B&V’s Favorite B-Sides – Songs That Were Orphans But Found Fame Anyway

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*Photo of actual 45s, and actual B-sides, taken by your intrepid blogger

I think a lot of people, especially the casual music fan, can be put off by the term B-side. The term sounds like something you’d find in the discount aisle of your local retailer next to day old bread. It’s not an “A” it’s a “B” so it must be somehow… less valuable? Oddly, I actually understood what a B-side was before I started really getting into collecting music. My father had an old wire rack full of singles – known as 45s as that was the speed the turntable would have to be turned to in order to spin the smaller vinyl discs. An album is rated at 33 1/3 RPM (revolutions per minute), a single was 45 RPM’s. These old 45s that my father had amassed when he was still cool was a who’s who of 50s popular music: Elvis, Johnny Cash, and Ray Charles. My little brother commandeered the collection as his own when he was really young and then enhanced it by buying Beatles’ singles…he was always years ahead of me on rock n roll…it’s a wonder he didn’t make my parents get his haircut in that mop top Beatles’ style but I digress. He had the little plastic insert that allowed him to play the 45s – which have a bigger hole in the middle – on the turntable. 45s only had one song per side unlike an album which has a number of songs on each side (well, typically… maybe not if you’re the Allman Brothers and it’s live and you’re really cooking, then it might be say, “Whipping Post” taking up one entire side of the LP). My brother and I shared a room in the early days so occasionally I’d wander in hand he’d be playing tunes. I think it was on one of those occasions that he explained what a B-side was to me before I even cared about music.

In the early days of rock n roll, like my dad’s collection, the music industry was focused on singles. Typically albums were merely a collection of previously released singles. When the artist in question had released enough songs to fill up an album the record company would lump ’em together and pump out the LP as another item to sell to the public. On those singles typically the A-side would be the song they wanted to release as the “hit.” What to do with the other side of the 7″ vinyl disc? Well, slap another song on the B-side! Typically the B-side would be a “lesser” tune, one the record company didn’t have high hopes for. The record company didn’t always get it right. Tony Bennett’s signature song “I Left My Heart In San Francisco” began as a B-side to “Once Upon A Time” a track none us can remember. “I Left My Heart In San Francisco” may be that first B-side to break out as a hit, I don’t really know. It was a DJ who decided to turn the record over to play the B-side and the rest, as they say, is history. Since it was left up to the record company, sometimes with input from the artist, B-sides weren’t always the “lesser” of the two tracks released. Record companies are rarely right about anything.

When the Beatles ushered in the “album” era of rock n roll the nature of B-sides changed. It really was the Beatles, especially after they stopped touring, who realized the artistic possibilities of a full length album. You listen to albums like Rubber Soul or Revolver and you realize there is a unity of sound and themes that enhance the listening experience over 12 songs instead of just the “hit” singles and some filler. When artists started releasing full length, thought-out albums the pool of tracks for use on B-sides – because people still bought a ton of singles back then – became a lot deeper. Typically the record company would pick a song to be a single, and then look for a deep album cut that in some cases might be “filler” on the album and slap it on the B-side. However, as usual, the record company didn’t always get it right. Rod Stewart’s signature song “Maggie May” was the B-side to “Reason To Believe.” And, exactly like “I Left My Heart In San Francisco,” an enterprising DJ in America turned the single over and voila, “Maggie May” is a monster hit and Rod Stewart became a star.

In the pantheon of great, great songs that started out as B-sides the list is long. The Beatles chose to release the epic psychedelic track “I Am The Walrus” (mostly written by John Lennon) as the B-side to “Hello, Goodbye” a McCartney track. Obviously “I Am The Walrus” is a legendary track but they put it on the B-side? Which is too bad because Lennon was quoted later as saying something like, “that was when we all began to get tired of being Paul’s backing band.” That animosity festered… But “I Am The Walrus” is not an isolated case of great tracks ending up as a B-side. So many great tracks ended up as B-sides and went on to become monster hits, legendary in their own right. The Stones released “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” as the B-side to “Honky Tonk Woman”; Bowie released “Suffragette City” as B-side to “Starman”; and finally the Byrds’ “Feel A Whole Lot Better” (a Gene Clark penned classic) was B-side for “All I Really Want To Do” a Dylan cover. The list is vast and I could go on and on.

Any of those tracks could have easily made it onto our list of “favorite B-sides,” but the stakes rose. In the 70s as bands became more prolific and often bands would have more music than they needed for an album. Many times they’d have a song that they really liked but it wouldn’t fit the confined space of vinyl or wasn’t the right vibe for that particular album or often they’d record a cover song just for the fun of it. Instead of putting out a deeper album cut as the B-side, the band would put out one of those unreleased tracks that didn’t make the album. For me the prime example of that was “Hey Hey What Can I Do,” a great acoustic driven track that Zeppelin left off Zeppelin III and instead put out as the B-side of “The Immigrant Song.” Suddenly, this opened up the possibility of non-album, previously unreleased gems out in the wild. Hunting for stray B-sides was a fun side project for my old roommate Drew and I as we built our album collections in college. I remember spending weekends on vacation in Chicago hunting for certain songs only found on that B-side single. Finding a cool B-side is frankly the only reason I lament the end of singles being released. I’ve always been an album guy.

While the hunt was fun, in the era of CD-box sets and compilations many of those orphaned B-sides have been released. Often CD releases and “deluxe edition” releases of classic albums contain those old hard to find B-sides. U2 has done two “greatest hits” LPs each with a complimentary disc of B-sides. Springsteen has Tracks that contained a lot of the B-sides that Drew and I were always chasing after back in college. R.E.M. released Dead Letter Office, a collection of strictly B-sides (and what a great title for that LP). Now, it’s bad enough singles are rarely if ever released, but there’s no scurrying around town to all the usual vinyl shops looking to locate that one copy of “Go Your Own Way” paired with “Silver Springs.” The hunt is over. Now if you want to hear Prince do “Irresistible Bitch” you merely have to download it from a box set. For those of us aware of and collecting B-sides it was like being a member of a cool club or subculture. I guess I still have hunting for great used vinyl purchases left to me… sigh.

A few weeks ago a friend of mine, Dr. Rock, commented on a post I’d done with a playlist of tracks from 1982. Or it might have been a comment on our post about Robert Plant’s solo debut, Pictures At Eleven. Regardless, he mentioned a track “Far Post” that has always been a favorite B-side of mine and naturally Dr Rock suggested I do a post on my 10 favorite B-sides. And as usual that stretched out to my 25 favorite B-sides. In between cranking up new songs from Billy Idol (“Cage”) and the Red Hot Chili Peppers (“Tippa My Tongue”) this week I’ve been scouring through my old 45s and box sets looking for B-sides. As I indicated above, I chose B-sides that were orphans – songs that were originally left off of albums – songs that could only be found on the second side of a 45 or on the single CD release (from back when they would still put out singles on CD with a few extra tracks). I mostly avoided the “deep album tracks” as B-sides. My list is not meant to exhaustive but merely representative of a) my personal favorites and b) what kind of quality material is out there in the world by artists we all love but you may not have heard or worse, heard of. My list stems from the well known all the way to my usual obscure choices. If you have a favorite B-side that didn’t end up on a record, please post it in the comments section. I’m always looking for a good, unheard tune…

The Bourbon And Vinyl 25 Favorite B-Sides

  • Elvis Presley, “Hound Dog” – Elvis released “Hound Dog,” one of his most famous tunes, a few months after his second LP Elvis was released. It was originally released as the B-side of “Don’t Be Cruel.” The record company quickly changed the printing on the single sleeve to make “Hound Dog” the A-side, and “Don’t Be Cruel” the B-side… it didn’t really matter, both songs hit number 1. Elvis was aware of the original by the legendary Big Mama Thornton but was likely more influenced by a cover done by Freddie Bell and the Bellhops. It’s hard not to include one of the greatest songs ever on a favorite B-sides list. As Dylan said, “I’m standing on a chair proposing a toast to the King.” Surely he meant Elvis?
  • Jimi Hendrix Experience, “51st Anniversary” – I’ve always dug this track about a couple who have been married for well, 51 years. This track didn’t make it on Are You Experienced? but was released as the B side for “Purple Haze.”
  • The Beatles, “Revolution” – Another case where Lennon had his track relegated the B-side in deference to McCartney’s A-side “Hey Jude.” Maybe Paul should have let Lennon win a few of these battles. I get “Hey Jude” is epic but “Revolution” is probably my favorite hard rocking Beatles track. Both tracks were on the unreleased tracks, stop-gap U.S. LP Hey Jude.
  • Neil Young, “Sugar Mountain” – Neil liked this song so much he used it as the B-side for two different songs, “The Loner” from his debut and “Cinnamon Girl” from Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere with Crazy Horse. “You can’t be 20, on Sugar Mountain with the barkers and the colored balloons…” It finally was included on Neil’s three-LP greatest hits package Decade a compilation album truly ahead if it’s time.
  • Paul McCartney, “Oh Woman, Oh Why” – McCartney has a myriad of great B-sides. It was hard to pick just one. I’ve always loved “Oh Woman, Oh Why” the B-side to his first ever solo single “Another Day.” The lyrics are a bit slight but McCartney sings like he’s Little Richard turned up to 11. This track is kind of a bluesy rocker and I’ve just always loved it.
  • George Harrison, “Deep Blue” – This rarity was finally released on the “deluxe edition” of Living In The Material World but began as the B-side for Harrison’s charity track “Bangla Desh.” I don’t think of the Beatles as being especially bluesy but I love this acoustic, blues shuffle. Harrison landed a few blues tracks on our Rockers Playing the Blues playlist… I should have included this quiet little gem. I’m a sucker for the blues. I think my brother may have played this song for me, he was a huge Harrison fan and might have had the “Bangla Desh” single.
  • Led Zeppelin, “Hey Hey What Can I Do” – This song, for me, was the beginning of my B-side awareness. Finding this song as the B-side on the single for “The Immigrant Song” was like finding the Ark of the Covenant for Indiana Jones. I can’t believe this track never landed on a proper Zeppelin LP.
  • AC/DC, “Carry Me Home” – This great, hysterical drinking song – that only Bon Scott could have written – was the B-side to the track “Dog Eat Dog” from Let There Be Rock. It was an early selection for inclusion on our Drinking Songs playlist and really is a centerpiece there of. We find our hero, the narrator, too drunk to drive home and it’s too late to find a bus or cab. His only solution is to ask a young lady he’s been drinking with to carry him home with her. Reminds me of my 20s. Rakish charm?
  • Fleetwood Mac, “Silver Springs” – Oh man, this is one of my all time favorite Mac songs. The Rock Chick preferred the live version from The Dance, but I’d been a fan of this song, the B-side to “Go Your Own Way,” that had been criminally left off Rumours, since the first time I heard it in the car driving back to Boston from Cape Cod during my summer after college. It just grabbed me from the beginning. When Stevie builds to the climax and sings/shouts “I know I could’ve loved you, but you would not let me, I’ll follow you down ’til the sound of my voice will haunt you…” she means it. The song does haunt me and I’m not even who she’s singing to…
  • Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, “Casa Dega” – This song was left off Damn The Torpedoes and was originally released as the B-side to “Don’t Do Me Like That.” Petty has so many B-sides that have seen subsequently released on his various box sets it was hard to pick just one (and actually I picked 2) but I’ve always loved this song partially inspired by a Spiritualist camp in Florida.
  • Robert Plant, “Far Post” – As pointed out by the aforementioned Dr. Rock when we posted about Plant’s solo debut Pictures At Eleven, this amazing song was left off the album and released as a B-side to “Burning Down One Side” in the UK and eventually found it’s way to my local radio station. Great piano break in the song… it felt like Plant was already starting to stretch the boundaries of what he could do outside Zeppelin.
  • The Police, “Murder By Numbers” – The Police actually released this song on Synchronicity if you bought the cassette. Well, I’d purchased the vinyl, naturally. But they made up for it by releasing it as the B-side of “Every Breath You Take.” This was such a great song it never made sense to me they didn’t put it on the vinyl. They do include it on the CD version of Synchronicity.
  • R.E.M., “Pale Blue Eyes” – R.E.M., like so many bands who’ve recorded a ton of B-sides released an entire album of B-sides on the collection Dead Letter Office. I love that album as they do a ton of cover songs. Cover songs do have a way of popping up as B-sides. I especially love this song, a Velvet Underground track. Michael Stipe can sing almost any song better than any original singer. This track was a B-side to the great track “South Central Rain.” I really could have picked just about any song from Dead Letter Office… and heavily considered their cover of Aerosmith’s “Toys In The Attic” which has to be heard to be believed.
  • Prince & the Revolution, “17 Days” – This track was a B-side from “When Doves Cry” from Princes’ masterpiece Purple Rain. This was such an incredible album it’s no surprise that there were some incredible B-sides… Prince was so prolific. This is a classic funk, pop song about a break up. I was drawn to this kinda track back in the day. The chorus will drill into your brain… “Let the rain come down, let the rain come down…” I may be the only fan of this track but I had to include it. It just takes me back…
  • The Cars, “Breakaway” – The Cars buried this outtake from the Heartbeat City album as the B-side to the fifth(!) single “Why Can’t I Have You.” I first heard the song, once again, in the car as some friends of mine and I were driving over a high bridge on our way onto Padre Island for Spring Break. Can you think of a better theme song for a Spring Break? “The loud mornin’ in the small town cries…You gotta get away.” Actually the Spring Break was a disaster but I spent years looking for this track which I later found out was about heroin
  • Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, “Pink Cadillac” – The B-side to “Dancing In The Dark.” Oh man, we all bought the 45 with this as the B-side. Clarence Clemons on the sax is epic. I still drive a little faster when this song comes on the stereo.
  • Don Henley, “A Month of Sundays” – This is a little like “Murder By Numbers,” listed above. The track was on the cassette version of Building The Perfect Beast but not the vinyl version I had. It was released as the B-side of “Boys of Summer” and I remember being floored the first time I heard it. I did a tape to tape thing and recorded it so I could listen to it over and over. It’s a sad ballad about the death of the family farm but it just grabbed me.
  • Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, “Shut Out The Lights” – Bruce has so many B-sides it was hard to limit myself to just two… This is another Born In The U.S.A. B-side, to the title track. Both songs are about a Vietnam veteran but are very different vibes. “Born In The U.S.A.” was a huge, arena rocking anthem (that was widely misunderstood). “Shut Out The Lights” delivered the message more directly in my mind as it was a sad song about the mental health struggles our veterans faced when they returned from the war.
  • Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band, “Fortunate Son” – Well, I did mention that cover songs do have a way of finding themselves on B-sides. This track was the B-side to “American Storm” from the Like A Rock album. I don’t know if there is a more fitting artist to cover Creedence Clearwater Revival than Bob Seger. Perfect song in the perfect hands. Smokin’ O.P.s indeed.
  • Rod Stewart, “Almost Illegal” – Rod had been doing middling pop for so long it was a big deal when he teamed up with Andy Taylor erstwhile guitarist from Duran Duran and released Out Of Order an album that actually… rocked! This song was the B-side to “Lost In You” and I was so enamored with both the LP and that song, I gave this 45 a chance and brought it home from the record store. And, yes, this song rocked and made me smile at the same time. This is probably the most obscure track on my favorites but I am who I am.
  • The Rolling Stones, “Fancy Man Blues” – When the Stones reunited for Steel Wheels we were all ecstatic. I was living in Arkansas at the time and I jumped a flight to Chicago to see them on that tour out at East Troy where Stevie Ray died… Anyway, I was in a bar the night before the show and whoever was in charge played “Fancy Man Blues” the B-side to “Mixed Emotions” and then I spent years trying to find it. The Stones always return to the blues.
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Soul To Squeeze” – As I mentioned in my resent post on the Peppers’ new song “Tippa My Tongue,” the RHCP’s creative process includes a lot of jamming which leads to a plethora of unused material that ends up as a B-side. This haunting ballad – that has to be about Hillel Slovak’s death and Anthony Kiedis’ running away to Mexico and missing the funeral – was used as a B-side twice for both “Give It Away” and “Under the Bridge” before finding widespread fame on the Coneheads’ soundtrack. I’ve seen them do it live and man, goosebumps.
  • Pearl Jam, “Yellow Ledbetter” – Well, you knew this track would be on here, it’s only the most famous B-side released in the 90s. It was the B-side to Jeremy and I purchased the CD single just so I could own this track. It sounds like an homage to Stevie Ray Vaughn, at least when you hear them play it live, but that might just be me. I do relate to the lyric “I said I don’t know whether I’m the boxer or the bag.”
  • U2, “The Lady With the Spinning Head (UV1)” – The Rock Chick turned me onto this song. I love it. It was a demo that spawned both “The Fly” and then “Ultraviolet Light.” Eventually it saw release as the B-side to “One.” We put this on one of our party tracks and people always approach me and ask me about this song… and “The Ground Beneath Her Feet,” but that’s another song for another day.
  • Tom Petty, “Girl On LSD” – Any long time readers of B&V know that this song was my “white whale” in terms of B-sides for a long time. I did have a bootleg version but I always want an official version if I can get it. It’s the funniest song Petty ever did. It finally saw release (in an alternative version) on Finding Wildflowers. Petty has another bluesy rocker named “Sweet William” that has become my new “white whale” B-side… I will find you “Sweet William,” if it kills me.

Many of these tracks you’ve probably heard before. But if there are ones you haven’t I urge you to seek them out and give them a spin. These sadly orphaned B-sides deserve to be heard. There are so many more B-sides out there that I didn’t list. I look forward to seeing if any of you out there have a favorite B-side to add to this list.

Enjoy the last bit of summer! Cheers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

Review: Starcrawler Live In Kansas City 8/12/2022 – Incendiary Rock N Roll!

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*Photo of Arrow De Wilde and drummer Seth Carolina of Starcrawler at the Record Bar in Kansas City, taken by your intrepid blogger

I wish I could share just a percentage of the joy I feel when I see live music. To see an actual band play actual instruments and conjure magical sounds before my very eyes and ears is just so special. Crowded in a dark room, shoulder to shoulder with like-minded rockers is just so wonderful. Last night was no exception. The Rock Chick and I headed downtown to Kansas City’s Record Bar to see one of my favorite new-ish bands, Starcrawler. They absolutely did not disappoint. Starcrawler consists of Arrow de Wilde (singer), Henri Cash (lead guitar), younger brother Bill Cash (guitar/pedal steel!), Tim Franco (bass) and new drummer Seth Carolina. I was concerned about Starcrawler just a touch as original drummer and founding member Austin Smith had left the band during the Covid thing and you never know what that will do to the chemistry of a band. With a front woman like Arrow de Wilde and her on-stage guitar foil Henri Cash, I needn’t have worried.

I’d like to tell you I discovered Starcrawler on my own. That yes, I have my fingers on the pulse of new music such that I make these grand discoveries when a kick ass rock band emerges from the haze. But no, it was the Rock Chick who I must give credit for finding this band. She traveled out to Denver a few years ago to visit her offspring while I stayed home because of requirements from my corporate masters. Well, that and someone has to take care of the damn cat. Anyway, the Rock Chick returned from Denver with tales of a wild woman lead singer for this band Starcrawler. I went out and watched a bunch of clips on YouTube just to be amused. But then I started listening to the songs and realized, damn these guys rock! I immediately bought their first eponymously titled debut album and several stray singles like “Ants” and their Ramones’ cover, “Pet Sematary (sic).”

It was shortly after that Starcrawler came to Kansas City and played the Riot Room. They had just released their great second LP, Devour You. I had purchased and really enjoyed that album. You could hear how this band was developing and advancing as songwriters and musicians on that record. Needless to say I rocked out that night at the Riot Room… Starcrawler was just killer live! Can’t believe it’s been almost three years… I was in the front row and Arrow not only spat water upon me – pre-Covid I was down for that – she landed on me when she hurled herself off the stage. Sadly, she then jumped up on the bar and threw some lady’s cocktail on the Rock Chick and my friend RJ… Needless to say RJ sat out last night and the Rock Chick… well, like so much of our marriage, she’s best described as a reluctant participant. Marriage is a compromise. I will say as we walked to the car she did say to me, “That was a great show!”

We got to the Record Bar during the last moments of the opening act which was regretful. Dinner had taken longer than I thought it would. At approximately 9pm the band took the stage, everyone wearing pink shirts save the drummer. Those drummers, what are you gonna do? They started jamming and we all stood anticipating Arrow’s arrival on stage. She strode out from the side of the stage – a head taller than most the crowd, a lion-maned, blonde Amazon come to slay us with her rock n roll. She was wearing elbow length white gloves laced up with pink ribbon, a white/pink bikini top and white hip-hugging pants… half go-go girl, all rock star. She walked to the mic and we were off to the races. She moves like a snake, slithering around stage and then her body reacts to the music like it’s on a hinge. Her shoulders are evocative. She and Henri are great on stage together like a modern day Jagger/Richards. When they both get to rocking they’ll lean over and spin their long hair around and just bear down on the rock n roll. And can I just say, and this may sound weird, de Wilde has lovely hands. Her fingers are really long and elegant and she guides the crowd with them. Simply mesmerizing.

There were so many highlights. “I Love L.A.” is one of my favs so it’s no surprise I dug that song. There were several new tracks that I’d heard – “She Said” and of course the raging “Roadkill” that were also highlights. I really like the addition of Bill Cash who plays rhythm guitar but more importantly added some pedal steel guitar on several tracks which gives the songs a nice extra texture. Starcrawler played a couple of new songs – from the upcoming September LP She Said that haven’t been released yet. That’s always dicey but they brought those tracks home! After a great rendition of another personal favorite “No More Pennies,” which always conjures the Stones for me, they went to the acoustic guitar for two really great songs. Arrow stood still for those ballads and delivered the vocals. “Better Place” was straight acoustic guitar but “Runaway” had that plaintive pedal steel that took it to next level. Henri sings not only back up and harmony but full on duets and it conjures a whole Gram Parsons/Emmylou Harris vibe. Simply wonderful. I can only wish that the new LP was out so I could be turning it up loud today.

There were so many other highlights. “Ants,” which I believe is their first single just RAWKED. I was up at the bar getting a drink and was close to the front and the audience went nuts. The aforementioned “Pet Sematary” was also a highlight. “You Dig Yours” is another great track from Devour You and it was just transcendent last night. They are so much more muscular in their delivery live than on record and that’s not a knock on their very strong studio work. Naturally they ended the main set with “Bet My Brains” which will probably be like their “Satisfaction.” It’s just a great rock anthem and so fitting for this band. They returned for the encore, the great “Chicken Woman” which is just fun to listen to. Arrow was first to leave the stage followed 1 by 1 by the rest of the band.

The Rock Chick and I escaped into the night… high on the stars and the cool evening air and the incendiary rock n roll we had just absorbed. I know Starcrawler is opening for Jack White tonight in Minneapolis… I had hoped Arrow would spot me in the crowd and I’d wake up on the tour bus this morning on my way to that gig. But alas, I am merely here at home reporting on the great music I heard. If you’ve got a chance to see these guys on this tour – as I always say – buy the ticket see the show. Some day these guys will be playing arenas and charging Springsteen money for tickets so see them in a small venue up close and personal… it’s worth every penny.

Enjoy the show, Cheers!

Album Lookback: Robert Plant, ‘Pictures At Eleven,’ His Solo Debut Turns 40 This Year

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“Slipped through the window by the backdoor, and took the keys to my poor heart” – Robert Plant, “Burning Down One Side”

A few weeks ago, I set my maniacal musical focus on 1982 for one of our “historically-themed” playlists. I have to admit I’ve always seen ’82 as a year when music was transitioning. It was moving away from those classic sounds of the 70s to a sleeker and more synth heavy/drum machine sound in the 80s. That said, 1982 was a damn fine year for music. One of the albums that really jumped out at me while I was doing the playlist, and that I’ve found myself returning to since, was Robert Plant’s solo debut Pictures At Eleven. That album certainly made our B&V list of “favorite solo debut albums.” While I chose the lead off track and first single from the album for the 1982 playlist, “Burning Down One Side,” there were so many great songs to choose from, I decided that it was indeed time to take a look back at this superb album. And I must admit, I put the original vinyl LP I’d purchased upon it’s release in 1982 (pictured above) on the turntable this week and it sounded spectacular… suddenly I was back in high school sitting on the edge of my bed with the music cranked… my mother shouting in the background to “turn it down.”

As I’ve shared before, I really didn’t start listening to rock n roll until roughly 1978 when I was in junior high school (aka middle school). You hit those teen years and your soul just needs some good rock n roll, I suppose. Obviously there was a ton of great rock n roll released prior to 1978 and it was all I could do to catch up on what had been released prior while simultaneously trying to keep up with new stuff coming out. Zeppelin was one of the first groups I was drawn to because, well, they’re one of the foundational acts in the history of rock n roll. You couldn’t get into music back then and not be into Zeppelin…or Pink Floyd for that matter. I remember I had their debut album, Led Zeppelin and I believe it was the first of theirs I purchased because I loved the trippy “Dazed And Confused.” I liked that song more than “Stairway To Heaven” back then and probably still do. Despite that, the second Zeppelin LP I’d added to my collection was Led Zeppelin IV or Runes or whatever you like to call that album…because it had “Stairway” on it and you had to have that song and album in your collection or your music credibility would be called into question.

Then in 1979 Zeppelin returned from an extended absence and released a brand new album, In Through The Out Door. There are a lot of people who disparage that record but for a bunch of junior high kids, it was just a thrill to see a new Zeppelin album in our lifetimes. They’d been away for 3 years at the time. Everyone I knew who was into music – and everyone I knew was into music – had that album. I still have a special place in my heart for that LP and included it on my list of albums maybe only I like… By the time they’d announced a U.S. tour, I was in high school. I remember the buzz in the lunch room as a couple of seniors were trying to get people to sign up to charter a bus to Chicago, the closest the mighty Zeppelin was going to get to Kansas City. I remember thinking, “Damn, I wish I could get on that bus.”

But then, suddenly, drummer John Bonham was dead. He died in perhaps the most spectacular way a rock star can die… he consumed 40 shots of vodka over the course of a day and choked on his own vomit which was oddly common back then (Jimi Hendrix, Bon Scott). We were all wrecked. The tour was cancelled and there were some angry seniors in the lunch room that day…best to be avoided. I couldn’t help but think, “I’m glad I’m not on that bus…I’d have lost my deposit.” I was a frugal kid. People weren’t sure what was going to happen to Zeppelin at that point. The Who had continued on a few years earlier when Keith Moon had died, recruiting former Faces drummer Kenny Jones to take over. Everyone was hoping Zeppelin would do something similar and continue with a new drummer but then they issued the terse statement:

“We wish it to be known that the loss of our dear friend, and the deep sense of undivided harmony felt by ourselves and our manager, have led us to decide that we could not continue as we were.” – Led Zeppelin

Which was sad, but totally made sense. There couldn’t be a Led Zeppelin without John Bonham on the kit. But… what was next for guitarist Jimmy Page, bass/keyboard player John Paul Jones and singer Robert Plant? There were actually rumors – and I’m not sure where these started, probably ‘Hit Parader’ or ‘Creem’ magazine – that Plant and Page were going to form a new group with a different rhythm section. Apparently they weren’t that close to John Paul Jones so he was to be left out. At the same time Zeppelin broke up the wheels were coming off of the band Yes – guitarist Steve Howe split for Asia and singer Jon Anderson had gone off to record solo stuff with a guy named Vangelis (“Friends Of Mr. Cairo,” anyone? Anyone?) – leaving Yes’ drummer Alan White and bassist Chris Squire without a singer or guitarist… It was fate. Page/Plant would unite with White/Squire and a new band would be born named XYZ. The name was supposed to mean ex-Yes & Zeppelin. I don’t know if any of that was true or it was all just conspiracy theory but it never came about.

At that point we figured Plant would go solo. Oddly, the first song I think I’d heard Plant sing outside of Zeppelin was a cover of a song made famous by Elvis, “Little Sister” recorded live with Rockpile (Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe’s band) from the Concerts For The People Kampuchea spearheaded by Paul McCartney. We wondered if Plant was just going to join Rockpile… But no, he was forming his own solo band with guys he’d played with before he joined Zeppelin: Robbie Blunt/guitar, Jeff Woodroffe/keyboards and Paul Martinez/bass. For drums he recruited Genesis drummer Phil Collins with Cozy Powell (Rainbow/Jeff Beck) playing drums on a few tracks. I heard Plant interviewed and he said at the time he recorded Pictures At Eleven, he really didn’t know how to make a record. He was usually asleep on a couch when Page was putting Zeppelin’s LPs together. He had recruited Collins because Collins had just done his first solo album Face Value and he felt Phil could help him figure out what to do in the studio, although he did not get a producers credit.

Maybe it was because he was just learning how to make a solo record, but Plant has always been seemingly embarrassed by his early work. I absolutely love his first two LPs. The first track I heard from Pictures At Eleven was the aforementioned first single and lead off track on the album, “Burning Down One Side.” I was blown away. It starts with a cascading guitar and then Plant’s voice soars in. I remember asking this guy in my Biology class if he’d heard it. He said with an over abundance of feigned confidence, “Yes, it’s really where Zeppelin was headed anyway.” I’m not sure I’d agree with that.

I loved “Burning Down One Side” and the lyric, “How could I fall without a shove?” The slinky guitar and Plant’s trademark vocal… it wasn’t Zeppelin, it was something wholly unto itself but still “awesome” in it’s own right. It was the perfect vehicle for Plant to move forward in music. I took the leap of faith and purchased the album almost immediately which was rare in high school. I needed to hear 3 good songs from a record before I plunked down my hard earned lawn mowing money. Besides “Burning Down…” I was also immediately drawn to “Pledge Pin.” The drums on that track are fantastic. It’s got an almost jaunty guitar. It’s another song about a “Man Eater” kind of woman. I just love Plant’s voice on the song and features a sax solo. Plant was expanding his musical palette. These two songs, both on side 1, hit me in the lower brain stem. And when I say “immediately,” I mean on the first spin of the album. It was that electric.

On side two, I had the same experience with one of the two ballads on the album, “Fat Lip.” I heard Plant was in a bar writing the lyrics and he saw a fight and so just named the song, “Fat Lip.” The song has a spidery, haunted guitar that just grabs me. I also really connected with the final track on the album “Mystery Title.” It’s another rockin’, upbeat song. I like Blunt’s guitar on this song as well… he acquitted himself well considering he had to know he’d be compared to Page. I literally connected with those four songs the first time I heard them. I figured at the time in Blunt, Plant had found that next Page… but in retrospect, just like Bonham, you don’t replace a Jimmy Page. The exuberant ignorance of youth…

As I continued to listen to the record – over and over again, like you do in high school – other tracks emerged for me. “Slow Dancer” was an epic rock song. It’s probably the most Zeppelin-esque track on the album. It’s heavy with an edge. Plant wails as if he’s in pain on that song… “Worse Than Detroit” kicks off side two and it was another early favorite. There’s a movement or swing in a lot these songs that really puts air under the tracks. “Moonlight In Samosa” is a Spanish-tinged ballad that ranks amongst my favorite of Plant’s ballads. “Like I’ve Never Been Gone” is as close to a blues track as Plant gets here but it’s another epic track. The blues had largely disappeared from music by ’82 but this song gives me a real bluesy vibe. The lyrics are killer, “I caught a taste of springtime on your lips, I saw the sunlight in your eyes…”

Pictures At Eleven was the perfect solo debut for Plant. The album is a knock out. Even so, there was a b-side track on the “Burning Down One Side” single that was left off the LP, “Far Post” that will definitely be on a post I’m working on about “favorite b-sides.” I’ve never understood why they left “Far Post” off the record. It’s fueled by Woodroffe’s piano with Blunt’s guitar following along for the ride. If you’ve never heard this song, find it wherever you get your music. I think they started adding it to CD versions of the album.

If you don’t have or have never heard Robert Plant’s solo debut Pictures At Eleven, its one of his best solo albums – and as strong as his solo career has been, that says a lot – and you need to hear the whole thing. Take my hand and walk with me back 40 years… it’s worth the trip… “When the rain stops falling down, I’ll be waiting for you baby, when your time has come…”

Cheers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the track:

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

Turn this one up LOUD and prepare to RAWK!

Cheers!

Playlist: 1982 – We Somewhat Reluctantly Look Back 40 Years…

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Image taken from the internet and likely copyrighted…

I miss tickets like the one pictured above… I have a scrapbook courtesy of the Rock Chick full of stubs like that one… but I’m already off topic here. Perhaps I’m just feeling reluctant to get into it…

As anybody whose read B&V for any amount of time knows, we’re very fond of our playlists around here. In the old days my playlists were carefully constructed cassettes that I would place in my “cassette briefcase” in the car so I’d have access to maximum jams and never be a prisoner to bad radio again. Of course back then we called them “mix tapes.” In the era of streaming and MP3’s my playlists got a lot longer and more mobile I suppose. As long as I have access to the internet I have access to music. Who’d have thought I’d be able to do that back in say…1982? And for the sake of honesty, I’ll have to admit my playlists are never as good as the ones the Rock Chick comes up with… but that’s just one of the myriad reasons I married her.

For purposes of B&V my playlists are usually thematic. Much like Bob Dylan’s ‘Theme Time Radio Hour.’ I tend to pick a topic – either sleeping or the surreal realm of dreams or maybe drinking or even heroin – and try to arrange tracks that fit the theme. Last year was the first time I’d done something around a historically themed playlist. It had been 50 years since 1971 so I did a playlist centered around albums from that landmark year of in rock n roll. I want to stress we’re about albums here at B&V so it wasn’t about singles. I picked hits but I also did some deep tracks. Our goal on all of our playlists here at B&V is to put a song you haven’t heard in a while back in your ear or better yet, turn you onto something you have never heard before. As Dr. Johnny Fever from the show WKRP once said, “Who else will teach the children about rock n roll?”

I had so much fun with the musical spelunking I did around the 1971 playlist, that I decided to go back 50 years again this year to 1972. I really dug that playlist. 1972 wasn’t as epic a year as 1971 but it was a fascinating year. Ironically the Black Crowes must have been paying attention as they put out an EP of six tracks (3 were on my playlist!) from that year as well, creatively entitled 1972. Going back 50 years is a fascinating prospect but while I am (obviously) extremely passionate about rock n roll, I can be somewhat dispassionate about songs from 1971 or 1972 because I was but a child during that time. I have no emotional connection to those tunes save for ones I’d developed later in life. There was no real-time moment in 1971 when I was playing in my parents backyard and Marvin Gaye’s tune “What’s Goin’ On?” came on the radio and I looked up at the sky and thought, “What is going on here? Why am I on this rickety swing set, it feels like a death trap… and why do I allow my sainted mother to dress me and my brother in coordinating outfits?” or “I can’t wait until 50 years from now when we all have flying cars and world peace…” That just didn’t happen.

The idea for a playlist centered around albums from 1982 popped into my head recently. Actually it’s been bouncing around my skull since January. My dearest and oldest pal Doug mentioned to me over beers that 1982 is a rather landmark year for he and I…At the risk of betraying my age, we graduated from high school that year. And, apparently there’s something called a “high school reunion” going on this year. l have never attended and will likely never attend a reunion. I wasn’t into high school and Doug is really the only person I’m in contact with so why would I attend a reunion? I was never a “joiner.” I was in the invisible middle in the social strata of my enormous high school. I grew up on the Kansas side of the KC border. As an adult I moved over to the Missouri side which bestowed upon me a sort of “invisibility cloak.” I don’t see people from high school, other than Doug, and thank god they can’t seem to find me.

Ah, but 1982 was quite a year. For me, it was like what Dickens wrote, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” The first half of that year I was a high school senior, atop the food chain so to speak. I only had to get up and go to school half days, the first five “hours” and then I could leave for the day. I treated school like a halfway house that year. I showed up and did my bit, signed the papers and walked. I had a part time job so I had money in my pocket, beer in the cooler and vinyl on my turntable. Once I turned 18 my parents let go of the reigns… “Don’t kill anybody behind the wheel and don’t get anybody pregnant and you’re good to go.” They were ready for me to leave. That year I fell in love for the first time in that high school tragic fashion. I just remember it being a really fun time. I think I even got a sun tan that summer.

But then I went away to University and everything changed for me. I was suddenly a freshman, on the bottom of that food chain. I think the first two guys I roomed with were both in their early 30s… they were engineering students and taking the scenic route through college. I was certainly not comfortable. If I’m being honest in the clear light of day, in retrospect, I probably suffered what can only be described as a bit of a nervous breakdown that year. I wasn’t emotionally mature enough – or mature enough on any scale – to handle being away from home for the first time, the pressure that college exerted on my psyche (fail and it’s to the coal mine for you), or a long distance relationship (that I was foolish enough to attempt). I certainly wasn’t the same person anymore. I was suffering from anxiety and to be honest probably depression as well. It led to a really dark time for me. When the wheels finally came off Doug and Bacardi rum helped me get through a lot of that…I will always be eternally grateful for his friendship.  In some ways though, that shadow didn’t lift for me for a long, long time. I carried it with me, like a scar.

But the good news – it did lift. I will say, if you’re at that critical time of life, coping with just becoming an adult, if you’re suffering, ask for help! Reach out to someone. And don’t do what I did, self-medicate with rum and coke. The support system is so much better now. I hate to think of anybody feeling what I felt that horrid fall. Better yet there was some great music in 1982. But, for me, unlike those 1971-1972 playlists I do have an emotional connection to a lot of these tunes. If not an emotional connection, I certainly have clear memories connected to many of these songs. Memories both good and bad but that’s life, isn’t it? Like the Chairman sang, “Regrets, I’ve had a few.” Some of the albums these songs came from are in my pantheon of the great ones. I have tried to share some of those memories below.

Typically when I do a playlist I suggest putting it on “shuffle” or “random.” But I actually put these tunes together as they came into my head. Oddly it sort of fits around the way 1982 unfolded for me and playing it straight through kind of works. I see ’82 as a bit of a transitional year for music. It was kind of the last gasp for that 70s great rock sound before the synths and drum machines took over and you hear that music on the front end of this playlist. There were a lot of guys emerging from the break up/demise of great bands from the 70s (Plant/Zeppelin, Henley/Eagles, Fagen/Steely Dan). It just feels like the tide was turning to something new. Doug will argue with me, but I see the 80s as the worst decade for rock n roll. The back half of this playlist reads like my time after I went to college. There’s more alternative rock and synth stuff on the back end. MTV was a huge influence on music by that point and that shows on the playlist. Songs I’d never hear on the radio had videos in high rotation (Peter Gabriel, Adam Ant). Even college radio put a few tunes in my ear, like R.E.M.’s stuff from their debut EP Chronic Town.

The first question that may come to mind – how can you do a 1982 playlist without anything from Micheal Jackson’s Thriller? Easy, this is a rock n roll blog. Despite the presence of Eddie Van Halen on “Beat It” there was no way MJ was gonna end up on one of my playlists… although it crossed my mind. As always you can find my playlist on the dreaded Spotify… Crank this one up loud, tease up your permed hair, get your leg warmers on and grab a wine cooler… it’s a rad 1982 playlist, man!

  1. Eddie Money, “Shakin'” – Eddie never had the “cool” cache of Springsteen or even Seger and Mellencamp but man we loved him. This was always a favorite. Eddie Money always delivered.
  2. Robert Plant, “Burning Down One Side” – Plant has always been oddly embarrassed by his early work but I’ve always loved it. With Zeppelin tragically ending I was really excited when this album came out. “How could I fall without a shove?”
  3. Asia, “Heat of the Moment” – Asia was everywhere in 1982. If you know, you know.
  4. Van Halen, “Dancin’ In The Streets” – Diver Down is such an iconic album to me now. It was one of my summer jams that year.
  5. Aerosmith, “Lightning Strikes” – We’d all wondered where Aerosmith had gone. They disappeared when I was in high school. This was the only song I liked on an otherwise weak “comeback” album.
  6. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, “Change of Heart” – There certainly was a change of heart for me in ’82. “You Got Lucky” got the attention but this is one of my all time favorite Petty songs.
  7. Scorpions, “Can’t Live Without You” – I’d already seen them live once when this came out, but it was Blackout that made me a fan… I still love the Scorpions and their latest LP Rock Believer.
  8. Judas Priest, “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” – It’s hard not to think of this iconic tune without thinking of the iconic video. MTV really was a big influence in music in those days.
  9. George Thoroughgood & The Destroyers, “Bad To The Bone” – I’m not a huge fan of Thoroughgood’s but you can’t do an ’82 playlist without “Bad to the Bone.” And let’s admit it, it’s a great tune.
  10. Aldo Nova, “Fantasy” – I’d forgotten all about this rocking track until I met the Rock Chick.
  11. Led Zeppelin, “Darlene” – From their LP of leftovers, Coda. I’m not sure any of us got over Zeppelin’s demise. They actually played this song on KY102 back when it came out.
  12. The Who, “Eminence Front” – I remember this more from the fall of ’82. Townshend always says he’s baffled by the popularity of this song but we loved it! And again, the cool video. “Come and join the party… dress to kill.”
  13. Queen & David Bowie, “Under Pressure” – Hot Space largely made most of us get off the Queen bandwagon but this track was a winner. Queen with Bowie, how can you lose?
  14. Bad Company, “Electricland” – The last gasp from a once great band… a vaguely Hendrix-y title… The last great Bad Co song with Paul Rodgers.
  15. Steve Miller Band, “Abracadabra” – The SMB had been huge when we were in junior high school then nothing for years until this gem appeared in 1982. Still a favorite of mine. “I’m gonna reach out and grab ya.” Silly rhyme.
  16. Warren Zevon, “The Envoy” – There’s so much great Zevon out there that nobody talks about. If you’ve got any pull, please help get this guy get into the Rock Hall of Fame.
  17. Rainbow, “Stone Cold” – I’ve always loved this song. Great riff, great vocal. Lately I’ve been waking up with this song in my head
  18. David Bowie, “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” – This version, from the soundtrack to the movie, is different and far superior to the version on 1983’s Let’s Dance. I remember watching Cat People on HBO only so I could hear this song over the closing credits… Somehow I ended up with the soundtrack LP in my record crate but I can’t find it now.
  19. John Mellencamp, “Hurts So Good” – His breakthrough track… certainly stirs up a few ghosts for me…
  20. Van Morrison, “Dweller On The Threshold” – A song I may have them play at my funeral. About feeling like you’re on the outside, standing in the doorway, looking in but not quite invited. I felt this way from those early 80s days until I met the Rock Chick…
  21. Crosby, Stills, Nash, “Southern Cross” – Great, acoustic track from CSN. Critics are always meh, but this was a great song from a very solid LP, Daylight Again. Classic rockers find their footing.
  22. Bruce Springsteen, “Atlantic City” – The River was where I got on the bandwagon for Bruce. I got home for Christmas in ’82 and discovered this LP and was so utterly disappointed by it’s stark, grim acoustic tracks. I wanted The River 2.0. I had to wait until Born In The U.S.A. for that. This was a great song that I attached to almost immediately.
  23. Steve Winwood, “Talking Back To The Night” – Sadly he sold this for a beer commercial a few years later… still a great tune. I seem to be drawn to tracks about being alone in the night…
  24. Elvis Costello & the Attractions, “Man Out of Time” – This one is for my old buddy Drew.
  25. Dave Edmunds, “From Small Things (Big Things Someday Come)” – Dave is such a solid rock guy. This is a Springsteen cover that I didn’t know was a Springsteen cover in ’82.
  26. The Clash, “Rock The Casbah” – I could have gone with “Should I Stay Or Should I Go,” but for sentimental reasons that track bothers me still… The Clash didn’t get a lot of airplay where I was from so – again because of MTV – this was the first track by them that I really got into. I bought the LP (on cassette no less), radical for a Midwest boy back then.
  27. Cheap Trick, “She’s Tight” – Cheap Trick have just always been so great. I love when he screams, “So I got off the phoooone.” I would have too…
  28. Billy Idol, “White Wedding, Pt 1” – I’ve always wondered when we’ll hear “Pt 2”? I was this close to choosing “Hot In the City,” but this is a bigger track. We didn’t like Billy Idol because to our unsophisticated eyes he looked weird. If you turned off the video and just listened he was great. This was one case, for me, where the videos were working against the artist.
  29. Joe Jackson, “Steppin’ Out” – We all knew “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” so we were a bit surprised by this brooding, piano-driven gem.
  30. Elton John, “Blue Eyes” – A simply beautiful ballad that is on here for sentimental reasons that I refuse to explain… for someone I knew a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.
  31. Fleetwood Mac, “Straight Back” – A bit of a deep track but I’ve always loved this hypnotic Stevie Nicks track. She was in such a purple patch back then between Fleetwood Mac and her solo career. She even made them put a country song on Mirage.
  32. Squeeze, “Black Coffee In Bed” – This to me represents the kind of music I was starting to hear when I got college. I had shifted from arena rock, barrel house tunes to more sophisticated tracks.
  33. Rush, “Subdivisions” – We were all a little disappointed by Signals. It’d be hard for any band to follow up Moving Pictures, but this track drew me back in.
  34. Flock of Seagulls, “I Ran (So Far Away)” – We thought these guys had landed from another planet with their synths and wild hair. When I’d wake up in the morning my roommates would point to my disheveled hair and say, “Look it’s the Flock of Seagulls guy.” This was a marker of where music was headed in the 80s, and perhaps not for the better.
  35. INXS, “Don’t Change” – I think this is the first INXS track I remember hearing. I can still remember thinking that INXS was going to be a band to keep my eye on. There were some great bands who entered our consciousness in the 80s. U2 was lurking around somewhere in my mind too…
  36. Duran Duran, “Hungry Like the Wolf” – This one is for the Rock Chick.
  37. Modern English, “I Melt With You” – Still one of the greatest “alternative rock” songs ever.
  38. Donald Fagen, “I.G.Y.” – Another iconic 80s band Steely Dan had bit the dust and Fagen finally emerged as a solo artist.
  39. The Psychedelic Furs, “Love My Way” – I feel like this song may have been ahead of its time. Or was it a harbinger of music to come? Either way it reminds me of early college.
  40. Roxy Music, “Love My Way” – This was the only Roxy song I knew for like, decades.
  41. The Fixx, “Red Skies” – I think the lead singer was 7 feet tall.
  42. Genesis, “Paperlate” – Great song from the one studio side of a double, live album.
  43. Pete Townshend, “Slit Skirts” – I can still remember the video. I had this album but had overlooked this song. “We have to be so drunk to try a new dance…”
  44. Bob Seger, “Roll Me Away” – A personal favorite and a favorite of my friend “the Bat Cat.” “Took a look down a west bound road, right away I made my choice…”
  45. Alan Parsons Project, “Eye In The Sky” – This was a pretty mellow, keyboard thing but we always dug this trippy band.
  46. R.E.M., “Gardening At Night” – From their debut EP, Chronic Town. You had to be really cool to own this one… I was not that cool.
  47. Lou Reed, “The Gun” – One of my all time favorite Lou Reed songs from one of my all time favorite Lou Reed LPs, The Blue Mask.
  48. Missing Persons, “Walking In L.A.” – My roommate actually bought this LP at a time when his record collection consisted of heavy metal and Fleetwood Mac. I think he had a crush on Dale Bozzio but who amongst us didn’t?
  49. Billy Joel, “Pressure” – Joel navigated the transition to the 80s quite well on the oft overlooked gem Nylon Curtain. I certainly didn’t handle the pressure of adulthood as well…
  50. Don Henley, “Dirty Laundry” – Henley rose from the ashes of the Eagles and launched his solo career with this classic track that features his former band mate Joe Walsh on lead guitar. A very tasty solo indeed.
  51. Billy Squier, “Everybody Wants You” – The biggest track on the follow up to his classic Don’t Say No. Emotions In Motion wasn’t as strong an album but there were still some great tracks.
  52. Kenny Loggins, Steve Perry, “Don’t Fight It” – I’m in no way a Loggins fan but back in those days I really liked Steve Perry and Journey. This track kinda rocked and it was always on the radio.
  53. Kansas, “Play The Game” – A great song from the band from my home state at the time.
  54. Pat Benatar, “Little Too Late” – I’m not a huge Benatar fan but this track always jumped out at me.
  55. Adam Ant, “Goody Two Shoes” – I was first introduced to this track on MTV… clearly I spent too much time watching televison. “You don’t drink, don’t smoke, what do you do?”
  56. Peter Gabriel, “Shock The Monkey” – Another late night, MTV favorite. I couldn’t help but think, where did this guy come from? To me Genesis was Phil Collins… I didn’t even know that Gabriel had once been their lead singer. College was great for bringing me out of the little hard rock cocoon I was in.
  57. The Go-Go’s, “Vacation” – A great summer track. I actually met Belinda Carlisle a few years later…but that’s another story.
  58. Prince, “Little Red Corvette” – I was turned on to Prince and 1999 a little later but this has always been a favorite of mine. Not just a favorite from 1982, or a favorite by Prince, but an overall all time favorite. “I guess I should have known by the way you parked your car sideways that it wouldn’t last…”
  59. Jackson Browne, “Somebody’s Baby” – My playlists pegged to a specific year are always very album oriented. This track is the exception here… It’s from the Fast Times At Ridgemont High soundtrack and I believe it’s Browne’s biggest “hit.” It’s an exceptional song.
  60. Paul McCartney, “Tug Of War” – The title track of an album I purchased because it was playing in the record store I was hanging out in and I really liked it…

There it is! Hopefully through these songs I was able to take you back to a happy place in your story. I know there are tunes from other albums that didn’t make my list but if you have a favorite put it in the comments and I’ll add it to the Spotify playlist.

And again, if you’re out there and struggling, whatever age you are or place in life you are at, please reach out and get help. Dial 988 in the U.S. and someone will be there. Help is available. It’s not good to struggle alone. It gets better, I promise…

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!