Review: Roger Waters “This Is Not A Drill,” Live In Kansas City, Sept 3rd, 2022 – A Spectacle of Sight & Sound

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*Picture of Roger Waters performing “Wish You Were Here” taken by your intrepid blogger

I have to admit, it’s been so long since I’ve been to a big, arena-sized concert that I’d be hard pressed to even tell you the last band I saw in such a big venue. I did see Joan Jett and Cheap Trick about a year ago at an outdoor venue, commonly referred to in the music industry as “a shed”. A few weeks ago, I also saw Starcrawler at what’s basically a bar. But in an arena, I haven’t gone to a concert since before COVID. I was a bit surprised when I heard from an old buddy of mine who said he had tickets to see Roger Waters and asked if I wanted to go with he and his daughter. Naturally, I was in. While Waters’ split with his original band, Pink Floyd, was decades ago his setlists are still packed with classic Pink Floyd tunes. I couldn’t help but laugh to myself when I thought about Roger Waters last show in Kansas City, way back in 2017. I didn’t attend, but the Rock Chick and I went out for drinks with this “friend of a friend” of hers and the lady’s boyfriend. The boyfriend – who plays music and has groovy long hair – said of the Waters’ concert he’d attended that he’d walked out offended by Roger’s politics and anti-Trump commentary. To which I replied while laughing incredulously, “Have you not been paying f*cking attention to Pink Floyd’s lyrics all these years?” Oddly we never saw that couple again.

I will admit that I got into one of the boxes where I store my old concert t-shirts that have been retired for various reasons to dig out my shirt from the 1990 performance Roger did of The Wall at the Berlin Wall that I was lucky enough to attend. I figured he’d see me in the audience and be like, “Hey, man you were in Berlin, come on up on stage and play some tambourine…” But alas, there are reasons I’ve retired some of those old concert T’s… The shirt from the Berlin show is now yellowed and stained with age and perhaps sloppy eating habits. Even washing it didn’t perk that thing up. Oh, well.

It’s hard to describe the feeling I had as we drove down to see Waters. I knew that he was going to play mostly (80%) Pink Floyd tunes. I think for most of us who became fans of rock n roll in the 70s Pink Floyd, and maybe Led Zeppelin, were the zenith of our rock n roll worlds. They were certainly the two coolest bands on the planet. I have such a visceral connection to all of Floyd’s music I wondered if I’d feel emotional when hearing it again, played live. When those guys split – Waters the bassist and primary composer in the band was on one side and David Gilmour (guitar, vocals), Rick Wright (keyboards) and Nick Mason (drums) were on the other. In the end the Gilmour/Wright/Mason side won the rights to continue as Pink Floyd. Waters retained the rights to The Wall. Only he is allowed to perform that concept album in full. It was Waters’ magnum opus after all.

Waters certainly focuses on the music but he also puts a lot into the visual piece of the performance. Last night can only be described as a visual spectacle.  Everything he writes is typically built around a concept and I guess you could say his concerts are constructed similarly. He has this giant, X shaped video screen that lifted off the stage and up into the sky where he projected not only images of the band playing live, but short videos, political commentary and animation. He spoke lovingly of his “old band,” but only showed images that included himself, Syd Barrett (the late founder of Pink Floyd and their original vocalist/guitarist), Rick Wright (who is now sadly deceased as well) and Nick Mason (who is like Ringo, in that only he gets along with all the other members of the band… I guess drummers are the peacemakers). Gilmour was in exactly 0 photos projected on the screen. Grudges, can’t live with them, can’t live without them. There was also a flying pig with “Steal from the poor give to the rich,” and “Fuck the poor” written on the side. And for a while there was a giant sheep floating around the arena. You really feel like you’re part of the performance. And for the politically sensitive snowflakes out there, Waters did say before the show, “We’ll start in 5 minutes and for those of you who don’t like Roger’s political commentary, fuck off to the bar now.”

The band acquitted themselves quite well especially guitarists Johnathon Wilson and Dave Kilminster who admittedly have the biggest shoes to fill in recreating David Gilmour’s splendid, iconic guitar work. Waters played acoustic guitar and piano but many times just stood at the mic and sang. He’s a little awkward without an instrument but I was riveted. He held out playing bass guitar – the instrument he’s known for (and frankly I’ve always thought he was a criminally underrated bass player) – until the very end when they were doing tunes from Dark Side of the Moon. The stage was a big X or cross and the band performed in “the round.” I’m not a huge fan of that set up. When Waters went to the opposite side of the stage to play piano I couldn’t see him or the grand piano except on the big screen hanging precariously above us.

The show started with an ominous version of “Comfortably Numb,” sans the guitar solo at the end, set to acoustic guitar and synth. Then the screen rose up into the rafters and we were off and running. He started off with “The Happiest Days of Our Lives/Another Brick In The Wall Pt 2/Another Brick In the Wall Pt 3” and the crowd was into it. I did feel Roger’s vocals were a little low in the mix but I’m knit picking. He then played “The Powers That Be” from an album only I like, Radio K.A.O.S. There’s a moment in that song in the chorus where they sing, “You better run, you better run on home” that hits like a sledge hammer although it was little muted or muddled last night. It didn’t hit me as hard as usual. I will admit I was pretty blissed out for most of this show. Being so intimately familiar with the material really helps.

After Waters played a great new song, “The Bar,” he went into a muscular “Welcome To The Machine.” He closed out the first set with “Wish You Were Here,” where I snapped the photo above, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” and finally “Sheep” from the album Animals, a personal favorite. Those four songs were worth the price of admission. The band was cooking. The keyboards on “Sheep” played by Jon Carin and Roger Walter were spot on.

To kick off the second set, Waters marched right past my chair dressed in his neo-fascist character from The Wall and played “In The Flesh.” The band captured all the menace in that song. That led us into a great version of “Run Like Hell,” which is the Rock Chick’s favorite… alas she was not with me… Never trust a woman whose really into Pink Floyd – trust me on this. One of the absolutely highlights for me last night was the tune “Deja Vu” from his last solo record Is This The Life We Really Want? He muses in the song, “If I had been God, with my staff and my rod, I think… I coulda done a better job.” That song is the one I woke up with still lodged in my brain. It was then that Roger finally picked up his bass and the band launched into a set of songs from Dark Side Of The Moon. Roger let the band members do most of the vocals during that part of the show – “Money,” “Us And Them,” “Any Colour You Like,” “Brain Damage,” and “Eclipse” – and call me crazy but that seemed to be when Waters was happiest. He just wandered around the stage, almost in the background playing bass with a huge grin on his face.

After explaining the “Doomsday Clock” to the audience he played the sole track of the night from The Final Cut, “Two Suns In The Sunset” which is an underrated gem. I was a little disappointed he didn’t play “The Gunner’s Dream,” but again I’m knit picking. He did a quick reprise of the new song, “The Bar” with his band gathered around him at the piano, doing what appeared to be shots and ended the night with “Outside The Wall.” And with that both Roger and I were off and racing through the night time streets on our way home.

It was really a great show. The music of Pink Floyd – and much of Rogers’ solo music (for me at least) – is so much a part of my rock n roll universe it was just sheer joy to hear it played live. I was so utterly present in the moment it was wonderful. You’re taken in by the great songs and all the amazing visual aspects of the show and it’s hard not get swept away. It was certainly a great way to spend an evening.

If Waters is headed your way, do yourself a favor, buy the ticket see the show. One has to wonder how long big spectacles like this are going to exist!

Cheers!

Playlist: Happy Labor Day Weekend – Songs For All The “Working Stiffs” & The Saga Of My Summer Jobs

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*Image above taken from the Internet and likely copyright

I can’t believe it’s already Labor Day Weekend. I guess Steve Miller was right, “time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future.” This coming Monday is Labor Day, a day to celebrate Labor and working people and is generally a day of vacation for people. Labor Day was established as a Federal holiday in the U.S. as the first Monday in September in 1894. Prior to that 30 states had an official state holiday honoring Labor. Oregon was the first state to declare a state holiday for Labor Day so good on them. Most other nations celebrate Labor on May Day, or May 1st. It’s comforting to know that we pause as a nation and celebrate working people. For a long time I thought Labor Day was just a holiday that signaled the end of summer. I mean, how else would local municipalities know it was time to close the city pool? Memorial Day is the start of summer in the U.S. and Labor Day wraps it up.

I’m a white collar guy now but I still consider myself a working class dog, as Rick Springfield once sang. As awful as my current job can be at times it beats being a coal miner but then I’m claustrophobic. I have the utmost respect for Labor – it’s working people who built this country. Organized Labor helped build the middle class in America between 1932 and 1980. Even though I’m now merely a traveling salesman (see playlist) I still think back to my younger, high school/college days when I had to work every summer to pay for school. I had a number of difficult, dirty jobs.

My first job ever lasted exactly two weeks. There had never been a discussion at the house with my father, nicknamed The Hard Guy, telling me I had to get a job. My buddies were starting to get jobs and they always had walking around money for illicit beer purchases and vinyl records. Ever ambitious I felt I had to follow suit and applied for and got a job at my local Dairy Queen. While the surprised Hard Guy muttered approvingly when I got the job, the owner/manager was a sociopath with eyes that looked in two directions at once. He was not a nice man. Were it today, I would have suspected meth amphetamine abuse. The heat and grease that hung over the grille while I attempted to cook burgers and fries did wonders for my acne. I looked like a burn victim. Finally after the boss descended into a screaming fit because I didn’t clean up something properly I decided the culinary arts were perhaps not my chosen path.

Despite that, my next endeavor was as a busboy at a steak joint in the mall. I wore a white shirt, a bow tie and a leather tunic. I was the fastest busboy they had. I could clean a table in the blink of an eye. Although I must admit I started having nightmares that I was trundling my cart out into the dining room and all the tables were covered in dirty dishes… I’d wake up sweating from trying to dream bus tables… dreams are crazy. Perhaps that was a sign I wasn’t going to handle stress well. The steak joint had the advantage of actually having female employees. I met a bunch of girls who went to different high schools than I did which was an advantage, believe me. The steak joint was managed by a bunch of reprobates which may explain why they’d only seem to hire pretty girls… The cops came into the restaurant during a lunch rush one Saturday and arrested one of the assistant managers… he’d found an abandoned car along the highway and allegedly stole the license plate. We never saw him again. We would typically spend our breaks at the restaurant on night shifts standing in the walk-in cooler drinking beer and talking trash to the hostesses. It was a tough job but someone had to do it. I worked at that place on and off even through my early college years.

While those indoor jobs were fine and dandy there wasn’t much over the “minimal” wage in those jobs. The real money lie in working outside. My buddy Brewster was always an enterprising young lad and he stumbled upon a yard crew mowing an apartment lawn and asked the guy for a job. The next thing I knew, Brewster got me hired and after school every day I’d jump in his car and we’d go mow lawns until it got dark. The guy paid like $5/hour vs the $3.50 an hour I was getting at the mall. I was in the tall cotton now. Never mind the fact that I ruined a number of pairs of blue jeans turning them green. Mom wasn’t thrilled but the Hard Guy seemed to enjoy those evenings at the house while I was out working a little more. The outfit was known as Lewis’ Quality Lawn Service (name changed to protect the innocent). His hiring practices were somewhat suspect… I’m pretty sure there were more than one convict on the crew. At one house in the rich neighborhood we serviced, an old lady approached Bob (the owner/foreman), Brewster and I and asked “Who took a shit in my window well?” Sure enough…someone did. Brewster always said it was a guy named Sanchez (name changed to protect the truly innocent) but I wouldn’t put it past him to do such at thing. Brewster, if you’re out there, time to confess.

It was in that lawn mowing job I began to realize the class system in the U.S. was alive and well. One house we mowed, the guy had a white Rolls Royce and he’d park it in the circle drive out in front of the house all the time to show it off, I guess? It was a Friday and one of the neighbors was throwing a party, merely houses away just down the street. I mean, even I could walk down there to the party and I’d been mowing lawns all day. The son of the Rolls owner was about my age. And he came out front cradling an iced tea, watched us mow for a second and then yelled in the screen door, “Daaaadddy are we taking the Rolls to the party?” I was like dude, c’mon, don’t be such a douche bag, you can walk. Or at least offer us some damn iced tea. Ends up the family took the Rolls to the party. I’m surprised they didn’t ask me to drive… probably because I was sweaty and dirty. It was tough work but man what a tan I had.

Finally, in college my best bud Doug saved me from hustling to find a job and got me work with his dad’s company. They built and resurfaced tennis courts. It was hot sweaty work on sizzling asphalt but it paid well and again, the tan was spectacular and that’s how I really judged these things. I typically worked with a guy named Howard and a couple of bikers he’d hired… well until one of the bikers was killed, but that’s another story… Dave was a nice guy and I was truly sad about that… Anyway, when I took the gig I thought I’d be working with Doug on a more regular basis. I love the man but frankly when it came to physical labor I realized he was insane. He would describe days where he put in 12 hours or more as “Iron Days.” I would describe 12 hour-plus days as a “Nightmare.” My job was to work hard for 8 to 10 hours and then go spend that money on beer. Or better yet, shower and take my girlfriend to the Motel 6, but those records are sealed.

The worst part of the tennis court gig was working with wet cement and this paint that was called, I believe, Plexipave. You mixed the Plexipave with sand and cement and if you got a dab of it on you it turned hard on your legs enveloping your leg hair. I’d come home with sandy, hard, green lumps on my legs. My mom would make me take off my work clothes in the garage. I’d wrap myself in a towel and head up to sit in a bath tub – and I was strictly a shower guy – so I could soak the Plexipave off my leg hair instead of tearing the hair out by the root. I don’t know how women get waxed… it’s painful. The struggle is real and beauty is hard, ladies.

Despite all of that pain, sunburn, acne and burns from a hot grille, I wouldn’t trade one day of my checkered history as a working stiff. Those were glorious summers either at the mall or in some giant rich guy’s yard, mowing or resurfacing his tennis court. I actually ended up at a party at one of the houses we mowed… I kept thinking, what if she found out I mowed her dad’s lawn. There’s something to be said about hard work and how good it feels at the end of the day to crack a cold beer and realize that you’d accomplished something. There was no worrying about the job at night – save for those crazy busboy nightmares. It was a glorious time.

I felt it was essential to honor all of you out there doing actual hard work with a Labor Day Playlist. It can be found currently on Spotify under “BourbonAndVinyl.net Labor Day” (I’m looking at moving off Spotify, finally, in support of Neil Young). Here are some of my favorite songs about working and working people. I’m not a “9 to 5” or “Take This Job And Shove It” guy, so those songs aren’t here. It works playing straight through or on shuffle, dealer’s choice. It’s not meant to be exhaustive and if you have a song you’d like me to add, please put it in the comment section. As you grille hot dogs and hamburgers and drink some cold beer this weekend celebrating the unofficial end of summer, enjoy cranking up these tunes!

  1. The Beatles, “Hard Days Night” – Always great to kick off with a Beatles track. “I’ve been workin’ like a dog…” I’ve always liked the Beatles but ever since the Get Back documentary, Let It Be box set and the roof top concert came out it seems to have reignited my Beatles fandom.
  2. The Clash, “Career Opportunities” – “Career opportunities, the ones that never knocks.” I can relate to that. I am currently at the zenith of a mediocre career.
  3. Dire Straits, “Money For Nothing” – Where two working guys delivering appliances envy the lifestyle of Rock Stars in videos. So 80s…
  4. Huey Lewis & The News, “Workin’ For a Living” – Rare that I’d turn to Huey and his News but couldn’t resist this track. “I’m takin’ what their giving as I’m workin’ for a living.” Truth.
  5. Styx, “Blue Collar Man” – As I’ve grown older I’ve grown more conflicted about Styx but this Tommy Shaw tune – like most of the stuff he wrote – is a little tougher and more guitar forward.
  6. Lou Reed & John Cale, “Work” – This is the weirdest track here. But I couldn’t resist Lou Reed singing about Andy Warhol lecturing him on his work ethic. Even artists have to put in the sweat.
  7. Bob Marley & the Wailers, “Work” – Everyone should explore Marley’s work beyond just the greatest hits compilation Legend. This is a great track that spirals itself around my mind. “Everyday is work – work – work – work.” Bob knew the struggle was real.
  8. Elvis Costello, “Welcome To The Working Week” – The ultimate Monday morning song.
  9. Bob Dylan, “Union Sundown” – Great blues-rock track where Dylan laments the decline of unions which fought so hard for the American worker, and the sad fact that most of what you buy is made elsewhere. “Well, my shoes, they come from Singapore, My flashlight’s from Taiwan, My tablecloth’s from Malaysia.”
  10. Randy Newman, “Mr. President (Have Pity On The Working Man)” – Randy Newman, the greatest satirist of his time, making a plea to the President for the working man.
  11. Pete Townshend, “Keep On Working” – Pete encouraging us all to just keep on working…
  12. The Rolling Stones, “Dirty Work” – Not exactly a fit but who can resist a great Stones’ deep track. “You let somebody do the dirty work, find some loser, find some jerk.” Somehow I can relate to this in my working life…
  13. The Who, “Dirty Jobs” – Great track about bad jobs from Quadrophenia, my favorite of their many “concept albums.
  14. Genesis, “Just A Job I Do” – A song about being either an assassin or a spy or perhaps both. Collins hits the drums hard to simulate a gun shot. Impressive. It sums up how I feel about work, it’s not a career it’s just a job I do.
  15. Lou Reed, “Don’t Talk To Me About Work” – Sometimes when you get home you just don’t want to talk about your job. Time to crack a beer and forget about it. “I’m up to my eye balls in dirt, with work.”
  16. Chris Rea, “I’m Workin’ On It” – This is one of my favorite tracks here. I know I could say this to my boss, “I got eight little fingers and only two thumbs, Will you leave me in peace while I get the work done.”
  17. Van Halen, “Get Up” – One of those early “trying-too-hard” rock tracks from the early Van Hagar era. “Get up and make it work.”
  18. Rush, “Working Man” – This is the ultimate song for the working man. Epic rock from one of the greatest bands of all time. Check out the live version on the Moving Pictures – 40th Anniversary Edition.
  19. Bachman Turner Overdrive, “Takin’ Care of Business” – Who could resist a little Bachman Turner Overdrive, “B – T – O!”? “I love to work on nothin’ all day.”
  20. Bruce Springsteen, “Working On The Highway” – Great track about building infrastructure until a young girl enters the picture. Very similar story to “Darlington County.”
  21. Prince, “Let’s Work” – This work doesn’t sound like what I’m talking about here but it’s Prince… get funky, baby.
  22. Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Workin’ For MCA” – I would think having a record contract and “working” for a record company would be good news for a band but clearly Skynyrd didn’t dig it.
  23. The Police, “Dead End Job” – Rare early track about well, not wanting a dead end job. Sting was a teacher, maybe he’s talking about that? Helluva fast pace.
  24. Bob Dylan, “Maggie’s Farm” – Where our narrator laments the working conditions on a family-owned agriculture concern. “I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more.”
  25. David Crosby and Graham Nash, “Fieldworker” – Great track honoring the folks who work on big farms asking for dignity and to be “treated like a human.” Good stuff from Graham Nash here.
  26. Neil Young, “Union Man” – This track won’t be on the playlist because, well, Spotify. “Loud music is better, bumper stickers should be issued.”
  27. Jim Croce, “Workin’ At The Car Wash Blues” – This one is for my folks. My dad was a huge Jim Croce fan and he may have been the only artist who the Hard Guy owned more than one record from.
  28. Bon Jovi, “Livin’ On A Prayer” – Where a young dock worker and his girlfriend, a waitress, struggle against the vicissitudes of capitalism and turn to religion and prayer.
  29. Van Morrison, “All Work And No Play” – “All work and no play makes Jack a dull chap.” That sums it up. Slip out early and have some fun this Labor Day.
  30. Bob Seger, “Makin’ Thunderbirds” – Great track about the American autoworker and lamentations on how we don’t build Thunderbirds anymore.
  31. Gary U.S. Bonds, “Out of Work” – With unemployment at a record low, one can only hope that most people can find a job. And that it pays a living wage…
  32. Little Steven & The Disciples of Soul, “Solidarity” – This lyric means the world to me: “Everybody wants to work for a living, Everybody wants to keep their children warm.” Indeed, everybody wants to work and take care of their family and earn a livable wage.
  33. Warren Zevon, “The Factory” – Warren Zevon, backed by R.E.M. on this album, singing about the hard life that factory workers face.
  34. R.E.M., “Finest Worksong” – Speaking of R.E.M., this is a great song from the first LP from them that I ever bought, Document. It actually is a fine work song.
  35. Bob Dylan, “Workingman’s Blues #2” – Dylan returning to the subject of the workingman. Does Dylan get enough credit for his mastery of the blues?
  36. Paul McCartney, “On My Way To Work” – McCartney reminiscing about his pre-Beatles working days.
  37. Godfathers, “Birth, School, Work, Death” – I was late to the Godfathers’ LP Birth, School, Work, Death but the title track sums up the circle of life for most of us.
  38. Todd Rundgren, “Bang The Drum All Day” – While I have no rhythm I’d rather bang a drum all day than work.
  39. Van Halen, “Beats Workin'” – Whatever you’re doing this Labor Day, it’s gotta beat workin’. What’s that bumper sticker, “The worst day fishing beats the best day workin'”? Truth. While Roth’s vocals could be described (as they were by my friend Dr. Rock) ” as the sound of a pet store full of animals burning down,” Eddie’s guitar work is always singular.
  40. Sam Cooke, “Chain Gang” – Sam singing about the deplorable practice of putting prisoners to work in chains. Watch the movie Cool Hand Luke if you have any doubts that this was a horrible thing.
  41. The Rolling Stones, “Factory Girl” – Dedicate one to the ladies… Rosie the Riveter, may I have this dance?
  42. Bruce Springsteen, “Factory” – Bruce writing about his dad and how hard he worked down at the factory.
  43. Van Morrison, “I’ve Been Working” – A great track that Bob Seger used to cover live. Funky, powerful… “I’ve been workin’, I’ve been workin’ so hard.” Even after a day of hard work, Van just wants to come and get some love.
  44. Chuck Berry, “Let It Rock” – A track where Chuck describes railroad workers and an impending accident. Where was OSHA?
  45. Steely Dan, “Dirty Work” – Again, a bit of reach here, as this is about a relationship instead of an actual job. But, if you think about it, relationships can be a lot of work. One of those early David Palmer on lead vocals Steely songs.
  46. Tom Waits, “I Can’t Wait To Get Off Work (And See My Baby On Montgomery Avenue)” – Beautiful ballad. I remember getting off whatever job I had, running home to shower and heading to see my baby. I love the lyric, “Don’t do this, don’t do that,” and then he speaks the line, “Tom don’t do that.”
  47. Neil Young & The Bluenotes, “Ten Men Working” – I listened to this on vinyl last night. It remains amongst those records maybe only I enjoy. This is a great track though.
  48. Peter Gabriel, “Don’t Give Up” – Beautiful ballad with Peter sharing lead vocals with Kate Bush who has recently seen a resurgence through the series Stranger Things. The song chronicles the doubts and despair of a working man and his wife offering words of encouragement, “Don’t give up, I know you can make it…” The devastating loss of and search for work is palpable. It’s a dialogue between husband and wife that is so intimate it feels like eavesdropping.
  49. Pearl Jam, “Unemployable” – Great Pearl Jam deep track. About a man whose frustrations about his precarious work situation has led to violence and perhaps even a loss of his religious faith. That’s a lot for a 3 minute rock song to take on. “I’m scared of life, near death.” Heavy themes set to heavy rock.
  50. U2, “The Hands That Built America” – The ranks of Labor – many of whom were immigrants – built the skyscrapers the 1% could hide away in while forgetting about us.
  51. Billy Joel, “Allentown” – The classic Rust Belt song.
  52. Loverboy, “Workin’ For the Weekend” – I don’t like Loverboy although admittedly we all listened to them back in the day and this isn’t a bad song. I knew if I omitted this song, it’d be one of the first to be recommended so I bit the bullet and added it. More cowbell!
  53. Bruce Springsteen, “Workin’ On a Dream” – I included this on my Playlists about the Surreal Realm of Dreaming, and hesitated to add it to this one, but this lyric jumped at me, “Rain pourin’ down, I swing my hammer, My hands are rough from working on a dream…” That’s working, man.
  54. ZZ Top, “Just Got Paid” – Why do we work? To get paid. When I heard, “If you believe I like workin’ hard all day, Just step in my shoes and take my pay,” I realized it totally fit. This riff is greasier than a bacon sandwich on Wonder bread. Turn it up and pass the napkins.
  55. John Lennon, “Working Class Hero” – This is one of the most nakedly honest songs I’ve ever heard. It’s tough but he’s not wrong.
  56. Merle Haggard, “Workin’ Man Blues” – I saw Merle Haggard live opening for Dylan and his voice was like smooth, aged whiskey. I rarely include any country songs – outside of Johnny Cash or Willie Nelson – but this is a great song. Come for his voice, stay for lyrics like “I’ll keep workin’ as long as my two hands are fit to use, I’ll drink my beer in a tavern and sing a little bit of these working man blues.” Barkeep, another round for the working man at the end of the bar.

There you go! Again, turn this one up loud and enjoy your day off, God knows you’ve earned it. I welcome any and all suggestions for additions to the list in the comment section. Be safe this weekend!

Cheers!

The Struts Release Great New Song, “Fallin’ With Me” – Am I Finally On The Bandwagon?

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The Rock Chick came in last Friday and said, “I heard this new song this morning and I think you’ll like it…” Well, that’s always an invitation I can never resist. She’s turned me on to so much great music over the years – Oasis, Motley Crue (which I was shamelessly behind on), Green Day and more recently Greta Van Fleet. She is the Rock Chick, after all. The Struts – Luke Spiller (Vocals), Adam Slack (guitar), Jed Elliott (bass), and Gethin Davies (drums, and really you can’t get a more English name than Gethin Davies can you?) have been around a little less than a decade. Their debut LP Everybody Wants came out in 2014.

I have to tell you, I really like this new song, “Fallin’ With Me.” It made me wonder why I hadn’t gotten more into the Struts over the years. I’ve always been aware of the Struts and there are a few tracks that have pierced my consciousness over the span of their three released albums but I never quite completely embraced them. I remember listening to the debut when it came out and thinking Luke Spiller, the lead vocalist, might be Freddie Mercury’s illegitimate son. It’s uncanny how much he sounded like the late Queen-frontman on that first album. The guy trills his R’s so hard – which is kinda cool – one has to shudder when you think about him doing “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer.” I guess I could never decide if these guys were a serious rock n roll band or if this was some sort of really intense Rock Star cosplay they were involved in.

I think my hesitancy around certain groups can be traced back to when I first started listening to music. It was right around puberty and at that time in a man’s life you’re not terribly confident about anything. When it came to rock n roll, you didn’t dare be caught listening to the wrong acts. They had to be legitimate hard rock or you were looked down upon as a dilettante or worse “uncool.” You didn’t dare listen to anything that was deemed “pop” music. I think that’s why some people shied away from Cheap Trick back then because they were often described as “pop rock.” It wasn’t until Live At Budokan that suddenly the Rock Gods decreed Cheap Trick was an acceptable band. I don’t know why, I’ve always liked Cheap Trick from my early days listening to music up to their latest LP,  In Another World.

But even since growing up, leaving high school and college, I’ve always been wary of brand new acts. During the 80s when my musical tastes expanded way beyond the classic rock radio I’d grown up with, I was still kind of wary of certain bands. While all my friends were listening to Motley Crue and Def Leppard I was busy listening to the “rock canon” from the decades prior. I couldn’t be bothered with new bands when I was in the process of discovering David Bowie, the Velvet Undersground/Lou Reed, the Faces, Neil Young’s “Ditch Trilogy” and Springsteen’s early stuff. I could more often be found listening to Mick Taylor-era Rolling Stones than anything you’d hear on the radio. Videos didn’t really help. All the hard rock bands had identical videos – to my eyes anyway – tall hair, spandex, chicks dancing around and that same 80s production. Often times the band’s videos would put me off so terribly I’d avoid actually hearing the music. Billy Idol was certainly someone whose videos kept me from plunging into his catalog. He didn’t look like a good Midwest guy from next door with his bleach blonde, crew cut hair and curled lip. (His new song is amazing, btw, “Cage”). It took me all the way until “Paradise City,” Guns N Roses’ third single before I bought Appetite For Destruction. It’s like I was closed off from all things current or I had a fear of jumping on the bandwagon of a “fad.” Since those early days it seems I was always searching for authenticity. I didn’t want to be “duped.”

Well between listening to a bunch of B-sides and the new Chili Peppers’ track “Tippa My Tongue” this weekend I spent a lot of time listening to the Struts. I listened to all three of their LPs. I’m nothing if not methodical. I’m not sure if I’m ready to declare I’m on the bandwagon, I need more time, but I can tell you this new song “Fallin’ With Me” is a great song. The track has that classic, 80s, Sunset Strip trashy rock/metal sound. It starts with drums, bass and sing-along chorus that just earworms it’s way into my head. Luke Spiller is a great vocalist. When the guitar kicks in, oh yes, I’m taking this ride. The opening lyric, “You be my Alice, and I’ll be your Madhatter” is the perfect invitation to this hard rock good time. I love the way Spiller drags the “fa” in the word “Fallin'” so it sounds like a twisted Christmas carol, “Are you fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fallin’ with me?” Hell yes! This chorus just makes me want to rock out:

“You’re coming with meLet’s take a diveMeet at the Rainbow9:45Wear something trashyThat’s what I like (yeah)We’re on the rooftopJumpin’ off the sides (jumpin’ off the sides)”

I don’t know if I have any clothes that would be considered “trashy” but… Anyway, here’s the video for the track:

I don’t know if these guys have an album on the way – no one on the internet seems to know – but I will be listening intently if they do. Even if they don’t I’ll certainly be enjoying “Fallin’ With Me” for the rest of time. It often takes just one song or concert to suddenly change all of my heavy preconceptions about a band. Metallica clicked for me on Death Magnetic, really late in the game. I waited until “Paradise City” to buy GnR’s debut. I had to see No Doubt live before I went, “Hey, these guys are good…that bass player…” “Fallin With Me” may just be that epiphany moment for me and the Struts. It’s a great rock n roll song and I think everybody, however you feel about the Struts, should check it out and turn it up loud!

Cheers!

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!

Editor’s Note: See our thoughts on Starcrawler’s great new LP She Said at the link.

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!