On The Mellow End: Norah Jones’ Three New Songs From Upcoming EP, ‘Begin Again’

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*Above image taken from the internet and likely copyrighted

It’s no secret that all of us down here at B&V are into our screaming, loud rock and roll. Hell, the first concert I ever took the Rock Chick to, before I made an honest woman out of her, was AC/DC on the Stiff Upper Lip tour. I can still remember the topless woman who popped out of the roof of the limo in front of us after the show. The exuberance of rock and roll had sort of… overcome that woman, but I digress. Even last night, after a wicked cocktail the Rock Chick cooked up with tequila and prosecco, I quickly put on some Tom Petty, Playlist: The B&V Best Tom Petty Album/Deep Tracks from our Spotify playlists.

But as with all things, screaming loud rock and roll has it’s time and place. On occasion, the mood or the situation calls for something a tad more mellow. When I’m putting my smooth moves on the Rock Chick, for example, sometimes it requires more subtle music than Motley Crue. Typing that sentence makes me immediately realize two things: a) I am not smooth and b) I have no moves. Another good example of a time that require music that’s a little mellower is my physical feeling today, after a night of drinking tequila, prosecco cocktails… I believe the medical profession would describe my condition as a “hangover.” No risk in life, no reward as the saying goes.

When I’m in need of some music that’s a tad more cerebral, if I don’t put on Van’s Saint Dominic’s Preview, I find myself turning to Norah Jones. As I am prone to repeating myself sometimes in these pages, the woman has the voice of an angel. She could literally record herself singing passages from a newspaper and I’d probably listen to it, despite how depressing the news is these days. I’ve never had the privilege of seeing her in concert, she tends to shun Kansas City but I remain hopeful she’ll come my way.

I don’t know if it’s that voice, but something about Norah’s music is evocative for me. I spent most of my 20s and 30s a wandering, emotional gypsy. I had a series of emotionally damaging relationships. I tended to pick my girlfriends from the FBI’s Most Wanted List… However, by 2002, when Jones’ debut Come Away With Me came out, I had found love and with it a family. I was living in house (that was mine) for the first time in my life, instead of a suitcase or the back of a car. I tended to keep moving in the old days… I was living with the Rock Chick in 2002 and we were engaged. Her daughter, who I now describe as “our” daughter was living with us. I had been traveling for work and my plane landed right around sunset on warm, late-summer day. The sky was turning to purple, but the sun still shone it’s golden hue on the taller trees. As I was driving home from the airport that night surrounded by magnificent colors with my sunroof open, on the public radio station I heard “Come Away With Me” for the first time. We were looking for a song for our first dance at our wedding and I was instantly convinced in that magical moment I’d found the track (I got overridden on that, alas). As I drove that night, for the first time headed to a home and not just the place where I kept my stuff, I felt a level of contentment I never thought I’d know… Norah Jones’ song had completely captured and immortalized that moment for me.

Over the years I have remained a Norah Jones fan. I loved her last album, Day Break LP Review: Norah Jones’ “Day Breaks,” The Piano Strikes Back!. I recently heard she was releasing random singles. I made a mental note to go out and find them and gather them together on a playlist. Luckily it seems that Ms. Jones is handling that for me. She’s gathered together seven tracks that she’ll be releasing in April as an EP, Begin Again. For those of you keeping score, an album is called a “long player” or an LP. An EP is an “extended player.” An EP is longer and has more music than just a single (which used to get released with 1 song on each side), but isn’t quite as long as an album or LP.

From the new EP, Norah has pre-released three new songs. I’ve heard her new music described as “experimental” which may be why she’s releasing just an EP. If there’s nothing thematic or musically similar holding a group of songs together an EP release makes more sense. I like the immediacy of what I’m hearing in these three new tracks. And yes, it’s not hard to predict, I liked all three of the new songs. I like that Norah is willing to take chances. An artist who had so much success early on in her career could be tempted to rest on her laurels. Not Norah, she really pushes herself.

For me, the stand out track of the three is “Just A Little Bit.” It’s a jazzy, syncopated little number. If I close my eyes while I listen, it feels like I’ve just wandered into a basement jazz club, the sound bouncing off the brick walls. I feel the murmur of hushed conversations and smell cocktails and perfume as patrons huddle in the dark and groove on the tune. I can feel the horns as much as hear them. It’s jazzy in all the right ways. When she emphasizes the words, “I’m on fire…” I can feel the heat.

“It Was You” is a more straight up Norah Jones. A sultry, chanteuse style track driven by her beautiful piano and a sax. Norah’s voice drops down in the register and is at it’s very sexiest. “And I knew, and I knew and I knew it was you…” It’s more an invocation to love than chorus. Put this song on late at night and you won’t need my patented smooth moves…

The final track of the three prereleases is a collaboration with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, “Wintertime.” I love it when Norah collaborates. She’s got a great track with disgraced singer Ryan Adams, “Dear John” which is one of her career highlights. I loved the album of Everly Brothers covers she did with Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, Foreverly. Tweedy doesn’t sing on “Wintertime.” It’s a laid back piano tune and Tweedy plays a rather subdued guitar… at least I think that’s him. The track has a slightly country feel, but that may just be my take on the guitar work. It’s a very solid track.

All of us at B&V are looking forward to hearing the rest of this EP. I love that Norah is continuing to experiment and push herself. This will be very interesting, evocative music from an important artist. Enjoy this one to keep warm in this punishing wintertime!

Cheers!

 

 

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Motley Crue: “The Dirt (Est. 1981),” The New Single From the Upcoming Movie

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

During the 90s, when Grunge was king, I used to go up to Chicago for drunken weekends with my pals Doug and RK. It was during one of those trips, sitting at the corner of the bar at Pippins, our favorite Chicago pub, that Doug and I began to debate the merits of each musical decade. Looking back I think trying to categorize music by decade (ie, the 60s, 70s or 80s) was a bit of a misnomer. Music tends to change but not just because the calendar flips from ’79 to ’80. Big shifts in music don’t adhere to a decade calendar… Regardless of that, both Doug and I had staked out our positions and we’d both dug in. It was Doug’s proposition that the 70s were the worst decade in music while I argued it was the 80s. Over empty beer cans and spent shot glasses, we both put forward our passionate arguments.

I think Doug’s main problem with the 70s was disco. And yes, disco sucked, but there was a lot of great music recorded in the 70s including the great punk and post punk/new wave movements. Metal was pretty kick ass in the 70s with Black Sabbath and Judas Priest leading the British Metal Invasion. Even prog rock had Yes and Rush. I argued against the 80s because of all the slick production, drum machines and synthesizers. The acoustic guitar all but vanished. In the 80s, hard rock finally broke its longstanding connection with the blues, which had been the foundation of all the great music of the previous two decades. Many of the bands I loved in the 70s, whom I followed into the 80s struggled to adjust to all the synthesizer. Springsteen and Van Halen seemed to best incorporate the 80s sound. Well, at least they did it better than Bob Seger or say, Eric Clapton. Not everybody can be AC/DC who have always sounded the same no matter the decade. And let’s face it, all the hard rock bands in the 80s looked like chicks. That was hard to take… all the make up and hair spray. You didn’t see Robert Plant laying out his banshee wail in mascara.

The 80s were a very formative decade for me in a lot of ways. I was in early high school when the decade began and by the time it ended I was living in what I consider my “exile years” in a lonely and awful place known as “Arkansas.” Napoleon’s St Helena was paradise vs Ft Smith, Arkansas… I entered the decade as a shiny, clean virgin and left the decade, well, let’s just say those records are sealed until 25 years after my death. While I sat in that Chicago bar back in the 90s arguing with Doug about how the 80s sucked, it was really based on gut instinct versus an actual knowledge of a lot of 80s music. I had, oddly, ignored a lot of the music of that pivotal decade.

As I came of age in the early 80s, I was just beginning the musical journey that has brought me here to B&V. I was a blank page. I knew I liked rock and roll, and I was starting to realize much of what I liked was based on the blues. With the limited playlists of local radio stations (sorry KY/102) I only knew a fraction of the music that had been put out over the years. I also fell victim to living in places that didn’t have rock radio. In college, Manhattan, Kansas didn’t have a rock station. It was all pop. Yes, I heard a lot of Michael Jackson, Madonna and (yikes) Paula Abdul, but I never heard a ton of hard rock. After college, I entered self imposed exile in Fort Smith and later Fayetteville, Arkansas. It wasn’t until I got to Fayetteville that I got to a town with a rock n roll radio station. In Ft Smith George Michael’s Faith was in such high rotation I can recite the record from memory and that ain’t something I’m proud of, believe me. And while I may “Want Your Sex” I certainly don’t wanna hear that song ever again.

In the absence of rock radio catching my attention with new stuff, I turned my focus towards the past. I was filling in my record collection by buying old Stones and Zeppelin albums. I had a lot of catching up to do. Luckily I had a roommate in college, Drew, who was a Yoda of Rock and Roll (and remains so today, his record collection is cool on a level I can only aspire to). He and I would go to the record store and shop for hours. He’d lead me towards stuff like The Who, Neil Young and Bob Dylan. In 1986 I was more in tune with the music of 1971 such was my isolation and addictive rock and roll spelunking. I was deep into older and what I considered better music. The thing that finally broke me into the decade I was living in was, and I’m embarrassed to admit this, MTV.

When MTV began, and this may be hard for the kids to understand, they played music videos 24/7 like a radio station. They’d play all sorts of shit, mashed together. In between the Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet I’d hear bands like Def Leppard, the Scorpions, Poison and yes, Motley Crue (sorry no umlauts on my keyboard). I have to say I was always aware of Motley Crue but I never really focused on them. They looked like everybody else. I don’t think they actually punctured my 60s/70s music consciousness until the video for “Home Sweet Home” went into high rotation. There’s a scene in that video, shot at a Crue concert, where a woman I found absolutely gorgeous was sitting on her boyfriend’s shoulders. Her boyfriends slides his thumbs under her top and slow-motion lifts it over her breasts. Some gentlemen he was… chivalry is truly dead. Anyway, my friends and I sat staring at that video with the lewd and lascivious desire to see just a hint of nipple. Yes, it speaks to our desperation. As we sat there, slack jawed and horny, eventually I think we kind of realized it was kind of a kick ass song. “Smokin’ In The Boys Room” was another single from Theater of Pain that we all liked, even though it was a Brownsville Station cover song. It’s amazing that it took until their third album for Motley Crue to worm their way into my mind.

By Girls, Girls, Girls, I had come to think of Motley Crue as one of the foremost hard rock bands around. They’d wiped off the make up and taken the hairspray out of their hair. In the video for that title track they were riding around L.A. on motorcycles. I was like, ok, this I can relate to. The stories of their debauchery began to get out and they only served to burnish their legend. Nikki Sixx having to be brought back to life from an overdose was pretty harrowing. Vince Neil, who to this day I suspect of being an asshole, committed vehicular manslaughter for drunk driving. These were truly bad men doing bad things. And the music was nasty and hard. I could dig it… well, not the vehicular manslaughter, don’t drink and drive, people. Still it wasn’t until their first greatest hits CD came out that I made the plunge and purchased some Motley Crue music. “Primal Scream”  is still a favorite from that disc.

It was, and thank God, the Rock Chick who turned me onto Motley Crue. She’d seen them in their heyday, on the Theater of Pain tour when Tommy Lee’s drum kit first flew up in the air and did a flip. I looked through her old concert ticket stubs and couldn’t find the Crue ticket but she saw some kick ass stuff – Roth solo w/ Vai in ’86, Sam Kinison, Monsters of Rock… God, if I’d only known her back then. She took me to my first Crue concert on the ‘Carnival of Sins’ tour and they were awesome. They played a lot of stuff from their first two, raw, hard albums and that was it, I was hooked. The Rock Chick had their whole catalog and I devoured that music whole.

Needless to say, all of us here at B&V from the Rock Chick on down to me were excited to hear that the soundtrack from the impending movie “The Dirt,” based on the best selling autobiography of the same name, would include four new songs from the Crue. They may have signed contracts to never tour again, but at least they’re in the studio knocking out some new hard rock. I only recently heard one of the four songs will be a cover of Madonna’s “Like a Virgin.” Sigh… you can the boys out of the 80s, but you just can’t take the 80s out of the boys. I found this a disturbing bit of news, but Marilyn Manson once covered the Eurythmics and it turned out fine, so you never know.

The first new track from the Crue’s upcoming soundtrack The Dirt came out yesterday. It’s entitled, not surprisingly “The Dirt (Established 1981).” We’ve been doing nothing around here since yesterday except sitting around playing this song as we would all Crue tracks, at maximum volume. The Rock Chick’s first reaction to the song was, “it sounds kind of poppy.” And yes, it’s a little more slickly produced than I’d have liked, but you’re never going to hear a song like “Bastard” again. Overall I’d say I like this track. Tommy Lee’s drumming remains some of the best in rock and roll. He needs to shut up more and just pound the skins. I love Mick Mars guitar. Despite the production, his guitar still conjures up some nasty spirit. His solo’ing is, as always, on point. Its a great riff propelled by great drumming, which is pretty much the Motley Crue formula, a formula I think we all love. Even Vince Neil, whose vocals sound slightly auto-tuned, puts in a soaring vocal performance. My only problem with this song is the presence of this cat, Machine Gun Kelly. He pops up in the middle of the song to rap about the Crue’s excess and “big tits.” Now, as I’ve already confessed in this blog, I’m a huge fan of tits. But Machine Gun Kelly shows up like an unwanted party-crasher right in the middle of what was a great song. Then, as if to add insult to injury, he shows up again at the end. Once was too many appearances from Machine Gun, two is excessive. But, excess and overindulgence is kind of what Motley Crue is all about. It’s almost, like U2 does these days, in a grasping attempt at currency or relevancy, they let go of what they do well which is rawk!

I recommend this track, with the guarded warning, you’ll have to push through the two Machine Gun Kelly “raps,” which mar an otherwise great Crue song. I’m looking forward to hearing the other new tracks… we’ll, maybe not “Like A Virgin,” but the other two. Hopefully we’ll get more Crue and less Machine Gun Kelly… If this movie is anywhere near the “Bohemian Rhapsody” flick, this will be a fun thing to see.

Keep rocking out there… Devil Horns to all of you! Cheers!

 

Tom Petty: New Song From the Vaults, The Atmospheric “Real Love”

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I’ve always got my ear to the ground for rock’n’roll I might have missed out on. I was perusing the web and iTunes recently, because what else can you do when you’re snowed in, and saw that Tom Petty was putting out another Greatest Hits package. I fear he’s going to go the route of Elvis or Hendrix – artists who died too early whose heirs start repackaging their catalogs into multiple greatest hits packages. There’s a high likelihood if you’re interested in this greatest hits package, you’re not likely to be a reader of B&V… everybody who reads this blog probably owns most of this music.

I will say they took an interesting approach to this album. It’s two discs long and at 38 songs, its obviously fairly comprehensive. The approach to this album that would separate it from anything that came before it is the inclusion of tracks from Mudcrutch. For the first time ever you get Petty, Petty & the Heartbreakers and Mudcrutch in one two disc package. Petty’s solo career wasn’t quite like Springsteen’s, where Bruce would work without the E Street Band, typically in a stripped down, acoustic fashion. Petty’s “solo” work usually included at least Mike Campbell and usually Ben Tench. So the marketing angle on this is Petty solo, Mudcrutch, Heartbreakers, it’s all here. And if you haven’t purchased any Petty before, this looks like as good a place to start as any.

For me, when I see a Greatest Hits thing come out, I start sifting through the track list looking for anything I don’t recognize. They tell me OCD is treatable, but why spoil the fun? More often than not, one of the draws of a Greatest Hits package for those of us who have most of an artist’s catalog is the “previously unreleased” tracks from the vaults. This Petty “Career Spanning Hits Collection” is no exception. Included at the very end was a track that caused me to prick up my ears, “Real Love.” I scanned the memory banks and, no, this was not a track I was familiar with.

Apparently, rather than include this in last year’s box set, the brilliant American Treasure, LP Review: Tom Petty, ‘An American Treasure’ – A Different Path Through a Brilliant Career, the Petty camp decided to hold “Real Love” out to include in this year’s package. Why nobody will release the entire Wildflowers sessions, something Petty was working on and continually promising is anybody’s guess. I’m sure the record company wants to force us all to buy the original album again in order to get the bonus material and the Petty camp wants to make the bonus, unreleased stuff available separately. It appears we have reached an impasse. Which is too bad, because I’d love a pristine copy of “Girl On LSD,” my favorite outtake from the Wildflowers sessions. It’s actually an anti drug song… we don’t judge here at B&V. “I was in love with a girl on LSD, she’d see things I’d never see…”

“Real Love” starts off with just Petty’s voice and an acoustic guitar. Its a melancholy track, there’s no way around describing it as such. As I listened to American Treasure I could usually recognize which album the unreleased tracks came from. However, in this case I can’t quite put my finger on when this track was recorded, but if I was a betting man, I’d guess it was from The Last DJ sessions. He mentions a CEO, which makes me think of “Joe.” “Real Love” has a great Petty vocal, maybe he’s a little down but resolved and defiant. Petty sings over a jangling Mike Campbell guitar and Ben Tench’s piano. The narrative has Petty explaining his motive – he didn’t do it for anything or anybody except himself, his woman and real love. I can’t think of a better motive. It’s certain Petty wants everyone to understand that he never sold out.

While I’d hoped for some sort of revelation like “Gainesville,” or “Keep A Little Soul” I can’t quite say “Real Love” gets me to that same place. It’s a nice track to have, but it’s for those of us intense Petty fans and completists out here. I would recommend anybody who likes Petty to give it a spin but again, only True Fans Need Apply.

I hope everybody is staying warm and sane during what is turning out to be a horrible winter here in the US midwest. Pour yourself a toddy and keep the turntable working and we’ll all get through this. It’ll make Spring all the much sweeter. Cheers!

 

 

Review: Netflix “DocuSeries” ‘Remastered’ – Interesting But Uneven

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Winter has been a bear this year. Between snow and ice storms, I rarely leave the house. The Rock Chick and I joined a gym… no, it wasn’t a New Year’s Resolution, we moved and were forced to find  new place to work out. I can’t even get over to this new place due to inclement weather… well that and utter sloth, but I’ll blame the weather. I find myself with intense cabin fever these days so I end up watching a ton of TV. And with the football season ending recently, and badly, there’s really nothing that holds my interest.

Recently I flipped over to Netflix. Mind you, I only found out recently that the slang term “Netflix and chill” was a euphemism for hooking up, so I’m hopelessly non hip. I always thought Netflix and chill meant, well, watching Netflix and relaxing. A few months ago, I came across what I thought was a one-off documentary about Bob Marley, entitled ‘Who Shot The Sheriff? A Bob Marley Story.’ We’re huge Bob Marley fans here at the house (Humor: Bob Marley’s “Legend” and the Confessions of the Evil Stepdad). I already knew a lot about Bob Marley and had hoped this ReMastered would shed some new light on his story. The entire focus of the show was on the December 1976 assassination attempt on Marley. He was set to play a concert for Jamaican unity, ‘Smile Jamaica,’ and was caught between two different, warring political factions. The result was Marley relocating to London for a number of years. The focus of the documentary was that narrow – it was all about the assassination attempt. If you’re looking for a deep dive into Marley and his life/career, this is not the place to start. I thought the documentary was interesting if a little repetitive.

It wasn’t until this latest cold spell had me trapped inside that I realized the Marley ReMastered wasn’t a stand alone effort, it was one in a series of documentaries. They’ve come out with a number of them since I caught ‘Who Shot The Sheriff.’ Each of the documentaries is centered around one artist and like the Marley episode, something in that artist’s career that is tied to politics. It’s an interesting point of view. Many of the artists covered had strong ties to politics, Marley the “Soul Rebel” maybe most of all. The series has covered Sam Cooke, Johnny Cash, Grand Master Jay, and someone from Chile named Victor Jara who they describe as the Chilean Bob Dylan. In the interest of full disclosure, I didn’t watch the one on Jara, although I intend to, and I will probably never watch ‘Who Killed Jam Master Jay.’ I’m sure there’s reasons to care about Jam Master Jay, I just don’t know what they are.

I watched the Sam Cooke episode next, after the Marley episode. I love Sam Cooke. His singing has influenced everyone who came after him – Aretha, Otis Redding, Rod Stewart and the Rolling Stones. He was a towering talent. Like many soul singers of that era, he got his start singing in church. He went on to join a Gospel group, the Soul Stirrers and later went out on his own as a pop artist. A brilliant man, he quickly figured out the business end and formed his own record label and publishing company… unfortunately he got con artist to the stars Allen Klein involved but I’ll let you watch the show for that story. As most people know, Sam was killed under shady circumstances in a seedy hotel in the Watts area of Los Angeles. Sam had become involved in the Civil Rights movement and was friends with not only Muhammad Ali but Malcolm X. The subject of his episode, ‘The Two Killings of Sam Cooke’ centers around his murder. As became more independent from a business standpoint, which was unheard of for a black man in this times, it was feared he was a danger to the white establishment. He was inspired by Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ In the Wind” to write the Civil Rights staple, “A Change Is Gonna Come.” That also made him a threat. While I don’t think the FBI or the cops had anything to do with his murder – he got stuck in a shake down that went bad – I do think they didn’t investigate as thoroughly as they should have. This episode is the best one of the three I’ve watched. If you’re only going to spend 1 hour with this series, this is the one to see.

The third one I watched centered on Johnny Cash, the Man In Black. It’s entitled ‘Tricky Dick and the Man In Black.’ Obviously, the Tricky Dick in question is none other than Richard “Dick” Nixon. This was, I must admit, depressing television. Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” of wooing rural, and yes I’ll say it, red neck voters is kind of what we’re seeing repeated, writ large, in America today. He was basically lying to these people. In the interest of pulling those folks, who he thought loved country music, he invited Johnny Cash to perform at the White House. He wanted Johnny to sing some really right wing-y songs. “Welfare Cadillac” was particularly obnoxious. But Johnny being Johnny, he not only sang what he wanted to, he sang a new song, “What Is Truth,” which I was not familiar with. Again, that song rings true more now than it ever did. It was an interesting episode if a tad dull in spots. This highlights the sad fact that we really haven’t come that far in America…

If you’re like me, and you’ve got cabin fever and are pulling  your hair out with boredom, check out a few of these. Treat it like a smorgasbord and pick and choose carefully. This isn’t going to be revelatory to true fans of these artists, but it’s an interesting chapter in each of their lives.

Stay warm out there everybody.

Review: Sammy Hagar & The Circle Release First Single, “Trust Fund Baby”

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I’m beginning to think that Sammy Hagar, “The Red Rocker,”  is the Rodney Dangerfield of rock and roll. He just can’t get the respect he deserves. Maybe it’s because he’s got that whole Guy Fieri look going on. Or perhaps it’s his love of tequila and the suspicion that he’s always half in the bag that’s cost him. In the 80s he was always dressed like a gym teacher on coke, so that didn’t help. Nobody could pull off that whole “jams” pants thing – you know, the colorful, baggy, PJ-style pants – but Sammy sure gave it a try. I remember when he joined Van Halen, my buddy The Accountant (identity blurred to protect the guilty) alway said, “Fuck man, Roth used to do kung-fu on stage and Sammy does aerobics.” Yeah, yeah. While it’s certainly true that Roth was the definitive lead singer of VH, I still always dug Van Hagar… In Defense of Van Hagar, No Really… Complete With a B&V Van Hagar Playlist.

Sammy has accomplished quite a bit as an artist if you look at his career as a whole. Yes, he’s had a long and storied solo career which probably peaked in the 80s. The album that sold me on Hagar, and the first one I purchased (and still own on vinyl), was 1981’s Standing Hampton. For us at B&V that was the creative peak for Sammy. His success continued in the 80s with Three Lock Box and VOA. One could argue that string of albums is what landed him the gig in Van Halen to replace Roth. I thought Van Hagar, as we used to call them, was a good band but it just wasn’t the influential, great band that the original line up was. They should have changed the name.

In terms of Sammy’s solo career people forget he’s put out some solid records since departing Van Halen. 1997’s Marching to Mars was a great record. “Little White Lies,” “Both Sides Now,” and the title track were all great. He also had a great record in Ten 13 which was a dark, little record. “Serious Ju Ju” was a track everyone should check out. He’s also had a few tunes that popped up off of some of his weaker albums like “Mas Tequila,” that the Rock Chick tends to always put on when we’re having a party. Well, she used to…she’s moved into a more alternative rock direction. Sigh…for richer or for poorer as the vows go… Sammy tried to position himself as the “hard rock Jimmy Buffet” which left me a little cold. But there was still some rocking music there.

What people tend to overlook, other than Van Halen, is that Sammy has been in a couple of other great bands (Sammy Hagar’s Other Bands: Montrose And Chickenfoot). He got his start as the lead singer in the quartet Montrose, named after lead guitarist Ronnie Montrose, who passed recently. You could point to that time in Montrose as his apprenticeship for Van Halen. They put out two great records with Sammy on vocals. More recently Sammy joined what was termed a supergroup, Chickenfoot. Chickenfoot was Sammy on vocals with guitar whiz Joe Satriani, bassist and best buddy Michael Anthony (also formerly of Van Halen) and Chad Smith from the Red Hot Chili Peppers on drums. I dug Chickenfoot and own both those records. They won’t change your life but they were good, solid hard rock which is hard to find these days. Satriani is always good for a fabulous guitar solo or two. Satriani became frustrated with Sammy when Hagar refused to go back in the studio to record a third album. Sammy felt no one was buying the albums, why work that hard… just tour and I presume, drink tequila. With Chad Smith reengaged with the Peppers, Chickenfoot sort of ran its course.

Sammy then got together a new band, The Circle. Back on bass and backing vocals is his buddy Michael Anthony. They recruited drummer Jason Bonham, son of Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham, on the skins. For guitarist this time, Sammy just went to Vic Johnson, from his backing band the Waboritas. Luckily Johnson can play. The Circle recorded a live album, At Your Service, which covered all of Sammy’s career: solo, Montrose, Van Halen, and Chickenfoot but they also did Zeppelin covers since there was a Bonham in the house. Hagar was quoted as saying the band’s name, The Circle was indicative of the fact that they’d come full circle – they were inspired by Led Zeppelin, went through Montrose and his solo career, then joined Anthony in Van Halen and now they’ve come all the way around to playing Zeppelin tracks with Bonham. The live album did rock.

Somehow, despite his refusal to do so with Chickenfoot, Sammy agreed to going into the studio to record a proper album with The Circle. They’ve released a new song, “Trust Fund Baby” via a YouTube, lyric video, ie, the video is merely the lyrics of the song on the screen. There’s no performance or anything. I can say, based on the pictures of Sammy and Michael Anthony, it appears they’ve both been hitting that Keto Diet thing. They both look skinnier than they have in years. Maybe they gave up tequila. You can find the video here:

https://youtu.be/QLguM83wDQM

I’ve got to give these guys credit, this song rocks. The lyrics are pretty typical of Hagar… although these feel like lyrics he could have written in the 80s. He references cocaine in the first verse, “Mama’s on a fast train, running on cocaine.” I didn’t realize cocaine was still around? Lyrically I’ll never forgive Hagar for writing the stupidest lyric of all time, “Only time will tell if we stand the test of time…” Well of course time will be the one to tell us. Substitute the name Hank in there. Only Hank will tell if we stand the test of Hank. Jesus, he’s stating the obvious.

The real stars here are Vic Johnson on guitar and Jason Bonham on drums. Vic plays a mean, nasty riff reminiscent of, dare I say, Montrose! He plays a very tasty guitar solo. The riff isn’t complicated, but that’s the point. Jason’s drumming is insistent, hard and right in the pocket. He propels the song. Anthony’s bass is fine, and he adds his great harmony vocals on the choruses. The guy who kind of disappoints me here is Hagar himself… he’s singing in a lower register (age catching up with him…tequila catching up to him?). Hagar always was a shouter, and I don’t expect Steve Perry-like notes from the guy, I was just surprised he’d do this song in a growl.

This may not be Led Zeppelin, Montrose or even Van Hagar, but it’s a solid rock tune worth checking out. Hagar has hinted this might be his last studio album, so one can hope that he’s going to throw all he has into it. And, let’s face it, it’s nice to see Jason Bonham working, he’s a great drummer and deserves a hard rock outfit to showcase that.

Cheers!

 

Review: The Raconteurs’ Great New Single, Jack White’s Original Side Project Delivers!

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Other than car trouble, I can’t imagine anything worse than moving. Physically packing up all of your shit and putting it in boxes, loading it in the car and then unloading it at a new location is just awful. When I was younger and single, I didn’t have any possessions. I never wanted to own anything I couldn’t carry to the car in the middle of the night if I had to avoid the law or some angry woman. I have spent almost every weekend since early December doing just that, carrying stuff to the car. It’s tough work to crate up all these albums and barrels of bourbon… Add to it the miserable, grey, snowy, cold weather and you’ve got a “seasonal affect” depression diagnosis that writes itself. Luckily, my local football team, the Kansas City Chiefs have been winning, so that kept me afloat. In the midst of all of this tedious moving, the Rock Chick burst in and said, “I have to play you something.” There’s only one or two things she could say to me that would fill me with more joy and anticipation… and I can’t really discuss those here, it’s a family blog. Who else will teach the children about rock and roll?

Much to my great surprise, when the Rock Chick hit “play” I heard a burst of pure, energetic rock and roll guitar. To my great pleasure, the Raconteurs have returned! And here I was wondering if there’d be any new rock and roll to write about before spring. I try to stay positive here on B&V, so I rarely write about music I don’t like. I try to use this blog as a place where I can shed a little light on music that may not make it to your local radio that I feel deserves more attention. If you can discover something you like here, then my job is more than done! However, it’s no secret that I didn’t like Jack White’s last solo album LP Review: Creativity And The Curious Case of Jack White & ‘Boarding House Reach’. There’s a theory in history, known as the “great man theory,” that I actually think has some merit. It posits that history can be explained by the impact these so called “great men” had on the course of human events. I believe in this for rock and roll. And I think Jack White is certainly one of those great men. Unfortunately the experimentation and reaching for something completely different on Boarding House Reach left me cold. White had been on a hiatus prior to that release so that miss left quite a void.

I was frankly quite surprised to see that the Raconteurs had reunited. One has to look back over a decade to get to their founding. It was in 2006, in between the White Stripes’ Get Behind Me Satan and Icky Thump that Jack White, bursting with creativity, reached outside the power-duo outfit that made him famous for his first side project. White was on guitar and vocals and was joined by solo artist Brendan Benson (guitar, vocals) and former Greenhorns’ members Jack Lawrence (bass), and Patrick Keeler (drums). So full of music was Jack White he later formed a second side project, The Dead Weather, with Lawrence on bass and his main squeeze Alison Mosshart from the Kills on lead vocals. White actually played drums in that band, with a QOTSA veteran, Dean Fertita on guitar. White’s creativity truly seemed boundless.

But it’s been over a decade since the Raconteurs recorded anything. Back in the early part of this millennium, the Raconteurs released two albums. Broken Boy Soldiers, their 2006 debut was an interesting start. “Steady As She Goes” was a great lead single. “Blue Veins” was just a fabulous bluesy number. It was probably my favorite song on that album. But other than “Level,” there wasn’t much else on the record I could connect with. It sounded like old friends having a nice busmen’s holiday. By 2008’s Consolers of the Lonely, things had improved vastly. With Meg White becoming more reclusive, Jack turned a more serious eye toward his supergroup side project. That was a great record. I especially liked the “story song,” “Carolina Drama.” The mysterious ending…”go and ask the milkman” will always stick with me… There were so many great tunes on that record, “Salute Your Solution,” and “Top Yourself” spring to mind. Everyone should check out that second Raconteurs’ album.

So after a decade that found the members of the Raconteurs’ working on other things, they’ve reunited. Jack sounds enthused and re-energized on these tunes. The first new song is titled “Sunday Driver.” It’s a punchy, classic rocker. White’s solo’ing is off the charts. It has an almost Beatlesque, psychedelic bridge in the middle. The guitar riff is absolutely infectious. It’s muscular and frenetic rock and roll. To hear Jack rock out this freely is so refreshing. It’s nothing like the bizarre experiments of Boarding House Reach. 

The second track, “Now That You’re Gone,” is where things get really interesting. It’s a “my baby has left me, good riddance” tune. “What will I do, now that you’re gone…” It’s probably what my old neighbors are thinking about me now that I’ve moved… well, probably not. I tend to play loud music at odd hours… Anyway, “Now That You’re Gone” has got a wonderful burst of bluesy guitar that plays through out the song. This song sounds like a 60s girl group had a baby with an old bluesman. White is absolutely torturing his guitar through out this song, conjuring the pain and torment felt by a spurned lover. This is another home run of a track.

While the Raconteurs’ first record was a bit of a disappointment and the second one was strong, these two new tracks are just stellar. This could point to a very, very interesting album. Keep an eye and ear out for the Raconteurs. I highly recommend everyone purchase these songs immediately and play them as loud as your neighbors will allow.

Cheers!

B&V Playlist: Beatles vs Stones Covers? No, Our Favorite Beatles AND Stones Covers!

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*Image of Jagger, Wyman & the McCartneys (and unidentified groovy chicks) taken from the internet, and likely subject to copyright

The world has become a really divisive place. Whatever the issue, there always seems to be disagreement these days. Politics, don’t get me started. Religion, I’m not qualified to talk about. For every opinion in the universe there exists an equally strong, opposite one. Meat eaters vs the vegans, hedonists vs the devout, drinkers vs the sober, and I could go on and on. I believe it was Sir Isaac Newton, that groovy cat with the apple and gravity, who stated in his Third Law, that for every action there is an equal, opposite reaction. For example, I would like to quit my job and sit around listening to rock and roll records all day. Perhaps I would occasionally take a break from that strenuous activity to head down to the used record store to check out some additional vinyl, only to return home and hang out. My wife has the opposite reaction to this idea and wants to work me like one of the old mules from the farm she grew up on until I collapse. Marriage, it seems, like life is a compromise.

However, we shouldn’t pretend that these disagreements are a new and modern convention. I remember, as a child in the 70s, there were similar fault lines amongst the population. I remember there was a fierce, Superman vs Batman thing. You were either a fan of the man from Krypton or you were on team Caped Crusader, and you couldn’t dig both. Me, I was a Batman fan. Ironically I later roomed with a guy whose nickname was Batman. We’d get crank calls in the middle of the night from his friends asking for Batman… When I’d say he wasn’t home they’d ask to leave a message from the Joker, or Commissionor Gordon. Real fuckin’ funny guys at 3 am. I think which Super Hero you dug said a lot about your personality. You were either the ideal of virtue and the perfect man or you were a troubled guy who hung out late at night looking for bad situations. Hmmm.

Anyway, one of the fiercer battles in the old days revolved around the Beatles and the Stones. The Beatles were huge. They were, well, the Beatles. In the late sixties the Stones began to get tagged with the nickname, “The Greatest Rock & Roll Band in the World.” I don’t know if it was the nickname, but suddenly the debate was real. The feud began even before Led Zeppelin came along, so all you Zep fans, stay calm and keep reading. There was suddenly a Superman-Batman type of line drawn. You were either a Beatles fan or you were a Stones fan and never shall the twain meet, as they say. It was the 60s version of East Coast vs West Coast, without the guns. Lennon claimed once that everything the Beatles did the Stones would do six months later. While you might cite Their Satanic Majesties, the Stones ill-fated trip into psychedelic music (after the Beatles Sgt Pepper album) as proof, I think after that the Stones forged their own bluesy, rootsy road.

But once a feud always a feud. I have often thought of my brother and I as polar opposites, which isn’t true, but we all have stories we tell ourselves about our families. My brother, who got into music way before me was a solid Beatles guy. He had the Rolling Stones’ Hot Rocks, perhaps the best “greatest hits” package ever released, but he had every Beatles album out there. I think he had UK and US versions of each album, although I could be wrong about that. I bet he’s sitting on a stack of very valuable vinyl. Anyway, my first love, of course, was the Rolling Stones. I can’t say that fueled any tension between he and I, but I’m sure it didn’t help.

Eventually, I realized feuds were silly. I like both the Beatles and the Stones. They’d both be on my greatest bands of all time list… although the Stones will always be #1 for me. That doesn’t mean I can’t love the Beatles too. Hell, Keith Richards once said, about John Lennon, that he wasn’t as “hen-pecked” by Yoko in his latter days as people say… he said whenever the Stones were in New York he and Lennon would party their ass off. Now that’s something I wish I’d have gotten in on. How much fun would that be? Lennon, Richards, I wanna party with you guys. Alas, I was just a kid in junior high school.

I was noodling around with some playlist ideas and I came across the idea of doing a playlist of Stones covers, of which there are too few. Then I started thinking of doing a list of covers of Beatles tunes, of which there are myriad artists to choose from. I was thinking of battling playlists, this could potentially be a B&V thing. But then a weird thing happened. I combined the two playlists and frankly I really enjoyed the results. Since it’s a slow time musically right now, I thought I’d share it with all of you. This is not a comprehensive or complete list of Beatles or Stones cover songs, it’s just a list of my favorites. As always you can find this playlist on Spotify by searching on kcorsini64 or BourbonAndVinyl (at least I sure hope so). Enjoy… and if you have any additions you think I missed, please mention them in the comments and I’ll add to the Spotify list. My comments on each tune below this link. And I’ll say again, there are always more Beatles covers than Stones covers… oh, well.

  1. Aerosmith, “Come Together” – What a great place to start. Lets all come together over the Beatles and the Stones.
  2. Black Keys, “She Said, She Said” – I love this song. I never figured the Keys to cover the Beatles but they do so beautifully.
  3. Peter Frampton, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” – I like the live version and the studio version.
  4. Linda Ronstadt, “Tumbling Dice” – My favorite song of hers, save anything she covered by Warren Zevon or Lowell George.
  5. David Bowie, “Let’s Spend The Night Together” – Bowie’s frenetic take on the classic Stones track.
  6. Soundgarden, “Everybodys’ Got Something To Hide (Except Me and My Monkey) – God do we miss Chris Cornell.
  7. Fiona Apple, “Across the Universe” – Great track from a soundtrack. A track also nicely done by Bowie… but he’s already on here.
  8. Phil Collins, “Tomorrow Never Knows” – Say what you want about Collins but it took some real balls to cover this song.
  9. Montrose, “Connection” – Great, slowed down version of the Stones track.
  10. Cheap Trick, “Magical Mystery Tour” – Was any band more influenced by the Beatles than Cheap Trick? Well, besides ELO?
  11. Billy Joel, “A Hard Days Night (Live)” – Ok, maybe Joel was as influenced by the Beatles as Cheap Trick. It’s probably a coin toss.
  12. Social Distortion, “Backstreet Girl” – Social D doing a a down and dirty Stones cover. Whats not to love?
  13. Siouxsie And The Banshees, “Dear Prudence” – I almost like this version more than the Beatles original.
  14. Joe Cocker, “A Little Help From My Friends” – This one was a huge hit for Joe.
  15. The Allman Brothers Band, “Heart of Stone” – From their last studio album.
  16. U2, “Paint It Black” – One of their best covers!
  17. Lindsey Buckingham, “She Smiled Sweetly” – Buckingham recreates a whole band just plucking an acoustic guitar.
  18. Johnny Winter, “Stray Cat Blues” – A lot of blues guys cover the Stones.
  19. Motley Crue, “Helter Skelter” – A lot of folks have done this one, but this is my nasty favorite.
  20. Ray Charles, “Eleanor Rigby” – Also done beautifully by Aretha.
  21. Aerosmith, “I’m Down” – Great track from Permanent Vacation. 
  22. Billy Joel, “I’ll Cry Instead (Live) – Like I said, he rivals Cheap Trick in his love of the Beatles.
  23. Luther Allison, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” – Obscure blues track but I love it.
  24. Guns N Roses, “Sympathy For the Devil” – From the ‘Interview With A Vampire’ soundtrack, believe it or not. This was the best thing to come out of that movie.
  25. The Who, “Under My Thumb” – Yep, the Who covering the Stones…worlds collide.
  26. Otis Redding, “Satisfaction” – The Rock Chick always laughs at me when I play this. I think it’s all the horns. Otis was soulful…
  27. Elton John, “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds” – As a youngster I liked this track better than the original. What fools these mortals be…
  28. CSNY, “Blackbird” – Love the version on CSNY 1974. Stills takes the lead vocals, but those harmonies kick in, oh, man!
  29. Rod Stewart, “Get Back” – An outtake from the Tonight’s the Night album.
  30. Taj Mahal, “Honky Tonk Woman” – Stripped down to vocals, acoustic guitar, and harmonica, it’s like a porch blues jam.
  31. Tom Petty, “Taxman” – Petty covering his friend George.
  32. Cheap Trick, “Day Tripper” – They do the Beatles rockier stuff so well.
  33. Rage Against the Machine, “Street Fighting Man” – I chose this version to show the diversity of groups who cover these two bands.
  34. The Longshot, “As Tears Go By” – Billie Joe Armstrong’s side project on a nice Stones’ cover.
  35. Dhani Harrison, Prince, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” – From the Rock Hall of Fame ceremonies… Prince’s guitar solo is on fire. If you’ve seen the video, the other guys just stand there with their jaws dropped as Prince shreds… If Clapton was there I trust he snuck out quickly.

I may have dug deeper in some areas than most folks would have expected. I may have dug a little too shallow in other areas. But in the end, my Spotify playlists are for anybody whose interested. I add songs from the comments suggestions to the playlist all the time. Enjoy and I hope you all find this as an enjoyable a listen as I did! Beatles + Stones… Peace and Love, baby!