The B&V Rock Hall of Fame 2023 Ballot Selections

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It’s February 1st and so that means the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio has announced this year’s nominees for the 2023 class. The Rock Chick actually surprised me with a trip to the Rock Hall a few years back and I was very impressed with it and pleasantly surprised by Cleveland. They’ve got some great Lebanese restaurants in that town. I know that a lot of people consider the Rock Hall to be as irrelevant as Rolling Stone magazine these days. Most people don’t care about the Rock Hall, and I get it. It was Ray Davies who said, when the Kinks were inducted into the Rock Hall, “Seeing everybody here tonight, it makes me realize that rock and roll has become respectable. What a bummer.” I keep a running list of acts that would be in the BourbonAndVinyl Hall of Fame (and perhaps some day I’ll write about that) because I feel the actual Hall is so deeply flawed.

And as much as I have maligned the Rock Hall’s nominees in the past – The Rock And Roll Hall of Fame 2018 Inductees: Getting It Wrong, Again – and lamented how many worthy rock acts who should be in the Hall, who aren’t inducted – The B&V List of Artists Who Really Should Be In the Rock Hall of Fame – I can’t help myself, I look for the announcement of the nominees every year. It seems when it comes to the Rock Hall, like Zeppelin sang, “I can’t quit you baby.” As a huge fan of this music I feel it’s incumbent upon me to vote every year like I’m voting for President or Governor, like there’s something important riding on it. The fan vote is mostly symbolic but I feel like if the fans vote the elitist journalist cabal who run the thing might hear us and actually put some of the great, deserving bands who aren’t in the Hall, into the Hall. And besides, as most long time readers know, if asked my opinion on a rock n roll question, um, I’m going to weigh in.

I actually think the Rock Hall has selected a great list of nominees. It’s a great diverse group of artists from 70s soul (The Spinners) to 80s pop (Cyndi Lauper and George Micheal) to Hip Hop (A Tribe Called Quest and Missy Elliott) to Heavy Metal (Iron Maiden) to 90s rock (Rage Against The Machine and Soundgarden).  Here are the 2023 nominees:

  • A Tribe Called Quest
  • Kate Bush
  • Sheryl Crow
  • Missy Elliott
  • Iron Maiden
  • Joy Division/New Order
  • Cyndi Lauper
  • George Michael
  • Willie Nelson
  • Rage Against The Machine
  • Soundgarden
  • The Spinners
  • The White Stripes
  • Warren Zevon

I can’t tell you how glad I am to see Warren Zevon on this list. I’ve been clamoring for his nomination for years to anybody who will listen… and well, most people don’t listen… You can cast your fan vote at: https://vote.rockhall.com/en/ and I hope you’ll vote as well!

Here were my votes, in order. You’re allowed 5. You can apparently vote once a day, which is extreme even for me.

  1. Warren Zevon – I have waited years to see this man’s name on the ballot. I jumped at the chance to vote for him. We posted about Zevon’s essential albums several years ago.
  2. The White Stripes – One of the best bands of all time. I hope both Jack and Meg White show up for the induction. If you haven’t gotten into the White Stripes, may I suggest their Greatest Hits.
  3. Soundgarden – I saw Soundgarden in concert for the final time on their next to last concert prior to the sad and untimely death of Chris Cornell. These guys should be a slam-dunk induction.
  4. Rage Against The Machine – I love Rage and even love Audioslave that featured Tom Morello, Tim Comerford, and Brad Wilk from Rage with the aforementioned Chris Cornell. Hard rocking and topical, these guys are one amazing band.
  5. Willie Nelson – It was a toss up between Willie and Iron Maiden, which is a sentence I never thought I’d type. In the end, with Willie getting up there in years, I felt I should cast my vote for him.

There are a ton of great nominees this year. And, I thought it was a fun break from the daily grind of my corporate masters to go out and cast my vote. I just look forward to seeing some of these performances at the ceremony. I feel like this post has been “A public service announcement with guitars…” as the Clash sang…

Cheers!

David Crosby, Founding Member of The Byrds, Crosby, Stills Nash &/or Young – Gone at 81 – RIP Croz

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*Image taken from the internet and copyrighted

I was sitting at my desk just now working for my corporate masters but really “doing next to nothing but different than the day before,” when I saw the sad news that David Crosby, “Croz,” had passed away after a long illness. He was 81. Man, what a bummer couple of weeks it’s been. First, legendary guitarist Jeff Beck passes. Then Lisa Marie Presley, the daughter of the King, passes away. And now this. Crosby was a founding member of seminal folk-rock group the Byrds with Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark, Chris Hillman and Micheal Clarke. He was a founding member of Crosby, Stills & Nash (and sometimes Young) and oh my god the vocal harmonies those guys could create. He was also a solo artist. I was a big, big fan. He had been on a creative hot streak of late. What a voice. I wonder how many people he sang back up vocals for? Jackson Browne, Neil Young, Stephen Stills, Phil Collins… the list goes on and on.

Crosby, as I mentioned, helped found the Byrds. I have to admit, despite my younger brother – who was always way ahead of me musically… perhaps he’s an old soul – owning several Byrds’ records I didn’t connect with until the last few years. When I discovered how great they were I went crashing through their first five albums – from Mr. Tambourine Man to The Notorious Byrd Brothers. They were the first band to take tunes by Dylan (and other traditional folk songs) and electrify them. Crosby’s vocals and rhythm guitar were a critical component of the band. He did upset the rest of the band when he substituted with the Buffalo Springfield, a perceived rival band, at the Monterey musical festival… he was sub’ing for an absent Neil Young. The man was nothing if not headstrong. When he submitted the song “Triad” about a menage a trois to the band McGuinn had had enough. He was kicked out of the band. Although the Jefferson Airplane had no problem covering it.

A staple of the Laurel Canyon music scene, it was at a party at Mama Cass’ house that he ran into Stephen Stills, newly freed from the Buffalo Springfield and Graham Nash, recently freed from the Hollies. They harmonized on Stills’ “Suite Judy Blue Eyes” and they realized, “Hey, maybe we’re onto something here.” Their first LP, creatively titled Crosby Stills & Nash was a smash. They played their first concert at Woodstock! Neil Young joined and they recorded their second album, which I love, Deja Vu. At that point the group unity kinda went south. Everybody went off to solo careers. While Crosby Stills & Nash would regroup quite often, Neil only joined for a CSNY reunion a couple of times over the years – for American Dream and Looking Forward. I actually really liked those albums… although I may be the only person who did. I was lucky enough to see CSNY on the Looking Forward tour and it was great. I went with my friend the Jean Genie who was 8 months pregnant. You’ve never gotten hostile stares at a concert until you’ve gone with a pregnant woman… and I’ve vomited at concerts. I wasn’t her husband, it wasn’t my fault she was pregnant.

Crosby’s first solo album after CSNY had gone their separate ways was If Only I Could Remember My Name, a title I laughed at when I was in college. I finally picked it up a few years back and it’s absolutely wonderful. It’s one of my favorites. “Cowboy Movie” is one of his greatest tunes ever written. Crosby also did several great LPs with erstwhile friend Graham Nash whose voices intertwined to sound like angels. I recommend Graham Nash/David Crosby and Wind On The Water to any fan of CSN. I like so much of CSNY’s solo work and duo albums. All of that early, mid-70s stuff is just dynamite music.

Crosby’s solo career saw the release of only three albums over the first 40 years and five albums over the last ten years. He had two bands he was working with. The Lighthouse band did The Lighthouse and Here If You Listen. I never connected as strongly with those records but I loved Sky Trails. To me that record signaled Croz had a lot more music in him. He recorded that album in collaboration with, among others, his son James Raymond. His last record, For Free, was another great record. Laid back, super vocals, great vibe music. Both those latter LPs were the kind of albums that B&V were founded for – great late career LPs by established artists.

Crosby wrote so many great songs. “Deja Vu,” “Almost Cut My Hair,” “Guinivere” (covered by Miles Davis no less), “Wooden Ships,” “Long Time Gone,” “Delta,” “Cowboy Movie,” “Compass,” “Capitol,” and “Carry Me” just to name a few. And that list doesn’t even mention any of his songs in the Byrds. He was really an iconic, rock n roll legend. A true Rock Star. He was a big figure in the counter culture and helped inspire Neil Young to write the greatest protest song ever, “Ohio.” He produced one of Joni Mitchell’s early albums. And like true rock stars, he did have a drug problem and ran afoul of the law. He actually did some time in Texas. What rock star amongst you is guilt free? He will be truly missed. Not only for the great music from the 70s that he was most known for but for the great music he was still making. This is even more tragic as he was in the middle of a true career renaissance.

Croz, we’ll miss you man. RIP to a legend. I have to say, tonight will be a long evening delving into Crosby’s music from throughout his storied career. I guess, as Croz once sang, “I feel like letting my freak flag fly, Yes, I feel like I owe it to someone…”

It’s a long dark ride folks. Take care of each other out there. Cheers!

The Very Old, Very False Myth That The Devil Isn’t In The Details, He’s In The Rock N Roll Music

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I was reading something the other day. It was a discussion of all the preposterous rock n roll rumors that have propagated over the years. Naturally my first thought was that myth that Zeppelin was booed off stage in Kansas City. That of course led me to the old rumor that Van Halen were actually Kiss without their make up. Gene Simmons financed their demo tape and on the debut album, Van Halen, they thank him which started the whole story. This was way before Kiss took their make up off on MTV. I know my friend Brewster was incensed by that rumor. He knew Ace Frehley couldn’t play guitar like Eddie. The only preposterous story I ever heard that seemed like it might be true was the story about a woman being murdered and recorded in the background during the recording of “Love Rollercoaster” by the Ohio Players. That primal scream a couple of minutes into the song used to scare the crap out of me.

The preposterous rumor that didn’t scare me when I was a teenager was the oldest story in the book. The myth that Satan was lurking behind all this rock n roll I loved. If anything those kind of rumors might have fueled my desire to hear more rock n roll. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not Satanist but neither is rock n roll in any real sense. Of course I have to admit the cover art on the Dio fronted Black Sabbath album Mob Rules did give my mother pause…”What the Hell is this you’re listening to?” I read one time that there was a spike in teen smoking after the they put the “The Surgeon General has determined that cigarette smoking is dangerous to your health” warning on the packs. We are collectively drawn toward danger and darkness. We thrive on risk. If they outlaw cigarettes only outlaws will smoke… or something like that? I will say, I think the professor in Animal House played by Donald Sutherland is right… The Devil is the most interesting character in Milton’s Paradise Lost. Who doesn’t love a well written villain? Paging Hannibal Lecter… Again, I’m not decrying religion of any nature… but “God makes me nervous when you get him indoors.”

The whole “Satan” thing really reached preposterous levels when I was in junior high. Supposedly, Rush, who had a pentagram in their logo actually stood for Ruled Under Satan’s Hand. It was said they held Satanic rituals in the arenas after concerts. The more I’ve learned about the guys in Rush over the years, they’re the nicest people in music this side of Dave Grohl. The most Satanic thing Rush ever did was brew their own micro beer. They said the same thing about Kiss. It supposedly stood for Knights In Satan’s Service. I mean, come on? The only thing that Kiss was in service of was commerce. Those guys had Kiss Koffins for sale. I’m willing to say that Ace might been a little dark but Gene Simmons was all about the benjamins. When I finally stopped listening to these rumors were when someone told me the exact same story – Satanic rituals after concerts – about… Journey. I was like, Steve Perry? The man has the voice of an angel? Maybe Satan was who he was singing to in “Don’t Stop Believin’?” Sorry folks this is where I get off the Satan bus.

Perhaps the first time the Satan myth popped up was about legendary bluesman Robert Johnson, pictured above. The story goes that he was an average to weak guitar player. He supposedly went down to the crossroads where he met the Devil, who tuned his guitar. After that his playing was amazing. It’s kind of a take on the whole Faustian legend if you ask me. Faust sold his soul to the Devil for ultimate knowledge and pleasure. After this alleged meeting with Satan or possibly Papa Legba, Johnson became quite the legend. I’m guessing the truth is a little different. Likely preachers, upset by the effect Johnson’s music and guitar playing was having on people – especially women – decided there must be demonic forces here. If the pretty woman in town won’t sleep with the preacher but will with the guy singing “Sweet Home Chicago,” the Devil must be at work here. And believe me, Robert was popular with the ladies… The preachers finally began to decry Johnson and blues music as the work of the Devil. And like that cigarette warning label, it probably helped his career.

It was a similar case in the 50s. When what we now call rock n roll sprung up it terrified the conservative establishment. Those folks thrive on fear in the masses. Fear divides us and keeps us docile to the powers that be. Preachers and elder statesmen in the 50s were decrying this new music as the work of the Devil to scare parents. It worked, to a degree. Frightened parents tried to keep their kids away from that primal music. Again I think they were particularly frightened of how women were reacting. Most of our history revolves around keeping women down, if you think about it. Why else would they insist that the Ed Sullivan Show only film the King from the waist up? Elvis the Pelvis as he was known. Anything that sexual has to be bad… at least it did in 50s, Eisenhower America where the female orgasm was still a myth. I’m beginning to think the Devil is the tool of the establishment. If anything parents trying to keep rock n roll away from their kids, making it seem more illicit, made the rebellious music take off like they couldn’t imagine. I know Frank Sinatra was dismayed. By the time the 60s hit, rock n roll helped lead a youth rebellion.

I remember Zeppelin was supposedly Satanic. Anybody that big had to be “in league with Lucifer.” I knew a girl in Arkansas who took my friend Doug and I out to a spot outside of town that she claimed was frequented by Devil worshipers. She said they all sat around listening to Zeppelin. I couldn’t help but think, why not Sabbath? Anyway, these “Devil worshipers” had written “Serve Satin” on the rock wall. I was like, “Satin? Like the sheets?” The young lady said they misspelled Satan’s name as “Satin” because it furthered their blasphemy. Sigh. Maybe they should have furthered their education to work on their spelling? Zeppelin’s lead guitar player Jimmy Page was into the occult and owned the former house of occultist Aleister Crowley. They had songs like “Black Dog” and “In My Time Of Dying” that scared people. This was the 70s where films like The Exorcist and Omen were current hits. There was always scary black dogs running around chewing up the good guys, Rottweilers if I’m not mistaken. Doug’s mother was fond of the movie Devil Dog, Hound of Hell. It was Zeppelin’s iconic track “Stairway To Heaven” that got the attention of everybody. Supposedly if you spun the record backwards you could hear them say “Here’s to Sweet Satan.” I will admit, when we did this when I was in high school I thought I could hear the word Satan but I think it was a coincidence. I don’t think it was planned. I remember jumping up on the couch in fear but I’m a lover not a religious crusader… yeah, I was scared. ELO made fun of it by doing a backward masking thing on “Fire On High.” When played backwards it said, “The music is reversible but time is not.” I don’t think, despite Page’s dark bent, that Zeppelin had anything to do with Satan.

It was Black Sabbath who realized the value of adopting that whole Evil thing. Instead of running away from it they realized that calling themselves Black Sabbath and having scary album artwork could actually work in their favor. Embrace the scary evil and it draws people in. So many heavy metal bands have adopted the same stance. It puts them outside the norms of society and makes them seem like outlaws and/or outcasts which is a vibe all teenagers can gravitate toward it. Let’s face it folks, Satan Sells. That’s why you’ve got Motley Crue singing “Shout At The Devil,” and people like Rob Zombie out there doing whatever you call what he does. We used to laugh at Iron Maiden and their mascot Eddie. We called them, amongst others, “Scary Monster Rock.” But you know what, they were the ones laughing all the way to the bank. The Devil is actually an accountant in a three-piece suit.

The next time you hear your grandmother or some preacher telling you that rock music – if anybody even remembers rock music anymore – is the tool of the Devil, please laugh that off. It’s the most preposterous thing in the world. Anytime the establishment wants to scare you away from something, run toward it. I’m going to spend my weekend cranking Iggy Pop’s new album Every Loser and anything by Jeff Beck, who just passed, that I can get my hands off. Because Jeff Beck played that Devil’s guitar better than almost anybody out there.

Be safe out there but break some rules this weekend. Be naughty because it feels so nice.

Cheers!

Jeff Beck, Guitar Legend, Has Passed Away At 78 – RIP Jeff Beck – Yardbirds, The Jeff Beck Group, ‘Blow By Blow’ – Such A Tremendous Loss

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*Image of Jeff Beck in 2014 above taken from the internet and likely copyrighted

I was in my home office trying to knock out a laborious task for my corporate masters when I took a break to look on-line to see if anything of note had happened today. To be honest, I wanted to check the news and to look at some rock n roll stuff. It was then that I saw the sad news that guitar legend Jeff Beck had passed away from meningitis. Then I read it was a hoax, then I read it was the truth, Beck had passed. Damn internet. It was then that my friend, drummer Blake, reached out with the news. It is with a heavy heart I type these words: Jeff Beck has passed at the young age of 78 years old from a sudden bought of meningitis. He was simply one of the greatest guitarists of all time. Rolling Stone magazine had him in the top 5 all time if that means anything to you. He ranks up there with Eddie Van Halen, Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix for me. He could bend the strings…

Obviously, I am a huge fan of Jeff Beck. He had a guitar tone that was instantly recognizable. As most people know, he was one of the “Big 3” guitarist who played in the seminal English, blues rock band The Yardbirds. The Yardbirds started with Clapton on lead guitar but he quit because of his “blues purism.” He thought the band was moving too far into “pop.” Jeff Beck then came in to replace him. Eventually Jimmy Page joined the band. Imagine that dual lead guitar line up – Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck! Eventually they fired Beck and kept Page. Jeff could be, uh, mercurial. After the blues purism of Clapton, Jeff Beck really opened up what the Yardbirds’ sound. If you listen to “Heart Full of Soul” you can hear the psychedelia entering the picture. I think that was the song they’d hired a sitar player to play on, but they didn’t like the sound so Jeff just played the riff it on guitar. There was little he couldn’t do with the instrument. Coincidentally Ozzy Osbourne was able to recruit both Jeff Beck and Clapton to play on his album Patient Number 9 and had actually reached out to Page to play on the record, but he declined. As Meatloaf sang, “Two out of three (Yardbirds’ guitarists) ain’t bad.” Beck plays on the title track (Review: Ozzy Osbourne’s New Song Patient Number 9 With Jeff Beck! On Guitar) of the album and one other song.

After leaving the Yardbirds Jeff formed his own band, The Jeff Beck Group. Guitarists were a huge draw and Beck was to be the focus of the band so they used his name to cash in on his Yardbirds fame. He recruited Ronnie Wood (later of the Faces and Rolling Stones) to play bass guitar and Rod Stewart as his lead vocalist. The theory was Jeff’s guitar would pull the guys into shows and good looking Rod Stewart would draw the women. Jimmy Page, who took Beck’s job in the Yardbirds stole that very blueprint for Led Zepplin with Robert Plant. I loved the Jeff Beck Group and posted on them years ago: Artist Lookback: The (Original) Jeff Beck Group: Jeff Beck, Rod Stewart & Ronnie Wood. They only hung together for 2 albums, Truth and Beckola before constant touring and treating Wood & Stewart like sidemen broke the band up. Ronnie Wood joined the Faces on his chosen instrument, guitar. Rod went solo but soon joined Woody in the Faces. The album Truth is one of the most influential albums in blues rock. It’s a stunning record. I could listen to their version of Howlin Wolf’s “I Ain’t Superstitious” and “Blues De Luxe” all day long. “Blues De Luxe” is on my “Rockers Playing the Blues” playlist. The Jeff Beck Group was supposed to play Woodstock but Jeff, who was fond of fast cars, was in a car accident and they couldn’t play. I still wonder to this day what would have happened if they’d made that iconic gig.

After the Yardbirds and the original Jeff Beck Group a lot of people may have lost track of Beck. He formed a couple of different bands and put out records. He carried on as the Jeff Beck Group with an all new line up he put together that included Cozy Powell on drums and Bobby Tench on vocals. Then in 1973 he formed Beck, Bogert, Appice with Tim Bogert on bass and Carmine Appice on drums. Carmine’s little brother Vinny played with the Dio fronted Black Sabbath on Mob Rules. Beck, Bogart, Appice did a version of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” on that record that inspired Stevie Ray Vaughn to cover it years later.

While that was already an incredible resume, in the middle 70s Beck decided to eschew working with a vocalist and put out two of the greatest guitar instrumental records ever. In 1975 he put out Blow By Blow which is another personal favorite. He covered the Beatles song “She’s A Woman.” He has a guitar solo titled “Constipated Duck” which may win the most preposterous song title award. He also covers Stevie Wonder’s “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers” to wonderful effect. He worked with keyboardist Max Middleton who had been in the second incarnation of the Jeff Beck Group and it’s just a great LP. It almost feels like Jazz. He came back in 1976 with Wired, which I believe may be drummer Blake’s favorite. It was also produced by George Martin. They do a cover of Charles Mingus’ “Goodbye Porkpie Hat” which is worth the price of admission.

After those highlights I have to admit my knowledge of Jeff’s work is spotty. I remember hearing his version of “People Get Ready” with Rod Stewart and it’s a sublime track:

I know he also guested on Stewart’s LP Camouflage and joined the tour but quit only a few shows in. I know Rod and Jeff Beck talked about trying to record together again for years after that – up until just recently – but they couldn’t get it together. Rod wanted to do blues stuff and Jeff’s musical tastes couldn’t be confined to the blues. It was a missed opportunity if you ask me. Their relationship was a rocky one. As Jeff said when he inducted Rod into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame, “Rod and I have a love-hate relationship. He loves me and I hate him.”

While I lost touch a bit with Jeff’s work over the years I know he did quite a few critically acclaimed records over the years like Jeff Beck’s Guitar Shop and Who Else!. Drummer Blake turned me onto the video – that I recommend highly – Live At Ronnie Scott’s. If you watch the audience on that DVD you’ll spot all kinds of rock royalty there to listen to Jeff’s guitar wizardry. While I didn’t keep up as much with his solo work, he was a guest guitarist on so many other artist’s records: Mick Jagger, Ozzy, Paul Rodgers and Roger Waters just to name a few. His amazing guitar skills were much sought after.

Rock and roll in the 60s was built on the backs of guitar giants like Jeff Beck. Of the three Yardbirds guitarists, Jeff probably gets the least attention. His records – from the Yardbirds to the Jeff Beck Group to his solo stuff – should be on everyone’s turntable.

It may be a Wednesday night – and I avoid drinking on weeknights – but tonight I see a tumbler of the good stuff with Truth, Blow By Blow, Wired and Beckola on the stereo. “I’ve been drinkin’ again, thinkin of when you left me.” We’ve lost a true legend today, and way too soon. As a friend of mine is fond of saying, “The guy could play.”

RIP Jeff Beck, guitar legend, 24 June 1944 – 10 January 2023. It’s a sad day indeed. You will be missed.

Time is short folks. Cherish every day.

Cheers!

Review: Paul McCartney, ‘7″ Singles Box’ – **Streaming Only** – A Monolithic Life’s Work As Told In 80 Singles

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Legend, ex-Beatle Paul McCartney turned 80 this year in June and to celebrate he put together the mother of all box sets. This new box in it’s physical form was way over the top. It’s entitled The 7″ Singles. He went back and put together a box – actually if I’m being honest it was a wooden crate, I’m not sure I could lift the thing – with eighty (80) old school, vinyl, 7″ singles. In the days before CDs and MP3 artists released vinyl 7″ singles that were also known as 45s… Open this crate and you find the actual, physical copies of 80 of McCartney’s singles with the original artwork from back in the day on the single sleeve. The crate doesn’t have every single he ever put out but the 80 singles – to match his age – certainly cover his entire career from his first solo record McCartney to his latest McCartney III. To add to it’s rather massive packaging, it came with a massive price tag, over $600. There were only 3000 of these produced, I think? These will obviously be instant collectors items. But alas, too rich for me.

My dad had a rack of singles that my brother sort of took over when we were kids. We had a little record player, I hesitate to call it a turntable and we’d listen to my dad’s old Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, and Elvis records. Well he’d listen, I didn’t pay as close attention as he did. When an artist was going to put out an album – or an LP in industry vernacular –  it was proceeded, like today, by the release of a single to get the buying public lathered up for the album. An album was vinyl, 12″ and spun at 33 rpms (revolutions per minute). In those days a single was also vinyl, but only 7″ and spun at 45 rpms. Singles ruled the world before the Beatles made albums artistically relevant instead of just mere collections of singles. The irony is not lost on me that one of the guys who made albums more relevant than singles has come back with a crate full of… singles. It’s the circle of life folks… All these years removed from sharing a room with my brother and I have such a complicated turntable I’m not sure I could even play a vinyl single any more. I would have to get under the hood and change some belts underneath to change the speed. Uh, no thank you… I’m not that technically proficient.

When I saw the price tag of this thing I was an immediate “No.” Even I have limits. But then I realized McCartney had also released it for purchase in MP3 format. That made me check the streaming service I use and yes, it was also released to all major streaming services. These “non-physical” formats contain 159 songs released over 80 singles during McCartney’s solo career. It’s close to 10 hours of music. Naturally, I knew I had to spend the next three or four days listening to it straight through. Someone had to do it, it might as well be your intrepid blogger. Who else is musically obsessed enough to endeavor to do this? I felt compelled to separate this collection from the gimmickry of the packaging and see if it had any merit as a listening experience. I’m just glad I didn’t have to get up and walk to the turn table 159 times to turn the records over and I’m a vinyl guy. In truth I don’t care how anybody gets their music as long as they listen!

As I listened to this thing, I couldn’t help but feel that this might be the biggest monolithic greatest hits album ever. I mean it has 80 of his singles. By definition, when an artist like McCartney releases a single it’s probably going to hit the charts, ergo it’s a hit, be it minor or major. But then he also included 79 B-sides. Those B-sides could be anything from unreleased gems to deep LP cuts that are throwaways, or deep LP cuts that are actually great songs, or remixed or mono versions of a song, or maybe a live track. B-sides can indeed be a mixed bag. Regardless of whether you consider this the largest greatest hits album ever released or not, it certainly tells us the story of McCartney’s solo career, post-Beatles in a pretty comprehensive way. And, when you think about McCartney’s solo career – he’s a legend but there were definitely low periods in his career – this is perhaps the most courageous box set ever released. This box really tells his story, warts and all, triumphs and misses.

I didn’t start listening to music until the late 70s when I was in junior high. We are a product of our past and at that point McCartney was the king of the ex-Beatles, charts-wise. Lennon had retreated into being a house-husband by 1975. Harrison had lost his way creatively and well, I never paid attention to Ringo’s solo music. I love Ringo but… McCartney was my favorite Beatle when I started listening to music because he was who we heard on the radio most often. He had more hits in that mid to late 70s era. Even before I had really listened to music McCartney’s music was ever present. I’d hear “Another Day” in my mom’s car while we were going to the market or “Band On The Run” over the loudspeakers at the neighborhood swimming pool. As I listened to the singles, arranged here in chronological order, I began to realize that McCartney’s music has been that way – ever present – my entire life. Whether he was producing chart topping, iconic LPs or critically panned schmaltz I have always been at least aware of what he was doing. If his latest LP was a dud (especially in the late 80s) there was always a good song or two on the album. McCartney was always such a master when it came to melody even at his worst I’d find myself humming his songs… “Press” comes to mind from when I was in college…

The start of this thing really is like listening to a greatest hits package. All of those iconic early hits from his early LPs – which were panned by the critics at the time – just roll out of the speakers. “Another Day,” one of my favorite B-sides “Oh Woman Oh Why,” “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” and “Hi, Hi, Hi.” I even liked the B-side, live track “The Mess” that I’d never heard before. There are just so many great songs here. I loved hearing “Mull of Kintyre” a song that was the greatest selling single in the UK until 1984 (and they may play at my funeral). I didn’t realize that McCartney hadn’t released any singles from his solo debut McCartney. It wasn’t until I heard the live version of “Maybe I’m Amazed” from Wings Over America that I realized that was the version that was the hit on radio. I couldn’t help but smile to think that bands used to actually release singles from live LPs!

Hearing “With A Little Luck” brought back memories of being in the backseat of dad’s Oldsmobile listening to Casey Kasem when that track was a huge hit. My brother had the album Back To The Egg which was supposed to be McCartney’s response to punk rock, and I used to go in his room to listen to that album just to hear the rocker “Old Siam Sir,” included here as well. My brother also had McCartney II and no one will ever be able to convince me that “Temporary Secretary” is a good song. I can’t believe it was a single.

The 80s are when the wheels came off a bit for McCartney. I have always felt that McCartney was more traumatized by the assassination of John Lennon than anybody ever realized. They were such dear friends at one time. He did respond with one of my favorite albums of his, Tug Of War. That was, for me, the highlight of McCartney’s 80s. I heard it playing in the record store when I’d gone to browse for music and I walked out with it. My girlfriend at the time was like, “You like “Ebony and Ivory”?” Well, no but listen to “Here Today.” While the 80s mostly sucked you’ll never find a better song than “No More Lonely Nights,” complete with David Gilmour on lead guitar. “Spies Like Us” from the movie of the same name is here too.

McCartney finished the 80s with his strongest LP since Tug Of War with Flowers In The Dirt where he collaborated with Elvis Costello. I love tracks from that era here – “My Brave Face,” and “Put It There” in particular. We all thought that was McCartney’s comeback but he continued to stumble until he immersed himself in the Beatles Anthology project in the 90s. He emerged from that project with (to me at least) his real comeback album Flaming Pie. Those singles are looser and rock more than anything he’d done since the 70s. Shortly after that we lost Linda McCartney and Paul recorded one of our favorite albums of cover songs and I was pleased “No Other Baby” was included here.

Since Flaming Pie McCartney has been on such a creative roll. There are so many great songs many of you may not have stuck around to hear after his creative dip in the 80s and early 90s. “Jenny Wren” with the great B-side “Summer of ’59,” “Fine Line,” “From A Lover To A Friend,” and all the tracks from Dance Tonight, especially the title track. They even included his hit from the side project The Firemen, “See The Changes.” For what it’s worth they also included tracks from his opera album(s) and his old pop standard album. There are a few non-album singles here as well. Artists used to not wait until the album was finished and would just put out a single and not include it on the next album, just a little something to keep them in the minds eye.

Over the course of listening to this monolithic collection of songs it dawned on me how breathtakingly wide the range of things McCartney can do is. Whether it’s a rocker, a classical pop song with strings, a ballad, folk, country, a few reggae moments, Christmas classics, opera, electronic pop – there’s not any genre of music that McCartney didn’t try. The man is truly fearless with a boundless imagination with a bold need to experiment and try new things. He is truly one of the most important artists of the rock era – in and out of the Beatles. While the set dips a bit in the middle, like his career, the singles are still very strong. While I can’t suggest anybody plunk down even the $80 for the MP3 version of this – it’s certainly a collection everyone should hear… maybe not all at once like I did – and explore. There may be a stray single you missed or a great B-side you’ve never heard. Like McCartney’s career in total, this set has so many gems and pleasures that I think everybody will find something to enjoy.

I want to wish everybody who celebrates it (or endures it like me) a very Merry Xmas and Happy Holidays. Having people read these crazy ramblings is the greatest gift I get every year so thank you all very much!

Cheers!

 

Review: Neil Young & Crazy Horse Return With Ecology Focused ‘New World Record’ – Third Winner In a Row!

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Despite the fact that Neil Young, who is 77, has been quite prolific over the course of his late career, even I was surprised that he was back with a new album this quickly. When I speak of Young being prolific I’m not even talking about his Archival output from his vaults – the unreleased LPs like Toast or Homegrown or his wonderful Archive box sets – I’m talking about new material. This new album, World Record, is his third album in four years. And, more importantly it’s the first time in his career that he has put out three albums in a row with his once-and-future backing band Crazy Horse. There was a time in the 70s when he was cobbling albums together from previous recording sessions and many of his albums would have a few cuts from Crazy Horse, but he’s never done three proper studio albums in a row with Crazy Horse. Personally, I like the guitar chemistry Neil has with Crazy Horse and I considered the news that he had reconvened “the Horse” for a third go-round as good news to my ears. Clearly there will be no “soul covers” album from Neil Young like Mr. Springsteen has chosen to do… sigh. But then Neil has Everybody’s Rockin’ to atone for…

Crazy Horse has gone through quite a few changes over the years. Neil recruited drummer Ralph Molina, bassist Billy Talbot and guitarist Danny Whitten from a band named the Rockets back in ’69 for his second solo LP after leaving Buffalo Springfield, Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere. But then Neil joined CSNY for Deja Vu which helped solidify his status as a star. After all of that his relationship with Crazy Horse was sort of off again, on again. He’d recruit certain members of the band to play on certain albums. But then, in 1973 during the rehearsals for the tour in support of Harvest, guitarist Danny Whitten died of an overdose. He wouldn’t record a full album with Crazy Horse again until 1975’s Zuma. Although I’ve always considered Tonight’s The Night to be a Crazy Horse album…. Of course after Whitten passed Neil would play with Crazy Horse with guitar virtuoso Nils Lofgren taking Whitten’s place. By 1975 Lofgren was off on his solo career and Young hired Frank Sampedro to be the second guitarist in the band for Zuma. Sampedro was the perfect guitar foil for Young. Young recorded many of his great guitar epics with Sampedro egging him on, such as “Like A Hurricane,” “Cortez The Killer,” and take your pick from anything off of 2012’s Psychedelic Pill (Sampedro’s last album with Crazy Horse before he retired).

As I mentioned, this is Young’s third album of new stuff with Crazy Horse in a row. The first album he re-recruited Crazy Horse for was Colorado in 2019. This was when Nils stepped back into the band to take Sampedro’s place. I really liked Colorado. But I think we all realized that Crazy Horse was a changed entity by that time. Gone were the guitar epics that Sampedro helped fuel. There was a 13 minute epic on that album, “She Showed Me Love,” but it wasn’t as fierce as say, “Cortez The Killer” or “Ramada Inn.” Still, it was a great tune. They turned around and in 2021 they released Barn which I felt was an even better late period Young album. Frankly, I’ll admit that if you include World Record this may be Young’s best 3-album run since the 90s. Young’s main concern over the course of these three albums is the environment, climate change and the slow reaction mankind seems to be having to it. The man knows his way around a protest song.

As I said, when I heard Young had another album coming this soon, I was surprised. I’m told he had it written by July of this year, a mere seven months after Barn came out. According to Wikipedia, World Record‘s “lyrical content concerns Young “reminisc[ing] with gratitude about the gifts the Earth has given him” as well as the “state of Earth” and “its uncertain future,” as well as “Chevrolet,” a song about “Young’s relationship with cars.”” My only concern in hearing all of that was that this might be another record that Young spun up from the headlines and hadn’t taken time to write full songs for like say, Living With War. For the first time since he reconvened Crazy Horse I had some trepidation about this album. But then I heard Rick Rubin was going to co-produce the LP in his studio Shangri-La out in Malibu. I was hoping Rick would be able to curb Young’s recording ideology of “the first take is the best take,” and I started to look forward to this album more. Then I realized that Rubin is more of a “vibe guy” as a producer. Most likely he just sat cross-legged in the corner like a long haired, bearded Buddha and grooved to the musicians playing. The most he probably did from a technical stand point is hit the “record” button. Young does miss David Briggs, his longtime late producer.

I heard the first song, “Love Earth” and I chose not to write about it… I wasn’t sure about it. It was a laid back piano shuffle that brought to mind both Petty’s “The Man Who Loved Women” (recorded on ukulele no less) or Monty Python’s “Always Look On The Bright Side of Life.” Those aren’t meant to be criticisms but the tune made me think of old-timey songs. It certainly doesn’t sound like “protest” music but music that celebrates the environment and asks you to do something about it. The song does have a nice harmonica solo. Now that I’ve spent last week after Thanksgiving listening to the album, “Love Earth” has bored it’s way into my brain. It is a damn catchy tune. I had heard that this wasn’t going to be a guitar driven album. I knew that they would be using a bunch of different instruments like tack piano, pump organ, harmonica, accordion, and such. I feared that this album might sound like a one man band falling down a flight of stairs. I was, thankfully, wrong. Although admittedly the instrumentation wasn’t what you’d usually think you’d get on a Neil Young and Crazy Horse album. But as I said, Crazy Horse is a different animal these days.

As mentioned, the album kicks off with the first single, “Love Earth.” I simply love that song but I’ll admit it’s a grower. That leads into a jaunty piano driven tune “Overhead.” It sort of reminds me of “Are You Ready For the Country?” I’d almost call this a country stomper of a tune. It’s an uptempo thing and might have really smoked had it been on guitar vs piano/harmonica as lead. That’s not a complaint, I’m just trying to frame the vibe of the tune. “Overhead” almost feels like a statement of purpose for the record especially on the falsetto bridge. “This Old Planet (Changing Days)” is another piano and possibly accordion driven tune. It’s a lament about climate change where Neil reminisces about beautiful days with clear blues skies and sparkling water. He’s not wrong… especially when he sings “You’re not alone on this old planet.” “The Long Day Before” is another organ/accordion driven track. It’s a pretty Neil Young ballad with a great harmonica solo. It’s one of my favorites. “Walking On The Road (To the Future)” is a great plea for people to take the best from the past but move forward into the future. It’s another track I really liked. In the chorus he follows up with his other theme beyond climate change, “No more war, only love.” Nothing wrong with those sentiments for this wannabe hippy blogger.

“The World’s In Trouble Now” is a more urgent tune. Its rocking sans guitar which is a weird thing to type. I guess there’s some guitar on the track. It could have been a real barrel house rocker but I dig the way they did it here. Neil isn’t beating you over the head he’s finessing you. I dug the lyric, “Because the earth has held me so, I will never let go.” “The Wonder Won’t Wait” is another similar track to “The World’s In Trouble Now.” It’s another track that sounds old-timey via the instrumentation but makes me wonder what it’d have sounded like with some electric guitar leading the charge. “Take some time to live before you die” is a great line and frankly, good advice. It’s another plea to act on climate change but with the laid back instrumentation it doesn’t feel like a crazy corner preacher yelling at you that the end is nigh.

For you Neil electric guitar fans out there – have no fear, we get some of that too. “I Walk With You” has an ominous guitar riff that opens it up. For a split second I was transported back to Psychedelic Pill but it’s not that incendiary. It’s more laid back than that. But man what a big riff drenched in squall. The bridge hammers it home, “The end of war, the price of life, the cost of care…””Break The Chain” is another feedback drenched guitar song. You can almost read emotion in Young’s guitar tone. It’s chugging rocker that was also one of my favorites.

The biggest, bad-ass track here is the 15-minute “Chevrolet,” an ode to cars. Which, when you think about the environmental themes on this record, it shouldn’t work at all here but it does. In the tune Young sees an old Chevrolet and wants to buy it, the car is “speaking to” him. But he asks himself, “How will it comfort me, burning all that fuel again?” It’s almost like a break up song… where he breaks up with driving down the highway in a gas guzzler. I really love this track. It’s worth the price of admission. The guitar interplay between Young and Nils is reminiscent of well, Young and Poncho Sampedro. If you do one thing after reading this review it’s crank up “Chevrolet.”

This is simply put, an outstanding Neil Young album. It’s shambolic. It might have benefited by more liberal use of guitars instead of the odd instrumentation but like the tune “Chevrolet” – it shouldn’t work but it does. For a man this deep in his career to still be putting out fantastic music with an urgent, important message it’s quite something to hear. I mean, you don’t hear Harry Styles pleading with people about climate change. And yeah, he’ll sell more albums than Neil but that doesn’t mean the music is better than Young’s.

Put this one on and use your headphones to wring out some of the nuance of the tracks. Pour a little something strong… maybe light something up if that’s your thing and groove on the power of Neil Young and Crazy Horse. Be good to each other out there. And maybe recycle… it can’t hurt.

Cheers!

New Song Alert: Shirtless Icon Iggy Pop’s New Aptly Titled “Frenzy” – Primal Rock N Roll Recalls ‘Raw Power’

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“I’m the guy with no shirt who rocks…” – Iggy Pop, 2022

I must admit I spent most of last week still in that Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Dream Canteen haze I’ve been in lately. But then Friday, like a thunderbolt, Iggy Pop released a brand new song, the aptly titled “Frenzy” and the next thing I know I’m jumping around with my shirt off, pumping my fist in the air. Music just… hits me sometimes.

I’ve admitted in these pages before, I didn’t grow up listening to Iggy Pop. Growing up in a conservative, small city in the Midwest, Iggy Pop wasn’t something you were going to hear on the local radio. The powers that be – the suits – who tightly controlled what people hear on the radio, weren’t going to put something as visceral and subversive as Iggy on during drive-time. The suits likely thought Pop was dangerous. I’m not sure I knew who Iggy was until I got to college and started reading Rolling Stone. His 1977 albums (2 in one year!) The Idiot and Lust For Life produced by David Bowie were always in those Rolling Stone “Best Albums Ever” issues and in college I had started religiously reading Rolling Stone so I’d heard the name… well, I’d read the name. I sort of relegated Iggy to that list I had in my head of artists that critics dug but no one else did… although ultimately I did end up listening to most of those bands (Digging In Deeper: Artists/Albums To Expand Your Music Collection; Don’t Be Afraid!). And in those very same pages of Rolling Stone every artist who they interviewed, if they were punk influenced, hard rock at all, would mention Iggy Pop as an influence. I thought he was just one of those artists other people name-dropped to sound cool. I figured most of them had never really listened to him, they just wanted the street cred. Even on cooking shows I’d see Iggy – Anthony Bourdain worshiped him.  At best I may have heard Iggy on MTV, likely something from 1986’s Blah Blah Blah, his final collaboration with David Bowie but it didn’t connect with me at the time.

I don’t know how I avoided Iggy for as long as I did. I knew he was pals with Bowie and I’ve been a huge Bowie fan since the early 80s. I just never jumped the fence over to Iggy’s side. Sometimes we take circuitous routes to find an artist, but my journey to Iggy was beyond odd. In 2013 I was driving in my car and the local radio station had just got their copy of the Queen of the Stone Age’s then new LP …Like Clockwork and they went old school and played the whole thing on-air. I connected with that album immediately… I seem to remember pulling my car over and parking in a lot near my house so I could hear the whole thing. That sent me deep into the QOTSA catalog. Then in 2016 I heard Josh Homme of the Queens was producing and playing on a new album of Iggy Pop’s entitled Post Pop Depression. I figured Iggy and Homme would be an interesting pairing. I heard the single, “Gardenia” and I was hooked. I bought the album and man, I loved it. The next thing I know I’m buying The Idiot and Lust For Life, the very records I’d scoffed at in college. Those albums are simply put, masterpieces. Iggy’s career has been a little up and down since so picked up albums scattered through his solo career from New Values to Blah Blah Blah to American Caesar. I even dug parts of his last LP Free with it’s horns and jazz-style tunes. It was a cool stylistic left turn. At the time, I may have been clandestinely video taped by my daughter in Snapchat while dancing to “James Bond” from that record. I was doing a Travolta in Pulp Fiction twist thing… it felt right at the time… although I’m not sure I wanted that captured for posterity, there may have been drink involved.

It took me a while but eventually I took the plunge and went deeper into Iggy. I started buying albums from his first band, the Stooges. The Stooges were formed in Detroit Rock City by Iggy and the Asheton brothers after Iggy had seen Jim Morrison and the Doors in concert. The Stooges just RAWK. If you’re looking for visceral, proto-punk, off the chain rock and roll, it’s the Stooges you’re looking for. Listening to their three LPs – The Stooges (1969), Fun House (1970), and especially Raw Power (1973, produced in part by yes, Bowie) – you begin to understand why every punk rocker in the late 70s and hard rocker of the 80s would name check Iggy. The Stooges era was when Iggy would tear his shirt off and crowd surf… occasionally either cutting his chest with broken glass or smearing peanut butter thrown at him from the crowd all over his chest… which would have been my choice rather than self harm with broken glass. The Stooges were primal rock n roll. They tapped directly into the Id, into that lower brain stem. I’m not sure Iggy has worn a shirt since those days…

Don’t get me wrong, Iggy has really rocked hard in his solo career at times, but I don’t think too many will disagree with me that he hasn’t rocked as hard as the Stooges, well, ever since. And then yesterday I heard “Frenzy.” Oh my god does this song rock. It takes me right back to Raw Power. It’s produced by Andrew Watt who I have quickly become a big fan of. He’s produced some modern pop stars, Post Malone and Miley Cyrus but he seems to be a neo-classicist when it comes to rock n roll and produced stellar albums from Eddie Vedder (Earthling) and Ozzy’s last two LPs (the comeback Ordinary Man and the recently released Patient Number 9). Watt also plays guitar on “Frenzy” with what appears to be his “go-to” rhythm section of drummer Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers) and bassist Duff McKagan (Guns N Roses). They make a helluva band. They played metal for Ozzy now they’re playing punk for Iggy. The circle is complete.

The track starts off with a dash of feedback before the heavy, fuzzy guitar riffs start. The drums and bass hit like a division of Panzer tanks invading the town square. Iggy sound viciously unhinged, spitting out lines like “I’m in a frenzy you fucking prick, I’m in a frenzy you god damn dick.” The man has never been known to mince words. And let’s admit it, we’ve all been there a time or two. For a guy who I thought might hang it up after Free, Iggy is back and better than ever and when he sings “My mind is on fire, I will not retire,” I think we have to believe him. Watt, with Chad and Duff, have captured the real spirit of the Stooges here. And I love that Iggy can still embrace that kind of well, raw power. Here’s the video:

Again, I thought Iggy had shuffled off into retirement. There’s no retirement shuffling for Iggy fucking Pop folks. The good news is that this isn’t just a one off single from Pop and Watt. It appears Andrew and his all star rhythm section are sticking around to record an entire album. I don’t know when it’s coming or what it’s called, but if this is how it’s going to sound it’s going to be a very, very rocking fall.

Turn this one up to 11, pour some Woodford, take your shirt off, get some peanut butter and behold the power (raw or otherwise) of Iggy Pop! And don’t be surprised if you hear me mumbling, “I’m a street walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm…”

Cheers!

New Song: Stevie Nicks’ Covers Stephen Stills’ “For What It’s Worth” – A Protest Song For The Ages

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*Image above taken from Stevie Nicks’ Instagram page

For those of you who are handwriting-reading impaired like me, here is the text of Stevie Nicks’ handwritten note regarding her new cover of the Stephen Stills’ penned song, originally recorded by the Buffalo Springfield:

I am so excited to release my new song this Friday (9/30). It’s called “For What It’s Worth” and it was written by Stephen Stills in 1966. It meant something to me then, and it means something to me now. I always wanted to interpret it thru (sic) the eyes of a woman – and it seems like today, in the times that we live in – that it has a lot to say…

I can’t wait for you to hear it. Stevie Nicks

There’s something happening here but what it is ain’t exactly clear, There’s a man with a gun over there telling me I got to beware” – “For What It’s Worth,” Stephen Stills

We’re not a political blog here at B&V. As I’m fond of saying, “I’m a lover, not a fighter.” But there are occasions in this life where art and politics intersect. The best of art – whether it’s painting, poetry or music – reflects the times in which it’s created. And to quote the movie Aliens, Hey, maybe you haven’t been keeping up on current events, but we just got our asses kicked, pal!” These are deeply troubled times. I keep waiting for someone to step forward with a protest song that captures the moment. From Iran – where the “Morality Police” killed a woman for not wearing her hijab “correctly,” – all the way to Ohio, women and their basic human rights are under siege from conservative, uptight, old men. Who will step forward and lead us musically out of the darkness… Will it be some new artist? Sadly, no. It’s icon, legend Stevie Nicks, who has recorded a song originally written in 1966 by Stephen Stills, who has captured the current moment’s protest in song. Words written almost 60 years ago seem so relevant today… “there’s a man with a gun over there, telling me I got to beware…” Sad that this song still feels so urgent today.

I’ve been a fan of Stevie Nicks almost from the beginning of my life long obsession with rock music. Like so many great bands, it was my brother who turned me on to Fleetwood Mac. He had purchased Rumours and one day I had wandered into his room and ended up staying for the entire album. I’m not sure how it happened but a few days later my brother entered my room which was rare (“Get out of here Curtis, I don’t hear you unless you knock.”) and he was carrying Rumours. He made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. He’d trade me that legendary album for my copy of Supertramp’s Breakfast In America. I had worn that album out with repeated plays. My brother and I never bartered albums. And, to this day, this is the only instance of us trading an LP in our long and storied history. Believe me, I’ve known this guy my whole life. Anyway, I remember sitting in my room listening to “Dreams” while I stared at Stevie’s image on the cover art. We all had a crush on Stevie. She was the cool chick you could drink a beer (or a wine cooler) with, maybe get high and if you’re lucky possibly make out with and it’d be no big deal.

Her first solo LP, produced by Jimmy Iovine Bella Donna, came out when I was a junior in high school. I think it made my list of best solo debut LPs… I remember driving up and down the main drag of my neighborhood and cranking “Edge of Seventeen.” Her duet with Tom Petty, “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” is one of the greatest duets ever. I just found out the Rock Chick is a huge fan of the duet “Leather and Lace” by Stevie and Don Henley. It says a lot that she digs the song since, like “The Dude” she hates the Eagles. I was in college when The Wild Heart came out. Oh my, we loved that album. It was on that tour – her first as a solo artist – that I got see Stevie live in concert in Wichita, Kansas. Joe Walsh opened up that show and kept saying how great it was to be “home.” We thought he was joking. Turns out he was from Wichita. I ended up in the front row by the stage during the encore when Stevie sang “Beauty And The Beast” which I thought was for me… I was a bit of a beast in those days. What a band she had that night – Liberty Devito on drums (from Billy Joel’s band), Benmont Tench on organ (Heartbreaker), Roy Bittan on piano (E Street Band), and on guitar, legendary session guy Waddy Wachtel (Everly Brothers, Zevon, Keef). Instead of a t-shirt I bought an 8×10 glossy, black and white photo of Stevie which remained on my wall until I graduated.

It wasn’t hard to be a Stevie fan in the 70s/80s. At the time Lindsey Buckingham had sort of lost his mind and Stevie’s songs were the typically the best ones on the Fleetwood Mac LPs. I like Christine McVie but she was a bit saccharine for me back then. Nicks was on a roll. But after The Wild Heart, Stevie kind of got consumed by her drug habit. From there my relationship to Stevie’s music, like so many of my relationships before the Rock Chick, was “on again, off again.” The Rock Chick owned and still loves Trouble In Shangri-La. I had taken a long break from Stevie’s LPs until I bought In Your Dreams. I thought it was a strong comeback album. I also jumped in on 24 Karat Gold, although admittedly it was her recording a bunch of songs she’d written in her heyday. Her latter day music is the kind of stuff I started this blog for.

Which all leads me to her cover of “For What It’s Worth.” You know we do love our cover songs/cover albums around here. Stephen Stills wrote the song in 1966 for his then band the Buffalo Springfield after witnessing the riots in L.A. protesting a 10 pm curfew. Once again old, uptight men trying to force the hipster boomers into going home early. While that is such a boomer reason to write a protest song, Stills’ words were prescient. “Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.” Here is the original version of the song:

I know Stevie has been performing this song on her current tour. Because folks, if you don’t think the “Morality Police” can come to your hometown, you haven’t been paying attention. In the last few months the U.S. Supreme Court has rolled America back to the Dark Ages. I’m surprised they haven’t legalized burning woman accused of being witches at the stake… which I do think Stevie is a Wiccan but that’s another post… Stevie just owns this song. I can’t say enough about her version. And yes, Waddy Wachtel is on the lead, buzz-saw guitar which hovers over the song like a police helicopter over the poor part of town. Stevie’s voice is hypnotic. At the end she keeps quietly, almost whispering the lyrics. It’s a simply amazing version of the song. Even the Rock Chick exclaimed, after I played the track, turned up to 11, in her car, “That’s an awesome song.” She did have to ask me who originally sang the song but not everybody is a musical obsessive. Here is Nicks’ version of the song:

Everybody really does need to “look what’s going down.” We’ve got to stand up for women now more than ever. All women everywhere deserve freedom. It may be time to start “takin’ it to the streets” people. Turn this amazing protest song up as loud as it’ll go, burn your bra and more importantly, register to vote. Whatever your political persuasion. Sorry if this PSA rocked your world.

Cheers!

Playlist: The B&V Favorite Covers of Chuck Berry Songs – A Tribute To His Immense Influence

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*Picture from the internet and likely copyrighted

“If you were to try and give rock and roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry” – John Lennon

As longtime readers know, I spent much of the last week and half listening to the 50th anniversary edition of Elton John’s Madman Across The Water. As I listened to that beautiful rock and roll album I couldn’t help but ruminate on the future of rock n roll. Will anyone ever make music like that again? And as usually happens when I think about the future of rock n roll, my mind kept returning to rock’s history, where it’s been. While Elvis is universally hailed as the King of Rock n Roll, although he was uncomfortable with the title and used to say, “Fats Domino, he’s the King of Rock n Roll,” a guy that ought to be in that discussion is Chuck Berry.

I was surprised that it’d been over five years since we lost Chuck Berry. And yes, I wrote my usual tribute/”obituary” (RIP Chuck Berry – Hail, Hail Rock’n’Roll), but I don’t feel I properly honored the man. I think you could argue that the Beatles and the Stones are greatest rock n roll bands ever. Sure, there’s the Zeppelin and Pink Floyd fans and I dig those bands too, but the influence the Stones and especially the Beatles had on popular music is enormous. The thing that people don’t seem to remember is those bands had influences as well and one of the biggest influences on both of them was Chuck Berry. As much as Paul McCartney wants to describe the Stones as a “blues cover” band, they also played a ton of Chuck Berry in those early days.

Speaking of the Beatles, I’m reminded of when I was just a little kid or as Tom Petty sang, “a boy in short pants.” I hated elementary school which seemed like a bad prank my parents played on me. Like the Godfather’s sang, “Birth, school, work, death.” I’m not a morning person, and even at that very tender age I was stunned I had to wake up, get out of bed, put clothes on and go to what seemed like a prison for the day with people I didn’t like. What I really liked, besides summer vacation, was to be sick and stay home. I had a Charlie Brown poster on the back of my door that read “Happiness is being too sick to go to school but not too sick to watch TV.” Savage honesty from Peanuts.

I remember – and I was in the single digits, age wise – being sick a couple of days and my Sainted Mother made a bed on the couch for me. Day time TV was different back then. The local station showed an old, old movie in the morning and there was Merv Griffin and Mike Douglas in the afternoon. There was no Oprah or Ellen back then. The shrews on “The View” were just someone else’s nightmare back then. I turn on the Mike Douglas show that first sick day and his cohost that week – he’d have a different one each week as I recall – was John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono. I was so young I only had a vague idea who the Beatles were – they were a  music group my brother liked – and I was pretty sure John had been in the Beatles. It was a crazy week of TV. Mike was stunningly very welcoming to John & Yoko who were counterculture icons by this point. They had a Black Panther on, they had George Carlin on. It was wonderfully subversive TV, and in-color! But the thing I remember most is Lennon bringing on Chuck Berry. His love and admiration was on full display in this clip. And mind you this is after Chuck had sued Lennon for lifting a few lyrics from him for “Come Together,” (“Here comes ol’ flattop he comes groovin’ up slowly”).

Lennon clearly worshiped the guy. So did McCartney although I sense he was more of a Little Richard fan. And this underscores my point about Chuck’s influence on rock n roll. He was really the first “guitar hero” rock star. Elvis would wear a guitar around his neck sometimes but he was a singer. Fats Domino, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis all sat behind a piano. Buddy Holly played guitar but he wasn’t as aggressive a player as Berry. Berry was a precursor to Hendrix. He was out front, singing but also playing the guitar at the same time. His duck walk, pictured above, was as iconic as Michael Jackson’s moonwalk.

Most of Chuck’s tunes were up-beat rockers. He would just find a riff and ride it until the end. It was very guitar forward rock n roll. He would play blistering, albeit brief solos. It was the sound of freedom and rebellion. You could tell Chuck was probably misbehaving. He wrote more songs about under age girls than perhaps he should have…Everybody that you can think of – all the great bands and artists – cover Chuck. From the aforementioned Beatles (and both Lennon and McCartney) to the Stones (and Keith solo) to the Kinks, the Animals, the Everly Brothers and even Elvis covered Chuck Berry. Even if a band you love didn’t cover Chuck, they can probably play one of his tracks live. Keith Richards even did a documentary in honor of Chuck, Hail! Hail! Rock N Roll. There are so many great tunes that are based on the Chuck Berry formula: the Stones’ “Star Star” and Bob Seger’s “Get Out Of Denver” to name but a few. He’s all over rock n roll.

If you’ve never really listened to Chuck Berry – and you’ve probably heard his music but didn’t realize your favorite band was playing Chuck – I would recommend his compilation LP The Great Twenty-Eight, as a starting point. There are probably bigger or more complete “greatest hits” packages but The Great Twenty Eight covers the cream of the crop all in one disc. Artists in the 50s and 60s were more singles focused instead of album focused so compilations of those singles are the best way to experience artists like Chuck or Buddy Holly. My father had a bunch of singles from Elvis, Johnny Cash and Ray Charles but oddly no Chuck Berry…

I decided to compile a playlist based on The Great Twenty Eight. I did something similar with Robert Johnson’s King Of the Delta Blues album. I find my favorite versions of covers of the songs on the album and put them on my play list. I also threw in a few bonus tracks of versions of songs that are too good to ignore. One thing I found and this is weird to me – is that there are so many blues or blues rock guys that covered Chuck Berry. It’s like he’s a missing link between the blues and rock and roll. Maybe it’s because he was so guitar focused. His songs were riff, riff, solo, riff. And that is kind of similar to blues. But when you see Johnny Winter, George Thorogood and Foghat on a list you start to think, hmmm the blues and Chuck Berry must have had some synergy. If you’ve got a great Chuck Berry cover, put it in the comments and I’ll drop it in the playlist. As usual you can find my playlist on the dread Spotify.

  1. AC/DC, “School Days” – AC/DC rock this one. I’ll say again it’s interesting how bands with a great blues base always seem to find Chuck. I love Angus’ solo but then I love all of his solos.
  2. The Rolling Stones, “Come On” – I could have just filled this list with Stones’ tunes. I love this mono version of the Stones’ very first single. I mean, very first ever.
  3. Faces, “Memphis” – This is the ultimate version of this song in my opinion and one of my favorite songs from Rod Stewart, Ron Wood, Ronnie Lane and the gang. Woody just takes the band on a little slide guitar jam before the song kicks in. Sublime.
  4. Bob Seger, “Let It Rock” – If Seger’s early music was out there I’d have included the studio version of this track from Smokin’ O.P.s but this epic live version will do. It’s amazing that Seger and the Silver Bullet Band could take a three minute Chuck Berry song and turn it into their epic show ending last encore for the balance of their career. You hear a snippet of “Little Queenie” as well. “Get Out of Denver” from Bob might be the best Chuck Berry song not done by Chuck.
  5. The Animals, “Around And Around” – The Stones also did this track on their second LP but I feel like the Animals – who were a solid blues rock outfit in their own right – deserve some love from B&V.
  6. The Rolling Stones, “Bye Bye Johnny” – Another Berry cover, another single. The devotion was real!
  7. The Kinks, “Too Much Monkey Business” – Sure I could have gone with the Elvis version but I couldn’t resist this version by the Kinks. The Yardbirds did a spirited version of this track as well.
  8. John Lennon, “You Can’t Catch Me” – One of several Chuck Berry covers Lennon did on his oft overlooked 1975 LP Rock N Roll an album of early rock covers which made our list of favorite “cover albums.”
  9. Linda Ronstadt, “Back In The U.S.A.” – One of my all time favorite Chuck Berry covers and one of my favorite songs from Ronstadt. Everything she did was amazing (Documentary Review: The Sublime ‘Linda Ronstadt, The Sound Of My Voice’).
  10. The Everly Brothers, “Maybellene” – I actually was torn between this version and the Foghat version so I’ve put both on this playlist. I feel like they vary enough I could get away with it.
  11. REO Speedwagon, “Little Queenie” – Again, I could have used the Stones’ version but what’s the fun in an all Stones’ playlist? This was from their 1972 second LP back when they still rocked and before they became sell out hacks. “Little Queenie” is one of Chuck’s more oft covered tracks.
  12. Stray Cats, “Beautiful Delilah” – I love the Stones’ version, especially on the On Air – Live At the BBC album but I’ve always kind of dug the Stray Cats. I saw them live by accident once at, of all places, Worlds Of Fun. Brian Setzer on guitar is the real deal.
  13. The Beatles, “Roll Over Beethoven” – I’m stunned it’s taken me this long to get around to a Beatles’ version of a Chuck song! ELO did a version but c’mon, you’re never gonna beat the Beatles doing Berry.
  14. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, “Carol (Live)” – In his later years Petty got into the blues and unsurprisingly it led him to Chuck Berry.
  15. Rod Stewart, “Sweet Little Rock n Roller” – From his oft wrongly maligned LP Smiler which marked the end of his fruitful Mercury years. This song is worth the price of the album alone.
  16. Johnny Cash & Carl Perkins, “Brown Eyed Handsome Man” – There are so many fabulous version of this track from Buddy Holly to Paul McCartney but you can’t beat two legends taking a turn on this one.
  17. The Rolling Stones, “Talkin’ About You” – Well, I didn’t say I was going to avoid all the Stones’ covers did I? Another great track.
  18. John Lennon, “Sweet Little Sixteen” – Lennon back with another Chuck song about a young girl… I sense a pattern here from Mr. Berry.
  19. The Beatles, “Rock And Roll Music” – The young Beatles at their ferocious best. Primal rock n roll here.
  20. Johnny Winter, “Thirty Days” – The legendary blues man doing a raucous version here. Johnny deserves more love… we just reviewed his brother Edgar’s tribute LP for Johnny, a must listen for fans of the blues. It’s like Johnny was meant to cover Chuck Berry.
  21. Santana, “Havana Moon” – Never has a song and a band been a more perfect match.
  22. The Pretty Things, “Oh Baby Doll” – One of Bowie’s favorite bands doing Chuck here. I’ve just recently gotten into these guys and they are awesome.
  23. Dave Clark Five, “Reelin’ And Rockin” – Was there any 60s era band that didn’t take a crack at a Chuck Berry song?
  24. Jimi Hendrix, “Johnny B Goode (Live At Berkley)” – This is a really manic version of this song but it works. Guitar God Jimi Hendrix giving a nod to the first real Guitar God, Chuck Berry. What’s not to love?
  25. Lovin’ Spoonful, “Almost Grown” – A great band that also deserves more love here at B&V. I’ve had several readers post their tracks as suggestions for our other playlists… I thought I’d beat them to the punch!
  26. John Hammond, “Nadine” – A new discovery for us here at B&V but love this track.
  27. George Thorogood & the Delware Destroyers, “No Particular Place To Go” – This song takes me back to high school and college, Thorogood’s heyday. He’s another example of a blues guy – who turned a John Lee Hooker tune into a hit (“One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer”) – doing Chuck Berry.
  28. Foghat, “Maybelline” – Call me a product of the 70s but I will always love Foghat… especially that famous picture of them in front of the Holiday Inn marquee…
  29. The Band, “Back To Memphis (Outtake)” – I’ve been jamming on the Band’s album Cahoots for the last few weeks now I’m thinking I’ll have to dig into Moondog Matinee now too.
  30. Jerry Garcia Band, “You Never Can Tell (C’est La Vie)” – Seger did this song on a greatest hits compilation but I was just so delighted to be able to slip Jerry Garcia on this list. I’m sure there are countless Greatful Dead covers that rage on for 45 minutes but this one is a short and sweet track.
  31. Keith Richards, “Run Rudolph, Run” – This is a bonus track for all you Christmas music folks. Keith just loves Chuck.

I have to admit, I had to make some really tough choices. There are so many bands who did so many good versions of Chuck’s songs that it was hard to pick just one. And well, with “Maybellene” I couldn’t pick just one. At only 2 hours this is one rollicking, rocking playlist. The songs all hold together so well because Chuck had a magic formula. Lots of guitar.

Hopefully we’ve turned you on to Chuck Berry with this playlist, if you hadn’t already been into him. Or at the very least hopefully you’ve heard something new. Either way, I hope this rocking playlist helps get you through the summer heat.

Cheers! Stay cool out there… stay hydrated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!