New Song: Beck Covers Neil Young’s Classic “Old Man”… For A Commercial? And It’s Good!

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Sometimes good things can come out of bad ideas. Or maybe we should describe it as good things sometimes come from bad motives.

My lovely daughter and her boyfriend were in town this weekend. They came in for the local Art Fair which was nice but let’s be honest, it was more of a rolling bash. Yesterday we had a little gathering – I wouldn’t call it a party – that was half house warming and half NFL football game watch party. My parents were here. My aunt and uncle made a surprise cameo. It was a nice afternoon if you don’t count how my team lost. The weather was perfect, quite a few people showed up. I described it as a successful gathering to my father who quickly pointed out, again, our team lost. I had no response other than, “Well other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?”

As the Sunday Night Football game came on last evening and the crowd had thinned out here at the house, suddenly I heard a countdown and then the beautiful acoustic melody of one of Neil Young’s greatest tunes, (and the Rock Chick’s favorite Neil Young song and that’s a short list) “Old Man.” I couldn’t help but think, in stunned surprise, “Wait, is this a commercial?” I was surprised that Neil Young, a staunch anti-corporate guy would use his song in a commercial. I mean it was Young who sang “This Note’s For You,” a song that railed against selling your songs to Pepsi or Budweiser. The lyrics of that song were pretty on the nose, “Ain’t singin’ for Pepsi, ain’t singin’ for Coke, I don’t sing for nobody, makes me look like a joke.” I believe we’re all clear on where Neil stands on the issue. It turns out it wasn’t Neil Young, but as I quickly realized from the video, it was Beck. The song was being used to pimp next week’s SNF (Sunday Night Football) game that will pit Patrick Mahomes, a young star QB against Tom Brady the titular “old man.” What in the Hell were they thinking? Rock n Roll and football… “cats living with dogs, mass hysteria,” worlds colliding.

I am on record as being a big Beck fan. I wasn’t crazy about his last couple of LPs 2017’s Colors or 2019’s Hyperspace but he’s always good for a great song or two even on his weaker albums. I may not have liked Colors but I certainly liked the single, “Wow.” “Giddy up, giddy up,” indeed. And I thought “Saw Lightning” was a great track from Hyperspace. Beck always seems to be able to slip a little blues riff in on the occasional track and that always pulls me in. I’d like to tell you I was an early adopter on Beck. I liked “Loser,” his big breakthrough single, and still do, but couldn’t connect with the LP it came from, Mellow Gold. I remember hearing Odelay and thinking it was brilliant but I didn’t buy it until the Rock Chick re-introduced me to that record years after it was released. Frankly, I’ve always liked Beck’s more acoustic stuff than his more “dance-oriented,” electric tracks. In fact the first LP of Beck’s I purchased was the acoustic driven Mutations, although an ex absconded with it. I lost a lot of music in the 90s. There was a theory, briefly, that I only got married to keep a hold of my CDs.

When I think about Beck’s more acoustic side, I can’t help but immediately think of Sea Change, his brilliant breakup record. I can’t  believe it’s been 20 years this month since that album came out. Everybody should check out Sea Change. I probably should have included it on my list of grim and sad LPs everyone should hear. After Sea Change Beck was on a hot streak. He released three great LPs in a row: 2005’s Guero, 2006’s The Information, and finally 2008’s Modern Guilt. Those three albums, along with Odelay, for me anyway, cement Beck’s status as an important artist. In 2014 he finally returned to his acoustic side with his masterpiece, Morning Phase. I consider it a sister LP to Sea Change. With those 3 LPs sandwiched between them you might consider them “bookend” albums. Since then though, his output has slowed down and I haven’t been able to connect with more than the stray track or two.

Being the music obsessive that I am, I had to go out and buy this cover song… heaven knows how we do love our cover songs and albums around here… This may have come out of a bad idea – a commercial for a football game which is as bad an idea as me opening a bottle of wine last night after an afternoon of beer drinking (terrible idea) – but I have to admit Beck crushes this song. It’s a pretty faithful cover. Just Beck’s voice and an acoustic guitar. He does bring in somebody in on back up vocals for the high harmonies on the chorus, “Old man, take a look at my life, I’m a lot like you, I need someone to love me the whole day through, Ah, one look in my eyes and you can tell that’s true…” There are really two ways to approach a cover song. One is to turn it on it’s head and make it something completely different. The artist “makes the song his own” so to speak. The other approach is basically what Beck does here – record the song and remain faithful to the original. There’s nothing wrong with that.

It’s a beautiful song and it’s beautifully sung here. There are some people who don’t particularly care for Neil Young’s voice in general… and I may be married to one of those people. If you’re one of those folks you might like Beck’s vocal better. Beck manages to capture the angst of Neil’s original. To the Neil Young purists out there this all may seem like blasphemy. You don’t touch an iconic song. I remember a friend of mine who was literally disgusted that Metallica covered Bob Seger’s “Turn The Page.” I’ve never really understood his anger. It was like it was a personal affront to him. He stood around red faced with a furrowed brow and rage spittle hanging at the corner’s of his mouth. I was like, dude, it’s a song?

I remember Beck turning Hank Williams’ track “Your Cheating Heart” on it’s head and I would have welcomed a more experimental treatment of this song. At the end of the day, long after everybody has forgotten this commercial and the football game it’s advertising, we’ll still have this kind of cool cover song. Being a Chiefs fan, I’m certain I’ll be trying to forget this football game even before it’s over but then, the Chiefs have been breaking my heart my whole life (until recently, anyway). It may have been spawned by the most awful corporate motives but something good, a cool cover song, came out of it. You don’t hear a lot of simple acoustic music these days. I urge everbody to check it out:

Here’s to hoping your football team or whomever you’re rooting for in whatever sport you’re into wins their next game! Well, unless you’re a Tampa Bay Bucs fan… Cheers!

Review: Ozzy Osbourne, ‘Patient Number 9’ – Glorious Metal LP Packed With An All-Star Band

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“It’s one of those days that I don’t believe in Jesus…” – Ozzy Osbourne, “One of Those Days”

I can’t tell you how good it feels to have a new Ozzy album out in the world. It’s like having your favorite, cool uncle who used to slip you beers at wedding receptions in town for a long visit. Ozzy went a decade between 2010’s Scream and his next album 2020’s surprise comeback LP Ordinary Man. We loved Ordinary Man here at B&V. But then we’ve been an Ozzy fan from the start. Well, almost from the start. I merely taped a friend’s copy of Blizzard of Ozz. At the time I was actually more into the Dio incarnation of Sabbath but there’s room for both in any record collection. My first Ozzy album purchase was actually Diary Of A Madman, his second LP. I had to wait until I was in college to finally see Ozzy live on the Ultimate Sin tour in Wichita. Jake E. Lee was his latest guitar wizard in 1986 and it was a great show.

Rather than waiting a decade for another album, apparently only four days after Ordinary Man came out, Ozzy grabbed producer/guitarist Andrew Watt and headed back into the studio to record the follow-up. I really like Andrew Watt as a producer. Besides Ozzy he also produced the fabulous Eddie Vedder solo LP, Earthling. The strategy on this LP was very similar to the last album – recruit top notch players and rock out. Much is being made about the all-star cast of guitarists who play on this album, but there are great musicians on every instrument here. While Chad Smith mans the drum kit for most of the songs on Patient Number 9, like he did on Ordinary Man, there are a few tracks where the late Taylor Hawkins drums. It makes me wonder if these songs were Hawkins’ last recorded tunes? Metallica’s Robert Trujillo, who actually played in Ozzy’s band before joining Metallica, plays bass on most of the tracks. But, Duff McKagan from Guns N Roses mans the bass on several of the tracks. And former Jane’s Addiction bassist Chris Chaney plays on “Nothing Feels Right.”

When you have a bunch of guest stars playing on an album I always wonder about continuity. Will the songs hang together well as an album? Recently Edgar Winter did a fabulous tribute album for his brother Johnny, creatively titled Brother Johnny. There was a host of guitarists who showed up to pay tribute to the late, great bluesman. I felt the album, reviewed in these pages, held together well because all the tunes were in a blues framework. I think despite all the guest appearances Patient Number 9 holds together so well as an album because a) it’s all in a heavy metal framework which keeps everyone rocking in the same direction and b) the base band for this album: Andrew Watt/guitar, Robert Trujillo/bass, and Chad Smith drums – who all play on a majority of the tunes – hold the continuity together from Eric Clapton to Metal Viking Zakk Wylde. It doesn’t matter who plays lead guitar, they have to play with the band. Everybody, including Ozzy, plays with enthusiasm and gusto. Despite some heavy themes you can feel the joy coming off this album.

It’s clear Ozzy has mortality on his mind. With titles like “Dead And Gone,” “Immortal” and “Mr. Darkness” it’s not hard to figure out where Ozzy’s head is at. But in the years since Ordinary Man the Ozzman has “been through hell.” He was diagnosed with Parkinsons. He got Covid. It’s a wonder he got this album out. While I doubt he’ll ever tour extensively again I think having this wonderful metal LP is a blessing. I can understand after all he’s been through why Ozzy sings, as I quoted above, about it being “One of those days that I don’t believe in Jesus.” I think we’ve all had those moments when we feel abandoned by Fate. I will say, and it was the Rock Chick who noticed this first, Ozzy’s voice does sound a bit treated on this album. It’s auto-tuned in quite a few places. But hey, it’s Ozzy I can forgive that. And again, you can tell everyone including Ozzy had so much fun on this project the heaviness doesn’t get to you.

I just love this album. If push came to shove I’d probably admit I liked Ordinary Man just a smidge more but that’s mostly because it’d been 10 freakin’ years since we’d heard from Ozzy and it was such a pleasant surprise. There is a lot to like here. As promised it’s a smorgasbord of guitarists. Ozzy managed to get two of the three former Yardbird guitarists to play on this record. Jimmy Page was approached and declined but I don’t think Jimmy plays that much any more which is a shame. Mercurial Jeff Beck plays lead on two of my favorite tracks here. I love the title track which features Beck’s fabulous solo’ing but I reviewed “Patient Number 9” already. Beck also plays on the power ballad “A Thousand Shades” and his playing is so melodic it’s one of the absolute highlights of the LP. Jeff Beck needs to rock out more. I was stunned when I read Clapton agreed to play on this album. He shows up on “One Of Those Days,” quoted above. I don’t know how they did it but Clapton plays like he’s still in Cream. It’s a great solo and perhaps the best solo Clapton has played since he guested on the Steve Winwood tune “Dirty City.” (Seriously, check that tune out).

While much has been made of Ozzy getting the former Yardbirds to play on this record for me two of the best moments on this album are when Ozzy teams up with his erstwhile bandmate from Black Sabbath, Tony Iommi. Those two go together like peanut butter (a substance I was forced to give up) and jelly. “Degradation Rules,” reviewed previously, an ode to masturbation – although I can’t decide if it’s pro or con – is a wonderful, sludgy metal tune and sounds like an outtake from Masters of Reality. Iommi’s guitar is unmistakable. Ozzy even plays some harmonica on the track, which I love. The other Iommi track is the epic “No Escape From Now.” It starts off like the spooky “Planet Caravan” from Paranoid but then the band shifts through several time changes. They go fast, they slow down. Then the band falls away and Iommi drops some of the heaviest riffage I’ve heard since Vol 4. His solo’ing on this song is so epic and beautiful it belongs in an opera.

Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready shows up on the heavy track “Immortal.” His solo verges on Eddie Van Halen territory. Many notes are shredded. It’s wonderful. He really acquits himself well here. Dave Navarro of Janes Addiction (and briefly the Red Hot Chili Peppers) shows up on the other power ballad here “God Only Knows” and it’s actually one of my favorite tracks. There’s a track on here that doesn’t credit any lead guitarist, “Dead And Gone” that is also an absolute highlight. It takes me back to “Shot In The Dark” just a bit. I’m guessing Andrew Watt saved that solo for himself. Although I’ve heard that Josh Homme from the Queens of the Stone Age played on here somewhere – I can’t find him in the credits – and maybe it’s him. All of these are great moments.

Ozzy’s longest tenured guitarist Zakk Wylde shows up on more tunes than any other guest guitarist. The guy is just a Heavy Metal Viking. He’s got to be a  head taller than Ozzy. I saw them together on the Black Rain tour and it sounded like an airplane landing in the arena. My favorite of the Zakk tunes is probably “Evil Shuffle.” That’s pretty much how the Rock Chick sees me walking through the house – with my evil shuffle. Its a typical, HEAVY Zakk tune. “Mr. Darkness” about an obsessed fan “stanning” over Ozzy is another Zakk highlight. “Nothing Feels Right” which was released as the third single could be seen as Ozzy giving us the state of his health over Zakk’s soaring guitar. It’s all great stuff.

If I had any complaint about this record – and I don’t really – it’s that it feels a little longer than the sixty minute running time. They likely could have edited a few things out. There’s a little bluesy throwaway at the end, “Darkside Blues,” where Ozzy again plays harmonica that they could have cut. It’s only a minute and a half long. Although I kind of wish they’d fleshed that out into an actual tune because well, I love the blues. They could have cut the “scary monster, b-movie, horror film” intro on the title track. And they likely could have cut one of the four Zakk tracks to streamline this thing a little bit. But again, complaining about too much Ozzy on an album is like complaining about too much money in your checking account.

This is a great album and a wonderful celebration of the man, the myth, Ozzy Osbourne. The Ozzy comeback or renaissance continues strong on Patient Number 9. I’ll probably spend most of my weekend up in the B&V lounge cranking this metal mayhem up to 11 and spilling Woodford Reserve on the carpet. This one is a must have for all you hard rockers out there. Enjoy this one at max volume!

Cheers!

Review: Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Tippa My Tongue” From Their Upcoming Second LP of 2022 – No Bad Vibes Allowed!

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I don’t know what the first thought that popped into my head was when I heard the Chili Peppers had released a new song “Tippa My Tongue,” and that they had a second LP coming out this year but I’m sure I had the same surprised look that singer Anthony Kiedis has on his face in the picture above. I do remember thinking, “Ah, so Jack White – who released both Fear Of The Dawn and the sensational Entering Heaven Alive this year – isn’t the only one who put out two albums in 2022!” In the 70s it was actually expected that artists would put out at least one album every calendar year and most record companies wanted two albums a year. That fact was underscored to me when I was doing the research for my 1971 and 1972 themed playlists. Several artists have multiple songs on those lists because they put out multiple albums in those respective years. And often back then those 2 albums in a calendar year were both sensational… now that’s genius on a deadline. Nowadays two albums in one year is unheard of. The last time I can remember an artist doing something like this was in the 90s when Guns N Roses put out the two Use Your Illusions albums or when Springsteen released Lucky Town and Human Touch on the same day.

Of course where the Chili Peppers are concerned I probably shouldn’t have been surprised. Their creative process has always been a jam-based process. That is probably even more true now that “once and future” guitarist John Frusciante is back in the fold. These guys aren’t like U2 where the Edge comes in with a riff, the band records a basic track and then Bono comes in and writes some lyrics. The Chili Peppers all get in a room and if somebody’s got something they start there and all join in with Kiedis standing to the side of the room scribbling stream of consciousness lyrics, all while they record the whole thing. Then they sift through the tape and find stuff they can build into songs. And since they use this jamming method to write songs they often have way more songs than they need for an album. That’s how Stadium Arcadium ballooned into a two-CD, 28 song album. And they still had a bunch of songs leftover that they put out as B-sides. “Mercy Mercy” was a b-side from “Tell Me Baby” that I particularly liked…

Even when Josh Klinghoffer was their lead guitarist they utilized their jamming method when recording the I’m With You album – an record I still dug despite Frusciante’s absence – and again they had a bunch of left over material. Eventually they released all of those “extra” songs as singles and B-sides. There were 9 “singles” released and 17 total tracks. They finally did a Record Store Day double-album release entitled, I’m Beside You. Having purchased all of the singles I have them on a playlist since I’m never lucky enough to snag anything at Record Store Day and I’m Beside You was no exception to my bad luck. You’ve got to get up pretty damn early on RSD if you’re going beat the vinyl fiends. I’m convinced you’ve gotta know somebody but even so I still go to my local vinyl stores on that glorious day… but I’m getting off topic.

I was thrilled when I first heard John Frusciante had rejoined the Chili Peppers. I didn’t have anything against Klinghoffer, it’s just that the chemistry between four very specific musicians is a delicate and very special thing. The Chili Peppers have reached all of their absolute pinnacles – creatively and sales-wise – with Fruciante on guitar. I greeted it as great news when I’d heard John had returned from the wilderness. I never thought he’d come back again and included Frusciante/the Chili Peppers on my list of reunions I’d never thought we’d see. I clearly thought he was gone for good. And I liked Unlimited Love, which has turned out to be only their first album of 2022, quite a bit. It’s a “grower.” I also really liked the dark, laid back first single “Black Summer.” It had a very “Slow Cheetah” vibe. I saw Frusciante interviewed and he said he wasn’t sure he even knew how to write rock songs any more when reunited with his erstwhile buddies. The Rock Chick would say he obviously doesn’t because Unlimited Love was too mellow for her. She is the Rock Chick.

Back when Unlimited Love came out I saw Kiedis interviewed in some magazine and he said they had another album with songs that were “looser” and he hoped they’d release it too. I figured, like with I’m Beside You, we’d just see a bunch of B-sides slowly trickling out with singles from Unlimited Love. So I guess I can’t claim complete surprise when I heard they were releasing Return Of the Dream Canteen as the rather immediate follow-up to Unlimited Love. I don’t think we should think of this new album as a “collection of B-sides” or “leftovers,” but rather a second collection of songs that perhaps fit together better. And one could argue that the songs on Unlimited Love all fit together pretty well too. I mean, I couldn’t imagine “Tippa My Tongue” on that earlier album. I don’t think any of us should be discounting this second LP, but we should rejoice that we get another taste of the Chili Peppers this year. I like my rock bands prolific. And Kiedis said they’d gone on a journey to discover who they were as a band… and perhaps that has led them back to their funk roots.

I have to admit, I first heard the teaser for “Tippa My Tongue” on the social media. It was just a quick snippet of the intro and then Anthony singing “Ya, ya-ya-ya…” I’m not gonna lie, it concerned me. In truth this song should be something I really don’t like it’s so… “pop” oriented? The album’s artwork is all soft psychedelic colors like an old Hippy’s faded tie-dye t-shirt. But damn this is a catchy tune. I actually really like this song. It’s 180 degree turn from “Black Summer” and feels more like a “No Bad Vibes” kind of song. It’s much more suited to summer… We have to remember the Chili Peppers started as a funky punk band. This song really takes them back to those roots, even back to the days of say, Hillel Slovak. Well, without the punk punch.

The track starts quietly with Chad Smith’s drums, Flea’s bass and Frusciante’s guitar all together building slowly. It almost summons the menacing beginning of “Dark Necessities.” But then the “ya, ya-ya-ya” thing starts. And yes, I would have appreciated the dark menace of that earlier first single but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a great song. Frusciante’s guitar is more prevalent and I love his brief but soaring solo. With the title “Tippa My Tongue” Kiedis manages to tie together a drug reference and a sexual reference all in one phrase, so kudos. I will admit the lyric, “Funky monks are on the run,” sent me back to the Blood Sugar Sex Magik track “Funky Monks.” I guess the Chili Peppers have gone from “There are no monks in this band, there are no saints in this land,” to “We’ve only just begun, funky monks are on the run, I’m gonna get you with the tippa my tongue.” Perhaps after all these years the Chili Peppers are now lovers, not fighters. Here’s the colorful video:

After the serious heft of “Black Summer” I’m down for the Chili Peppers lightening up a bit. It certainly sounds like they’re having fun. And while I’m not sure what “Well, I believe in love, Perfectly receiving love, It’s vociferous, Then come and get a whiff of this, I’m at the pyramids, Never had a fear of kids” means, I feel so funky and good listening to this track I don’t really care. It’s like I read recently, “August is the Sunday of summer…” So maybe fill a glass of wine and dance around the backyard with this track cranked up… When I first envisioned Frusciante returning to the Chili Peppers I expected he’d come back as the Guitar God we all knew from Stadium Arcadium. But he’s come back on his own terms and the band seems like they’re in a better place. I have no idea what all this portends for Return Of the Dream Canteen but if the record is this much fun it’s going to be a great fall…

Cheers!

New Song Alert: Billy Idol Returns to Save Summer With “Cage” From Upcoming New EP, ‘The Cage’

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I like to think I keep my eyes on all upcoming new music… In my head I have a list of artists who I know are putting out new tunes and I go through that list every night at bedtime to help me get to sleep…like a rock n roll version of counting sheep. While I like to tell myself that I’m totally in touch with all new music coming out in truth new releases still have a way of sneaking up on me. Billy Idol put out a brand new song this week entitled “Cage” and I was blissfully unaware he had anything coming out. Like last year, Billy and his cohort guitarist Steve Stevens (one of the most underrated guitarists out there) are putting out a 4-song EP entitled The Cage. And like last year Billy has appeared out of nowhere to save summer!

Last year saw Billy releasing the EP The Roadside which was preceded by the great, great tune “Bitter Taste.” Man, that song is still in high rotation here at the house. It was an acoustic track with a haunting lead guitar thing done by Stevens. It was on the mellow end but it quaked with a sturdy intensity. It was one of the best tracks of Idol’s storied career. It was the sound of a man looking back on his life in an unapologetic way. “Should have left me way back, way back by the roadside… it’s a bitter taste.” That track is righteous. I still get goosebumps when I hear that song. I’ll admit I was not as taken with the rest of The Roadside and didn’t cover it on B&V. But if you haven’t checked out “Bitter Taste” I advise you to do so post haste.

Yesterday, in the early evening I was drinking a beer getting ready to meet my famed ex-roommate from college Drew for drinks. I was scrolling on “the social media” and saw Billy had put out a new song “Cage.” Billy was quoted as saying something like, “we’ve all been stuck inside for a while and now we’re breaking back out…” in an obvious but perhaps belated comment about the Covid lockdown. He promised that this new EP The Cage was going to be the opposite of last year’s mellower, darker The Roadside. He clearly intends to expend a little pent-up energy and let loose his rebel yell.

“Cage” is a glorious rock song. It’s got a chorus that sounds written for an arena to sing along to. Idol is in fine voice here… I can almost close my eyes and see him on stage punching at the air while he sings this track. It starts with just Idol’s voice behind a chugging guitar and drums. Then the chorus hits and it just explodes. “I’m coming out of my heartless, hopeless rage, I’m coming out of my cell, my broken cage.” Oh Hell, yes! He may be talking a out coming out of lockdown and not being able to tour but hearing this song as I was getting off work drinking a beer ready to head down to the tavern to talk a little treason with Drew… I can’t lie, it sort of fit the moment yesterday.

I dug “Bitter Taste” but as mentioned it was a mellow, dark tune. I love this rocking, upbeat song from Billy. If the rest of the EP rocks this hard it’s going to be a great treat. “Cage” in and of itself is a great song for the end of summer. I just want to drive down the street with this song blaring out of the windows while I wave to the ladies… Loud vocals and guitar, it’s all we want from Billy Idol. Here’s the video:

Wherever you are out there, this song ought to break you out of whatever is holding you back. I advise pouring something strong and turning this one up loud! Hearing that Billy Idol had a new track out was almost as good as the surprise text from my old buddy Drew stating he was in town and wanted to grab a gin… and while I may not be feeling very well this morning cranking this tune is helping me power through it all!

Cheers!

Review: Jack White’s 2nd LP of 2022, The Less Experimental ‘Entering Heaven Alive’ – An Intimate Gem

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“Ask yourself if you’re happy and then you cease to be, that’s a tip from you to me…” – Jack White, “A Tip From You To Me”

As long time readers of B&V know, we love us some Jack White around here. I was a relatively early adopter on the mighty White Stripes and was lucky enough to see them twice in concert. The first time I saw them was in a smaller, 3500-seat arena and it felt like Jack White was playing guitar in my lap. Meg White played the drums with the ferocity of a “hangry” Neanderthal who hadn’t eaten in a while. When the Stripes sadly called it a day we followed Jack into the Raconteurs (whose first album came out while he was still in the White Stripes… so technically they were more of a side project at the time), and then into his solo career. While I did follow Jack into his solo endeavors it doesn’t mean that when the Stripes broke up I didn’t stand in my front yard like that kid in the movie Shane, yelling, “Meg, come back, Meg…” but as usual, I digress.

I loved those first two Jack White solo albums, Blunderbuss (2012) and Lazaretto (2014). When Jack released his second album of 2022 last Friday, Entering Heaven Alive, it immediately went into high rotation here at the B&V labs. But part of the fun of doing this thing is going back and listening to older music from the artist. Both those first two Jack White solo LPs have slipped back into high rotation here at the house along with the new one and I’m loving it. Everyone should own those two albums, they should be taught in high school music classes. It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years since Blunderbuss came out. While Jack is at his best hopping around twisting and torturing fabulous notes from his guitar while singing like a corner preacher on meth, I just couldn’t follow him on his 2018 release Boarding House Reach. He had thrown convention to the wind. It was as though his genius had finally outstretched his grasp.

He then got back into the Raconteurs with 2019’s LP Help Us Stranger. I really liked that album and for me it seemed like a bit of a return to form for White. Well, at least it was a return to conventional song structures. Call me old fashion but I kinda dig the whole verse-chorus-verse thing. I heard that Jack was going to emerge from the Covid thing with not one but two new LPs in 2022 and I’ll admit I was excited. I really liked the first single “Taking Me Back” from the first of the two LPs, Fear Of The Dawn. It gave me hope that Fear Of The Dawn was going to be a return to that Blunderbuss or Lazaretto sound. Alas, I could not connect with it. It was, like Boarding House Reach, more of a sound collage than a collection of songs. It was so experimental it came across like a series of guitar noises instead of melodies. I have no qualms about an artist stretching themselves – go where the muse takes you – but I just couldn’t get into it and I love the guy’s music.

I wondered what that would mean for the his impending second LP of 2022, Entering Heaven Alive. I had heard it was going to be more of a hushed, acoustic affair. I was good with that. Jack is more than just a guitar god and make no mistake the guy is a six string genius, but he can do a lot more. I’ve always liked his acoustic guitar/piano side since the early days of “Apple Blossom” or the iconic “We’re Going To Be Friends.” I was wondering how experimental he could go with an acoustic guitar. The guy is a genius so I realized anything was possible. Then I heard what I thought was the first single, “If I Die Tomorrow” and I was just knocked out by that song. To these ears that forlorn track ranks among his best tunes. It certainly remains my favorite track on the album.

Needless to say, the less experimental, (mostly) acoustic Entering Heaven Alive does not disappoint. This is the best thing Jack White has done in a long time. The quieter instrumentation allows the songs to come across as more intimate and heartfelt. I know Jack recently got married, on stage at a concert no less, so maybe that influenced this latest LP. There are a number of songs, at the front end of the record about love specifically. While this album is going to be lauded as a less experimental work, there are moments of Jack’s signature experimental side. “I’ve Got You Surrounded (With My Love)” is like a hypnotic jazz jam with ticking drums, echoing vocals and sporadic stabs of guitar. It sounds like you’ve just wandered into a groovy jazz club during a Saturday afternoon open jam. It comes in the middle of the record and it’s perfectly placed. “Madman From Manhattan” is another groovy track with surreal spoken lyrics. It has a strumming guitar and drums. It’s a fun song to listen to. I half expected the song to have bongos. I really like both of these off kilter tracks.

Those more experimental tracks are great but the backbone of the album are tracks more akin to “If I Die Tomorrow.” The album opens up with “A Tip From You To Me” and it signals the vibe right off the bat with the sound of an acoustic guitar strum. Jack’s vocals on the song are intense and are only underscored by the acoustic guitar/piano that frames his voice. When he sings, “Oh, will love leave me alone tonight? Oh, I don’t know,” it’ll grab you. It’s another favorite. It’s followed by three songs about love which probably give the album the intimate vibe I mentioned earlier. “All Along The Way,” where Jack sings about devotion. It’s just Jack’s voice, acoustic guitar with some keyboards slipping in and out until the bridge kicks in with the full band. Very effective. “Help Me Along” is a jaunty track that reads like his wedding vows…I like the keyboards that help carry the song along like a cloud. I wish I could have written a song like this one for the Rock Chick when I met her. That track leads into “Love Is Selfish” which reminds me of “We’re Going To Be Friends,” it’s that kind of sound. I think it ranks amongst his prettiest tunes. “A Tree On Fire From Within” that has a cascading piano and a great bass line towards the end of the album and it’s another winner.

There are also a couple of “old-timey” tracks on the album. They’re the kind of songs Paul McCartney used to be so fond of like “Martha My Dear” from the White Album. The album’s last track is “Taking Me Back (Gently)” which is the Fear Of The Dawn track done like it was recorded in the 20s… the 1920s. Lots of violin on this version or perhaps I should say, fiddle. I like this version of the song. But then, I dug those McCartney songs that John Lennon used to call “granny music.” Another track in this same vein is “Queen of The Bees,” that I think was released as a b-side to one of the Fear Of The Dawn tracks. It’s a jaunty, but very catchy, little song. I find the wordplay in the lyrics to be hysterical, “Oh honey, can’t you see I wanna hold you, like a sloth hugs a tree, ‘Cause I crave you, like a glass needs wine.” My glass certainly craves wine… it’s 5 o’clock somewhere?

Finally there’s “Please God, Don’t Tell Anyone” that reads like a man’s confession of past sins to his “Creator.” It, like “If I Die Tomorrow” have a heavy death theme. Love and Death, the ultimate combination. “Please God,” reads like a Jean Valjean story from Les Miserables. A man who has lied, cheated and stolen but only to feed and clothe his children comes clean. The narrator is unburdening himself so we have to guess he’s reached the end and wants to come clean. It’s a damn affecting track complete with saloon piano.

As you can tell, I am completely swept away by Entering Heaven Alive. An album this good feels like a phone call from a long lost friend. After my disappointment over Fear Of The Dawn (I didn’t even review it, I could barely listen to the whole thing) this album is a real treat. Putting out two LPs in one year is so old school and I just love it. I wish artists would feel more of a sense of urgency to put out more amazing music like this album. I think Entering Heaven Alive will be looked back up on as one of Jack White’s finest solo albums. It’s that good. It’s emotionally effective and melodic. It’s the perfect late night listen… perhaps with a glass of sour mash while ruminating on the patio… the music never gets loud enough to wake the neighbors so that’s a plus.

Pick this one up post haste. Especially if you’re a fan of the  White Stripes’ quieter moments.

Cheers!

New Song: Ozzy Osbourne, From ‘Patient No. 9,’ – “Degradation Rules” Reunites Him With Sabbath Pal Tony Iommi – Heaviness Ensues

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While I was busy putting together my 1982 themed playlist last week Ozzy Osbourne released the second track from his upcoming LP Patient Number 9, a new song called “Degradation Rules.” I think everybody knows by now that I’m an Ozzy fan from way back to his early solo days working with Randy Rhoads. Although, I’m embarrassed to admit I was only vaguely aware that Ozzy had originally been in Black Sabbath… the ignorance of youth. I was very into the Dio era of Sabbath and somehow didn’t connect that with Ozzy. Admittedly that ignorance didn’t survive graduating high school. When I got to college I realized that Ozzy and his former bandmates in Black Sabbath invented heavy metal as we know it. It was during my college years I started to grab up Sabbath’s classic albums like Paranoid and Masters Of Reality. Although admittedly I only had the latter taped on a blank cassette.

Speaking of Sabbath, on this new song “Degradation Rules,” Ozzy is teaming with his erstwhile guitarist from that legendary band, Tony Iommi. Ozzy and Iommi go together like peanut butter and jelly. I was blown away by Black Sabbath’s reunion album back in 2013. I was also lucky enough to see them live on that tour with a miscreant group of guys from Salina (Black Sabbath Live; The Four Horsemen of the Salinapocalypse). That album, 13, ranks among Black Sabbath’s best in my opinion. I only wish B&V had been around to review it when it came out. It was produced by Rick Rubin who told the band, “Pretend Paranoid just came out, what would you do next?” I don’t know if Rubin is very technical as a producer but he does capture a vibe. I would recommend 13 to any heavy metal fan out there.

I think Iommi and Ozzy go together so well I actually also picked up the track they did together on Iommi’s 2000 sol-LP creatively entitled Iommi, “Who’s Fooling Who?” It’s definitely worth a listen. I would also highly recommend the track “Flame On” from that LP sung by the Cult’s Ian Astbury… but I’m getting off track. Ironically Iommi and Ozzy were joined by Sabbath’s original drummer Bill Ward on “Who’s Fooling Who?” but bassist Geezer Butler didn’t play on the song. And then when they reunited for 13 it was sadly Ward that was left out and Iommi/Butler/Ozzy performed on that LP. Such drama…I blame Sharon. What I’d give for a full Black Sabbath reunion!

It was only a few weeks ago Ozzy released the title track from the upcoming Patient Number 9. That song featured legendary guitarist Jeff Beck and I dug it. Although I must admit the Rock Chick was merely lukewarm. I think she liked it, but she didn’t love it like I did. But then again, I really like the way Jeff Beck plays guitar from way back to his days with the Yardbirds and with Rod Stewart in the Jeff Beck Group. I have to admit I’ve been listening to “Patient Number 9” a lot and it sent me back to listen to 2020’s Ordinary ManIt really sounded like Ozzy was having fun on that Andrew Watt produced gem. Watt is back onboard and has produced this new album which comes out in early September…

I was delighted when I played “Degradation Rules” for the Rock Chick and she sat bolt upright on the couch and said, “Now this is what I’m talkin’ about! Heavy Ozzy!” I also checked in with my buddy Drummer Blake and he agreed, “It’s awesome.” It’s hard not to dig the heavy, sludgy riffs on this song. It sounds like it could have been an outtake from Masters Of Reality. It’s just so… “Sabbath-y.” The first thing you hear is that Iommi signature riff-age. He takes us down into the sludge in a very good way. There is also a great harmonica which reminded me of Black Sabbath’s song “The Wizard” from their debut album. RHCP drummer Chad Smith bashes out the beat here.  I can tell Ozzy is still having a good time – he must be to record 2 albums over 2 years after being away for a decade. On the last LP he did songs about cannibalism (“Eat Me”) and alien invasion (“Little Green Men”). “Degradation Rules” tackles the thorny subject of masturbation. “Stuck inside a dirty dream, The hand that feeds you also turns you blind, turns you blind.” Ahem.

Here’s the track:

Ozzy has always seemed to find stellar guitarists to work with. He started with Iommi, then went on to Randy Rhoads, Jake E. Lee, and Zakk Wylde to name but a few. It looks like on this next album he’s playing with a bunch of different ones both from his past and some unexpected guitar collaborators: Eric Clapton, the aforementioned Jeff Beck and Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready. I heard he tried to get Jimmy Page (to collect all three Yardbird guitarists?) but Jimmy declined. I don’t know if all of this will hold together over the course of an entire album, but I trust Andrew Watt to navigate those riffy waters.

Turn this one up LOUD and prepare to RAWK!

Cheers!

Review: The Cult, New Single “Give Me Mercy” From The Upcoming LP ‘Under The Midnight Sun,’ First New Music In Six Years!!

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“Give me mercy, love will find you, give me mercy, a new language” – The Cult, “Give Me Mercy”

I can’t believe it’s been six years since we’ve had new Cult music to talk about. But it’s true, Hidden City, their last LP, came out in 2016. The pandemic has really thrown off my internal clock. I really liked Hidden City calling it a late career gem. I saw them twice on that tour, once in Kansas City and once in Chicago. I knew they had a new album coming out this year but was still surprised when I saw “Give Me Mercy” had dropped today. 

While I’m on record as a huge Cult fan (I just saw them again in Denver this May), I have to admit I was late to this party – as I seem to be with many bands from the 80s. During the Cult’s late 80s heyday when I was in college, I was busy catching up on the Faces, the Who and Zeppelin to pay attention to such great then-current records like Love or Electric or to my embarrassment even Sonic Temple. I remember this dude I knew walking around singing “I’m a Sun King, baby, won’t you share my throne” but I just thought he was having drunken delusions of grandeur. I also vaguely remember seeing Cult videos but unfortunately every hard rock band in the 80s had identical videos on MTV. It was always them playing live on a stage, engulfed in fog. There might have been pretty girls dancing around, possibly a motorcycle or a fast car. It all blended together.

It wasn’t until I met my future wife, the Rock Chick that I really got into the Cult. On one of our first dates, we went to the CD store to shop for music. I walked out with a few CDs that day but the Rock Chick walked out with a stack almost as tall as she was… which is basically her super hero origin story… “The Rock Chick” was born. Anyway, one of those CDs that day was a greatest hits disc Pure Cult and we wore that thing out that summer drinking vodka lemonades by her apartment pool. Literally, we had to replace it. From there she led me into their great back catalog. I was stunned I’d missed out on this hard rocking band. Lead singer Ian Astbury as I soon discovered was the quintessential lead vocalist and Billy Duffy was a serious shredder on lead guitar. The rhythm section is a bit of a revolving door.. They were Zeppelin-esque. Their music had an edginess to it that left them hard to define – you can hear them on SiriusXM on both the alternative rock station and the hard rock station.

It wasn’t until their 2001 LP Beyond Good And Evil that I purchased a Cult album when it actually came out and was current. That was also the first time I saw the Cult live. It was at the Uptown Theater and remains amongst my favorite concerts. Since then the Cult have put out a string of really strong albums that can only be described as a “late career renaissance.” There was Born Into This (2007), Choice Of Weapon (2012), and the aforementioned Hidden City (2016). These guys are really rock n roll survivors. Not many rock bands whose origins stem from the 80s are still around and rocking with this much gust0 – and more importantly continuing to put out new music. 

A new upcoming Cult album, entitled Under The Midnight Sun, means a new Cult lead single from the album which leads us to the subject at hand, “Give Me Mercy.” I must confess the announcement of a new song from the Cult always fills me with rock n roll excitement. Since I’ve become a big Cult fan, basically in this millennium, each LP they’ve released has had a great first single. I still have “Rise” from that first Cult album I actually purchased, Beyond Good And Evil, in high rotation. It was a soaring rocker. Billy Duffy’s riffs are fast and furious. Ian Astbury’s vocal takes me to the sky when I hear him sing, “You have wings up on your back and you can fly.” It’s a track that should be automatically on any new greatest hits album they consider doing.

Born Into This had the great, great first single “Dirty Little Rock Star.” It was one of my wife’s friend Nancy’s favorite songs. She used to quote the line, “You sick little hipster” when she’d come over and drink wine with us. God, I miss her. “Dirty Little Rock Star” continued the Cult’s hot streak of lead singles in grand fashion. It had a great bass line and a cool start/stop guitar. Duffy’s guitar sounded like a machine gun being fired at random intervals. “You bite your lip baby, you shake your hips babe, you taste the whip babe come on… you wanna be a Dirty Little Rock Star…” I mean if that doesn’t get you up on your feet holding a lighter over you’re head nothing will.

The next lead single, from Choice Of Weapon, was “For The Animals.” I remember seeing them perform the song live on (I believe) the Jimmy Kimmel Show. They had a stage set up in the parking lot and they rawked!! “For The Animals” is an old school, fast paced, meet me at the finish line rocker. It would have fit nicely on Electric. They followed their trend of hard rocking first singles with “Dark Energy” from their last LP Hidden City. It’s got driving drums from John Tempesta whose been manning the kit on drums for the Cult since Born Into This. The song has a great bridge with keyboards (which were a new texture for the Cult) and Ian wailing the lyrics “Defend the magic, Defend the beauty.”

That’s a pretty good track record for lead singles over the last 20 years. “Give Me Mercy” continues the trend of great first songs, but even I will admit it has more of a mid-tempo feel than some of the hard, hard rockers the Cult usually put out as their first track. The song starts off with a great riff from Duffy then the music goes quiet and Ian starts singing – man that voice is so amazing – “I wish it were different, it all ends the same, your savage heart, has stolen my name.” Then Billy and Tempesta kick back in with that great riff. It has that loud to quiet to loud pattern that so many great rock songs have. It seems Astbury is appealing to a lover at the end for mercy but one could easily apply this song to society in general… we could all use more mercy.

I think this is a great song, I’ve spent all morning listening to it on repeat. They’ve even gone so far as to release a video. I don’t usually comment on these things but I love the silhouette of Billy with his guitar at the start of the video  – it takes me back to the cover of Sonic Temple. And, there are a few shots of Ian with his very cool long hair down which I haven’t seen in a long time. Here’s the video so you can hear the track:

This is a track I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. From what I understand the band recorded it in the UK and Ian was in New York so had to do his vocals remotely. One has to wonder what that will do for the chemistry of the band but these guys have been together so long I doubt it’ll be a factor. And, if this first track is any indication, I think it’s going to be a rocking fall when Under The Midnight Sky comes out. Rumor has it they are really shooting for more of a Love and/or Dreamtime sound on this record and who doesn’t love that?

Turn this one up loud and enjoy!! Cheers!

 

Review: Ozzy Osbourne’s New Song “Patient Number 9” With Jeff Beck! On Guitar

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When I was a youngster it seemed like summer vacation flew by, as Jackson Browne sang, “in the wink of an eye.” I always loved summer vacation – I didn’t have to go school, aka Elementary Prison, for a few months.  Now that I’m a working adult I have no extended summer vacation. Summer is now more akin to what Springsteen sang, “Summer’s long but I guess it ain’t very sweet around here anymore.” I think the reason summer flew by when I was a kid is that I missed all the signs that it was passing by me. School would end, Memorial Day would come – the unofficial start of summer in the U.S. – and we were off and running…the next thing I knew we’d be in the mall at the “back to school” sale buying jeans. This year, despite my corporate masters, I plan on enjoying summer. My goal this year is to blast my Summer/Sun playlist as much as possible and more importantly to get a tan. Not that blotchy farmer’s tan but a real life, head-to-toe, “I work outside” without a shirt tan. No more looking like a cadaver for me this year. Memorial Day came and I celebrated. The Summer Solstice came and I was out there doing my pagan thing, dancing naked in the moonlight like I was in a Thin Lizzy song. Now Wimbledon has come and I’m wearing white all day. It’s ok until Labor Day. This coming weekend is 4th of July… Man, it really is summer. More importantly, I can tell it’s going to be a great summer because Ozzy Osbourne, the Prince of Darkness has released a soaring new rock song, “Patient Number 9,” as a precursor to the album of the same name (Sept 9th release date).

I’m on record as being a big Ozzy fan. I became a rock n roll fan in the late 70s, when I was in junior high or middle school as it’s known now. It was kind of a weird time to start listening to music. If you were a fan in the late 60s or early 70s you were probably into Sabbath and Zeppelin. When those bands split up or fractured you may or may not have jumped on the “solo” bandwagons. I could see fans of those type of bands just staying dialed in on that music and not moving forward. They say our music tastes tend to calcify around what we listened to in our late teens. But for me there was both – there was the great music of the 60s and 70s from classic, hard rock bands AND solo music from those guys after their break ups. Robert Plant for instance. I got into rock music just in time to catch Zeppelin’s In Through The Out Door, which we all loved, despite what the critics say. But merely a few years later, Plant came out with Pictures At 11. I just saw this week on social media it’s the 40th anniversary of that album… Man, I love “Burning Down One Side.”

The same thing happened with Ozzy, albeit it a little sooner. I really dug his debut solo album with Randy Rhoads on guitar, Blizzard of Ozz (although I only taped it on a cassette at the time). But I also really liked Sabbath. Although, admittedly I was originally only into the Dio-era Sabbath LPs, Heaven And Hell and The Mob Rules. I’m not sure I even connected Ozzy with Sabbath until I was in college… every rock n roll fan’s knowledge grows on it’s on pace, folks. I purchased Diary Of A Madman almost the minute it came out. “Flying High Again” with those great lyrics, “Mama’s gonna worry, I’ve been a bad bad boy, no use saying sorry, it’s something that I enjoy” were, shall we say, somewhat autobiographical for me at the time. After that I can honestly say I’ve purchased almost every single Ozzy LP. He’s like the Black Keys or Tom Petty, just putting out consistently great music. I think the only LPs of his I don’t own are The Original Sin and Ozzmosis. Although I owned Ozzmosis at one time… not sure if someone took off with it or I sold it at the used record store for reasons unknown.

I began to worry about Ozzy after Scream. With his health scares and accidents I was concerned he’d hung it up. I knew Sharon had run off Ozzy’s long time guitarist Zakk Wylde after the sensational (and sensationally overlooked) album Black Rain because she said it sounded too much like Zakk’s Black Label Society. I disagree but the Rock Chick really takes umbrage with that statement. But then in 2020, after a 10 year absence, Ozzy released the Andrew Watt produced album Ordinary Man. And what a great comeback that LP was. It was the best thing I’d heard from Ozzy in quite a while. Ozzy had so much fun doing that one I heard he immediately scheduled time with Watt to produce the follow up, which comes out on Sept 9th, Patient Number 9. Like Ordinary Man on this new LP there will be many special guests. Slash and Eric Clapton are both said to play on a song or two. I even read that Ozzy tried to coax Jimmy Page to play on a track but he declined. If he’d said yes, Ozzy would have collected all three of the famous Yardbird guitarists: Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. It was a noble plan.

Luckily for Ozzy, Jeff Beck said yes and he’s the lead guitarist on “Patient Number 9.” Coincidentally I’ve been a huge fan of Jeff’s for a long time. I really loved the original Jeff Beck Group but that was mainly because I was a Rod Stewart stan in college. Those albums led me to the Yardbirds and Jeff’s solo albums Wired and Blow By Blow. If you’re a fan of guitar – and an amazing guitar tone – pick up those last two records. I absolutely love Jeff Beck’s playing on this new Ozzy track although in the interest of full disclosure, the Rock Chick misses Zakk Wylde’s heavier, thicker slabs of guitar. To each their own. I’m just lucky I’m married to a woman who notices the difference…

It was my buddy Drummer Blake who first texted me that the tune was out. He’s a huge fan of Jeff Beck and of course, Ozzy as well. I had already heard the tune once. He did point out to me that it has that typical Ozzy intro. You know, it’s got synthesized strings and the sound of eerie laughing. We get it Ozzy, you’re crazy, you’re scary… you’re the fucking Prince of Darkness. But at this stage of the game you don’t need that crap. After you get through the B-movie horror film intro the riff kicks in and the song just takes off to me. I love Jeff’s playing on this song. The opening riff, after scary Ozzy time, just bores into my head. Ozzy’s voice is strong and loud. The chorus is soaring, and when Ozzy sings “When they call your name better run and hide, tell you you’re insane, you believe their lies. I’m not getting out, no I’m not getting out alive…” you tend to believe him. The first solo is a wonderfully off the chain Jeff Beck solo. He’s torturing that guitar. He gets the greatest sounds out of his guitar. The he even comes back for a second solo after the ethereal bridge. Two Jeff Beck solos in one song, yes, please. Here’s the official video…It’s ok, I just watch it to hear the song.

This may be an odd pick for my “song of the summer,” it’s pretty dark after all, but this may be my summer jam. Ozzy has had so many wonderful guitarist he’s worked with: Tony Iommi, Randy Rhoads, Jake E. Lee, Zakk Wylde, Gus G, Andrew Watt, Slash and now Jeff Beck. And he always melds so well with each of them. Hell, hearing this song I can only wish that Jeff Beck was the lead guitarist on the entire album.

Who knows what this means for the upcoming Patient Number 9 LP but knowing how consistently awesome Ozzy’s been over the years, I think it bodes well. I’m not sure whose in charge of quality control down at the Ozzy camp but they deserve a raise. Andrew Watt as producer is bringing out some vintage Ozzy sounds on these tunes and I’m here for it!! Although even I have to wonder how Ozzy and Clapton are going to sound together? But hey, if Ozzy can pull off a collaboration with Elton, whose style is so different than his, he can play with anybody.

Cheers! and of course, Happy Summer.

Editor’s Note: You can find our thoughts on Ozzy’s entire new LP, Patient Number 9, at the following link: Review: Ozzy Osbourne, Patient Number 9: Glorious Metal And Packed With An All-Star Band

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy this one at maximum volume. Cheers!