Review: Bob Dylan, ‘Shadow Kingdom’ – A Surprising, Great Listen! What’s Old Is New Again


Bob Dylan, like every other artist in the world, wasn’t able to tour for a few years because of the COVID epidemic. I’m sure this hit Dylan extra hard since he’s been on what they call the “Never Ending Tour” for years now. The guy is a road warrior. Anyway, he had to hit pause on that in 2020-2021. In lieu of touring, many artists took to the inter-web and did streaming stuff. Dylan was no exception and July 18th of 2021 he premiered what I thought was a concert event, Shadow Kingdom: The Early Songs Of Bob Dylan. Contrary to what the Rock Chick thinks, we’re not made of money so I did not pay the fee to watch the thing and I remained under the impression it was a live event until only recently. Apparently, it was a film. Dylan brought in a director and actors to pretend to play the songs and filmed it. It was set in a basement bar, or so I hear. I heard good things about the film and still look forward to actually seeing it sometime… Now, two years down the road, Dylan has released “the soundtrack” featuring the tracks from the movie and it’s simply entitled, Shadow Kingdom.

The crux of the movie, and the recording that now accompanies it, was Dylan revisiting tracks from early in his career. While this isn’t a live recording, the album does feature new re-recorded versions of songs from through out Dylan’s career. Sadly, he didn’t include anything from his sensational latest LP, Rough And Rowdy WaysI guess it would have been hard to include the almost 17 minute “Murder Most Foul,” but a man can wish, can’t he? He did have a great backing band on these tracks: legend T-Bone Burnett, much sought after session guys Greg Leisz and Tim Pierce, Steve Bartek and Ira Ingber all on guitar. Jeff Taylor and Doug lacy play the accordion which is quite prominent on these recordings. I heard a joke once, that the definition of a gentleman is a man who knows how to play the accordion but chooses not to… Have no fear the accordion works here… Producer Don Was plays upright bass and John Avila plays the electric bass. Surprisingly, Dylan does not use a drummer on these tracks. It’s not unheard of, Lou Reed didn’t use a drummer on his life LP Animal Serenade, but it was a surprise.

I have to admit, I didn’t have the highest expectations around these recordings. When I first approached this album I still thought it might be live. The last time I saw Dylan it was terrible. I couldn’t hear the vocal, it was way down in the mix. I couldn’t recognize many of the songs he played and I consider myself a Dylan-ophile. Frankly, opener Merle Haggard blew him off the stage. Dylan’s set list that night could best be described as “obscure.” That’s not the case with the song selection here. There are some of his most iconic songs: “Tombstone Blues,” “Queen Jane Approximately,” “Forever Young,” and “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue” to name but a few. I was immediately drawn in. But what I didn’t expect was some of his better known, deeper tracks. I was thrilled to see “When I Paint My Masterpiece” as the opener. He also does the track “Watching The River Flown,” which originally could only be found on his first Greatest Hits LP. I was delighted to see “What Was It You Wanted” from 1989’s Oh Mercy!, the youngest track here. Suffice it to say, this is a great group of songs.

Once I started listening to these recordings, I was frankly, blown away. Perhaps it was the blessing of having low expectations. Dylan’s voice sounds better than it has in years. He sings with great emotion and nuance, on every song. Yes, his voice is weathered and fried from too many KOOL menthols, but he sounds great here. And lets be honest, if you’re complaining about Dylan’s voice you’re probably on the wrong train. The vibe of the music is that of a bluesy late night, after-hours bar where you’d have to have a password or know somebody to get in. The band sounds so great I don’t miss a drummer. As I mentioned the accordion is prevalent and it gives the songs, to my ear, a bit of a Southwest, Tex-Mex, down by the border flavor.

There are so many highlights. I love the opener, “When I Paint My Masterpiece.” It’s a great tune and it’s done very well here. “Mostly Likely You’ll Go Your Way And I’ll Go Mine” feels propulsive to the point you don’t miss the drums… almost, anyway. “Queen Jane Approximately” is dripping with longing. “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” almost sounds rockabilly. These are great re-imaginings of these songs. I will admit, I always thought in “Tombstone Blues,” the lyric was “daddy’s in the alley looking for food,” and apparently Dylan has changed it to “looking for the fuse,” which makes it more menacing.

I love that he pulls out “What Was It You Wanted,” a great meditation on fame. The version of “Forever Young” here is one of the most beautiful I’ve heard. “Pledging My Time” is the bluesiest tune here and it’s wonderful. I was also delighted to see Dylan do “Wicked Messenger” which has been covered by both the Faces and Black Keys. This rendition of “Watching The River Flow” delivers the original’s rollicking fun in all it’s glory. There’s a new song, an instrumental, that I actually really enjoyed, “Sierra’s Theme.” It’s a hypnotic little number.

This album was just such a treat to listen to. I went in with low expectations and the band and Dylan’s singing just swept me away. Naturally, I’m a huge Dylan fan so I love all of the original versions of these songs but these re-imaginings are well worth your time. Dylan continues to excite and amaze some 60 years into the gig. This album is more than just a COVID-era artifact.

“Someday everything is gonna sound like a rhapsody, when I paint my masterpiece…” Cheers!



John Mellencamp’s Startling New Protest Songs From His Upcoming LP, ‘Orpheus Descending’


I was surprised recently to find out that John Mellencamp is putting out a new album on June 16th, Orpheus Descending. It was merely a year and a half ago that Mellencamp released Strictly One-Eyed Jacks, an album that had three collaborations with Bruce Springsteen, including the sensational “Wasted Days.” While I did describe Strictly One-Eyed Jacks as “curmudgeon rock,” I thought it was a good album and I still don’t know why “Wasted Days” wasn’t a huge song.

While I’m very pleased Mellencamp is putting out a new album, it’s very surprising. In the early days, aka the 70s and 80s, Mellencamp put out an album every two years which was pretty standard. Actually in the beginning of his career he put out an album almost every year which sounds like a recipe for burnout. As time went on record companies backed off the album-tour-album-rinse-repeat cycle they used to force artists into and the time between albums started to get longer – and that’s just in general – but certainly applies to Mellencamp. Some artists can take six, seven or even eight years between records these days. I recently reviewed albums from Metallica (72 Seaons) and Dave Matthews Band (Walk Around The Moon) that were seven and five years in the making respectively.

While Mellencamp hasn’t taken that leisurely of a pace, his albums tend to take longer than they used to and come out every three to five years. There have been a couple of times that, like this new record, he’s recorded in back to back years. The first time was Dance Naked, which came out only a year after Human Wheels because the record company pissed Mellencamp off by saying his music “no longer fit the format.” While Rough Harvest came out only a year after John Mellencamp, I’m not including it here as it was a “contract fulfillment” record of old acoustic recordings… The other time in Mellencamp’s career that he did LPs in back to back years was when he put out the oft overlooked gem Freedom’s Road and then the next year turned around with the stark Life, Death, Love, Freedom. Mellencamp has described that latter album as a collection of “electric-folk songs.” Clearly he had something to say.

If we discern anything from these two exceptions from Mellencamp’s past deviation of his recording schedule, it’s that he only quickly records an album when he’s pissed or when he has something to say. Based on these two stunning new songs that have dropped to tease Orpheus Descending, in this case, it’s a little of both – he’s pissed and has something to say about it. There has always been a political element in Mellencamp’s music – and his public commentary – but it’s typically been less overt. It’s more effective to sing a song like “Jackie Brown” to bemoan the plight of poor minorities than to just sing, “Black, poor people are suffering.” It humanizes things to do the former vs sounding like a political speech in the latter.

This is not a political blog, but you’d have to be living in a cave not know what troubled times we live in. There are so many issues that are within our grasp to fix but our government is paralyzed with inaction. The Extreme Right are more concerned with tax cuts for hedge fund billionaires than feeding the poor or fixing our gun problem. Our nation is more divided now than at any time since the late 60s. I have been sitting here wondering why more artists aren’t doing Protest Songs, like in the 60s. Where is our “Eve of Destruction,” “Revolution,” or “Fortunate Son”? I don’t hear young bands addressing the issues of today like bands did in the old days. At least Stevie Nicks re-did the Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth,” recently.

I guess with no new bands addressing this, it’s up to the older artists to raise their voice in protest. And make no mistake, these two new songs from Mellencamp are full on, overt, Protest Songs. I know Mellencamp is a very “plain spoken” guy but even I was startled at the naked frankness of these two songs. The first track, “Hey God” tackles the issue of gun violence in America. It feels torn from the headlines since, well, mass shootings keep happening over and over again. There 17 mass shooting events over Memorial Day weekend this year alone.

When you start a song with the lyric, “Weapons and guns, are they really my rights? Laws written a long time ago, No one could imagine the sight of so many dead on the floor…” it grabs your attention. The lyrics are a direct encapsulation of every normal Americans thinking on the issue. It’s not only a plea for change but literally a prayer to God for help. While the lyrics are great it’s the music that grabbed me on this superb song. It’s very Lonesome Jubilee-ish instrumentation with a mean slide guitar and violin solo. It reminds me of an even more serious, mellower “Paper In Fire.” This is a song that should be played at every gun protest from now on. I highly recommend this track. Here it is:

The second new track from what will likely prove to be a controversial album is “The Eyes Of Portland.” This song tackles the pressing issue of homelessness. In the past generation over a trillion dollars of wealth has been transferred from the bottom 80% to the top 1%. We’re heading for a new, terrible Gilded Age. So many of our fellow citizens are struggling to eat and find a place they can afford to live. This song doesn’t grab me as hard as “Hey God,” but it’s a good midtempo thing. It’s got the usual Mellencamp big chorus like “Our Country.” It’s an earnest track that once again, doesn’t mince words about the issue of homelessness. It speaks of mental illness, drug casualties and the need for help. It’s got a pretty stunning chorus, “All of these homeless, where do they come from? In this land of plenty where nothing gets done, To help those who are empty and unable to run, Your tears and prayers won’t help the homeless…” Here’s the second new Mellencamp song:

Like most new stuff from older bands, you’re probably not going to hear these wonderful songs on your local radio. But I recommend each of you seek these songs out. Again, this is not a political blog, but when rock n roll strays toward the political, we tend to comment on it. 70% of Americans support rational gun reform yet here are. We’ve got to push the bullshit aside and start coming back together in this country.

It’s a long, dark ride. Take care of each other out there… and blast these two new songs to get you through it.


Review: Dave Matthews Band New LP, ‘Walk Around The Moon’ – Do We, Should We Care?


As I’ve mentioned in my last few posts (my playlist on ‘Flying,’ and the Pretenders new single), I stepped away from B&V for a small vacation and a bunch of new music came out. The Dave Matthews Band released their 10th album (Dave’s 11th if you include his solo LP Some Devil), entitled Walk Around The Moon. The album was preceded by the first single, “Madman’s Eyes,” our review of which can be found (here). It’s the DMB’s first new album in five years.

I’ve been a fan of the Dave Matthews Band for a long time, since their first album Under The Table And Dreaming. We were all DMB fans in the 90s – from your local soccer mom to my late friend Alf, who was strictly an old school Hip Hop guy. That universal love of the DMB made it hard to get tickets to their concerts… everybody and their mother wanted to go. I did get to take the Rock Chick to see them back then. Everyone I knew owned not only that debut but their second album, Crash. Crash was almost as highly anticipated as Pearl Jam’s Vs. I can remember Alf singing the first single from that LP, “Too Much,” at the top of his lungs in bars around that time… he would sing the lyric “Suck it up, suck it up” to great, if not vulgar, comic effect… but I’m getting off topic. Those early albums – all of the first three LPs (which includes Before These Crowded Streets) – were ubiquitous. The DMB had a jam band ethos, a weird line-up and a dark streak that was completely masked by the utter exuberance they played with.

When I say they had a weird line-up I just mean they weren’t the traditional two guitars, bass and drums. The original line-up was Dave (acoustic guitar/vocals), Carter Beauford (drums), Stefan Lessard (on the biggest bass guitar I’d ever seen), Boyd Tinsley (violin) and LeRoi Moore (saxophones). Things have been tough for the DMB. They tragically lost LeRoi in an ATV accident. They replaced him with two horn players, Jeff Coffin and Rashawn Ross. I’ve always thought that was the ultimate compliment to a player who is lost or leaves a band, being replaced by not one but two guys. Like when they booted Lindsey Buckingham from Fleetwood Mac, they brought in Neil Finn (to replace him on vocals) AND Mike Campbell (to replace him on guitar). Around that time, longtime associate, guitarist Tim Reynolds officially joined the band. Ten years after Moore’s loss they had to dismiss Boyd Tinsley over some sexual harassment thing. Tough stuff. Eventually to replace Tinsley they brought in keyboard player Buddy Strong which does change their fundamental sound. The violin was all over that early music.

The DMB’s music has sort of struggled in a similar way over  the years. They put out those three great first albums but then stumbled badly with the Glen Ballard produced Everyday. Even my buddy Alf got off the bandwagon on that one… he was heartbroken. I read one review that said the album sounded like it was produced by someone who had never heard the Dave Matthews Band. They came roaring back with Busted Stuff, an album I still adore. But then it was another stumble with Stand Up, perhaps my least favorite DMB album. It was like Matthews was confused as to where to take the band… next. I gave up on the band after Stand Up. As usual, I shouldn’t have done that.

It was after that they lost Moore and it seemed to bring them out of their creative confusion. They kicked out three really strong albums in a row: Big Whiskey And the GrooGrux King (a tribute of sorts to Moore), Away From The World, and finally Come Tomorrow. I went back and listened to Come Tomorrow while preparing this post, which I reviewed at the time it came out, and it’s really strong. If anything I should have been more effusive in my praise of that album. For the DMB to wait 5 years since that album – and let’s remember there was a six year gap between it and Away From The World – is a bit of a gamble. I mean, Metallica waits 6 or 7 years between albums, as they did prior to their sensational new album 72 Seasons, but they’re metal and metal fans are pretty loyal. I was excited to see the DMB had a new album out, but I kept my expectations in check. I know DMB is still a live juggernaut, but does anybody still care about their studio albums… two records in 11 years would suggest… maybe not? Their last platinum album was Big Whiskey.

I realize, like a lot of recent albums, Walk Around The Moon was written during the pandemic/lockdown. When I get into a band I’m typically all in for the whole catalog and I hate writing negative reviews – there’s enough negativity in the world – but this album is a disappointing bummer. And I like sad music – Hell, I’m a Neil Young fan. The album starts with the low key title track. It starts with strumming and Dave’s now weathered falsetto until the band kicks in. I will say Carter Beauford is a great, underrated drummer. I like this song but it’s more of an album track than anything I’ll return to. “Madman’s Eyes” I’ve reviewed before and I stand by that review – it’s one of the better tracks here. From there it’s back to low key ballad “Looking For A Vein.” Not a bad song but I was looking for something punchier to follow-up “Madman’s Eyes.” I mentioned that early DMB had a dark streak covered by their sheer exuberance and joy. These days it’s an exuberant streak covered by darkness. They come back with another ballad on “The Ocean And The Butterfly.” I’ll admit I like the horn work on that track.

“It Could Happen” is paint by numbers DMB. Then it’s another sad ballad with “Something To Tell My Baby.” Who knew the DMB as going to build their late career around the latter parts of Crash (and I mean “Lie In Our Graves” not “Tripping Billies”). “After Everything” brings a pulse back to the album. I hear the keyboards in this song more than most of the tunes here. There’s some electric guitar. Then the horns take over and it sounds for a moment like a marching band playing the half time show at the local high school. It’s an upbeat song but it just misses the mark for me. We come back down with the sad, coffee house strummer “All You Wanted Was Tomorrow.” Then back up for “Only You.” It’s got more electric guitar, a nice riff, if not an unexpected one. Again, I appreciate the noise but it just doesn’t grab me the way say, “Too Much” did. It does soar a bit in the middle. By “Break Free” and “Monsters,” I found my interest waning. “Monsters” does manage to be atmospheric. The album ends on another acoustic track, “Singing From the Windows.”

With albums only coming out every half a decade or so, one has to wonder how much Dave and the Band care about the studio stuff? I know they’re still a juggernaut on the road. The money is in the merch as they say. With their albums selling less and less each outing, one has to wonder – does anybody care about this band any more? They were so big in the 90s and at the turn of the millennium. I guess we can hope in another 5 or 6 years they recover from this misstep the same way they did after Stand Up. Sorry Dave, this is a hard pass for B&V.



New Song Alert: The Pretenders, “Let The Sun Come In” – Chrissie Hynde & Gang Return With My 2023 Summer Song!!


“We don’t have to fade to black, let the sun come in” – The Pretenders, “Let The Sun Come In”

As I mentioned in my last post, my playlist with songs about Flying, I took a small break from B&V… call it a vacation. I spent most of that time away from music, although I did find myself drawn to a number of live albums which included The Who’s latest live disc recorded with an orchestra and the Pink Floyd live performance of Dark Side of the Moon from 50 years ago. Admittedly, I’ve been a little out of what’s currently happening. While I was out tilting at windmills, some new music has emerged. And none of it excites me as much as the new single from the Pretenders (Chrissie Hynde, vocals/guitar; Martin Chambers, as always, drums; James Walbourne, guitars; Nick Wilkinson, bass), “Let The Sun Come In.” It may be my summer jam this year. Any tune that has the lyrics, “We don’t have to get fat, we don’t have to get old” is going to resonate with me. 

I’ll admit I’ve been a fan of the Pretenders since the very first album, The Pretenders, in 1979. I was in 9th grade and I can still remember this really pretty girl with wild, dirty blonde hair in study hall. They let us play rock n roll in study hall and the Pretenders’ track “Brass In Pocket” came on while this young lady strutted up to the refreshment window to get a Coke. It wasn’t love I was feeling but that young girl evoked something terribly visceral in me. She may be long gone without even knowing I existed, but she certainly made sure that the Pretenders’ song stuck with me.

Due to some band tragedy – original members John Honeyman Scott (lead guitar) and Pete Farndon (bass) both died after the second LP – the Pretenders career has been a bit up and down. They’ve always seemed to be out there making a righteous riotous sound. Every so often a track would hit my ear. After Learning to Crawl, their third LP, I became more of a “greatest hits” kind of fan, merely tracking the occasional single. But my interest in this band was completely reignited with the raucous 2020 LP Hate For Sale. If you haven’t checked that one out yet, do so post haste.

I was so enamored with Hate For Sale I picked up the Chrissie Hynde solo LP of Dylan covers, Standing In The Doorway. I reviewed that LP and actually had a reader comment that he thought it “sucked.” It was a complete departure from the usual rock sound of the Pretenders – which is typically the point of a solo album, get outside your comfort zone and do something different – and that’s why I liked it. But I understand, acoustic Dylan covers aren’t for everybody. I think Hynde is one of the most important women in rock n roll. Hynde recorded that Dylan covers album over Zoom during the pandemic with Pretenders lead guitarist James Walbourne. The upcoming LP, Relentless, was apparently written in the same manner. They were on a roll, so why stop?

This first single, “Let The Sun Come In” is, for me, the perfect summer song. The track starts with a great little guitar figure from Walbourne and Martin Chambers’ drums drive the track forward. Great little guitar solo with some unhinged harmonica as well! It’s all about not getting old and grumpy… “let the sun come in.” I love the lyrics, “To live forever, that’s the plan, the oldest living mortal man. It’s all upbeat with a great summer message, “Think big or think big things, It ain’t illegal, Open up and spread your wings, Fly like an eagle…” Let the sun come in, indeed. Cherish every day and keep pushing forward, baby. I can’t wait to crank this while I’m basting in the sun with a cold beer in my hand. Here’s the track:

I can’t wait for this new album. Chrissie and the boys just keep rocking and I’m here for it. If you’re out there and you’re adding up the years, don’t let the darkness cover you… don’t stand in your yard shaking your fist at a cloud. “We don’t have to fade to black…” Stand in your yard pumping your fist along to this song… maybe spill a little beer and jump around. It won’t kill you. I’m still relatively young and I plan on aging as gracelessly as I can…



New Release From the Vaults: Stephen Stills, ‘Live At Berkeley 1971’ – Peak Live Stills From His Heyday


Let me start by wishing everyone out there a belated Happy May Day! If you celebrated in the spirit of the United States’ similar holiday, Labor Day, I salute all of you International Workers out there. If you’re into that whole select a May Queen like Robert Plant, and dance around the Maypole, remember all Pagans are welcome here at B&V. It would appear that Spring has indeed finally sprung. It appears this year that not only Spring is in the air but live music. On the heels of the great new live disc from the Who, The Who With Orchestra – Live At Wembley, and Pink Floyd’s archival live release in celebration of Dark Side of The Moon turning 50, Stephen Stills has dug into his vault and put out a recording made during the early days of his solo career, Live At Berkeley 1971. At the very least you’d think this was an important historical document. 1971 was a critical time in Stills’ solo career.

I’ve always dug Stephen Stills but it seems he’s always been slightly overshadowed by his friend and erstwhile bandmate Neil Young. Stills has written some great songs and the guy can play anything. He’s been in some landmark bands: The Buffalo Springfield (with Neil Young and Richie Furay), he was a part of the Al Kooper/Michael Bloomfield’s landmark album Super Sessions (Stills played with Kooper on side 2 after Bloomfield split), and was a founding member of Crosby, Stills, Nash (and sometimes Young). The man was a pioneer in the realm of country rock. The critics have always despised Stills and I’m not sure why? Robert Christgau, the famous critic, wrote of Stephen, “Stills is of course detestable, the ultimate rich hippie–arrogant, self-pitying, sexist, shallow.” Jeez dude, why not go ahead and call his mom ugly? It has always seemed to me that Stills has had a bit of a chip on his shoulder. Maybe all that critical bile has made him defensive. He was famously kicked out of Keith Richards’ hotel room when he refused to share his coke. While the man has been inconsistent in his career, so has Neil Young? I’ll admit he can come across condescending and preachy sometimes, but hey man, it was the 70s.

Stills tour in 1971 was in support of his second solo album creatively named Stephen Stills 2. At least he didn’t use Roman numerals… It was his first solo tour and was confined to the U.S. He actually played at venerable Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City on the tour in July of ’71. And no, I wasn’t there. I was barely in grade school. Social services would have seized me if my parents took me to the show. By 1971 I think it’s safe to guess Stills was thinking, what a difference a year makes. In 1970, after the triumph of Deja Vu, Crosby, Stills Nash & Young finally imploded amongst band bickering and infighting. He lost his girl, Rita Coolidge, to Graham Nash which accelerated the band split. I heard he didn’t handle that well and had accidentally OD’d on pills and later got busted for possession but I’m not sure about either of those things. Further, 1970 saw each member of CSNY put out a solo LP: If I Could Only Remember My Name (Crosby), Stephen Stills, After The Gold Rush (Neil Young), and finally Songs For Beginners (Graham Nash) which were each a hit and probably further spelled the end of CSNY. I’ve chronicled our favorite solo/duo LPs from CSN before and all of those LPs made the cut. Stills’ eponymous solo debut reached number 2 on the album charts (Behind George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass) and boasted the big hit “Love The One You’re With.” That song was huge – Aretha Franklin, The Supremes and the Isley Brothers all did versions of that song. It may be derided for slightly sexist sentiment but it’s interesting how many woman have recorded that song… Stills’ debut is the only album to boast appearances from Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton.

Then came 1971 and Stills recorded his second solo album, the aforementioned Stephen Stills 2. It got mixed reviews. It still peaked at number 8 on the charts. But the two singles, “Change Partners,” clearly about Rita Coolidge, and “Marianne” both peaked in the low 40s. Critics were lukewarm, at best, about the album but I think it’s got some great songs. When Stills launched his first solo tour in support of 2 – he’d been promising a big show when he finally toured solo – he brought along the Memphis Horns (Wayne Jackson, Roger Hopps, Jack Hale, Andrew Love, Sidney George, Floyd Newman). Stills had become enamored with bands like Chicago (Hendrix liked original guitarist Terry Kath) and Blood Sweat And Tears who utilized a big horn sound. Blood Sweat And Tears was founded by Al Kooper, his album mate from the Kooper/Bloomfield/Stills Super Session. Maybe that influenced him. I’m not a huge fan of a big horn section but I’ll admit sometimes it just works. Springsteen’s latest tour in 2023 boasted a big horn section and I loved the show I saw in February. The tour was dubbed “The Memphis Horns Tour” and alternately the “Drunken Horns Tour” as Stills was drinking heavily due to the Rita Coolidge thing. He was not in a good place. I’ve been there… haven’t we all?

For the 1971 tour, from which Live At Berkeley 1971 is the first released music, Stills brought along Steven Fromholtz (guitar), Paul Harris (keyboards), CSNY’s rhythm section Calvin “Fuzzy” Samuels (bass) and Dallas Taylor (drums), and percussionist Joe Lala. The first half of the album, like the tour it came from, is an acoustic set from Stills. The band joins later. These 50+ year old recordings sound fantastic. The live LP opens with “Love The One You’re With,” with just Stills on vocals/acoustic guitar with percussionist Joe Lala joining in to bring that Latin soul flavor. It’s a great start. From there it’s another track from his solo debut, “Do For The Others” written for David Crosby’s late girlfriend who had died in a car wreck. The third track was at the time unreleased, “Jesus Gave Love Away For Free” which ended up on the first Manassas record. Steven Fromholz joins Stills on guitar and vocals on that one… Stills met former Byrd Chris Hillman on the tour and they formed Manassas… but I digress. Stills had written enough material for a double LP but Ahmet Ertegun talked him into a single disc. A lot of what was leftover ended up on the critically lauded first Manassas album.

At that point, to surprise the crowd, David Crosby joins Stills on stage. Stills and Crosby were closer friends than people realize. The two songs they performed together carry a bit more poignancy for me as Croz sadly just passed away this year. They do a great versions of “You Don’t Have To Cry” and Crosby’s “The Lee Shore.” Stills has said Crosby was the first of his ex bandmates to show up for one of his solo shows. Stills does quite a few CSN songs but only touches on his Buffalo Springfield career which is baffling to me. He finally then launches into two tracks from Stills 2, the great track “Word Game” inspired by Dylan’s “It’s Alright Ma” and the bluesy “Sugar Babe” where Stills switches to the piano. I really like both of these performances, perhaps better than their studio versions.

From there Stills, still at the piano, does a mash up of CSN’s “49 Bye Byes” with the Buffalo Springfield classic “For What It’s Worth” (the greatest protest song, ever). It’s very similar to the version of the song on CSNY’s live album, Four Way Street. I don’t know why Stills always played these songs together on piano versus doing a straight version of “For What It’s Worth” on it’s own. It’s one of his best tunes and he just kind of tosses it off. Stevie Nicks recently did a very nice version of “For What It’s Worth.” From there he plays the wicked acoustic blues tune “Black Queen” from his debut. I do so love rockers playing blues. “You Know You’ve Got To Run” which was written for Deja Vu, is the final of track of the acoustic part of the show. I have to tell you, I love the entire acoustic set.

The Memphis Horns come out for a rousing version of “Bluebird Revisited.” It’s a continuation of a tune written and performed for the Springfield, “Bluebird.” I have to admit it’s baffling to me that Stills would play the “Revisited” version instead of just “Bluebird” which is another of his greatest tracks. He left “Change Partners” and “Marianne” off this set of songs which I find equally confusing. I’m sure he had to have played those songs on the tour, why not include them? All of that said, I don’t find the horns cheesy. The Memphis Horns are pros. They’re equally jazzy on the cover song “Lean On Me,” which is not the Bill Withers song. I will say Stills sounds particularly unhinged in his singing on this track. And the horns get all kinds of playing time. To me the best use of the horns is on “Cherokee” another highlight from Stills’ debut album. After the band intro’s, the band launches into Stills’ “Ecology Song.” I think his heart was in the right place, but this song was reviled by critics and fans alike at the time. It’s just so over the top which I guess makes it a good concert ender.

I really like this concert document. As you can tell from my earlier comments I am a little confused by Stills’ choice of songs to include here. I would have liked to hear even more of his electric guitar playing – the guy is exceptional on electric – but it’s like he doesn’t want to be seen as a guitar hero. However, from what I’ve read about Stills’ first solo tour this live album captures the spirit and intent of that tour pretty well. I think it’s a great live album, certainly better than Stephen Stills Live from 1974’s tour (which I like) but like the man himself it’s very flawed. For a man reeling from the loss of his band, the loss of his girl, it’s a pretty kick ass live document. And let’s remember, Stills may not get the respect of some of his peers, but he is an excellent and important rock n roll artist.

Enjoy this one loud! Get back to that early 70s ethos of loving the one you’re with and cherishing the ecology… maybe hang out with Rita Coolidge… Cheers!

LP Review: Metal Masters Metallica, ’72 Seasons’ – A Heavy, Breakneck Metal Triumph!


“Misery, she needs me… but I need her more…” – Metallica, “Inamorata”

Metal giants Metallica have returned with a new album, 72 Seasons, their first album in seven years! I guess we should be relieved it’s only been seven years since Hardwired… to Self Destruct and not the eight years they took between Death Magnetic and Hardwired. Maybe lockdown cut a year out of their process. They may only drop new albums every 7 to 8 years but when they do they’re looong albums. 72 Seasons’ 12 songs clock in at an hour and seventeen minutes.

As I’ve documented in these pages, I was a late adopter on Metallica. I actually saw them live a couple of times before I ever owned any of their music. I saw them open for Ozzy on the Master of Puppets tour and when they headlined Lollapalooza. I had actually only gone to see Soundgarden that night, but Metallica impressed me. After that I dabbled in their music. It wasn’t until Death Magnetic that something clicked in my head and I realized how great Metallica is. I had always considered myself a fan of heavy metal – I liked Sabbath, Ozzy and Judas Priest. In the 80s I dug all that Hair Metal that was going on. But until I discovered Metallica, I don’t think I knew what truly heavy music was. Since I was late to the party with these guys I don’t carry the baggage that their early fans do so I really appreciate their latter albums a lot more. I don’t think there’s another fan base – except maybe U2’s fan base –  that express such disappointment when they drop a new album. At least U2’s fans are justified. I’m simply not one of those Metallica fans who are pissed that every LP they put out doesn’t sound like Master of Puppets. I loved Hardwired… to Self Destruct. And I’m equally as happy with 72 Seasons.

The title derives around the 4 seasons a year that each human goes through until they turn 18, the age of adulthood. It’s Metallica’s theory that we all become the person we are over the course of those 72 seasons. All of our traumas and tribulations that take place during those formative years leave their mark and thus help form who we are. I have to admit, looking back on my first 72 seasons, it’s hard to argue with them. I did something rather old school while I listened to 72 Seasons over the last few weeks… when I wasn’t also cranking the new Who live album. I sat down and read the lyrics. I’m not sure I’ve ever done that with a Metallica album. It always used to sound like James Hetfield (rhythm guitar/lead vocals/principle lyricist) was just shouting random words that sort of fit together. I have to say, lyrically, this is Hetfield at his most honest and vulnerable. 72 Seasons is a trip inside his mind where we get to see his struggles and battles with the demons that besiege him. I don’t know about you, but I can certainly relate to that. And listening to this album I realized I should have included Hetfield on my list of favorite rhythm guitarists… oh, well. Hetfield’s vocals on this album are perfectly anguished.

While at first listen this album may seem slightly monochromatic, I think that’s an unfair charge. It’s true there are no “Unforgiven” type ballads or acoustic moments and very few melodic guitar moments but there are modulations in the tone of these tracks. It is a breakneck, hard album. It can feel at times like the whole album is a “meet me at the finish line” stomper. Lars Ulrich is a powerful drummer. The guy pounds the drums like he’s mad at them. If I ever have a heart attack, use Lars’ drums as my defibrillator. I’m really happy that Kirk Hammett has a lot more featured guitar solo’s than the last album. And bassist Rob Trujillo is there to keep all of this tethered to the ground when it almost always seemed like the music is going to come unhinged.

The album kicks off with the title track which begins with shimmering drums and a snarling guitar before the whole band engages and then we’re off to the races. I love the lyric “No chance before life began.” It sort of sums up the theme of the album. “Shadows Follow” has some of my favorite lyrics and features a great Hammett guitar solo. “Screaming Suicide” is a track about society’s inability to allow individuals to even discuss suicide. “Listen well, better listen well…” Only if we can talk about our mental health issues can we get help and address them. “Sleepwalk My Life Away” is another heavy, heavy riff. “You Must Burn!” is another absolute favorite of mine. It’s the first real change of pace tune, away from the breakneck speed of the first 1/3 of the album. They slow the pace down and make the riff heavier. It’s almost got an undercurrent of funk in the drummer. “You are the witch you must burn…” Indeed. “Lux AEterna,” was the first single, previously reviewed so I wont’ go into detail here. I’ll just say I really like “Lux AEterna,” but as the shortest track here, it may be my least favorite. That’s how much I like the rest of the album.

“Crown of Barbed Wire” has an absolutely wicked guitar solo. When Metallica bears down on you like this track, I can only say, “Woo!” The next track “Chasing Light” features marching drums, squalling guitar from Hammett and when Hetfield’s rhythm kicks in, fasten your seat belt. “Without darkness, there is no light…” At 6 minutes, 45 seconds, just grab that riff and ride it. “If Darkness Had A Son” is in contention for my favorite song. It’s martial drums and a great riff. It’s the story of the recovered addict without being preachy. “Temptation…” I can absolutely relate. I can say the Rock Chick loves this one and it is a quintessential Metallica tune. “Too Far Gone” is the first time on the album I hear that patented Metallica melodic guitar groove when Hetfield and Hammett play the same riff together. I love the chorus on this song.

Metallica finish up the album with the two best tracks. “Room Full of Mirrors” may be Hetfield’s greatest lyrics. I love when he sings, “In a mirrored room Just a simple man, Naked, broken, beat, and scarred, What do I really know? That fear of letting go.” Jeez, the honesty is so intense. His fury comes through. The final track on the album, which is over 11 minutes long, is “Inamorata” which is an absolute masterpiece. It’s the kind of epic song that Metallica made their reputation on. I can listen to this song all day long. Which, at the aforementioned 11 minute play time, it just might take all day. I’ve quoted it once, but when Hetfield sings “Misery she loves me, Oh, but I love her more,” my 20s just come flooding back to me. “Inamorata” is going to go down as one of Metallica’s greatest songs.

I’ll admit, with it’s long run time, over an hour and a quarter, this may be best consumed in parts. Listen to a few tracks here, a few tracks there. It is a full on frontal, aural assault. But this is some fine, fine heavy metal. Since they only put out an album every 7 or 8 years, every new Metallica album should be celebrated. This is the kind of late career masterpiece that B&V was founded to herald. Every hard rock fan should be cranking this album as loud as the neighbors and the local constabulary will allow.

Devil Horns to all of you! Cheers!

New Song Review: Greta Van Fleet Return With “Meeting The Master” – Time To Get Back On The Bandwagon?


While we are mostly focused on older artists who have been around for a while and are putting out either new music or stuff from the vault, we do like to keep our eyes on new rock n roll bands here at B&V. Over the years we’ve shared our thoughts on some great new bands who actually play rock n roll with guitars! and real drums! and bass guitar! I have really liked bands like Dirty Honey and Starcrawler that have come up over the last few years. Starcrawler just recently put out an EP of acoustic versions of some of their previous tracks and there’s nothing more rock n roll than that! Who doesn’t like a good Unplugged-esque album? One of the newer bands who I’m proud to say I got in on early was Greta Van Fleet.

GVF is the brothers Kiszka, Josh on vocals; Jake on guitar; Sam on bass and Danny Wagner on drums. The Rock Chick turned me onto their first EP, Black Smoke Rising and I immediately connected with that Zeppelin-esque rock n roll. I was on the bandwagon for their second EP From The Fires and debut full length album Anthem Of A Peaceful Army. Alas, they lost me a bit on their second album, Battle At The Garden Gate. I found it a bit of a midtempo slog. It sometimes is, as Bono said, “The difficult second album.” I know everybody likes to slag these guys as being a Zeppelin knock off band but I think that’s unfair. You’re always a sum of your influences until you forge your own voice. These guys are all really young and establishing their own unique GVF sound and style. While I can’t say I got off the bandwagon after Anthem Of A Peaceful Army, it cooled my ardor for this band a bit. I found myself putting their music on a little less than I had.

This week I found out that GVF have put out a new song “Meeting The Master” from their upcoming album Starcatcher. Even though my ardor had cooled, I wanted to see what the new track was like. I played it for the Rock Chick who was cool to the track, but I love this song. The Rock Chick even said to me, such was her cool reaction to it, “I’m surprised you like this song.” It starts off very mellow. But make no mistake this is an epic 70s style rock tune. It starts off pretty mellow, just Josh’s voice and Jake’s acoustic guitar. There’s something about the sound of that acoustic guitar that takes me back. It’s very “Rain Song.” I hate that every time I hear a GVF tune I end up comparing it to a Zeppelin tune, but there you go. Anyway, the lyrics are their usually trippy, hippy stuff. At first listen I don’t think anybody would be blamed for thinking the confusing lyrics were written by Anthony Kiedis, the master of nonsensical lyrics. But I finally pulled the lyrics up and realized this was a very spiritual song in terms of lyrics. The young Josh sounds like he’s ready to die to meet his master… which I take to mean his version of God. I’m at best a Pagan, but hey, rage on kid. At the 2:37 mark, the track kicks in. Danny Wagner’s drums come into play and the electric guitar shows up.

There was something about this song that also conjures up early Rush to me. Jake’s guitar solo is spectacular. It’s Hendrix-esque in sound. I’m not comparing this guy to Hendrix, these guys suffer enough comparisons, I’m just saying it’s a great guitar solo. I love the lyric, “What a day to travel faster, Take my trip around the sun…” To be this young and have mortality on your mind… I mean, I get why Depeche Mode focused on mortality on Memento Mori, recently reviewed, but these guys are in their 20s. I’m not sure what this means, hence my Kiedis reference, but I dig it, “And I’m taken by the madness and the tripping and the touching…” I’ve never had a problem with madness, tripping or touching… and by tripping I mean falling. The track is only five minutes long but the way it builds to the guitar solo crescendo, with Josh’s wordless wailing in the back ground makes it feel longer and more epic to me. Here’s the track:

This is the kind of rock n roll I can get into. I am so hopeful that this new album will get these guys back on the track of their early music. Let’s hope this gets us all back on the bandwagon! As I’m fond of saying often, sometimes it’s the third album that’s the charm for a band’s career. Give me all the epic, 70s style, trippy rock n roll I can get. Enjoy this one at maximum volume!


Review: Depeche Mode ‘Memento Mori’ – A Dark Record That Will Just Have To Grow On You…


Some records take time… Like any work of art – be that a movie or a book – sometimes it takes a while for the work to “grow” on you. Depeche Mode’s new album Momento Mori, which came out a few weeks ago, is that type of record. I had to listen to it repeatedly to crack the code. Many records click in my head on the first listen but that didn’t happen with Memento Mori. I realize not everybody is going to be willing to work for the rewards this album will bring but for those who are patient, this is a really good album.

I will admit, anticipation for this new Depeche Mode album, their 15th studio record, was running high here at B&V. We absolutely loved their last LP, 2017’s Spirit. That album was full of rousing anthems like “Where’s The Revolution” and “Going Backwards.” Some critics were put off by Depeche veering into the realm of political commentary in song but I felt it was perfect for the times. Some artists just have a knack for capturing the zeitgeist of a particular moment in time. The Rock Chick and I were so enamored with Spirit, we traveled twice to see them in concert, both in Denver and then in Tulsa.

I’ve been a fan of most of the band’s records from this new millennium, especially Delta Machine. Depeche has been on the track where they deliver an album about every four years. But it’s been six years since Spirit. That long wait probably also fueled our anticipation but as I’m fond of saying anticipation can be tricky. Unchecked anticipation will easily lead you to disappointment. One of the reasons for the longer gap between record had to be the death of founding member Andy Fletcher (keyboards) who did not play on any of the tracks on Memento Mori. And of course the world faced a global pandemic during that stretch of time which obviously had a huge impact on the tone and subject matter of the record. Principle songwriter Martin Gore (guitar/keyboards/vocals) began writing these songs during the lockdown. He started writing many of the tracks with Psychedelic Furs front man Richard Butler. Gore was originally going to release those tracks on a side project, but ended up sending them to lead singer Dave Gahan and they ended up on Momento Mori.

Based on the cover art, a photo of two flower arrangements in the shape of angel’s wings, I figured this album would be a requiem for Fletch. I certainly thought so after hearing the great first single, “Ghosts Again,” which I previously reviewed. But I think the darkness on this album is more universal. These songs were born out of the pandemic, a real low point in my lifetime, and they reflect that dark energy. While Spirit was full of rousing, fighting anthems, Memento Mori is more midtempo throughout. The sound is more industrial rock (albeit on the mellower end of the spectrum) than their previous smoother rock n roll. Perhaps Depeche – now just Gore and Gahan – have once again captured the world’s zeitgeist but it’s just heavier. This album is all about mortality. That can be tough for people to get into. There are many examples of an artist turning their mind towards mortality and I’ve always found it fascinating: Dylan’s Time Out of Mind, Springsteen’s Letter To You, and McCartney’s Dance Tonight while wildly different musically than Memento Mori, cover the same topic. And honestly, it’s not all mortality. There are also songs about obsession and unrequited love.

Musically I must say Gahan’s voice is still magical. The guy has not lost anything over the years. Gore has created such a layered and intricate set of musical textures and moods for Gahan to sing over. Gore will never end up on anybody’s “greatest guitarists of all time” lists but I’ve always been intrigued by the sounds he conjures. Whether it’s an accent or a full on Nine Inch Nails assault on the ears, the guy does interesting things with the six string. The best tracks are where Gahan sings and Gore provides a harmony. Again, if you’re willing to put in the work, this album will grow on you and get under your skin.

The album begins with “My Cosmos Is Mine,” that creeps over you like a sinister fog enveloping a city. Gahan sounds otherworldly on this track. It certainly sets the table for whats coming. At one point it sounds like prayer in desperate times, “No war, no war, no war, No more, no more, no more, no more, No fear, no fear, no fear, no fear, Not here, not here, not here, not here…” That track leads to the second, “Wagging Tongues,” considerably less dense track. This is where Gahan sings with Martin on harmony and it’s money. It’s got a skipping keyboard figure and tinny percussion. “Watch another angel die…” The next track is the sensational new single, “Ghosts Again.” I may have described it as mellow but it’s one of the more upbeat moments here.

“Don’t Say You Love Me,” where Gahan comes on as a chanteuse, is like a song from the most depressing ballroom on the planet. It starts with glacial guitar and keyboards. It’s a powerful torch song/ballad. They then turn on the next track to a more industrial/NIN kind of sound for “My Favorite Stranger.” It’s got tortured guitar and jittery percussion. “My favorite stranger, stand in my mirror, puts words in my mouth…” It sounds like Gahan is a serial killer singing to himself in front of a full length mirror. It certainly begs the question, can we ever know ourselves completely? “Soul With Me” is the Martin lead vocal song. He’s like Keef in the Stones, he gets a track on every album. He’s warbling here and I don’t really dig it. I do like the chorus… “Caroline’s Monkey” is next and it’s really elevated by Gahan’s vocals. I feel like the song never takes off the way it was supposed to but it does pick up in the middle.

“Before We Drown” is one of my favorite songs on the album. It’s more sweeping and grand. “I’ve been thinking, I could come back home…” It’s all about reaching back to a lover and asking, let’s try again. Gahan’s vocal on the track is certainly something special. “People Are Good” harkens back to early Depeche and “People Are People” only this track is more cynical. Over metallic percussion Gahan sings “People are good, keep fooling yourself.” It’s another highlight. “Always You” is a love song bordering on obsession. It turns the concept of the love song on it’s head. Is it romantic or menacing? It’s another great song. The best tracks on this album all seem to be toward the end. “Never Let Me Go” is another NIN squalling guitar song. It also lyrically calls to mind “Never Let Me Down Again,” although not musically. It’s marinated in romantic frustration. The music is discomfiting. Gahan almost spits out the words “I’ve been so patient, I have been so calm.” The album ends on the chilling ballad “Speak To Me” in the same vein as the aforementioned “Don’t Say You Love Me.” I love the line “You’d be my drug of choice.” While it’s a very slow song it builds to a wonderful crescendo.

Any Depeche Mode album the critics love tends to be described as “their best album since Violator.” I think Depeche has put out a number of great records since that landmark album so I shy away from that description. If pressed, I’d admit that I liked Spirit better but it was an easier, more accessible listen. I know not everybody is going to take the time to let this album grow on you – the Rock Chick gave it one listen, described it as “music to weep to,” and left it behind. But it’s albums like this – that grow on me – that tend to stick with me the longest over the years. Everybody should listen to this album, but do so more than once or twice. It wasn’t what I expected but anticipation leads to expectations and no album should be listened to through the filter of expectations. Listen to this one with the headphones on and eventually, like a flower opening, it will reveal itself to you.


New Song Alert: Depeche Mode, “Ghosts Again” From The Upcoming LP ‘Memento Mori’ – Understated Requim For Fletch?


While I was recovering from seeing Bush this Tuesday, I found that Depeche Mode have finally returned after six years with a new song “Ghosts Again” that heralds the coming of a new album Memento Mori. Depeche Mode is a band I was always kind of “only aware of” before I met the Rock Chick. I’d hear “Personal Jesus” or “A Question of Lust” on the radio and always liked those tracks. I don’t know why I didn’t delve deeper? Then I met the Rock Chick and she was a huge Depeche fan. She really deserves credit for turning me onto them. I went from being the most casual fan to becoming a huge fan which culminated in me seeing them twice on the Spirit tour in 2017 both in Denver and Tulsa. They were amazing in concert.

I thought Spirit was an absolute late-career masterpiece. It was a dark reflection of very dark times in the world. Much has changed for Depeche Mode since that album. Founding member and perhaps the nicest guy in the band Andy Fletcher, simply “Fletch” to millions, passed away last year. Singer Dave Gahan and guitarist/keyboardist/songwriter Martin Gore decided to soldier on without Fletch. I read that they had started recording Memento Mori prior to Fletch’s passing and I hoped that there would be some of Fletch’s keyboard on the record – like the Stones are saying there will be drumming from Charlie Watts when/if they release their new album – but alas, Fletch didn’t play on this album.

It’s hard to hear this song and read the album title without thinking that mortality and Fletch’s loss isn’t weighing heavily on Depeche Mode’s mind. Memento Mori is Latin and it roughly translates to “remember that you have to die.” And people think I get heavy in my writing sometimes. Even the artwork for the album cover seems to recall a funeral. It’s a picture of two flower arrangements in the shape of angel’s wings. Gahan sings in “Ghosts Again.” “A place to hide the tears that you’ve cried, everybody says goodbye.” I have to admit, I lost a dear friend of mine a month ago and his memorial was last Saturday so this song hits me a little different than most people. The new video for the song is a take on Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal that tells the story of a knight during the Black Plague who plays a game of chess against Death… talk about heavy stuff.

I really like this song. It’s on the mellow end of the spectrum. The keyboards are absolutely lovely. A ballad where they say goodbye to Fletch, whose not going to like that? Gahan, as usual, is in wonderful voice. I like how Martin Gore plays guitar – it’s always reminded me of the Edge from U2 – its more about mood and tone instead of shredding. “Hello’s, goodbyes, a thousand midnight’s lost in sleepless lullabies.” Such beautiful lyrics. The keyboards build throughout the song. You can hear the pain in Gahan’s voice. Here is the video:

I don’t usually comment on videos, but I just have to say, I love the walking sticks with the shiny skull heads.

I’m always curious about how bands pick their first singles. While I like “Ghosts Again” it is a curious choice for a first single. It’s very mid-tempo at best. I always like to look back three or four albums at a bands’ first singles and compare. If we look back to 2005’s Playing the Angel the first single was “Precious.” I absolutely loved that song. It ranks amongst Depeche Mode’s finest work in my opinion. The stabbing keyboards bore into my brain.

2009’s Sounds Of The Universe the first single was “Wrong.” I love how they sing the title at the first of the song. It reminds me of my parents when I was a kid. After repeating the word “wrong” several times the song kicks in for real. Over an almost funky cacophony of sound Gahan passionately delivers the vocals. It again, is one of their greatest songs.

From 2013’s Delta Machine Depeche also chose a ballad, the aching “Heaven.” Again, this song is one of their best. It’s a tearjerker of a tune. With this tune, Depche proved you can release a ballad and get away with it. Martin Gore’s harmony vocal makes the song.

Finally, from late career masterpiece Spirit, Depeche Mode went big with the anthem, “Where’s the Revolution?” This song grabbed me immediately. It was the perfect song for 2017. It set the tone for what was a spectacular album.

Will we look back on “Ghosts Again” as one of their finest songs – as we do these four fabulous previous first singles? Only time will tell. Or as Sammy Hagar once stupidly sang, “Only time will tell if we stand the test of time.” Think about that lyric for a while. All I can tell you is that Depeche have been on an absolute roll in this millennium. I was only turned onto this band around 2000 and every album they’ve put out since then has delivered. I think there will be a diversity of sound on Memento Mori but I doubt there will be a shortage of dark tunes like “Ghost Again.”

I’m so happy Depeche has decided to keep going. My heart goes out to them over their fallen comrade Fletch. I look forward to the album and can’t wait to see Depeche Mode, who at this point feel like old friends, again on a stage near me.


New Song: Dave Matthews Band’s First New Song In Five Years, “Madman’s Eyes” From Upcoming New LP


“We live as if our hands are tied
Is it really so hard
To do what we know is right”

The Dave Matthews Band, “Madman’s Eyes”

Look who’s getting the band back together! The Dave Matthews Band has returned after 5 years with a new song, “Madman’s Eyes,” which also heralds the coming of a new album in May, Walk Around The Moon. If five years sounds like a long time between albums, let’s remember it was six years between 2012’s superb Away From The World and 2018’s moody Come Tomorrow. I was frankly surprised by this song and the new LP announcement – which seems to happen more and more to me despite my attempts to keep an eye on bands I like. I had minor surgery on Tuesday and have basically been asleep since then. I wake up and voila, a new DMB song! Prior to surgery I’d been lost in a David Crosby and Jeff Beck music binge in honor of those two great artists’ recently  lost… I had been reading that Dave was going to do another solo record like Some Devil and had that in the back of my mind as a possible release for this year. I wasn’t expecting a full-on band release and I’m delighted to hear these guys playing new music. Maybe I should schedule surgery more often?

I got in early on the Dave Matthews Band. Well, as early as most mainstream radio listeners could with the release of Under The Table And Dreaming. I was like everybody else 1994 to 2000, a huge Dave Matthews Band fan. But like many bands do, the DMB hit a bit of a mid career lull to my ears. Maybe it was the coming of the new millennium. 2001’s Everyday produced by Glenn Ballard was a huge miss for me. That one almost felt more like a Dave solo album than Some Devil. They rebounded with one of their finest albums on Busted Stuff, but once again lost me completely on Stand Up. There were a few tracks on Stand Up that I connected with – namely “Dream Girl” and “American Baby” – but the rest left me really cold. When I say they lost me completely, I mean it, I walked away from the Dave Matthews Band and left them for the soccer moms out there. Part of the problem was never being able to see them live – those tickets sold out faster than I could find a connection to buy from…

As usual, I chose the wrong moment to give up on a band. Describing their work since 2009s Big Whiskey And the GrooGrux King as a late career renaissance might be a bit strong but they’ve put out a string of really great records. After GrooGrux, which was dedicated to the late LeRoi Moore, the DMB horn player for years, who tragically died in an ATV accident, the DMB hit their stride again. 2012’s Away From The World kept the hot streak alive. And of course, 2018’s Come Tomorrow was another strong if moody and dark record. When I reviewed that record, I compared it in “attitude” to Lenny Kravitz’s Circus in that it has a rather dark perspective. There’s nothing wrong with dark perspectives, those are the only perspectives I held for a long time in life. And again, Come Tomorrow sounds nothing like Circus from a musical standpoint.

The Dave Matthews Band at this point is: Dave Matthews (vocal/guitar), the vastly underrated Carter Beauford (drums), Stefan Lessard (bass guitar) who have all been with the band since the start and Tim Reynolds (guitar), Jeff Coffin & Rashawn Ross (horns) who all joined after LeRoi’s passing. The band is rounded out by keyboardist Buddy Strong who joined the band after original violinist Boyd Tinsley left under a cloud of sexual harassment suits. They still have that eclectic, DMB signature sound.

I really like “Madman’s Eyes.” I feel like Dave’s vocals are buried a little too far in the mix but that may be because my head is slightly clogged after surgery. The song, like Come Tomorrow, is a bit of a moody track. It starts with Dave’s voice intoning a wordless melody. Then the song kicks in. It has an epic, almost cinematic sweep to it. It feels Middle Eastern to me, like it was torn from Lawrence of Arabia or it’s “Kashmir”-lite. I can almost feel hot desert winds full of sand on my face. Whatever was bothering Dave Matthews five years ago seems like it’s getting worse… when he sings, “I’m afraid, can’t lie, Momma said baby don’t you cry, In the dark be the light, Don’t let go baby hold on tight,” I believe him. It’s a hard time not to be concerned about humanity’s future.

Here’s the track:

It’s certainly an epic sounding track with strings, horns, keyboards all creating a palpable sense of tension. It’s perfect for these times. No band struggled to try and get out on the road the way DMB did during Covid and maybe that frustration is manifesting here in this song. It’s a tough time for an embattled collective Human Condition. It’s a really strong first single and it’s perfect for these troubled times. I love the Arabic flair here.

In dark times we need artists to reflect the darkness for us all to see it and to over come it. This track scratches that itch for me. I am really looking forward to late May when this album comes out. The DMB are on a roll and this song would indicate that’s going to continue!