Vegas, Old Friends, Britain and Rod Stewart at Caesar’s Palace 3/22/17

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*photo taken by your intrepid blogger

Despite the ethos of BourbonAndVinyl celebrating fine, strong drink and rock and roll, and my general sympathies to all seven of the deadly sins, I’ve never been a fan of Las Vegas, aka Sin City. I do love the song “Sin City” by AC/DC, but that’s another matter. However, my Corporate Overlords require me to travel to LV twice a year for “conferences.” It’s like being trapped in Biosphere… I enter the casino/hotel I’m staying at and I usually never see the sun or sky again for a week. Thus was my fate last week. Even inside the casino, the air is so dry in the desert the skin on my hands makes it feels like I’m wearing tiny gloves the entire time I’m there…

There are few things that get me motivated to actually leave my conference hotel and walk up and down the strip to another casino or to a bar or restaurant on the main drag. The one thing that can get me out of my barricaded hotel room is the presence of an old friend. In this case, it was the intrepid Arkansas Joel who lured me out of my room. I met Joel during my exile years, right after graduating college, when I lived in Ft Smith, Arkansas and later Fayetteville. Ah, those heady Arkansas days. Joel was married with an infant child and I was an enfant terrible, something that hasn’t really changed. We were full of youth, piss and vinegar, the young lions come to conquer the world.

I still remember the first time I met Joel, when I was staying at a Ft Smith hotel, the Five Seasons, which is an odd name if you think about it, where they had a free breakfast buffet for anybody who was staying there. They also had a Happy Hour with free beer at end of the day. Joel had dropped by the Five Seasons at the orders of our nefarious manager to, “meet the new guy.” Joel was wearing the same corporate uniform I was: dark suit, white shirt, red tie. With his thin frame and my then beer bloated body, we looked like Joliet Jake and Elwood Blues. Joel, who has been a breakfast enthusiast since I met him (“may I have some more plain, white toast please”), enthused, “this is a great little happy hour buffet thing.” All I heard was “happy hour” and responded, “Yeah man, free beer for two hours tonight!” Joel smiled knowingly and just nodded his head. He’s been taking care of me, pretty much ever since. Our friendship, which has lasted 30 years, is the only good thing that ever came out of my Arkansas days.

Joel happened to be attending the same conference that I was in Vegas last week. We grabbed a burger and talked about the old times, while we drank a few beers. It’s fun to get together and think that we’re still the young lions we once were. Although the reminiscing quickly turned to more current concerns. As usual with Joel, the conversation turned philosophical and utterly fascinating. We talked about how our perspectives have changed over the years since we met each other. Joel was always a solid family man, I was always a gypsy. It was truly a great conversation but after one post-dinner drink, I knew I was done. I had to go barricade myself in my room. Joel headed off into the night to meet some other folks. So much for being the young lion any more, at least on my end. But it’s weird, just seeing Joel, my old friend, and hanging out for as briefly as I did, made me feel that way. There will always be a positive buzz I get when I see him. I just sort of feel better spending the evening with him.

Unfortunately, the gears of work caught hold and I was off and running with customers and employees the rest of my time in Vegas and I didn’t see Joel again. I was running around the casino, from customer lunch or dinner to internal meeting and back again. I was pretty fried by Wednesday night. At the conference, Wednesday night is typically concert night. Last week’s show was the Zac Brown Band. I don’t know a lot about the Zac Brown Band, they’ve got some descent tunes. Although, I have to say, what little I’ve heard, they seem to combine “new country” with a jam band/Dave Matthews ethos, which to me is combining all the worst elements of music in one sound experience. After a dinner with customers, where I begged off on the show, I decided to get some fresh air and walk back from New York New York to the Bellagio, where I was staying.

It was out on the streets, amongst the meandering crowd (you never walk anywhere quickly in Vegas) when I saw the giant Caesar’s Palace sign up in the distance. And, under that sign, I saw the bright neon advert for none other than Rod Stewart. When I was in college there were 5 of us who lived in a tiny house just off campus. Rod’s ‘Never A Dull Moment’ and all of the Faces LPs were in high rotation in that tiny house. Talk about the young lions…those were some of the greatest days of my life and Rod’s music was the soundtrack. I thought… why not… I only had an hour til showtime, and I couldn’t get a cab. If I could make the walk in time, I’d give ol’ Rod a shot. I got to the box office with 3 minutes to spare. When you walk up that late, they’ll cut you a deal on tickets so instead of nosebleeds, I was right up near the front, where I took the pic above. The place was packed to the rafters.

When the curtain came up, after the warm up music, Rod comes out and sings “Love Train” the old O’Jays tune and I thought, “Fuck, Rod has gone all Vegas, this sucks.” I was justified in thinking this, as he had a baker’s dozen of backing musicians on stage with him. There were three ladies singing back up and three other whose reason for being on stage was unclear at first. I thought, well I won’t stick around… but then suddenly the band launched into “Some Guys Have All the Luck” and I realized, Rod is really singing the shit out of this tune. He was all over the stage. This was no Elvis, roll you out on a dolly after the buffet to sing the same set every night, Rod was fully invested. When they launched into “Young Turks” from Rod’s New Wave period, I was thrilled. The three gals on my end of the stage ended up each being multi instrumentalists – violins, harps, banjos, mandolins… talented women indeed. By “Forever Young,” where Rod walked out through the crowd and right by yours truly, the crowd was going bonkers.

Rod announced that he plays the hits but he also likes to mix up the set list every night and slip in a few tunes that are more obscure. He then launched into “Love Is” a great mid tempo, gaelic flavored tune from his last LP, ‘Another Country,’ and said, “It was a fantastic album by the way…” I found myself smiling. He dedicated the song, “Rhythm of My Heart” to all the policemen and military out in the world and acknowledged the horrendous attacks in Britain, which had only just reached me in Biosphere, I’d been that cut off. It was a nice moment. My heart, like Rod’s goes out to my British brethren.

A true highlight for me was when he brought the band to the lip of the stage for an acoustic set. They did, “Downtown Train,” “You’re in My Heart” and two real highlights for me – “Oo La La” from the Faces which he dedicated to Ronnie Lane, a “beautiful spirit,” and “The Killing of Georgie Pt 1 and 2,” which was pretty amazing. He said “Georgie” was banned by the BBC, “but they play it now…” He had promised that he would play songs that were particularly popular in Britain to honor the fallen in his home town, London. It was a special evening. The only moment I wished the Rock Chick was with me was during “Have I Told You Lately,” our song for the first dance from the wedding reception.

The last part of the set started with “Maggie May,” with Rod saying, “Now the party starts…” He then did his second Faces track, “Stay With Me.” I was in heaven. Rod then said, “We never play this song in America, because nobody fucking knows it, but this is for Britain,” and launched into the beautiful ballad, “Sailing.” I think “Sailing” was actually the official song of the Royal Navy for a time. It was a moving moment. The show ended with “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” and the encore was some Guy Lombardo cover that I scooted out during…

As I walked away, I couldn’t help but think what a great evening it had been. Yes, there are aspects of the show that were very Vegas, especially the costume changes and the encore. But over all, Rod was very engaged and still rocks. He certainly has a lot of infectious fun during the show, laughing and racing around the stage. He still kicks soccer balls into the crowd and can still reach the upper balcony. His band was competent if not stunning. Rod, like myself, may not be the young lion he used to be, but I couldn’t help think as I escaped into the night… I just sort of felt better spending the evening with him, like I felt when I left my old friend Joel. I’ll never know Rod Stewart, but he feels like one of my old drinking mates from the old days. God knows, his music was always present when I was partying in those days… There will always be a positive buzz I feel when I see Rod Stewart…

If you’re stuck in Vegas and want to kill a great rocking hour and 45 minutes… you could do worse…

Review: Rod Stewart “Another Country” – We Should All Be This Happy

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I’ve been a Rod Stewart fan for a long time. Jeff Beck wasn’t exaggerating when, on their second and last album together “Beck-ola” he described Rod’s position in the band as “vocals extordinaire”. Like everybody, I became a fan during his early years when he was on the Mercury label. His albums, beginning with “The Rod Stewart Album” (his solo debut after leaving the Jeff Beck Group) through “Smiler” are some of the best of not only his career but in rock and roll as a whole. Of course during that period he was also lead singer of the criminally underrated band The Faces. He’d release a solo album and a Faces album every year, the first artist to juggle two careers at once.

When I was in college, Rod’s fourth album “Never A Dull Moment” was the de-facto sound track of our rented house. Many a night, after some serious college-style drinking, you could hear Rod’s version of Sam Cooke’s “Twistin’ The Night Away” blasting through the walls. At least that is what the signed complaints to the landlord said. Neighbors, what are you gonna do? Rod was a great interpreter of other people’s songs, most notably Bob Dylan. I think Rod has covered at least 10 songs by Dylan. And, while I loved the covers Rod selected, I always loved his originals. He has a sense of humor and charm that comes through on record, especially in those early days.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t always been easy to be a Rod Stewart fan. After he left Mercury and moved to America and Warner Brother his career got a little shaky. “Blondes Have More Fun” found Rod embracing disco with “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy”, which caused the entire punk and new wave movement, who had all worshiped the Faces, to completely abandon Rod. But I hung in there through the shaky 80’s. I thought “Out of Order” was a great record. His “Unplugged…and Seated” with Ronnie Wood for that MTV series was great as well, since it saw Rod revisiting the old catalog. But after the year 2000 Rod seemed to lose his way. He did a series of those awful “Songbook” albums, doing both Sinatra-era standards, a soul album and God-forbid, a Christmas album. I kept hoping Rod would return to rock and roll but it seemed that part of his career was dead. And, frankly, Rod was basically dead to me for about 12 years.

I was pleasantly surprised when I heard Rod was putting out a new album of rock songs that he’d actually written in 2013. Since I’d been calling for him to start writing his own songs, I felt I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t immediately buy 2013’s “Time”. I was very pleasantly surprised. Apparently inspired by writing his autobiography, Rod found an untapped vein of new material. I loved the title track. He has a great drinking song, “Legless” on that album. On one of the bonus tracks he covers the old blues standard “Corrina, Corrina”. The album wasn’t perfect – there were a few maudlin ballads and the production in certain places is a little too slick. “She Makes Me Happy” was so auto-tuned it sounded like Cher. But over-all I was pleasantly surprised with “Time”.

This year Rod has followed up that solid return to song-writing with “Another Country”. Again, I was thrilled about Rod writing his own songs again. Taken as a whole, I think you could describe Rod as a very happy guy. He reminds me of a drunken, happy Uncle who always hugs me and tells me he loves me as I leave the bar. We should all be as happy as Rod Stewart. I love that Rod is even expanding and experimenting with different styles. “Love and Be Loved” is a great reggae tune. He’s got that old Rod style Celtic sound down in great songs like “Hold the Line” and the first single “Love Is”. These are damn catchy songs. I really like the rocker “Please”.

But I can’t get away from the fact that this is a really mellow album. Rod used to rock! Some of the ballads here, “Friend for Life” and “Way Back Home” (which has a cringe-worthy excerpt from a Churchill speech) float by so lightly that they make almost no impression at all. “Batman Superman Spider” is the worst song he’s done since the “Motown Song”, it’s unlistenable. “The Drinking Song”, unlike “Legless” doesn’t celebrate Rod’s famous drinking, which we love here at BourbonAndVinyl, it’s almost regretful. I think the fundamental problem with Rod’s songwriting is his choice of writing partner. Most of these songs were cowritten by Kevin Savigar, a keyboard player. Rod’s best songs were always written with guitar players – Ronnie Wood, Jeff Beck, even Jim Cregan (who actually cowrote “Friends for Life” so maybe not all the guitarists are suited to write with Rod). It would have been nice to hear Rod yell, “play some sweet guitar” like he did on that hidden gem “Wild Horse” on “Out of Order”. I like that he’s writing his own material but in the old days he was always canny about slipping in a great cover song – maybe a Bob Dylan or Tom Waits tune on here would have been a nice addition.

I would still recommend this album despite it’s flaws. My hope is that with this expansion of his musical styles and the confidence he’s showing in his songwriting that this will be more of a transitional album for Rod and on the next outing we may hear him rock out a bit more. I have read he was superb at the Faces reunion concert. The show he did right after that in Hyde Park was apparently heavy on deep-tracks and light on hits. Maybe this is a sign that Rod is taking control of his music back from his money guys. Here’s to more self-written songs, and hopefully something a little more upbeat… And dare I say it, maybe a Faces reunion? If you’v read any of BourbonAndVinyl, you knew I had to ask.

Maybe tonight I’ll slip on “Never a Dull Moment” until the wife cuts the stereo off… It never hurts to try…

Cheers!

The Downtown Train to Wichita: The Road to Drew’s Wedding and the real Mayor of El Dorado, KS

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Weddings. Call me an old sap, but I do so enjoy weddings. Of course, in my younger days, I was actually “in” 13 weddings. I was a best man three times, a groomsman in several others and I don’t know how many times I was an usher. I shouldn’t even count the times I was an usher, it’s a bit of a menial role, like a bar back. Some of the weddings I was in, I was just sort of available. It was like my buddies said, “Well, my fiancé has more friends than I do, we need an extra body. Hey, Ken is fun, lets plug him in there somewhere.” And to be frank, in my early days I was usually idle and had nothing better to do. Why not rent a tux and stand up for a friend. Especially if there was an open bar.

For some strange reason, most of my good friends graduated from college and went to work for a large, Fortune 500 company for a year or two and then quit. Some went back to school at that point, some got jobs at smaller firms. Some of us stop cutting our hair and went to Europe. I chose the latter. Rod Stewart as a youth was sent by his father to Europe “to find himself” and it helped him write the classic tune “Every Picture Tells a Story.” It wasn’t as productive a trip for me, but I did have a good time, but those records are sealed until 25 years after I’ve died. State secrets, people.

I had recently quit my job and started the aforementioned “hair growing” when I got a call from a dear old friend from Wichita, Kansas, Drew. Drew was one of my roommates in college and has been referenced in BourbonAndVinyl many times, my record store friend. We’d always go shopping for music together. I remember skipping class to go down to the record store the day Springsteen’s “Live 1975 to 1985” came out. We went back to the apartment and crowded around Drew’s turntable, amazed at what we were hearing. Drew had recently quit his job and was pursuing a graduate degree down in Wichita, his hometown.

I was sitting around, doing next to nothing as a newly unemployed person, when Drew called. He was getting married. I was honored that he asked me to be a groomsman. It was his goal to have all 5 of us who had lived together in his wedding party. We had dispersed pretty widely by this time. I was in KC during the “moving back-in with my parents” phase of life. We had one roommate who lived in Hannibal, Mo named Denny. One of the others, Pringle, had moved to Louisville. The final roomie, Stretch was still in school at KSU so he’d be easy to find. I quickly agreed. All I had to do was go and get my measurements taken for the tux and off we’d go. I was an old pro by this time, as I’d already been in four weddings by this time, typically of people I barely knew.

Logistics being what they are, it was decided that everyone would convene at my parent’s house and we’d pile into my car to drive to Wichita. Wichita is literally, in the middle of nowhere. Pringle and Stretch flew and drove in from Louisville and Manhattan respectively. After spending an evening toasting our newly departed friend, we piled into my car and weaved down to Union Station to meet the train. Denny, who lived in Hannibal, merely a state away, decided to take the Amtrak over to KC. I think he spent most the time in the bar car, but who could blame him. The guy knows how to live.

We spent the evening in Westport, the local bar district, speculating on what the bride might be like. Drew had not been a big lady’s man in college and we all wondered what this was going to be like. Stretch, Pringle and I were all single so we were hopeful that she had friends with loose moral fiber. I always did well at weddings, but it was probably the fact I was always in a tuxedo vs anything I ever did. Despite what my mother thinks, I do not resemble Richard Gere.

We awoke at my parent’s home hungover and ready for the road. At the time, for reasons inexplicable, I was driving a Chevy Beretta. Every single one of us is over 6 feet tall. We had over 24 feet of hungover groomsmen and we were going to cram into my Chevy Beretta for a 3 hour drive through cow country to get to Wichita. This could have perhaps been planned better. Stretch drove a dilapidated pickup truck that we couldn’t all fit in and everybody else had either flown or ridden the train.

We were young and largely unemployed. Well, Stretch was in college and I was unemployed. Denny and Pringle both had good jobs. We were dressed in “colorful” concert t-shirts. Denny had a pink polo on. Pringle was dressed in a nice beer-themed golf shirt. This was not an impressive rabble. We’d left early because my mother was hovering around and that made Denny nervous. “Kenny, I think your mom wants us out of here…” Actually, she just wanted me out of there, but that’s another blog. In those days, we had convinced ourselves that it was a Kansas state law that you were required to carry a six-pack for every person in the car. In this particular instance that meant a case of beer. I never condone drinking and driving but we were nursing hangovers. And frankly, I wasn’t drinking, I was driving. So, don’t drink and drive, kids.

We were just outside of El Dorado, Kansas when Denny said, “Hey dudes, we’re awfully early, we have two hours to kill. Let’s stop in El Dorado at this bar I know.” Denny sold farm chemicals and used to know every backwater town’s bar in the tri-state area.

I was reluctant. I’ve never been a rural guy. I grew up in the suburbs, for God’s sake. I was thinking it’d be better to get to Wichita, close to where the rehearsal was and then find a bar. But Denny was adamant and El Dorado is only a short drive from Wichita, what could this hurt…

When I pulled into the gravel parking lot of the cinder block “building” that Denny assured me was a “great, little bar” I began to feel the familiar fear rising. The only thing this place was missing was a kid sitting on the roof with a banjo strumming to “Dueling Banjos”. I’d lived in Arkansas for three years prior to this and I knew we were only a few smart-ass comments away from being beaten with axe handles.

We walked into the front door like a conquering motor cycle gang only to find the place was packed with factory workers who had just come off duty. This was a union, oil-processing plant bar. These guys were filthy from work. I glanced at our group quickly, we were all in shorts and tennis-shoes. The locals were in cowboy boots. We looked like a gay dance troupe. The whole place fell silent. An “old whiskey” standing by the pool table, smiled and said to Denny, who was completely at home in this place, “Are you guys some kinda traveling basketball team?” I realized we were taller than just about everyone in the bar, and thought that’ll be a small comfort as they are beating us with tire irons.

Denny just smiled at the “old whiskey” and said, “We’re the New York Knicks…” which for reasons I’m still not clear about, got a loud, unanimous laugh. I turned quickly to Stretch and said, “We are gonna die…” but he was off and headed to the bar. I, for one, was in full panic mode.

We were standing there at the bar, Pringle, Stretch and I, when the locals began to circle around us. One said, “Where’d you get that fancy Van Halen shirt?” This was quickly getting out of hand. I was trying to think of a really macho response when I heard the song start… Denny had wandered to the very back of the bar to the juke box. He was going to “play some tunes for the crowd”. I heard the first strains of piano and I knew our fate was sealed. Suddenly, over the loud speakers I heard…

“Outside, another yellow moon has punched a hole in the nighttime, yes…”

Holy shit, Denny was playing “Downtown Train” and not the Tom Waits’ original version, this was Rod Stewart’s version. Now, I’ll admit I’ve always been a huge Rod Stewart fan, but not in El Dorado, Kansas. I almost screamed to Denny at the back of the bar, “My God man, you’ve killed us, run!” but instead I just stood frozen, catatonic with fear. I did glance, wide-eyed at Denny and he was standing with a hand on the juke box, singing along with a huge smile. I thought, “this is a nice, last image to see in my life… my friend Denny happily crooning to “Downtown Train” by Rod.”

Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, Pringle stepped up on the bar foot rail. He was oblivious to the musical catastrophe we were experiencing. “This is a great bar! Everybody is drinking my brand, Budweiser, and not that pussy Bud Lite… Bartender, I’d like to buy a round for everyone in the house. Budweiser for everyone!”

I had never seen the mood of a bar change more quickly. There was a loud cheer from the working-stiff cowboys. The “old whiskey” said, “Buddy you could get elected mayor of El Dorado, if you’re not careful” while chuckling though his missing front teeth.

As the beers were being delivered, suddenly, inexplicably, I heard the entire bar, all the voices, singing, “will I see you tonight, on a downtown traaaaain” and I realized, slowly, that we were going to live.

The Mayor El Dorado had saved us. All it took was a round of Bud reds. So if you’re ever in El Dorado during a shift change… Budweiser and Rod Stewart will get you home.

Stray Cats: Bob Dylan’s New Bootleg Series, Rod and The Jeff Beck Group

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In this edition of Stray Cats (aka Random Music/Classic Rock News) I have three quick updates. I just found out, mere weeks after I’d posted my Dylan Bootleg Series User’s Guide, that another edition is set for release. Volume 12, entitled “The Cutting Edge 65 -66” it is a 6 CD treasure trove of outtakes from the sessions for “Bringing It All Back Home”, “Highway 61” and I believe, “Blonde On Blonde”. I’m a huge Dylan fan, and I’m a huge fan of the bootleg series, but this set might be too much for even a fanatic/completist like me. There is a 2 CD “Best of…” culled from the 6 CDs… Stay tuned on this one.

Rod Stewart has released the second single from his upcoming “Another Country” album. There’s an interview with him in the latest Rolling Stone magazine that I fear I have not had time to get around to reading. I hate it when work interferes with my rock and roll. The new tune, “Please” is an old school Rod rocker. It sounds like an outtake from “Night On the Town”. The guitar even has a slight Ron Wood sound to it. I think “Another Country” is going to be amazing.

Finally, I got an email from Amazon.com about an upcoming release of a 1968 radio broadcast of the Jeff Beck Group. Before Rod was a solo artist and before he was the lead singer of The Faces, he was the lead singer in a little band called The Jeff Beck Group. Jeff Beck, the guitar wizard, put together the The Jeff Beck Group after the Yardbirds fired him for being mercurial. Ronnie Wood actually changed from guitar to bass for this band. They were slated to play Woodstock but Jeff Beck wrecked his sports car and they had to scratch. He had recruited Rod as his lead singer because he knew males would flock to their shows to hear his guitar. He figured a good looking blonde guy on vocals would bring in the “birds”. Jimmy Page was watching closely and in the spirit of “anything you can do, I can do better” formed Led Zeppelin on the same model with Robert Plant on lead vocals. The Jeff Beck Group’s first album “Truth” was epic and extremely influential. Alas, Jeff’s management treated Rod and Ronnie like sidemen and eventually they both left and joined the Faces. I’ve heard a few bootlegs over the years and live these guys were a tour de force. I know nothing about this mysterious 1968 radio broadcast but if the sound quality is up to snuff this could be an amazing find.

Cheers!

The Faces Reunion Show for Prostate.UK, a Recap

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I think it’s pretty obvious if you’ve read any of BourbonAndVinyl, I’m obsessed with Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood’s former band, The Faces. How great was it to see this picture on Rod Stewart’s Twitter account of Rod, Ronnie and drummer Kenny Jones taken after their reunion show for the charity, Prostate.UK. If you look closely, you’ll spot a glass of wine in Rod’s hand… ah, just like the old days.

From what I’ve read, it appears that the Faces only rehearsed for a couple of hours before the show. They only played for about 45 minutes in what was a rough and shambolic set. Under-rehearsed, a bit sloppy and Rod has a glass of wine in his hand – so, basically a typical Faces show. 40 years down the road and nothing has changed.

The set list was brief, but man, was it great. Here’s a picture of the setlist, again taken from Rod Stewart’s twitter feed:

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  1. I Feel So Good – off of their second album, my favorite, Long Player, I think this song had to sum up the mood of the band.
  2. You Can Make Me Dance – one of my favorite of their songs. It was wasted as a single and wasn’t released on an album until Rod’s boxset, Storyteller
  3. Ooh La La – the title track of the Faces final album, although Rod did cover this on When We Were the New Boys as a tribute to his fallen comrade, Ronnie Lane. This song was written by Ronnie Lane, but on the album sung by Ronnie Wood. I love that Wes Anderson played this song over the credits of his movie “Rushmore”.
  4. I’d Rather Go Blind – People forget what a great blues singer Rod is. This song was off his 4th solo LP, Never a Dull Moment, but all the Faces played on it and it was a staple of Faces concerts from way back. Great selection!
  5. I Know I’m Losing You – Great Temptations cover with some mammoth drumming from Kenny Jones. Again, a Rod solo track, but the Faces backed him on this track too.
  6. Stay With Me – their biggest “hit”, although they were never a hit-single kind of band. This is probably the only Faces tune people broadly know.
  7. Sweet Little Rock ‘n’ Roller – a raucous cover of Chuck Berry from Rod’s final solo album on the  Mercury label. Again, a live staple of the Faces live sets and some of Ronnie Wood’s best guitar work.

I love the selection. An even spread between Rod tunes and Faces tunes. Just like the old days. I don’t know what this holds for future Faces reunions, but I hope it sparks something with these guys. Rod played a show a week or so later at BBC2 Live In Hyde Park and his set list included: “Ooh La La”, “I Know I’m Losing You”, “Gasoline Alley”, “Angel” (his Hendrix cover from Never a Dull Moment), and “Rollin’ and Tumblin'” an old blues cover. There were also some of his, what I consider, weaker tunes, but it does appear the Faces reunion did spark some of that old classic Rod spirit. I love both of the new songs I’ve heard from his upcoming Another Country. Fingers crossed!

Stray Cats (Random Music Notes) – Keef, The Faces, Rod and JT

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As I mentioned in the ‘Mission Statement’ for Bourbon And Vinyl, I am very focused on older artists making new music. These older “classic rock” artist’s new music tends to get overlooked or ignored completely these days. I have already tried to shine a light on the amazing Fats Domino tribute album, Goin’ Home and will from time to time try to throw some light on other newer music from the artists who have meant the most to me. Occasionally this will take the form of what I call “Stray Cats”, named for the great Rolling Stones tune, which is my way of organizing a few random thoughts.

Keith Richards has a new album coming out in September, Crosseyed Heart. Keith’s first solo album, Talk Is Cheap was a tour de force. It’s been described as the best Stones album not made by the Stones. His follow-up Main Offender didn’t quite have the same energy as Talk, but still had some great tracks like, 999 and Demon. I don’t know what the new album will hold but I can not stop listening to the first track, Trouble. It’s a classic Keith riff. He’s working with his old buddy and X-Pensive Wino partner Steve Jordan on the production. Jordan also provides some great drumming on this track. Intrepid studio guitarist Waddy Watchel (Steve Nicks, Don Henley, Warren Zevon) provides some Mick Taylor-esque guitar solo’ing. This tune is just fun to turn up loud. It doesn’t hurt that it could be the theme song for my wife’s cat, but that’s another story and I don’t want to get off topic.

One of rocks greatest and most overlooked bands, The Faces, has finally answered my prayers and will reunite. Well, I should say partially reunite as Ian MacLagan sadly passed away last year and Ronnie Lane passed away quite a long time ago. The Faces boasted Rod Stewart as their front man, Ronnie Wood (later of Stones fame) on guitar, Kenny Jones (later of the Who) on drums, with MacLagan on keyboards and Lane on bass. The period of 1970 to 1975 when the Faces were together were not coincidentally the time period of Rod’s greatest solo work. These guys have been rumored to be getting back together for years but it always gets scuttled at the last minute. Rod didn’t even show up when they were inducted to the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame. I tend to agree with Ronnie Wood that Rod’s money guys and handlers don’t want him doing anything where he has to split the check. So we have to settle for a one night, one-off reunion for Prostate Cancer in the UK on Sept 5th. Lets hope a) someone has the sense to tape these guys and b) that this might spur on some further Faces activity in 2016.

Speaking of Rod Stewart, he also has a new album coming out in October, Another Country. Have no fear Rod isn’t going country music on us. Many of us had given up on Rod Stewart when he quit writing his own songs and then started doing those awful American Songbook schmaltzy, crap records. While writing his autobiography Rod apparently became inspired to write again and released the album Time a few years ago. Well, I’d given up on Rod but since I’d been publicly bitching about him not writing his own stuff any more, when he finally did, I felt obligated to buy the album. And I’ll tell you what, I was damn surprised. It was a solid record. Now, apparently inspired by current events, Rod wrote a collection of songs from the view point of soldiers who are away from home, in “another country”, hence the title. Rod has always been a fan of the “letter to home” style songs, just put on You Wear It Well as a refresher. His first single from the song is another tune that’s in high rotation at the house. Its a Mumford-y thing called Love Is. You can find the video on YouTube. I shouldn’t like this song as much as I do, but damn is it catchy. It’s a very folky tune, back to his roots. I have no idea what the album will be like, but this catchy Love Is has me hopeful.

Finally, James Taylor has also returned to writing his own music. He hadn’t released an album in like 10 years but returned recently with Before This World. Now, James isn’t exactly rock ‘n’ roll, but the guy sings like an angel. I used to put on his Greatest Hits album, and it was money with the ladies… of course, those records are sealed. The new album is brief at only 10 songs, and it sort of quickly glides by but its a solid effort. It’s nothing earth shaking but its a pleasant album for a hungover Sunday. And I will admit, my daughter came in the room while I was playing this album and said, “I feel this is a guy we only listen to at Christmas…” Out of the mouths of babes, as they say.

Thus concludes the Stray Cats for today. My advice is check out a few of these tunes. You may find something you like. Enjoy!