Slash: New Single, “Driving Rain” With Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators

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Is there a cooler rock star than Slash?

The top hat, long hair over his eyes, and shades are, simply put, iconic. I think the top hat/smiley face thing is an emoticon on my iPhone these days. Unfortunately for Slash, like your intrepid blogger, the man can’t sing a lick. At least it’s the Rock Chick’s opinion that I can’t sing, although I do so with great gusto every time I shower, but I’m getting off topic here. Slash falls into that group of super talented guitarists who can’t sing and have struggled with LSD – Lead Singer Disease (The BourbonAndVinyl Worst Cases of LSD – Lead Singer Disease). Slash has had Axl and Scott Weiland (RIP) to contend with, much like Eddie Van Halen with David Lee Roth, Jeff Beck with Rod Stewart or poor Jimmy Page whose been following Robert Plant around for years begging for a reunion. Record something solo Jimmy, it’s starting to get embarrassing. I always thought Slash should get together with his fellow Beverly Hills High School alumnus, Lenny Kravitz and do something because that would be ultra-cool. Lenny… Slash… together? Forget about it. It’s off the cool scale.

Slash’s lead guitar and melodic solos were a corner stone of the Guns N Roses sound. I was hoping since GnR have been on what seems to be a never ending tour, maybe they’d find some time to duck into a studio and try to recapture a little of that old magic. Apparently that ain’t gonna happen. All we get is the Appetite For Destruction box set.  There are still rumors that Axl is sneaking off to record with Angus Young in a new version of AC/DC, but I don’t know if I buy it. I think it was interesting that Axl filled in after Brian Johnson’s abrupt retirement but a full fledged album? I don’t think they should call it AC/DC if it’s just Angus and Axl. Maybe call it AC/AC.

Slash has once again reunited with vocalist Myles Kennedy, of Alter Bridge fame and recorded a new album that’s coming, like every other album this year, in September, entitled Living The Dream. Aptly titled, if you’re Slash I’d guess. It was my buddy in Denver, Stormin who turned me onto Slash’s last album with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators, (Todd Kerns on bass/backing vocals and Brent Fitz on drums) 2014’s World On Fire. That album was a tour de force of hard rock. It was 17 songs long. Nothing on it was an anthem like say, “November Rain,” but it was solid, hard rock and certainly an album everybody ought to check out.

Kennedy’s vocals are more, for lack of a better word, soaring than some of the other vocalists Slash has worked with. Axl always brought a grimy, nastiness to his lead vocals. He always sounded like he was on the verge of either an emotional breakdown or some fit of unspecified violence. Weiland’s vocals were more slippery and he had an almost psychedelic vibe. I’m not sure Slash and Weiland were were a perfect match but I really enjoyed the Velvet Revolver albums, especially the first one, Contraband. I certainly liked Velvet Revolver better than Slash’s Snakepit, which barely made a dent in my musical psyche. But with Myles it appears Slash has finally found a sane, powerful enough vocalist to play with.

This first track from the upcoming Living The Dream, “Driving Rain” is much a piece with the music on World On Fire, Myles and Slash’s last album. This is solid, straight ahead hard rock. Slash plays a dirty Aerosmith-y riff. Myles vocals are custom built for an arena. I will say, I played this song in my car and it’s a perfect car song, which probably goes without saying since the word “driving” is in the title… Slash’s solo is, as usual, the highlight of the track. It’s melodic and it really jumped out at me. This isn’t a song that’s going to change your life like say, “Welcome to the Jungle” or “Paradise City,” but those are probably unfair comparisons. It’s just nice to hear some guitar-driven, hard rock for a change! With Slash on guitar, you just can’t go wrong – even Michael Jackson knew that, which is why he had Slash play on “Black Or White.” “Driving Rain” certainly has me looking forward to the full album… it’s going to be a September to remember.

Cheers!

 

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Greta Van Fleet: New Single, “When The Curtain Falls”

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Oh, Greta Van Fleet… I can’t stay mad at you.

As most of the B&V readers know, I was a little miffed at GVF when they backed out of Middle of the Map Festival here in Kansas City. Other than Social Distortion, who we all love down here at B&V, I was most excited about seeing Greta Van Fleet. Can they bring it live, I wondered? I was really anticipating answering that question… until a few days prior they had to cancel out of the festival when the drummer, Danny Wagner, hurt his wrist. I can only hope he hurt it trashing a hotel room… anything short of that is unacceptable in my mind, but I’m old school. Keith Moon and John Bonham are my go-to drummers, but I digress. My disappointment that they wouldn’t be here was…palpable. Although I must admit, I managed to discover Austin-based alt rockers Spoon, so it wasn’t a complete wash-out (Middle of the Map Fest: Spoon 6/29/18; Social Distortion, 6/30/2018, LIVE). And yes, Social Distortion is always kick ass in concert, see them if you can. I will admit, the Rock Chick has been mad at GVF ever since.

I keep hearing that GVF have been in the studio working on a proper album. They’ve already released two EPs, Black Smoke Rising (Greta Van Fleet: Kids Channeling Zeppelin On ‘Black Smoke Rising’ EP) followed by a “double EP” From The Fires which contained all four songs from the previous EP (Review: Greta Van Fleet, ‘From The Fires’ LP, er, Double EP). I’ve loved all eight songs these guys have released so far, including their epic cover of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.” It’s so refreshing to hear a new rock band! These guys are all guitar riffs and big vocals which you don’t hear a lot of these days. I have to admit, I was beginning to wonder if these guys were ever going to get around to releasing a whole album. I know they’re touring, but lets keep that momentum rolling in the studio!

Today, my patience has been rewarded. GVF have just released a new single, “When the Curtain Falls.” Any residual anger on my part about them missing Middle of The Map, dropped away as soon as I put this new tune on the stereo and heard that first guitar chord. Danny’s drums kick in and Jake Kiszka’s crunchy guitar riff starts. This song struts and storms. It’s both heavy and slinky – like Mike Tyson in his prime, moving so much it’s hard to hit with a lethally dangerous punch at the same time. When Josh Kiszka’s banshee wail kicks in, I found myself nodding my head. Yes, I can still feel the Zeppelin influence (I hear the echo of a Zep riff here, but I can’t quite put my finger on it), but these guys are making it there own. The guitar sound here is addictive. I can’t get over the reckless abandon with which Josh sings. Even the Rock Chick, passing through the B&V lab said, “I wonder how long he’ll be able to sing like that?” Good question.

When Josh turns it over to Jake for the guitar solo, I wanted to jump on my desk and hold a lighter in the air. It’s so much fun to rock out with this music. They sound confident and ready to conquer the world. Hopefully it won’t be too long a wait until this rumored album comes out. If this is a sample of what’s going on in the studio, I think we rock folks out here are going to be very happy. Check this tune out immediately!

 

 

Tom Petty: New Single From The Upcoming Box-set, “Keep A Little Soul”

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I think I speak for the majority of rock and roll fans when I say, I’m just not over the loss of Tom Petty. I don’t know if I ever will get over it (RIP Tom Petty, 1950 – 2017, A Devastating Loss: The Composer of the Soundtrack to My Life Is Gone). His music and concerts were so ingrained as a part of my life it just feels weird that he’s gone. One thing I’ve been hoping for, nay, praying for, is that his estate and the Heartbreakers would release some of the material that Petty had compiled in his vaults. For a couple of years prior to his passing, Petty himself spoke about revisiting the Wildflowers album and doing a reissue. His original concept had been for that to be a double-album. The re-release would have restored Wildflowers to his original concept and he and the Heartbreakers were going to tour and play the whole thing. Oh, how I wish we all could have seen that.

As far as I know, the Wildflowers project is still in the works. I started seeing on Petty’s Instagram and Twitter accounts, much like McCartney did lately, pictures of boxes of tape reels and other hints that something was coming. I thought fleetingly that it would be the Wildflowers project finally seeing the light of day. Well, it’s not the Wildflowers project I’d been anticipating, instead my prayers have been answered and the Petty camp has announced they’re releasing a box-set (4-CDs or 6 vinyl LPs) entitled perfectly, An American Treasure. The project was curated by longtime band members Mike Campbell (guitar and recent addition to Fleetwood Mac), Ben Tench (keyboards extraordinaire) and members of Petty’s family. The Rock Chick would probably like me to wait until Christmas to snap this box up… I have bad news for her. The release date is set for September 27th.

I have seen, in several publications, the album’s song list. There is a lot to get excited about. First and foremost, he’s releasing the three song set he recorded at Capitol Studios that contains, for those of us who grew up listening to KY102, the definitive version of “Breakdown.” It’s the only version we knew…(Playlist: The B&V Best Tom Petty Album/Deep Tracks). There are B-sides and additional live tracks, not only from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers but from Mudcrutch too. Oddly, they do throw in a few “deep cuts” or as they call them, “album cuts” from some of the lesser known albums of Petty’s career like the soundtrack for She’s the One and The Last DJ. Overall, I’d have to say this is a fitting box-set to celebrate Tom Petty’s long career. Each CD is organized around a certain decade of Petty’s career. My only complaint is that I don’t see “Sweet William,” a rollicking, bluesy B-side from the Echo sessions. But, I’m sure we’ll see that in due time. Also absent is much of the Wildflowers stuff, like “Girl On LSD” which I’m sure means the expanded edition will come out sometime in the future.

To commemorate the announcement of the new box, a single has been released, “Keep A Little Soul,” a track recorded in 1982 for the Long After Dark sessions. I have to say, and this may be a little sentimental on my part, I love this song. Long After Dark is a bit of an overlooked album in the Petty canon. It came after the two triumphs, Damn The Torpedoes and Hard Promises. Petty and the Heartbreakers had been on the road almost non stop and released an album almost every year and a half. Long After Dark had a bit of darker undertone, despite some of the more modern touches like the synth on “You Got Lucky.” They sound, well, a little tired on this record. I think they were burning out a little bit. I still love the album but it just didn’t do as well as the two previous records.

To put it in perspective, Long After Dark came out a mere three years after Torpedoes, a pace of an album a year, plus a tour. It had been six years since the first album came out. Five albums and constant touring can take it’s toll on a band. It was no surprise that it took three years for the follow up, 1985’s Southern Accents to come out. Of course, in the interim, Petty had smashed his hand when punching a wall in a fit of anger… They couldn’t get a guitar part to sound right. I think we’ve all been there. Looking back at Long After Dark, the most notable thing about it might that it was Howie Epstein’s first album with the band on bass and exquisite harmony/backing vocals.

When I first heard “Keep A Little Soul,” I couldn’t help but think, how did this not make the album? How in the world did Petty keep this in the can for all these years. “Keeping Me Alive” was another outtake from the Long After Dark sessions but it finally came out on the box-set Playback in 1995. But upon further listens you start to realize, this song really didn’t fit the darker tone of the album… This track isn’t a song that would have fit in with “Change of Heart,” or “Straight Into Darkness.”

This song is a great midtempo, upbeat message track. It’s one of those, everything is going to be alright lyrics. “It doesn’t matter, when you keep a little soul, nothing really matters any more.” The sound is classic Petty and the Heartbreakers. If anybody shines here it’s Benmont Tench’s keyboards. Howie Epstein can be heard singing the background vocal. Petty is engaged and sounds happy. This song doesn’t have that world-weary feel that many of the other tracks on the album have. The track starts with only Petty’s voice counting it in and ends, in a bittersweet moment, with Petty saying, “That was fun…”

I think “Keep A Little Soul” is an essential track in what will turn out to be an essential addition to the Petty catalog. I have to mention, if you haven’t already, go out to YouTube and check out the video for it. It has never before seen footage of the band on the road and on stage. Although I was an early Petty fan, I didn’t get to see them live until the Southern Accents tour. It was fun to see Petty, with the different hair cuts – with that Long After Dark era mullet (full confession, I, your intrepid blogger rocked a mullet in the 80s) – on stage and going crazy, dancing, running around. God, I could kick myself for not going to see him earlier… I’ll be the first to admit, I smiled through the entire video and when it was over there was a tear in my eye… It was a bit like looking at an old photo of a friend or a fallen comrade and being taken back to the moment of the photo… and just for a second, feeling that same youthful joy…

Keep a little soul out there folks! We all need it. Cheers!

Paul McCartney: Two New Songs From The Upcoming ‘Egypt Station’

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It’s been a tough year… for rock and roll and for pretty much everything else. Personally, I’ve been in a bit of funk of late. Work hassles and other mounting issues occasionally feel like they’re going to overwhelm me. The loss of Anthony Bourdain continues to puzzle and bum me out. Being a Kansas City native, even the loss of Kate Spade has touched me. Her father died the morning of her funeral, two hours prior, apparently from despair. It’s a dark time in all of our lives.  It’s in the dark times, for me at least, that I’ve always turned to music for solace and lets be honest, escape.

However, music this year has been, well, not great. Nineties stalwart’s the Dave Matthews Band and Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong have put out strong albums this year but that’s about it. Jack White’s album was wildly disappointing, although I still think he’s a genius. Too bad Meg White went into witness protection (come back Meg, we miss you). It was nice to hear David Byrne come out with an album that was accessible in a very Talking Heads’ way. Those few examples of great albums in 2018 aside, I was beginning to despair that no great music was going to come out this year. Most the stuff I’ve liked this year have been vault releases or re-releases.

It was a couple of weeks ago I started to see legend, former Beatle and kick ass bass-player Paul McCartney began to tease new music on what the kids call, “the social media.” On both Twitter and Instagram, McCartney started posting black and white pictures of himself in the studio. Or he’d post a picture of his guitar, or the keyboard of a piano, and in one post the knobs on his amp.

It’s been since 2013 that McCartney put out a proper album, the great New. I can’t believe it’s been five years. Prior to that you have to go all the way back to 2007’s exceptional Memory Almost Full for a McCartney album. Two proper records in over a decade, I’d say Paul was overdue. For many of us, it’s a big fucking deal when a Beatle puts out an album. For McCartney, it’s a doubly big deal since after a rocky period during the 80s and the early 90s, a period where many of us stopped listening to him, he found his footing again with the comeback album, Flaming Pie. After collaborating with the remaining Beatles on the Anthology series, McCartney said he’d rediscovered his approach to making music. I don’t know what happened, but every album he’s put out since then has been sensational. Unfortunately terrestrial radio doesn’t play artists like McCartney any more… but that’s another post.

This Friday, McCartney put out two new songs from the impending album Egypt Station (release date: September 7th). Based on these first two new tracks, “Come On To Me” and “I Don’t Know,” I needn’t worry that some superb music will be released this year. I think Egypt Station might be another in a string of great, late period McCartney albums. McCartney’s hot streak, From Flaming Pie to Chaos And Creation In The Backyard to New are the type of albums that inspired BourbonAndVinyl in the first place…

The first track I heard was “Come On To Me.” It’s a bouncy rocker. Even the Rock Chick, who doesn’t dig the Beatles, (like me she’s more of a Stones’ person) said, “That’s really good…” Obviously I haven’t seen the liner notes, but I suspect that McCartney played all the instruments on this album. Many guitarists have an instantly recognizable sound or tone on their instrument. McCartney has a very distinguishable drum sound, so that’s got to be him behind the kit…and I love the drumming that drives this song. “Come On To Me,” in my mind, shows how McCartney has re-discovered his inner “Beatles-ness.” There are guitar parts that almost sound like a sitar and every now and then a big horn section comes in. This song is big and bold and I love it. Paul throws everything into this song. Towards the end, McCartney growls, “Yes, I will, yes I will, now…” and you can tell he’s having a blast.

The other track, “I Don’t Know” is a classic McCartney ballad. The man should be known as the Magician of Melody. The song starts off with a beautiful, meditative solo piano. I love that McCartney has long abandoned synthesizers and gone back to real instruments like piano and acoustic guitar. This song really affected me. The lines, “What am I doing wrong? I don’t know,” just seem to fit for me right now. I’m always a sucker for a great ballad… I had an ex who once said, “You only like the sad songs…” and at first “I Don’t Know” almost grabbed me harder than “Come On To Me.” It’s a truly beautiful song. I would tell Paul, you’re not doing anything wrong. Both of these songs are among the best stuff I’ve heard this year.

Let’s hope the rest of the album is this strong. I could really use a great Paul McCartney album about now. I bet you could too.

Cheers!

 

LP Review: Pete Townshend’s ‘Who Came First (Deluxe Edition)

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“They call me the seeker, I’ve been searchin’ low and high, I won’t get to get what I’m after, til the day I die…” – “The Seeker” by the Who, written by Pete Townshend

A momentous event happened in the United Kingdom last Saturday, May 19th. The event wasn’t really contained to the UK, it was something the entire world celebrated. Lead guitarist, 2nd vocalist, and main composer of the Who, Pete Townshend had his 73rd birthday this last Saturday. Oh, yeah, and some other young “Royal” couple got married over in the UK too… I forget their names. I thought I would celebrate by focusing a little attention on his first solo album, Who Came First which was recently released in a “Deluxe Edition,” with some additional music. It seems Pete’s first solo album is a lot like the Who’s album Odds and Sods, which seems to get longer and longer with each release. When I first bought Odds and Sods it was because I loved the songs “Long Live Rock” and “Naked Eye,” (and I bought it on vinyl), and it was only 11 songs long. I recently repurchased it in a digital format and it has 23 songs now.

When a member of an established act, especially an act the magnitude of the Who, releases a solo album it can be fraught with all sorts of expectations and drama. It really shouldn’t be surrounded with all that bullshit, typically an artist just wants to change it up a bit. Working with the same musicians can probably get boring. The usual fear when someone releases a solo album is, will the group he’s in break up? Often it can definitely be a sign a band is breaking up. When Sting released his first solo album it spelled the end for all of us hoping the Police would get back together. Typically you don’t even see a solo album from somebody until well after their main group has broken up. The Beatles all found different sorts of drama facing each of their early solo releases. They all reacted in different ways – Paul went literally solo and recorded a quiet little record at home all by himself while George Harrison put out an epic three album long mini-box set. Even more evidence those guys were all headed in different directions.

Somehow, it seems, in 1972 Pete Townshend didn’t face any of that drama. The Who were coming off their greatest commercial success, 1971’s Who’s Next, and nobody seems to have freaked out about Pete doing a solo album. In fact, if I’d been asked as late as college, what Pete Townshend’s first solo album was, I’d have answered with the complete conviction of a religious convert that it was 1980’s superb Empty Glass. I bought that album on cassette so I could listen to it in my car. It remains to this day one of my favorite albums. “Rough Boys,” “Let My Love Open The Door,” (which was a song about God), and “Gonna Get Ya” were all given heavy rotation on local radio. Each of those songs are amongst Townshend’s best. It wasn’t until college that I discovered, probably at the used record store, that there’d been this earlier record.

As evidenced by one of the Who’s earliest songs, quoted above, “The Seeker,” Pete Townshend was a spiritual searcher of sorts. He eventually discovered Meher Baba, a guru from India. The 60s were an interesting time. Everybody was looking for a spiritual leader. LSD and other hallucinative drugs were opening everybody’s mind. Even the Beatles famously traveled to India to spend time with the Maharishi… although it seems that stuff only stuck with George. Meher Baba, ironically was the first spiritual teacher in the 60s who thought psychedelic drugs were bad. Townshend was a big convert… You might recognize Baba’s last name as it’s part of the title of one of the Who’s biggest songs, “Baba O’Riley” named for Meher and Tim Riley, a minimalist conductor Townshend admired… and to think for years we all thought that song was named “Teenage Wasteland.” Another early convert was Ronnie Lane, bass player for my beloved Faces and he and Townshend became very good friends.

In honor of Meher, Townshend had recorded a few small, barely released albums as gifts to Baba. Neither was circulated widely, but they were being bootlegged. The record company finally came to Townshend and asked if he would put them together for official release. These recordings, which were never meant to be for widespread consumption are homespun affairs. They’re mostly acoustic, although most are fully realized songs, these aren’t demos. Years later, Townshend acolyte Eddie Vedder would site Who Came First as his template for his first solo album, the soundtrack for Into the Wild. I had never really heard much of this album except songs that were later released on greatest hits packages. One of my favorites was “Sheraton Gibson” a song about being a musician on the road… in Cleveland no less. I’d also heard Townshend’s early version of “Lets See Action,” but I do like the Who’s fully realized version more. I’d also heard the superb “Parvardigar” which was just a beautiful song.

When I saw that there was this new deluxe version of Who Came First I finally, belatedly, sat down with this record. As I said, it’s a quiet little acoustic album, but what I really liked is that it’s a spiritual statement. Well, it’s certainly Pete’s spiritual statement. If we’re going to celebrate Dylan’s “Christian Period” (Review: Bob Dylan’s ‘Trouble No More: Bootleg Series Vol 13, (Deluxe Edition)) why not celebrate Townshend’s Baba period. The original album is full of songs about contentment (which is a lovely statement of purpose here), “Content” and spiritual joy, “Parvardigar.” “Time Is Passing” is probably my favorite song here. It’s a brilliant track. “Pure And Easy” which the Who finally got around to doing, is here in an early form, but the Who tracks aren’t the best ones. The only weird tune is a country cover, “There’s a Heartache Following Me” recorded because it was a favorite of Baba’s. Ronnie Lane even shows up and redoes “Stone” from the Faces’ first album as “Evolution.”

The deluxe edition brings some early and alternative versions of songs from the original, but it also has other, what I would deem critical tracks. “His Hands” and “Meher In Italy” are both beautiful acoustic instrumentals. There’s an acoustic version of the Who’s “The Seeker” that rivals the original. “Day of Silence” is driven by a cool harmonica. “I Always Say” is a nice bluesy change of pace. “Begin the Beguine” has a loungey vibe.  I really liked “The Love Man” and “There’s a Fortune In Those Hills.” There’s an early version of “Baba O’Riley” as an instrumental that clocks in at almost 10 minutes. I think it’s getting the most attention, but it’s a nice to have song, if you’re a completist, but it’s certainly not essential. Townshend even does his old friend Lane a solid and adds a live version of him doing Lane’s “Evolution” at a tribute show for Ronnie Lane.

While this album is probably only for completist and Who or Pete Townshend nuts like me, I was really taken with this album. The deluxe material is definitely worth investigating even if you’re one of the few who have the original. I just wish Townshend felt this moved today and put out something new.

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

Lenny Kravitz: New Single, “It’s Enough,” His Inner City Blues Are A Smooth Groove

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*Image above taken from the internet and is likely copyrighted

When it comes to Lenny Kravitz, I think I’m like most males, I was introduced to his music in the early 90s by a girlfriend. In the early days of his career I think he was the polar opposite of Aerosmith who once said the only “chicks” at their shows were the ones they brought with them – I feel like Lenny’s early fans were mostly female. I remember a woman I was dating putting on his great debut album, Let Love Rule. I really dug his hippy vibe and laid back grooves and who doesn’t love dreadlocks? The big hit from that album was the anthem, “Let Love Rule” and it was an instant classic. His music wasn’t all about love and peace, he could get topical and political in songs like “Mr. Cab Driver,” which was actually my favorite track on the album.

But after that, like the girlfriend who turned me onto his music, I lost track of Lenny for a few years. I vaguely remember hearing “It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over” in the background, but his second album didn’t really pull me in. By then he was married to Lisa Bonet, which I truly envied, (she was my movie star crush) and he’d become somewhat of a tabloid star. I don’t know if I was put off by that, or I just wasn’t paying attention. Likely it was the latter. But then in 1993 (could it really have been that long ago?) the monster album Are You Gonna Go My Way came out. We were all on the bandwagon at that point. The title track is a ferocious rock song. I remained a big Kravitz fan through Circus, a dark little album which the critics hated and I absolutely loved, and his creatively titled fifth album. But once again, I started to lose track of Lenny. It may have been because was a bit uneven or maybe it was alternative rock radio beating “Again” the track from his Greatest Hits album to death. As break-up prone as I was, I couldn’t get away from that song…”will I ever see you again?” Let me answer that for you folks, for the most part, no, you won’t.

It wasn’t until a few years ago that, yes, once again a woman, the Rock Chick came home and said, you’ve gotta hear this album. It was Lenny’s 2014 LP, Strut. I loved that album, reviewed on B&V, LP Review: Lenny Kravitz, “Strut” – How’d I Miss This Sexy Album?. I’m still not sure how that album had come out and slipped through the cracks for me… I blame radio. That record sent me scurrying back to the record store to pick up a couple more of his albums I’d missed… It’s Time For A Love Revolution and Black And White America both of which are great records everybody should check out. After hearing those three albums, I was back in a serious Lenny Kravitz infatuation. It’s with high anticipation here at B&V that we look forward to his upcoming follow-up record to Strut, coming in September, named Raise Vibration. 

The first single from that album was released recently, “It’s Enough.” Now, I’ll be one of the first to admit that Lenny Kravitz wears his influences on his sleeve, as the saying goes. He’s often accused of being derivative, that’s the most common trope I hear from the critics. My thoughts on the matter tend to align with what Picasso said, “Good artists borrow, great artists steal.” I’m not suggesting Lenny is ripping anybody off, but this new song strongly reminds me of the late, great Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues (Make Me Want To Holler).” I’ve been going back and forth between both songs for the last couple of days and there are similarities.

All that said, I love this song. “It’s Enough” clocks in at almost eight minutes long and yet when it ends, I feel like I want it to keep going. Like the song it was influenced by, Kravitz’s lyrics address (literally) a world of problems we face today: gun violence, the middle east, greed, and the environment just to name a few. I think it’s pretty gutsy to put the following line in your chorus, almost ensuring this won’t be played on the radio, “it’s enough, it’s enough, and we are all just getting fucked.” Kravitz has done something unimaginable, he’s made a groove-laden protest record.

Musically, this is a nice slow groove. It starts with some nice percussive elements. Like “Inner City Blues” Lenny employs a lot of non lyrical singing that acts like percussion. The percussion and a subtle piano drive the song forward. The bass line is simply monstrous. There’s a spoken word piece in the middle. This song is so Motown there’s even a trumpet solo toward the end. If we harken back to the 60s, people tend to forget that’s when all the best protest music was recorded and that’s what this song evokes for me. Like “Mr. Cab Driver” before it, Lenny has his fingers on the pulse of how a lot of people feel today… sad that we’ve come this far and not gotten anywhere. The music and the lyrics of this song are so spot on. The Rock Chick likes her Lenny a little more hard edged and rockier, but I dig the slow groove of this song. Everyone should check this one out.

Cheers!

The Longshot Return (Already?) With A Single and 3 EP’s – Billie Joe Armstrong Can’t Stop!

Devil's Kind - Single

I was sitting in one of my favorite watering-holes recently, enjoying a mint julep with a friend. This is the kind of bar that has bottles from floor to ceiling. They even have an old-school ladder, like libraries of old, on which the bartenders scamper up and down and roll it left and right to grab those bottles on the higher shelves. It’s fun to watch but it all looked like a lot of work. My friend and I were discussing and of course lauding our wives for their love of activity. In my case I must confess, The Rock Chick is always busy doing something. I like to say that, like commercials for the Army when I was a kid, she gets more done before 6 am than I get done all day. I never understood why that was a selling point for the Army, by the way. My friend and I are both individuals who prefer a more leisurely approach to life… a nice cocktail, some music on the turntable and a calm moment to contemplate the joys of existence. My approach is more like Prince’s song, “I was busy doing something next to nothing but different than the day before.” There’s a scene in Ghostbusters where Bill Murray’s character, Peter Venkman says something like, “I want you to think, that Peter Venkman, he’s the kind of guy who gets things done.” That’s my wife. I don’t share that zeal.

However, it appears that Green Day front man and leader of the new band The Longshot Billie Joe Armstrong shares that love of activity. I know he has an addictive personality and I don’t know if that plays into this but you have to wonder. Merely a week after releasing the great, punky new album, Love Is For Losers, (LP Review: ‘Love Is For Losers’ From The Longshot, Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong’s New Side ProjectArmstrong and crew are back with another single and three EPs. That Billie Joe Armstrong, he’s the type of guy who gets things done. I am having flashbacks to that whole Uno!Dos!, and Tre! episode with Green Day. It’s not unprecedented to release everything you’ve recorded, it’s just usually staggered over a longer period of time. The Red Hot Chili Peppers started releasing the b-sides they recorded during the I’m Beside You sessions, but it took a while.  It was with great surprise that I saw on social media the Longshot announce this flurry of releases.

The first single, which I found out actually came out almost simultaneously with Love Is For Losers is entitled “Devil’s Kind.” It’s another punky rocking song. I really like this track and frankly it wouldn’t have been out of place on Love Is For Losers. It’s a little harder edged, perhaps, but a great tune. I can’t find confirmation on line, but I believe this track is penned by Armstrong.

The first EP is entitled Bullets and has a mere two tracks. Both of the tracks on this EP, “Give It All To You” and “Keep Me Satisfied” have a strong, early-Beatles vibe. When I listened to Love Is For Losers for the first time, I mentioned that I got this vintage music vibe as well as a punk vibe. It was part punk, part 60s garage band. Although I admit the garage band vibe was more of an accent. The two songs on Bullets are all retro, Beatlesque tracks. Both songs clock in at under 2 minutes. They’re both good songs but literally sound like outtakes from Meet The Beatles. Both of these tracks, I believe are originals. While both tracks are interesting, I don’t think either is essential. They’re very different than the sound of Love Is For Losers. 

The second EP, entitled Razor Baby contains 4 tracks. My favorite of the four is probably “Fever Blister” another slab of slamming punk rock. They play this track fast and hard. I love a chorus that starts “I look so repulsive….” Like “Devil’s Kind” this track wouldn’t have been out of place on Love Is For Losers. The next track, another original, is entitled “Razor Baby.” It’s a more trance like track. The playing is slowed down and Armstrong’s vocal is slightly distorted. I wouldn’t call it a ballad, just mid-tempo. It’s got a very garage rock feel to it, just a lower energy vibe. Again, it’s another track I like. The third track, “I’ve Got Problems,” bursts out of the speakers like early Green Day. It rocks fast and hard. The riff slips and slides around. I’m not sure why this one missed the cut for the album. The final track, and perhaps the most surprising on this EP is the final track, a cover of Cheap Trick’s “Southern Girls” from their album In Color. They slow it down quite a bit and there’s even more distortion on Armstrong’s vocals. This version is far cry from the arena-rock style of the original, although it does slowly build. I like cover songs, it’s like a 2 for 1 special, and I did enjoy this track. Full disclosure, I do love Cheap Trick.

It appears the last track on Razor Baby, the Cheap Trick cover, was merely a harbinger of what was to come on the final, 5-track EP, Return To Sender. It’s a fascinating grab-bag of covers. This EP just sounds like a band having a good time.  They cover one of my all time favorite early Who songs, “So Sad About Us” in what is a very faithful rendition of the original. Of course Armstrong has covered the Who before with Green Day on a note-for-note version of “A Quick One While He’s Away.” From the Who, the Longshot heads to the Ramones and a tuneful “Can’t Make It On Time,” with a brief, tasty guitar solo, followed by a spot-on melancholy version of the Rolling Stones’ “As Tears Go By,” originally written for Marianne Faithful. As a Stones fanatic, I was really thrilled to hear that last one but in all honesty, I like all of these tracks. It’s like listening to a great bar band. The final covers on Return To Sender are perhaps the oddest selections – “I Am A Rock,” the Simon And Garfunkel ballad and the Plimsoul’s “Million Miles Away.” Like I said, Armstrong is clearly having a great time with all of this.

If you count “Devil’s Kind” and all the tracks on the three EPs, Armstrong and the Longshot have literally released the same number of songs that appeared on the debut record, Love Is For Losers. For all I know, this Friday we’ll be treated to another dozen tracks… that Billie Joe Armstrong probably gets more done before 6 am than I get done all day… Check these tracks out, I think you’ll find some things you’ll like. Covers songs aren’t for everyone, but there’s a wide variety to choose from. Meanwhile, I’ll be “busy doing something next to nothing….”

Cheers!