Dylan’s Silence on Nobel Prize: Is Anybody Really Surprised?

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I heard like everybody else a few weeks ago that Bob Dylan had won the Nobel Prize in Literature. I was surprised, but very pleased. I was in a bar in Fayetteville, Arkansas back in the 80s talking to a neanderthal drunkard who said to me in his pronounced southern drawl, “Bob Dylan is a poet man, but I can’t stand his voice. He can’t (pronounced cain’t) sing.” Apparently the Nobel committee agrees with that guy. Well, at least the poet part.

As it turns out, I was in Vegas all this week, at one of those terrible sales conferences I’m forced to attend once or twice a year. When I go to Vegas I sort of “lose time.” I enter the conference hotel which is akin to Biosphere and I don’t come out again until it’s time to go home. I’m surprised the sky doesn’t freak me out after not seeing it for 5 days… Other than sports (Go Cubs!) I don’t manage to keep up with current events. Massive earthquakes could swallow New York and LA, the zombie apocalypse could begin, the Faces could reunite and I’d likely be oblivious to all of it. I got up in the early hours yesterday to flee Vegas like a card-counter when I finally had time to check out what’s been happening this week. It appears Mr. Dylan has been utterly silent about his Nobel Award and the Swedes are pissed off about it. There was a brief mention of the Award on Dylan’s website but almost as quickly as it appeared, it disappeared. No one knows if he’s even going to show up to accept the Award. He simply hasn’t acknowledged it. Even the New York Times published an Op-Ed entitled “What Does Dylan’s Silence on the Nobel Prize Mean?” Good luck figuring that out, pal.

I have to ask the question at this point… Is anybody surprised by this response from Dylan. I certainly am not. He’s been surprising us his whole career. To review…

After releasing two of the greatest folk albums of all time, chock full of protest tunes, “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” and “The Times They Are A-Changing,” Dylan released “Another Side of Bob Dylan” which, while still “folky” wasn’t really a protest, folk album. I read a review that called it a rock and roll album without any of the instrumentation. I know that had to throw his loyal, beatnik following for a loop back then.

On the heels of that he turns electric at Newport, backed by members of the intrepid Paul Butterfield Blues Band (I’ve got to write something about Michael Bloomfield sometime…) and once again his fans are freaked out. He then records a series of world changing masterpieces (“Bringing It All Back Home,” “Highway 61 Revisited,” and “Blonde On Blonde”) of which the first two had acoustic halves but “Blonde…” was full on blues rock. At one point during all this, backed by the musicians who became The Band, Dylan was booed and called Judas by his “adoring fans.”

After a period in the wilderness where he created country-rock (“Nashville Skyline,” another surprise) and the tremendous comeback of “Blood On The Tracks” and “Desire” Dylan turns everything upside down by going through his “Christian period.” The voice of the counterculture in the 60’s becomes a bible thumping, religious zealot, going so far as to preach about Jesus from the stage of his concerts. You have to admit, the guy has balls.

After everyone in the world thought that Dylan’s career and creativity were long dead he launches a late career renaissance with “Time Out of Mind.” He had a string of records after that that were great, great records. I urge all of you to check out “Modern Times” and “Love and Theft” at the very least.

A few years ago the man did a Victoria Secrets commercial. From “Christian period” to hawking bras. Who saw that coming? The man has put on some of the most confounding concerts of anybody since Elvis. I saw him a few years ago with Merle Haggard and Hags blew him off the stage. Dylan stood at the keyboards, staring vacantly into the crowd. Even I, who am a fanatic about Dylan, had to struggle to name the songs he was playing. More recently he’s put out two Frank Sinatra cover albums. The greatest song writer in the history of music, who has won a fucking Nobel Prize, is doing the great American songbook in a sleepy, bar band, saloon style.

The man has been confounding and confusing us for his entire career. And now the Swedes are pissed off? Come on guys, what did you expect? A conventional response? A humbled Dylan showing up in a tuxedo to give a speech. As a true artist, the man has never allowed himself to be confined to the expectations of his fans, the Nobel committee,  or anybody else. And frankly, when you think about it, that’s a pretty Rock And Roll thing to do.

Rage on in your silence Mr. Dylan. At this point, I’d be disappointed if he showed up.

Cheers!

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Bruce Springsteen: Sixty-Seven But On A Roll!

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I have to say a big, belated Happy Birthday to Mr. Bruce Springsteen. The man turned 67 yesterday and shows no signs of slowing down. Having seen Bruce with the “legendary” E Street Band in April, I’m stunned he’s 67. Only Mick Jagger seems to defy age more than Bruce Springsteen. And you have to think in Mick’s case, he’s tethered to Keith Richards who hasn’t aged as… gracefully, but I digress. Springsteen is on a huge roll right now. He’s got a lot going on so I thought I’d catch everybody up.

First and foremost was his 2016 “The River” Tour, one of the year’s highest grossing tours. It was done in support of the excellent box set celebrating “The River” entitled “The Ties That Bind.” The box set had the double LP as released in 1979, the original single LP version of the album that Bruce submitted to Columbia but withdrew, entitled like the box set “The Ties That Bind,” and a disc of outttakes. “The Ties That Bind” was very similar to the great box set celebrating “Darkness On The Edge of Town,” named “The Promise,” after one of the great outtakes from those sessions. “Meet Me In The City” from the outtakes is a great, great Springsteen song. I will say , half of the outtakes had already been released on the previous treasure trove box set, “Tracks.” but I’m splitting hairs here. You need to hear all the tracks together to really frame the artistic period surrounding “The River.”

On the first American leg of “The River” tour, which is when I saw Bruce last, the band played the “River” album in it’s entirety, start to finish. It’s a dicey enterprise playing an entire album in concert. It either goes very well, like when I saw the Cult do “Love” or “Electric” or poorly like when I saw Motley Crue do “Dr. Feelgood.” It’s all about the album’s pacing. “Love” and “Electric” were non stop hard rock albums that held up very well in concert. I’m still baffled as to why “Dr Feelgood” didn’t translate as well live. There are some of my favorite Crue songs on that record, but the pacing seemed to lag on what would be side 2. The Rock Chick gave up on seeing Motley live after that, much to my chagrin… The Rock Chick’s likes and dislikes can be very mercurial… I wonder how long she’s going to let me stick around, but that’s another post… and I intend to stick for the long haul but I digress again. Must be all this traveling I’m doing… can’t stay focused.

“The River,” played straight through actually held up very well live. The album is paced well and highlights everything the E Street Band does well. There are barrel-house rockers and light-touch ballads. Springsteen’s intent when recording “The River” was to recreate the energy the band put off during live shows, so it makes sense that “The River” live would be fantastic. After the album was over, they played what Bruce was calling the “concert after the concert” which varied almost every night. I was pleased to finally see “Rosalita” performed live after all these years of attending Springsteen shows. That set after the album seemed to really spark the excitement in the band. I downloaded the free “Chicago” show and it’s a very strong live album. I began to realize the band was doing some of their finest live work in their career.

When the E Street Band got over to the European leg of the tour, the strictures of playing the entire “River” LP every night had gotten old and so they cast that aside. The sets he started playing in Europe were as varied and career spanning as I’ve ever seen. By the time they got back to the US, Springsteen was setting records for his longest shows and then breaking them on the next night of the tour. The set lists on these shows are staggering in their breadth and depth. What’s better still is that you can buy any or all of these great shows on brucespringsteen.net any time you want.

I picked up the August 30, Metlife Stadium show in New Jersey and it ranks amongst the best bootlegs I’ve ever heard of Springsteen. He opens with the obscure chestnut, “New York City Serenade.” Springsteen fans will all realize how special that song is, I don’t think it’s been performed since the 70s, but I’m no historian. He then went through a quasi chronological tour through his entire career. He only played two songs from “The River” and neither was the actual song, “The River” which is odd considering the name of the tour but hey, he’s the Boss. He even dug into his “solo” period and played “Living Proof” which was a surprising highlight. I highly recommend checking out any of the shows on the tour after he’s returned to the US. I will warn you, the 8/30 date is over 4 hours, so strap in for a long listening experience but it’s worth every minute. He does most of “The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle,” my favorite album by Bruce. You can even purchase all three New Jersey shows as one special package, but even I shy away from 12 hours of music from anybody… Do yourself a favor and check out these live recordings, it will reward you.

On top of all that activity, Bruce’s autobiography, aptly named “Born To Run” came out on Friday. I read a great interview with Bruce in Vanity Fair and it sounds like Bruce plumbs the depth of some of his battles with depression. It’s been described as being like one of his concerts: sprawling, ecstatic and epic. Here’s my problem. The rock and roll autobiography kind of got ruined for me by Keith Richards. I love Keith to death but his arcane writing about the different guitar tunings he used on certain songs was too much for even me. And he went on to comment on Mick’s penis… C’mon man, nobody wants you to go there. Someone gave me Pete Townshend’s autobiography but after Keith’s “Life,” I couldn’t bring myself to even open it. I’m on the fence about Springsteen’s book, because I think he’d be a better writer, but man, it’s a huge commitment.

The treat for me around this whole autobiography thing was that Bruce released a “companion” disc of tunes to go with the book. Two-thirds of these songs have been released on various albums and greatest hits so why bother? Well, he’s released five tunes from his pre-fame career. Two songs are by his first band, The Castiles. One song is from his outfit named Steel Mill. I’m not going to lie to you. The sound quality of these tunes is not great. These songs are for you completists out there – you know who you are – but I can’t recommend them. They’re solid, meat-and-potatos 50’s style rock. Nothing terribly revelatory there.

The two songs I would recommend are a solo song “Henry Boy” and a song credited to The Bruce Springsteen Band (his pre E Street configuration) named “The Ballad of Jesse James.” I really liked “Henry Boy.” It sounds like a left over from “Greetings From Asbury Park.” It’s all rapidly strummed acoustic guitar with words spilling out of Springsteen almost as fast as he can sing them. It’s a really nice addition to the catalog. The gem here, the song I absolutely love and consider a must-have for any Springsteen fan is “The Ballad of Jesse James.” That song is all pure 70’s rock. It opens with a giant slab of a riff and then Bruce hits you with a squealing almost slide guitar sound that kills. There are back up singers. The sound of this song is very much “of it’s time,” the 70s. It sounds like a song Gregg Allman could have recorded on one of his solo albums. The guitar solo is worth the $1.29 for the song alone. I have to wonder, where the hell did this sound go? He didn’t play guitar like this again until “Darkness On the Edge of Town.” The chorus, which I love, asks the question “Don’t you wanna be an outlaw?” The answer, as any B&V enthusiast must know by now, is yes, yes I do. Again, the sound quality is a little rough, we’re all used to highly polished, digitized music these days, but the sound of this one harkens back to hearing a vinyl record on a loud PA system at a bar having a drink-and-drowned night, all the beer you can drink for $5 and who doesn’t miss those days?

Put “The Ballad of Jesse James” on the stereo, slip on your old bell bottoms and dance around like you ain’t got no brains and celebrate Bruce’s Birthday. Happy Birthday Bruce, and many more to come. Here’s mud in your eye! Cheers !

The BourbonAndVinyl List of Groups Overdue for an LP Release

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 Album releases have become quite “the thing” these days. It appears that now, releasing an album that no one expects is the hipster thing to do. The surprise album “drop” like Beyonce or better yet, David Bowie (“The Next Day”) is in vogue. U2 even gave their last album away, much to many people’s consternation. People just woke up and “Songs of Innocence” was on their iPhone… very Big Brother if you ask me. In the old days, bands wanted all the hype they could get before their record came out. Usually a single or two would be released to stoke excitement. Shit, to hype a new album the Stones once set up their equipment on the back of a flatbed truck and drove around New York City playing their new music from “Some Girls” (or was it “Black and Blue,” I forget) to the bewildered pedestrians and traffic around them. Ronnie Wood almost fell off the truck. I suspect illegal substances were being used… but that’s just Ronnie.

Album releases are tricky to predict. It’s not like the movies, where there’s a “summer blockbuster” season or a Christmas movie season. I can remember driving a giant one-ton construction truck home from my summer job, my car was broke down, to have lunch and hearing Springsteen’s “Born In the USA” for the first time. I almost had to pull the rig over. I knew the album was coming out, but hadn’t known it was coming out on that day. As soon as I clocked off, I headed straight to the mall to buy the album. For a long time, to game the album charts, record companies would release albums on Tuesday to give a record all 7 days of sales to push the record as high on the charts as they could. Now records come out on Friday.

Lately I’ve noticed there seems to be a  dearth of new music coming out. Bands I know and love who are still out there touring just don’t seem to be releasing new music. Or if they are releasing new music they’re taking years and years to get it released. I get it, there doesn’t seem to be a market for older act’s music any more. They certainly aren’t getting played on terrestrial radio and barely on satellite radio. Sammy Hagar has refused to go back in the studio with Chickenfoot because as he said recently, “I don’t want to work for six months on music no one is going to hear.” I hear ya, Sammy.

The Beatles between 1963 and 1970, a span of 7 years, released 13 albums and one was a  double album. That’s a new album almost every six months. That doesn’t include the myriad number of singles they put out, enough to fill a double LP in and of themselves. That’s a pretty intense schedule. Now we sit and wait and wait for new stuff to come out. There are a number of bands that I’ve noticed are way overdue for a new record. If I’ve missed somebody, please add them in the comments. These bands need to get off their ass and get some new music out. Nobody likes a nostalgia trip… tours take on more meaning when there’s new music to be heard.

In order to help make my case, I will list the band name, their last record and it’s release year…

  1. The Rolling Stones – A Bigger Bang, 2005 – I have never mentioned this in B&V but the Stones are the pinnacle of rock and roll for me. “Some Girls” was the first album I ever bought with my own money. I love the Stones and will travel about anywhere to see them. My buddy Steve helped me see them in New Jersey on their 50th Anniversary Tour, an event I will never be able to repay him for. I can’t believe it’s been over a decade since the Stones put out the awesome late career gem, “A Bigger Bang.” That record was so strong I hoped it would spark a new creative period for the Stones but alas, no. I hear they’re in the studio, but then I heard over the course of a week in December or January they banged out an entire album of blues classics and they might release that. I say, keep working on the new stuff, release the blues thing and we get the best of both worlds.
  2. Steely Dan – Everything Must Go, 2003 – I know these guys have  more music in them. Donald Fagan released a very strong solo album a few years ago, “Sunken Condos” but it’s time Walter Becker joins him in the studio.
  3. The Who – The Endless Wire, 2006 – I just saw the Who live and they still have the fire… It’s been a decade Pete, c’mon. “The Endless Wire” even had a mini-rock opera, “Steel and Glass.” Daltrey did a great album, “Going Back Home” with Wilko Johnson a few years back proving he’s still got the passion in his voice. I’d love a little more Who, I mean, who wouldn’t?
  4. Metallica – Death Magnetic, 2008 – These guys have been promising a new album for a couple of years now. I’ll believe it when I’m  holding it in my hands. “Death Magnetic” was a fantastic return to form for this band. I hear the new stuff will be more like the “Black Album” but they are taking forever.
  5. Guns N Roses – Chinese Democracy, 2008 – Am I nuts to think Slash, Duff and Axl will end up in the studio after their triumphant reunion tour. I can still dream can’t I? It’s been 8 years since Axl’s magnum opus “Chinese Democracy,” surely he’s got something new?
  6. Green Day – Uno, Dos, Tre, 2012 – I can’t believe it’s been four years since Green Day went nuts and released three albums at time, and then Billie Joe Armstrong had his meltdown. There was probably one classic record hidden amongst these three albums. I was glad to see them drop the rock opera thing and just cut songs. Billie Joe did a duet album of Everly Brothers songs with Norah Jones, which was solid, quiet little album in 2013 but nothing since…
  7. Norah Jones – Little Broken Hearts, 2012 – Speaking of Norah Jones it’s been 4 years since her last solo record (“Foreverly” w/ Billie Joe Armstrong, aside). I know, I know, she’s not rock and roll per se, but she sings like an angel. Whenever I hear her voice I stop what I’m doing and just stare at the stereo. If I die and hear her voice, I’ll know I’m in Heaven. If I hear country music, I’ll know I’ve been a very, very bad man.
  8. Randy Newman – Harps and Angels, 2008 – Many people hate Randy Newman. I am not one of them. “Short People” was a joke, folks. He was being satirical and trying to make a statement about bigotry. “Harps and Angels” had some wonderful political satire and God knows, America could use some of that right now. And, the song “Potholes” is one of the funniest fucking songs he’s ever done.
  9. Depeche Mode – Delta Machine, 2013 – I loved this oddly bluesy album. Depeche has been on a hot streak of late. I also loved Dave Gahan’s record with the Soulsavers, “Angels and Ghosts.” I’m ready for some more Mode!
  10. Fleetwood Mac – Say You Will, 2003 – Christine McVie is back in the fold. Lindsey is releasing more music these days than he’s ever done. Likely the problem is Stevie Nicks who keeps thinking she’s going to regain her “Bella Donna” era fame… Stevie has released a couple of great solo albums of late, but it’s time for a Mac Attack.
  11. Paul McCartney – New, 2013 – Sure, it’s only been 3 years, but this was a guy who was in the Beatles who released music every six months… He seems to spend all his time in the studio or on the road. “New” was the last in a succession of great LP’s that McCartney has been releasing that began with “Flaming Pie.” His late period albums have been really great, quite like Bob Dylan. Do yourself a favor and explore his later catalog. “New” was so good, I”m ready for more.
  12. No Doubt – Push And Shove, 2012 – I never liked No Doubt until I saw them live. They were loud and they rawked! Gwen Stefani, when she’s not fucking about on her solo crap, is a charismatic and energetic front woman. I know she’s off doing her solo stuff now, which I despise, while her former band mates are carrying on with another singer. Let’s settle this little rift and get back together kids. Come home, Gwen, all is forgiven.
  13. Gregg Allman – Low Country Blues, 2011 – The Allman Brothers are now defunct, sadly. Gregg’s last solo album, “Low Country Blues” was a great T Bone Burnett produced album of blues classics. I’d like to see Gregg write some stuff, let T Bone produce, but can we bring the organ sound back up in the mix a little this time? “Laid Back,” Gregg’s first solo album is one of my all time favorites. He’s sober, he’s been touring so his voice is likely strong… now is the time!
  14. Bruce Springsteen – High Hopes, 2014 (really it’s Wrecking Ball, 2012) – Sure, Springsteen released the strong “High Hopes” in 2014 but it was a group of songs that were left over from his previous two or three records. So, his last actual album of new stuff was 2012’s “Wrecking Ball.” I wasn’t crazy about “Wrecking Ball,” it was ok, but I liked “High Hopes.” I just read Springsteen is putting out a companion disc with his biography of “greatest hits”and a few unreleased early tracks but I’m ready for a full album of new stuff. I hear he’s got a solo record in the can, but I’d rather hear him with the E Street Band… we’ve already lost Clarence and Danny, how much time can Bruce afford to waste here? The band sounds great on the River Tour, lets take that energy into the studio.
  15. The Faces – Ooh La La, 1974 – OK, as everybody whose read B&V knows, I’m obsessed with Rod Stewart reuniting with the Faces. I know Kenny Jones and Ronnie Wood are the only remaining members (besides Rod) left but Goddammit I love the Faces. How kick ass would it be to see those guys put out an album. The songwriting team of Stewart-Wood put out some of my favorite tunes. This is more of an inside joke than anything, but like GnR, I can dare to dream….

Cheers!!

BourbonAndVinyl Turns 1 Year Old: Thank You!

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Yesterday, July 11th, BourbonAndVinyl.net turned 1 year old… Happy Birthday to us! I just wanted to pause and thank all of you who have stopped their busy days to take some time to read B&V. When I started this music blog with my Mission Statement a year ago, I never thought anybody would actually read this. It was just something to do in between drinking and putting albums on the stereo. My goal was to entertain. I’m not sure if I’ve accomplished that or not, but over 2,000 people have visited us over the last year. Well, it’s either 2,000 different people or my mother has just logged on 2,000 times… My Sainted Mother is very supportive… Anyway, thank you to all of you who have read B&V. I appreciate all the support and comments. I hope you’ll continue checking us out from time to time. If you like something we post, please tell a friend.

Thank you!!!

LP Review: Red Hot Chili Pepper’s “The Getaway”: Disappointed

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The Red Hot Chili Peppers, to me, have always been like guys I went to high school with. They might have been a few classes ahead of me and part of that cool crowd I could only aspire to hang out with but they seemed like friends. I look forward to their LP releases like I do an email from an old roommate. My anticipation for “The Getaway” was extra heightened as it’d be their second with “new” guitarist Josh Klinghoffer. After spending the last two days listening, I have to say, I’m disappointed. I can’t even print the Rock Chick’s reaction…suffice it to say her beautiful nose was crinkled up…

I’m like most people. I got on the Chili Peppers’ bandwagon after “Blood Sugar Sex Magik,” their masterpiece. I bought it in the used record store after I heard “Under the Bridge.” Nothing had me prepared for the punk rock/funk that exploded out of the speakers. I sort of filed that record away and only went back to it sparingly. I was too focused on Pearl Jam and Soundgarden at the time… Then, years later came “One Hot Minute” with Dave Navarro manning the guitar. When I heard the song “Warped” something clicked in my brain (“my tendencies for dependencies are upending me…” God, I love that line). I loved that song and I even liked that mostly uneven album. I read recently that Flea describes it as a “bastard” album. I think “orphaned” album would be the more proper term, at least a bastard has parents. It was deeply flawed but I loved what they were doing. I quickly pulled out “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” and realized I’d over looked a really special album. I immediately decamped to the record store and bought “Mother’s Milk.” I was hooked, I was in. I even own their first album despite the fact that I despise “rap-rock” for the most part. “Police Helicopter” and “Get Up And Jump” are great tunes…but I digress.

To have been along for the ride when Frusciante came back was thrilling. “Californication,” “By the Way,” and especially “Stadium Arcadium” are landmark albums in this band’s career. One might consider it their “golden” period. I even bought the oft overlooked live album, “Live In Hyde Park” which will be on my list of Essential Live Albums, if I ever get around to writing it. I was saddened when I heard Frusciante was once again leaving the band after the “Stadium Arcadium” tour but by then I’d realized that the Peppers had survived so many changes at guitarist that I was un-phased. It was a shame but I looked forward to what came next. I mean, I dug “One Hot Minute,” it was likely I was going to like what came next.

What came next, of course, was “I’m With You” with then new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer. I think Chad Smith’s quote about the state of the band at the time sums it up, “This is a new band. Same name, but it’s a different band.” Anthony Kiedis even said, “This is a beginning.” With Frusciante and even with Navarro the Chili Peppers had a very strong guitarist and they sort of let the guitar take the lead (maybe especially with Navarro, they really accommodated him). Granted, Flea is the greatest bass player of his generation and plays with an aggressive abandon that I just love, but the band tended to cater to the guitarist de jour. That changed with Klinghoffer. He’s a capable, melodic guitarist, but virtuoso would not be on his resume. Between “Stadium Arcadium” and “I’m With You” Flea had famously gone to USC to study “music theory” and it showed on “I’m With You.” It was clear the focus on song structure was more acute on that album. I liked “I’m With You,” I even bought all the B-sides (“I’m Beside You”). Even so, I could tell “I’m With You” was a transitional album. The music was basically the same thing they’d done with Frusciante, only with Klinghoffer, a less skilled guitarist, filling in that role. I knew something would change on the next outing…

Enter, “The Getaway.” First and foremost, it would appear that Klinghoffer has now been fully integrated into the band. He’s no longer trying to fill Frusciante’s shoes, he’s clearly changed the way they approach songwriting and how they perform. The band seems like a more cohesive unit vs a group playing around a virtuoso guitarist ala Frusciante. The next big change was with producer: Rick Rubin was out after six albums together and Brain Burton (aka Danger Mouse) was in. I wasn’t too worried about the change at producer, especially because on U2’s last outing, “Songs of Innocence,” the best tunes were the ones Burton produced. However, Burton’s production brings a more “pop” sensibility where as Rubin brought a rock sensibility. This album is very slickly produced… I have remarked it’s so polished I can see my reflection.

After repeated listens, I must sadly admit, I’m disappointed. I read on-line that Kiedis recently went through a painful break-up and who knows what’s true, but this feels like a break-up album. An undercurrent of remorse and regret run through the whole thing. The rockers don’t quite rock with the raw, dangerous feel that the Chili’s usually bring. Even on the upbeat song, “Detroit” when Anthony sings, “Detroit, I’m crazy,” it doesn’t sound like a good kind of crazy or joyful at all. The ballads don’t seem to have the emotional intimacy the Peppers can usually create. Most of the songs fall into a mid-tempo, gauzy groove. Burton’s production makes this sound like a 70s pop album… and appropriately enough the King of 70s Pop, Elton John shows up on the collaboration “Sick Love” which is one of the better tunes here.

“The Longest Wave” is a beautiful ballad but it’s followed up with the slow “Goodbye Angels” which is better, but still midtempo at best. “The Hunter” is just depressing. I’ve heard some comparisons to the Beatles psychedelic period but I only hear that on “Feasting On the Flowers” and “Dreams of a Samurai” and it comes across more as an additional, accent color on their musical palette than a real musical direction. “Encore” is another meandering mid tempo song. It’s just too easy to lose interest amidst all this downer mellowness.

“Go Robot” is a funky, upbeat tune that is one of the better things here. “Ticonderoga” misses the mark slightly but at least it rocks. “Detroit” musters a little menace, I mean if you’re going to name-check Iggy’s home town you better bring a little “Search and Destory” swagger… But, alas, again the rockers just don’t bring the danger.

The best songs here are the first three that were available when you preordered the LP. “Dark Necessities” is one of their all time best tunes, proving even on bad albums, great bands will come up with at least one classic. “We Turn Red” is the best funky rocker on the album. Even the disco pretensions of the title tune, “The Getaway,” work. That song grows on you with each additional listen.

Further on the upside, I’ve never heard Kiedis sing better. Each album his vocal abilities improve. He sings beautifully and clearly from the heart. Flea’s bass is a gem. I think I finally understand Flea and Anthony’s relationship. It’s basic yen/yang. Flea is the light, Anthony brings the darkness. Klinghoffer isn’t going to win any “Guitarist of the Year” awards, but he brings some interesting guitar melodies. Chad Smith is the one who has to be most upset here… what they did to his drum sound is quite possibly illegal in southern states. He misses Rubin the most out of anybody here. And, I have to admit, there is more experimentation with different sounds on this record than I’ve heard from these guys and I will always respect an artist who stretches what they do. I would chalk this up as a “Noble Failure.”

While I can’t recommend this album, I’d say there are still a few tracks like “Dark Necessities” that are worth checking out. If this album tanks you have to wonder if Flea and Anthony will continue with Klinghoffer at guitar. It doesn’t look like Frusciante will be coming back as he continues to release unlistenable solo albums. Will they stay the course? I’m hopeful they do change producers. The Danger Mouse thing didn’t work for me… I don’t think I’m getting off the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ bandwagon… but this record makes it a challenge to hang on… I guess I’ll just have to look forward to the next one…

Cheers!

Ray Corsi’s Book: The Recovery Plan: A Novel

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In this blog I typically focus on reviewing albums and/or songs by classic rock acts. For once, I would like to turn my attention to a great novel I read recently. I don’t know if there is such a thing as a “rock and roll novel” but “The Recovery Plan: A Novel” by Ray Corsi would fit the description. I found it out on the Amazon.com Kindle store.

It’s a coming of age/late bloomer story about a music fan set in the late 90’s. The protagonist, Keith Modena, wakes up one day after yet another brutal break up. The guy is in his early 30’s, living in a crappy apartment, in a job he hates, alone except for several record crates full of vinyl albums. There are more rock music quotes in this book than any book I have ever read. I am almost tempted to try to re-read the book and make a playlist inspired by quotes contained within. Corsi quotes everyone from Bob Dylan to the Faces to Led Zeppelin. It’s funny how music has that magic quality of transporting you back in time to a specific memory. Corsi uses this to great effect in the story.

The story is written in a raw, first person style that makes it feel almost like you’re reading someone’s diary. The vibe I got when I was reading it was more like I was sitting in a bar and a stranger pulled up a stool, ordered a bourbon and started telling me a story. There is a lot of witty humor in this novel. I found myself laughing out loud, even during some of the more heart rending scenes.

Keith, the main character, ends up teaming up with an old college acquaintance and they end up drinking and chasing women together. Keith thinks this is his way out of the hole he has dug for himself in life. He lives the sex, booze and rock and roll life with his college buddy. Unfortunately that turns into yet another blind alley for him. But it is a fun ride to go down that path with him.

Finally Keith has a series of revelations after meeting a rock solid, beautiful woman who has a child. He realizes he needs to “grow up”. Keith finally starts taking the steps and setting the goals that lead him to a more self-actualize life. It all leads him to the real “Recovery Plan”. He finds a non-traditional, very patient therapist who helps him out of the rut he’s in.

What I liked about the book, besides the music references, was the notion that it’s never too late for anybody. You can always change the course of your life if you’re not satisfied with it. In the end, this is really a story about redemption. I’ve always been a Humanist at heart. Webster defines humanism as: “a doctrine, attitude, or way of life centered on human interests or values; especially :  a philosophy that usually rejects supernaturalism and stresses an individual’s dignity and worth and capacity for self-realization through reason.” That concept is uniquely captured by “The Recovery Plan: A Novel.” Despite mistakes and memories that haunt him, Keith overcomes all of it to a happy life. One of the messages of the book that really resonated with me was the notion that “the only thing we change about the past is how we perceive it.” That was a little mind blowing for me. 

The first half of the novel, Keith spends most of his time in self-destructive behavior, but that just sets up the second half where he pulls his life together. I thought it was a really great read and I recommend it to all BourbonAndVinyl enthusiasts. Pour something strong and murky, download “The Recovery Plan” on your Kindle and enjoy!

Cheers!