Playlist: Favorite Country Rock Songs – Rockers Going “Country-ish,” Hidden Rhinestone Gems

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*Image of Gram Parsons taken from the internet and likely copyrighted

If someone were to ask me today, what my favorite music is, I’d give the same answer I would have given when I was in my teens. I only hate two kinds of music – country and western. Especially today’s country. I mean I’ll admit as I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten into Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Patsy Cline and the late, great Johnny Cash. I saw Merle Haggard open for Dylan and frankly he blew Bob off the stage. His voice is liked aged whiskey, amazingly smooth. I was probably aided in my journey toward older country music by my sister-in-law who happens to be a country singer in a gigging band. That said, today’s country music is nauseating to my rock n roll sensibilities. It all sounds like re warmed Bob Seger played with an insipid twang.

However, I have to admit some of the greatest rock and roll bands/artists ever have done country songs. Or at the very least “country-ish” songs. They’ve all done tracks that are either overtly country or heavily influenced by country. I’m not talking about Bon Jovi doing a country album as a career move. I’m talking about the Stones, the Byrds or Neil Young making country rock, well, fashionable. Country rock was established in the late sixties… bands from the Buffalo Springfield to the Stones incorporated country-tinged tracks on their albums. No one more than the Byrds who did a straight-up country album, Sweetheart of the Rodeo. That album came out when country music was considered the property of red-necks and hicks. Which, let’s admit, it is. The Byrds actually played a show at the Grand Ole Opry… their long hair was met with sullen, menacing silence. Country rock was born!

I actually started out tangentially listening to country. My dad had a stack of singles from when he was young and cool. He had some great music in that old wire rack of his. My brother kind of took ownership of those singles and played them all the time. I remember hearing Dion, Elvis Presley and yes, Johnny Cash. Oddly though I never associated Cash’s music with country music. It sounded more fundamental to me. I thought of Johnny Cash along the same lines as Elvis, as early, earthy rock and roll. There wasn’t that much separation between Elvis and Johnny to my novice ears. It all had a steady beat. Years later during his American Recordings era I started to hear people describe Johnny as the world’s first punk rocker. Weirdly, I sorta get that.

While I was as staunchly anti-country music as I was a “Death Before Disco” guy, I was actually listening to rock acts doing country without realizing it. I can be a little thick. On the first album I ever bought, the Stones’ Some Girls, one of my favorite tracks was always “Far Away Eyes.” I loved that it lampooned people for using religion for more…temporal purposes. In the song Mick prays and sends a donation to a radio church for a girl with “far away eyes.” Praying for sex? It actually makes some sense. It was years before I realized that song was basically a country song. I finally started to realize how many great country tracks the Stones did. That was mostly from the influence of Keith Richards’ friend, Gram Parsons. Gram was the driving force in his brief period in the Byrds and got them to record Sweetheart of the Radio. Gram turned Keith onto country music and he started writing songs in that country vein. Jagger once said that while the band played straight up country he always sang it in a mocking style. Tongue in cheek (rather than sticking out through thick lips like their logo) and rolling eyes. He said he considered himself more of a blues singer than a country singer. Only later did he get into in a serious way with tracks like “Wild Horses.” Whether its blues, country or reggae (B&V Playlist: Rockers Playing Reggae: It’s Not Just For Vacation Any More) Mick can sing anything.

When I was in college I had a music addict (like me) for a roommate, Drew. Drew was the one who turned me onto Neil Young. Prior to meeting Drew I’d have said, eh, Neil, no thanks on that voice. In 1985 Neil went full on country with his album Old Ways. It was during a bit of a creative and commercial lull in Neil’s career. Geffen Records had actually sued him for purposely making “uncommercial music.” As a “fuck you” to the record company he went full on country on Old Ways. I think there’s even a duet with Willie Nelson. To this day, I’ve never heard that record. In ’85 having just been turned onto Neil and his great early catalog, I went and found Drew to announce the bad news… “Oh my God, Neil has gone country, can you believe it?” Drew, ever the wise rock and roller, shook his head and said, “Have you been listening to Neil? What do you think he meant by “Are You Ready For The Country”?” My god, he was right.

In the years since then I’ve branched out in many ways musically. I’m still not a fan of most country music but I can dig country rock. It’s, to my ears, a lot like folk rock. I’ve really gotten into the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and similar acts. One guy who was critical to the whole movement, pictured above, was Gram Parsons. Gram was in the Byrds when they did Sweetheart, as I mentioned above. He hung out with Keith at Nellcote in France, while the Stones were recording the basic tracks for Exile On Mainstreet. From the Byrds he went on to form the Flying Burrito Brothers with Chris Hillman, another hugely influential band. He dreamt of an “Cosmic American Music” blending rock and country. Frankly I think ex-Byrd Gene Clark came closer than Gram did… As I started to piece this playlist together, I realized I had to represent all that great music.

I’ve attempted in this playlist to compile my favorite country rock tunes. Some of these are really full on country, some are just country influenced or tinged. I think there are some real hidden gems here. My hope, as with all of my playlists, is that you’ll hear a song you might not have heard – or haven’t heard in a long time. My dearest hope is you’ll think, man I love that song. There are probably great country/country-rock songs I’ve missed here. I’m not into say, Poco. So if I’ve missed something you dig, put it in the comment section and I’ll add it to the playlist which as always is on Spotify. This one is under “BourbonAndVinyl.net Favorite Country Rock Songs.” I always recommend pushing the “shuffle” button. Put on your cowboy hat, put a piece of grass between your teeth, grab your favorite moonshine and groove on these tracks…The link to the Spotify playlist is below.

  1. The Rolling Stones, “Far Away Eyes” – This is where it all started for me so I had to start here.
  2. Neil Young, “Are You Ready For the Country?” – Apparently in 1985, I was not ready.
  3. Bob Dylan, “Lay Lady Lay” – Dylan doesn’t get enough credit for starting the country rock craze with his seminal album Nashville Skyline. 
  4. The Little Willies, “Fist City” – Norah Jones’ side project doing a Loretta Lynn cover.
  5. Mick Jagger, “Evening Gown” – Great, great solo Mick… covered gamely by Jerry Lee Lewis.
  6. Dillard & Clark, “Train Leaves Here This Morning” – Former Byrd Gene Clark was an underrated genius. Bernie Leadon recorded this song again when he was in the Eagles.
  7. Eagles, “Tequila Sunrise” – Speaking of the Eagles, this is one of my favs. Drinking your broken heart away, something B&V knows a lot about.
  8. Bob Dylan, “I Threw It All Away” – Another great track from Nashville Skyline. I love this song.
  9. Sheryl Crow, “First Cut Is The Deepest (Country Version)” – I wanted to incorporate more female voices and I love this version of a song made famous by Rod Stewart.
  10. The Allman Brothers, “Blue Sky” – “You’re my sunny day…” Great track.
  11. Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, “Girl From The North Country” – I avoided any overtly “country” artists but I had to sneak Johnny on here somehow.
  12. Neil Young, “Comes A Time” – Title track from a great album.
  13. Eagles, “Peaceful Easy Feeling” – What we all need in these troubled times.
  14. Gin Blossoms, “Cheatin'” – “Its not cheatin’ if she reminds me of you…” Great lyric.
  15. The Black Crowes, “Garden Gate” – From the great double album, recorded live at Levon Helms’ place, Before the Frost…Until the Freeze. 
  16. The Byrds, “Hickory Wind” – Gram Parsons’ signature track. One of the few he sang.
  17. Mike Ness, “The Devil In Miss Jones” – I love Social Distortion and Ness’ first solo album Cheating At Solitaire. There’s a great duet with Springsteen on there as well.
  18. The Flying Burrito Brothers, “Wild Horses” – It may seem like blasphemy to not put the Stones’ version of this song on here but I had so many other tracks by them to choose from.
  19. Norah Jones, “How Many Times Have You Broken My Heart” – Norah putting music to lyrics written by Hank Williams but never recorded.
  20. Hindu Love Gods, “I’m A One Woman Man” – Warren Zevon backed with 3/4 of R.E.M. doing an LP of great, eclectic covers.
  21. The Rolling Stones, “Dead Flowers” – Also on our heroin playlist, B&V Playlist: Chasing the Dragon – Songs About Heroin.
  22. Neil Young, “Beautiful Bluebird” – From the great late period LP, Chrome Dreams II, seemingly a sequel to an album never released.
  23. Robert Plant, “If It’s Really Got To Be This Way”* – I put an asterisk here as its not on Spotify. If you haven’t heard this tune, seek it out somewhere.
  24. Fleetwood Mac, “That’s Alright” – By the time they reconvened for Mirage Stevie Nicks had become a solo sensation with Bella Donna. She made the band do a country tune for her father who loved country music. This track works for me.
  25. Gram Parsons, “Ooh Las Vegas” – He didn’t do a lot of solo stuff but what he did is worth checking out.
  26. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, “Southern Accents” – This is more “country-ish” than country, but Mike Campbell’s superb dobro playing puts this track on the list.
  27. Linda Ronstadt, “Love Is A Rose” – Linda always had great taste in songwriters, doing a Neil Young track here. (Documentary Review: The Sublime ‘Linda Ronstadt, The Sound Of My Voice’).
  28. Talking Heads, “Thank You For Sending Me An Angel (Country Angel Version)” – Weirdest track on here? Yes.
  29. Doobie Brothers, “South City Midnight Lady” – People forget the Doobies were HUGE. I love this song.
  30. Grateful Dead, “Box of Rain” – Easily for me, their best song (Lookback: Grateful Dead’s Americana 1970 – ‘Workingman’s Dead’/’American Beauty’).
  31. Neil Young, “From Hank To Hendrix” – Another great country track from Neil.
  32. Eagles, “Lyin’ Eyes” – Every time I put a Neil Young track on this list it appears I have to put an Eagles’ song too. Gram Parsons, like the Dude, hated the Eagles. He described them unflatteringly as “a dry plastic fuck.” Not sure what that means but it doesn’t sound good.
  33. The Rolling Stones, “You Win Again” – Great deep track from the Stones (Playlist: B&V’s Favorite Rolling Stones Deep Tracks).
  34. Buffalo Springfield, “A Child’s Claim To Fame” – A dis track about Neil Young which caused him to write, “I Am A Child.” Musicians, what are you gonna do?
  35. John Fogerty, “Southern Streamline” – I could have gone with any number of CCR tracks but I like this Fogerty solo track.
  36. Randy Newman, “Rider In The Rain” – The Eagles sang back up on this standout track.
  37. Mudcrutch, “Orphan Of The Storm” – Great track from Petty, Campbell and Tench’s side project.
  38. Stephen Stills/Manassas, “Colorado” – One of the greatest country rock tracks ever.
  39. Doobie Brothers, “Black Water” – Another great Doobies track.
  40. The Rolling Stones, “Indian Girl” – “Little Indian girl, where is your faaaather?”
  41. The Little Willies, “Jolene” – Norah doing Dolly Parton this time.
  42. Lynyrd Skynyrd, “The Ballad of Curtis Loew” – Southern rockers had to be on here somewhere.
  43. CSNY, “Teach Your Children” – Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead’s pedal steel puts this track on the list.
  44. Rod Stewart, “What Made Milwaukee Famous” – Great cover of Jerry Lee Lewis.
  45. Elvis Costello, “Good Year For The Roses” – Elvis doing George Jones.
  46. Mike Ness, “Cheating At Solitaire” – The title track of his great first solo album.
  47. Stephen Stills/Manassas, “So Begins The Task” – Such a great double album, I had to double dip from it for this list.
  48. Grateful Dead, “Friend Of The Devil” – One of their best known tracks.
  49. Pete Townsend, “There’s A Heartache Following Me” – Pete covering Jim Reeves because it was his guru’s favorite song.
  50. Led Zeppelin, “Hot Dog” – I love this track from their last album.
  51. Sheryl Crow/Kid Rock, “Picture” – I despise Kid Rock but I dig Sheryl.
  52. Don Henley, “You’re Not Drinking Enough” – Advice I always follow.
  53. Eagles, “Girl From Yesterday” – Oddly most of the country rock tracks by these guys I’m drawn to were sung by Glenn Frey.
  54. Sting, “I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying” – Sting is a pretentious dick, but he captures the country ethos of my baby is gone and she took my dog here.
  55. Hindu Love Gods, “Vigilante Man” – A Hank Williams cover I believe.
  56. Peter Wolf (with Mick Jagger), “Nothing But The Wheel” – Great track with Mick on harmony vocals.
  57. Lucinda Williams with Elvis Costello, “Jailhouse Tears” – The funniest song on this list.
  58. The Rolling Stones, “Do You Think I Really Care” – Another great deep track.
  59. Elton John, “Country Comforts” – Also really well done by Rod.
  60. Stevie Nicks, “After The Glitter Fades” – All the pedal steel on here puts this track on the list for me.
  61. Social Distortion, “Like An Outlaw (For You)” – Full-on “cow-punk.”
  62. The Blues Brothers, “Theme From Rawhide” – If this song doesn’t make you smile, you’re on the wrong blog.

There ya go cowpokes! Enjoy! Stay safe out there!

Quarantine Diary: Seven Days of Albums… I Take An Alphabetic Tour Through My Music

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*Picture of a few of the albums in the B&V music library

I was always pretty reluctant to join my wife and daughter on the whole “social media” thing. I am not on Facebook nor will I ever be for much the same reasons that I never read those “Christmas Newsletters” (aka brag rags) that came with the Xmas cards. I don’t particularly care if little Timmy went to band camp. If you’re still sending those things out in your Christmas cards, you’re not “blessed,” you’re a blowhard. The reason I was drawn onto a few of the social media platforms was simple and probably easy to guess, rock and roll.

My wife and/or daughter were constantly showing me things that the Stones or the Cult were posting on Instagram or Twitter. It was mostly really cool band pics, but not exclusively. Many times it was an announcement of an impending tour or album. Having access to that kind of “inside information” was too intoxicating a draw for me. In the old days I read about these things in Rolling Stone, a magazine I let my subscription to lapse recently (I’d subscribed since my college days but there’s nothing of interest in there any more), or hear on my local radio. Max Floyd would come on the air and say, “We’ll have that new Springsteen record next Tuesday… we’ll play the whole thing at lunch time.” In the days of highly automated, overly controlled programming you’ll be lucky if they play a Springsteen song other than “Born To Run” on the radio.

As tends to happen on social media, you start getting followers and in turn start following people. Most of the folks I follow are like-minded rock and roll fans much like you, my esteemed readers. I’ve noticed many of these rockers like to post stacks of albums with the inevitable caption, “this weekend’s listening.” They must have very forgiving wives… I’ve never really done that here on B&V but it did give me pause. I listen to music on a lot of different platforms – vinyl (preferred), CDs (I still dig them), MP3s (because its mobile), and even now the dreaded Spotify. When I like something I hear on Spotify, I do go out and buy it, I wanna keep the artist whole. And currently I’m living in a rental house so a lot of my “stuff” is in boxes in storage which makes the ostentatious “stack of albums” display harder.

I have to admit, I do miss the old days when you’d start pulling records out of your record crate(s) and when it was all over you had a stack of records on the coffee table or on the speakers, a living monument to your listening activity. I guess how you listened to or how you made your album selections depended on how you stored your music. In the early days, I had so few records, I could sit and listen to my whole collection in one sitting. They were haphazardly arranged and stacked between my dresser and one of the speakers. It wasn’t hard to listen to Some Girls, Van Halen’s debut, ZZ’s Deguello, and the few other records I had all in order. Pretty soon that stack got bigger and bigger. I finally went to Peach’s records on 75th and Metcalf when I was in high school and bought my first record crate. I think for my generation, that’s when you knew you were a “serious” collector… “Yes, I’ve got a record crate, I’m serious.”

At first, like many people I know, the albums were randomly placed in the crate. But then my OCD kicked in… there had to be a better way to organize all of this rock and roll. I know people who arrange their albums chronologically (which I think is impossible, I mean, where do greatest hits go?), alphabetically and in some cases by genre. I’m a simple alphabetic arrangement guy… AC/DC, Ryan Adams, Aerosmith, Airbourne, Alice In Chains… all the way to Neil Young and ZZ Top. You get the picture. Not only do they have to be in alphabetic order, but each artist’s LPs have to be in chronological order. Highway To Hell in front of Back In Black followed by For Those About To Rock and so on. Pretty soon I’ll be washing my hands repeatedly and pissing into milk jars that I keep in my attic home office but until then, let’s rock… in a strangely organized way.

When I’d pull a stack of records there were no rules. As I flipped through the crate I’d randomly pull records that caught my fancy – new stuff, stuff I hadn’t listened to enough, or just something I felt I wanted to hear like, well, Van Halen’s debut. Somethings never change. Although, I have to admit, the alphabetic lay out of my album collection often led me to an alphabetic tour through my music, a habit that has stuck with me to this day. I’m not anal-retentive, one album from the A’s, one for the B’s, on to Z. I just grab from one letter and then move on until I find the next one.

Seeing all these guys on the social media, showing their stack of albums recently played and being in a quarantine lockdown, I decided to keep track of what albums I listened to over the last week… on a journey through my record collection. In truth I started this last Thursday, so it’s a touch more than a week, but whose counting? Many times I’m listening to my MP3 player on shuffle, as background when I’m working but for the most part I’m listening to a whole album. In the last week I embarked on one of my OCD alphabetic trips through my record/CD/MP3 collection of music to sample some stuff. And like I said before there were different reasons I picked these records – revisiting some new stuff, some old stuff and some just random stuff for the hell of it.

Since we at B&V are not ready to come out of our quarantine cocoon (I want to see how it goes before I head to a bar), I realized that listening to a stack of records might be all I have to do this rainy, long Memorial Day weekend. If not a stack of records, I can always fall back on my Memorial Day, start of summer playlist, Memorial Day Kicks Off Summer: Go-To Summer LPs (Beach Boys Need Not Apply) to put me in the summer mood.

Here’s my stack of records from the last week (8 days). I’ve put links to any accompanying posts for the selections, in case you’re bored this weekend and feel like reading:

A

B

  • The Byrds, Mr. Tambourine Man – I’ve been really into the Byrds since I saw the documentary, ‘Echo In the Canyon’ (Movie Review: ‘Echo In The Canyon’ – Flawed, Enjoyable Look at Cali ’65-’67). This is their debut and it’s amazing folk-rock.
  • Black Sabbath, Vol 4 – Because sometimes you just need some fucking metal.
  • David Bowie, Diamond Dogs – I felt I needed to hear this one for some reason. The deep tracks “Candidate” and “Rock and Roll With Me” really jumped out at me which is sometimes why I do this exercise, spelunking for deep tracks.
  • Buffalo Springfield, Again – Another band I’ve gotten into since ‘Echo In the Canyon.’ Or better said, got back into.

C

  • Leonard Cohen, Old Ideas – I’ve been working my way through Cohen’s catalog in reverse chronological order. I really like his late work and this album is no exception. I urge everyone to check out Cohen’s last three or four albums (LP Review: Leonard Cohen’s Posthumous ‘Thanks For The Dance’ – A Haunting Elegy).
  • Eric Clapton, Just One Night – I really needed to hear a live album and this was the one I grabbed. It’s Clapton’s best live album in my humble or not so humble opinion.
  • Crosby, Still, Nash, Daylight Again – This one was probably another that grew out of ‘Echo In the Canyon.’ Crosby, Nash and Stills all feature in the documentary. Crosby was in such a state during the making of Daylight Again it was originally slated as a Stills/Nash album. They even brought in Art Garfunkel and Timothy B. Schmit of Eagles fame to sing Crosby’s high harmonies. The record company insisted Crosby be brought in and he comes up with one of my favorite songs of his, “Delta.”
  • Gene Clark, Gene Clark (aka White Light) – After hearing Gene’s phenomenal No Other (LP Review: Ex-Byrd Gene Clark, ‘No Other (Deluxe Edition)’, Forgotten 1974 Masterpiece), I had to start digging through his catalog. This one is remarkable.

D and E

I skipped D and E. Nothing by Dylan, Depeche Mode or the Eagles caught my eye… there’s more to choose from of course, but I kept moving. See, I’m not totally OCD.

F

  • Free, Fire And Water – The oft-overlooked  band (in America at least) that was a precursor to Bad Company. Paul Rodgers on lead vocals, Simon Kirke on drums with Andy Fraser on bass and the doomed but brilliant Paul Kossoff on guitar. This is their most well known record because of “All Right Now.” “Mr. Big” and the title track are pretty epic as well.
  • Peter Frampton, Frampton’s Camel – I really got into Frampton’s back catalog after hearing his All Blues (LP Review: Peter Frampton, ‘All Blues’). I don’t know why Camel wasn’t a bigger hit. It has all the ingredients that made Frampton Comes Alive the monster it became. I love the tone of his guitar.

G

H

  • Buddy Holly, Gold – Great package of 50 tracks from Buddy Holly. I just borrowed this from my father, of all people. Holly belongs with Elvis, Chuck Berry and the late, great Little Richard on the Rock and Roll Mount Rushmore. I’m blown away by how good Holly was and how long it took me to get around to listening to him.
  • George Harrison, Cloud Nine – My brother was always a huge fan of Harrison’s work. I’ve only gotten into him in the last few years. I should have gone for one of his older works, but I hadn’t heard this great LP for a really long time. The title track is a great bluesy thing w/ Clapton and Harrison trading licks.
  • Jimi Hendrix, People, Hell, Angels – They’re doing some really great work with Hendrix’s vault stuff.

I

Skipped it.

J

  • J. Geils Band, Nightmares…and Other Tales From the Vinyl Jungle – This album is like the soundtrack of a great 70s house party. Upbeat, fun and rocking, this is one of my favorite J. Geils LPs. “Must Of Got Lost” is my favorite track of theirs. And I can’t say enough about Magic Dick on harmonica.
  • Jane’s Addiction, Nothings Shocking – I forget how heavy this album is. “Ted, Just Admit It…” about Ted Bundy has always been a favorite.

K

Skipped it. Considered some Lenny Kravitz but didn’t go there for some reason…

L

  • Little Feat, Sailin’ Shoes – Phenomenal album… funky, slide guitar, Lowell George. One of the all time greats.
  • The Long Shot, Love Is For Losers – Billie Joe Armstrong’s busmen’s holiday. Boy, is he having fun here (LP Review: ‘Love Is For Losers’ From The Longshot, Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong’s New Side Project). Great blast of energetic punk-ish rock with an Ozzy Osbourne cover thrown in for good measure.
  • Little Steven & the Disciples of Soul, Men Without Women – This album is a primer in rock and roll, soul and R&B. Essential listening.

M

  • Modern Lovers, The Modern Lovers – Jonathon Richman’s debut album. Jerry Harrison later of Talking Heads as well as David Robinson later of the Cars are both in the band. This is a great overlooked band… critic’s darlings, though.
  • Van Morrison, Three Chords and the Truth – I never know, after it’s been a while, when I return to an album if it’s going to be as good as I remembered it when I reviewed it. This one is… LP Review: Van Morrison’s New, All Originals, ‘Three Chords & The Truth’ – A Laid Back Groove.

N

  • Harry Nilsson, Nilsson Schmilsson – A masterpiece from an underrated singer.

O

P

Q

I skipped Q, although I did have a hankering for some Queen. As you’ve noticed the number of albums that I’ve pulled form the later letters were less than when I began. There was no plan, that is just how it happened.

R

S

T

  • Television, Marquee Moon – A shimmering guitar masterpiece.

U

  • U2, Songs of Experience – The second of two themed albums, I hadn’t returned to this since I wrote about it, LP Review: U2’s ‘Songs Of Experience,’ Battling Ambition and Expectations, which is usually a bad sign. I had to go back and hear it again… the critics excoriated this album but I think there’s some stuff to like. If Bono would get over his grasping for current relevance and just get back to rocking it’d cure a lot of ills. The Edge’s guitar is M.I.A. Plug the guitar into the amp, riff and sing, it’s easy. Bono’s soaring voice helps elevate a lot of this Coldplay-esque material. Bono’s current playlist, “Songs That Saved My Life” has that same malady – trying to be current and hip. There’s no way that anything that Kanye West has recorded saved Bono’s life. C’mon man.

V

Skipped it… although you’d have thought I’d be putting Van Halen’s debut album on, but I like to confound people.

W

  • Tom Waits, Swordfishtrombones – I’ve been working my way through Waits’ catalog (actually chronologically) as I was late to this party. This was the first of his really experimental albums and I was afraid it’d leave me cold. I loved it… especially on the headphones after a couple of drinks.

X

I like the L.A. punk band, X, but didn’t feel like listening on this pass through…

Y

  • Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Colorado – I can’t stop going back to this album. Neil is just always better with Crazy Horse. This is his best since Psychedelic Pill, which was naturally with Crazy Horse. I miss Frank Sampedro pushing Neil into epic guitar duels, but this album reminds me that Young is like pizza – when Neil is perfect his LPs will change your life. When he’s good, like he is here, he’s really fucking good.

Z

  • Warren Zevon, Transverse City – I will admit, this is one I added this morning as I was writing this. It’s a concept album but a great and oft overlooked LP in his catalog. Worth checking out.

That’s it folks. What are you listening to this weekend? Let me know! Stay safe and healthy out there. And, of course, Happy Memorial Day.

Cheers!

B&V’s True Confessions: The Dirty Dozen – 12 Albums That Only I Love… Time to Re-Evaluate?

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“This is no social crisis, this is you having fun…” The Who, “Another Tricky Day”

We’ve all made mistakes in our lives and we’ve all had to learn to live with those bad decisions… Here it is, only day 2 of the enforced “Stay At Home” order and I suddenly feel the need to unburden myself of all my sins. Well, in the interest of full disclosure, I haven’t left my house since nine days ago and the only sins being confessed to here are musical in nature. All other sins… well, those records are sealed until 25 years after I’m gone and forgotten. While I was always someone who people confided in, I must say this confessional mood seems to be catching. I’m hearing all sorts of sordid things. I just had a friend admit to me that he saw the Little River Band in concert. Everybody loves the Little River Band but no one will ever admit to it. Ironically, I happen to have an almost sentimental attachment to their song “Reminiscing.” There, now I’m on record as an LRB fan…more confessions. The Rock Chick admitted to me this morning, for the first time in our marriage, that she saw Molly Hatchet in concert but doesn’t remember much of it… We’ve all been there (The 10 Concerts I Should Have Skipped). I’m still trying to wrap my head around her being at a Molly Hatchet concert but that’s my issue to contend with.

We’ve all made those musical mistakes. You’re standing in the record store and you have Pat Benetar’s Precious Time in your left hand and Beggars Banquet in your right hand and you end up leaving the store with the Benetar “saving” the Stones’ classic for another day. That is sadly based on a true story. Sigh. Not that there’s anything wrong with Pat Benetar but I didn’t buy Beggars Banquet until I was in college, years later (and I’m the Stones freak?).  We all have albums that we’re perhaps embarrassed about now. Maybe the album is “of its time” so to speak. I actually had a Bryan Adams record (Reckless) for a long time that I bought in the 80s. Or perhaps a relationship or friendship led you to a bad choice. I had a TLC’s CrazySexyCool for a while based on the recommendation of an adamant squeeze I had back in the day. Not every woman I dated had the Rock Chick’s impeccable taste in music.

For the most part, as a “serious” collector I’ve culled through my collection and weeded out the outliers. I try to keep everything, vinyl or CD, that I’ve ever owned but being married has forced me to thin the herd. Every time we move I find myself selling at the Used Record store vs buying… although I’m usually a sucker for that “store credit” gambit. I sell off a certain number of albums and come home with a few new ones… it’s just the circle of life. Being cooped up at home these last few nights has sent me looking through my vinyl collection yet again. I discovered a few albums that, I must confess, I just love but have less than stellar reputations. Either the critics were “meh,” or fans didn’t buy the albums but I did. Since I only write about stuff I like – God knows there’s enough negative bullshit in the world – I am often accused of being a tad “over positive” about certain artists and albums. I have to tell you, I’ve really enjoyed listening to these albums over the last few nights. These just might be albums that need a reappraisal. I asked the Rock Chick if she had any albums she loved and no one else did and she said, “I love Oasis and let’s face it nobody but me and (her friend) Rich likes them.” Rich is the one who always asks me at parties I throw to “put on some Oasis.” Although oddly, on those occasions I’ve been at his house, he never seems to play Oasis.

While only one of these albums is truly embarrassing, the rest are solid if not spectacular as some of the entries in the respective artists’ catalogs. Not every album can be Every Picture Tells A Story or Who’s Next. If you’re a career type of artist – one worthy of following an entire catalog – there will be ebbs and flows, peaks and valleys. Since nobody is really going anywhere for a while, put one of these on and dig a little deeper into the catalogs of these great artists. We all have guilty pleasures… these are mine.

  1. The Who, Face Dances -I will always be fond of this, my first Who album. “You Better You Bet” was huge on radio and I bought this record on the spot. With Kenny Jones (formerly of the Faces) on drums and Townsend’s guitar seemingly missing this doesn’t really sound like anything that came before it but I still love this album. “Another Tricky Day” is the perfect antidote for today. “Daily Records” is the nicest statement of purpose in all of rock and roll. “How Can You Do It Alone” about masturbating is funny. The Entwistle songs, “You” and “The Quiet One” both rock with that Who grit. There’s a lot to like here.
  2. Fleetwood Mac, Mirage – Sure, this was a pretty good seller, but after the epic success of Rumours and wild experimentation of Tusk this album seems like a retreat. I am drawn to the melodies and harmonies on this record. Stevie Nicks’ tracks are the gold, from the hit “Gypsy” to the country-rock of “That’s Alright” to the shimmery, sexy track “Straight Back” she could do no wrong. While none of the Buckingham tracks were “hits” I really like a lot of what he’s doing here on tracks like “Empire State,” and “Oh, Diane.” It’s a quiet little pleasure.
  3. The Rolling Stones, Black And Blue – This is basically a recording of the auditions being held for Mick Taylor’s replacement. While many guitarists tried out for the Stones – Peter Frampton, Jeff Beck amongst others – they finally settled on Ronnie Wood. This album is criticized for being a bunch of jams and reggae stuff but that’s what I like about it. The two ballads, the only tracks that required them to actually write a song, are two of my favorite Stones’ deep tracks – “Fool To Cry” and especially “Memory Motel.” In college a friend asked me if this album was any good and I said, no. I would amend that answer to yes, if your expectations for another Exile On Main Street are properly leveled. This is a fun record and “Hand of Fate” is an awesome rock song I’d love to hear live.
  4. Rush, Caress of Steel – I don’t know why this album doesn’t get more love. It’s really the precursor of 2112. All of side 2 is one track, “The Fountain of Lamneth.” It’s a fabulous epic. My all time favorite Rush deep track ends side one, “The Necromancer.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve quoted that song…”weakening the body and saddening the mind.” The playing is impeccable. “Bastille Day” became a mainstay of their live act. This is a great Rush album that the critics savaged.
  5. Led Zeppelin, In Through The Out Door – It had been almost three years since Zeppelin had put out Presence and in that time my rock and roll awakening had occurred. I already owned Led Zeppelin II and IV (or Runes) and was eager to hear new, contemporary Zeppelin. The record industry was pinning its hopes on this album and Tusk to bolster lackluster sales. I think a lot of people were disappointed in this record but I wasn’t. Presence was such a heavy album – really shepherded by Bonham and Page – but both of those guys were in the serious throes of addiction by the time they recorded In Through the Out Door that Plant and Jones took over. The result was a mellower, more synth/keyboard oriented album. “In The Evening” is one of my all time Zep favorites. “Fool In The Rain” showcases Bonham’s still formidable drumming. I love the bluesy last track, “I’m Gonna Crawl.” God knows where they could have gone from this… alas.
  6. Rod Stewart, Blondes Have More Fun – Ok, I’m embarrassed I still like this album. I actually sold the vinyl, thus was my shame. But then I bought it again on CD. It’s a truly guilty, guilty pleasure. It’s Rod’s disco album, the record that burned the bridges with his old fanbase. I didn’t buy it for the disco camp of “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy.” I liked “Ain’t Love a Bitch,” I was always a sucker for ballads. “Dirty Weekend” and the title track are Chuck Berry/Rolling Stone riff rockers. I dig Rod. This is my big confession today.
  7. Jackson Browne, Lives In The Balance – After the failure of Lawyers In Love, Browne decided to get deadly serious about politics. Set that aside, these are great songs. “For America” remains a favorite of mine. The title track, “Soldiers of Plenty,” and “Lawless Avenues” all sound like dispatches from the nightly news set to guitar. The one intimate love song, “In The Shape of a Heart” is one of Browne’s most endearing songs. This isn’t for everyone, it kind of depends on your political feelings…
  8. Eric Clapton, Behind The Sun – People will shudder when I say Phil Collins produced this album. Well, he did the initial sessions but the record company rejected it. They brought in some songwriters and Ted Templeman to shore it up. That troubled history sounds like a disaster, but I dug this record. “Forever Man” remains a huge favorite. “Tangled In Love” is a great rock tune. “Same Old Blues” is an epic at over 8 minutes long. I even like the cover of “Knock On Wood.” Blasphemy? Perhaps.
  9. Neil Young & The Bluenotes, This Note’s For You – The 80s were terrible for Neil Young. He first showed signs of creative life on 1987’s Life with Crazy Horse. Then he did a 180 and put out a horn driven blues album. The blues has always been a great showcase for guitar and I love Neil’s playing on this album. I even bought the live album of this tour, put out 30 year later (Review: Neil Young, “Bluenote Cafe” (Live)). “One Thing” is the ultimate breakup song. “Married Man” is a funny upbeat track. Whether he’s playing a mellow, sad blues or a horn-drive rave up, this is a fun record. The blues will always win out for me.
  10. Roger Waters, Radio K.A.O.S. – My college roommate Drew and I may be the only two people in the world who bought this album. I really dug the title track. Clapton plays guitar on this album and joined the tour as well. If you ignore the bizarre narrative, you can really get into songs like, my favorite, “Who Needs Information,” or “Home.”
  11. Queen, A Kind Of Magic – My college roomies and I were big fans of the Sci-Fi thriller, ‘Highlander.’ This is basically the soundtrack to that film with the addition of “One Vision” which I think was from anther movie. Queen was on the downturn in America, but this is a bunch of great music. “Who Wants to Live Forever” is a great ballad. The production is very much “of its time” but this was the first sign Queen would come back from Hot Space. 
  12. CSNY, American Dream – Neil Young committed to CSN that he’d record another album with them, the first since the live album Four Way Street, if Crosby could get clean. After the much publicized police chase and incarceration, Crosby emerged clean. The bill came due for Neil. People’s expectations were for Deja Vu 2.0 and yes, this album disappoints from that perspective. I loved the title track and bought the album. Crosby’s “Compass” is a wonderful, confessional track. I love Stills and Young working together and have since the Buffalo Springfield. They spark up a little guitar battle in “Drivin’ Thunder.” Stills shines for me on “Glad That You Got It Made.” Graham Nash’s “Never Say Goodbye” is a tune that used to make me mist up. It’s gorgeous.

I get that many of these might not be your cup of tea. You never know… you might discover something you like in this pile of records. If there are “guilty pleasure” albums for you out there, let me know what they are in the comments as I may want to check those out. I’m open to anything during this time of social distancing!

Stay safe and healthy out there! And remember, as the Who sang, “this (really) is no social crisis…this is you having fun” listening to music.

 

B&V Goes Used Record Shopping: My Saturday Odyssey Through Used Vinyl Stores

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*Photo of last Saturday’s used vinyl haul taken by your intrepid blogger

Many of my fondest memories of my younger days are of the hours spent meandering through used record stores from Manhattan, Kansas to Boston, Massachusetts, without a care in the world. There was no place I felt more comfortable than in the familiar confines of a used record store. Hell, truth be told, if I was forced to go to the mall for any reason there was a good chance I’d make a stop at Penny Lane Records or any new record store that happened to be there. I just liked being in record stores. Often, if I was out album shopping, I’d hit both a new place and a used place. At 75th and Metcalf, there was a Peaches’ Records, which I remember as being huge (it’s a workout place now, so my memory must serve me well here) and I could spend forever in that place. But regardless of how long I was in Peaches and regardless of how many albums I’d have bought there, invariably I was going to cut across the parking lot, cross a side street to Exile Records, the smaller, hipper used vinyl place located in a strip center behind Peaches.

While you could always find the brand new stuff at the big record chains, I always dug the vibe of the used vinyl places. Many stores doubled as “head shops” and sold pipes or bongs. I was never an herbal enthusiast but I always liked those people… they were just more docile and happy. There was usually something obscure but great on the turntable. The walls were always covered with cooler posters than in the record chains. Incense was usually burning. The staff were usually pierced and tattooed. They were some of the most knowledgable music people you would ever find. I remember one guy in Exile with a crazy spiky hair cut arguing with no one in particular for over 45 minutes that Randy Rhoads was derivative of Eddie Van Halen. It was fascinating even if I didn’t particularly agree with all of it. It was like being at Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park. The first thing I did when I moved to Boston for a brief summer was locate to the nearest used record store – In Your Ear Records – just down the street from the Commonwealth Avenue apartment I shared with my two friends. I found the Faces’ first three records in that place. I spent every dime I had at the time, and I didn’t have many, to procure those records. It was a great place to go to hide when I was tired of being around my roomies.

Sadly, I don’t spend as much time as I used to in record stores. On one of my first dates with the Rock Chick we went to Best Buy to browse and buy CDs, back when you could still buy CDs at Best Buy. She bought a stack of CDs almost as tall as she is. Lately if I’m hankering to do some vinyl spelunking I find myself in the same place every time, Josey’s Records down in the Crossroads District. The Crossroads area in KC is an urban hipster paradise with art galleries, craft beer joints and a lot of man buns and curious facial hair. I like to go down to this bar, the Brewery Imperial but before beer, I always poke my head into Josey’s. I was in there on Record Store Day a few months ago, Record Store Day 2019: Reflections On Going To The Record Store…. I don’t know what it is, but I just don’t feel as comfortable in that place as I used to feel in used vinyl places. Maybe I’m just not as familiar with the vibe any more or maybe the vibe has changed?

Recently I was chatting on line with a friend of mine, who I’ll call Dr. Rock and we were musing about vinyl. He mentioned a number of used vinyl spots he had either already visited or was hoping to go check out. I suddenly had that itch to spend a Saturday, not working or doing anything productive, but fucking around in record stores. It was a beautiful spring day here in the American midwest and I haven’t really been outside of the house much since the foot surgery. A day of hitting these “off the beaten path” record stores and maybe a tavern or two was just too enticing. I was hoping to find some place I’d feel comfortable in… that the weird anxiety I feel if I’m at Josey’s or Records With Merritt (another groovy spot) would dissipate. I want that old care free vibe.

This past Saturday, somehow I was able to convince the Rock Chick to forgo the confines of “chores” and ride around the city to a few of these used record spots. As usual, because my wife is ultra cool, she was in with little to no cajoling. I had mentioned Exile Records to Dr. Rock, who naturally remembered the place and actually reminded me what the name of the place used to be…the memory fades, folks. He mentioned there was a new place near there, in a house no less, named Vinyl Heaven. It was just a few blocks south of where Peaches and Exile Records had been, back in the day. In a matter of no time, we were on a lonely side street, off the beaten path when the Rock Chick spotted a row of three, small houses. I had actually driven past the place before she’d spotted a sign stuck in the dirt on the corner, “Vinyl Heaven, Now Open.”

As I approached this tiny shack, wondering if I was in the right place I spotted a giant, cardboard cut-out of Elvis in a bathing suit… I think it was a shot from ‘Blue Hawaii.” That was all I needed to see to know we’d found Vinyl Heaven. We walked into this very small room with mint condition vinyl hanging on the walls everywhere. I felt like I was in my old friend Steve’s basement rec-room… he always displayed his latest purchases on the walls. I was wearing a Stones t-shirt so the proprietor immediately warmed up to me. He was an old dude with bushy, curly hair. He quickly let me know he had a cooler of PBR, Pabst Blue Ribbon in back and was ready to share… now that’s a true B&V moment. It was noon somewhere so I jumped on the offer. I spent the next hour, pouring through the records he had in the place. I was surprised at some of the prices. He had a white-vinyl copy of The Beatles (the White Album) for $175. He had the first Buffalo Springfield album that looked brand new on sale for $200.

Since the Rock Chick was with me, I gravitated toward some 80s rock. I found a mint condition copy of the Power Station’s album. The Power Station had Robert Palmer on lead vocals and some of the guys from Duran Duran on bass and guitar. Our host quickly informed me that they’d played at Live Aid… I had to inform him yes, but without Robert Palmer… Michael Des Barres handled lead vocals that historic day… I knew this guy was a kindred musical nerd. I also picked up Billy Idol’s third record, Whiplash Smile, which I’d owned when it came out, but sold later as it was somewhat disappointing. But, the cover is cool and the Rock Chick wants to hang it in the music room. I ended up chatting with the owner about Ringo Starr until I could tell the Rock Chick was ready to get going… I was getting that old, used record store comfort zone vibe…

With our day off to such a successful start, we headed east over to Troost Avenue and a groovy place named 7th Heaven. It’s like a maze in that place. The first floor is chock full of CDs, mostly hip hop and t-shirts featuring marijuana leaves. If you go up half a floor, you’ll find the “head shop” room where the bongs, vapes and pipes are. They also have a small room featuring adult videos and paraphernalia. This place is a one stop shop for sin and I love it. I hobbled down to the basement to the used album room… and it’s huge down there. The clerk saw my Stones t-shirt and immediately wanted to talk about his first Stones show, back in the 60s in New York. The first guy in the house was a music nerd, this guy was a music hipster. Maybe that’s why I’m always nervous in these places, I don’t want to get bogged down in conversations about Brian Jones being an underrated guitarist. I quickly freed myself from the guy, but saw that most of the vinyl in this room was in pretty distressed condition. We did buy a poster, again for the music room, and the Rock Chick was pleased.

From there, we headed north on Troost, down to 31st street. This is kind of a no man’s land. The retail and businesses in that area of town have largely died. We stopped in the Sol Cantina for a couple of quick Modelos to steel ourselves for the search. We finally located the place we were looking for, Sister Anne’s Records and Coffee. I was surprised to find they serve a mean latte in this place. The guy working the place was nice enough… but he was quiet and was tattooed up to his chin. Even in my Stones t-shirt I looked like an off duty narcotics agent. I asked him a couple of questions but he seemed wary. I was starting to get uncomfortable when it hit me… this guy was a music snob. He was standing behind the counter, expecting me to come up to the counter with a Madonna record. He had taken one look at me and decided I was, what the kids used to call, a Square. I knew had to bring my A game to this purchase…

It was then that I found a mint condition Faces’ Long Player. It was the perfect start for the music snob. Then I found Big Star’s Radio City. Radio City is probably my least favorite of their three early records but this copy was in sealed package – never been opened. These two finds were indeed choice. When the Rock Chick signaled she was ready to go, I laid the two records down in front of the music snob and at last… he smiled. It was like that scene in ‘Indiana Jones And the Last Crusade’ where the old knight looks at Indy and says, “You have chosen well…” And oddly, the approval of the music snob made me feel comfortable once again. Don’t judge a book by his cover, music snob.

I may never find that carefree vibe I had when I was in high school or college, but you know, an afternoon cruising around the city looking for records got me pretty close. If you’re one of those folks out there who sometimes find yourself looking for something to do on a Saturday… google “used record stores” or “vinyl” and spend the day exploring your city and exploring some music. There’s treasure out there to be found…

Cheers!

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

The BourbonAndVinyl Top Albums of 2017: From Allman to Plant to Neil Young

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I staggered through the living room last night, weary from the struggle that is my job, on the way to the sink for more water, when I saw the Rock Chick had the TV on. I get my water from the kitchen like a child avoiding bedtime because it’s just better than bathroom water, but I digress. Sadly, the news was on the TV. I have been conspicuously avoiding the news this year…none of it is good. I was stunned to see that it was Pearl Harbor Day in the U.S. I know Thanksgiving is supposed to be the “official” start of the holiday season – and besides St Patrick’s Day, it’s one of my favorites (I show up, eat, drink and then fall asleep watching football) – but for some reason it didn’t register to me that the holidays were upon me. Or should I say, the dreaded holidays, but that’s another post. Pearl Harbor Day, which was also my Sainted Grandmother’s birthday, always drives home the point that it’s fucking December, baby. I can’t believe the year of 2017 has sped by with such amazing rapidity. It seems like just yesterday I was celebrating David Bowie’s birthday in January. And now I find myself almost terminally behind on Christmas shopping. It’s going to take some real Houdini level stunt for me to pull off Christmas this year… but that’s my problem.

It was again a tough year for rock and roll. Among this year’s losses were guitarist J. Geils, rock and roll pioneer and Founding Father Chuck Berry, and founding Allman Brother’s Band keyboardist/vocalist Gregg Allman. Amongst the toughest of this year’s losses was the tragic suicide of Chris Cornell, the extraordinary lead singer of Soundgarden and Audioslave. That one is going to leave a mark. Such a gifted singer and wonderful human being. The one that really stunned me and left me in a funk that hangs over me even today was the loss of Rock Legend Tom Petty. Every time I see or hear someone do a Petty cover in tribute, the Rock Chick catches me tearing up. I was lucky enough to see Cornell and Soundgarden mere days before his loss and Petty on his farewell tour a month or so prior to his loss. Not a farewell I wanted but at least I got to see these old “friends” of mine once more… The lesson was not lost on me this year, buy the ticket – see the show. Live in the moment people, and cherish each one. More recently we even lost AC/DC rhythm guitarist/songwriter Malcolm Young… and while he’d been suffering from dementia for some time, the loss was not any less painful. I know there were many more we lost, alas, too many to list here. I wonder which acts will rise to fill the Rock void…

But amongst all that tragedy there was hope and there was light and most importantly there was some great music. Tis the Season for every publication from Rolling Stone to my mother’s neighborhood news letter to come out with their “best of” lists, ranking all the past year’s music. We’re no different down here at B&V, we just do it with a glass of strong drink in our hands. As you know, we focus on rock and roll here, so if you’re looking for Taylor Swift’s name here, you best move on. As I compiled the “best of” list, a couple of things jumped out at me. First and foremost, several of these acts had just put out albums last year. I like this trend, like it was in the 70s, of acts putting out records every year. Hell, Van Morrison put out 2 albums this year, within 2 months of each other. Very 70’s if not 60s of him, indeed. And while this is on the surface, a list of “best of” LPs, I’m including a couple of EPs and even a single. This is music you’re not going to find on the radio, but like last year, I’ll tell ya, however you get your music now – Spotify, CD, Satellite Radio, hopefully vinyl – you should seek this music out. I am not doing a stack ranking here. This is just good music… I’m just not into that competition thing this year… I’ve ranked these albums in a haphazard, alphabetical manner. Find this music, pour something strong if you’re so inclined and enjoy!

The BourbonAndVinyl Best Albums of 2017

  1. Gregg Allman, Southern Blood – A farewell note in the same vein of Bowie’s Blackstar or Warren Zevon’s The Wind. I especially liked the single, “My Only True Friend.” This was a gripping listen.
  2. David Bowie, No Plan (EP) – This isn’t an album, but this EP packaged the last three songs from Bowie’s Blackstar sessions (along with the previously released song “Lazarus”) that had only been previously available on the cast recording from “Lazarus,” the play he’d been working on. It was a nice Bowie Birthday surprise and I’m hoping there’s another waiting for us this coming January.
  3. Lindsey Buckingham & Christine McVie, Lindsey Buckingham & Christine McVie – Tired of waiting for Stevie Nicks to record some tunes to complete an intended Fleetwood Mac project (Mick Fleetwood plays drums, McVie bass here), Buckingham and McVie put out the music they’d recorded under the duo’s title. They don’t have the baggage Lindsey and Stevie have and it turns out they’re a great pair.
  4. Cheap Trick, We’re All Alright – A gleeful rocker from Cheap Trick was a wonderful surprise, considering they’d just put out a strong album in 2016. This band is on a roll and I’ve really enjoyed this late career resurgence.
  5. David Crosby, Sky Trails – Following 2016’s homage to If I Could Only Remember My Name (the roughhewn Lighthouse), Crosby returned with this beautifully sung album. There’s a Joni Mitchell cover and a Steely Dan influenced tune. An overlooked gem of a record.
  6. Depeche Mode, Spirit – This one might be my pick for “album of the year.” From the political, “Where’s the Revolution,” and “Going Backward,” to the personal, “You Move,” Depeche deliver a slinky, sexy, dark state of the union address.
  7. Liam Gallagher, As You Were – I find Liam as unpleasant as the next guy, but he’s delivered the best post-Oasis album of anybody from that band with As You Were. This was the Rock Chick’s favorite of the year, although she’s a bigger Oasis fan than I ever was.
  8. Greta Van Fleet, From The Fires – Billed as a “double-EP,” this album might be criticized for being somewhat derivative but I love where these kids are coming from. Anybody influenced by Zeppelin in these days of hip hop and electronic pop is ok with me. They even cover Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.”
  9. Mick Jagger, Get A Grip/England Lost (Single) – Yes, this was merely a two-sided single but it’s a great political broadside to his home country. Oh, and the songs kick ass.
  10. Little Steven, Soulfire – A big, bombastic, 70s, arena-rock, absolute blast of a listen. I was so happy to see Little Steven restart his solo career. It’s nice to see him step out of the shadow of his famous best friend… “Down and Out In New York City” is my favorite track here… although it’s hard to pick just one.
  11. Van Morrison, Roll With The Punches – The first of two LPs Van put out this year, merely twelve months after the very strong Keep Me Singing. While mostly blues and R&B covers, this is a laid blues party with Van singing his ass off like he wrote these tunes. He’s got a lot of friends here, but his most inspired choice was inviting Jeff Beck to play guitar.
  12. Randy Newman, Dark Matter – Newman’s first new album in almost a decade proves he’s still got the wit and sense of humor to take on any topic from politics to the personal. “She Chose Me” is one of his most beautiful ballads. He’s like Mark Twain with a piano.
  13. Robert Plant, Carry Fire – Like it’s primal title suggest, Carry Fire finds Plant in rootsy, exploratory mode, where he combines rock, folk, Welsh folk, and African music into a sound gumbo that is a delight to experience. His singing is right out front and I love where his voice is at this point in his career. A truly stunning album and like Depeche Mode’s LP, possibly my candidate for album of the year.
  14. Queens of the Stone Age, Villains – Josh Homme and company’s hard rock, swinging dance party. “The Way You Used To Do” is my favorite song of the year. A great, hard rock record from start to finish.
  15. The Rolling Stones, On Air – A BBC Recording (Deluxe) – The Stones from way back, from 1963 to 1965. Hailed for returning to their roots on Blue And Lonesome, this compilation of BBC live recordings are the Stones’ roots unfolding before your very ears… back when Brian Jones was as important as Mick or Keith. These recordings crackle with a youthful energy that is a wonder to behold.
  16. Bob Seger, I Knew You When (Deluxe) – This was a near miss of a classic record from Seger, but there are enough great moments here to recommend it. It’s a blast to hear Seger cover, of all people, Lou Reed on “Busload of Faith.” This is Seger’s best album since The Distance. 
  17. Bruce Springsteen, Live Archival Recordings – Springsteen has been quietly releasing a new live, archival recording every first Friday, each month. It’s the only reason that I’ve found to celebrate the turn of a calendar month. From early releases of the rarely heard 1977 tour, to another great show in Houston on the 1978 tour these live recordings are something special. The 1996 release from The Ghost of Tom Joad solo tour was another recent release. If you’re not checking these live albums out, you’re missing out.
  18. U2, Songs of Experience – The long awaited sequel to Songs of Innocence. Bono’s recent brush with death inform these lyrics, and they’re some of his best. I can’t stop listening to this album, their best since How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. 
  19. Roger Waters, Is This The Life We Really Want – It took 25 years between solo albums, but Waters has delivered his best album since The Wall. This magnum opus is truly his solo masterpiece. I only regret I didn’t get to see it live, which a friend of mine told me was like going “to church.”
  20. Neil Young, Hitchhiker – Neil went back to the archives to release this stunning acoustic album, recorded in one night back in August of 1976… the full moon really worked some magic. While many of these songs came out on later albums and in different versions, hearing them all in this original setting is the way God and Neil intended them to be heard. Neil’s just launched his own streaming, archival website which will likely provide me with hours of rock n roll spelunking joy…

 

There you have it folks, 2017 in a classic rock nutshell. Happy Holidays.

The B&V List of Essential “Hybrid” LPs – Part Live/Part Studio Albums

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I recently posted a review of the fabulous new Cheap Trick LP, ‘We’re All Alright’ and it prompted a number of emails and text messages from friends of B&V. The messages were all very similar in nature. To paraphrase, most of the messages were something like, “Enjoyed the review, I used to listen to Cheap Trick’s ‘At Budokan’ all the time.” It seems that all of us of a certain age remember and love that live album. It truly was a huge record. It was to Cheap Trick what ‘Frampton Comes Alive’ was to Peter Frampton or what ‘Live Bullet’ was to Bob Seger. Simply put, it was a career defining live album.

Since I spend way too much time thinking about and listening to music I began to think about great live albums and ponder compiling the B&V list of essential live albums. It’s an idea I’ve been toying with for a long time. However, the list in my head would probably be a little unwieldy. I’m not sure I could fit it all into one blog post. I can be, well, a little wordy.

As I was thinking about this list of live albums, I began to realize that there’s some great live music that’s been released over the years, but not necessarily on the full-on, classic double-live-LP format. In many cases, there have been what I call “hybrid” albums released by some of rock’s greatest bands. By “hybrid,” I mean part studio album, part live album. Think of these albums like a hybrid car, part combustion engine, part electric. I’m not talking about albums with a bonus live cut, or the stray live song like the Stones’ ‘December’s Children” or the Faces’ ‘Long Player.’ I’m talking about albums that are split between live and studio cuts.

I’ve always struggled to categorize the Hybrid albums. In the early days it felt a little like cheating, to augment studio recordings with live cuts. As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to realize that in many cases, combining the energy of a band’s live shows with additional studio tracks actually makes sense. Sometimes bands struggle to capture the lightning they generate on stage in the studio. Besides, art is art, who am I that I should view music so narrowly? I will say, when I eventually (and it is inevitable) get around to writing the essential live LPs list, I won’t include these Hybrid records… I am a flexible, but I remain a purist at heart.

Here then, are the B&V list of Essential Hybrid Live/Studio LPs:

  1. Cream, ‘Wheels Of Fire’ – This Cream masterwork is probably the granddaddy of the whole hybrid concept. This would have been a classic album if it had just been the single LP of studio cuts. Songs like “Politician” and “White Room” were instant classics. The blues covers, “Sitting On Top Of The World” and “Born Under A Bad Sign” remain amongst my favorite. Cream, always a legendary live act, included a second album of live cuts and holy shit, are they amazing. They take the song “Spoonful” made famous by Howlin Wolf and written by Willie Dixon and stretch it to almost 17 minutes. The Ginger Baker drum solo “Toad” is also of a similar length and paved the road John Bonham and Neil Pert would travel.
  2. The Allman Brothers Band, ‘Eat A Peach’ – The Allmans, reeling from the loss of founder and leader Duane Allman cobbled together studio cuts recorded with Duane, new studio cuts and leftover cuts from the Fillmore East. That may sound like a patchwork, but this is one of the Allman’s best albums. “Mountain Jam” is a monumental Duane Allman/Dickey Betts jam and I love that it took up side 2 and side 3 of the vinyl album. This was a fitting farewell for Duane. The studio cuts include the sad, acoustic “Melissa” and one of my favorite Gregg songs, “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More.”
  3. U2, ‘Rattle And Hum’ – U2 took a ton of critical backlash when this LP followed their masterpiece, ‘The Joshua Tree.’ Frankly, I think that criticism was horse shit. This is the sound of a great band discovering their roots and their inspirations and paying tribute to them. There are some great, great songs on this album including “Desire,” “All I Want Is You” and “Angel of Harlem.” The live stuff stands up amongst their best – the covers “All Along the Watchtower,” and especially “Helter Skelter” are both great. The live version of “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” augmented by a choir is transcendent. “Silver and Gold” live is the definitive version of the song… even though Bono is a little confused about what the blues were…
  4. Cream, ‘Goodbye’ – On their farewell album, Cream return to the format that served them so well on ‘Wheels of Fire.’ Although in this case, it’s a single album with one side dedicated to live stuff and the other to studio cuts. The most famous track from the studio album is “Badge,” co-written by Clapton and George Harrison. I love the live stuff, especially the take on “Politician.”
  5. Guns N Roses, ‘Lies’ – The band has always said that side one of this album was recorded live and released on an indie label as ‘Live Like a Suicide.’ There has been a lot of question about the veracity of that. I still like this album. The cover of “Mama Kin” helped Aerosmith make their comeback. “Move To the City” is just a dirty boogie. The second side, ostensibly the studio side, has the great tune, “Patience.” Although I must admit, there was quite a bit of controversy, deservedly so for the use of a racial slur and a homophobic slur on “One In A Million.” It’s cringe worthy, yes. Axl has apologized but that doesn’t make “One In A Million” any less problematic. That aside, the acoustic version of “You’re Crazy” may be the definitive one. And I like the dark humor of “Used To Love Her,” but then I had a lot of bad relationships back in the day…
  6. Genesis, ‘Three Sides Live’ – I hesitated to include this album, as it’s a full on live album, well for three sides, with an entire side of studio cuts. What separates it from say, the Stones’ ‘Flashpoint’ which had 2 studio tracks at the end of the live performance, is the volume of studio cuts. Plus the song “Paperlate” is one of Genesis’ best tunes.
  7. Page/Plant, ‘No Quarter: Unledded’ – When Robert Plant decided to join the long list of artists who did MTV’s Unplugged series, he decided to follow up what Rod Stewart did when he brought in his old partner Ronnie Wood. Plant brought in Jimmy Page. While most unplugged projects were all live performances, Page and Plant augment some of the great acoustic live stuff with reworked versions of old songs. “Nobody’s Fault” and “No Quarter” are given complete reworkings in the studio. They augment the classics with three great new songs that even include some world music elements on “Yallah” and “City Don’t Cry.” One of the better unplugged recordings out there.

I recommend all these records, although I’ll admit GnR’s “Lies” isn’t for the PG-13 crowd. I’d probably skip the tune “One In A Million.” These albums represent some of the best stuff these bands have done, and while you might not find them on my essential live LP list, they certainly boast some great live cuts.

Artists Who Changed Their Music to Escape Fame

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*Photo shamelessly borrowed from the Internet, gettyimages, Paul Bergen

I just love this photograph of Pearl Jam from their early days. The only guy who looks happy is the drummer, in the middle, and they fired him. Likely on the HR form it read something like: Reason for Dismissal: Cheerfulness or Enjoying the Fame.

My corporate overlords are asking me to travel quite a bit more and I haven’t been able to write as often as I’d like, my apologies. It has given me a lot more time to think about music… and lately I’ve been thinking about fame. Ah, Fame, it’s such a cruel, fickle beast. Bands often form, write music, tour and work hard to achieve financial stability and yes, fame. But once it happens many bands/artists don’t know how to deal with it. There are certain levels of fame that nobody is ready for. Not everybody can be the Beatles, who not only embraced their fame, seemed energized by it. Well, McCartney anyway, Lennon seemed somewhat unnerved by it all.

Fame has all kinds of effects on an artist and not always good ones. Many artists, feeling the pressure to repeat earlier heights of record sales crumble under the pressure. Many artists turn to drugs, alcohol or just plain break up the band. Or sometimes the effects of fame are even worse…bad juju indeed. There are as many reactions to fame as there are artists, I suppose.

Lately, I find myself thinking about those artists/bands who decided to take control, take the bull by the horns as they say, and purposely change the trajectory of their artistic arc. The artists who, commercially speaking, tried to take a dive. The goal seemed to be to thin the herd of rabid fans, hanging on every word. These acts literally altered their art (in my opinion) to reduce their fame…

Bob Dylan: After a two year period that saw Dylan “go electric” and record three classic masterpieces: “Bringing It All Back Home,” “Highway 61 Revisted,” and “Blonde On Blonde” Dylan retreated to upstate New York to Woodstock (pre-festival fame Woodstock). This creative burst is beautifully documented on the box set, “The Cutting Edge” reviewed earlier in B&V. Dylan just wanted to get away, rest and spend some time with his wife and new family. Then, he had a motorcycle accident. Or did he? I’m not usually a “second shooter on the grassy knoll” guy, but I wonder if Dylan faked the whole thing to get a break in his crazy schedule. The guy was being touted as the “voice” of his generation. He was the appointed leader of the Hippy movement… heavy responsibility for a guy who is really just a singer… or a poet, depending on your outlook. After secluding himself in upstate NY and hanging out in a basement for a year with the Band, recording some pretty amazing music, but not really sharing it, Dylan emerged with a quiet, acoustic based “John Wesley Harding.” While considered a classic by critics, it was quite a dramatic departure from his three prior albums. It’s like Dylan rewrote the book on a career in music. He went on to record a country album, “Nashville Skyline.” He really didn’t recover commercially until “Blood On the Tracks” by which time his rabid audience had diminished and mellowed out.

Neil Young: Neil Young’s trajectory was similar to Dylan’s, perhaps without the messianic overtones… the 70’s were a more cynical decade after all. Young released “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere,” and then “After the Gold Rush” and joined CSNY. He was poised to explode. I don’t think he realized how big he was going to get when he delivered the mellow, extremely popular “Harvest.” You couldn’t get away from “Heart of Gold.” Neil said, on the liner notes of the excellent greatest hits package “Decade,” that he found himself in the middle of the road after “Harvest” and decided to steer his career into the ditch…he said he’d meet more interesting people there. He dismantled his following by delivering the live LP, “Time Fades Away,” which oddly seemed to declare war on his fans. Young was exorcising demons, but his fans were left to exorcise Neil.

Bruce Springsteen: Springsteen’s career has been a study in the art of controlling your fame. He released “Born To Run” and ended up on the cover of Time and Newsweek… after a 4 year absence due to legal issues with his management, he delivered the grim classic “Darkness On the Edge of Town.” Punk was prevalent and so he probably rode that wave, plus he was pissed about the court stuff and the four year absence. Finally, in 1979 he released “The River” which gave him his biggest seller to date… rather than capitalize on that success he retrenched with “Nebraska” an album I still struggle to listen to without being put on suicide watch. He finally reached his peak potential when he released “Born In the USA” but quickly retrenched to “Tunnel of Love.” Release something that makes you huge, follow up with a quiet personal album to make the crowds go away…it’s the best of both worlds.

Fleetwood Mac: Nobody saw the huge success of “Rumors” coming. Lindsey Buckingham, fueled by the punk movement took control of their next album and drove the band in experimental, weird directions. Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie apparently didn’t get the memo and continued to record solid mid tempo rock songs causing a very disjointed approach.”Tusk” is a masterpiece in my mind but it was heralded as a huge disappointment upon it’s release. I see it for what it was – Buckingham responding to the pressure of repeating “Rumors” by taking the band in a less commercial, artsy direction. When the LP doesn’t sell as much as the last one, you just say the audience didn’t “understand your creative vision.” It’s a great strategy really. Although Mick Fleetwood did drive out to Lindsey’s house after the reviews were in to say, “you blew it, mate.”

Prince: “1999” was such a breakthrough record for Prince. He, along with Michael Jackson, were one of the first black artists to breakthrough to a broad white audience. He followed up with the movie/LP “Purple Rain.” Prince, a control freak, whose goal had always been world domination, and who actually accomplished it, responded with the quirky, artsy “Around the World In a Day,” an album I bought the day it was released and sold a week later. Yeah, I was one of the fans Prince exiled from his fan base with that record. Prince never really regained his commercial/artistic mojo. That’s the risk when you purposely try to kill off your fame… sometimes you’re successful.

Nirvana: Kurt Cobain, almost 30 years after Dylan, was also tagged with that “voice of his generation” tag. Based on Dylan’s response to that in the 60s and what happened to Kurt, you might want to avoid that tag. After “Nevermind” seemingly destroyed everything that came before it and revolutionized music in a way that punk only dreamed of, Cobain felt painted into a corner. He had wanted to only be as big as say, Sonic Youth, not bigger than the Beatles. In response to the world-wide worship, Cobain and Nirvana delivered the abrasive album “In Utero” an album that was such an obvious attempt to drive fans away and yet it was still wildly popular. “Heart Shaped Box” is still my favorite Nirvana tune. Sadly Kurt never reconciled his fame and for a myriad of reasons ended up sadly ending his own life… the most tragic tale I’m gonna tell.

Pearl Jam: I read an interview with Eddie Vedder once, and he said they were playing a bar that had a free hamburgers in the parking lot while they were set to play. He got on stage in front of an empty room (everyone was eating outside), closed his eyes and when he opened them, the entire bar was full of enthusiastic fans. He went on to say that was how Pearl Jam’s world wide fame happened, seemingly in the blink of an eye. “Ten” was such a huge album and it’s follow up “Vs” despite the “us vs you” implied by the title, was just as popular. Finally PJ put out “Vitalogy” which I consider a classic but like “In Utero” it was a clear attempt to “thin the herd.” You only have to take one look at the picture above and you can tell these guys were uncomfortable with the fame that had resulted from their music. Eddie took these guys down a path that saw them stay a solid live draw, but their music has never sold like it did early in their career and I think that’s how Eddie wants it… Vedder’s only proper solo album was a ukele album…clearly not a guy looking for wide commercial success or additional attention…

That’s it for now folks. Did I miss anybody on this list? Please add your thoughts in the comments if you’re so inclined.

Have a great weekend! Cheers!

The BourbonAndVinyl List of Groups Overdue for an LP Release

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 Album releases have become quite “the thing” these days. It appears that now, releasing an album that no one expects is the hipster thing to do. The surprise album “drop” like Beyonce or better yet, David Bowie (“The Next Day”) is in vogue. U2 even gave their last album away, much to many people’s consternation. People just woke up and “Songs of Innocence” was on their iPhone… very Big Brother if you ask me. In the old days, bands wanted all the hype they could get before their record came out. Usually a single or two would be released to stoke excitement. Shit, to hype a new album the Stones once set up their equipment on the back of a flatbed truck and drove around New York City playing their new music from “Some Girls” (or was it “Black and Blue,” I forget) to the bewildered pedestrians and traffic around them. Ronnie Wood almost fell off the truck. I suspect illegal substances were being used… but that’s just Ronnie.

Album releases are tricky to predict. It’s not like the movies, where there’s a “summer blockbuster” season or a Christmas movie season. I can remember driving a giant one-ton construction truck home from my summer job, my car was broke down, to have lunch and hearing Springsteen’s “Born In the USA” for the first time. I almost had to pull the rig over. I knew the album was coming out, but hadn’t known it was coming out on that day. As soon as I clocked off, I headed straight to the mall to buy the album. For a long time, to game the album charts, record companies would release albums on Tuesday to give a record all 7 days of sales to push the record as high on the charts as they could. Now records come out on Friday.

Lately I’ve noticed there seems to be a  dearth of new music coming out. Bands I know and love who are still out there touring just don’t seem to be releasing new music. Or if they are releasing new music they’re taking years and years to get it released. I get it, there doesn’t seem to be a market for older act’s music any more. They certainly aren’t getting played on terrestrial radio and barely on satellite radio. Sammy Hagar has refused to go back in the studio with Chickenfoot because as he said recently, “I don’t want to work for six months on music no one is going to hear.” I hear ya, Sammy.

The Beatles between 1963 and 1970, a span of 7 years, released 13 albums and one was a  double album. That’s a new album almost every six months. That doesn’t include the myriad number of singles they put out, enough to fill a double LP in and of themselves. That’s a pretty intense schedule. Now we sit and wait and wait for new stuff to come out. There are a number of bands that I’ve noticed are way overdue for a new record. If I’ve missed somebody, please add them in the comments. These bands need to get off their ass and get some new music out. Nobody likes a nostalgia trip… tours take on more meaning when there’s new music to be heard.

In order to help make my case, I will list the band name, their last record and it’s release year…

  1. The Rolling Stones – A Bigger Bang, 2005 – I have never mentioned this in B&V but the Stones are the pinnacle of rock and roll for me. “Some Girls” was the first album I ever bought with my own money. I love the Stones and will travel about anywhere to see them. My buddy Steve helped me see them in New Jersey on their 50th Anniversary Tour, an event I will never be able to repay him for. I can’t believe it’s been over a decade since the Stones put out the awesome late career gem, “A Bigger Bang.” That record was so strong I hoped it would spark a new creative period for the Stones but alas, no. I hear they’re in the studio, but then I heard over the course of a week in December or January they banged out an entire album of blues classics and they might release that. I say, keep working on the new stuff, release the blues thing and we get the best of both worlds.
  2. Steely Dan – Everything Must Go, 2003 – I know these guys have  more music in them. Donald Fagan released a very strong solo album a few years ago, “Sunken Condos” but it’s time Walter Becker joins him in the studio.
  3. The Who – The Endless Wire, 2006 – I just saw the Who live and they still have the fire… It’s been a decade Pete, c’mon. “The Endless Wire” even had a mini-rock opera, “Steel and Glass.” Daltrey did a great album, “Going Back Home” with Wilko Johnson a few years back proving he’s still got the passion in his voice. I’d love a little more Who, I mean, who wouldn’t?
  4. Metallica – Death Magnetic, 2008 – These guys have been promising a new album for a couple of years now. I’ll believe it when I’m  holding it in my hands. “Death Magnetic” was a fantastic return to form for this band. I hear the new stuff will be more like the “Black Album” but they are taking forever.
  5. Guns N Roses – Chinese Democracy, 2008 – Am I nuts to think Slash, Duff and Axl will end up in the studio after their triumphant reunion tour. I can still dream can’t I? It’s been 8 years since Axl’s magnum opus “Chinese Democracy,” surely he’s got something new?
  6. Green Day – Uno, Dos, Tre, 2012 – I can’t believe it’s been four years since Green Day went nuts and released three albums at time, and then Billie Joe Armstrong had his meltdown. There was probably one classic record hidden amongst these three albums. I was glad to see them drop the rock opera thing and just cut songs. Billie Joe did a duet album of Everly Brothers songs with Norah Jones, which was solid, quiet little album in 2013 but nothing since…
  7. Norah Jones – Little Broken Hearts, 2012 – Speaking of Norah Jones it’s been 4 years since her last solo record (“Foreverly” w/ Billie Joe Armstrong, aside). I know, I know, she’s not rock and roll per se, but she sings like an angel. Whenever I hear her voice I stop what I’m doing and just stare at the stereo. If I die and hear her voice, I’ll know I’m in Heaven. If I hear country music, I’ll know I’ve been a very, very bad man.
  8. Randy Newman – Harps and Angels, 2008 – Many people hate Randy Newman. I am not one of them. “Short People” was a joke, folks. He was being satirical and trying to make a statement about bigotry. “Harps and Angels” had some wonderful political satire and God knows, America could use some of that right now. And, the song “Potholes” is one of the funniest fucking songs he’s ever done.
  9. Depeche Mode – Delta Machine, 2013 – I loved this oddly bluesy album. Depeche has been on a hot streak of late. I also loved Dave Gahan’s record with the Soulsavers, “Angels and Ghosts.” I’m ready for some more Mode!
  10. Fleetwood Mac – Say You Will, 2003 – Christine McVie is back in the fold. Lindsey is releasing more music these days than he’s ever done. Likely the problem is Stevie Nicks who keeps thinking she’s going to regain her “Bella Donna” era fame… Stevie has released a couple of great solo albums of late, but it’s time for a Mac Attack.
  11. Paul McCartney – New, 2013 – Sure, it’s only been 3 years, but this was a guy who was in the Beatles who released music every six months… He seems to spend all his time in the studio or on the road. “New” was the last in a succession of great LP’s that McCartney has been releasing that began with “Flaming Pie.” His late period albums have been really great, quite like Bob Dylan. Do yourself a favor and explore his later catalog. “New” was so good, I”m ready for more.
  12. No Doubt – Push And Shove, 2012 – I never liked No Doubt until I saw them live. They were loud and they rawked! Gwen Stefani, when she’s not fucking about on her solo crap, is a charismatic and energetic front woman. I know she’s off doing her solo stuff now, which I despise, while her former band mates are carrying on with another singer. Let’s settle this little rift and get back together kids. Come home, Gwen, all is forgiven.
  13. Gregg Allman – Low Country Blues, 2011 – The Allman Brothers are now defunct, sadly. Gregg’s last solo album, “Low Country Blues” was a great T Bone Burnett produced album of blues classics. I’d like to see Gregg write some stuff, let T Bone produce, but can we bring the organ sound back up in the mix a little this time? “Laid Back,” Gregg’s first solo album is one of my all time favorites. He’s sober, he’s been touring so his voice is likely strong… now is the time!
  14. Bruce Springsteen – High Hopes, 2014 (really it’s Wrecking Ball, 2012) – Sure, Springsteen released the strong “High Hopes” in 2014 but it was a group of songs that were left over from his previous two or three records. So, his last actual album of new stuff was 2012’s “Wrecking Ball.” I wasn’t crazy about “Wrecking Ball,” it was ok, but I liked “High Hopes.” I just read Springsteen is putting out a companion disc with his biography of “greatest hits”and a few unreleased early tracks but I’m ready for a full album of new stuff. I hear he’s got a solo record in the can, but I’d rather hear him with the E Street Band… we’ve already lost Clarence and Danny, how much time can Bruce afford to waste here? The band sounds great on the River Tour, lets take that energy into the studio.
  15. The Faces – Ooh La La, 1974 – OK, as everybody whose read B&V knows, I’m obsessed with Rod Stewart reuniting with the Faces. I know Kenny Jones and Ronnie Wood are the only remaining members (besides Rod) left but Goddammit I love the Faces. How kick ass would it be to see those guys put out an album. The songwriting team of Stewart-Wood put out some of my favorite tunes. This is more of an inside joke than anything, but like GnR, I can dare to dream….

Cheers!!

Sammy Hagar’s Other Bands: Montrose And Chickenfoot

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*Yes, that’s Sammy Hagar in the back, on the right. Shirts on guys… jeez.

 I went for my morning walk in the park today… I usually like to run, which is painful for others to watch, but I somehow hobbled myself with a lingering calf injury a few weeks ago. I suspect it was caused by standing for 2 and half hours at the Guns N Roses concert which means it was totally worth it. As I was walking along, I saw a guy complete his jog and immediately fire up a Marlboro Red, because nothing says physical fitness like strong tobacco. Hey, we don’t judge anybody’s vices here at B&V and I was surprised at my less than generous reaction to this guy. I’ve been in an edgy mood all week, likely caused by pressures my corporate overlords have been applying of late… There’s only one thing that will cure this mood. There are just times in life I need to hear some good old fashion, hard rock. Played loudly.

There’s a time for introspection. There’s a time for listening to well thought out, intricate lyrics. There’s a time for Dylan’s early protest songs. And then there’s a time for screaming, tortured guitar and drums that crash like Boston traffic on that weird corner on Comm Ave. There are many options for hard rock when I’m in this mood, but I need some good time music. In this troubled time, I need some Sammy Hagar.

There are generally two groups of Hagar fans. There are those of us who were on the bandwagon when he emerged on his solo career as the Red Rocker. His career didn’t really take off until his magnum opus, “Standing Hampton.” That album still sounds great today. I can’t hear “Baby’s On Fire” and not flash back to a girl I knew high school… but those records are sealed until 25 years after I’m dead. The “Three Lock Box” and “VOA” LPs followed up “Standing Hampton” and Hagar was on a roll. He was a staple on early MTV and his song “I Can’t Drive 55” became an anthem for those of us challenged by speed limits. I’ve always viewed them as more of a guideline really… except in school zones. Let’s protect the kiddo’s. Hagar was a consistent, hard rock, no nonsense guy. I really liked him as a solo artist.

The second type of Hagar fan, are those who know him from his time in Van Halen. No one was more surprised than I was when Sammy joined Eddie and the boys in what we all called Van Hagar. Well, I’m guessing David Lee Roth might have been more surprised than I was. The Rock Chick didn’t like Van Hagar and while she put together an excellent Van Halen playlist for my car, there is nary a Van Hagar song on the list. What can I say, she’s a purist. My buddy, the General (name obscured to protect the guilty), always complained about Sammy being in Van Halen, “Roth used to do kung fu on stage, Sammy shows up in capri pants and does aerobics.” He sorta had a point now that I look back on it. While I never thought Van Hagar was as good as the original line up in Van Halen I still thought it was a solid band. It was just different. Like the RHCP’s without Frusciante, the basic DNA of the band had changed. But I still think songs like “Summer Nights,” “Best of Both Worlds,” “Black And Blue,” and “Don’t Tell Me What Love Can Do” were kick ass tunes. These guys put out a solid set of LPs.

Both of these Hagar camps tend to overlook the fact that Sammy has been in a couple of other bands. Hagar’s career started when he joined the band Montrose as lead singer. I don’t know why but Montrose is one of those seemingly forgotten bands. Later in his career Sammy formed the “supergroup” Chickenfoot with guitar wizard Joe Satriani which is an extraordinarily overlooked band in my opinion. Say what you want about Sammy Hagar, he certainly knows how to pick lead guitarists to work with. It’s a Hall of Fame line up: Ronnie Montrose, Eddie Van Halen, Joe Satriani. All he’s missing is Hendrix… So today I want to quickly look back at these two forgotten bands because when you need some good, solid hard rock, these are two bands you can turn to.

Montrose, 1973-1974

Ronnie Montrose who had been mostly a session guitarist formed Montrose in 1973. He recruited fellow session man Bill Church to play bass and Denny Carmassi on drums. Sammy knew Denny and he was in. While this line-up only put out two albums, they were amazing records. You can’t hear Montrose’s loud guitar on their self titled first album without scratching your head over the fact that he’d played guitar on “Tupelo Honey” for Van Morrison. The guitar work on “Montrose” is heavy, heavy. Big fat chords and soaring solos. That first album was hugely influential. Oddly I never heard the great song “Bad Motor Scooter” until I got satellite radio. It never got played on the radio in KC, which is criminal.  “Rock The Nation” is a fabulous rock n roll call to arms. “Rock Candy” is a giant slab of hard rock. “One Thing On My Mind” despite it’s simpleton lyrics has a great guitar riff and a fabulous solo from Montrose. These guys even pull off a harder rocking version of Elvis’ “Good Rockin’ Tonight.” There was a moment in the early 70s when there was a break between the mostly British, heavy blues acts like Zeppelin and Cream and a new, non-bluesy, straight ahead, harder rock sound. I think this album may be the key to that leap. It’s what Jeff Beck called, “heavy  music.” This is a must have album.

“Paper Money” was the difficult second album. There are so many groups that have trouble on the sophomore album, call it the sophomore slump. “Paper Money” is no exception. It seems like Montrose wanted to go in a different direction creatively. There are acoustic guitars, like on the great Stones cover “Connection” and keyboard textures. Even the drum sound is different. That’s not to say this isn’t a good solid album. The title track and the great songs “The Dreamer” and “I Got The Fire” which sound more like the first album, are first rate tunes. “Underground,” the first track on the album is great, but you immediately pick up on the different sound Montrose were striving for. It wasn’t as hard as the first record. But alas, you can tell they were struggling to come up with enough material (like the old saying goes, “you have your whole life to write the first album, you have 2 months to write the second”) as filler like the trippy instrumental “Starliner” proves. On their European tour to support “Paper Money” Hagar and Montrose started to fight, probably over creative direction, and Hagar split. Carmassi and Church soon followed to join Hagar’s solo band. I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if they’d just stayed together. Like GnR I feel like there was an opportunity missed here.

Chickenfoot, 2009-2011

When I heard Hagar had formed a band with Joe Satriani on guitar, Michael Anthony of VH fame on bass and Chad Smith from the RHCP’s on drums, I admit, I was skeptical. I read early reviews and they complained that Satriani’s cool precision was ill-matched with Sammy’s sloppy, party guy approach. Both Smith and Anthony were the weaker links in their respective rhythm sections (Flea’s bass being more dominating and Alex Van Halen’s drumming being similarly more dominant). In essence the critics claimed the sum was less than it’s parts. Luckily I’m not a pasty, black turtleneck-in-the-summer, musical-intellectual critic from NY. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I like to consider myself a tad more… sanguine.

While I remained skeptical about Chickenfoot, a buddy of mine slipped me a copy of their first album, “Chickenfoot” and I was hooked. Again, this wasn’t like hearing “Led Zeppelin II” for the first time, but it was solid, meat-and-potatoes rock and roll. Satriani is truly the star on this first record. He sounds like he’s having a blast while tearing out solo’s that will melt your face off. “Sexy Little Thing,” “Turnin’ Left,” and “My Kind of Girl” will bore into your brain. I even like the ending, epic ballad, “Future In the Past.” You can’t go wrong popping this record on the stereo.

The ironically named second album, “III” is just as solid. I do not understand why this album was universally ignored. I never heard any of this record on the radio, satellite or otherwise. I read the other day Satriani was ready to do some more new music but Sammy said, “I don’t want to work that hard for six months to create music no one will hear.” These are the kind of records B&V was started for… “Last Temptation” starts the record on with a  great rock song. Hagar told Satriani to listen to the Black Keys before they did this record as he wanted that kind of sound. I don’t hear that connection but what a great place to start. “Alright Alright” has silly lyrics but is still a great rock song (lyrically you have to remember it was Hagar who wrote the stupidest lyric ever: “only time will tell if we stand the test of time,” read that over a few times). “Dubai Blues” is a great, dirty-blues rocker. I really like the tune “Come Closer” and I even dig the mid tempo ballad “Something Going Wrong.” That one might be my favorite. Alas now Satriani is back doing solo stuff and Hagar is on to his next band project with Anthony, the Circle, which features Jason Bonham on drums. They already put out a live album and Hagar says he digs their vibe and wants to get them in the studio. With Chad Smith on tour supporting the weak new RHCPs album, it looks like we’ll be waiting for that third Chickenfoot album which will likely be called “VI” because why not….

Do yourself a favor if you have a hankering for some great hard rock. Check out Montrose and Chickenfoot. Me, I’m considering pouring a nice, brown murky fluid into a tumbler and putting “Standing Hampton” on the turntable… “Baby’s On Fire” has me inspired in ways the Rock Chick will likely abhor…heh heh…. Rock Out, people. It’s all we can do in these troubled times…

Cheers!