Digging In Deeper: B&V Artists/Albums To Expand Your Music Collection – Don’t Be Afraid!

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I have always held the opinion that we’re all a product of where we grew up. My dad was born in Los Angeles, California. However, shortly after his brother was born, his parents moved him back to Kansas. While I was born in Chicago, (like the Paul Butterfield Blues Band song) my parents chose to move back to… well, Kansas. I’ve never said my family had good taste in geography. Not that there’s anything wrong with Kansas, per se. I always wonder what I would have been like if my grandparents had stayed in Los Angeles? Obviously, I wouldn’t be the same person as my dad would have never met my mom, but holy shit! Growing up as an LA native? I probably would have been in the Red Hot Chili Peppers. With my addictive personality, I can only hope I wouldn’t have gone down like Hillel Slovak, RIP. I might have at least gone to high school with them. “Hello, Anthony, hello, Flea…Go Lions!” What if my parents had stayed in Chicago? My whole adolescence would have been jumping on trains to the city to see Springsteen or Lou Reed. Or maybe I’d have hung around blues bars and now I’d be a world renown harmonica player, if there is such a thing anymore. Michael Bloomfield and I would have totally hung out, I can tell.

But as it happens, I grew up in the suburbs in the small midwestern hamlet of Kansas City. It’s big enough that you can stir up some trouble, but not so big as to be actually cool. It lacks a certain menace that most big cities toss off casually. As much as I deny it, I am a product of a midwest, small city upbringing. If I’d grown up in LA, Chicago or Boston, I’d be a totally different person with totally different influences. If I wanted a Coke, and I grew up in Boston, I’d ask for a tonic, which is something I never understood.

Growing up in Kansas City, my exposure to rock and roll was pretty meat and potatoes. We had our local rock station, KY/102. We got a steady diet of mainstream rock and roll. When I finally had my rock and roll awakening, I listened to KY every day. It was all Led Zeppelin, the Stones, the Who, and of course, Bob Seger. It was the midwest after all, you grew up thinking Seger was President. Springsteen was considered exotic and only occasionally played on the radio.  I remember Boston, Styx and REO Speedwagon being in high rotation. You never heard anything from the outer fringes. Local radio never dug that deep.

With that as a musical backdrop, you can imagine the terror brought on from seeing the Sex Pistols on ’60 Minutes.’ Naturally they had live shots of the band at a concert hall, with the music highly distorted – it sounded like someone had tossed a gerbil in the blender – with the fans in the audience slam dancing and pogo’ing. Bug eyed Johnny Rotten looked like an escaped lunatic. They presented punk as the Barbarians at the Gates. It was the end of civilization. I was in my early teens and even I was scared. Usually, that sort of subversive rebelliousness was as intoxicating to me as catnip. I’m surprised dad didn’t turn the channel, such was his fear I’d suddenly shave my hair into a Mohawk and pierce something on my face. Dad was easily unsettled in those days and I was, well, eccentric. Alas, as a midwesterner, I never heard the Sex Pistols or the Clash on the radio, so I stayed the same, feathered hair-Nike Cortez-faded jeans and flannel shirt guy I always was. I was Pearl Jam grunge, before there was such a thing, at least from a fashion standpoint.

Things got a little better when I got to college. I had the pleasure of meeting people who helped expand my musical footprint. But even then it wasn’t that far from the middle of the road. I started listening to the guys that always got criticized about their vocals, like Bob Dylan and Neil Young. I really dug into the 60s. I became a Beatles fan, something I had resisted up to then. Credence (like the Dude), Cream, CSNY all made it into my record collection. I heard New Wave and Elvis Costello. I discovered the majesty of Van Morrison. I slowly moved away from my head banger roots. But, while my journey of musical spelunking had begun, I wasn’t digging very deep.

It was around that time that I started reading Rolling Stone magazine. That was a real help in the beginning of my musical journey of discovery. I would read about new albums or they’d have a feature article about an artist I hadn’t heard about. I’d usually go down the record store to check those artists out. Suddenly I’m listening to David and David. Rolling Stone was always very fond of lists and rankings. Late in my college career, they published an issue with a ranking of the top 500 albums of all time. Holy shit, I thought, this is the Rosetta Stone, the guide to rock n roll enlightenment. I still have that magazine somewhere in a box that I tried to find recently. They updated the list in 2003 online. But that list from Rolling Stone, from way back in the 80s always had these exotic sounding bands that I’d never heard of, ever. As the years passed I’d see other, similar lists and those same strange bands would be on there. I once famously told a friend, “If I see one more fucking list of greatest albums with Television’s Marquee Moon on it, I’m going to vomit.” I just couldn’t get out of my comfort zone. Punk and alternative were just a bridge too far.

Eventually, and I can’t explain why, I overcame my fear. Hearing the Clash’s London Calling was a real eye-opener. This wasn’t the angry noise I’d expected, this was just fantastic music. Of course after “Rock the Casbah” the Clash were popular in middle America. Suddenly I was buying albums by the Velvet Underground and the Ramones, stuff that I would have never entertained before. I was expanding my musical palette and it was a great thing. Although I still had my blind spots… I was in a bar with my pal Doug who was schmoozing his now wife and she was with a friend of hers, a chubby little guy who thought it wise to kick off his shoes and socks and dance around the filthy, dive bar barefoot. He slowed down long enough for us to get into a discussion of rock bands, and who was the greatest. When he said Roxy Music, I exploded in an expletive laden diatribe about what rock really was… not my finest moment. We all have room to grow folks.

So for the adventurous and the curious, I thought I’d put a list together of bands or albums that are always on these “best ever” lists that you might be a little afraid of. These bands or these albums might be stuff you’ve heard of or heard about but never listened to. Many of these albums sold terribly but then became hugely influential anyway. But as was said of the first Velvet Underground album, “not many people bought that record, but everyone who did, started a band.” I finally bit the bullet and started listening to these and I like a lot of it. I still stayed relatively conservative on this list – I’m not suggesting anybody jump into the MC5 or Pavement, although you should – and this list is not meant to be definitive, it’s just a starting place. Most of these acts/albums are critically lauded and cited by the very musicians you might be listening to as huge influences. Hearing it led me to understand that yes, there is rock and roll a little more exotic than say, “Night Moves.” Enjoy.

  1. Big Star, #1 Record – I don’t know why I feared this record. Somehow I was under the impression it was a disco band and I’ve always been in the “death before disco” crowd. It’s simply one of the greatest pop/rock albums ever. It’s been claimed as an influence by bands from Cheap Trick to R.E.M. I was going to simply recommend all of their music as Third/Sister Lovers is a tragic masterpiece, but Radio City has always left me cold. The Music of Cinemax’s Quarry Led Me To Big Star’s “#1 Record”
  2. David Bowie, The Berlin Triology (Low, “Heroes”, Lodger) – This entry probably surprises most folks as we at B&V love our Bowie. When I heard that the second side of both Low and “Heroes” were instrumental, synth driven, ambient music I hung back on buying them. Apparently androgyny and bisexuality were ok with me but Brian Eno synth, no way, man. Terrible mistake. Low is still my favorite. The ambient track “Warszawa” is simply mesmerizing. Lodger was supposedly the most accessible since it has traditional song structures, but the other two are where the genius lies. All three are essential listening for Bowie fans.
  3. Leonard Cohen – There are too many great albums in his discography to name just one or a few. I’d probably start with Songs Of Love And Hate or his debut album. Personally, I loved his last three albums LP Review: Leonard Cohen, “You Want It Darker” His Farewell Note, RIP. Sadly Cohen gets lumped into that Dylan, Neil Young bad vocals category. How to describe Leonard? Poet, mystic, ladies man… His songs could go from touching on the divine to more earthly delight. His razor sharp wit always makes me laugh. He’s simply put, a genius.
  4. The Flying Burrito Brothers, Gilded Palace of Sin And Burrito Deluxe – Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman fled the Byrds to form the Burrito Brothers and helped solidify and create what we call “country rock.” The Eagles wish they’d been this cool. On Burrito Deluxe you’ll find their cover of the Stones’ “Wild Horses” that was released a full year prior to Mick and Keith’s version.
  5. Modern Lovers, Modern Lovers – Any band with future Cars drummer David Robinson and future keyboardist for the Talking Heads Jerry Harrison can’t go wrong can it? This is a lo-fi rock and roll at its best. Guitarist/lead vocalists/songwriter Jonathon Richman was obsessed with girls, sex and love.
  6. Randy Newman – I’ve always felt bad that so many people are put off by Randy Newman’s novelty single, “Short People.” It was a song that was meant to champion anti-bigotry by complaining about something completely absurd. Naturally it became a huge hit. While I love his early albums like Sail Away, I’d also recommend some of his latter works like Harps And Angels, or Dark Matter. LP Review: Randy Newman’s ‘Dark Matter’
  7. Harry Nilsson, Nilsson Schmilsson and Nilsson Sings Newman – Speaking of Randy Newman, brilliant singer Harry Nilsson did a whole album of his songs, so enamored was he of Newman’s songwriting. Nilsson was a singer who never got his due… maybe because it seems he never gave a fuck. But what a voice. He was drinking buddies with John Lennon for extra cool factor. Schmilsson is his masterwork.
  8. Iggy Pop, The Idiot, and Lust For Life – Don’t fear Iggy, he rocks like your teenage id on a sugar rush. These two albums were produced by David Bowie. Start here and then pick carefully through his uneven catalog, there are plenty of gems.
  9. The Ramones, The Ramones – The sensational punk rock milestone that is their debut. “Gabba gabba hey.” They play fast and hard. From “Blitzkrieg Bop” to “Now I Want to Sniff Some Glue” this album is perfect.
  10. The Runaways – Cherie Currie only stuck around for the first album, but hearing her sing “Cherry Bomb” is a revelation. Joan Jett sang and played rhythm guitar, Lita Ford, yes the 80s heavy metal star, was the lead guitarist. Talented and under respected, all three of their studio albums are great, but the first two are my favs. And, to add to their legend, they were huge in Japan.
  11. Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols – I have no idea why these guys scared me. This is kick ass, stripped down, in your face rock n roll. I guess the old adage is true, be careful what you make fun of, you’ll become it.
  12. Patti Smith, Horses – Patti Smith is a poet, force of nature with an unbridled spirit and the dirty heart of a punk rocker. Her take on Van Morrison’s “Gloria” which she turns on its head like a tornado tearing through a trailer park is must listening. The poetic, nine-minute epic “Birdland” is a song I’ll never get over. She’s a rock Goddess and this album should be taught in high school music classes.
  13. The Stooges/Iggy & The Stooges – The Stooges, Fun House, and Raw Power – Not to double dip here, but Iggy and his fellow Stooges, the Asheton Brothers (and various bass players) are visceral, primal rock n’ roll. Get your hands on any of their albums and turn it up to 11. I will say, of the three, side two of Fun House does meander a bit, like a jazz musician on too much speed. But the Stooges three original albums are essential listening.
  14. Television, Marquee Moon – They rehearsed this album for years before finally committing it to type. I don’t know why I was so down on even trying this album. The lyrics are ethereal and the music hypnotic. I don’t vomit when I hear this album, I rock.
  15. The Velvet Underground – Their first album, recorded with singer Nico, who left thereafter is the album you hear about, but I would recommend everything they did, including their live album. Lou Reed on vocals/guitar, Moe Tucker on drums, John Cale on bass and Sterling Morrison on guitar – the original line up – were criminally overlooked in their short career. The only scary album is the second one, White Light/White Heat and yet I still love listening to that album. Considering the rest of the world was dressed in dayglo and tossing flowers around, the dark subjects the Velvets covered – drug addiction, S&M, sex – are all the more striking.
  16. Tom Waits – I love his first three albums, but there is so much to love from this drunken, singing Bukowski. As he aged his voice got more gravelly, but you can’t beat his lyrics. “I want beautiful melodies telling me terrible things.” I think that sums it up. His debut album, Closing Time is the place to start and work your way forward through his brilliant catalog.
  17. X, Los Angeles and Wild Gift – We don’t always associated Los Angeles as a hub for punk rock but X was one of the seminal LA punk bands on the scene. These two albums are a great start to that early West Coast punk scene.
  18. Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention, Freak Out! – I always thought Zappa was about satire and making noise. Complicated, classical music influenced stuff. Not on this album. “Hungry Freaks, Daddy” kicks off a double album worth of crazy good rock and roll. Warning, if you start here, you’ll end up collecting more Frank Zappa.

There was so much more I could have listed. But for now, I’ll stop with those 18 acts/LPs. There is so much great music that’s been recorded over the years that just never made it to the radio, at least not in Kansas. If you find something you like here, my job is done. If you’re already a fan, and perhaps like a different album by one of these artists, surface it in the comments.

Thanks for reading and Happy St Patrick’s Day this weekend!

 

 

 

 

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B&V Playlist: Songs For New York City

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*Photo taken from the internet, likely subject to copyright

Ah, New York…

I was on a plane the other day, gliding miles above the frozen, snow covered ground, headed for yet another far away city. (Thoughts From The Traveling Salesman And A B&V Playlist: Hanging On The Telephone). It’s been a grim and cold January. I had my Beats headphones on, as is my wont when on an airplane. I slap those on almost immediately upon fastening my seatbelt to avoid anybody trying to strike up a plane conversation with me… you can’t be too careful. I try to avoid those “Chatty Kathy’s” whenever possible. Plus the airlines typically seat me in the maternity section of the airplane so obviously blaring rock and roll music is preferable to the wailing and lamentations of the children. I remember when traveling was a tad more… elegant.

I wasn’t in the mood, musically speaking, for anything in particular so I just hit the “Shuffle” option. I figured, “why not,” I was probably just going to fall asleep anyway. I struggle with powerful insomnia and can barely get myself to sleep in a big, soft, restful bed in a dark, cool room. However, if you put me on a plane with a little music I’m asleep before the wheels are off the ground. Which, coincidentally also dissuades anybody from striking up a conversation with me, so there’s that bonus. As I sat there drifting off, I heard two songs, back to back, John Lennon’s “New York City” followed by AC/DC’s “Safe In New York City.” I often get my playlist ideas from random stuff that happens when I “shuffle” and I was quickly thinking about all the great songs written about New York. Perhaps I was on to something… and let’s face it, there’s no new music out right now, save for the Raconteurs, Review: The Raconteurs’ Great New Single, Jack White’s Original Side Project Delivers! so I figured I’d explore it.

When I was a kid growing up in the American Midwest, New York was like Oz, a fantasy city that only existed in movies or television. My all time favorite cop show was, of course, Kojak, and it was set in New York. Who wasn’t a fan of Kojak… “Who loves ya baby?” but I digress. The wide shots of the city always left me awe-struck. Of course, every third episode or so there was someone addicted to heroin. The frightful depictions of the addicts on that show probably kept me away from hard drugs, thankfully. The crime, the drugs, the gritty nature of the big city. I loved it all. Then there were movies like ‘The Warriors’ depicting young gangs running wild. New York was alluring and frightening all at the same time… kind of like pretty girls when you’re in junior high school. Mick Jagger and all the original cast of Saturday Night Live were all in New York hanging out at Studio 54, it seemed like the center of the “cool” universe. It was a beacon of hope to all of us misfits and people who didn’t quite fit in where we were…

As fate would have it, right after college I had the pleasure of living in Boston for a summer. I was working in a liquor store and didn’t have two nickels to rub together. One of the first weekends I was there, my roommate Matthew and I jumped in his Subaru, which always smelled like bong water, and drove into New York City. It was the first of many times I would ever visit. I still get goosebumps on my arms when I think of that first drive into NYC. We knew a woman from high school who worked for the Alvin Ailey Dance Company and we crashed with her and her brother, an aspiring actor. We walked all over the city for two days. We couldn’t afford to do anything, we just walked. The highlight was riding the Staten Island Ferry, because it only cost a quarter. I spent the whole time staring up at the skyline… it’s a wonder we didn’t get rolled. We actually went to a party with the dancers from Alvin Ailey at someone’s apartment. If you don’t think two straight kids from the suburbs meeting a bunch of gay, black men who looked like they were chiseled out of marble wasn’t awkward at first… you’re wrong.

I’ve been back many times, for work and pleasure, but I’m still that wide-eyed twenty year old. Whether I’m drinking in McSorley’s with a work buddy or dining in some outrageously expensive restaurant with the Rock Chick, New York will always blow me away. I was lucky enough to see the Stones’ 50th anniversary show (in Newark, but I stayed in New York) where Springsteen, Lady Gaga, the Black Keys/Gary Clark, all jumped on stage and joined them. I’m not sure I’ll ever get over seeing Springsteen do “Tumblin’ Dice” with the Stones. Nothing like that ever happens where I live…

Because it’s so magical, I rooted through the B&V music inventory and came up with the following set of tracks celebrating the greatest city on the planet (with all due respect to Paris or London). When I first compiled this, I had over 50 songs and over 4 hours of music. I tried to trim it down to my usual 2 hour playlist. I mean, sure I love Dylan’s acoustic “Talkin’ New York” played after Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” but I didn’t want to get too sprawling. If you have suggestions or if there are any egregious omissions, please suggest the song in the “comments” section and we’ll get it added. As always the BourbonAndVinyl.net playlists can be found on Spotify. Just search on kcorsini64 if BourbonAndVinyl doesn’t work. As usual I’m all over the place stylistically, but that’s how we roll here at B&V. Enjoy!

  1. AC/DC, “Safe In New York City” – Does anyone feel safe anywhere any more?
  2. Beastie Boys, “No Sleep Til Brooklyn” – One of my all time favs by the Beasties!
  3. Ace Frehley, “New York Groove” – Laugh all you want at this selection, I certainly laugh every time I hear it, but there’s just something about it.
  4. Aerosmith, “Bone To Bone (Coney Island White Fish Boy)” – “Flatbush boy cruisin’ Sheephead’s Bay…” I don’t even know where those places are, but I love it, even though it’s a song about used condoms. With Aerosmith, the sleazier the better.
  5. Bruce Springsteen, “New York City Serenade” – Springsteen at his epic best. The Wild, The Innocent And The E Street Shuffle will always be my favorite Springsteen album, and this is the best track there.
  6. The Cult, “New York City” – The Cult rockin’ out on Sonic Temple. For reasons unclear I like to quote the line “Hell’s Kitchen is a DMZ” to the Rock Chick at random, typically inappropriate moments.
  7. Ryan Adams, “New York, New York” – “I still love you New York…” Well said Ryan, well said.
  8. Billy Joel, “New York State of Mind” – We turn a little mellow here, but what a great, great song from Billy’s third album.
  9. Leonard Cohen, “First We Take Manhattan” – I typically like my Cohen with natural instruments and this ones a little electronic for me but I like the paranoid defiance.
  10. Bruce Springsteen, “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” – Sure, I know Bruce is from Jersey, and I’m not certain that he’s talking about Amsterdam Avenue here, but it sure feels like it.
  11. David Bowie, “New York’s In Love” – This track is from Bowie’s much maligned Never Let Me Down. I chose the newly imagined version from last year’s box set Loving the Alien (1983 – 1988). No one likes this album, but I like the guitar on this song.
  12. Black Keys, “Brooklyn Bound” – Dirty blues rock from the Keys’ debut album.
  13. Lou Reed, “Coney Island Baby” – I feel like Lou Reed is the living embodiment of New York. He’d have gotten my vote for mayor.
  14. Dion With Paul Simon, “New York Is My Home” – A couple hometown boys harmonizing about their city.
  15. Billy Idol, “Hot In the City” – Some may argue this isn’t about New York, but if you listen, toward the end he yells, “New York!” Yes, Billy, yes.
  16. Frank Sinatra, “Theme From New York, New York” – The Chairman of the Board singing the greatest song about New York ever written. It’s not rock and roll but it fits, baby.
  17. John Lennon, “New York City” – From the maligned album Somewhere in New York City this great track was a break from the political broadsides that made up the rest of the album. Sometimes you have to look a little deeper for the gems.
  18. Lou Reed, “Dirty Blvd.” – New York isn’t specifically named, but there is no doubt the Dirty Blvd is in NY.
  19. Lenny Kravitz, “New York City” – A great, soulful track with horns and guitar from Strut. 
  20. The Ramones, “53rd & 3rd” – You can’t have a playlist about New York without the Ramones and this infamous corner.
  21. Little Steven, “Down And Out In New York City” – Little Steven pulls out an epic track like his boss from his day job…
  22. Rolling Stones, “Shattered” – It could be argued the entire album Some Girls is about New York but this track especially… “Bite the Big Apple, don’t mind the maggots.” God, I love the Stones. Very punky.
  23. Steely Dan, “Daddy Don’t Live In That New York City No More” – “Driving like a fool out to Hackensack…”
  24. Norah Jones, “Back To Manhattan” – Norah’s beautiful crooning belongs on every playlist.
  25. Sting, “Englishman In New York” – There isn’t a guy who has disappointed in his solo career to the degree Sting has but I always loved his second album, Nothing Like the Sun. 
  26. U2, “New York” – U2’s album All That You Can’t Leave Behind seemed to predict the 9/11 tragedy. This is one of the few upbeat moments on a somber album.
  27. Fleetwood Mac, “Empire State” – A great Lindsey Buckingham track that never got any attention.
  28. Steely Dan, “Brooklyn (Owes The Charmer Under Me)” – An overlooked gem from Can’t Buy A Thrill with original lead vocalists David Palmer at the helm.

I pared it down to a mere 2 hours and I know there is much, much more that I could have added. But on a cold wintery day, listening to these tracks is a lot better than shoveling snow. Cheers and stay warm and dry out there.

 

 

Review: The Raconteurs’ Great New Single, Jack White’s Original Side Project Delivers!

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Other than car trouble, I can’t imagine anything worse than moving. Physically packing up all of your shit and putting it in boxes, loading it in the car and then unloading it at a new location is just awful. When I was younger and single, I didn’t have any possessions. I never wanted to own anything I couldn’t carry to the car in the middle of the night if I had to avoid the law or some angry woman. I have spent almost every weekend since early December doing just that, carrying stuff to the car. It’s tough work to crate up all these albums and barrels of bourbon… Add to it the miserable, grey, snowy, cold weather and you’ve got a “seasonal affect” depression diagnosis that writes itself. Luckily, my local football team, the Kansas City Chiefs have been winning, so that kept me afloat. In the midst of all of this tedious moving, the Rock Chick burst in and said, “I have to play you something.” There’s only one or two things she could say to me that would fill me with more joy and anticipation… and I can’t really discuss those here, it’s a family blog. Who else will teach the children about rock and roll?

Much to my great surprise, when the Rock Chick hit “play” I heard a burst of pure, energetic rock and roll guitar. To my great pleasure, the Raconteurs have returned! And here I was wondering if there’d be any new rock and roll to write about before spring. I try to stay positive here on B&V, so I rarely write about music I don’t like. I try to use this blog as a place where I can shed a little light on music that may not make it to your local radio that I feel deserves more attention. If you can discover something you like here, then my job is more than done! However, it’s no secret that I didn’t like Jack White’s last solo album LP Review: Creativity And The Curious Case of Jack White & ‘Boarding House Reach’. There’s a theory in history, known as the “great man theory,” that I actually think has some merit. It posits that history can be explained by the impact these so called “great men” had on the course of human events. I believe in this for rock and roll. And I think Jack White is certainly one of those great men. Unfortunately the experimentation and reaching for something completely different on Boarding House Reach left me cold. White had been on a hiatus prior to that release so that miss left quite a void.

I was frankly quite surprised to see that the Raconteurs had reunited. One has to look back over a decade to get to their founding. It was in 2006, in between the White Stripes’ Get Behind Me Satan and Icky Thump that Jack White, bursting with creativity, reached outside the power-duo outfit that made him famous for his first side project. White was on guitar and vocals and was joined by solo artist Brendan Benson (guitar, vocals) and former Greenhorns’ members Jack Lawrence (bass), and Patrick Keeler (drums). So full of music was Jack White he later formed a second side project, The Dead Weather, with Lawrence on bass and his main squeeze Alison Mosshart from the Kills on lead vocals. White actually played drums in that band, with a QOTSA veteran, Dean Fertita on guitar. White’s creativity truly seemed boundless.

But it’s been over a decade since the Raconteurs recorded anything. Back in the early part of this millennium, the Raconteurs released two albums. Broken Boy Soldiers, their 2006 debut was an interesting start. “Steady As She Goes” was a great lead single. “Blue Veins” was just a fabulous bluesy number. It was probably my favorite song on that album. But other than “Level,” there wasn’t much else on the record I could connect with. It sounded like old friends having a nice busmen’s holiday. By 2008’s Consolers of the Lonely, things had improved vastly. With Meg White becoming more reclusive, Jack turned a more serious eye toward his supergroup side project. That was a great record. I especially liked the “story song,” “Carolina Drama.” The mysterious ending…”go and ask the milkman” will always stick with me… There were so many great tunes on that record, “Salute Your Solution,” and “Top Yourself” spring to mind. Everyone should check out that second Raconteurs’ album.

So after a decade that found the members of the Raconteurs’ working on other things, they’ve reunited. Jack sounds enthused and re-energized on these tunes. The first new song is titled “Sunday Driver.” It’s a punchy, classic rocker. White’s solo’ing is off the charts. It has an almost Beatlesque, psychedelic bridge in the middle. The guitar riff is absolutely infectious. It’s muscular and frenetic rock and roll. To hear Jack rock out this freely is so refreshing. It’s nothing like the bizarre experiments of Boarding House Reach. 

The second track, “Now That You’re Gone,” is where things get really interesting. It’s a “my baby has left me, good riddance” tune. “What will I do, now that you’re gone…” It’s probably what my old neighbors are thinking about me now that I’ve moved… well, probably not. I tend to play loud music at odd hours… Anyway, “Now That You’re Gone” has got a wonderful burst of bluesy guitar that plays through out the song. This song sounds like a 60s girl group had a baby with an old bluesman. White is absolutely torturing his guitar through out this song, conjuring the pain and torment felt by a spurned lover. This is another home run of a track.

While the Raconteurs’ first record was a bit of a disappointment and the second one was strong, these two new tracks are just stellar. This could point to a very, very interesting album. Keep an eye and ear out for the Raconteurs. I highly recommend everyone purchase these songs immediately and play them as loud as your neighbors will allow.

Cheers!

B&V Playlist: Beatles vs Stones Covers? No, Our Favorite Beatles AND Stones Covers!

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*Image of Jagger, Wyman & the McCartneys (and unidentified groovy chicks) taken from the internet, and likely subject to copyright

The world has become a really divisive place. Whatever the issue, there always seems to be disagreement these days. Politics, don’t get me started. Religion, I’m not qualified to talk about. For every opinion in the universe there exists an equally strong, opposite one. Meat eaters vs the vegans, hedonists vs the devout, drinkers vs the sober, and I could go on and on. I believe it was Sir Isaac Newton, that groovy cat with the apple and gravity, who stated in his Third Law, that for every action there is an equal, opposite reaction. For example, I would like to quit my job and sit around listening to rock and roll records all day. Perhaps I would occasionally take a break from that strenuous activity to head down to the used record store to check out some additional vinyl, only to return home and hang out. My wife has the opposite reaction to this idea and wants to work me like one of the old mules from the farm she grew up on until I collapse. Marriage, it seems, like life is a compromise.

However, we shouldn’t pretend that these disagreements are a new and modern convention. I remember, as a child in the 70s, there were similar fault lines amongst the population. I remember there was a fierce, Superman vs Batman thing. You were either a fan of the man from Krypton or you were on team Caped Crusader, and you couldn’t dig both. Me, I was a Batman fan. Ironically I later roomed with a guy whose nickname was Batman. We’d get crank calls in the middle of the night from his friends asking for Batman… When I’d say he wasn’t home they’d ask to leave a message from the Joker, or Commissionor Gordon. Real fuckin’ funny guys at 3 am. I think which Super Hero you dug said a lot about your personality. You were either the ideal of virtue and the perfect man or you were a troubled guy who hung out late at night looking for bad situations. Hmmm.

Anyway, one of the fiercer battles in the old days revolved around the Beatles and the Stones. The Beatles were huge. They were, well, the Beatles. In the late sixties the Stones began to get tagged with the nickname, “The Greatest Rock & Roll Band in the World.” I don’t know if it was the nickname, but suddenly the debate was real. The feud began even before Led Zeppelin came along, so all you Zep fans, stay calm and keep reading. There was suddenly a Superman-Batman type of line drawn. You were either a Beatles fan or you were a Stones fan and never shall the twain meet, as they say. It was the 60s version of East Coast vs West Coast, without the guns. Lennon claimed once that everything the Beatles did the Stones would do six months later. While you might cite Their Satanic Majesties, the Stones ill-fated trip into psychedelic music (after the Beatles Sgt Pepper album) as proof, I think after that the Stones forged their own bluesy, rootsy road.

But once a feud always a feud. I have often thought of my brother and I as polar opposites, which isn’t true, but we all have stories we tell ourselves about our families. My brother, who got into music way before me was a solid Beatles guy. He had the Rolling Stones’ Hot Rocks, perhaps the best “greatest hits” package ever released, but he had every Beatles album out there. I think he had UK and US versions of each album, although I could be wrong about that. I bet he’s sitting on a stack of very valuable vinyl. Anyway, my first love, of course, was the Rolling Stones. I can’t say that fueled any tension between he and I, but I’m sure it didn’t help.

Eventually, I realized feuds were silly. I like both the Beatles and the Stones. They’d both be on my greatest bands of all time list… although the Stones will always be #1 for me. That doesn’t mean I can’t love the Beatles too. Hell, Keith Richards once said, about John Lennon, that he wasn’t as “hen-pecked” by Yoko in his latter days as people say… he said whenever the Stones were in New York he and Lennon would party their ass off. Now that’s something I wish I’d have gotten in on. How much fun would that be? Lennon, Richards, I wanna party with you guys. Alas, I was just a kid in junior high school.

I was noodling around with some playlist ideas and I came across the idea of doing a playlist of Stones covers, of which there are too few. Then I started thinking of doing a list of covers of Beatles tunes, of which there are myriad artists to choose from. I was thinking of battling playlists, this could potentially be a B&V thing. But then a weird thing happened. I combined the two playlists and frankly I really enjoyed the results. Since it’s a slow time musically right now, I thought I’d share it with all of you. This is not a comprehensive or complete list of Beatles or Stones cover songs, it’s just a list of my favorites. As always you can find this playlist on Spotify by searching on kcorsini64 or BourbonAndVinyl (at least I sure hope so). Enjoy… and if you have any additions you think I missed, please mention them in the comments and I’ll add to the Spotify list. My comments on each tune below this link. And I’ll say again, there are always more Beatles covers than Stones covers… oh, well.

  1. Aerosmith, “Come Together” – What a great place to start. Lets all come together over the Beatles and the Stones.
  2. Black Keys, “She Said, She Said” – I love this song. I never figured the Keys to cover the Beatles but they do so beautifully.
  3. Peter Frampton, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” – I like the live version and the studio version.
  4. Linda Ronstadt, “Tumbling Dice” – My favorite song of hers, save anything she covered by Warren Zevon or Lowell George.
  5. David Bowie, “Let’s Spend The Night Together” – Bowie’s frenetic take on the classic Stones track.
  6. Soundgarden, “Everybodys’ Got Something To Hide (Except Me and My Monkey) – God do we miss Chris Cornell.
  7. Fiona Apple, “Across the Universe” – Great track from a soundtrack. A track also nicely done by Bowie… but he’s already on here.
  8. Phil Collins, “Tomorrow Never Knows” – Say what you want about Collins but it took some real balls to cover this song.
  9. Montrose, “Connection” – Great, slowed down version of the Stones track.
  10. Cheap Trick, “Magical Mystery Tour” – Was any band more influenced by the Beatles than Cheap Trick? Well, besides ELO?
  11. Billy Joel, “A Hard Days Night (Live)” – Ok, maybe Joel was as influenced by the Beatles as Cheap Trick. It’s probably a coin toss.
  12. Social Distortion, “Backstreet Girl” – Social D doing a a down and dirty Stones cover. Whats not to love?
  13. Siouxsie And The Banshees, “Dear Prudence” – I almost like this version more than the Beatles original.
  14. Joe Cocker, “A Little Help From My Friends” – This one was a huge hit for Joe.
  15. The Allman Brothers Band, “Heart of Stone” – From their last studio album.
  16. U2, “Paint It Black” – One of their best covers!
  17. Lindsey Buckingham, “She Smiled Sweetly” – Buckingham recreates a whole band just plucking an acoustic guitar.
  18. Johnny Winter, “Stray Cat Blues” – A lot of blues guys cover the Stones.
  19. Motley Crue, “Helter Skelter” – A lot of folks have done this one, but this is my nasty favorite.
  20. Ray Charles, “Eleanor Rigby” – Also done beautifully by Aretha.
  21. Aerosmith, “I’m Down” – Great track from Permanent Vacation. 
  22. Billy Joel, “I’ll Cry Instead (Live) – Like I said, he rivals Cheap Trick in his love of the Beatles.
  23. Luther Allison, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” – Obscure blues track but I love it.
  24. Guns N Roses, “Sympathy For the Devil” – From the ‘Interview With A Vampire’ soundtrack, believe it or not. This was the best thing to come out of that movie.
  25. The Who, “Under My Thumb” – Yep, the Who covering the Stones…worlds collide.
  26. Otis Redding, “Satisfaction” – The Rock Chick always laughs at me when I play this. I think it’s all the horns. Otis was soulful…
  27. Elton John, “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds” – As a youngster I liked this track better than the original. What fools these mortals be…
  28. CSNY, “Blackbird” – Love the version on CSNY 1974. Stills takes the lead vocals, but those harmonies kick in, oh, man!
  29. Rod Stewart, “Get Back” – An outtake from the Tonight’s the Night album.
  30. Taj Mahal, “Honky Tonk Woman” – Stripped down to vocals, acoustic guitar, and harmonica, it’s like a porch blues jam.
  31. Tom Petty, “Taxman” – Petty covering his friend George.
  32. Cheap Trick, “Day Tripper” – They do the Beatles rockier stuff so well.
  33. Rage Against the Machine, “Street Fighting Man” – I chose this version to show the diversity of groups who cover these two bands.
  34. The Longshot, “As Tears Go By” – Billie Joe Armstrong’s side project on a nice Stones’ cover.
  35. Dhani Harrison, Prince, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” – From the Rock Hall of Fame ceremonies… Prince’s guitar solo is on fire. If you’ve seen the video, the other guys just stand there with their jaws dropped as Prince shreds… If Clapton was there I trust he snuck out quickly.

I may have dug deeper in some areas than most folks would have expected. I may have dug a little too shallow in other areas. But in the end, my Spotify playlists are for anybody whose interested. I add songs from the comments suggestions to the playlist all the time. Enjoy and I hope you all find this as an enjoyable a listen as I did! Beatles + Stones… Peace and Love, baby!

 

 

BourbonAndVinyl’s Best of 2018: Best New LPs & Best Box Set/Archival Releases

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I don’t know about all of you out there, but for us down here at B&V, 2018 was one tough year. The world has gone completely mad. At least we have bourbon and rock n’ roll to get us through. I saw on the news the other night that some college had done a study and concluded that the most lonely times in a person’s life were late 20s, mid 50s and late 80s. Thankfully I’m through the first and drink enough that the latter probably won’t be a problem. As for the middle one, I’m lucky that my pal Doug lives only a few miles from here and we met for beers last night. No matter how crazy things get out there, it’s nice to have someone other than the Rock Chick to grab a beer with. Everyone needs a drinking friend to help you blow off steam. We drink a few beers and talk a little treason.

2018 was a tough year in rock and roll. We lost the Queen this year, Aretha Franklin. While that was tragic it wasn’t as bad as last year when we were losing rock stars at an alarming rate. Elton John has announced he’s retiring from the road, which I consider a bummer. I saw Elton when I was in high school, against my will, only to discover he was amazing. Paul Simon seems to be retiring, which is too bad because his last few albums have been some of the most inventive of his career. Both Jack White and Lenny Kravitz delivered highly anticipated new albums that were both duds. #Disappointed. Hell, even Fleetwood Mac broke up with Lindsey Buckingham. I’m delighted to see that Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers and Neil Finn of Crowded House found employment with the Mac (everyone needs a steady job), but it just doesn’t feel the same without Lindsey.

It was a pretty good year for concerts here at B&V. I was able to catch Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul, Robert Plant, and Billy Idol in the friendly confines of local theaters. I had to travel to catch Depeche Mode for the second time on the Spirit tour and it was certainly worth braving the drive through Oklahoma to get there. I felt like I was behind enemy lines… If the last few years have taught me anything, and I’ll say it again, buy the ticket – see the show. I’m looking forward to seeing Ozzy and Metallica in the coming year. If those shows are any indication, it’s going to be hard rock year in 2019. I’m also looking forward to seeing Salina’s Sunset Sinners, but that’s more of a regional thing right now.

I would be remiss in not mentioning that the biggest movie of the year was the story of Freddie Mercury and Queen, ‘Bohemian Rhaposdy.’ There were a number of great documentaries about musicians this year – ‘Elvis Presley – The Searcher’ and ‘Jeff Beck, Still On The Run,’ were both exceptional. I do urge any true Springsteen fan to pull up ‘Springsteen On Broadway’ on Netflix. For comedy fans, I urge you to see both documentaries about Robin Williams and Garry Shandling that were done this year. If I can’t go to a concert or a comedy show, at least I can watch it on TV.

I glanced back at my “best of” for last year, 2017. There just seemed to be a whole lot more music released last year. There were so many bands I had hoped would release a new album this year that opted out. The Rolling Stones, Pearl Jam, and Bruce Springsteen were all on my radar for new music this year… alas, nothing. This year we had to look a little harder for good music. I have compiled, below, what I think are the best new albums of 2018. As I was compiling this list, I realized there were a lot of great vault releases – stuff that was recorded years ago and never released. Those usually come in the form of box sets. There were also some re-releases that were just great. So, breaking with tradition, I also compiled a list of the best of the reissues/vault releases. I urge you to check all of this great music out. Both lists are in alphabetical order… we’re not into the competition thing here. On the archival stuff, I’m sure I’ll get some arguments…

B&V Best Albums of 2018

  1. David Byrne, American Utopia – I was totally surprised by this album. It’s his most Talking Heads-ish work to date. “Gasoline and Dirty Sheets” is my favorite track. I hear he’s releasing a live EP from his critically lauded tour in support of this album. This is a great, late career release that we just love at B&V.
  2. Billy Gibbons, The Big Bad Blues – It appears Billy has dissolved ZZ Top for good but he’s back in Texas blues-boogie form on this great, dirty blues album. While you’ll find great blues covers of “Standing Around Crying” and “Rolling and Tumbling” there are also great originals like “Missin’ Yo Kissin'” and “My Baby She Rocks.” Classic and new all at the same time.
  3. Greta Van Fleet, Anthem Of the Peaceful Army – Admittedly, I liked the “double-EP” From the Fires a little better, but these kids are still forming. I hear a lot of Zeppelin and even some Rush here (thanks for pointing that out BG) but these guys will find their own voice. It’s just encouraging to hear kids rawk out.
  4. The Longshot, Love Is For Losers – Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong’s latest side project is pure punk rock fun. He throws in a crazy cover of Ozzy’s “Goodbye to Romance” just for good measure. He’s clearly having a lot of fun.
  5. Dave Matthews Band, Come Tomorrow – DMB’s first album since ousting violinist Boyd Tinsley is an atmospheric, catchy brew. I missed the violin, but all the classic pieces are here on a great DMB record.
  6. Paul McCartney, Egypt Station – I’m not into the whole ranking but this is hands-down, the best album of the year. The former Beatle returned in fine form. Rockers like “Come On To Me” to gorgeous, lush ballads like “I Don’t Know,” Macca proves he can do it all and do so with a magic touch. Classic album.
  7. Van Morrison, The Prophet Speaks – Van reunites with his jazzy pals Joey DeFrancesco’s quartet and produce a laid back, groovy record. I hope Van keeps up this pace of an album every six months.
  8. Paul Simon, In The Blue Light – I didn’t write a review of this record on B&V but I really do like this one. It’s Simon going back into his catalog and pulling out rarities and songs that just didn’t feel right… “One Man’s Ceiling Is Another Man’s Floor” is great here. This is a wonderful trip through the back catalog to places you might not have been.
  9. Bruce Springsteen, Springsteen On Broadway – An intimate evening with Springsteen where he brings his autobiography to life on stage. The spoken word passages are probably better than the actual acoustic, stripped down performances. Probably for Springsteen fanatics only but worth a listen or a view on Netflix.
  10. Slash, Living The Dream – Finally some hard rawk on this list!! Slash reunites with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators for a hard rock gem. Slash’s playing is at once powerful and melodic.
  11. The Smashing Pumpkins, Shiny and Oh So Bright – The return of Jimmy Chamberlin and James Iha was not the guitar tour de force I was expecting but this is a great, albeit brief album.

B&V The Best of the Vault/Archival Releases & Box Sets

  1. The Beatles, The Beatles (Super Deluxe) – This is the ultimate release of the Beatles famous 1968 album, dubbed The White Album. The original album gets a stereo remastering by Giles Martin. You find the entire Esher Demo sessions and a lot of great outtakes. A must have for Beatles fans.
  2. Chris Cornell, Chris Cornell (Deluxe Edition) – I tried to put together a playlist encapsulating Cornell’s varied career on Spotify, but I never scratched the surface based on this box set. This covers everything from Soundgarden to solo work to Audioslave and beyond. RIP Chris, we still miss you.
  3. Bob Dylan, More Blood, More Tracks – The complete sessions for Dylan’s masterpiece, Blood On the Tracks, from both New York and Minnesota. It’s big so my review is still being formulated, but it’s moving stuff.
  4. Jimi Hendrix, Electric Ladyland 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition – With three CDs and a blu-ray, this is a pretty complete look at Hendrix’s double-lp. The Hollywood Bowl concert is a bit rough from a sound perspective but the content is mind blowing.
  5. Jimi Hendrix, Both Sides of the Sky – This one I almost put on the “best of” list of new LPs. This is the third in a series of vault releases from Hendrix that unearth alternative versions, outtakes and never heard before songs.
  6. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, An American Treasure – This box of alternate takes, unreleased stuff and live cuts proves the title to be true. Petty really was an American treasure.
  7. Bruce Springsteen, Live At the Roxy 1978 – Springsteen continues to release classic concerts from the archive. This is another one from the 1978 Darkness tour and it may be the best release yet. I’m still hoping for a better release from The Rising tour. If you’re not checking out these archives, you’re missing out!
  8. Pete Townshend, Who Came First – The charming, homespun first solo album from Townshend gets the deluxe reissue treatment. I loved this album, always have. I love that he covers the Ronnie Lane tune, “Evolution (Stone)” live.
  9. Neil Young, Roxy: Tonight’s The Night Live – Neil on stage, joyfully performing his darkest album. This was a real treat. Young’s archive rivals Springsteen’s. He also came out with a compilation of live, acoustic releases from a 1976 tour, Songs For Judy that I found pretty compelling.

I’m sure some will argue I should have added the John Lennon box to this list, but I found it overwhelming. And I’m sure there are some of you who will argue with my best albums list. If you have suggestions, please add them in the comments.

I do think 2019 is going to be a great year for rock n’ roll… with Springsteen, the Stones, Pearl jam and the Red Hot Chili Peppers all rumored to be releasing albums, it should be a great year…but that’s what I said last year.

Happy Holidays and toast to all of you! Cheers!

Review: Greta Van Fleet, ‘Anthem of the Peaceful Army’

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A good friend of mine from high school and I have reconnected after all these years. We’ve begun a great email correspondence which in the old days would have made us “pen pals.” Naturally since this is BourbonAndVinyl, the topic generally centers around rock and roll music. My friend, I’ll call him, “Rob,” (name changed to protect the guilty), asked me one time, “what makes a band/song/album rock and roll?” It’s truly the eternal question when it comes to music. At the heart of that question, and what drives it in my opinion, is the issue of authenticity. To paraphrase Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, when it come to rock, I know it when I hear it. I can’t really explain it but it’s how I can tell Queen is rock and roll but the Struts, well, they’re just not. When I was in high school confessing to liking any pop band who was masquerading as a rock band was a high crime and misdemeanor, punishable by receiving the “nerd” label.

Which leads us to the case of Greta Van Fleet. I’ve been on the bandwagon since their first EP, Black Smoke Rising (Greta Van Fleet: Kids Channeling Zeppelin On ‘Black Smoke Rising’ EP). Even though their second EP, or what they called a “double-EP,” (whatever that is), From the Fires contained all the songs from Black Smoke Rising, I was still on the bandwagon (Review: Greta Van Fleet, ‘From The Fires’ LP, er, Double EP). Greta Van Fleet have finally released what they’re referring to as their debut album, with the very hippy title, Anthem Of The Peaceful Army. I must say, reactions and reviews have been quite mixed. There has been tremendous backlash for these kids, mostly because they sound like Zeppelin. I don’t remember the Rival Sons taking the same kind of heat. Allmusic.com went so far as to describe them as “nothing more than cosplay of the highest order.” Ouch… that’s gonna leave a mark. Can’t we just be happy that some young kids are playing rock and roll, you know, with guitars and real instruments? I prefer bands influenced by Led Zeppelin than bands influenced by say, Drake.

Accusations of being derivative are nothing new in music. Just for shits and grins I pulled up Rolling Stone magazine’s original review of Led Zeppelin’s first album, Led Zeppelin. I’m sure if you asked Jann Wenner now he’d say Led Zeppelin was a masterpiece, a true definition of the form of blues rock. But back in 1969, Mr. John Mendelsohn, Rolling Stones’ reviewer hated it. He starts off by basically saying everything that came after Cream and John Mayall follow the same formula of building a band around an “excellent guitarist.” We forget how influential Cream were… In essence, he opens by implying Led Zeppelin is derivative of Cream or Mayall. He says, “Jimmy Page…is also a limited producer and writer of weak, unimaginative songs.” He describes Led Zeppelin as a “twin” of the Jeff Beck Group (Artist Lookback: The (Original) Jeff Beck Group – Jeff Beck, Rod Stewart & Ronnie Wood). He calls Plant’s singing, “strained and unconvincing shouting.” Most of the review reads as Mendelsohn claiming these are just a weaker version of the Jeff Beck Group who did all of this already, merely “three months earlier.” I wonder if, looking back, he’d wanna take any of this back?

I guess it’s inevitable that Greta Van Fleet’s (the brothers Kiszka, Josh on vocals, Jacob on guitar, Sam on bass and Daniel Wagner on drums) first album would suffer the same fate. And look, I get it. This is heavily Zeppelin influenced music. In what I’m assuming is a bit of cheekiness, they even quote “The Immigrant Song” in the opener “Age of Man,” when Josh sings “the land of ice and snow.” My hope is that these very young kids, take this sound they’ve got and develop it the same way Zeppelin did. Zeppelin, who were supposedly derivative of the Jeff Beck Group and any other British blues rock band at the time, slowly developed into something much more. They made the sound their own and then turned it on it’s ear. If this is the starting point for Greta Van Fleet, hopefully they can do the same. One can hope their success will some kids together in a garage with a guitars and some drums.

All of that said, I confess I wanted to love this album but I can merely say I like it. I am still recommending people buy it but I can’t totally embrace it. Like the EPs that followed it, I can hear the echo of a Zeppelin song in each thing they play. Unfortunately, a majority of these songs all sound like “Over The Hills And Far Away.” Mix it up guys. The album starts off with a pair of tracks that are in that midtempo area, “Age of Man” and “The Cold Wind.” They’re built around an acoustic/electric guitar mix. I must say I was delighted to hear Jacob mix in some acoustic on this record. The record doesn’t really catch fire for me until the third track and first single, “When the Curtain Falls” (Greta Van Fleet: New Single, “When The Curtain Falls”. “You’re the One” drifts into “Hey Hey My My” territory with strummed acoustic and an insistent drum beat from Wagner. These are all fine songs, but with the energy of their first EPs, I guess I expected heavier music. “The New Day” continues the “Over The Hills” thing…

“Lover, Leaver” is one track that jumps out at me. It’s a crunchy rocker. “Watching Over” has a nice sitar sounding guitar thing happening and Josh’s vocals are an unhinged banshee wail. I do feel at certain times Josh could bring it down a notch on vocals. You’re not gonna be able to sing like that for 40 years dude. The reprise of “Lover, Leaver,” “Lover, Leaver, Taker, Believer” has some tasty slide guitar. Those song titles had me thinking these guys had headed into Judas Priest territory (“Dreamer Deceiver” anyone?).

The album does hold together, not only musically but lyrically. This feels like a loosely thematic record. The whole thing has more of a Plant vibe vs a Page vibe. On the big message song, “Anthem,” (which brings to mind “You’re Time Is Gonna Come,” I know, I know, I can’t help but cite the Zep song that these guys conjure on their music), a chorus of back up singers sing the rather curious lyric, “the world is what the world is made of.” I’m not sure where they’re going with that, it brings to mind some of Sammy Hagar’s weaker moments, but hey, they’re still developing their craft.

This is a very, very solid debut album. I think we rock fans have a lot to be delighted with in this record. And, correspondingly, I think we have a lot to be hopeful for in Greta Van Fleet. Are they the real deal? Are they rock and roll? Are they, as I mentioned before, authentic? I’ll let you be the judge. I can’t really explain it, but I know it when I hear it…

LP Review: Lenny Kravitz, ‘Raise Vibration’ – A Hot Mess, But At Least It’s Hot

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“If  we’re right, and we can stop this thing…Lenny…you will have saved the lives of millions of registered voters.” – Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Ghostbusters

I know what you’re thinking. Why post a quote from the movie Ghostbusters when we’re talking about rock and roll here? Well, if you remember correctly that line from Bill Murray’s character, Peter Venkman, comes during a scene when the Ghosbusters are in the Mayor’s office (the Mayor’s name is Lenny). Things are going badly. The Ghostbusters had been in jail prior to being summoned to see the Mayor. The evil spirits and ghosts had all been released and the sky had turned dark, blocking out the sun. There’s a cop in the room who says that a police precinct has walls that are “bleeding.” The Cardinal drops by, and says he thinks it’s all “a sign from God.” Things are looking bleak, “wrath of God, old Testament, cats living with dogs” kind of bad. If Lenny the Mayor will allow the Ghostbusters to go fight these supernatural foes, he may just save the lives of “millions of registered voters.”

Flash forward to the world today. Things are getting pretty bleak out there. I don’t even watch the news anymore and I consider myself pretty “wonky.” The U.S. seems more divided than at any time in history. Democracy itself is on the brink. Half the people are mad at the President, the other half are mad at the half that’s mad at the President. Scary, right-wing, Nationalist parties are winning elections, or doing well, all over Europe. There’s so much anger and hatred toward our fellow men out there, especially immigrants. Enter Lenny…in this case, not the Mayor, but Lenny Kravitz. With this backdrop of oppression, graft and rage, Lenny Kravitz has crafted an album highlighting the things he’s been singing about since his debut, 1989’s Let Love Rule. Namely peace, love, and unity. Lenny lays down a very positive message on his new LP, Raise Vibration. And let’s face it, if his message resonates… he may just save the lives of millions of registered voters… at least I hope there are millions of registered voters who dig Lenny’s message. And I hope they vote.

I’m on record admitting I’m a huge Lenny fan. I’m the second biggest Lenny fan in my house after the Rock Chick. I can’t tell about the cat… he may or may not dig Lenny but that’s how he is about everything, sort of “meh.: As I mentioned in my review of the fabulous first single from this album, “Its Enough,” (Lenny Kravitz: New Single, “It’s Enough,” His Inner City Blues Are A Smooth Groove) similar to my wife’s love of Lenny, it was a girlfriend who turned me onto his first album, the previously mentioned, Let Love Rule. If it weren’t how badly things ended, I’d probably call that ex and thank her for turning me onto Lenny’s music. I don’t want to replay the “girl throws phone” episode of my youth…but I digress. The height of everybody’s Lenny fandom, when you ask them, is typically Are You Gonna Go My Way, probably his masterwork. I stuck around for the dark, groovy little record that followed, Circus. When he released 5, it was such an uneven record, even after he added the single, “American Woman” to deluxe copies of the CD, I got off the bandwagon.

A while ago, the Rock Chick turned me onto his 2014 album, Strut (LP Review: Lenny Kravitz, “Strut” – How’d I Miss This Sexy Album?). I love that sexy, rocking album. That record sent me digging through Lenny’s back catalog and I realized he’d started a bit of a late (or perhaps for Lenny, a middle-) career renaissance. It’s Time For A Love Revolution, while a bit mellow was a strong album. Black and White America is a fabulous record, I almost like it as much as Strut. Needless to say, excitement was running high here at B&V for this year’s Raise Vibration. I’m sad to say though, despite the great energy and the positive message, this album left me a little lost. It’s a bit of a mess…although it’s still sexy enough to call a hot mess. Let’s face it, Kravitz probably makes folding his laundry look sexy. Am I right, ladies?

Lenny Kravitz plays most if not all of the instruments on his records. His long time lead guitar player, cool Afro-sporting dude, Craig Ross typically plays the solos, but other than that it’s all Lenny, except backing vocals or horns. Kravitz was actually the drummer in Slash’s first band when they were in high school. Naturally when you can do so many things well, you’re more willing to try a lot more things. And believe me, there’s a lot that Lenny tries on this record. Many people dismiss Lenny as derivative, and yes, I can spot the influences, but he has a way of making music that reminds you of someone else while still staying completely Lenny.

For me, the emotional center and best track on here remains “It’s Enough.” It reminds me of What’s Goin’ On era Marvin Gaye. It even has a trumpet solo. Gaye did some great protest, social-commentary music on that album, and that palette is the perfect setting for Lenny’s message. Beyond that, there are a lot of highlights here. After staring with a middling, midtempo rocker that left me a little cold, “We Can Get It Together,” (which could be considered the theme here), Lenny takes a left turn into a soulful, sexy groove on “Low.” “Low” may be an act of seduction or a pro-LGBTQ statement, I still can’t tell. Either way it’s a great song. The title track starts with an abrasive guitar riff that brings to mind John Lennon’s “I Found Out,” but Lenny loses me at the end when he tacks on an Indigenous people drum/chants thing. It’s a bit baffling to end a nice rock tune that way. I thought only the Cult did that.

Another highlight is the acoustic “Johnny Cash.” The track is about when Lenny lost his beloved mother, Roxie, and Johnny Cash reached out and consoled him. Which, lets face it, makes me love Johnny Cash even more. So while the song is about Roxie, it’s told through the prism of Johnny Cash’s generosity of spirit. I like “5 More Days Til Summer,” I even put it on my Eclectic Summer Playlist, BourbonAndVinyl Eclectic Summer/Sun/Beach Playlist) on Spotify, but there’s this annoying chorus where a group of high school girls sings “one, two, three, four, five.” Lenny… really? It’s a cheesy moment in a great song. He’s throwing a lot into some of these songs, too much at times. “The Majesty Of Soul” is the great kind of soulful, funky tune Lenny was born to sing.

But along the lines of throwing everything he’s got at this record… Lenny does what amounts to a Prince tribute on the awful, almost electronic “Who Really Are the Monsters?” The song even has a Prince-like guitar solo. I preferred Janelle Monae’s recent record, “Make Me Feel” as a tribute to Prince vs this. Yes, I listen to Janelle Monae, she’s awesome and she’s from Kansas City. “Here To Love” is an overwrought, depressing piano ballad, ending in Lenny holding a note until it sounds like his voice broke. “Gold Dust” is the kind of slinky, funky track that Lenny should leave alone… “Ride” and “I’ll Always Be Inside Your Soul” are alright tracks to end it, but nothing that really grabs me. The album left me feeling very similar to how I felt when I heard 5 for the first time. It’s a bit of an uneven record, with some great tracks on it.

I’m disappointed to say I can’t recommend this album, as a whole. There are certainly songs that you should check out like “Low” or “It’s Enough.” But on the whole this is a slinky, sexy, hot mess. There’s a lot to like on this album, but too much goes wrong. I love that Lenny is out there preaching the gospel of Peace and Love… Ringo can’t do it all by himself.

Cheers and stay positive out there folks… storm clouds have already gathered. Take care of each other and steer toward the light.