Review: Greta Van Fleet, ‘The Battle At the Garden’s Gate’ – Sophomore Slumping Into Mid Tempo Mediocrity

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As long time readers know, I founded B&V to be a source of light in the rock and roll darkness. It’s always my intention to cast a little of that light onto good music you may or may not be aware of, especially stuff by artists that I worry are overlooked. With so much negativity out there and let’s be honest it’s so easy to be snarky, I have always attempted to remain positive. If there’s something I don’t like, I just tend to skip over it and not review it. As my sainted mother says, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” However, I’m on record as being a very early supporter of Greta Van Fleet, from the time of their first EP Black Smoke Risingthrough to their last LP Anthem Of The Peaceful Army and feel compelled to comment on their new album The Battle At the Garden’s Gate. And sadly, I don’t have much nice to say here.

Having seen these guys live in concert (one of the last bands I saw pre-COVID), I still have hope for Greta Van Fleet: the Brothers Kiszka, Josh (vocals), Jake (guitar), Sam (bass) and drummer Danny Wagner. Jake Kiszka is a very talented guitarist and Danny Wagner is a beast on drums. It should be celebrated that these guys picked up guitars and chose to play real rock n roll vs the highly synthesizer-forward stuff you mostly hear today. They’re rock n roll “throwbacks” and that is a highly underserved market these days. Along with Dirty Honey and Starcrawler I consider them amongst the vanguard of current rock bands. All of which makes this second, sophomore effort such a disappointment. I feel like Kevin Kline in A Fish Called Wanda, standing in front of the empty safe screaming, “Disappointed… disappointed.” Since they are classic rockers I guess we should have seen the classic sophomore slump coming…

I should have been more emotionally prepared for this album. Prior to the launch, GVF started posting pictures on their social media accounts. Usually they were dressed in white, standing on a beach somewhere… I think there might have been doves flying around. They looked like a bunch of survivors of a toga-party themed rave… standing on the beach in the dawn wondering if they can get an Uber. I do remember thinking, “this does not bode well.” Part of what I like about Greta Van Fleet, especially from their early EPs was how hard they rocked. Yes, they could ease up and do a mid tempo thing or even a ballad but it was mostly “balls to the wall” rock and roll. Menacing, swaggering, hard rock is what we all yearn for from these guys.

Alas, The Battle At The Garden’s Gate is all mid tempo stuff. This album is like a car stuck in second gear. The only track that really kicks up any energy is “My Way, Soon” a song that I do really like. Although, I have to admit the opening lyric, “I’ve seen many people, there are so many people, some are much younger people, and some are so old” is cringe worthy on a Sammy Hagar level. It was Sammy who wrote the all time stupidest lyric, “Only time will tell if we stand the test of time.” Circular logic anyone? That lyrical issue is a problem throughout the album. It’s like they have something big they want to say about war? the environment? cats and dogs living together in peace? but they never get the message across. At times it feels like the lyrics were cribbed from greeting cards on sale at the local vegan, health-food store… in 1972. With titles like “The Barbarians” and “Stardust Chords” you really do start to feel these guys are stuck in the early 70s from a philosophical or lyrical stand point. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always down for a good “Battle of Evermore,” who doesn’t like it when “the Queen of Light took her bow and then she turned to go, the Prince of Peace embraced the gloom and walked the night alone,” but c’mon guys, can’t you come up with something a little more relevant?

For this album, Great Van Fleet brought in big-time producer Greg Kurstin, who has worked with, among others, Adele. Let that sink in for a moment. It’s like Zeppelin bringing whoever produced Barbara Streisand to produce Houses of the Holy. The Adele connection might explain the treacly ballad “Light of My Love.” Naturally I’m blaming Kurstin for this mess. He’s slowed everything down. While I occasionally grab onto a descent riff from Jake, it quickly dissipates into nothing. “Built By Nations” starts off with a riff that sort of echos Zeppelin’s “Black Dog,” although much mellower but it quickly loses its punch. This album feels, as my friend drummer Blake says, “way over-produced.” The tracks all range from four to six minutes but feel much longer. Each song seems to have a long pre-amble that doesn’t seem to build much tension. The album is slightly over an hour but sitting and listening to it all the way through, as I did countless times this week, it felt much longer. It’s a slog of a record to get through. And I never thought I’d say that about GVF.

Much will be made of Josh’s singing on this album. At this point I’m with my friend West Coast Rob and I hear more early shrieking Geddy Lee here than vintage Robert Plant. Yes, some of the singing is a tad overwrought, like the lyrics but again I blame Kurstin. I still like Josh’s singing and he’s especially strong when you see him live. They do have their moments. The guitar solo that ends “The Weight of Dreams,” which is perhaps their take on “Stairway to Heaven” is really something to behold. These guys need to get back to that raw, hard rocking sound of their earlier music. Kurstin has managed to smooth out all the rough edges, rendering a dangerous rock band something placid. Their early music was so much fun and everything here is so ponderous and overwrought it’s hard to connect with any of it. As the Heath Ledger said as the Joker, “Why so serious son?” Maybe dial down the self-importance a little bit?

The good news here is that the guys in GVF are still young. This is only the sophomore effort from these guys. It’s not a terrible record, it’s still rock n roll. It’s just not a very captivating album from a band whose prior output had almost always captivated me. I still think these guys will pull it together next time around but this one is a hard pass for all off us down at B&V. The Rock Chick even said, “these guys have lost it,”  which is withering criticism from her.

Spring has sprung here in the American midwest, and winter is fighting it’s last battle… we did have snow in April… but sunny good times are on the horizon. While GVF misfired I’m still hopeful there is good rock n roll in all of our futures in 2021. Stay safe and healthy wherever you are.

Cheers!

Sequel: Pleased To Meet You 2 – Our Epic List of Debut Solo Albums, “Let Me Re-introduce Myself”

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As long time readers know, a few weeks ago I posted about our B&V favorite debut albums, Pleased To Meet You… The Epic List of Our 40 Favorite Debut Albums. As I was compiling the list of all the great debut albums out there, well, the list began to get a little unwieldy. I was somewhere around 80 albums when I realized I needed to put some rules around the thing to thin it down to something manageable. How I settled on 40 albums and not 50, I’m unclear about. One of the first rules I laid out for myself was to exclude any solo debuts. If a singer or guitar player had been in a band, and was thus an established artist, it seemed like cheating to include them on the debut list. When Ozzy went solo and recorded Blizzard of Ozz he had already established himself as the Prince of “fucking Darkness” (his words, not mine) through his work with Black Sabbath. It seemed unfair to compare that album with say, R.E.M.’s Murmur. When Michael Stipe and company were recording that album they were a bunch of pimply faced kids and certainly no competition for the Dark Lord. 

The Rock Chick was the first person – since she’s always the first person to see what I write, despite her life long ban from reading B&V due to her unfair grammatical criticism, to cry foul on the rule barring solo debuts from the list. In her view a debut is a debut. As I sat staring out at the frozen tundra that is Kansas City in February watching dry, powdery snow flutter through the sky like some giant human had shaken my city like a snow globe, my thoughts as always turned to rock n roll. I had to admit the Rock Chick’s argument was persistently tugging at the edge of my mind. I had excluded a lot of really great solo debut albums from the list. Since the high temperatures this last week were in the single digits with -15 degree wind chills, I had a lot of time on my hands. I was already hiding in my attic from Covid… now bitter cold has me pinned in my attic as well. 

Going solo can be a dicey proposition. In the late 60s and early 70s audiences often struggled with the whole concept of doing a solo record. You were either in a band or you were on your own and apparently never the twain shall meet. If you did your own album it meant you were leaving the band. When Paul McCartney put out McCartney, his homespun, lo-fi debut it was considered the announcement that the Beatles were over… which perhaps contributed to the critical backlash at the time. It was Rod Stewart who was the first artist to juggle the whole solo vs band career when he was a member of the Faces. He’d do a Faces album and then six months later he’d do a solo record. I think his solo stuff ended up overshadowing one of the world’s greatest bands, the Faces, and that’s a shame. People thought the Faces were just his back up band, which utterly rankled the other guys, especially Ronnie Lane. Rod was the first to try the split career but based on the fact his solo albums sold so much better I can’t say it was a screaming success. There’s always the constant allegations that you’re saving your best stuff for the solo albums. 

Rod’s career does underscore the fact that chemistry matters. When an artist is in a band its a collective. There’s a give and take. The guys in the band interpret what you’ve written. When you go solo you’re captain of the ship. Where as in a band some of your worst instincts as an artist may be curbed by the members of the band when you go solo there’s no one to say, maybe you shouldn’t have a spoken-word interlude in the middle of a rock song, Mick. I think Lennon always made McCartney tougher and McCartney always made Lennon not softer but perhaps more melodic, less caustic. When you go solo you’re putting your reputation on the line. You’ve established a brand and going solo can really tarnish your reputation. I think about Sting in this realm. We all loved Sting until Dream of the Blue Turtles came out. Looking back it wasn’t that awful of an album but that jazz-lite stuff induced a lot “what the hell is this shit?” moments. His solo career has been largely a disappointment for a lot of people. If I never hear “Love Is The Seventh Wave,” it’ll be too soon. 

Sometimes though, the risk of going solo is worth it. In many cases the artists on this list were kicked out of their bands or the bands broke up. A solo project was thus inevitable. I remember Mick Jagger, when asked in the 80s whether he’d ever do a solo record, saying something about doing a solo album when he had enough material that the band thought was “too stupid” to record. Who knew he was actually telling the truth there. Some of the artists on my list below had great solo careers, some only had this one great debut album. This is in no means a commentary about the solo careers of these artists it’s merely about their debut album as a solo artist. For example, the aforementioned Mick Jagger’s solo debut was, by any stretch of the imagination bad, he has put out a few great records. 

For the purposes of this list, which is randomly laid out, I’ll list it like this: Solo Artist Name (Former Band Name), Debut Album Title. If there’s a great debut solo LP you’re into, let me know what that is and I’ll check it out. I hope there are a few gems on this list of 25 that if you haven’t come across them, you’ll discover something you like. 

  1. Gregg Allman (The Allman Brothers Band), Laid Back – I just repurchased this one on vinyl! Frustrated with inter-band conflict, especially with Dickey Betts, Allman recorded this solo gem while also recording Brothers And Sisters with the band. More soulful and less guitar-centric, Allman even redid “Midnight Rider” and turned it on its head and into a classic on its own right. 
  2. Jeff Beck (The Jeff Beck Group), Blow By Blow – Tired of squabbling with lead singers, Beck pulled in George Martin of Beatles fame to produce and put out one of the only instrumental albums outside of jazz that I can listen to. There is such a rich and beautiful tone Jeff pulls out of his instrument. This is a fascinating listen. 
  3. Robbie Robertson (The Band), Robbie Robertson – It had been almost a decade since the Band had broken up and Richard Manuel had recently committed suicide when Robbie finally put out his solo debut. He had a lot of help from producer Daniel Lanois, U2, Peter Gabriel, and members of the Bodeans but the songwriting on this record is all Robertson. “Somewhere Down the Crazy River” is my favorite song here. “Testimony” is an epic statement of purpose. 
  4. Jack White (The White Stripes), Blunderbuss – Listening to the White Stripes’ greatest hits LP makes me miss that band and Meg White even more (Review: The White Stripes ‘Greatest Hits’ – A Lovingly Curated Romp Through Their Career) but Jack White really comes through on his solo debut. He’s one of rock’s most important artists. 
  5. Paul McCartney (The Beatles), McCartney – Depressed as the Beatles imploded McCartney retreated to his home and invented DIY, indie rock. I love this little lo-fi gem. It’s heavy on instrumental jams but as usual with McCartney the melodies bore into my brain. He just released his second sequel to this one, Review: ‘McCartney III,’ A Homespun Gem, the perfect lockdown project. 
  6. Joe Walsh (The James Gang), Barnstorm – I know that Barnstorm was considered an actual band but I think of this as Joe’s solo debut anyway. I left Dio’s Holy Diver off the list because I actually did consider them a band not a solo artist so perhaps I’m bending the rules a bit. I had to include this album as the song “Turn To Stone” which is the greatest riff in the history of guitar makes it debut. It’s a surprisingly laid back affair which makes his joining the Eagles makes sense.
  7. Rod Stewart (The Jeff Beck Group), The Rod Stewart Album – With that title it’s pretty easy to see this as Rod introducing himself to the world post-Jeff Beck Group, pre-Faces. With his sidekick Ronnie Wood on guitar this album has always seemed like an interview for the job as Faces lead singer. He does some great interpretations on covers (“Man of Constant Sorrow,” “Street Fighting Man”) but the originals are just fantastic. The passionate “Blind Prayer” has always been a personal favorite. I think he should have stuck to the original title, An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down.
  8. George Harrison (The Beatles), All Things Must Pass – The single greatest Beatles’ solo album. Harrison had been largely stifled as a songwriter in the Beatles – they typically gave him only 2 songs per album (if that) and he had a huge backlog of great material as evidenced by the original 3-vinyl LP package. (Yes, I’m ignoring his Wonderwall project). 
  9. Ozzy Osbourne (Black Sabbath), Blizzard of Ozz – Everybody thought Ozzy was finished after Sabbath fired him for being out of control on booze and drugs. Along came Randy Rhoads and the rest was history (Review: Ozzy’s ‘Blizzard of Ozz, 40th Anniversary Expanded’ – Is It Worth It?). 
  10. John Lennon (The Beatles), Plastic Ono Band – I tend to ignore those 2 awful records he did prior to this with Yoko. For me this is his first solo album. Fresh from primal scream therapy Lennon delivered this, his most raw, brutally honest album. “Mother” sears itself into your memory. He’s exercising every demon in his soul here. Riveting listen. 
  11. Eric Clapton (Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Cream, Blind Faith), Eric Clapton – After playing in virtually every British blues-rock band ever, Clapton finally put his solo debut LP out. He recorded this with members of Delaney and Bonnie who he’d met when they opened for Blind Faith on their tour. “Bottle of Red Wine” is a personal fav. 
  12. Stephen Stills (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young), Stephen Stills – Stills, alongside Neil Young, had established himself as a guitar hero but surprisingly he leaves the solo’ing to his guest stars – Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix on his last studio recording. This is just a great, great eclectic record. The rest of his solo career was up and down but he was on the money here. 
  13. Paul Simon (Simon & Garfunkel), Paul Simon – Surprisingly, I don’t think this little gem of an album sold that well. “Mother And Child Reunion” and “Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard” hint at his world music influences that we’d eventually see blossom on Graceland. 
  14. Graham Nash (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young), Songs For Beginners – I considered David Crosby’s If I Could Only Remember My Name but left it out as I feared it sounded like too much of a hippy clambake for most people. Nash is probably my least favorite songwriter of the CSNY family (Artist Lookback: Crosby, Stills, Or Nash – The Essential Solo and Duo Albums), but I love this album. Its informed largely by his recent searing heartbreak from his split with girlfriend Joni Mitchell which is what makes this one so poignant to me. As I’ve often admitted, I’m a sucker for recent searing heartbreak. Well, I was until I met the Rock Chick… but those records are sealed. 
  15. David Lee Roth (Van Halen), Eat ‘Em And Smile – Kicked out of Van Halen for making a solo EP and wanting to make a movie, Roth’s split with Eddie is probably one of rock’s ugliest divorces. He recruited some top notch musicians – Billy Sheehan on bass and most notably Steve Vai on guitar wizardry – and actually treated this like a band project. After this it looked like Roth would be the one with the long, more successful career, not his former band. Alas, on his next record his megalomania took over and he started indulging his worst instincts. 
  16. Stevie Nicks (Fleetwood Mac), Bella Donna – I love this album. Every man of a certain age has/had a crush on Stevie. Sure she had help from Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and Don Henley but this is a uniquely Stevie album. This thing was so big I’m still surprised she returned to Fleetwood Mac. The disappointing sales figures for Tusk is what drove her to record solo, not the break up with Buckingham which I always found fascinating. 
  17. Gram Parsons, (The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers), G.P. – Gram never met a band he couldn’t quit. He bounced from band to band in an almost Clapton-esque fashion. This, his final LP before his death is a country-rock masterpiece. The Eagles were clearly listening…
  18. Peter Frampton (Humble Pie), Winds of Change – When compared to Humble Pie’s boogie rock classic Smokin’, which was their first album without Frampton and this largely acoustic album it’s easy to see that Peter was moving in a different direction than the band. I don’t know why his pre-Frampton Comes Alive studio albums aren’t more popular. This is a really engrossing listen. 
  19. Liam Gallagher (Oasis, Beady Eye), As You Were – When Liam’s band Beady Eye, which was basically a Noel-less Oasis, imploded I remember reading Noel saying, “Liam needs to put out a solo album, put his own name on something, put it all out there.” I guess Liam was listening. I described this album as a pleasant surprise from an unpleasant man. As much as I dislike Liam, I love his solo stuff, LP Review: Liam Gallagher, ‘As You Were’ A Pleasant Surprise From an Unpleasant Man
  20. Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin), Pictures At 11 – We were all still pretty raw that John Bonham had passed and Led Zeppelin had broken up. I remember guys in my high school were renting a bus to see them in Chicago when the news of Bonham’s death broke. This was such a great album and it helped us all move on. Phil Collins showed up to play drums and help Plant figure out how to produce an album. Plant seems embarrassed by his early albums but this is a classic. “Burning Down One Side” is an absolutely fantastic track. 
  21. Natalie Merchant (10,000 Maniacs), Tigerlilly – I hated the 10,000 Maniacs, they never made any sense to me. But this solo debut from Natalie Merchant was a stunner. A friend of mine described the guitar work on this record as “smokey.” I even saw her on the ensuing tour for this record. This, for me, is the lone gem in her solo catalog. 
  22. Van Morrison (Them), Astral Weeks – Brilliant, poetic, transcendent, Celtic mysticism. One of the greatest albums of all time. 
  23. Mike Ness (Social Distortion), Cheating At Solitaire – If you dig the “cow punk” of Social Distortion, you’ll love this record. The duet with Bruce Springsteen, “Misery Loves Company” is a classic. I remember texting the Rock Chick, who turned me onto Social D, “worlds collide, Springsteen/Ness together!” The whole record blows me away. 
  24. Iggy Pop (The Stooges), The Idiot – Iggy and Bowie on the loose in Europe recording Iggy’s classic first solo album. Some say Bowie’s influence is too pronounced here but that’s just crazy talk. Iggy comes through on classics like “China Girl” and “The Dum Dum Boys.” 
  25. Keith Richards (The Rolling Stones), Talk Is Cheap – The solo record Keith never wanted to make. Tired of trying to get Mick interested in the Stones again, Keith put together a great band with Steve Jordan (drums) and Waddy Watchel (guitar) and put out a classic (Keith Richards: ‘Talk Is Cheap (Deluxe Version),’ The 30th Anniversary Edition With Bonus Tracks). 

Stay safe but more importantly stay warm if its cold where you are. I don’t think the son is going to shine again here until late next week. I’ll be gritting my teeth to get through it… Hopefully some of this classic rock and roll will help keep you warm! 

Cheers! 

LP Lookback: In Praise of Led Zeppelin’s ‘In Through The Out Door’

*Picture of my original vinyl of Zeppelin’s ‘In Through The Out Door’ taken by your intrepid blogger

I like to think that I had to be drug onto social media. I am not nor will I ever be on Facebook even though I think it would help spread the word on B&V. A number of years ago my father called and asked if I remembered a girl I’d dated in college who I’ll call Tisha (name changed to protect the guilty, ie, me). “Why yes dad, of course I do, why?” He replied in the chilling words, “She hit my Facebook page.” At the time my father was 72. I don’t know what surprised me more, that Tisha would have reached out (it ended…poorly) or that my father would be on Facebook? A week later my father called me again and said, “Do you remember a woman from San Francisco named Karen (name changed to protect, well, me)?” I couldn’t help but reply,”Let me guess dad, Facebook?” Apparently the woman in question had left the message, “I only know one person with this name…” My father, ever the wit, replied, “Now you know two.” I think that sufficiently frightened the poor woman but I had to tell my father to either a) close this portal to my past, I’m married now or b) put a much clearer picture of yourself out there so these woman stop thinking I’m a 72 year old man. I mean I’ve lived hard, but not that hard…

All that was enough to keep me off Facebook forever… it’s a jungle out there. But when my daughter was old enough she started to dip her toe in the water on social media which, as night follows day, led my wife to a number of social media outlets. After a couple of hundred instances where my wife waived her phone in front of me to show me a picture of the Stones, I realized, ok maybe I should relent and get on a few of these things. So the actual reason I got on social media was to follow the bands I loved. It’s always rock n roll that drives me. Many bands would announce new music or new tour dates on Twitter or Instagram. It was just an alternative way to keep up with rock and roll now that terrestrial radio has all but died. As a side effect of being on social media, you can never really get away from the anniversaries of key events – birthdays, death anniversaries, album anniversaries, etc – of your favorite bands, albums, and rock stars. The month of August has been a momentous one: Springsteen’s Born To Run turned 45 last week and the anniversary of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s tragic passing was this week (Lookback: Stevie Ray Vaughan, Lost 30 Years Ago, Aug 27, 1990), all of which was duly noted, celebrated and memorialized on social media. I could have written something nice for Born To Run but the album whose release date was August 15th, a few weeks ago, is the one that caught my eye: Led Zeppelin’s final studio album In Through The Out Door. 

This blog is usually focused on new or vault releases from bands that have been around for a while. There are a lot of bands that I love who just haven’t released anything since I started this endeavor. Suffice it to say, I’ve never written anything about Led Zeppelin and I admit it might seem strange that I’d pick In Through The Out Door as a starting place, but this album will always hold a special place in my heart. I included it on my “Dirty Dozen” list of albums that only I seem to love, B&V’s True Confessions: The Dirty Dozen – 12 Albums That Only I Love… Time to Re-Evaluate?. The album came out on August 15, 1979 just as I was beginning my rock and roll journey. I had only been buying albums for about a year. In Through The Out Door was the first Zeppelin album I ever bought. If that’s how I started my actual journey through Zeppelin’s catalog why shouldn’t it be my first Zeppelin post here? When I was 13 I didn’t have a big back catalog of albums. And Zeppelin were always kind of mysterious to me… I knew “Stairway to Heaven,” “Dazed And Confused,” and “Whole Lotta Love” but not much else about them. A guy named Matt showed me a picture of Robert Plant in Biology class and I said, “Who’s that?” In Through The Out Door was the first record released after I’d started buying music so naturally it was my first Zeppelin purchase. I’m just happy I was alive when Zeppelin, the Who and so many other bands were still active. I wasn’t “all in” on Zeppelin yet, but in August of ’79 that was all about to change…

I remember in the summer of 1979 my parents got a new ‘Time’ magazine. I’d always flip through the pages. For once, that summer they had an actual rock and roll article and I was always starved for knowledge about this powerful new music that had changed my life. I remember the article cited a slump in album sales in ’79 and all the hopes of the record companies were pinned on Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk (which came out in Oct ’79) and Led Zeppelin’s In Through The Out Door. It’s odd what I remember. Fleetwood Mac were coming off the mega-success of Rumors and expectations were running high. Tusk ended up being a somewhat bloated double album and Lindsey Buckingham took them in an experimental direction. The album was considered a bit of a disappointment (not to me, I love that flawed, brilliant album) but it sold 4 million copies which is amazing. Granted, it probably pales in comparison to Rumors’ sales of a kajillion records. 

The Zeppelin story is a bit more complicated. I remember the Chili Peppers’ video for “Scar Tissue” where it looked like someone had beaten the shit out of the band. It made for a great video, but in the case of Led Zeppelin, by the time In Through The Out Door came out, that was virtually their exact situation. By 1979 it had been three years since they’d put out an album, 76’s heavy rock album Presence. Prior to Presence, Zeppelin were riding high on 1975’s double-album Physical Graffiti. On hiatus before a second sold-out tour of America, Robert Plant and his wife Maureen were involved in a car crash in Greece and Plant broke his ankle (which inspired the lyrics for the epic “Achilles Last Stand”). The band, really frustrated they couldn’t return to the States and the adulation and groupies went headlong into the studio and recorded that pent-up frustration on what became their heaviest album, the aforementioned Presence. 

Finally back in America for a tour in support of Presence, the band got the tragic news that Robert Plant’s son Karac had died of some mysterious disease. That was a tough blow. The rest of the tour was cancelled and Plant returned home to grieve. The mighty Zeppelin went silent for three years which was a huge absence at the time. A lot changed in music from ’76 to ’79. Punk had come to the fore. The Punks singled out Zeppelin in particular as “bloated, dinosaurs.” People were actually wondering if Zeppelin would return at all. There were rumors that Page was going to replace Plant with Roy Harper, a singer who Page had produced an album for (and Plant sang about on “Hats Off To Roy Harper”). 

When Plant finally came out of seclusion he was keen on taking Zeppelin in a new direction. He was deeply effected by the criticism of the Punks. I should have included Zeppelin on my post about rock bands who reacted to punk (How The Biggest Bands In the World Reacted Musically to Punk Rock in the 70s), because Zeppelin were a band who did react to Punk in a big way. Things within Zeppelin had also changed. Drummer extraordinaire John Bonham’s alcoholism had deepened to the point where it was becoming a problem. Jimmy Page’s heroin addiction had also gotten a lot worse. There had been a time of tax exile as well that had stressed the band. Cue up my “Scar Tissue,” video reference. This band was in a bad place. 

I tend to think about Presence and In Through the Out Door as the yen and yang of Led Zeppelin. Presence was heavy, hard rock, helmed by Page and Bonham. In Through The Out Door was lighter, experimental (almost art) rock, helmed by Plant and in a first, John Paul Jones. This was the first album where Jones had a writing credit on most of the songs. The sound had fundamentally changed as well on this record. In Through… didn’t sound like any of the previous Zeppelin albums. That’s partially because Plant was energized and pushing for a new direction but it’s mainly because neither Bonham or Page showed up very often in the studio, bogged down by their addictions. John Paul Jones had a new keyboard, the Yamaha GX-1 synthesizer and he and Plant sat around writing songs, playing with the synth. 

While long time Zeppelin fans were disappointed with this album it did single-handedly save the music industry in ’79. It sold 1.7 million copies right out of the gate and went on to sell six million copies. It was a number 1 album for Zeppelin. Despite all that, Bonham and Page had said that on the next album, they were going to take over again and the mighty Zeppelin would rock again… alas, that never came to be. 

The first track that ever got played in Kansas City from the album was the single, “All of My Love.” People may consider it lightweight but I always dug that ballad. Zeppelin didn’t do many ballads. I was always told that the person Plant was singing about wasn’t a woman but his late son, Karac. I don’t know if that’s true, but I bought that rumor. It made it a more poignant song for me. Yes, it’s synth washed but it’s a great ballad. I didn’t buy the record immediately though, when you’re 13 you have to buy macho albums with macho songs… I had to wait for the second single, “Fool In The Rain.” It had something Zeppelin rarely had – a sense of humor. This was Bonham’s shining moment on this album for me. Sure the small drum solo isn’t “Moby Dick,” but it showed for me that he could still be captivating. 

The track that makes this album a must-have for me is the epic opener, “In The Evening.” When I told the Rock Chick I was writing about this album she crinkled her nose and said, “Its an OK album but I do love “In the Evening.”” Indeed. It’s got a great riff and an infectious melody. Having started with a great track the album also ends on a great song, the bluesy “I’m Gonna Crawl.” I have to admit, “I’m Gonna Crawl” sounds like the only track Page was fully engaged on. He seems kind of checked out for the most part on the record, I’ll fully admit. But when he did show up he kills it. 

A lot of people don’t dig “Hot Dog” a rockabilly, country rock throw away but it always makes me smile (Playlist: Favorite Country Rock Songs – Rockers Going “Country-ish,” Hidden Rhinestone Gems). “South Bound Suarez” may not be “Rock And Roll” but it’s a solid a rock and roll tune. The only track on this album that leaves me slightly cold is “Carouselambra” but that’s probably because it’s such a long track. I can remember my buddy Matthew playing his cassette copy of the album at the drive-in theater at a “Row Party” we had out there and just cranking “Carouselambra.” It’s a fond memory… 

There were other great songs that came out of the sessions for In Through… that they held back and eventually came out on Coda. “Wearing And Tearing” was directly addressed to the Punks, “Ozone Baby” and “Darlene” were all tracks that would have fit in well on the album. I remember reading in ‘Hammer of the Gods’ Plant wanted to release an EP with those three tracks prior to the actual album coming out. I think that’d would have been interesting. 

In Through the Out Door isn’t Zeppelin’s finest album. I think it can be seen as a transitional album. Zeppelin was leaving their blues rock past and heading in some new and exciting directions. It is a very forward looking album. The roots of Plant’s early solo work can be certainly heard here. The sad part of the story is we never got to hear where Zeppelin would have taken this next. During the rehearsals at Jimmy Page’s house for the American tour to support this album, John Bonham consumed a superhuman amount of vodka and died. The band couldn’t see a way forward without their mate. John would have been really hard to replace. 

While this album might not be anybody’s favorite Zeppelin album it’s still a worthy selection from their great, great catalog. I urge everyone to put this on and evaluate – or probably more accurately re-evaluate – this great album. 

Be safe out there. Cheers! 

The Cult: Hidden City Live, Kansas City

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Editor’s Note: While blogging about drinking and rock and roll is OK, blogging while drinking and listening to rock and roll isn’t always great… We’ll try to restrain Mr. B&V from his drunken, ecstatic post-concert ramblings, like those below, but we can’t guarantee anything…

Man, what a shitty week I was having… and then live rock n roll happens and everything is ok…

I took the Rock Chick out tonight to see the Cult on what was our second show on the “Alive In The Hidden City Tour” tonight… our first show was in Chicago back in, I believe April or maybe March. What a difference 5 months can prove to be. Many of the same songs were played, but in a much different order and with a lot looser approach. Noticeably missing was “Dark Energy” which is the first song on “Hidden City” and was the opening song in Chicago…

We stood next to a couple of guys, Sean and Terence who hadn’t seen the Cult since the “Sonic Temple” tour, many years ago. It was great to meet two guys who were inspired by Billy Duffy to pick up the guitar and start a band. I may have had way too much vodka tonight but as I write this I’m pretty sure I’m still going to be impressed by all of this in the morning. Wow, what a healing experience a concert is. All the tension I was feeling is gone now.

The Cult were loose and clearly having fun. This was the first show I’d seen them from up in a balcony, instead of down on the floor amongst the masses. The difference in viewpoint was startling. Billy Duffy was just man-handling the guitar tonight and I mean that in a good way. From my elevated view point I could see Ian Astbury and the joyous dancing he was doing. He was more animated than I’d seen him since the “Beyond Good and Evil” tour when I first saw these guys live. Tonight’s show may have even topped that first Cult show on “BGE” but that may be the vodka talking.

Highlights for me tonight were “Deeply Ordered Chaos” and “GOAT” (the first encore tune) from the new album. These are tunes that they should play in every show from now on. I also liked the loose, jammy version of “Sweet Soul Sister” they played, but I should mention the Rock Chick doesn’t like that sort of thing, and was vocal about Ian’s loose approach tonight. I thought it was great, but hey, I’m full of Ketel One…. “Fire Woman” was the crowd pleaser it always is. “Rain” is another personal favorite of mine, as is “Phoenix” both from the “Love” album.

Ian, at one point, asked if we had a “rock station” in KC…and further pondered why they wouldn’t play the new Cult album. I have to ask the same question… He said he was as depraved and debauched as anybody else, why not play the Cult’s “Hidden City?” Again, I have to ask the same question. It’s great to hear hard rock played live, why not play some of that music on the damn radio…

If you haven’t already done so, pick up “Hidden City” on vinyl, CD or iTunes, and turn it up loud…

Cheers!

 

BourbonAndVinyl List of Bands Who Sadly, Should Call It Quits

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In a post a few weeks ago I mused about a proposed SuperGroup comprised of members of famous bands who were left out of some of these big reunion tours. I cited GnR and Black Sabbath just to name a few. In one of the comments back to me, Moutly58 commented that I should do a post on bands that should call it quits. I chuckled but the comment did inspire quite a bit of thought. Nothing like a provocative comment and a tumbler of bourbon to send me into brooding mode…

This blog was founded on the idea that, other than telling funny drinking stories, I would talk about older, more mature bands and artists who were putting out new music. There are so many great artists putting out music that have been largely ignored by radio and the public, I felt the market was underserved. Tom Petty, both with the Heartbreakers and Mudcrutch, has put out some great music over the last decade that you’re not likely to hear on your local rock stations. You’re lucky if you catch them on satellite radio. I’m more likely to hear “Born To Run” by Springsteen on the radio again (for the billionth time) than anything from his last LP, “High Hopes.”

But Moulty58’s comment made me put my love of those classic bands aside for a moment. I couldn’t help but think, are there bands that ought to call it quits? Are there bands who have stayed at the party too long (which coincidentally is something the Rock Chick accuses me of all the time)? The answer is, inevitably, yes. There are just certain bands that need to hang it up. In many cases it’s due to the tragic loss of a key band member. In some cases these bands are carrying on without key members. Never underestimate the magic chemistry of the right four or five guys in a room. In many of these cases these artists have just lost something, call it a creative spark…. Without further adieu, here are the B&V bands who need to hang it up:

Aerosmith: These guys haven’t done anything listenable since “Permanent Vacation.” Steven Tyler has some of the worst LSD in the history of rock music. I’m so sick of Tyler and Joe Perry bickering, they make the Stones look like a happy family. Tyler betrayed his blues rock roots and went on a TV show and then recorded a weird country-esque solo album that was crap. These guys can’t even get in the studio to record new music any more. They’ve announced a farewell tour, but we’ve all seen that before. Go away Steven, go away.

 AC/DC: These poor bastards. Founding rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young sadly succumbs to dementia. Drummer Phil Rudd becomes a meth dealing moronic thug. Bass player Cliff Williams has announced his retirement. Lead singer Brian Johnson has hearing damage so severe they had to bring in Axl Rose…. I mean,  you’re running on fumes if you have to turn to rock and roll’s most mercurial undependable front man to help you finish your tour. I feel for Angus Young, lead guitarist and lone founding member left. I hear Axl is inspiring Angus to write new music. If so, and he works with Axl again, call it something else, not AC/DC. Parts are falling off of this band faster than my high school car running down the highway.

Eric Clapton: When was the last time Eric Clapton recorded a song that didn’t sound like your grandfather sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch. When you’re known for playing guitar and refuse to do big solo’s… perhaps you’ve lost your way.

Bob Seger: I applaud Bob for putting out a couple of albums of new music over the last few years. He’s always said, when his voice goes, it’s time for him to go… I’ve got bad news for you Bob, your voice has gone. Seger’s voice sounds like a fork caught in a garbage disposal. It’s time to give up the rasping and turn to his vast, unreleased archives. I’d settle for releases of “Seven” and “Back In ’72.”

The Moody Blues: I don’t even think these guys are still around, I just can’t stand the fucking Moody Blues so I included them just in case.

Any Band Missing Key Founding Members; This is sort of a catch all for those late 70’s to early 80’s (think ’75 to ’85) bands who keep hanging around with only 1 or 2 original members. I’m talking to you Styx, REO Speedwagon, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Foreigner (currently touring without Lou Gramm) and most of all, Journey (no Steve Perry?) Give it up guys, you’re not Menudo with interchangeable members. I mean, sure Styx still has James “J.Y.” Young and Tommy Shaw in the band but I can never forgive those guys for letting Dennis DeYoung do that whole “Mr. Roboto” thing. They should be banished forever for that…

Sting: Every time Sting actually moves toward rock and roll the critics herald it as a return to his “Police sound.” I’ve heard his new song, “I Can’t Stop Thinking About You.” Having heard it, I can certainly stop thinking about Sting. After a jazz-lite solo career, he careened into Christmas music and then did a Broadway play. Now I’m supposed to believe he’s going to rock? I doubt it. Time for rock’s most Pretentious Man to slowly fade away.

Billy Joel: It’s hard for me to believe that the last album of new material Joel put out was “River of Dreams” in 1995. The guy has loads of talent but has shut down on writing or creating new music. I think that contributes to the alcoholism but I’m no doctor. He’s an amazing concert draw, but when you stop creating as an artist don’t you die? Record something new Billy so I can take you off this list.

The Who: I saw the Who this last April and they were great. Zak Starkey does a great Keith Moon imitation. Pino Palladino, who Townshend said was “too cool for jazz” did a nice job filling in for John Entwistle. Pete seemed to be having fun despite himself. Roger was Roger. They did have a cadre of musicians on stage to augment their sound, never a good sign. The Who haven’t recorded anything since “Endless Wire.” I don’t know why these guys can’t get themselves into a studio, they killed it live. Townshend continues to say how “done” with the Who he is and yet he continues to tour, likely to placate Daltrey. I love these guys, but again, without moving forward creatively I have to question, why?

Did I miss any bands you think should hang it up? If I did, please add your thoughts in the comments.

Fall is finally here, my favorite season, indeed it’s the high, Holy season for Bourbon drinkers. Pour something dark and murky, put on some great rock and roll and enjoy the crisp weather and changing leaves.

Cheers!

Bruce Springsteen: Sixty-Seven But On A Roll!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On The Mellow End: Norah Jones & Van Morrison Release New Singles, LPs On The Way

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I’m as much of a “Hard Rock” person as anybody, but every now and then you need to turn it down a bit. Actually I’m just a fan of music in general, I just mostly talk about the rockers. There are a couple of new songs, preceding albums, that have come out lately that I feel necessary to comment on… These aren’t party songs, or hard rock songs, these are late night songs. These are tumbler full of Blanton’s bourbon, sitting on the porch songs. These are get your belt off and hold me close songs… Putting on either of these songs could lead you anywhere…

First and foremost is Norah Jones’ new tune “Carry On” from her upcoming album, “Day Breaks.” This is a return to her early, earthy, jazzy style of “Come Away With Me.” It’s as sexy as Hell. This woman could sing the phone book and make it sound great. If you can’t get laid with Norah Jones on the stereo, you can’t get laid… More to come on this as the LP comes out….This song is all piano and brilliant vocal. It’s the closest thing she’s done to her first album in a long time. I think this is a great return to her early sound. I will admit, I’ve loved everything she’s done, experimentally and other wise…. Check out the Little Willies, her great, country side project.

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What to think about Van Morrison…We’d all love to think he’s got another “Moondance” or even a “Tupelo Honey” left in him, but who knows. He hit a hot streak starting with the “Down The Road” album and kept it going through “Magic Time.” Then he phoned it in with “Keep It Simple.” He followed up with the fabulous “Astral Weeks: Live At the Hollywood Bowl” which was simply transcendent. Yes, he was revisiting an old album, but the passion of that performance was almost as great as the original LP. His last two albums, oddly named, left me cold… although the duet, “Streets of Arklow” with Mick Hucknell might be one of the greatest duets ever, and it slowly restored my faith…

I have no idea what his new LP “Keep Me Singing” will bring, but for some odd reason, I remain hopeful. The lead single, “Too Late” has me very optimistic. It’s an oddly hopeful, “it’s not too late” mid tempo, train-tempo-chugging tune that I really like. It’s the first Van tune that I thought might signal he’s trying since “Magic Time.” I get it, he did two or three great albums and no one noticed, why try… but it appears he’s coming back with a very strong album. These are the type of albums that B&V were founded on, strong albums in the later careers of great artists…I’m not sure if this will be a great album, but it’s a great first single…

Again, these aren’t great party songs… but if you’re having a night cap and someone is in their underwear, this might just tweak the mood in your favor… and if you’re like me, you can always use that help…

Cheers!

Metallica’s “Hardwired…To Self-Destruct” Bonus Tracks: They piss me off again

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I was a huge fan of Metallica’s “Death Magnetic” but in a strange move the band compressed the music so much, in order to increase the volume, it sometimes make my speakers crack. I wasn’t as pissed as the general public, but it was annoying. When you “compress” the music, in layman’s terms, you digitally compact the music so you can push it up in the sound spectrum so it’s physically louder. It was completely unnecessary and provided less than optimal sound. I still love the album, but Jesus guys. Use your heads.

When I saw that “Hardwired…To Self Destruct” was coming out, I quickly learned that there were two versions, a standard one and a “Deluxe” version. Now, I’m a scrupulous buyer of LPs… If there are bonus tracks to be had, I investigate and there is a high likelihood that I’ll buy the deluxe version of any album – if the bonus tracks are worth it. If they’re early demos, or the dreaded “remixes” then I’m likely not interested. Sometimes the bonus tracks are better than some of the deeper album cuts. The Rolling Stones, on the LP “A Bigger Bang,” issued a deluxe version that had video version of two songs, one of which, “Under the Radar” is the greatest Stones tune you’ve never heard.

When “Hardwired…” first came out, I looked at both versions. It appeared the bonus disc was collection of demos. There was one completed tune, “Lords Of Summer.” Metallica’s creative process is not unlike that of many bands… they jam at soundchecks and rehearsal spaces and record it all. Later they go through all the stuff and if they hear certain riffs or passages they like, they build those into songs. So with titles on the bonus disc like: “Plow (Riff origins)” and “Tin Shot (Riff Origins)” my reaction was, no thanks. I get that completists will want all the tracks, nobody understands that more than your dedicated, obsessive-compulsive B&V writer. I also understand how the “Riff” early versions of these songs would be of interest to those curious about Metallica’s creative process.

In my case, I wasn’t interested. I purchased the first single off the standard version, figuring I would buy that version when it came out and go back and purchase “Lords Of Summer” from the deluxe version and I’d be whole. But then, at this late hour, the chuckleheads in Metallica change their fucking mind. They’ve decided to completely change the bonus tracks. Gone are the “Riff Origins” versions of these tunes and now they’re releasing a bunch of live stuff and cover tunes they’ve recorded since “Death Magnetic.”

It’s like they realized, “Hey, nobody wants to hear us noodling, we have all these extra tracks, let’s do that instead.” Normally I’d be thrilled to see this track listing but I already committed to the standard version. I know, I know, it’s only $1.29, I shouldn’t be bitching and this will teach me to be patient and wait for the vinyl version anyway, but I like to hear new tunes as soon as they’re available and that’s typically an MP3. It’s just the principle of the thing that pisses me off. These guys do some of the stupidest shit I’ve ever seen. I thought since Hetfield sobered up maybe somebody was actually steering this battleship who might be a tad more… thoughtful.

OK, enough of my rant. Now, the good news. These bonus tunes do look awesome. The bonus disc now looks like a mini- “Garage Inc.” a heavy metal cover album that I just loved. There are covers by Dio, Iron Maiden and a Deep Purple obscurity. They’ve also packed what looks like some great live versions of older tunes. Stuff they recorded on their Record Store Day show at a small LP shop and some tracks from their recent Minneapolis concert. All this looks like great bonus material… if only they’d released it like this to begin with.

We all have that one friend who leaves us scratching our heads, wondering, WTF did he do that for. It appears in my rock and roll universe that friend is Metallica. Stupid moves aside, like that WTF friend, I still love his band. I guess in the end, Metallica, I just can’t stay mad at you. I’m very excited to hear what I believe is going to be a pummeling heavy metal attack.

Cheers!

LP Review: The Beatles, “Live At The Hollywood Bowl”

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Long before BourbonAndVinyl, long before I collected hundreds of albums and CDs, long before my music obsession, there was my brother’s stereo… I had an old black-and-white TV in my room, and a clock radio but I only turned the clock radio on if I was listening to the Royals or the Chiefs. I never listened to music. I was a sports guy, not a music guy. My brother, who I’ve mentioned in these very pages as the polar opposite of me, didn’t have a TV but he did have a stereo. It was one of those turntable/tape deck/receiver all in one jobs. I couldn’t understand what he was doing spending all of his spare money on those albums, it made no sense to me. Be careful what you make fun of, it eventually takes you over.

I would walk by his closed door on the way to my own room and I’d hear all these… sounds… coming from his room. What the hell was going on in there. More often than not those “sounds” were the Beatles. They say you can tell a lot about a person by which Beatle they favor… My brother was a George guy. I’m more of a John guy. I’ll let Beatle-0logists decipher the meaning of that. Maybe if our family dentist had dosed my brother and I with LSD like John and George, we’d have been closer as kids, but that time has passed. I eventually knocked on the closed door and after being admitted entrance to my brother’s inner sanctum, plopped down on the floor to listen to these Beatles he was so fond of. It took the Stones to put out “Some Girls” to completely turn me onto music, but my brother’s vast Beatles LP collection certainly pushed me onto that path. Its odd that on so many things my younger brother led the way…

Like I was to eventually become, my brother was nothing if not a completist. He’d buy a greatest hits album if it had an unreleased single on it even if he owned all the other tunes already. One of the albums he seemed to play a lot was the Beatles’ “Live at the Hollywood Bowl.” It sounded like a bunch of girls screaming like a cat in a blender to me but my brother loved that record. I remember the liner notes, printed on the back of the album sleeve. George Martin, who had been asked to put the album together in 1977, long after the Beatles’ break up, wrote the essay printed on the back. If I recall correctly, he said he was only convinced to put the Live LP together after his granddaughter (or maybe it was his daughter) had asked him if the Beatles had been “as big as” or “as exciting as the Bay City Rollers.” I’d say he proved the point. Game, set and match to Mr. Martin.

I sort of forgot about “Live at the Hollywood Bowl” until I got to college. One of my roommates, Drew would sit and listen to that album and laugh his ass off when the Beatles would speak between songs. It was so obvious they were mocking the entire Beatlemania thing. Before “Hard Days Night” John Lennon says, “we made two movies, one in color and one in black and white…” He sounds like a game show host. That was after my conversion to “music junkie” and it was the first time I gave that album a serious listen.

The Beatles famously quit touring in 1966. After that they became studio wizards. The breadth and depth of the music they recorded is amazing. Every album seemed to create two or three sub genre’s of music. It’s easy to think of them as composers like Mozart or Bach and it’s sometimes easy to forget that they were a working band, since after ’66 they only played live once on the roof of the Apple offices in London for the “Let It Be” album. That’s why this document of them as a touring, live band is so important.

In anticipation of hearing this album again, I started listening to the “Live at the BBC” album. It’s a great document of what was, what we tend to forget, a great band. It’s like they’ve turned the BBC studios into their own Hamburg club. They play a lot of their own music, but so many great covers that they never got around to recording and releasing in the studio. The only thing the “BBC” album leaves out is a studio audience. There’s nobody to react to the performances except the jolly BBC DJ. It’s a bit of a sterile live experience. Still, it’s a pleasure to hear these guys playing live together.

Which all leads me to the newly remastered “Live at the Hollywood Bowl.” I kept wondering if they’d ever get around to releasing this album. With every new remastered version, box set, “Live at the Hollywood Bowl” was always left out. I can’t confirm this without flying to Houston and having my brother put the old vinyl on the stereo, but it sounds like they’ve boosted the music up in the mix and turned down the screaming fans. Have no doubt about it, this is a great album. It’s so fun to actually put some flesh and blood on the legends. Taken with the “BBC” live album it helps round out a fuller picture of the Beatles. You see those old films of them performing at stadiums in the 60s and its a little like watching old-timey films of baseball players one hundred years ago. A crude document of history being made.

“Hollywood Bowl” is a fun, fun listen. The chemistry of the Beatles on stage is just amazing. You have to remember with the crude equipment they were using, they likely couldn’t even hear each other. It’s kind of hard to play as a band if you can’t hear the other guys. They bash away with a hearty gusto. I have to say, Ringo takes a lot of shit for not being a very good drummer, but he’s really bashing away on this record. Paul McCartney’s bass sounds like Flea. He lays down the most amazing bass lines. How these guys harmonize with all the screaming is just a miracle.

I love that they open with “Twist And Shout,” as if the rabid teenage girls at the Hollywood Bowl weren’t frothy enough, they start with one of their biggest jams. They play a lot of their early, classic hits, up through “Help!” but its great to hear them tear through some of those older cover tunes that they’d probably been playing since Hamburg: “Long Tall Sally,” “Dizzy Miss Lizzy,” and even “Roll Over Beethoven.” They even let Ringo have a turn at the mic with “Boys.” Despite all the harrowing stories of their touring, it does sound like they’re having a good time on stage.

“Ticket to Ride,” “Things We Said Today,” and “She’s a Woman” all near the front of the album are a toss up for my favorite. These guys could do no wrong with a song. They add four additional “bonus” tracks that weren’t on the original vinyl LP at the end. They’re all very good songs and for those of us who know the original album, it’s almost like they’ve come back for an encore.

This is not only a great album, and a definite recommended buy from B&V, I would go so far as to say this is essential listening, not only for Beatles fans, but for fans of rock and roll in general.

Play this one loud. And as Ringo would probably say, Peace and Love, people. Cheers!

My Proposed Supergroup: Those Band Members Left Out of Big Time Reunions

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Hmmm… Isn’t someone missing here? Oh, yeah Bill Ward

 I was reading on-line the other day, one of those “lists” that rock and roll websites are so fond of these days (and yes, I’m guilty of that too). On the site, it listed something like, “bands who are touring without any original members.” Talk about a rip off. It’s like a ponzi scheme. I mean, I get it, I hate my family reunions and haven’t attended one in years, but no original members? That’s like going to someone else’s family reunion… someone who you don’t even know. My buddy Storm told me that Foreigner is out on the road these days without Lou Gramm… That seems useless. He also told me they filed an injunction and Lou Gramm can’t even sing the songs he cowrote with Foreigner on his solo tour. Jeez. I even remember, around the time of the Beatles’ “Anthology” LP releases, before George Harrison’s tragic demise, the suggestion that the Beatles re-unite with Julian Lennon pinch hitting for his father John. That’s like asking me to pinch hit for Pavarotti… and uh, I don’t sing, let alone opera.

It seems an all too familiar trend these days when a band makes a huge reunion tour announcement I find out after the fact they’ve left somebody out. Van Halen famously got back together with David Lee Roth, something the entire universe was rooting for, but they left out Michael Anthony on bass. Eddie brought in his son Wolfgang on as the bass player. Sigh. One of the more egregious of these “leave outs” was Bill Ward on the Black Sabbath “The End” tour. The root of all of this seems to be money. Izzy Stradlin recently tweeted that the only reason he’s not on the current Guns N Roses tour is “they didn’t want to split the loot evenly.” I mean, Richard Fortus was great, but Izzy and Slash’s guitar sound just belongs together. Izzy co wrote many of their great tunes and sings on one of my favorites “Dust and Bones.” And to think we missed that moment on the GnR tour because of money? How much do these guys need?

The only circumstance that merits a reunion without all members is in the sad case where someone has passed. I get that the Faces reunited without Ronnie Lane or Ian McLagan because they’ve both passed. Thin Lizzy continues to go on without charismatic front man/bassist Phil Lynott, though one must ask the question, why? I do respect the whole “soldiering on” sentiment when a member of a band dies in some unfortunate way. I respect any band who keeps going after such a tragedy. What I’m talking about here is the big time reunions.

I began to think about all these guys that had been left out of these reunions lately and realized they’d actually make a pretty good “Supergroup.” They could call themselves “The Left Outs” or perhaps “The Leftovers.” I think I like the Left Outs better. This is my supergroup based on guys that by all rights should be included in these massive tours and yes, split the loot. I actually would pay money to see this line up… I think these guys might rock.

Drums: Bill Ward of Black Sabbath. Ward was apparently offered to join “The End” tour as a contract player without being offered a full split of the tour profits. Ward’s drum sound was essential to those early Sabbath albums. He and Ozzy have been feuding about this since the tour started.

Bass: Michael Anthony of Van Halen. Michael Anthony was summarily dismissed from Van Halen apparently for the sin of staying friends with Sammy Hagar. Eddie even came out in the press and slagged Anthony, claiming that it was actually him, Eddie, playing all the bass parts on the LPs. He even went so far as to claim it wasn’t Anthony doing the harmony vocals. Jeez, Eddie, you’re great, we get it, no need to pad the resume.

Rhythm Guitar: Izzy Stradlin of Guns n Roses. Izzy should be on this current tour. He was an integral part of their sound and wrote and sang some of their best songs. I saw him with the JuJu Hounds in a tiny bar with my buddy Stormin and the guy is awesome.

Lead Guitar: Don Felder of the Eagles. I know, I know, he doesn’t really fit the mold of the rest of these guys but lets remember the awesome guitar he played on his lone hit, “Heavy Metal (Takin’ a Ride)” from the soundtrack of that great animated movie from the 70s. The guy is a hell of a guitar player. I guess you could always opt for Gary Richrath from REO Speedwagon who left that group years ago, but I like the Felder choice better…

Lead Vocals: David Lee Roth of Van Halen. I really debated on this one. At first I considered Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins or Courtney Love of Hole, since those guys have actually done reunion tours where they were the only actual original members of their bands. I thought that would be ironic. I like the choice of Roth because he’s been kicked out of Van Halen, not once, not twice, but three times. And, yes, their live album sounded, as Dr Rock described it to me, “like a pet store, full of animals, burning to the ground,” but I think he’d be fun to watch without the behavioral governors Eddie put on him on the last tour. I want to see the old Jack Daniels swigging, karate-on-stage David Lee Roth.

Call me crazy, but that’s a band I’d go see. Have I left anybody out? If so, please comment and we can add them to the list.

Football is back this weekend folks. Pour something strong and put on some loud music… Be careful out there and as always, Cheers!