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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

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Concert Review: Bush With Guest Starcrawler, Kansas City, February 7th, 2023, At The Midland Theater – Heavy, Fabulous Rock n Roll

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*Picture of Gavin Rossdale and Nik Hughes of Bush at the Midland Theater May 7th, 2023 taken by your intrepid blogger

I was lucky enough to see grunge stalwarts Bush last night at the majestic Midland Theater and man, was I glad I did. I was lucky enough that one of my favorite new bands, Starcrawler, was the opener. I was talking to a friend of mine at brunch this Sunday who had the previous evening seen Anthony Gomes, one of his favorite acts. I remember saying to my friend, “Is there a better feeling than that buzz and elation you feel the morning after a great, great concert?” And here I am, just a few days later and I have to tell you I’m feeling that today. What a great night, what a great concert.

People forget how big Bush was back in the middle 90s. Their name was never whispered in those same revered tones as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden or Alice In Chains but they were huge. Their debut, Sixteen Stone, kicked off 5 hit singles. Bush’s lyrics were as dark as anything AIC or Nirvana put out but I guess since they were being sung by frontman/rhythm guitarist Gavin Rossdale who is a handsome dude, they weren’t heard as clearly. The last time I saw Bush was in the summer of 1997 after I’d escaped a harrowing journey to Jamaica with a friend of mine. We managed to talk our way out of the country – no police were involved, thankfully – and got back to KC early. With time left on vacation we went out and scalped tickets at Sandstone Ampitheater to see Bush and I was duly impressed that night. I went out and bought their 2nd LP, Razorblade Suitcase the next day. “Cold Contagious” remains a favorite of mine.

But like most people, after that I sort of lost touch with Bush. I’d hear the stray single like “The Chemicals Between Us,” but I wasn’t buying LPs. They disbanded after 2001’s Golden State because the lead guitar player didn’t want to tour. I told that story to the Rock Chick and she merely asked, “Why do musicians join bands if they don’t want to leave the house?” Bush reformed in 2011 and have been putting out great records ever since. The line up today consists of: vocalist/guitarist Gavin Rossdale (the only original member left), lead guitarist Corey Traynor, bassist Corey Britz, and drummer Nik Hughes. The current line up is responsible for the last two Bush albums which have really signaled a return to form for these guys. The Kingdom (2020) and The Art of Survival (2022) are great albums, especially The Art of Survival. If you haven’t checked that one out, you need to. Bush is so much heavier rock now. It was no surprise to me last night that over half the songs Bush played were from those two albums. When I discovered The Art of Survival, I played it for the Rock Chick and it’s now one of her favorite albums. When I saw they were coming to town on the tour I knew I had to get tickets, not just for me but for her…

Bush took the stage and started off the evening with one of the new songs, “Identity,” and it was a great kick off. Immediately I realized that this rhythm section – Nik Hughes and Corey Britz – are a rumbling thunder and lighting engine for this band. They’re so heavy and so wonderful. The drums and bass felt like they were hitting me in the chest. The second track of the night was from Sixteen Stone, one of my favorites, “Machinehead.” I was on my feet screaming. There were so many highlights. “The Chemicals Between Us” was a punchy, rocking favorite. I was actually very surprised how much Gavin eschewed his rhythm guitar and danced around. His dancing is a little idiosyncratic, he’s no Jagger, but he was into it and it fueled the crowd. “The Sound Of Winter” is another personal favorite – it’s a track the Rock Chick  turned me onto and it didn’t disappoint last night.

“Flowers On A Grave” is a fabulous tune off of The Kingdom and last night’s performance was a show stopper. While the band riffed, Rossdale jumped into the crowd and sang from the floor… oh and from the balcony on the third floor. He ran a full circle around the entire theater, singing all the while. Not to go all “fan boy” on you but I actually high-fived him as he passed right by my aisle seat. Afterward he complimented the theater saying, “You can tell a lot of care went into building this theater.” After that he brought the house down again with “Everything Zen.” That song has one of my favorite lyrics that my brother probably wrote, “Should I fly to Los Angeles, find my asshole brother.” They brought it down after that for a lovely ballad from the new record, “1000 Years” that I just loved. I’ll admit “Quicksand” lost me a bit but then they launched into the two best tracks from the new album, “Heavy Is the Ocean” (about the environment) and “More Than Machines” (that he dedicated to the women in the audience). Those were absolute highlights and should remain part of Bush’s live shows for the rest of their career. The main set ended with “Little Things” which drove the crowd into a frantic scream for more.

The encore was three tracks. They rocked “The Kingdom” and I have to admit, it’s a great song. Then it was a slow track with the hit ballad “Glycerine.” They wrapped it up with “Comedown” and they jammed on that one. When the show was over Gavin, who seems like a nice, charismatic guy, thanked the crowd and wished Kansas City “good luck in the Super Bowl.” He even said “Go Chiefs!” I couldn’t help but notice that on the encore bassist Corey Britz had donned a Chiefs stocking cap. Hey, call me cheesy, but as a Chiefs season ticket holder, those kind of gestures really win me over.

As I mentioned earlier, one of my favorite new bands Starcrawler were the opening act. I just saw Starcrawler back in August and they put on a great show that night. They’re still touring behind their third, very strong album She Said. Starcrawler played a taught, rocking 13-song, 45 minute set. They opened with “Goodtime Girl” a track I’ve always liked. They played a number of tracks from the new album, “Roadkill,” “Stranded” and the title track. Lead singer Arrow de Wilde and lead guitarist Henri Cash seemed to delight in having such a big stage to move around on. Those guys are developing a great Jagger/Richards singer/guitarist chemistry on stage. They played a cover they’ve been doing “If You’re Gonna Be Dumb, You Gotta Be Tough,” that for some odd reason I just love. Cash introduced “I Love L.A.” as “a song about Kansas City.”? They did their raucous cover of “Pet Semetary.” Other highlights were “Ants” and “Bet My Brains,” the show ender. Arrow dances on stage like shes’ a mix of ballerina and rubber band. She’s a truly charismatic front woman. However, she clearly disappointed with the KC crowd last night. She seemed unhappy they weren’t getting into them more so she decided to make them angry. She said, after different songs, “It even smells like the 90s in here…” (not sure what that meant), “Kansas City, your BBQ sucks” (those are fighting words in this town), and the big winner for me was “Thank you for having us at the Boring Convention, I hope you’ll have us back next year.” About the only thing she didn’t say to incite the crowd was, “Go Eagles.” Arrow, we love you in Kansas City, as was proved when you played here last August, but this was Bush crowd.

While Starcrawler will not be opening for Bush any more, it doesn’t matter who is opening, you need to see Bush when they come to your town. They were so good last night I was thinking about gassing up the car and driving to Toronto for their next show… although I’d have to find my passport somewhere… Bush is on a roll with two great LPs in a row and are red hot on stage right now. Rossdale has discovered the right chemistry with this band and people should hear them immediately!

Cheers! “Heavy is the ocean, cracked but we don’t break….”

David Crosby, Founding Member of The Byrds, Crosby, Stills Nash &/or Young – Gone at 81 – RIP Croz

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*Image taken from the internet and copyrighted

I was sitting at my desk just now working for my corporate masters but really “doing next to nothing but different than the day before,” when I saw the sad news that David Crosby, “Croz,” had passed away after a long illness. He was 81. Man, what a bummer couple of weeks it’s been. First, legendary guitarist Jeff Beck passes. Then Lisa Marie Presley, the daughter of the King, passes away. And now this. Crosby was a founding member of seminal folk-rock group the Byrds with Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark, Chris Hillman and Micheal Clarke. He was a founding member of Crosby, Stills & Nash (and sometimes Young) and oh my god the vocal harmonies those guys could create. He was also a solo artist. I was a big, big fan. He had been on a creative hot streak of late. What a voice. I wonder how many people he sang back up vocals for? Jackson Browne, Neil Young, Stephen Stills, Phil Collins… the list goes on and on.

Crosby, as I mentioned, helped found the Byrds. I have to admit, despite my younger brother – who was always way ahead of me musically… perhaps he’s an old soul – owning several Byrds’ records I didn’t connect with until the last few years. When I discovered how great they were I went crashing through their first five albums – from Mr. Tambourine Man to The Notorious Byrd Brothers. They were the first band to take tunes by Dylan (and other traditional folk songs) and electrify them. Crosby’s vocals and rhythm guitar were a critical component of the band. He did upset the rest of the band when he substituted with the Buffalo Springfield, a perceived rival band, at the Monterey musical festival… he was sub’ing for an absent Neil Young. The man was nothing if not headstrong. When he submitted the song “Triad” about a menage a trois to the band McGuinn had had enough. He was kicked out of the band. Although the Jefferson Airplane had no problem covering it.

A staple of the Laurel Canyon music scene, it was at a party at Mama Cass’ house that he ran into Stephen Stills, newly freed from the Buffalo Springfield and Graham Nash, recently freed from the Hollies. They harmonized on Stills’ “Suite Judy Blue Eyes” and they realized, “Hey, maybe we’re onto something here.” Their first LP, creatively titled Crosby Stills & Nash was a smash. They played their first concert at Woodstock! Neil Young joined and they recorded their second album, which I love, Deja Vu. At that point the group unity kinda went south. Everybody went off to solo careers. While Crosby Stills & Nash would regroup quite often, Neil only joined for a CSNY reunion a couple of times over the years – for American Dream and Looking Forward. I actually really liked those albums… although I may be the only person who did. I was lucky enough to see CSNY on the Looking Forward tour and it was great. I went with my friend the Jean Genie who was 8 months pregnant. You’ve never gotten hostile stares at a concert until you’ve gone with a pregnant woman… and I’ve vomited at concerts. I wasn’t her husband, it wasn’t my fault she was pregnant.

Crosby’s first solo album after CSNY had gone their separate ways was If Only I Could Remember My Name, a title I laughed at when I was in college. I finally picked it up a few years back and it’s absolutely wonderful. It’s one of my favorites. “Cowboy Movie” is one of his greatest tunes ever written. Crosby also did several great LPs with erstwhile friend Graham Nash whose voices intertwined to sound like angels. I recommend Graham Nash/David Crosby and Wind On The Water to any fan of CSN. I like so much of CSNY’s solo work and duo albums. All of that early, mid-70s stuff is just dynamite music.

Crosby’s solo career saw the release of only three albums over the first 40 years and five albums over the last ten years. He had two bands he was working with. The Lighthouse band did The Lighthouse and Here If You Listen. I never connected as strongly with those records but I loved Sky Trails. To me that record signaled Croz had a lot more music in him. He recorded that album in collaboration with, among others, his son James Raymond. His last record, For Free, was another great record. Laid back, super vocals, great vibe music. Both those latter LPs were the kind of albums that B&V were founded for – great late career LPs by established artists.

Crosby wrote so many great songs. “Deja Vu,” “Almost Cut My Hair,” “Guinivere” (covered by Miles Davis no less), “Wooden Ships,” “Long Time Gone,” “Delta,” “Cowboy Movie,” “Compass,” “Capitol,” and “Carry Me” just to name a few. And that list doesn’t even mention any of his songs in the Byrds. He was really an iconic, rock n roll legend. A true Rock Star. He was a big figure in the counter culture and helped inspire Neil Young to write the greatest protest song ever, “Ohio.” He produced one of Joni Mitchell’s early albums. And like true rock stars, he did have a drug problem and ran afoul of the law. He actually did some time in Texas. What rock star amongst you is guilt free? He will be truly missed. Not only for the great music from the 70s that he was most known for but for the great music he was still making. This is even more tragic as he was in the middle of a true career renaissance.

Croz, we’ll miss you man. RIP to a legend. I have to say, tonight will be a long evening delving into Crosby’s music from throughout his storied career. I guess, as Croz once sang, “I feel like letting my freak flag fly, Yes, I feel like I owe it to someone…”

It’s a long dark ride folks. Take care of each other out there. Cheers!

Playlist…We Kick Off 2023 By… Looking Back 50 Years – 1973

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I know we’re already a few days into this brand spanking new year and I may be late on this, but let me wish all of you a Happy New Year! It’s 2023 which when I was kid would have sounded like a date from the reruns of Star Trek we all watched religiously after school… I can almost hear Captain Kirk saying, “Star Date 2023… and I’ve just met a captivating green woman…” I don’t know if other families are like mine when it comes to Christmas, but right around Thanksgiving the Rock Chick suddenly morphs into Mrs. Claus. A tree pops up fully decorated and there are lights strung everywhere. Suddenly gone from the stereo are the latest LPs from the Cult or Bush replaced by (gads) Mariah Carey and Bing Crosby. Xmas is a terribly frightful time for me even if I am a reformed Grinch. I only like a little of the Xmas music…so I suffer most of it. But once the relatives have gone home and our daughter heads to the airport the Rock Chick shuts Xmas down like somebody threw a light switch or a referee has blown a whistle. Down comes the tree and the lights. The forest of poinsettias gets mowed down like somebody struck oil in the living room. That’s one thing about the Rock Chick, she’s not sentimental. Once Christmas passes, it’s pull off the red, green and white band-aid time.

Then we enter that weird week between Xmas and New Year’s Day. The Rock Chick, who literally single-handedly does everything for Xmas, sort of collapses in exhaustion. I wander around the house wondering which day of the week it is. It’s during this time that I go into a deep fog of heavy reflection. Typically that produces my year end “best of” list for the previous 12 months and 2022 was no exception. But of course the range of my reflection goes well beyond just music. I ruminate over tumblers of dark, murky liquids about everything. I think most people get a little reflective during that week between the holidays…nothing to do at work, might as well ruminate. There’s nothing that reminds us more of the ticking of the clock than the end of one year and the beginning of the next. As Jackson Browne famously sang, “I’ve been aware of the time going by, they say in the end it’s a wink of an eye.” Questions like “What did I accomplish this year?” or “How far have I come in life?” are naturally rolling around our heads during that time.

Then New Year’s Day hits and everyone is slightly hungover and it’s time to look forward towards the future. People start asking different questions like “What will I accomplish this year?” or “How can I improve myself this year?” and so on. This is the time that everybody starts making New Year’s Resolutions. I usually do the dreaded “Dry January,” but not this year. Dry January was easy to do when the Kansas City Chiefs weren’t competitive. Now that they’re in the playoffs most January’s it’s virtually impossible for me to stay completely sober down the stretch. I have to do my part to help them win, which typically means consuming beer and pacing in front of the TV.  I considered giving up coffee but… why? I have noticed my local gym is now packed with new people and will likely remain so until mid-February when all of this New Year/New Me mania wears off.

While most people start thinking about the future I can’t help myself, I’m always a little stuck in that reflective mode in January, looking backward. I’ve come to realize over the years that the only thing I can change about the past is how I look at it or how I react to it which helps frame it (or perhaps tame it is more appropriate). Naturally all of this reflection eventually leads me back to music. A couple of years ago (2021) I read an article about 1971 being the greatest year ever in music. Many of the albums released in ’71 were celebrating 50th anniversaries and I have to admit it was an amazing year for music. I actually put together a 1971 Playlist culled from those landmark LPs released that year and really enjoyed doing so. Last year, 2022, I looked back again to 1972 (complete with playlist) and again, I really enjoyed it. 1971 to me was really the last gasp of the era we identify as the 60’s and 1972, to me anyway, was the real birth of the 70s. I don’t subscribe to the theory that when the calendar goes from a year that ends in “9” to a year that ends in “0” music and culture just change on a dime. There’s usually a slow fade of one decade and a slow blossoming of the new.

In that spirit, I thought I’d look back 50 years again, this time to 1973. Let me be real clear though, in 1973 I was still counting years in single digits. I had very few clear memories from ’71 or even ’72. 1973 is the first year I can admit to remembering… well, I remember hearing some of the songs on this list anyway. So much of this music from 1973 was in high rotation when I started listening to music years later, it’s almost iconic. I joked when listening to all that great music from 1971 I needed a leather, fringe jacket ala David Crosby to satisfy my hippy Jones. Listening to music from ’73 makes me remember riding around in mom’s green Ford with the AM radio cranked. What I’d need to celebrate my 70s Jones would probably be a polyester leisure suit that curiously matches what my brother has on.

1973 was such a tumultuous time for the world. It started off on a bummer when Nixon was inaugurated for his second term. Even then Watergate hung over his Administration. Later in the year we saw what is now known as the Saturday Night Massacre where Nixon fired his Attorney General and Deputy AG in order to circumvent the rule of law. Fun times. OPEC started an oil embargo and I remember seeing long lines at gas stations. The Vietnam Peace was still being negotiated in Paris. Thug Spiro Agnew resigned as the VP of the U.S. and was replaced with clumsy Gerald Ford. Pinochet came to power in Chile to tragic consequences. There was a war in the Middle East on Yom Kippur. George Foreman beat Joe Frazier and became the heavy weight champ… Ali was watching and working up his rope-a-dope act even then I suppose. The Godfather, one of my absolute favorite movies came out that year. I still like to say, when something’s gone wrong, “You have to answer for Santino, Carlo.” We’d shifted away from the hippy good vibes of the 60s and the Me Generation took root. It all sounds like a drag… at least we had some great music in 1973.

There were a lot of great, legendary artists who put out their debut albums in 1973: Springsteen (who put out 2 LPs that year), Aerosmith, Tom Waits, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Queen. Talk about a list of artists who shaped the 70s, that’s it. Many artists put out 2 LPs in ’73: Elton John, Al Green, Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac (in pre-Buckingham/Nicks configuration), Bob Marley and Bowie. We got great LPs from huge acts like Zeppelin and the Who which didn’t happen in ’72. All four ex-Beatles put out solo LPs in ’73 as did other acts who emerged from 60s bands: Paul Simon, Gram Parsons (posthumously), David Ruffin, and Stephen Stills (with Manassas). The world discovered Bob Marley & the Wailers as they started their time with Island Records and went international. While many may crinkle their noses at 1973 as compared to ’71 or ’72, I have to admit there were so many great albums put out in that year I had over 110 songs to start this thing. I had to make really hard choices to winnow it down to these 70 tracks because as wonderful as my pithy comments on the tracks are, no one wants to read 110 song comments… That many great albums has gotta say something about the quality of the music from ’73. And I didn’t even include anything from Neil Young’s Time Fades Away or Bob Seger’s Back In ’72 because neither of those albums are available on Spotify…

As usual I based this list on tracks from LPs released in ’73. If a song was released in ’72 and reigned the charts in ’73 you won’t find it here. I’m into LPs. There are a few exceptions – singles I couldn’t resist putting on here – but they were all released in 1973. I tend to gravitate toward deep tracks but for ’73 I put more “hit” songs on here than usual. You can find this playlist on Spotify under “BourbonAndVinyl. 1973” and as always if you have additions you’d like me to make, mention them in the comments and I’ll add them on the Spotify list. I always look at these playlists as “our” playlists. I always play these on “shuffle.”

  1. Bruce Springsteen, Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J., “Spirit In The Night” – From the Boss’ debut. A group of youngsters go out to a local lake and party.
  2. Aerosmith, Aerosmith, “Dream On” – This song, which didn’t really get popular until a few years later when Aerosmith broke big in 75/76 may have invented the power ballad.
  3. Little Feat, Dixie Chicken, “Dixie Chicken” – I love Little Feat and this is their most famous song. Boy meets girl, girl leaves with a guitar player… a story as old as time.
  4. Elton John, Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player, “Elderberry Wine” – I went with this deep track that I’d also used on our Drinking Playlist because it’s one of my favorite Elton deep tracks. I like the line, “the bottle went round like a woman down south, passed on from hand to hand.”
  5. Gram Parsons, G.P., “She” – Gram Parsons, a Southerner, writing about his mama and how she could sing.
  6. Deep Purple, Who Do We Think We Are, “Woman From Tokyo” – One of my favorites from Deep Purple.
  7. Alice Cooper, Billion Dollar Babies, “No More Mr. Nice Guy” – I could have picked about any track off this album, my favorite from Alice Cooper. It does sort of capture the Alice persona.
  8. The Stooges, Raw Power, “Search And Destroy” – Iggy Pop and the Stooges with an iconic hard rock song that helped inspire a lot of punk bands.
  9. Dr. John, In The Right Place, “Right Place Wrong Time” – Sadly, we lost Dr. John recently (2020). B.B. King later did a nice cover of this. I have literally always been in the right place at the wrong time.
  10. Dusty Springfield, Cameo, “Tupelo Honey” – Dusty covering Van Morrison. Not as epic as the original but still a great song.
  11. David Ruffin, David Ruffin, “(If Lovin’ You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right” – The former front man of the Temptations and one of my favorite singers. Rod Stewart covered this song later in the 70s and hearing this you can absolutely hear the influence.
  12. Pink Floyd, Dark Side Of The Moon, “Money” – The album that changed everything for Pink Floyd. Iconic.
  13. The Doobie Brothers, The Captain And Me, “Dark Eyed Cajun Lady” – I went with this deep track vs the myriad hits on the album as it’s just a great country rock track.
  14. Tom Waits, Closing Time, “Ol’ 55” – I love this LP, but I’m partial to debut LPs. This version is so much better than the one by the Eagles done a few years later.
  15. The Byrds, The Byrds, “Full Circle” – From the final reunion of the original members of the Byrds. It was a dud commercially but this is a great Gene Clark song.
  16. Led Zeppelin, Houses Of The Holy, “Over The Hills And Far Away” – Probably the best known track from the album. I almost went with “The Ocean” a favorite of the Rock Chick.
  17. Faces, Ooh La La, “Cindy Incidentally” – The Faces’ last gasp. It was the single, although the title track should have been. This LP is much better than it’s reputation.
  18. Fleetwood Mac, Penguin, “Remember Me” – A really pretty track from the late Christine McVie.
  19. Johnny Winter, Still Alive And Well, “Silver Train” – Johnny shaking his magic blues dust on a Stones track. Great Stones cover.
  20. J. Geils Band, Bloodshot, “Give It To Me” – This track starts off with a reggae vibe and turns into a guitar jam. It’s loose and perfect.
  21. David Bowie, Aladdin Sane, “The Jean Genie” – A song I used to nickname my good friend Jeanne… Aladdin Sane gets attention for it’s iconic cover, but trust me, pull the record out and put it on the turntable. I almost picked “Panic In Detroit” from this one.
  22. Bob Marley & The Wailers, Catch A Fire, “Stir It Up” – If you haven’t explored Marley any deeper than the greatest hits Legend, you need to. Start with this LP.
  23. Eagles, Desperado, “Tequila Sunrise” – From the second album. I left the title track for Linda Ronstadt below.
  24. Stephen Stills (Manassas), Down The Road, “Isn’t It About Time” – The second Manassas LP gets overlooked but this is a great Stills tune.
  25. Wings (Paul McCartney), Red Rose Speedway, “My Love” – From the first of 2 albums in ’73. Paul waxing on about his love does him good.
  26. Al Green, Call Me, “Call Me (Come Back Home)” – Even when he’s singing a break up song, Al sounds happy. One of his best tracks here.
  27. The Marshall Tucker Band, The Marshall Tucker Band, “Can’t You See” – Still one of my favorite train songs.
  28. Paul Simon, There Goes Rhymin’ Simon, “Kodachrome” –  I can close my eyes when I hear this and I’m in the back seat of mom’s car as she careens through traffic.
  29. George Harrison, Living In The Material World, “Give Me Love, (Give Me Peace On Earth)” – If you remove the ex-Beatle expectations Harrison faced, this album would have been much bigger. It’s fantastic a real gem.
  30. Joe Walsh, The Smoker You Drink The Player You Get, “Rocky Mountain Way” – One of the greatest rock anthems of all time.
  31. Sly & The Family Stone, Fresh, “If You Want Me To Stay” – I’m not a huge Sly fan but I’ve always loved this track.
  32. Bob Dylan, Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid (Soundtrack), “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” – Dylan’s iconic song later covered by Eric Clapton, Guns N Roses, and Warren Zevon to name a few.
  33. Queen, Queen, “Keep Yourself Alive” – I forget how hard Queen rocked in those early days.
  34. Grand Funk Railroad, We’re An American Band, “We’re An American Band” – A little patriotic rock n roll!
  35. ZZ Top, Tres Hombres, “La Grange” – From their best LP.
  36. New York Dolls, New York Dolls, “Personality Crisis” – I love the New York Dolls. This is basically early American punk rock.
  37. Steely Dan, Countdown To Ecstacy, “My Old School” – One of Steely’s best tracks from their second album. It’s based on a true story when Messrs Becker and Fagan were in college.
  38. Golden Earring, Moontan, “Radar Love” – This is one of those rock anthems that grabbed me in ’73 even before I’d started listening to music. I think this band had only 2 hits and this one is my favorite.
  39. Stevie Wonder, Innervisions, “Higher Ground” – Later covered by the Red Hot Chili Peppers which the Rock Chick likes better. Don’t tell her but I’m partial to the original.
  40. Lynyrd Skynyrd, (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd), “Gimme Three Steps” – Great song about talking to the wrong woman in a bar.
  41. The Rolling Stones, Goats Head Soup, “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)” – I could have gone with “Angie” but we’ve all heard that one 100 times.
  42. The Allman Brothers Band, Brothers And Sisters, “Jessica” – Their finest instrumental. I love when the piano solo kicks in, played by Chuck Leavell who later played with Eric Clapton and the Stones. I could have gone with “Ramblin’ Man” but this is a personal favorite.
  43. Marvin Gaye, Let’s Get It On, “Let’s Get It On” – Marvin has left behind the worldy concerns of 1971’s What’s Going On for more…temporal concerns.
  44. Van Morrison, Hard Nose The Highway, “Warm Love” – A great song from an uneven album.
  45. Bruce Springsteen, The Wild, The Innocent & The E-Street Shuffle, “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)” – An epic that became a concert staple for years. This is my absolute favorite Springsteen album.
  46. Thin Lizzy, Vagabonds Of The Western World, “Whiskey In A Jar” – Thin Lizzy never got their due. This track was later covered by Metallica.
  47. Linda Ronstadt, Don’t Cry Now, “Desperado” – It was Ronstadt’s cover of “Desperado” that helped make the song a hit for the Eagles.
  48. Elton John, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, “Bennie And The Jets” – From his second legendary LP of the year. I could have picked almost any track on the album but I’m partial to this one for sentimental reasons.
  49. Fleetwood Mac, Mystery To Me, “Hypnotized” – This one is a great track from Bob Welch.
  50. Grateful Dead, Wake Of The Flood, “Eyes Of The World” – I had to have some Dead on here. It’s 1973.
  51. Bob Marley & The Wailers, Burnin’, “Get Up, Stand Up” – I may like Burnin’ even better than Catch A Fire.
  52. Montrose, Montrose, “Bad Motor Scooter” – The world’s introduction to Sammy Hagar. A young lad is afraid of his girlfriend’s dad but still wants her to come out for a motorcycle ride.
  53. Steve Miller Band, The Joker, “The Joker” – A song that takes me back to college… but those records are sealed.
  54. Peter Frampton, Frampton’s Camel, “Do You Feel Like We Do” – Frampton never seemed to find the magic in the studio but the more I go back and listen to original versions of tunes that we all heard live for the first time on Frampton Comes Alive the more I like them.
  55. Rick Derringer, All American Boy, “Rock And Roll, Hoochie Koo” – A song he originally did when he was in the Johnny Winter band.
  56. Jackson Browne, For Everyman, “These Days” – Jackson’s 2nd album was mostly comprised of songs he’d written for other people prior to getting his own record contract. “These Days” had been covered by Nico and Gregg Allman and is truly one of his greatest songs.
  57. Gregg Allman, Laid Back, “Midnight Rider” – A complete re-imagining of the original. I probably like the band version better but I love this version as well.
  58. Ringo Starr, Ringo, “Photograph” – It’s nice to think that Ringo used to have hits.
  59. J. Geils Band, Ladies Invited, “The Lady Makes Demands” – Another great song from J Geils Band. They were just too loose and groovy in the early days to hit it bit. Too bad, it’s all great music.
  60. Paul McCartney & Wings, Live And Let Die Soundtrack, “Live And Let Die” – The name is Bond, James Bond.
  61. Billy Joel, Piano Man, “Piano Man” – From his second album which is considered his debut by many. Autobiographical.
  62. John Lennon, Mind Games, “Mind Games” – Lennon’s solo work is often called “uneven,” but I love this song.
  63. Alice Cooper, Muscle Of Love, “Teenage Lament ’74” – A ballad from their second LP of the year.
  64. Electric Light Orchestra, On The Third Day, “Showdown” – I like to give my friend Doug shit about being an ELO fan but I love this song. A lover telling his lady, “there’s gonna be a showdown” baby. Sadly been there.
  65. Black Sabbath, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” – Such a great, heavy tune. Their first five LPs are perfect.
  66. Wings (Paul McCartney), Band On The Run, “Jet” – Again, I could have picked any song on this album. I just like this one.
  67. The Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Ozark Mountain Daredevils, “If You Wanna Get To Heaven” – I live too close to the Ozarks not to have included this one. I took this as gospel… so I raised a little Hell. Well, maybe a lot of Hell.
  68. Sweet, Released as a single, “Ballroom Blitz” – A great great single. Iconic.
  69. T. Rex, Released as a single, “20th Century Boy” – I’ve only recently gotten on the T Rex bandwagon but I think this is one of their best songs outside of “Bang A Gong.”
  70. The Who, Quadrophenia, “Love Reign O’er Me” – The perfect end for this playlist and the album it came from. I remember feeling this way once upon a time…

There it is folks, 1973 in song. Again, if I missed one of your favorites – and believe me I had to remove a bunch of songs and this is still my longest playlist ever – just mention your tune in the comments and I’ll add it to the playlist.

Again, Happy New Year and I hope that 2023 is a serene and happy year for everybody.

Review: The Jimi Hendrix Experience, ‘Los Angeles Forum – April 26, 1969 (Live)’ – An Evening of Loose Jams For An Unruly Crowd

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Only a few days ago I posted about the new Guns N Roses box set celebrating the Use Your Illusions albums. I’m still waking up with the words “With your bitch slap rapping and your cocaine tongue you get noooooothing done…” lodged in my head every morning and yet here I am already posting again. Knowing I’m headed to points out West for the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday I holed up all weekend in the B&V labs listening to the new archival live album put out by the folks down at Experience Hendrix – who really do a nice job with Jimi’s legacy – entitled Los Angeles Forum – April 26, 1969 so I could post before I leave. I think I’m like most folks when I think about Hendrix, I just think about Jimi the Guitar God. I tend to overlook the fact that it wasn’t just Hendrix, it was the Jimi Hendrix Experience. And the Experience were quite a band. Listening to this live album one might say that seeing them live was quite, well, an experience. Joining Jimi in the band were Noel Redding (a frustrated guitarist) on bass and Mitch Mitchell on drums. One of our very first posts was about a Hendrix live album/documentary, Freedom: Atlanta Pop Festival (Live). Although by that show in Hot’lanta on the Fourth of July 1970, Noel Redding had split and had been replaced by Billy Cox on bass. We do so love our live LPs here at B&V.

Ah, April 1969, what a time to be alive! Well, technically I was alive in 1969 but I was just an infant so not really cognizant. I’d have probably been frightened by the sound of an electric guitar turned up to 11. It was a stressful time for Jimi and the Experience. They’d released Electric Ladyland in 1968 and it was an absolute masterpiece. But the follow-up proved to be elusive. Jimi was searching for something. He had built his Electric Ladyland studio in New York, a state of the art facility which he felt he needed to get the sounds he wanted. However the recording process was terribly erratic. They’d go out on the road for a few days, fly back to New York and record for a day or two and then back out on the road. Touring was still a bit of a hodgepodge in those days, not the organized machine it is today. They couldn’t really just focus on making a record. Hendrix would often go out to clubs to party and end up at the studio in the wee small hours with a bunch of hangers on and try and record. It was tough to get anything done and Noel Redding for one was very frustrated with the chaos. By April of ’69 when this concert was recorded Redding was a mere two months away from leaving the Experience.

I know that many of you are thinking, What another live album from Hendrix? At this point it seems like Jimi could have dropped a guitar in 1970 and if it made a sound through the amplifier that was recorded in anyway, it’s been remixed, remastered and released on a record. Every note the guy played that was committed to tape is out there somewhere – some on bootleg, some officially released. This show from the L.A. Forum has been around on bootleg for a long time but it’s new to me and I can only assume the sound quality is much improved over any boot. I love any live stuff we can get from Hendrix because every show and every solo was different. Listening to the Experience live – or later incarnations of Hendrix’s bands – is like listening to jazz masters jamming and improvising. Every nuance is wrung out of every song but different every time. Hendrix was a rock star with a jazz guy’s approach to live performing. So for me the short answer is, Yes! Another live album from Hendrix! If you’re a fan of Hendrix or a fan of guitar, this album is for you.

I get the feeling from listening to Los Angeles Forum – April 26, 1969 that the crowd was pretty unruly that night. The cops come over the PA a few times and Hendrix himself addresses the crowd to mellow out so the band could keep playing. It was spring and I imagine that’s a pretty wild time in California. Especially in ’69. With Redding frustrated and probably contemplating leaving it’s not a stretch to suggest this is the sound of a band who weren’t getting along. Although even that doesn’t stop Hendrix from laying down some tasty riffs. Listening to this album what jumped out at me was how great a drummer Mitch Mitchell was. I don’t ever hear his name mentioned in the same whispered tones of reverence that Keith Moon or Charlie Watts are, but the guy is feral on the drums. He and Hendrix soar on this record while the aforementioned Noel Redding plays the bass almost like a time keeper. Redding’s bass acts as the foundation here while the Hendrix and Mitchell play off each other like Jimmy Page and John Bonham.

I don’t know if it was the chaotic energy of the crowd pressing up against the stage but this album is a loose, jammy affair. There are several long (over ten or fifteen minute) jams. The band is introduced and much like another live LP by the Experience that I have, Winterland, Hendrix comes out and has to apologize while he gets his guitar sorted out. I don’t know if Jimi was too cheap to hire a proper guitar tech or they couldn’t find one but did he ever get on stage ready to play? Once he sorts out his instrument they launch into what must have been a live staple for them, a long, jammy instrumental “Tax Free.” It’s also the opener on the aforementioned Winterland. The song even come with a drum solo. It’s interesting to listen to the guys play off each other but it’s not going on the greatest hits album. I wonder if that tune is just how the band warmed up?

After the jam, they launch into a compact, snarling yet slinky version of “Foxey Lady.” I love Hendrix’s solo at the end of the track. Hendrix was quite chatty that evening. He seems to be having a lot of fun despite the crowd issues. The version of “Red House” is worth the price of admission in my mind. It’s a long, extended blues tune and I am here for it. It gets almost jazz like in the middle. I could listen to that track all day on a repeating loop. Hendrix then dedicates “Spanish Castle Magic” to the police at the show. It’s an impressive version of the Axis: Bold As Love track. Hendrix then launches into his soon to be iconic “Star Spangled Banner” which segues into the righteous riffage of “Purple Haze.” Once again with the cops on his mind he sings, “Excuse me while I kiss this policeman.” The extended fiery solo could possibly melt your face off. After that searing song Hendrix has to ask the crowd to mellow out again. They must have been rushing the stage again. He asks everybody to sit down which I think would be impossible at a Hendrix show.

Mitch Mitchell unleashes some tribal drumming on “I Don’t Live Today.” This is a wildly chaotic version of the track which probably fit right in on this particular night in front of these unruly hippies. The show wraps up with my all time favorite riff from Hendrix on “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” which segues into “Sunshine Of Your Love,” a Cream cover and then back into “Voodoo Child (Slight Return).” While the second half of “Voodoo Child” is only three minutes it’s some of Hendrix’s most ferocious solo’ing of the show.

While the setlist is shorter than other live sets I’ve seen from Hendrix – I’m guessing they had to cut it short because of the lack of crowd control – there is still a lot to love here. I’m always up for a good Hendrix live concert recording. Like I said, if you’re a fan of the guitar – and especially hearing what the absolute farthest someone can take the instrument – or of Hendrix this will be essential listening when you’re trying to drowned out your fractious Thanksgiving dinner conversation. “What Uncle Tim, you think serving the meal family style is socialist? Frankly, I think Mitch Mitchell is a criminally underrated drummer…” Or something like that.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you out there who are celebrating this week in the States. Even if you’re not celebrating Thanksgiving we have a lot of to be grateful for in this life not least of which is rock n roll music. Be kind to each other. Eat a whole lot this Thursday, drink something brown and murky and play this one loud!!

Cheers!

LP Review: The Cult, ‘Under The Midnight Sun’ – A Sublime Listening Experience

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I can’t believe it’s been six years since the Cult’s last album, Hidden City. As Dylan sang, “time is a jet plane, it moves too fast.” When a band I really like waits that long between LPs, and they all seem to wait that long between albums these days, I worry that my anticipation will get the better of me. Sometimes when we let our anticipation run wild we can be disappointed. I know that happens to my buddy Arkansas Joel every time U2 puts out a new LP, but then they did hit a rough patch there for a while so that’s understandable. The Rock Chick was disappointed with Unlimited Love from the Chili Peppers, released earlier this year but again, that was anticipation fueled by Frusciante’s return. I actually liked that album… But for every LP we’ve been disappointed by there are many albums that utterly satisfy – Ozzy’s Patient Number 9 or Billy Idol’s new EP The Cage were both wonderful recently released albums.

And yet, even knowing the Cult would likely deliver, I too was worried about that old monster, anticipation. My excitement for the new album was given a shot of jet fuel only a few weeks ago when I saw the Cult live here in KC at the Uptown Theater. It was a great, great show. I feared that anticipation would somehow cloud how I felt about the album. Then I saw that the album was only eight songs long. That’s what, barely over a song a year since the last record. I heard rumors that it was all pretty “midtempo” or “monochromatic.” Critics were a bit “meh.” And yet as I’ve spent the last four or five days listening to nothing but Under The Midnight Sun – a title inspired by a show they played in Finland where the sun was up all night – all I can think about the Cult (Ian Astbury, vocals; Billy Duffy, guitar; John Tempesta, drums; and I’m unclear who played bass… Grant Fitzpatrick may have played on the LP, Charlie Jones is touring with them) is “My God, they delivered.” The Tom Dalgety produced Under The Midnight Sun is a wonderful, nuanced, spiritual listening experience.

Inevitably when folks talk about the Cult, they’re thinking of their late 80s heyday when they released a trio of iconic albums: Love (1985), Electric (1987) and of course, Sonic Temple (1989). But back in those days, toward the end of my college party experience and the beginning of my corporate, first job exile in Arkansas, I wasn’t paying any attention to new rock n roll. I was immersed in the past. I was listening to stuff from the 60s (the Beatles, The Band) or the 70s (Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Faces, and the Allman Brothers). It’s like I felt I had to catch up on all the music that had passed before I started listening to rock n roll. And admittedly after my corporate masters exiled me to Ft Smith, Arkansas – something I’ve never forgiven them for – my main conduit to new rock was MTV. All hard rock bands basically made the same video so I became numb to the then current music… I should have been paying attention, especially to the Cult.

It wasn’t until I met the Rock Chick that I was turned onto the Cult. The first LP they put out in the new millennium, while I was actually paying attention, was Beyond Good And Evil. My main experiences with their music have been with their latter career. Don’t get me wrong, I love those late 80s masterpieces. I saw them on both the recent tours for Love and Electric when they played those albums in their entirety. But beyond that I have really enjoyed everything they’ve put out since Beyond Good And Evil. To gear up for the release of Under The Midnight Sun I put on Born Into This, not Electric. And so because of that, shall we call it, delayed perspective on the Cult I tend to look at their new albums in the perspective of what they’ve done since 2000 vs what they did from ’85 to ’89. And frankly I think 1991’s Ceremony deserves to be in the conversation as well – it’s a super album but Kurt Cobain and grunge killed everything that came before it including Ceremony.

Yes, I will admit I was disappointed we only got eight tracks on the new album. It is, as advertised, a mostly midtempo experience. There are two wonderful ballads that serve as great change of pace moments. And yet despite any hard rock anticipation I was fostering, I find this music utterly captivating. While the music is immediately identifiable as the Cult it only has echos of stuff they’ve done in the past. I feel like this is new ground for them. I’m like most Cult fans, I’d have loved a screaming rocker like “Dirty Little Rock Star,” or “Rise” to pump things up a bit… or yes a “Fire Woman” would be nice. But that’s just not where these guy’s heads are at. I would have thought they could have pulled a few more tracks together – at least two but I’d have loved four more to get us to 12, the standard CD length – and had they done that and made those additional tracks screaming rockers this album would likely rank amongst their best. In my mind, it still does rank quite highly.

There is a passion and urgency to the songs on UTMS. Billy Duffy is really the hidden star here. His guitar is less aggressive than what I’m used to but his playing is shimmering, smokey guitar riffs and solos. Maybe because half the band was in England and Astbury was in New York there’s a yearning in this music. Although it’s mostly a spiritual or universal yearning. A hope that we can come together on this planet. “Give me mercy, a new language.” That line, “a new language,” really resonated with me. It’s like we’ve forgotten about compassion and love and this music is a spiritual touchstone to guide us back. There is a certain majestic quality to this music that bores into my brain. Lyrically it’s as if Astbury – whose baritone is in fine form, what a voice! – is looking at the universe and needs to express the existential angst. And did I mention his voice? One of the best in all of rock n roll.

There were two songs released prior to the album coming out. I reviewed “Give Me Mercy” already so I won’t beat that horse but the more I hear it the better I like it. As mentioned, the lyric “Give me mercy, a new language, give me mercy, love will find you” is like a lost Buddhist mantra. The second track they put our prior to the album release was “A Cut Inside” which is probably the heaviest riffing, hardest rocking song here. Even I’ll admit it’s more of a simmer than an explosion but I still really connect with this song. It was both great in concert and in the car… some tunes just have to be cranked up while you’re speeding on the parkway… “A Cut Inside” has a soaring chorus, “Caught in a lie, tears in my eyes…” I love Tempsta’s drumming on the track. He now may be the longest tenured drummer in the Cult.

“Mirror” is the opening track and it sets the sound palette for much of the rest of the record. Duffy’s plaintive guitar weaves in and around of Tempesta jungle drumming. Billy plays a great solo on this track as well… Ian’s baritone is sensational, “Love, love, love, forget what you know…” “Vendetta X” may be my favorite track here. It’s got a slightly, dare I say, funky riff/drums thing going on. It’s got a low key intensity and kind of reminds me of some stuff on Dreamtime (for you really long time Cult fans). Astbury keeps singing “Sucking on a dirty blade, fighting over Love and Hate,” and you believe him the way he spits out the words. “Impermanence” is another great track in that midtempo vein. “Outer Heaven” is slightly mellower, but I wouldn’t call it a ballad. It starts with a nice wash of strings. Billy works up a bit of a squall on the track over Tempesta’s now galloping drums. That one ends as almost a religious chant. It’s another highlight here.

As mentioned there are two ballads on the record and they’re some of my favorite moments. “Knife Through A Butterfly Heart” ranks amongst their best ballads ever – right up there with “Edie (Ciao Baby)” and “Nico,” two of my favorites. It’s all haunting acoustic guitar – which we don’t get to regularly hear on a Cult album – and strings. Billy does lay in some nice electric notes weaving around the edges of the track until the end when he delivers the killer solo. It’s another personal favorite on this record. The title track, which ends the album is also a highlight. It’s a very cinematic track. It has strings that had me thinking about James Bond and the Rock Chick thinking about the show Dexter. It also has a lot of acoustic guitar. I’ve heard it described as a “spaghetti Western of a song,” and I get where they get that description. I just think it’s a cool. “Under midnight sun, with creatures of the wild, lost in love’s illusion, all will fade in time.” Damn, that’s some heavy stuff right there.

This is a really great album. Don’t let any of your expectations or anticipation get in your way on this one. It maybe a grower for some people. Put this one on and turn it up, pour something strong and let the lyrics and guitar was over you. It’s not going to rattle your fillings but it may just move your heart. I’m just happy we’ve finally got some new Cult to listen to.

Namaste!

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, Archival Release: Neil Young & Crazy Horse’s 2001 Shelved Gem ‘Toast’ Finally Sees The Light Of Day

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“If I could just live my life As easy as a song I’d wake up someday And the pain would all be gone…” – Neil Young, “Gateway of Love”

As long time readers know, I’m terribly impressed with Neil Young’s archive management. Other than Bob Dylan I can’t think of an artist who does a better job of going back through the archives and releasing the unreleased, so to speak. Neil Young is unique in that he has a number of complete albums that he recorded but then chose not to release for whatever reason… perhaps Prince was the same way but I can’t think of anybody who rivals Young in this department. Neil has gone into the archives recently and released albums he previously shelved like Hitchhiker and Homegrown and I loved both of those acoustic based gems. He continues to release complete concerts also – much like Springsteen does – mostly acoustic shows from the early 70s.

For us long time Neil Young fans we got a treat when Neil recently released another LP he originally shelved. This time it’s not an acoustic affair, oh no, this time it’s an album he recorded in 2001, Toast, with Crazy Horse. I love Neil’s work with Crazy Horse – Frank Sampedro, guitar/keyboards; Billy Talbot, bass; Ralph Molina, drums. They’re a sloppy, hard rocking, jammy band. I’ve always loved what I heard Neil Young say in an interview once about Crazy Horse, “I just seem to play better guitar with Crazy Horse.” Indeed. Some will argue with me but I think Frank Sampedro was the greatest guitar foil Young ever played with. Yes, I loved Danny Whitten or you could say Young and Stills spar pretty well but Sampedro brings out that primal guitar God in Young like nobody else.

To put Toast in context, it’s best to start at the beginning for me… I became a fan of Neil’s in the early 80s. I had shied away from Young in high school because I was hung up on the vocals… hey, we’re all young and foolish at one time. But when I got to college my roommate Drew turned me onto Tonight’s The Night and After The Gold Rush. I was hooked. I started my collection with his brilliant 3-LP (vinyl) “greatest hits” package Decade. It was a great primer for a new Young fan. Or is it for a young Young fan? Say what you want about Neil Young, it was really hard to climb on the bandwagon in the 80s, perhaps the worst decade of his career.

The 80s started off OK for Neil. I’ve always liked 1980’s Hawks And Doves, and I think it sold pretty well. Although that might have been sheer momentum. He was coming off one of his strongest albums in years, Rust Never Sleeps. He could have done almost anything and people would have bought the follow up to Rust. Then after Reactor, one of his weakest with Crazy Horse, the wheels came off. He started doing these weird “genre exercises.” There was Trans, which was… well, I don’t know what that was other than terrible. Then he did a rockabilly thing Everybody’s Rockin’. I mean, what? The album was like 25 minutes long. I remember this guy Tim dropping by my house at a party I was hosting while my parents were away and he’d just seen Neil on the tour for that album. I was like “Dude, why would you attend that show”…because that’s how I spoke at the time, everyone was “dude.” At that point David Geffen and Geffen records, who Neil had recently signed with (before Trans) sued him for making “non-commercial music.” He responded with Old Ways, a full on country album. Don’t fuck with Neil, he’ll push back.

After all that 80s horribleness – and I didn’t even mention the un-listenable Landing On Water, that I actually purchased – the 90s were actually a damn fine Neil Young decade. The Grunge guys were all seemingly inspired by Neil, especially his sloppy work with Crazy Horse and suddenly he was back in fashion. It didn’t hurt that he was coming up with some of his finest material in, well, a decade. He’d finished up the 80s in a very strong fashion – just like he had the 70s with Rust – with Life (an underrated LP with Crazy Horse), This Notes For You (with the Bluenotes) and culminating with the comeback album Freedom. That led to a string of great 90s records, including Ragged Glory with Crazy Horse, Harvest Moon, Sleeps With Angels (again with “the Horse”) and even his LP with Pearl Jam Mirror Ball… although I’d call that last one good, not great.

To finish up the 90s, after a tepid LP with Crazy Horse, Broken Arrow, Neil was coaxed into doing a CSNY reunion. The critics savaged Looking Forward but I loved it. Like American Dream, it should be on my list of albums only I like (B&Vs True Confessions: The Dirty Dozen; 12 Albums That Only I Love – Time to Re-Evaluate?). If you haven’t heard “Slowpoke,” from that album it’s the best Neil ballad ever. After seeing CSNY with my very pregnant friend the Jean Genie – you can’t imagine the dirty looks I got as people thought I was subjecting my wife to rock n roll… she’s a friend, assholes, and it was her choice to be here… – I couldn’t help but wonder what the new millennium would bring for Neil. It started off in wonderful fashion with the acoustic driven Silver And Gold. If Harvest Moon was the sequel to Harvest, was Silver And Gold the sequel to After the Gold Rush? I don’t know but it was a great, mellow album. I loved the song “Buffalo Springfield,” which I urge everybody to check out.

After Silver And Gold I thought it was going to be another golden decade for Young in the 00s. But then in 2002 he drops Are You Passionate?, a soul record. Literally a romantic, soul record. We were back to the 80s and the genre exercises again. To really immerse himself in this genre he even hired soul giants Booker T. and the MGs (Booker T. Jones/keyboards, legend Donald “Duck” Dunn/bass, Steve Potts/drums) as his backing band. Sadly guitarist Steve Cropper wasn’t employed… that might have at least brought some interesting guitar dueling to the party. I was baffled. The album also included his 9/11 tribute song “Let’s Roll” which was a little over the top. I heard the record but didn’t pay any attention. I did know that Crazy Horse played on one song, “Goin’ Home,” that I liked. I had sort of forgotten all about that record, much like Everybody’s Rockin’.

About ten years ago I’d heard rumors of yet another “lost” Neil Young & Crazy Horse album, recorded in between Silver And Gold and Are You Passionate? in 2001 named Toast. The name of the studio they’d recorded it in was named Toast Studios. It was in a then depressed part of San Francisco and the condition of the studio matched the surrounding neighborhood. I guess there were rats and roaches everywhere. Young had said of this album, Toast, “it was too sad to release.” Well, everybody loves sad Neil, so the cache this thing gained over the years it was locked in the vault was pretty intense. It was with great anticipation that we all waited for Toast to see the light of day.

What I didn’t realize and never discovered on the interweb was that before hiring the legendary soul band Booker T and the MGs, Neil tried out some of the Are You Passionate? material with Crazy Horse. Over half the tracks on Toast ended up in some form, occasionally with a different title, on AYP? When I discovered that this was the seed of that failed genre exercise I hesitated on purchasing Toast. It was hard to imagine the hard rocking bashers in Crazy Horse handling the soulful, heartbroken material better than the MGs. Boy I was wrong (per usual, ask my wife). One of the delights of this newly uncovered gem is listening to how nimble Crazy Horse are handling this material. The songs are inherently soulful and yet Crazy Horse plays it with such dexterity, I have to say Neil didn’t gain anything hiring another band.

The muse for all of this music was Young’s deteriorating relationship with his wife Pegi, who with his daughter Astrid sing back up vocals on some of these songs. Young usually shows up in the studio with complete songs but for these sessions he spent a lot of time sitting on the floor of the studio scribbling lyrics on a note pad while the band stood out back smoking and probably doing everything they could to avoid the vermin around the studio. The immediacy of Young’s writing on the fly comes through on the album.

As mentioned, the song “Goin’ Back” which uses Custer’s Last Stand as a metaphor for a beleaguered lover in a failing relationship (rather brilliantly I might add) was the only track from these sessions with Crazy Horse that made the actual Are You Passionate? album. This might be the same track I can’t really tell. It’s an epic rocker and may be my favorite here. There are a few tracks that didn’t make it to AYP? and I’m still amazed Neil left them in the vault so long. “Standing In The Light Of Love” is another rock gem of a song. It sounds vaguely Ragged Glory-ish to me. It’s a thrashing, Crazy Horse in-all-their-glory kind of track. The other is one of Neil’s poignant character studies, “Timberline” about a lumberjack who loses his job and then loses his faith in God. It’s a chugging rocker that Young sings in a painful howl. Both are just great tracks.

“Quit” is the track that opens Toast and it’s a low key soulful track and I’ll tell you I think this Crazy Horse version outstrips the MG’s version on AYP? by a mile. Pegi and Astrid sing the backing vocal/refrain of “don’t say you love me…” I could see why Young has said it was too sad to release. It’s like reading a letter to an ex girlfriend whose moved on. “How You Doin’?” (which turned into “Mr. Disappointment” on AYP?) is much better here as well. He doesn’t sing it in that growl like the previously released version. This is such a beautiful track… Neil’s always had a little soul in there – he was in the Mynah Birds with Rick James after all.

There are two long, 10-minute plus, epic Neil Young and Crazy Horse tracks here, “Boom Boom Boom” (which became “She’s A Healer”) and “Gateway of Love.” “Boom Boom Boom” is 13 minutes long and I love every minute of the song. Neil’s guitar emits sad wails of sound. There’s even a trumpet solo that reminded me of the Bluenotes. Listening to this song is a lot like wandering into the basement of the Green Lady Lounge and discovering a groovy band swinging… “Gateway of Love,” quoted above has some of the most raw, naked emotional lyrics of Young’s career. “I still feel you in my heart’s eye” is another lyric from the song that just grabbed me. “Gateway of Love” may be one of Neil’s best broken heart songs and he’s a man who has written many, many broken heart songs.

As you can tell I am thoroughly impressed with Toast. Is it a lost masterpiece? I’m not sure I’m ready to say that yet. It is a very, very good Neil Young & Crazy Horse record. Had he released this album instead of AYP? it might have changed how I look at the entire first decade of this millennium for Neil. This album ranks up there with Ragged Glory for me as a latter day standout record. Only Bob Dylan has a penchant like this for having a great album on his hands and then deconstructing it and releasing a lesser version. Forget all about Are You Passionate? and consider Toast as it’s own entity. This is great late period Neil  Young, simply sensational stuff.

Put this one on late at night while you ruminate about former lovers over a tumbler of fine whiskey… it’ll sweep you away.

Cheers!

“What’s In A Name?” – Our Favorite Non-Debut, Self-Titled (Eponymous) LPs – Major Statements?

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“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.” – William Shakespeare, Romeo And Juliet

A number of years ago I stumbled across a review that described an LP as the artist in question’s “eponymous album” and I didn’t have the foggiest idea what that meant. I’d never seen the word before and as I usually do, I quickly consulted Webster, despite my daughter’s ridicule for doing so – it’s how you build a vocabulary – who defines eponymous as “of, relating to, or being the person or thing for whom or which something is named.” I have to admit they use a whole lot of words just to say a work is named after the artist. I’m still not sure what the correct pronunciation of “eponymous” is and avoid the word in conversation…so much for increasing my vocabulary. I’m a “Jr,” named for my dad, so apparently that means I’m my father’s eponymous son as opposed to my brother. If I understand correctly George Foreman named all of his kids George Foreman… he must really be down with the whole eponymous thing.

There are a lot of artists who use the band name as the title of their first album. Or should we say, they named their debut album in an eponymous way… still working on the vocab! Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen and the list goes on and on, all named their first record after themselves. The debut album is a critical album in every artist’s career. It’s your introduction to a mass audience. And, as the saying goes, you only have one chance to introduce yourself (Pleased To Meet You: The Epic List of Our 40 Favorite Debut Albums). Why not use the debut album as a calling card for the band and just drop your rock n roll “John Hancock” on the front cover as a title? You want people to remember your name. Who can blame any band for doing that? One never knows how the debut is going to be received but it never hurts to name it after the band. Not everybody has an album like say, Boston up their sleeve right out of the gate. While I love all of those great eponymous debut albums, that’s not what I’m here to discuss today.

There also artists who are into the heavy Roman numeral thing. After Led Zeppelin’s eponymous (double word score?) debut they named their next two albums Led Zeppelin II and Led Zeppelin III respectively. I don’t want to utter any blasphemy here but you have to wonder if Zeppelin just couldn’t come up with any suitable album titles? They didn’t even bother to name their 4th album. They just put four runes on it to baffle everybody. To this day people aren’t sure what to call that album (Led Zeppelin IV or Zoso or Runes). Van Halen fell prey to the Roman numeral thing on their second LP, Van Halen II. McCartney has revisited the concept of his first, post-Beatles, solo album with McCartney II and McCartney III which are apparent sequels to that experimental masterpiece debut McCartney. Peter Gabriel named all of his first four albums Peter Gabriel. He wanted his albums to be thought of as successive chapters in the same book. Talk about a guy who just couldn’t get out of his own way! While all of these albums are eponymous-adjacent, they really don’t fit what I’m here to discuss today.

I know, I know, what am I here to talk about? Get to the point.

There have been bands/artists who later in their career who have chosen to release a self-titled album. Again, we’re not talking about debut LPs or solo debuts here. There is a theory in rock n roll that when an artist does that – goes eponymous later in their career – it is typically an attempt to make either a major statement or more likely a major career re-boot. It’s the artist re introducing themselves. I was thinking about that the other day. While painters put their name on every painting they do, after the debut it’s much more rare for a musical artist to go with a self-titled album. There’s typically a motive there. Maybe the band split up for a while and they’re back together so the self-titled LP is a way of saying, “We’re back, did you miss us? (I so rarely get to quote “Hot For Teacher,” I couldn’t resist).

I began to think of some of my favorite non-debut, eponymous albums and I have to admit the ones that came to mind all have a bit of swagger. It’s that John Hancock, “I’m signing my name in big letters so the King can read it without his spectacles” kind of chutzpah. In many cases it’s more about a band coming back together and finding that shared, band identity again. To me it comes across a statement of purpose or maybe resolve. It says, this is who I am. And yes, in some cases there is an implied “Perhaps you don’t remember me?”

I came up with thirteen self-titled records that I’d count amongst my favorites. Although after laying awake thinking about it for a while, I threw in an extra wildcard album. Now I have 14 albums where the artist chose to name this particular work after themselves or to put it less clearly, the artist chose to name the album “of, relating to, or being the person or thing for whom or which something is named.” If you have a favorite eponymous LP and it’s not on this list, please put it in the comments. I’m always looking for something I missed. If you haven’t gotten into these albums, I urge everyone to do so. And yes, for all of those of you wondering, I almost put R.E.M.’s greatest hits LP cleverly entitled Eponymous on the list but I didn’t want to be a smart ass.

  1. Alice In Chains – After canceling a tour and basically disbanding due to Layne Staley’s heroin addiction after Jar of Flies, the band reunited and recorded this, their third full LP. It’s one of my favorite from Alice In Chains. “Heaven Beside You,” “Grind,” and “Again” rank amongst their best. Staley’s heroin addiction made recording this album painful but to me it said, “we’ve survived the storm and we’re back as a band.” Sadly, Staley never kicked the habit and succumbed to heroin only a few years later. Their Unplugged LP was his last hurrah.
  2. The Band – While Music From Big Pink was an instant classic, this is a better album in my opinion. It’s the moment the Band stepped out from Dylan’s shadow. This is where they made the statement that they were to be reckoned with in their own right without Dylan. Some of Robbie Robertson’s best songwriting is on this album, “The Night They Drove Ol’ Dixie Down” and “Up On Cripple Creek” are both here.
  3. The Beatles – Also known as The White Album. While this self-title exercise probably had more to do with the minimalist cover art, I still think this was a statement from the Beatles. They had been off doing psychedelic music in day-glo outfits for a while even taking on an assumed identity (Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band) in order to find more artistic freedom and slip the yoke of being “the Beatles.” The band had just returned from India with a huge batch of new songs and they actually started playing the basic tracks as a band again instead of recording each part separately. While they were saying in a round about way they were The Beatles again, they were actually moving in 4 different directions as artists. Still, it’s simply one of the best albums ever.
  4. Buffalo Springfield Again – This may be only eponymous-adjacent but it’s too good of an album not to include here. Neil Young had quit the band after their great debut album but then returned and brought “Mr. Soul” and “Broken Arrow” two masterpieces with him. They were once again Buffalo Springfield.
  5. CSN – Crosby, Stills, Nash had let 7 years lapse since Deja Vu when they finally pulled it together and recorded this one. Sadly, the aforementioned Neil Young is nowhere to be found. They’d tried to do a CSNY album on the heels of their 1974 tour, tentatively titled Human Highway, but it fell apart… although there’s evidence this great LP might still be out there in the vaults, but I digress. CSN is a laid back, yacht rock kinda vibe but there are so many great songs. “Dark Star” and “Just A Song Before I Go” were huge. Crosby kills it on “Shadow Captain.”
  6. Sheryl Crow – OK, this is the wildcard. After the huge success of her debut, Tuesday Night Music Club, some of her collaborators began to grumble it was more their talent than hers that caused the sensation. She came back with such ferocity on her second album and the title – her name – let everybody know who was in charge on this one. I don’t write much about Sheryl Crow but she’s got some real gems in the catalog. Such swagger.
  7. Fleetwood Mac (1975). Fleetwood Mac had seen heights in their long and storied career, especially when Peter Green was in the band at the beginning. But after Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined and they recorded this album it was time to reintroduce themselves to the world. Needless to say the world liked what they heard. This laid the groundwork for the record breaking Rumours.
  8. John Mellencamp – Mellencamp had just moved to Columbia Records after a series of disappointing LPs he didn’t feel his old record company were supporting properly. This is one of the first LPs both the Rock Chick and I discovered we both owned. It’s an amazing late career rebirth. He was clearly letting us know he had plenty of creativity in the tank. He’d already had an LP named John Cougar, John Mellencamp was overdue!
  9. Metallica – Also known as The Black Album. Metallica had perhaps the greatest first four album run in the history of rock n roll. But they’d exhausted the long, epic song style they’d perfected over those records. Metallica was a complete change up – of style and execution – and it still is a landmark heavy metal album. Shorter songs but still heavy, heavy riffs. “Enter Sandman,” “Sad But True” and “Nothing Else Matters” are iconic tunes. Some die-hard, long time fans bemoaned they’d sold out… yes, sold out of every copy of Metallica.
  10. Pearl Jam – I may be the only one who thinks this but I think of this 2006 album as a major comeback for Pearl Jam after 2002’s Riot Act. Riot Act is the only Pearl Jam album I sold at the used CD store. I think the band realized they’d hit their creative/commercial low point. Pearl Jam seemed to me to be a reintroduction of a great band. Rather than just being a big live attraction it was time to do something listenable in the studio again. “Life Wasted” and “World Wide Suicide” rock with a vengeance. “Gone” and “Come Back” showed they could still do mid-tempo and ballads. All of this with socially conscious lyrics. They’ve been on a late career roll ever since all the way through their last album, Gigaton.
  11. Linda Ronstadt – It wasn’t the commercial breakthrough she was hoping for but backed by the future Eagles (Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner) this is where her 70s sound came together. She covers some great tunes here from “Rock Me On The Water” (Jackson Browne) to “Birds” (Neil Young). While the record buying public ignored her first two solo records – Linda Rondstadt says, “Here I come World.” Mega success was just around the corner… but don’t sleep on this album, it’s essential.
  12. Social Distortion – After two great (albeit somewhat overlooked) albums on an indie label Mommy’s Little Monster (named for my wife’s cat, years before it’s birth) and Prison Bound, Social D finally signed to a big label, Epic Records. As a “re-introduction” to the world, they delivered one of their best albums. If only we could get that new album they’ve been working on for the last 12 years… Like Cubs fans, I guess we have to be content saying, “there’s always next year.”
  13. The Velvet Underground – Their third record came after quite a bit of tumult. Andy Warhol had steered their early career during the Velvet Underground and Nico period but they’d split with both Warhol and Nico. The follow up, White Light/White Heat was an experimental, noise filled affair. Their third, self-titled record is where Lou Reed and the gang, now with Doug Yule instead of John Cale, tried to make peace with radio. I love this whole record. Not as edgy as their debut but still with songs like “Jesus” and “Pale Blue Eyes” how could they miss? Sadly, they did with the public… At least drummer Mo Tucker got to sing a song. But, as the saying goes, they didn’t have many fans but all the ones they did have seemed to have gone out and formed bands.
  14. Warren Zevon – After the disastrous 1969 debut, Wanted Dead Or Alive, it took Warren Zevon seven years to finally get back in the game. Warren Zevon is an absolute masterpiece of an album from a guy who should be in the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame and should have been inducted a long time ago. I recently tracked this album down on vinyl again. I could listen to “Carmelita” over and over again…

That’s it – my fourteen favorite self-titled albums. I considered calling it the BourbonAndVinyl Eponymous Albums list but that seems too self-referential even for me. Again, I think these are albums everyone should hear – and certainly the Metallica, the Beatles and Fleetwood Mac have probably been heard by most people. Even if you’ve heard these records I implore you to pull them out and listen all over again… If you’re new to classic rock and haven’t heard these albums before, I highly recommend putting any or all of these albums on and turning it up to 11… maybe put a little whiskey in a glass…

Cheers!

Black Crowes’ New EP Of 6 Covers (From The Year) ‘1972’ – Glorious, Good Rockin’ Fun

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I was fortunate enough to be able to take a couple of days off last week and go to points out West to visit my beloved daughter. I’m lucky that I have vacation days when I realize a lot of folks don’t have time off. But after an action-packed weekend that included my getting to see one of my favorite bands The Cult in concert, I was dragging come Monday morning. But then who isn’t dragging on Monday mornings? I knew other than overdosing on coffee or being hit in the chest with a defibrillator I was going to need some help to get through the early part of the week. For me that help came in the form of rock n roll. Music really can always heal what ails me, even fatigue.

I had it in the back of my mind last weekend the Black Crowes had finally released their EP of cover songs that Friday. I was only half right about that. I looked in all the regular places I buy and listen to music – and it astounds me how many options I have now – and I couldn’t find the new Crowes’ EP, entitled 1972. Apparently you can only buy the LP or the CD through Amazon. I’m not a big streaming guy (admittedly my playlists are out on alas, Spotify) but the only place I could hear this was streaming through Amazon Prime. I want to buy the vinyl but I want to do that in a local record store from a pierced and tattoo’d hippy while breathing in lovely, musty old used records and incense. A man has to have some standards in this life and ordering vinyl from the dark empire of Amazon just seems wrong. I get my vitamins there, I’m not getting my vinyl there. I have a code I live by, folks. Having a code to live by, like those little paper cocktail napkins, is what separates us from the savages.

The new Crowes’ EP, 1972 is titled thus because it contains six tracks all originally released in 1972. As long time readers know, we here at B&V celebrated 1972 as well on a playlist dedicated to albums released during that awesome year in rock n roll. Well, this is the Crowes version of that celebration, or so it seems. I can’t tell you how much joy listening to the Black Crowes’ lusty renditions of 1972-era tracks has given me this week. Of course I’m on record as loving cover songs – a song originally recorded by someone else that a band re -records. I even dig when an artist has done an entire LP of covers (and have posted about “Cover Albums”), like Bowie’s Pin-Ups or Bob Seger’s Smokin’ O.P.s.

I have loved the Crowes since the first time I heard the opening riff on “Jealous Again” while tooling down the highway during my unemployed gypsy year in 1990. Their first two albums are amongst the greatest rock albums ever in my opinion. They recently celebrated the 30th anniversary of Shake Your Money Maker and it was a great box set. It included a full concert from ’90 and a slew of unreleased bonus tracks including the Humble Pie cover “30 Days In The Hole,” and a lost original that I loved, “Charming Mess.” I read somewhere that Chris and Rich Robinson reached out to get Rod Stewart’s blessing on the release of “Charming Mess” because it sounded so much like the Faces. I do hear echos of “Stay With Me” but hey everybody has influences. Even since those early days the Black Crowes were doing interesting things with cover songs. Shake Your Money Maker had their great Otis Redding cover “Hard To Handle.” And also apparently the aforementioned unreleased Humble Pie cover “30 Days In The Hole.” Their second LP, the masterpiece, The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion also had a cover – this time Bob Marley’s “Time Will Tell.” From Otis and Humble Pie to Bob Marley show the Crowes have a great eclectic range.

The Crowes, after that early huge success, continued to put out great albums. Three Snakes And A Charm and By Your Side are two of my favorite of their LPs. But alas, the relationship between the brothers Robinson was a rocky one. The band has broken up a few times. When they would get back together they would release additional great music, like the album Warpaint. It’s the best Black Crowes’ album you’ve probably  never heard. They’ve got a host of great live stuff out there as well. Eventually the relationship between Chris Robinson (vocals) and Rich Robinson (guitar) was so bad the band broke up and they even stopped speaking. I feel bad for their mother. They went years without talking. It’s often difficult when siblings form bands… Eventually the brothers reconciled. I read an article about them, right before Covid struck, and I was genuinely pleased for them as people, as brothers, as much as I was that they were trying to get the band back together. They decided to reform without any of the other original members who they believed were contributors to the toxicity of their relationship. I assume they’re speaking of longtime drummer Steve Gorman who wrote a “tell-all” that wasn’t exactly a flattering portrayal.

Like the Stones who they were so often compared to in their early days, the Crowes were taking slow steps to repair the fractured relationships between the principal members and songwriters, the Robinsons. Their plan, pre-Covid, was to tour first and see how they got on. The new band was Chris (vocals), Rich (guitar) with Isiah Mitchell (guitar), Joel Robinow (keyboards) and eventually former member Sven Pippen (bass) and journeyman drummer Brian Griffin. It’s just fun to say the name Sven Pippen. If I was in high school and I needed a fake name to give cops when they were confiscating my underage beer, I’d give the name Sven Pippen but I digress. They played a few shows but then Covid ruined everything. I see this EP of covers songs as a way for them to all see how they’re gelling as a band. To see if the repaired relationships can stand. It’s just another step in the Crowes journey to re-establish that all important chemistry. They probably wanted to see if they could go into the studio and get along… why put songwriting pressure on yourselves? They’ve supposedly written around 20 songs but they want to tour first before actually committing those to tape. I totally get that. Consider 1972 another step in that creative journey.

Well let me tell you, if 1972 is the yardstick we’re using for the Black Crowes, I think the chemistry is back! They play these six songs with such joy. You can literally tell how much fun they’re having. The EP kicks off with a Stones cover, “Rip This Joint.” The thing I love about covers is they’re like “two-fers.” You get the vibe of the original artist and the new artist at the same time, in one song. I feel like the Crowes were made to cover the Stones. What a great choice from Exile On Main Street. It gets the rock and roll cookin’. They also cover one of my all time favorite Rod Stewart solo tracks, “You Wear It Well.” That is coincidentally a track I chose for my aforementioned 1972 playlist. The Crowes doing the Stones and Rod (whose Faces were clearly an influence) just makes sense. The Rock Chick heard me jamming on the Black Crowes once and said, “I know why you like them, they sound like the Faces.” True, indeed. Both these songs put a smile on my face.

They also do two tracks associated with Glam Rock. They do T. Rex’s track “The Slider.” “The Slider” was Marc Bolan’s ode to cocaine. The Crowes really do the track justice. They’re version is faithful but heavier. They wring everything they can out of the riff. Chris in particular sounds like he’s really enjoying this track. The other Glam Rock track they do is Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream.” I’ve gotta say it takes balls to do a Bowie cover, especially from Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars. Like the T. Rex track the Black Crowes are faithful to “Moonage Daydream” but they do it slightly heavier. They actually stretch out and jam the guitar parts toward the end to really make it sound Black Crowes-y. What can I say, I was bowled over by this track.

Finally, it wouldn’t be the Crowes doing cover songs if they didn’t throw us a couple of curve balls. I was so thrilled to see that they did a version of Little Feat’s “Easy To Slip.” I recently told a friend, if I hear a band doing a Little Feat cover, I’m instantly more interested in the album.” Rich takes the lead vocal – taking his Keith Richards’ like turn at the mic – and he nails it. It’s a mostly acoustic take with great organ and I dug it. Chris provides a joyous harmony vocal. Little Feat were a West Coast band but they always had a southern vibe to me… The biggest curve ball for most folks is going to be the final track, the Temptations’ great song, “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone.” The Crowes have covered everything from country-rock (“Hot Burrito #1”) to soul (“Hard To Handle”) so it shouldn’t be surprised that they decided to do a funky Motown track. Oh my Gawd, I love this track! It may be my favorite on the EP. Of course its a track that I chose for my 1972 playlist so maybe I’m probably biased. When the drums hit with the fabulous organ and wah-wah guitar riff I defy you to sit down. There is also some great harmonica on this track. It’s a great version of the song.

1972 is the sound of a band having a really good time. It’s joyous music made joyously. I love that they did this in a thematic way, centered around so many of their influences from the 70s. I think this bodes well for the Black Crowes and whatever original music they end up making. The band sounds tight and together. If they head out on the road I am definitely going to try and see them again. Until then, sit back, turn this EP up and enjoy!!

Cheers!