives Vol 1 1963 – 1972. It not only contained discs dedicated to one concert but it also, like Decade, had previously released cuts – “hits” and deep cuts – alongside previously unreleased material. It’s kind of a blended approach of Springsteen (concerts) and Dylan (previously unreleased/released from a specific period) mentioned above. The sound quality is so good it may induce weeping… Vol 1 had stuff from his first band, the Squires…but I was disappointed it didn’t have any material from the Minah Birds, his Motown cover band that featured Rick James. It covered much of the same time period of Decade. I was excited about Vol 1, but in the lead up, he kept releasing live albums and I kept snapping them up (Live At the Fillmore East (with Crazy Horse), Live At Massey Hall and Live At Canterbury House) and when it came out I was surprised and disappointed to see they were all included in the box set. I didn’t want to double buy all of this… (The same thing happened with Vol 2 and I failed to warn people about this to my shame, but I’d forgotten). I was also slightly turned off by all the previously released stuff. I owned all of that already. Vol 1 covered some of Neil’s most popular work including stuff with CSNY and his biggest selling LPs, After the Gold Rush and Harvest. In the end, I chose not to buy Vol 1. The hefty price tag was also an inhibitor at the time.

While it could be argued that Vol 1 was really Neil’s commercial zenith, I was always more attracted to his work in the 70s that came after that. I was eagerly awaiting a Vol 2. Neil is not a man who worries about deadlines so it took 11 years for him to release the next major set, Vol 2. Some of you may be wondering why I’m only writing about this now as the release date was Nov 20th, 2020. Yes he put out Vol 2 last year but it was a limited “collector’s” release of 3000 copies for $250. I love Neil Young, but hey man, even I have a limit. On March 5th he’s actually releasing a more reasonably priced (but still expensive) “retail” version. Only then will everybody have a chance to buy the physical copy or download music from the box set. Seeing the track list, I bit the bullet and purchased the physical copy, which I’m still waiting for but it came with a download. I’ve spent the last two weeks in a Neil Young 1972 to 1976 haze. Vol 2 didn’t cover the 10 year time frame of Vol 1, such was Neil’s huge output in the 70s, it only goes from 72 to 76, but what years those were.

Vol 2 picks up right where Vol 1 left off, the latter half of 1972 right after Harvest. Neil did not react well to the enormous, breakout success of Harvest (Artists Who Changed Their Music to Escape Fame), it freaked him out. He formed a band of session musicians in New York to tour behind Harvest. Drummer Kenny Buttrey demanded $100k in payment, to make up for missed sessions and the rest of the band followed suit. Neil said, in the original, deleted liner notes of Decade, “Money hassles among everyone concerned ruined this tour and record for me but I released it anyway so you folks could see what could happen if you lose it for a while.” He’d hired Crazy Horse’s guitarist Danny Whitten to join the band – he probably needed a friend in the band – but Whitten was lost to drug addiction and couldn’t pull it together, he couldn’t remember the songs. Neil fired him and a day later Whitten died from mixing booze and valium (not quaaludes as Rolling Stone reported at the time). Neil, freaked out about being a superstar, feeling intense guilt about Whitten and at odds with his backing band made for an… explosive tour. Young had discovered tequila, which even I refuse to drink. Add to that the angst of the death of the ideals of the hippy dream and Nixon’s reelection and it made for a heavy time for Neil. On the tour, instead of an evening of laid back country rock like “Heart of Gold,” Young was rocking out to tracks like “Time Fades Away” with it’s famous opening line, “Fourteen junkies too weak to work…” Naturally Neil brought along a tape recorder and that’s how he recorded the follow up to Harvest, a unique approach.

That’s exactly where Vol 2 starts, with the material from Time Fades Away (Neil Young: The Elusive 1973 “Time Fades Away” LP). It was recorded in 72, released in 73 and it is the first in what is now called “The Ditch Trilogy” based on Neil’s quote (above) from Decade. Neil has never really liked Time Fades Away, and I think it’s telling there’s only really one song from that album on disc 1 of Vol 2. There are a number of unreleased songs on the first disc, subtitled ‘Everybody’s Alone.’ “Letter From Nam” opens the set (a track he redid and released as “Long Walk Home” on Life). He does a great acoustic version of “L.A.,” that perhaps he should have subbed in for the version on the album. “Come Along And Say You Will,” and “Goodbye Christians On The Shore” are two great unreleased tracks. The disc ends with a version of “Human Highway” with Crosby, Stills & Nash from their aborted studio followup to Deja Vu. Supposedly, in 1976 when they made another attempted stab at a new studio album,  Neil became frustrated and was said to have erased Crosby & Nash’s backing vocals on this track and the others they recorded… it’s the thing of legend but apparently that’s not true. I have to wonder if there’s been any interest from that camp to try and reassemble that album, which was tentatively titled Human Highway… I can dream. Disc 2 is the previously released concert album from the Time Fades Away tour, Tuscaloosa, reviewed here, LP Review: Neil Young & The Stray Gators’ Live ‘Tuscaloosa’ From the Archives. Including the live album with the unreleased material really gives us a feel for where Neil was as 1972 waned.

Disc 3, subtitled ‘Tonight’s The Night’ is just that – tracks from the album Tonight’s The Night. The angst and despair Neil expressed on this album is irresistible to me. While Time Fades Away and Tonight’s The Night were sort of designed to destroy his commercial standing and the expectations that went with it, they’re still stunning records, favorites amongst his fans. Although they sold abysmally. I’ll willingly admit here that “Albuquerque” and “Roll Another Number” rank among my favorite Young tunes. There is a tasty unreleased track where Joni Mitchell shows up and Neil and the boys play her “Raised On Robbery.” Why it’s here is anybody’s guess. I’m the rare fan whose not crazy about Joni, but I dig the track. Disc 4 keeps the focus on the Tonight’s The Night period with another live concert, Tonight’s The Night Live At The Roxy, Review: Neil Young’s ‘Roxy: Tonight’s The Night Live’. While Neil recorded the album in 1973, his record company refused to release it until 1975 but the fans react enthusiastically to all the tunes and Neil almost sounds… happy?

Disc 5, subtitled ‘Walk On’ takes us to 1973-74 and the sessions for the third installment of the Ditch Trilogy, and another of my favorites, On The Beach. He throws in the Decade track “Winterlong” which was recorded at the time but not included on the album. There’s also a great version of the unreleased track “Traces.” Like Tonight’s The Night, this album didn’t sell very well so it makes sense that he’d include most the tracks from the album with this box. There’s always been this feeling that all truly brilliant art comes from pain. I would suggest that this album is proof of that. I like that this disc is entirely dedicated to the sessions for On The Beach. While it’s received a positive critical reevaluation, it’s time it gets a commercial one as well. Again, there isn’t a Neil Young fan worth his salt who doesn’t revere this album.

Disc 6, subtitled ‘The Old Homestead’ focuses on 1974. Neil reunited with Crosby, Stills and Nash for what was at the time the biggest stadium concert tour ever. They spent most of the money they made on coke, but it was a great tour. There are a couple of tracks from the tour here that didn’t make the great live album they put out a few years ago, 1974. For the most part though, this disc is all stuff that Neil recorded by himself with an acoustic guitar or piano. Towards the end we find a reconstituted Crazy Horse with Frank “Poncho” Sampedro on second guitar. I love the way Sampedro and Young’s guitars intertwine. This disc may be my favorite, there’s so much unreleased here. Or versions that were unreleased like “Homefires” and “Love/Art Blues.” “L.A. Girls and Ocean Boys,” one of his more famous unreleased songs, about his break up with actress Carrie Snodgress is here as well. Neil goes through all of the emotional hell of the Ditch Trilogy only to find his girlfriend/baby mama has cheated on him and they break up. The guy couldn’t get a break in the 70s but man did it fuel some of his greatest music. None of the solo, acoustic stuff here sounds like a demo, these are fully realized songs.

Disc 7 is the recently released vault album that Neil pulled in favor of releasing Tonight’s The Night entitled Homegrown (Review: Neil Young’s ‘Homegrown’ – The Lost Masterpiece, In The Vaults 45 Years. Again, I don’t know how I didn’t include a warning that this album was going to end up in the next box set when I reviewed it so if I enticed someone to buy an extra copy of the album, I’m sorry. I do love this album and wish it had been released a long time ago… we might be saying Ditch Quartet. Undecided whether to release this album or Tonight’s The Night, Neil played both for a group of friends and on the advice of the Band’s Rick Danko he chose Tonight’s…

Disc 8, subtitled ‘Dume’ focuses on 1975 and the great Zuma album. This was another great record that was a commercial disappointment but it showed signs that Neil was moving on from grief. He’s got Crazy Horse along for the ride on most the tracks. There’s an early version of “Ride My Llama” which eventually appeared on Rust Never Sleeps in a completely different version. Its interesting to hear tracks that were released later in different forms. Every session for each album has a distinct sound and the songs that are recorded and rerecorded tend to take on the sound of the sessions for which the versions are recorded which is an interesting glimpse into Neil’s creative process. Another “famous” unreleased track, “Born To Run” is here… no, it’s not Springsteen’s track. An early version of “Powderfinger” is here. I like the Rust version better, it’s truly definitive. There’s a full band version of “Pocahontas” here and again I think the acoustic version is definitive. I think Neil generally makes the right decision as to when a song is finally right. Zuma is at heart a break up album with tracks like “Drive Back,” “Pardon My Heart” and “Stupid Girl.” Neil was moving on from grief but it appears he chose anger as his next predominant emotion.

Disc 9, subtitled ‘Look Out For My Love’ is another great collection of songs. Many stem from the Stills-Young album. There are versions of the tracks I mentioned above, that have Crosby and Nash singing harmonies that Neil legendarily purportedly erased, notably “Ocean Girl,” “Human Highway” (again) and “Midnight On the Bay.” I have to admit, I like these versions even more than the ones that Neil released with Stills. “Like A Hurricane” one of Neil’s most epic guitar jams is here…recorded but unreleased until 1977. There are a number of tracks who wouldn’t see the light of day until Comes A Time. It’s another favorite disc in this collection of 10 CDs of music.

Disc 10, the final disc, subtitled ‘Odeon Budokan’ is a live album of sorts. The first half, all acoustic Neil, recorded at London’s Hammersmith Odeon. The second half, with Crazy Horse and full on rocking, was recorded in Budokan, Japan. I love all live Neil and I think this music has been widely bootlegged. I was glad it was included but couldn’t help but wish that maybe Neil would have included an additional disc of studio stuff… 1977, anyone?

I’ll admit you have to be a bit of a Neil Young fanatic to dive into this 10 disc boxset, but man is it rewarding. It’s an immersive way to get into and understand Neil as an artist from 1972 to 1976. I highly recommend this set to any Neil fan but to hose who are more novice Neil fans, this is a way to learn about him. To me it’s his most tumultuous, rawly emotional period but also one of his most rewarding. While I love his Gold Rush/Harvest stuff, I guess I’m just more fascinated in the ditch… you really do meet more interesting people there. I can’t wait until Vol 3 where we’ll ride out the 70s and the dawn of the 80s…

Stay safe and more importantly stay warm. If you’re in Texas, my thoughts are with you.

Sequel: Pleased To Meet You 2 – Our Epic List of Debut Solo Albums, “Let Me Re-introduce Myself”

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As long time readers know, a few weeks ago I posted about our B&V favorite debut albums, Pleased To Meet You… The Epic List of Our 40 Favorite Debut Albums. As I was compiling the list of all the great debut albums out there, well, the list began to get a little unwieldy. I was somewhere around 80 albums when I realized I needed to put some rules around the thing to thin it down to something manageable. How I settled on 40 albums and not 50, I’m unclear about. One of the first rules I laid out for myself was to exclude any solo debuts. If a singer or guitar player had been in a band, and was thus an established artist, it seemed like cheating to include them on the debut list. When Ozzy went solo and recorded Blizzard of Ozz he had already established himself as the Prince of “fucking Darkness” (his words, not mine) through his work with Black Sabbath. It seemed unfair to compare that album with say, R.E.M.’s Murmur. When Michael Stipe and company were recording that album they were a bunch of pimply faced kids and certainly no competition for the Dark Lord. 

The Rock Chick was the first person – since she’s always the first person to see what I write, despite her life long ban from reading B&V due to her unfair grammatical criticism, to cry foul on the rule barring solo debuts from the list. In her view a debut is a debut. As I sat staring out at the frozen tundra that is Kansas City in February watching dry, powdery snow flutter through the sky like some giant human had shaken my city like a snow globe, my thoughts as always turned to rock n roll. I had to admit the Rock Chick’s argument was persistently tugging at the edge of my mind. I had excluded a lot of really great solo debut albums from the list. Since the high temperatures this last week were in the single digits with -15 degree wind chills, I had a lot of time on my hands. I was already hiding in my attic from Covid… now bitter cold has me pinned in my attic as well. 

Going solo can be a dicey proposition. In the late 60s and early 70s audiences often struggled with the whole concept of doing a solo record. You were either in a band or you were on your own and apparently never the twain shall meet. If you did your own album it meant you were leaving the band. When Paul McCartney put out McCartney, his homespun, lo-fi debut it was considered the announcement that the Beatles were over… which perhaps contributed to the critical backlash at the time. It was Rod Stewart who was the first artist to juggle the whole solo vs band career when he was a member of the Faces. He’d do a Faces album and then six months later he’d do a solo record. I think his solo stuff ended up overshadowing one of the world’s greatest bands, the Faces, and that’s a shame. People thought the Faces were just his back up band, which utterly rankled the other guys, especially Ronnie Lane. Rod was the first to try the split career but based on the fact his solo albums sold so much better I can’t say it was a screaming success. There’s always the constant allegations that you’re saving your best stuff for the solo albums. 

Rod’s career does underscore the fact that chemistry matters. When an artist is in a band its a collective. There’s a give and take. The guys in the band interpret what you’ve written. When you go solo you’re captain of the ship. Where as in a band some of your worst instincts as an artist may be curbed by the members of the band when you go solo there’s no one to say, maybe you shouldn’t have a spoken-word interlude in the middle of a rock song, Mick. I think Lennon always made McCartney tougher and McCartney always made Lennon not softer but perhaps more melodic, less caustic. When you go solo you’re putting your reputation on the line. You’ve established a brand and going solo can really tarnish your reputation. I think about Sting in this realm. We all loved Sting until Dream of the Blue Turtles came out. Looking back it wasn’t that awful of an album but that jazz-lite stuff induced a lot “what the hell is this shit?” moments. His solo career has been largely a disappointment for a lot of people. If I never hear “Love Is The Seventh Wave,” it’ll be too soon. 

Sometimes though, the risk of going solo is worth it. In many cases the artists on this list were kicked out of their bands or the bands broke up. A solo project was thus inevitable. I remember Mick Jagger, when asked in the 80s whether he’d ever do a solo record, saying something about doing a solo album when he had enough material that the band thought was “too stupid” to record. Who knew he was actually telling the truth there. Some of the artists on my list below had great solo careers, some only had this one great debut album. This is in no means a commentary about the solo careers of these artists it’s merely about their debut album as a solo artist. For example, the aforementioned Mick Jagger’s solo debut was, by any stretch of the imagination bad, he has put out a few great records. 

For the purposes of this list, which is randomly laid out, I’ll list it like this: Solo Artist Name (Former Band Name), Debut Album Title. If there’s a great debut solo LP you’re into, let me know what that is and I’ll check it out. I hope there are a few gems on this list of 25 that if you haven’t come across them, you’ll discover something you like. 

  1. Gregg Allman (The Allman Brothers Band), Laid Back – I just repurchased this one on vinyl! Frustrated with inter-band conflict, especially with Dickey Betts, Allman recorded this solo gem while also recording Brothers And Sisters with the band. More soulful and less guitar-centric, Allman even redid “Midnight Rider” and turned it on its head and into a classic on its own right. 
  2. Jeff Beck (The Jeff Beck Group), Blow By Blow – Tired of squabbling with lead singers, Beck pulled in George Martin of Beatles fame to produce and put out one of the only instrumental albums outside of jazz that I can listen to. There is such a rich and beautiful tone Jeff pulls out of his instrument. This is a fascinating listen. 
  3. Robbie Robertson (The Band), Robbie Robertson – It had been almost a decade since the Band had broken up and Richard Manuel had recently committed suicide when Robbie finally put out his solo debut. He had a lot of help from producer Daniel Lanois, U2, Peter Gabriel, and members of the Bodeans but the songwriting on this record is all Robertson. “Somewhere Down the Crazy River” is my favorite song here. “Testimony” is an epic statement of purpose. 
  4. Jack White (The White Stripes), Blunderbuss – Listening to the White Stripes’ greatest hits LP makes me miss that band and Meg White even more (Review: The White Stripes ‘Greatest Hits’ – A Lovingly Curated Romp Through Their Career) but Jack White really comes through on his solo debut. He’s one of rock’s most important artists. 
  5. Paul McCartney (The Beatles), McCartney – Depressed as the Beatles imploded McCartney retreated to his home and invented DIY, indie rock. I love this little lo-fi gem. It’s heavy on instrumental jams but as usual with McCartney the melodies bore into my brain. He just released his second sequel to this one, Review: ‘McCartney III,’ A Homespun Gem, the perfect lockdown project. 
  6. Joe Walsh (The James Gang), Barnstorm – I know that Barnstorm was considered an actual band but I think of this as Joe’s solo debut anyway. I left Dio’s Holy Diver off the list because I actually did consider them a band not a solo artist so perhaps I’m bending the rules a bit. I had to include this album as the song “Turn To Stone” which is the greatest riff in the history of guitar makes it debut. It’s a surprisingly laid back affair which makes his joining the Eagles makes sense.
  7. Rod Stewart (The Jeff Beck Group), The Rod Stewart Album – With that title it’s pretty easy to see this as Rod introducing himself to the world post-Jeff Beck Group, pre-Faces. With his sidekick Ronnie Wood on guitar this album has always seemed like an interview for the job as Faces lead singer. He does some great interpretations on covers (“Man of Constant Sorrow,” “Street Fighting Man”) but the originals are just fantastic. The passionate “Blind Prayer” has always been a personal favorite. I think he should have stuck to the original title, An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down.
  8. George Harrison (The Beatles), All Things Must Pass – The single greatest Beatles’ solo album. Harrison had been largely stifled as a songwriter in the Beatles – they typically gave him only 2 songs per album (if that) and he had a huge backlog of great material as evidenced by the original 3-vinyl LP package. (Yes, I’m ignoring his Wonderwall project). 
  9. Ozzy Osbourne (Black Sabbath), Blizzard of Ozz – Everybody thought Ozzy was finished after Sabbath fired him for being out of control on booze and drugs. Along came Randy Rhoads and the rest was history (Review: Ozzy’s ‘Blizzard of Ozz, 40th Anniversary Expanded’ – Is It Worth It?). 
  10. John Lennon (The Beatles), Plastic Ono Band – I tend to ignore those 2 awful records he did prior to this with Yoko. For me this is his first solo album. Fresh from primal scream therapy Lennon delivered this, his most raw, brutally honest album. “Mother” sears itself into your memory. He’s exercising every demon in his soul here. Riveting listen. 
  11. Eric Clapton (Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Cream, Blind Faith), Eric Clapton – After playing in virtually every British blues-rock band ever, Clapton finally put his solo debut LP out. He recorded this with members of Delaney and Bonnie who he’d met when they opened for Blind Faith on their tour. “Bottle of Red Wine” is a personal fav. 
  12. Stephen Stills (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young), Stephen Stills – Stills, alongside Neil Young, had established himself as a guitar hero but surprisingly he leaves the solo’ing to his guest stars – Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix on his last studio recording. This is just a great, great eclectic record. The rest of his solo career was up and down but he was on the money here. 
  13. Paul Simon (Simon & Garfunkel), Paul Simon – Surprisingly, I don’t think this little gem of an album sold that well. “Mother And Child Reunion” and “Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard” hint at his world music influences that we’d eventually see blossom on Graceland. 
  14. Graham Nash (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young), Songs For Beginners – I considered David Crosby’s If I Could Only Remember My Name but left it out as I feared it sounded like too much of a hippy clambake for most people. Nash is probably my least favorite songwriter of the CSNY family (Artist Lookback: Crosby, Stills, Or Nash – The Essential Solo and Duo Albums), but I love this album. Its informed largely by his recent searing heartbreak from his split with girlfriend Joni Mitchell which is what makes this one so poignant to me. As I’ve often admitted, I’m a sucker for recent searing heartbreak. Well, I was until I met the Rock Chick… but those records are sealed. 
  15. David Lee Roth (Van Halen), Eat ‘Em And Smile – Kicked out of Van Halen for making a solo EP and wanting to make a movie, Roth’s split with Eddie is probably one of rock’s ugliest divorces. He recruited some top notch musicians – Billy Sheehan on bass and most notably Steve Vai on guitar wizardry – and actually treated this like a band project. After this it looked like Roth would be the one with the long, more successful career, not his former band. Alas, on his next record his megalomania took over and he started indulging his worst instincts. 
  16. Stevie Nicks (Fleetwood Mac), Bella Donna – I love this album. Every man of a certain age has/had a crush on Stevie. Sure she had help from Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and Don Henley but this is a uniquely Stevie album. This thing was so big I’m still surprised she returned to Fleetwood Mac. The disappointing sales figures for Tusk is what drove her to record solo, not the break up with Buckingham which I always found fascinating. 
  17. Gram Parsons, (The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers), G.P. – Gram never met a band he couldn’t quit. He bounced from band to band in an almost Clapton-esque fashion. This, his final LP before his death is a country-rock masterpiece. The Eagles were clearly listening…
  18. Peter Frampton (Humble Pie), Winds of Change – When compared to Humble Pie’s boogie rock classic Smokin’, which was their first album without Frampton and this largely acoustic album it’s easy to see that Peter was moving in a different direction than the band. I don’t know why his pre-Frampton Comes Alive studio albums aren’t more popular. This is a really engrossing listen. 
  19. Liam Gallagher (Oasis, Beady Eye), As You Were – When Liam’s band Beady Eye, which was basically a Noel-less Oasis, imploded I remember reading Noel saying, “Liam needs to put out a solo album, put his own name on something, put it all out there.” I guess Liam was listening. I described this album as a pleasant surprise from an unpleasant man. As much as I dislike Liam, I love his solo stuff, LP Review: Liam Gallagher, ‘As You Were’ A Pleasant Surprise From an Unpleasant Man
  20. Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin), Pictures At 11 – We were all still pretty raw that John Bonham had passed and Led Zeppelin had broken up. I remember guys in my high school were renting a bus to see them in Chicago when the news of Bonham’s death broke. This was such a great album and it helped us all move on. Phil Collins showed up to play drums and help Plant figure out how to produce an album. Plant seems embarrassed by his early albums but this is a classic. “Burning Down One Side” is an absolutely fantastic track. 
  21. Natalie Merchant (10,000 Maniacs), Tigerlilly – I hated the 10,000 Maniacs, they never made any sense to me. But this solo debut from Natalie Merchant was a stunner. A friend of mine described the guitar work on this record as “smokey.” I even saw her on the ensuing tour for this record. This, for me, is the lone gem in her solo catalog. 
  22. Van Morrison (Them), Astral Weeks – Brilliant, poetic, transcendent, Celtic mysticism. One of the greatest albums of all time. 
  23. Mike Ness (Social Distortion), Cheating At Solitaire – If you dig the “cow punk” of Social Distortion, you’ll love this record. The duet with Bruce Springsteen, “Misery Loves Company” is a classic. I remember texting the Rock Chick, who turned me onto Social D, “worlds collide, Springsteen/Ness together!” The whole record blows me away. 
  24. Iggy Pop (The Stooges), The Idiot – Iggy and Bowie on the loose in Europe recording Iggy’s classic first solo album. Some say Bowie’s influence is too pronounced here but that’s just crazy talk. Iggy comes through on classics like “China Girl” and “The Dum Dum Boys.” 
  25. Keith Richards (The Rolling Stones), Talk Is Cheap – The solo record Keith never wanted to make. Tired of trying to get Mick interested in the Stones again, Keith put together a great band with Steve Jordan (drums) and Waddy Watchel (guitar) and put out a classic (Keith Richards: ‘Talk Is Cheap (Deluxe Version),’ The 30th Anniversary Edition With Bonus Tracks). 

Stay safe but more importantly stay warm if its cold where you are. I don’t think the son is going to shine again here until late next week. I’ll be gritting my teeth to get through it… Hopefully some of this classic rock and roll will help keep you warm! 

Cheers! 

Cheap Trick: Incendiary New Single, “Light Up The Fire” From the Upcoming LP ‘In Another World’

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In the late 70s when Cheap Trick was at their true zenith, I was in junior high school. As the 80s dawned, I began my mostly mediocre high school years. When I was in junior high school everybody rode the bus to school. I suppose there were some kids who were close enough to walk, but my junior high was way over by the Kansas-Missouri border and so every day I begrudgingly boarded the bus. Finally as summer of 1979 waned, I became a high schooler. The main difference between junior high and high school, other than the sheer size of the place, at least for me at the time was that you didn’t have to ride the bus. You could drive a car, catch a ride with someone else in their car, or I suppose you could ride a bike if you were that sort of person…and I didn’t know that sort of person when I was in high school. 

I desperately wanted to drive to school. There was only one small problem. My parents wouldn’t let me get near a car. I knew how to drive, I’d been driving their car for years. It wasn’t like they’d have me drive up to the convenience store for beer and cigarettes or anything weird like that but we’d go out to the country when visiting relatives and they’d let me drive. In those years, especially oddly in junior high I was a bit of a…well… hellion. I’d actually mellowed out a little bit by high school, but I’d never get any credit for that from my parents… not now and especially not then. Since my misadventures typically involved beer drinking of some sort my parents were extremely apprehensive about allowing me to drive a car, any car. Looking back I secretly suspect my father just didn’t want to help me buy a car. I still wonder if they thought I was going to down a six-pack on the way to school… I mean, who drinks beer in the morning in high school? That’s clearly a college level gig. 

This situation left me sadly standing at the bus stop when high school rolled around. I’m not ever going to say only “losers” rode the bus because well, I was riding the bus, but it was a tough crowd. I watched two guys get into a fist fight on the bus one day… they were arguing about whether or not Hendrix, were he still alive, would have gone “jazz” and abandoned rock n roll. While the fight was crazy, I have to admit it was a subject worth fighting for. There was a guy at my bus stop who later went down for murder. Seriously, he killed a guy. That was the bus stop. I’m a lover not a fighter, I was lost in that crowd. A few weeks into high school this guy I knew, who I’ll call “Jimbo” stopped in his green VW bug and said, “What are you doing, get in.” And like that, I was rescued from the yellow hell. He came by my house every day and drove me to school. Alas, Jimbo moved to Oklahoma early in that sophomore year. That wasn’t before we’d wrecked the green VW bug… because of well, beer.  Don’t drink and drive folks. Learn from Springsteen’s mistake. 

Luckily, I had another friend, an industrious guy who always had a job, who I’ll call Brewster. Brewster owned a Monza. I think he bought it with his own cash. Shortly after Jimbo moved I was leaving my house one morning, bummed out, headed back to the bus stop and back to the yellow exile. I was quietly  hoping that there’d be no Hendrix “discussions” that morning as I was tired. When to my surprise, up pulls Brewster in his Monza. He’s got a couple other dudes in the car. Our friend RW was there and I think there were like seven guys named Steve who road along too. That’s how I remember it but that would have had to have been a huge Monza. In my defense, 90% of the people I knew in high school were named Steve so I get confused. After that, Brewster picked me up every school day morning. Oddly there was never a discussion about it. There was never a, “Hey, you can ride with me,” or “Get in” moment like with Jimbo. Every now and again my mom would slip me cash and I’d give it to Brewster for gas money. These were the “Cash, grass or ass” days so I wanted to get that money on the table early. Since there was never a discussion, occasionally if Brewster was sick, I’d be left standing at my front door. My mom was always super pissed, “Can you guys not communicate this stuff?” Alas, Brewster was never a wordy type of guy back then. 

Most days found me riding along happily in the Monza. I was tall so they’d let me ride up front most days. RW and the Steves would all ride in back. The best part of riding to school in the Monza was Brewster had sprung for a good stereo that played 8-track tapes. For those you unfamiliar with 8-tracks, Google them. They were the most confounding musical delivery system ever. Brewster had a recently new live album that we’d listen to almost every day on our way to school by a band called Cheap Trick. The album was called Cheap Trick at Budokan. We all knew it simply by the title “Live At Budokan.” I had only been vaguely familiar with Cheap Trick up to that point but man did we love that live LP. Although since we were listening on 8-track tape, it was years before I actually knew the running order of the songs on the record. It was like it was on random. I never figured that thing out. “I Want You To Want Me,” and “Surrender” were the big tracks but there wasn’t a bad moment on that LP… it easily made my list of “Essential Live Albums,” BourbonAndVinyl Comes Alive: The Epic List Of Essential Live Albums

Needless to say I was a big Cheap Trick fan early on and remained so even after that late 70s – early 80s heyday. By the early 90s their albums had become a tad inconsistent. They always seemed to have a stray hit or two, even in the low points. Since then there have been a number of albums that were hailed as their “comeback album.” Starting with 2006’s Rockford, which was superb, I found myself interested again. After all these years Cheap Trick still has almost all of their original members: Robin Zander on lead vocals, Rick Nielsen on guitars and Tom Petersson on bass. Original drummer Bun E. Carlos has left the band rather acrimoniously and was replaced with Nielsen’s son Daxx. At least they kept it in the family. Their last album (not including a xmas album) We’re All Alright! was another triumph (LP Review: Cheap Trick’s ‘We’re All Alright!’ – Pure, Rock Delight

Cheap Trick have returned in 2021 with a new single, “Light Up The Fire” from an upcoming album In Another World. I’ve gotta tell you, I love the new track. “Light Up The Fire” just simply rocks. I was playing it one day and the Rock Chick wandered into the B&V Lab and said, “Wow, these guys are rocking.” Cheap Trick do so many things well. There’s obviously a Beatles’ influence in a lot of their music. I would say, now that I’ve discovered Big Star, there is also a huge influence there as well. Call it power pop or rock that feels pop-y, call it whatever you want Cheap Trick can do it. But one thing I don’t think they get enough credit for is how much they just flat out rock. I hated to see Bun E. Carlos go, but ever since Daxx Nielsen has taken over the kit, these guys have leaned a little harder into the rocking stuff.

I would be remiss not to call out Zander’s almost unhinged lead vocal. That was what first caught the Rock Chick’s ear. The track starts off with a fuzzy bass and then the drums and guitar kick in. Its’ galloping along when Zander’s yelp comes in. “So light up the fire, but don’t burn my love to the ground.” Oh, hell yes. Nielsen does his usual manic guitar work here. The solo feels buttery slippery but powerful and its all anchored by such a solid rhythm section. Daxx and Tom aren’t flashy but they’re in the pocket. This is a full-out, fun, race me to the finish line rocker. If you like Cheap Trick’s harder rocking stuff, this will fill the bill. 

I am extremely  hopeful this is a great kick off to a great album and what could be a great 2021 musically. I’d heard rumors they had this album done a year ago but held off release because of Covid. If so, I’m glad its finally seeing the light of day. It’s great to hear the Rock Hall of Fame stalwarts come out guns blazing to start off our year. It’s certainly a hopeful sign for the Rock New Year. I’ll be keeping my eye out for this album, for sure! 

Be safe out there! Cheers! 

Mental Jukebox: Songs In My Head When I Wake Up – January 2021… Come Inside My Mind

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*Image above from the internet and likely subject to copyright. 

According to the Urban Dictionary, the term “mental jukebox” refers to:

“the effect of a random song playing in your head for no reason, often followed by another song completely unrelated to the first, much like a jukebox on random. For example, “Why the hell was Rick Astley just playing in my head? I haven’t heard any of his music in ages! I had Slayer playing before that! Wtf!””

I’m not sure anybody has ever come up with a better encapsulation of the concept of the “mental jukebox” than the Urban Dictionary. I mean, when you describe a musical swing from Rick Astley to Slayer you’ve managed to capture the essence of the random, wild shifts the brain can take you through musically. I am no stranger to the mental jukebox. In fact, sleep or perhaps better described as my attempts to sleep, seems to be the trigger for my brain’s music center. I awake every day with a fresh, new song in my head. I don’t know if this is a common phenomenon, but I do know my friend Doug has the same thing happen to him. I can awake with the biggest hit from U2 or the Beatles to a deep album cut from the Black Crowes to a jingle from a commercial playing in my mind. I’ve awakened to the sound of show tunes ringing in my head and trust me, I despise musicals of any kind. I have to turn on music in the morning merely to cleanse my brain, much like mouthwash especially if I’m hearing “Oklahoma” in my mind. I never know what song I’ll wake up to in my head. I have no control over any of it. I seem to be at the mercy of my brain. As George Harrison once said, “It’s all in your mind.”

The mind or (if you will) man’s capacity for reason is what separates us from the other mammals. I’ve been reading, or rather trying to read, Marcus Aurelius’ Mediations. Marcus, if I’m reading him correctly, seemed to think that our reason was the godly part of us. He had a lot of thoughts about well, thinking. “You have the power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this and you will find strength.” I dig that, but I don’t think I have any power over the mental jukebox. Marcus also said, “The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts.” Apparently we can all think ourselves happy according to Marcus… I think Oporah believes in this line of reasoning. Somehow I think it’s more complicated than that. I guess I’m less a Stoic like Marcus and more of a Hedonist. I certainly spend more than my fair share of time thinking about rock music. One quote I’ve always liked about the mind is Plutarch, “The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled.”

I have a friend who is into reading books about the structure of the brain. He likes to explain a lot of human behavior as being a function of the different parts of your brain reacting to stimuli. Of course he was an early adherent to the whole “evolutionary psychology” thing. I have begun to suspect that my friend reads so many books about brain chemistry because he’s trying to explain and rationalize some of his own behavior. Sometimes we do things because we want to… not because our hypothalamus is driving us to. Although in these pages I have often joked that music has hit me in the lower brain stem. I get it, brain structure and especially the frontal lobes can affect the way we think and behave but there has to be more to the story. We’re not just human lab rats with automatic or learned reaction to stimuli.

All of that said, I don’t think the mental jukebox is of the rational, conscious mind. I certainly don’t think it has anything to do with brain structure. There’s not a tiny little bar hidden in my cerebellum with a great jukebox in the corner. I like to imagine that if there is a bar hidden in my brain it’s the coolest dive bar you can find, with dark wood and peanut shells on the floor and a cool but gruff barkeep…maybe a menu with only hot wings. My thoughts are cluttered, why shouldn’t my imaginary brain bar be as equally messy? I’m getting off topic here… Since the mental jukebox is not structural or of the rational mind the only answer is that it stems from the unconscious mind. While he didn’t coin the term “unconscious mind” Sigmund Freud certainly made the concept popular. I was once bored in an airport waiting for a delayed flight when I picked up Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams. I enjoyed the book, although it became a bit of a slow slog in the back half. It gave me my first real insights into the unconscious mind that I’d had since college psychology. Freud believed that things like verbal slips (aka Freudian slips) or dreams come from that uncontrolled, unconscious part of the mind where all of our hidden wishes and desires reside. Even Cinderella said “A dream is a wish your heart makes…” Oh God, I hope I don’t wake up with that song in my head tomorrow…

I will say, that reading Freud’s book on dreams has helped me interpret some of the wilder, more disturbing dreams my unconscious mind seems to conjure. I have a recurring nightmare where I’m visited from someone from my past. The nightmare always comes during times of great stress or loss. Freud’s book helped me realize that the person in the nightmare is merely a manifestation or symbol of pain and loss and has nothing to actually do with the person I’m seeing in the dream. It’s really helped me to shake off that particular nightmare. I wake up and realize my brain is trying to tell me I’m suffering and struggling and I just need to bear down. Even in the resolution of that nightmare, I’m not controlling the unconscious mind, I am merely using it as a tool to navigate obstacles in my life.

That all said, I wondered if the mental jukebox was trying to send me a similar message to ones that my dreams do? Is there some message or theme to the music that pops up in my head every morning? If so, what is my mind trying tell me? I decided to keep what I’m going to call a “Song Journal” during the month of January. Every morning when I woke up and some random tune assailed my brain I would stagger down the hall to my office – before even going for coffee – and I’d write down the song and any impressions of where it came from. Usually I had no idea but sometimes I’d merely heard the track the day before. While I hoped that this process would help me get to a deeper understanding of where my head is at, in the end I think it just tells me what I already know… I’m really into music. While I may not have discovered any fundamental truths about myself, it was an interesting process. I will say that I participated in my usual Dry January which may or may not have influenced how vivid the songs were and how varied the music selection was. I guess I’ll never know.

Here then, is my Song Journal from January 2021 chronicling every song I heard in my head every morning. I considered a playlist, but thought it was too disjointed, even for my disparate tastes. Most of these tracks came out of nowhere unless otherwise noted.

  • Jan 1st – Robert Plant, “Angel Dance” – I had actually heard this track the day before, so no real mystery.
  • Jan 2nd – Black Crowes, “Only A Fool” – I’ve been a little obsessed with the Crowes since I heard Shake Your Money Maker 30th Anniversary was coming out. This track is on a later LP, not sure where it came from.
  • Jan 3rd – AC/DC, “Big Gun” – From the soundtrack of a Schwarzenegger movie, something I was working on a post for…Playlist: Missing Going To The Movies?: Our Favorite Soundtrack Songs.
  • Jan 4th – The Police, “King of Pain”
  • Jan 5th – Stills-Young Band, “Long May You Run”
  • Jan 6th – Genesis, “I Can’t Dance” – I’m not crazy about this tune… I’d had a nightmare about a wedding I was being forced to attend. Could there be a connection?
  • Jan 7th – Kenny Wayne Shepherd, “Blue On Black”
  • Jan 8th – Eagles, “Too Busy Being Fabulous” – I’d read about this song online the day before. I think we can safely draw a straight-line between that and hearing it in my head.
  • Jan 9th – Steve Winwood (with Joe Walsh on guitar), “Split Decision”
  • Jan 10th – Foo Fighters, “My Hero” – I’m not a huge fan of the fighters of Foo and had to actually search to find the title of this track. Totally random stuff.
  • Jan 11th – Lindsey Buckingham, “Holiday Road” – Despite the holidays being well past me, this one popped into my head. Lingering issues over Xmas?
  • Jan 12th – Bruce Springsteen, “High Hopes”
  • Jan 13th – Beatles, “Across the Universe” – This track pops up often. It seems to be on regular repeat.
  • Jan 14th – U2, “Stuck In A Moment”
  • Jan 15th, Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Roadtrippin'” – Great acoustic track about friends on a road trip… I’d had a dream about some friends of mine from the old days.
  • Jan 16th – Elvis Costello, “Alison” – Was listening to LPs for my post on debut albums, Pleased To Meet You… The Epic List of Our 40 Favorite Debut Albums. This had to be a connection to that.
  • Jan 17th – Bruce Springsteen, “Ghost of Tom Joad” – Dreamt I was a cop investigating a murder at the inauguration the night before… Strange connection if there is one?
  • Jan 18th – Fiona Apple, “Extraordinary Machine” – I’d just repurchased this album, the title track seems to have lodged itself in my brain.
  • Jan 19th – Avett Brothers? “There Was a Dream”? – There’s a song that sounds like the Avett Brothers used in an insurance commercial that I see a few hundred times each night. I woke up with it in my head. Not sure if its the Avett Bros or what the name is. Ironically, I have no idea which insurance company.
  • Jan 20th – Pink Floyd “Not Now John” – The previous day I’d posted about “The Gunner’s Dream,” Roger Waters: New Recording/Video OF “The Gunner’s Dream” Originally From ‘The Final Cut’, and had listened to the whole album. This track stuck. Great riff, it came to me first.
  • Jan 21st – Neil Young & Crazy Horse, “Come On Baby Lets Go Downtown” – Danny Whitten from Crazy Horse on vocals.
  • Jan 22nd – Pink Floyd, “Gunner’s Dream” – This track stuck with me a few days. One of my all time favorites.
  • Jan 23rd – Moody Blues, “Lucky Man” – I despise the Moody Blues and this song. How this ended up in my head is a mystery. I’m just glad it wasn’t “Knights In White Satin.”
  • Jan 24th – U2, “Mysterious Ways” – Another common track I wake up with… I don’t know why but it may be Edge’s riff.
  • Jan 25th – Van Halen, “Big Bad Bill Is Sweet William Now” – Been thinking a lot of Eddie Van Halen lately.
  • Jan 26th – Black Crowes, “Welcome To the Good Times” – Same LP as Jan 2nd’s entry… no connection.
  • Jan 27th – Rod Stewart, “Man of Constant Sorrow” – From his debut. It was our first snow of the year… which always make me feel well, sorrowful.
  • Jan 28th – Blind Melon, “No Rain”
  • Jan 29th – Sam Cooke, “Chain Gang” – I’d to tell you this stems from the movie One Night In Miami but I haven’t seen it yet.
  • Jan 30th – Frank Sinatra, “New York, New York” – Perhaps feeling some little town blues since I can’t travel.
  • Jan 31st – Led Zeppelin, “Candy Store Rock” – The music came to me first and while I was laying in bed the lyrics finally popped in.

That’s my Song Journal for January. No real patterns of thinking that I can discern. My mental jukebox doesn’t seem to want to tell me anything, I guess it just wants to rock. I had hoped perhaps for some existential insight but as always that seems to elude me. As we move into February I wish all of you pleasant dreams and great music when you wake up. I know this post was something a little different but it’s winter and I figured, why not?

Cheers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care of one another out there. Cheers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers! Stay safe out there! 

 

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

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“I had a dream.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers! 

 

 

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

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*Image from the internet and likely subject to copyright

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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