Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Bush Revisited

Bush has been one of those bands that have benefited quite well from the dollar shop pawnshop buys that I have been doing the past few years.   For a band that has never really captured my fancy, Bush will go down in history has coming flying out of the runway with Everything Zen, which is perhaps the best Nirvana rip ever.  Unlike Kurt Cobain, Gavin Rossdale owes a bit more to the classic rock sound to which Everything Zen kinda reminds me of Crazy Horse (don't ask why they just do). My second favorite song from that album Sixteen Stone, the 45 second X Girlfriend.

Throughout their course of history, Bush's British Grunge music sounded perfect for alt radio and modern rock to which KRNA still plays Everything Zen and a couple others from the first album but nevertheless Bush has never been a critic's fave band no matter what they do.  The Steve Albini recorded Razorblade Suitcase was supposed to give them street cred, but that bombed as many a copy found itself into the dollar bins all across America and the problem wasn't Albini's production but rather a lack of songs that took up too much time and not worth remembering.  Deconstructed, was a techno flop, re-imagined the hits for techno dance and over an hour?  Not worth your time nor mine. The Science Of Things reunited them with the original producers who produced Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe back in the 80s but in 1999 it's a different story but The Science Of Things really starts out great with Warm Machine and Jesus Online and even The Chemicals Between Us is listenable for techno, but the rest of the album falters.  Cut the filler down to a reasonable 10 songs and it could be their classic.

Somehow Rossdale and company moved over to Atlantic for the ill fated Golden State before disbanding, Bush forming a new band Institute with Page Hamilton playing guitar and Distort Yourself which also featured Chris Traynor gave a harder edge sound that was lacking in Bush.  Rossdale made a listenable solo album Wanderlust, which All Music calls him the Grunge Peter Cetera (ouch).  Has its moments but for the most part you can live without it too.

And then Rossdale does the unthinkable, brings the Bush name out of mothballs, keeps the original drummer and adds Chris Traynor and makes the best album of their career, the Bob Rock produced The Sea Of Memories to which Bush finally becomes a good hard rock band and not a grunge bunch like they're known in the past.  And against all odds succeeds, thus getting this reviewer to go back and review their past catalog (and not costing me over 8 dollars in getting the back catalog).  For the most part Bush is in need of  a decent ICON collection that Interscope is famous for but since Kirkland Records has been reissuing the Trauma albums of the 90s we probably won't see that happening.  But as for yourself, your better off with Sixteen Stone and the Sea Of Memories  to understand what makes Bush a band to hear.  If not, well, there's better bands to cast your lot with.

UPDATED: Sixteen Stone and Razorblade Suitcase were once again reissued via Zuma Rock and I'm sure Science Of Things has been as well  although I didn't see it at Best Buy.  The usual propaganda of Remastered For The First Time (what the hell were the original Trauma/Kirtland CDs were supposed to be?  Remastered is a very very overused term since everytime you burn a copy, you're remastering it yourself).  After a one off with E One music, Bush signs up with Zuma Rock on a Sony Music deal and issues Man On The Run.  If you liked or love Sixteen Stone you'll tolerate Man On The Run although Nick Raskulinecz (Rush, Foo Fighters, Alice In Chains) really doesn't do much outside of turn the recording levels up higher than usual.  If Sea Of Memories was an extension of Distort Yourself, Man On The Run is basically Sixteen Stone Redux but without a key song like Everything Zen to make it memorable.   It's not bad, some songs are worthy of a second or third listen (Just Like My Other Sins, Loneliness Is A Killer) and the original album closer Eye Of The Storm could be an album cut for album rock, if there's such a thing.  But Rossdale will write a song that makes one smirk (Let Yourself Go, is about as dumb as the Breathe In Breathe out rant from Machinehead off 16 Stone) and in this day and age he will not convert new listeners or stifle his critics that like Bush as much as they do Nickleback, so Man On A Run is for fans and followers only.  The album is a tad bit more disappointing than Sea Of Memories, but the key element of Chris Traynor as member of band keeps Bush more rocking than usual, although Corey Blitz is more of a hired hand. Give Gavin Rossdale this, while the critics been after his head for 2 decades and waiting for him to fail, he continues to defiles them all.  Much to their dismay.

Update: In 2017 Rossdale came up with Black And White Rainbows, a somewhat more upbeat album considering that his marriage to Gwen Stefani crashed down beginning with Mad Love and continuing through Water and Lost In You although perhaps Gavin might be thinking more of his new found love, or perhaps a love letter to the remaining Bush fans out there.  The record drags on way too long and too many slower tempo songs at the end kinda makes this a chore to listen through if you're not a hardcore fan.  But it doesn't differ much from Sixteen Stone (to which let's face it will be the album that Bush will be forever remembered); it may have meant more if this was the followup to that album rather than the dull thud of Razorblade Suitcase 20 years earlier, but radio will not bend over backwards to play Black And White Rainbows, Bush's time has come and gone.  They could benefit from a best of.  But in theory, Rossdale has never topped Everything's Zen, that the first song that started a career and he could never follow it up with another rip roaring song.  I still think 2010's Sea Of Memories is their best overall album and Sixteen Stone the only other album you could ever want.  But I'm mostly amazed of myself  to continue to follow the antics of Gavin Rossdale and Bush by buying Man On The Run and Black And White Rainbows, knowing full well they might have a good song or two, but in the end they would stockpile their album with five or six subpar filler songs and lose whatever interest that I have had in the first place.  I doubt there'll be a next time, but I can never write Bush off.  It's a hard habit to break.

Sixteen Stone (Kirtland 1994) B
Razorblade Suitcase (Kirtland 1996)  C
Deconstructed (Trauma 1997) C-
The Science Of Things (Kirtland 1999) B
Golden State (Atlantic 2001) B-
Institute-Distort Yourself (Interscope 2005) B
Gavin Rossdale-Wanderlust (Interscope 2008) C+
The Sea Of Memories (E One 2010) B+
Man On The Run (Zuma Rock/Sony Music 2014) B
Black And White Rainbows (Zuma Rock/Caroline 2017) B

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Paul Revere And The Raiders

Three years ago I attempted to put into words the legacy of Paul Revere And The Raiders and their music.  This the original posting on the Record World Blog  http://rscrabb.blogspot.com/2011/04/crabb-bits-mel-mcdaniel-paul-revere.html

Three years on and the death of Paul Revere got me to return to their recordings and revisit what I thought of their 2 CD Essential Paul Revere And The Raiders, overall time has shown that was the best overview.  Basically the more scattershot Legend Of Paul Revere, the bloated 2 CD set Columbia issued in 1990 turned out the be the better overall overview.  More that album shows the tale of the two Paul Revere And The Raiders bands; the first the overall party band led by Revere and the second the more hit laden and pop leanings  of Mark Lindsay.   The liner notes to the 1990 best of by William Ruhlmann are a must read.  With both Paul and Mark providing insights it does show that the band had inner struggles between the two performers all the way back to when Lindsay popped up onstage in the early beginnings of The Raiders and impressing Paul to let him into the band.  It also shows that Lindsay can be full of himself at times too, whereas Revere remained the fun loving rock and roll guy who specialized in bad jokes and taking Louie Louie down the road further than the Kingsmen, though that band had the bigger hit.  It was sloppy fun, The Raiders' version was more jammy and since Lindsay didn't sing much of the song outside of Louie Louie hook line the song wouldn't dent the top 100. The Legend Of Paul Revere, the best of, is looked upon as one cd dedicated to the covers and the party time feeling of their leader, while the second focuses on Lindsay's studio version of the Raiders, more sessionmen than band members, which did struck a nerve on The Raiders themselves, three of them moved over to The Brotherhood and making two albums for RCA.  In their place, Freddy Weller and Keith Allison, more polished musicians would take their place.

The fun band that Paul Revere envisioned made recordings for Gardena and had a number 38 hit in 1961 with Like Long Hair or Beatnik Sticks and are on The Legend Of P.R. Mojo Workout, a sprawling two cd set that Sundazed put out in 2000 shows the dirty R and B and early rock songs that Paul liked.  Problem was Mark Lindsay couldn't deliver them in the same way.  Good example was the uncharting Over You, which Aaron Neville did much better.  And in these changing times, it's a bit creepy hearing Lindsay singing he's going to  kill his love interest if she goes cheating on him. Mojo Workout taken on its own is nice party music for the early 60s, the covers well known and chosen but Linsday can't sing them that well.  But then on track 18, when Steppin Out comes marching in, they were on to garage rock and that's when Lindsay does come into his own, the material is better suited for him rather than Over You or Slippin And Slidin'.

The big success of their hits, Terry Melcher gets full credit and he had a way to make the songs and hooks sound better.  In fact AM radio was perfect for Him Or Me What's It Gonna Be, or Kicks.  The albums themselves were peppered with R and B or an occasional ballad.  Just Like Us might have been the perfect introduction to The Raiders, with even Drake Levin and Mike Smith singing a song or two.  Here They Come is a half live half studio affair and the live side captures the craziness of a Paul Revere concert.  It's good fun to hear Louie Louie live and them romping through Do You Love Me or lead off You Can't Sit Down, a song that features that rare Mark Lindsay's sax solo. The studio side, showed The Raiders trying their best to cover Time Is On My Side, although it pales next to The Stones or Irma Thomas. They also cover PF Sloan on These Are Bad Times For Me And My Baby.  Not a total wasted effort but Here They Come is the first true Raiders album, in search of their own sound.

Midnight Ride was better, with Kicks being the big hit and Not Your Stepping Stone a album cut classic, it could have been a hit single for them, but The Monkees beat them to it.  Amazingly when the band was going through changes The Spirit Of 67 and Revolution remain my favorite albums from them.  By then Paul Revere was more interested in their live performances so it was Mark Lindsay and Terry Melcher with some studio musicians coming in to help; Hal Blaine is on Him Or Me (not Jim Gordon as rumors have it)  Spirit Of 67 features The Great Airplane Strike which gives The Rolling Stones a run for their money. Mark dominates the singing with Fang and Mike Smith singing one song apiece. Revolution is their heaviest album...and their strangest.  Some of the songs appeared in mono, the most oddest is Make It With Me, which Lindsay's vocals are buried in the fuzz, even the backing vocals are mixed higher up.  Only Paul Revere appears as the other vocalist on Ain't Nobody Can Do It Like Leslie Can (mixed in mono).  The CD version, now out or print and commanding high prices has an extended Him Or Me and The Legend Of Paul Revere (the song). The haunting I Hear A Voice, to which Mark and The Raiders sing along to a moody Revere piano.  Their finest moment.

Once Terry Melcher left to do other things, Lindsay took over production and they went pop with each new album.  Influenced by Sgt Pepper, Something Happening, is more Magical Mystery Tour with the oddball horns, and stop start bridges (Too Much Talk).  Being on Dick Clark's Where The Action Is  in the afternoon opened up new doors, but it also begins a bubblegum type of pop that I don't think Lindsay envisioned and has said that Melcher was missed big time.  Something Happening, while more polished wasn't as memorable as Revolution, only Don't Take It So Hard saves the album from being more slight.  Hard And Heavy With Marshmellow, another play on words by Mark is even more bubblegum with Mr. Sun And Mr. Moon, but the record is saved by the four minute and more mysterous sounding Cinderella Sunshine (A 2 minute up tempo track became a 45 but to these ears not as essential) and perhaps it's was becoming that The Raiders were trying to keep up with The Monkees. Only this time The Monkees made a better album.

Alias Pink Puzz is the final good album, and for the first time since The Spirit Of 67, the other Raiders add their two cents worth, most notably Keith Allison's Freeborn Man, which is more country than rock. In some ways I look at Pink Puzz like I do at the S/T Association album, it does show the bands doing something more different than the bubblegum pops that Lindsay was turning them out to be.  I'm not sure how radio mistook them for another band when Let Me came out under the Pink Puzz name, Lindsay has a distinctive voice  and if the fool radio programmer was didn't know that, he surely would by the MA MA MA MAA scream at end of song.   Collage, the next album, a lot of people like more but for me it was more a letdown. This record has more to do with the Monkees' Head album rather than Sgt Pepper's and Lindsay remade Tighter and Gone Movin On to a more polished but lest interesting version.  The problem of this album is that it's too bizarre, and Lindsay trying to keep up with the times made a dated effort, the screams all over Sorceress With The Blue Eyes or Dr. Fine makes one reach for the Fast Forward button. And Just Seventeen is just a bad song overall, probably the worst song they ever put out since Over You.  It's not all a wasted effort, We Gotta All Get Together in single form is fairly good till the last minute and half drags it down, a cover of Laura Nyro's Save The Country and Interlude (To Be Forgotten) are highlights.  But I tend to look at Collage is one of the more overrated albums of the 60s, even from Paul Revere And The Raiders themselves.

By then, Lindsay convinced Revere to change the name to The Raiders and in 1971 they finally scored their first and only number 1 hit with Indian Reservation. The album itself is famous for Mike Smith returning back to drums.  But the album itself is all over the place, there are some questionable remakes (the world could live without with Eve Of Destruction) and Max Frost and The Troopers aren't losing sleep over The Shape Of Things To Come.  Although I think Lindsay showed some music taste in covering Come In You'll Get Phenomena (the Easybeats song) the problem was he lacked the vocal and arrangement to pull it off. The success of the single enabled Columbia to release another album and the final one was the uneven Country Wine.  First side is good, the title track, Power Blue Mercedes Queen (with a riff taken from Mississippi Queen) standouts, but side 2 whatever Lindsay came up with, the songs simply were awful and ranks with the worst that they ever done.  The failure of their 1974 single All Over You, a Bob Dylan song made their label decide to not issue another album and the Raiders decade long association with Columbia was over, sans a forgotten 1975 single Gonna Have A Good Time b/w the bland Your Love which appears on the now deleted and hard to find Complete Columbia Singles on Collector's Choice Music.  By then Mark Lindsay and Paul Revere decided to go their own ways.  Revere would form his own Raiders in the late 70s, and instead of doing new recordings, stayed true to his vision of being a fun and party band, playing the hits and doing comedy skits and routines and become one of the most loved entertainers till his death.  Lindsay's latest album actually sounds more rocking to the early Raiders rather than the MOR pop he was doing in the late 60s and early 70s: having hits with Arizona and Silverbird.  The Real Gone Columbia Singles of Mark Lindsay CD, warts and all isn't bad.  In 2013 Mark released Life Out Loud and is by far his most rocking album to date. It does actually recall a lot of Spirit Of 67 or Revolution, it's a shame that Mark didn't go this way after those albums.

In some ways The Complete Columbia Singles a great beginning and end saga of the happenings of Paul Revere And The Raiders and if you can find it fairly cheap is the recommended overview.  But it also documents the downfall as well.  The Raiders really begin to lose their ID on the 3rd CD.  A development of being wild garage rockers that gave The Wailers a run for their money to a garage rock sound and then on to pop bubblegum.  Cheaper alternatives remain the latest 2 CD best of Paul Revere And The Raiders or even the first Paul Revere And The Raiders Greatest Hits revision with a few bonus tracks tacked on for better value. Sundazed used to have all of the Paul Revere And The Raiders' classic 60s album but most have fallen out of print, as of this writing only Just Like Us, Mojo Workout, Midnight Ride are in print.  However Raven Records down under has kept their albums in print, including Indian Reservation/Collage as a 2 on 1 CD. They also packaged the first five Columbia albums on a double value 2 cd set.  Something Has Happened includes the next four (Goin To Memphis, Something Happening, Hard And Heavy, Pink Puzz) into a 2 CD set.  So if you buy these two Raven packages you will have the complete Paul Revere on Columbia collection.  The Aussies seem to take great pride in preserving music that the Sony Music here in the states has given up years ago.  I still hold claim that their 1972 All Time Greatest Hits is the go to album but since that has never on CD, it's a moot point but if you do come across it, it's still worth a listen.

But being the madman in rock and roll Paul Revere, bless his heart, lived his dream to the fullest, when Jack White made a comment about how old men can't rock anymore, Revere told him to put up or shut up, but White never took the challenge.  His loss.  But what we all know, Paul Revere remained the real deal, and never a phoney or fake. Thankfully, his recordings will continue to live on, making new fans who don't get the new rock of today.  Or just get tired of whatever Jack White is putting down.


Here They Come (Columbia 1964) B+
Just Like Us (Sundazed Reissue) B+
Midnight Ride (Columbia 1966) B+
Spirit Of 67 (Columbia 1967) A-
Paul Revere And The Raiders Greatest Hits (Columbia 1967 revised 1999) A-
Revolution! (Columbia 1967) A-
Gone To Memphis (Columbia 1968) C+
Something Happening (Columbia 1968) B-
Hard And Heavy (With Marshmellow-Columbia 1968) B-
Alias Pink Puzz (Columbia 1969) B+
Collage (Columbia 1970) B-
Indian Reservation (Columbia 1971) B-
Country Wine Plus (Raven 2011) C+
All Time Greatest Hits (Columbia 1972) A-
A Christmas Past...And Present (Koch Reissue 2007) B
The Legend Of Paul Revere (Columbia 1990) B
The Essential Ride 63-67) (Columbia 1996) A-
Mojo Workout (Sundazed 2000) B
The Complete Columbia Singles (Collector's Choice 2010) A-
The Essential Paul Revere & The Raiders (Columbia 2011) B+

Mark Lindsay-Arizona/Sliverbird (Collectibles 2 on 1-1971) C
You've Got A Friend (Columbia 1973) B-
The Complete Columbia Singles of Mark Lindsay (Real Gone 2012) B
Life Out Loud (Bongo Boy 2013)  B+

Here They Come/Just Like Us/Midnight Ride/Spirit Of 67/Revolution (Raven Import 2011) A-
Something Is Happening/Hard And Heavy/Alias Pink Puzz (Raven Import 2012) B+
Indian Reservation/Collage (Raven Import) B-
Country Wine Plus (Raven Import 2013) C+

Thursday, September 18, 2014

George Hamilton IV

The passing of George Hamilton IV barely caused a ripple in the music world Thursday.  George passed away from a heart attack and was 77 years old.  But he started out as a teen idol of sorts recording a bunch of sides of ABC Paramount before going into the country music world and scoring a number 1 hit with Abilene.  For a 10 plus year career at RCA Victor, Hamilton is better known for discovering and incorporating folk rock into his albums. He was one of the first artists to record Gordon Lightfoot.  He covered Urge For Going a Joni Mitchell write up.  But my favorite songs remain It's My Time, one of the better John Loudermilk songs ever written although it sounded too much like Break My Mind. But since I couldn't find the forty five of It's My Time, I paid 10 dollars for a used copy of the Gentle Soul Of George Hamilton IV from the now gone Memory Lane Records in Tempe years ago.  Even better was a 97 cent record found at The Salvation Army called West Texas Highway, his long forgotten 1971 album for RCA, and he covered James Taylor's Sweet Baby James, a then unknown Michael Martin Murphy and Boomer Castleman's title track of WTH and the Ozark Mountain Daredevils Larry Lee What's Forth Worth as well as some fine songs by Harlan Howard and Bill Anderson.  And produced by Bill Ferguson (Porter Waggoner).  But by then country radio had ignored him although he continued to record for RCA and later ABC, MCA and Dot and a few more.  By the late 90s George was doing gospel 90 percent of the time although he would make the rare secular album such as 2011's  In The Heart Of Texas.

For CD greatest hits, George is non existent. Collectibles issued his RCA album of Abilene and it's a solid album but Sony Music never thought to include him in their long deleted RCA Country Legends series in the US but there's a import that cherry picks the hits and leaves out It's My Time but gives the listener She's A Little Bit Country. Not a good trade off.  Bear Family has done a much better although sloppy job of the RCA early years and The ABC Paramount era with To You And Yours, which is more of the latter label than the former.  So it's either the overblown To You And Yours From Me And Mine 6 CDs box with the early recordings and odd and ends, or it's the 3 cd set My North Country Home which might be the best Gordon Lightfoot tribute album, with the songs that Gordon wrote.  But don't hold your breath for any more of the RCA albums to be reissued but most if not all have highlights.  Except for She's a Little Bit Country.

RIP to a great country singer.

The Days Of Rockpile

Let's face it.  In a perfect world Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds and Rockpile would be in the rock and roll hall of fame.  Actually they are....in mine.  The uniqueness that is Rockpile stems from the meeting up of retro rocker Dave Edmunds and journeyman de facto leader of Brinsley Schwarz  Nick Lowe, which that band started out somewhat in the style of Buffalo Springfield but got more pop sounding with each album.  Edmunds at that time was a up and coming producer who did Foghat's first album and had a hit of his own with I Hear You Knockin, but Edmunds himself was a one man band.  In 1974 Edmunds produced the Brinsleys What So Funny About Peace Love And Understanding, a minor in the UK (uncharted in the US due to a lack of interest of United Artists promoting it, Elvis Costello covered it in 1979).

However the pub rock scene was in full bloom in the UK.  Bands like Ducks Deluxe and Eddie And The Hot Rods and The Pirates are rising up the dust in pubs and a new label called Stiff started up and Lowe became somewhat of a staff writer and producer. Lowe had a hand in Graham Parker's albums and The Dammed but messing around in the studio he came up with So It Goes (done with Steven Goulding on drums (The Rumour) and the punk fused Heart Of The City which was a far cry from the corporate rock of FM radio of Boston or Heart.  Edmunds on the other hand made a tribute album to Phil Spector and The Everly Brothers for RCA and then signed to Swan Song, Led Zeppelins' label.  At times he used Nick Lowe on bass and Terry Williams (Man) on drums and in 1977 released Get It.  A fun romp through 50s and 60s rock and roll  his I Knew The Bride was more country rather than the Lowe speed rock that can be heard on Stiffs Live.  But Get It, is the first true album of what would be Rockpile the band, rather than Rockpile, Edmunds' alter ego and improves over Subtle As A Flying Mallet, the 1975 RCA one off.  Edmunds was expert in providing many of vocal overdubs on Get It, What Did I Do Last Night or Little Darlin' which managed to scrape the top 100.  But the heart of the record remains more 1961 rather than 1977 and Edmunds could imitate any type of music he wanted, from Dion ballads (Where Or When) to George Jones to Elvis (My Baby Left Me, just about note for note).

1978 really begins the Rockpile era.  Lowe recorded for Stiff Records (later issued to Columbia) and Edmunds for Swan Song so they could do two albums per year. And Lowe's Jesus Of Cool, later renamed Pure Pop For Now People becomes the first album and the Columbia version is all over the place, beginning with So It Goes and Heart Of The City, the Stiff singles, a goofy Bay City Rollers tribute song and power pop songs like Marie Provost, Breaking Glass, and They Called It Rock. When Pure Pop went out of print, Yep Roc reissued Jesus Of Cool and added plenty of b sides and oddities to make it a better buy.  His Heart Of The City live version, Edmunds used vocal overdubs for the same take on Tracks On Wax 4, still remains their most hardest rocking song ever.  It also includes Cruel To Be Kind (the original version).  Even with the meddling Columbia cherry picking and redoing the song sequence Pure Pop For Now People remains a classic album in itself but Jesus Of Cool is the better buy.  Tracks On Wax 4 from Edmunds had much compressed mix and louder sound, but Edmunds' heart remains in Eddie Cochran/Chuck Berry land with Trouble Boys and a over the top It's My Own Business, and of course the Everly Brothers on What Looks Good On You Is Me.

1979 is the year of Rockpile coming into their own as Lowe and Edmunds made their best albums, Lowe's Labour Of Lust and Edmunds' Repeat When Necessary.  Nick was more experimental, he'd add elements of  punk on Switch Board Susan, Love So Fine and Born Fighter.  Edmunds updated his sound but still kept a love of Phil Spector on Take Me For A Little While, gone blues on Bad Is Bad (featuring one Huey Lewis) but Edmunds choose wisely on his covers, Elvis Costello's Girls Talk is one of the best things he ever did, and getting Albert Lee to play guitar on Sweet Little Lisa, and Queen Of Hearts is better than Juice Newton's version.  But it also helped that Billy Bremner came on to play lead guitar as well. Billy's presence in this band cannot be understated.  And it was nice to see Cruel To Be Kind hit the top 30.  Still, in my book, Labor and Repeat both albums were the top 2 best of 1979.  And the future looked bright for Rockpile to make it even big right?

So it goes. 1980 the first true Rockpile album Seconds Of Pleasure came out and the combined efforts of Lowe and Edmunds and even Bremner made the record a fun album.  Of course Nick wrote the songs, and Edmunds found the covers but the perfect 2 minute song was Now And Always, somewhat of a throwaway but it's not.  They could rock out with If Sugar Was As Sweet As You or You Ain't Nothing But Fine. But the band was falling apart and a falling out had Edmunds leaving and Nick moving on to new members although both of them had enough material to do their own albums, Nick The Knife and Twangin...from Edmunds. The latter sounds thrown together, after all this was Edmunds' final album for Swan Song and while some of the songs were still quality (Almost Saturday Night, You'll Never Get Me Up In One Of Those) there was more filler than what I expected from Edmunds.  I'm going to start living again even if it kills me might be the best direct link to George Jones and The Everlys. But overall pales next to Nick The Knife which comes out of the field running with a drum heavy Burnin, going into a reggae beat of Heart (much different from the seconds of pleasure version) and then Stick It Where The Sun Don't Shine, co sung with soon to be ex wife Carlene Carter who married Lowe. But it was becoming clear that Nick was changing his music from power pop punk to contemporary rock and roll.  While Lowe was rocking less, Edmunds was rocking more with D E 7th, his first for Columbia in 1982 with Me And The Boys.  But in all fairness, Rockpile was basically done with Twangin... and Nick The Knife.

Over the years Lowe would be changing his style to a more crooning country style that I have never gotten much into, although most of it is fine, I come to find that the albums starting with Pinker And Prouder Than Previous was the musical downslide of Lowe, content to gently rock out and a far cry from the 70s.  Edmunds did work with Lowe one more time on the 1989 flop Party Of One and Lowe's last good album. The start of a long and fruitful relationship with Bill Kirchen (Commander Cody) Ry Cooder and Jim Keltner, the latter two he worked with when he helped John Hiatt with Bring The Family.  That included a one off album called Little Village in 1993 with Hiatt, but Party Of One Lowe would bring some of his later day classics stuff like You Got The Look I Like and I Don't Know Why You Keep Me Hangin On, a duet with Paul Carrack.  A solid record but it didn't sell, and Lowe would move on to Upstart and later Yep Roc.  Edmunds on the other hand started working with Jeff Lynne (ELO) for the 1983 Information album and later Riff Raff.  A bit too techno rock and too much of a ELO both albums do have their charm.  After a live album, Edmunds dropped out for a few years, than returning with Closer To The Flame (Capitol) and then back to the DIY that recalls of the days of Rockpile the Edmunds alter ego band of the early 70s with Plugged In a valiant effort but rather more of a hobby album since it didn't sell.   Edmunds has been semi retired of late but has put together some new songs.  A Pile Of Rock, with The Refreshments and Gerant Watkins backing Dave up was a worthy live effort although I have yet to hear it.

In the end, when Lowe and Edmunds teamed up in the late 70s to make albums under their own name, it was like getting two albums from them in the same year.  Rockpile to me was the Beatles in my lifetime. They were that much loved.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Radio Misfits Or Where Are They Now

I make no secret how much I hate Corporate Radio and the same 200 songs played day after day after day after day etc etc etc.  The love of such overplayed classic like Centerfold or Sweet Home Alabama or Dream On or Boston's first album have long gone, especially suffering in a department that the radio can only pick up classic rot (The Fox) shitty top forty (Z102.9) bro country (98.1 K Hack) or shitty 'real rock' (KRNA) for music.  I rather have my ears picked out with a stick than have to deal with Back In Black selections or the three Guns and Roses numbers off their first which can be very annoying when dealing with a machine that breaks down while W Axl Rose screams over and over again.  The nadir of classic rock radio or "real" rock shows a lack of variety that there is much more to Nirvana or Pearl Jam of music 20 years ago.  Figure that Dookie and Smash are 20 years old now, nobody has any loving for the 16 million selling album Cracked Rear View from Hootie and The Blowfish which REAL ROCK KRNA used to have in their playlist before somebody watching Beavis and Butthead decided that KRNA needed to add death metal or grunge to the equation.  Too bad you can't fire bomb Cumulus or Clear Channel radio, which dominates the FM field.  If you want country classics you have to sort through five watt 1360 but knowing you can't that up, you're stuck with the latest horse hockey from Rascal Flatts on K Hack or bad heavy metal disguised as country radio.

In the age of the internet, time flies as faster than ever since we're on the computer 20 hours at a time it seems and 15 years ago, life got this fast as I got my first used computer and fought with that for about a year before getting a Gateway and fighting that for another two years.  Past ten years I've had the same computer but it's pretium 4, it hangs up more often than not  (like it is now) and researching the oldies and archives take much longer than it used to.  The future seems to be on smart phones where you can down load apps to get lesser known radio pod casts and net stations to hear what Cumulus/Clear Channel won't play.  Didn't used to be that way till Newt Gingrich sneaked past Bill Clinton doing Monica no doubt, the Telecommunications Act Of 1996 which gave us the Corporate CSers that is Cumulus/CC.  And the same shit music and now much loathed rock classics that we're sick of hearing three times in one 8 hour setting picking cotton at our employment.    Funny how KRNA used to play Nickleback  but now since that band is uncool, they haven't.  In the era of 1994, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains and Stone Temple Pilots still live on but you don't hear Circus Of Power, Helmet and Killing Joke.  Think of ten years ago, Good Charlotte you couldn't escape hearing on the radio but now you don't anymore.  Los Lonely Boys came out with a debut that got played to death but 8 years later, they're forgotten in radio land.  Or Sister Hazel.  All For You makes them a one hit wonder, never mind they had a few more albums out after that.

Punk music of the 1990s has not aged very well. I really wasn't much into Rancid although Green Day is my choice of punk music, but KRNA considers them to rock and roll, so you can hear the usual Dookie hits.  Or Offspring's  Smash which somewhat holds up but every album after that they got to be a novelty act.  A lot like Smash Mouth.  Walking On The Sun is retro cool, Astro Lounge broke them with All Star, which made them a novelty act and after the third album nobody cared.  So they're playing county fairs and package deals with other washed up 90s acts.  Even Eve 6, which 15 years ago gave us Inside Out  is now a oldies act.  Like the rest, play for 15 minutes, just the hits and then hit the road to another town in the night. MXPX, basically Green Day light but speed metal due to a drummer with a sugar buzz and Torette's disease. Chick Magnet, they duplicated Green Day's Longview beat and got a minor hit for their trouble though you're more inclined to hear it on net radio.  They never did top Green Day, they came close with the Everpassing  Moment with Dave Grohl helping out but they blew their collective cool by then going for a Good Charlotte sound, with an eye on better sales.  That didn't work. But they're still around playing whenever they get a moment free from families and life situations.

Perhaps Blink 182 was the more serious contender to Green Day but the Blinkers seem to have a fixation with poo poo jokes and worse ones.  Dude Ranch is a poo poo joke itself, but Enema Of The State was a much better effort, a mature one at times although this year's event the boys couldn't help but change a few lines of their hits in a typical Animal House fashion.  The Mike Portnoy of punk drummers Travis Barker helped their sound a lot after he replaced the original drummer.  It's been said that Cheshire Cat, the album before Dude Ranch is one of the classic punk albums of the 1990s but once they enlisted the late Jerry Finn (Green Day/MXPX/Suicide Machines) to help guide them, they found their stride.  I'll give them this, the 2011 Neighborhoods album was a nice comeback album.  But even though they're in their 40s, they still can't stop telling poo poo jokes or playing the Cussing Song live (which can be found on Short Music For Short People on Fat Wreck Chords).  But at least they're still playing live, unlike Good Charlotte who has become a footnote to punk rock history despite rumors of a new album this year.

The lack of variety on Corporate Radio is a very sore subject and although this blog attempts to seek out the ones that did get some airplay, for some reason they don't now.   Make no mistake AC DC is good and their albums are classic, I just don't want to hear Back In Black on regular rotation the past 30 years.  And in the meantime Cumulus/Clear Channel overlook such bands like their counterparts The Angels (although Marsalies gets played once a month) or the even harder rocking Kings Of The Sun (the new Clifford Hoad led Rock Till You Die is better than anything KRNA plays new).  While Green Day gets the corporate love, none is shared for MXPX or Less Than Jake.  The Seattle Superbands of the 90s are on regular rotation but King's X, Atomic Opera, Ministry  and Helmet are on the outside looking in.  And don't get me started on Pink Floyd, since Porcupine Tree has been the best prog rock band in this era and KRNA still manages to pull out The Wall or Wish You Were Here (and of course Dark Side) instead.  And no King Crimson either.

Every day we have more new music to go with the past, there's never been so much out there and never has there's been so few ways to hear it, certainly not Corporate Radio.  Public Radio tries their best, but their format is about 4 hours before The World Cafe comes on.  And what the DJs play for new music isn't any better than the classic crap but at least it's a different torture.  Streaming is the way of the future for some but for me, it's never going to change me not buying anything and if there was a way we can hear it on the radio rather than a Smart phone at work I'm open to suggestion.

But there's a always a place for Radio Misfits and you can find them at the thrift store and the dollar section. You're better off just to take a bunch of CDs to work and listen to them.  But make sure you have a few to get through the night and have enough variety not to generate burnout like we do listening to the fucking FOX or KRNA at night.

Better yet, just give me silence.  It's better than four hours of earworms like Foolin' by Def Leppard in your head all night. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Buck Pets

The 90s is the last decade of creativity before major label buyout mania took over and the independent cool labels got swallowed up by corporations.  Good for the share holders but for the music listener not much so. Even in the 80s Island Records when Chris Blackwell was heading that label managed to score some good bands along the way.  John Mayall made two late comeback albums that were great, the now hard to find Chicago Line one of them. Drivin' n Cryin' the most visible.  And one of them came from Texas by the unique name of The Buck Pets.

A typical story of a one album wonder band, The Buck Pets' debut album is a raw sonic sludge of loud guitars and a combination of Soul Asylum lyricism but with a Husker Du' guitar sound that kinda foretold the grunge movement.  But since they were not from Seattle, the term is more Alt Guitar Noise.  Their first album remains their sole classic album. A bit of Jane's Addiction stop and start rock was added on for good measure, my guess is they couldn't name themselves The Fuck Ups and decided to find a name that could rhyme with that, thus The Buck Pets. Island was gracious enough to send the boys down to the Bahamas at Compass Point and get Ron St Germain to produce and mix the album and it doesn't sound out of place along with Jane's Addiction or early Husker Du', I hear The Junk Monkeys as well.  The band owes nothing to Peter Buck or REM, the initial reaction was them being associated to REM but not at all.  Unless they inspired REM to record Monster a few years later.  The first song Iron Cock probably scared away MTV 120 Minutes or Headbangers Ball but it's a nice start to the album.  I think the highlights is the acid power pop of Song For Louise Post and bonus CD cut The Bad Sleep Good,  Or Not At All which melody was probably inspired by Nirvana's Bleach but for references to such bands of influence, The Buck Pets S/T still manages to hold up.

But somehow the attitude changed big time and perhaps the Island buy out to Polygram soured the band and the next album Mercurotones paled in comparison. A product of Corporate Island telling them what to do and what sound is now, the record is just about total confusion as The Bucks tried anything and everything to update their sound but a lot of songs never get going or sound unfinished.  Perhaps the best title of this album is Fuck It by The Buck Pets.  One song Libertine is produced by the Dust Brothers (Beastie Boys) and the rest done by Michael Beinhorn whose best moment was Mother's Milk by Red Hot Chili Peppers and one of the more hands on and less satisfying producers of the 90s. Rock Goddess (R T Cocaine Blues) starts the record out okay but the rest of the record they sound bored. Libertine at least changes the outcome a bit and perhaps the Dust Brothers would have been a better choice of production than Beinhorn. The first album was husker du drive, Mercurotones is driven more by the Pixies.  Not a total waste, Hey Sunshine shows that they can do power pop fairly well.  But the band disown just about everything about this album including art work and photo taken.  The record flopped and Corporate Island said bye bye.

A change of label to Restless (aka Worthless Records according to the band) didn't help things. A change of drummers and To The Quick was released to indifference. Living Is The Best Thing got some airplay on the album rock station but nothing more came of this.  Ted Nicely replaces Mike Beinhorn at production but the problem was the songs were even less memorable than Mercurotones and they were stuck on a label that had no clue on how to promote this band.  A cover of the Who's Bargain is commendable but if you want to ever hear an album of a band giving up. To The Quick is that.  They did  threw in the towel after that, although Andy Thompson and Chris Savage did get the band back together for a 2010 reunion show.

For all intent purposes, The Buck Pets fit very well with Alternative rock of the late 80s, when they came out of the gate, they showed their influences and inspiration quite well but with record label meddling the next two efforts make a valid point of not signing with a major label.  You can hear the results.  For for a short time in 1989, they were one of the up and coming bands.  The first album is all you need to know.


The Buck Pets (Island 1989) A-
Mercurotones (Island 1990) B-
To The Quick (Restless 1993) C

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Remingtons

In the late 80s and early 90s it was not uncommon for soft rockers form country bands and make a decent living from it.  Chris Hillman probably had the most success with The Desert Rose Band.  Henry Paul went from the southern rock of The Outlaws and his namesake Henry Paul Band to form a partnership with Van Stephenson (Modern Day Delilah) and country hack Kent Robbins with the band Black Hawk which had a successful 90s run themselves.  Sometimes other bands fall through the cracks.  The Remingtons were one those who did.

Richard Mainegra and Rick Yancey were in the soft rock band Cymarron that had a 1971 hit with Rings, James Griffin was in Bread, perhaps the ultimate soft rock band of that time.  In 1991 thereabouts these guys got together to make two country rock albums for the dreaded BNA label.  Produced by Larry Michael Lee (Ozark Mountain Daredevils singer of Jackie Blue and later produced the likes of Alabama, Restless Heart and even R& B singer Tracie Spencer) and Josh Leo (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) the 1992 Blue Frontier was a product of country music of the 1990s, smooth harmonies, and soft tempo courtesy of some of the finest Nashville session players at that time ( Biff Watson, Bernie Leadon, Mike Rhodes, Harry Stinson).  Blue Frontier is mainstream C&W, with two top twenty hits with A Long Time Ago (10) and Two Timin Me (18). Like Restless Heart, it's ballad heavy and not enough rockin country to satisfy more than a curious listen.  But when James Griffin takes the lead on When Love At First Sight Goes Blind or Takin The Easy Way Out, then the record comes to life.  The record managed to peak at number 55 in 1992 and BNA ponied up for a new album.

Yancey left, Denny Henson replaced him and they recorded Aim For The Heart, a album that was better for the choice of a remake of Everything I Own, the old Bread classic, this time James Griffin did the vocals.  Jimmy sang on half of the 10 songs on Aim For The Heart, Robb Royer, an old Bread band mate and songwriter contributed the song Lucky Boy.  A bit more MOR pop while maintaining an eye on the country side, the record bombed and The Remingtons were let go from BNA.

The fact of the matter is that The Remingtons may have owed something from their soft rock beginnings but they were also were part of the music scene like that of Desert Rose Band.  A more friendlier sound than Desert Rose Band which meant more ballads.  And unfortunately for them what they had in mind for music, Black Hawk took a little bit further and had more hits.   Denny Henson and James Griffin continued on till Griffin died from cancer in 2005.

A footnote in country music of 1990s The Remingtons were not bad, most of the time they wrote their own songs. And anything Jimmy Griffin played in, he did give them a more rocking edge in the music they made. Nobody remembers them much anymore, today's country radio ignores them (like they do with Black Hawk and Desert Rose Band and even Restless Heart, unless Willie's Roadhouse plays them) and their CDs can be found in the dollar bins but both albums do have a good song or two. 

Blue Frontier (BNA 1992) B
Aim For The Heart (BNA 1993) B+

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Reo Speedwagon Updated

Once upon a time REO Speedwagon was a hard rocking band from Illinois that managed to have a good rocking debut featuring Terry Luttrell. Had a minor hit with Lay Me Down and Sophisticated Lady but Luttrell left after a following out with Gary Richrath. Kevin Cronin replaced him and made REO TWO which was more of that hard rock and boogie and got FM airplay with Golden Country (to which Luttrell said he co-written with Richrath but never got credit). Then Cronin left and was replaced by Mike Murphy.

While reviews of Riding The Storm Out were not nice, I find it to be a rewarding album simply of the fact that a coworker had a 8 track of that and it was played a lot at the old APCO station that I used to work at. Joe Walsh helped out on a few songs on Riding The Storm Out and I always preferred the title track over the OTT version that classic rock radio plays to death. However Lost In A Dream was less enjoyable and This Time We Really Mean It showed REO spinning their wheels and getting nowhere. Murphy then left and Cronin came back for the 1976 REO album and despite tinny production from John Stronach, had a FM hit with Keep Pushin' and I Believe That Our Time Will Come. I used the like You Get What You Play For, their 1977 Live double but found that in my later years I tend to prefer the originals.

1978 began the classic years beginning with the wonderful You Can Tune A Piano But You Can't Tuna Fish and they got hits with Roll With The Changes and Time For Me To Fly although it's a shame that Blazing Your Own Trail wasn't selected for the third hit. In my senior year, had this on cassette and it was one of the most played tapes that I did have. Nine Lives, didn't sell as well but it rocked harder with Drop It (An Old Disguise), Heavy On Your Love and Only The Strong Survive but yet this didn't have any ballads, unless you count the country sounding I Need You Tonight. But Hi inFIdelity broke them big time on the strength of Keep On Loving You and then REO became ballad heavy and after that I pretty much gave up on them from here on out and Richrath was eventually forced out of the band. Good Trouble took up where Hi Infidelity left off and basically was a snoozer and Wheels Are Turning and Life As We Know It were by the numbers MOR pop. Last year REO returned to Sony Music to put out the budget christmas album Not So Silent Night but I never did hear that. Find Your Way Home might have been their best since Hi Fidelity.

Like a fool, I sold my CD copy of REO and kept the album only to find out that the vinyl album was pretty scratchy. Guess I have to see if I can try to find that record. But in the end, REO started out a great midwestern rock and boogie band and then sold their soul for the radio and got that major hit. As for myself I prefer the rockers over the ballads anytime of year.

In the time since this original review I have come to find that the overplayed hits have soured my listening to their albums even though Keep On Loving You or Take It On The Run are cheese entertainment.  Today's Millennials roll their eyes and smirk on the tongue in cheek Tuna Fish, which has been nominated as one of the top ten all time worst album titles ever but still is a classic album in its own wake thanks to John Boylan helping with production.  And I even thought Kevin Beamish captured the REO sound quite well on Nine Lives although his later work with Henry Paul Band and Jefferson Starship really became dated 80s synch pop. Songs like Drop It or Only The Strong Survive still hold up. Anything beginning with Good Trouble onward, their label branded them into MOR pop like Journey but only more poppier and nobody remembers Terry Luttrell or Mike Murphy anymore.  At least on Find Your Way Home, Kevin Cronin finally learned how to rock a little bit more, something that he didn't do on Building A Bridge or worse the 1990 Epic farewell and flop A Man, His Dog, His Chicken etc to which the band finally rocks out, on the last two songs.  Which were the best two songs of that forgettable LP. 

But nowadays Kevin Cronin and company are content to bask in the past glories of Keep On Loving You or Can't Fight This Feeling and can be seen playing at state fairs and casinos, sometimes with classic rock refugees Foreigner and Styx, sometimes on their own.     I know in my heart that while I enjoyed having Cronin returned in 1976, replacing Murphy as the lead singer, my guilty pleasure still remains with the Murphy led Ridin The Storm Out or Luttrell's appearance on the first album.  The first remains a midwest rock classic but each album after that would reveal a more California pop and roll even on Ridin The Storm Out, Reo Two, still holding on to a Illinois groove.  But back then, their record label held out a very long 10 year association with them, till they hit gold with the 1977 Live album and after that the Platinum selling Hi Infidelity. And they sold out their collective cool, and eventually Gary Richrath would leave, thus finally giving Cronin his pop vision that started with the 1976 REO album and grew.  Like Journey, I'm happy they found their formulaic style of ballads and light pop, but also like Journey I'd rather hear them rock out than ballading it. Thank God, they haven't milked remaking the hits like Foreigner always seems to do, but then again they beat that band into making their own Christmas album.    Buyer beware indeed.  

Gary Richrath, the long time guitarist of the band passed away on September 12, 2015.

REO Speedwagon (Epic 1971) A-
REO-TWO (Epic 1972) A-
Riding The Storm Out (Epic 1973) B+
Lost In A Dream (Epic 1974) B-
This Time We Really Mean It (Epic 1975) C
REO (Epic 1976) B+
You Get What You Play For-REO Live (Epic 1977) C+
You Can Tune A Piano But You Can't Tuna Fish (Epic 1978) A-
Nine Lives (Epic 1979) A-
Hi Infidelity (Epic 1980) B+
A Decade Of Rock And Roll (Epic 1981) B+
Good Trouble (Epic 1982) C+
Wheels Are Turning (Epic 1983) C
Life As We Know It (Epic 1984) C
REO-The Hits (Epic 1988) B-
The Earth, The Man, His Small Dog And A Chicken (Epic 1990) C+
The Second Decade Of Hits (Epic 1991) C+
Building A Bridge (Castle 1996) C+
Find Your Own Way (2007) B
Not So Merry Christmas (Legacy/CMG 2010) C+

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Dream Academy

Somewhere to the left of alternative music and to the right of new age lies The Dream Academy. Best known for Life In A Northern Town with the chorus similar to The Lion Sleeps Tonight it was one of the better songs of 1985, the year of We Built This City, Take On Me and Broken Wings.  But they got points for having David Gilmour taking a liking to them and producing their first album.

While Nick Laird-Clowes is the leader, it was Katie St. John that was MVP with her multi intstruments in tow and shaping up the sonic landscape of this band (let's not forget Gilbert Gabriel too) which made the first album a good listen. Their best album was Remembrance Days, which Lindsay Buckingham helped co produce (with Hugh Padgham (Genesis, XTC)) and does a fairly good cover of Everybody Gotta Learn Sometime. Gilmour returns to co production on A Different Kind Of Weather and the choice of cover was John Lennon's Love.  The record was kinda underwhelming and probably the least of the three Dream Academy releases out there.  Gabriel and St. John moved on to other things, Kate being the more out front by helping Van Morrison on some of his albums and Marianne Faithful.

There hasn't been a best of Dream Academy in the US, a import came about and added some remixes and a couple non LP tracks but as overview disappoints.  Real Gone in 2014 compiled the first ever Best of in the states and adds a new song and a few more outtakes with David Gilmour on guitar.  Laird-Clowes' version of what he thinks is the best moments, The Morning Lasted Forever (the original title of Life In A Northern Town before Paul Simon suggested to change it to something more accessible)  makes a good sampler. But a cheaper alternative would be to search out the three albums and make your own copy.  I think overall, The Dream Academy was one of the more unique bands of the 80s, they were not as annoying as Mr Mister or A Ha or as dated sounding of said bands.  I also think they were more of an album band   And like the previous band reviewed here The Judybats, the female in the band was the one that gave the band their I.D. With Kate St John,  she made the band have that original sound.

The Dream Academy (Warner Bros 1985) B
Remembrance Days (Reprise 1987) B+
A Different Kind Of Weather (Reprise 1990) B-
The Morning Lasted Forever (Real Gone 2014) B+

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Judybats

If you love The Ocean Blue, you might like  The Judybats.  Although considered to be Ocean Blue light, unlike said band, The J Bats came from Knoxville Tennessee (a strange place to be if you're an alternative rock band)  and made four spotty albums for Sire/Warner Brothers. Led by Jeff  Heiskell, he wrote quirky songs in the grand style of Morrissey from The Smiths, and like that lead singer, Jeff would come out of the closet and proclaiming himself to be gay. 

What strikes me is how uneven Native Son is, starts out great on side 1 but by side two rolls around they're spinning their tires and getting nowhere.  Their cover of She Lives In A Time Of Her Own is perhaps the best song on this album. After Incognito, the rest of the album is just plain forgettable. The followup album with the mouth full title of Down In The Shacks Where The Satellites  Dishes Grow is their best overall album, to which they finally get their Smiths and REM influences down to a listenable level. She's Sad She Said worthy of a Morrissey type of song and the humor of Margot Known As Missy makes it their best overall song.

But losing Peggy Hambright after that album, The Judybats lost their soul.  Peg simply got tired of hanging with the band and later opened up a successful bakery in Tennessee.  The band trudged on. With Pain Makes You Beautiful, they settled for Kevin Moloney (The Ocean Blue) as main producer but the sound he delivered on that effort was too slick for the songs at hand.  Not that the songs mattered that much, the alternative adult sound The J Bats strive for didn't work to their advantage.  As for the results, this type of faceless pop was a few years earlier than the Verve Pipe which made better albums or Dog's Eye View which was worse. However they did get a number 7 hit on the alternative charts with Being Simple and the record had a couple other decent songs (Ugly On The Outside, All Day Afternoon) but still, like Native Son, the record is too erratic for the casual listener.

 Full Empty was the end, to which The J Bats lost their identity, and did a pointless cover of the Bee Gees Jive Talkin.  They didn't make a good jam band either and Paul Mahern was as clueless as a producer as well.  The comparison is Dave Matthews Band and that's all you need to know how bad this record is.Sorry Counts reminds me of Better Than Ezra's Good, to which was a better song.  Full Empty when you compare this to Native Son that the Judy Bats did go full circle and like the title suggest became full empty of no memorable songs.  It didn't help that their label with giving them fits either.  Even Jeff Heiskell sounds bored singing.  After that, The Judybats broke up.

Even in their heyday The J Bats seemed to be dated with their type of alt folk rock made even more outdated by Nirvana and the Seattle music scene.  Their Sire output really shows the rise and fall in each of their albums and each band member alternating the sound From Native Son down to the all done Full Empty. They're probably in need of a good overall best of but since it's not cost effective from the Rhino folks in charge of reissuing the Sire albums, you're better off making a mix cd from all four albums that you can find very cheap at local thrift stores or Amazon.  But if you think about it, their second album is their best of, the rest are just curio listens at best and at worst something better not heard from. Although Native Son would have made a nifty EP had they left it at six songs rather than the full 12 song album...Which would have worked better had they named that one Full Empty instead of their last album.

Discography (The Sire Years)

Native Son (Sire 1991, later reissued by Wounded Bird)  B
Down In The Sticks Where The Satellite Dishes Grow (Sire 1992) A-
Pain Makes You Beautiful (Sire 1993) B-
Full Empty (Sire 1994) C-

If you're still interested in learning more about The Judy Bats:  http://www.furious.com/perfect/judybats.html

The Trouser Press Guide to JudyBats: http://www.trouserpress.com/entry.php?a=judybats

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Joe Walsh

In my years of reviewing bands and artists Joe Walsh remains one of the most entertaining and frustrating artist of the rock era.  He did wonders with The James Gang, then went solo and kinda lost his way on Barnstorm which was I gather was either his new band or a solo project.  And then he hit it big with Rocky Mountain Way which turned out to be one of my anthems of the band that I used to play in, Paraphernalia. However the crash and bash approach was much different with the more laid back that Joe did.

His albums were somewhat brief, never passing more than a half hour tops and that worked best for Joe.  The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get is more of a band effort than Barnstorm was, but So What is more Joe, beginning with the long jam Welcome To The Club and the country sounding Falling Down.  Side 2 was a more radio friendly version of Turn To Stone, another country ballad in Help Me Make It Through The Night and then the FM classic County Fair.  The quicky live album You Can't Argue With A Sick Mind employs two drummers (Joe Vitale and Ricky Fataar) and charges out of the gate with a speedy Walk Away but in term of self indulgence the record will tend to bore the non fans, including the over the top Turn To Stone.

Leaving ABC for Asylum, Joe made his best album with But Seriously Folks that included his signature song Life's Been Good, however classic rock radio has played it to death so I rather much play the first side with Over And Over/Second Hand Store more.  Indian Summer is another favorite of mine.  With the success of this album MCA issued The Best Of Joe Walsh which cherry picks the hits off the ABC albums (the cassette version had the live version of Walk Away where the CD and LP had the James Gang version).  The album got replaced by a more thought out version Little Did He Know which goes back as far as the James Gang years and adds key tracks from the Asylum and Warner Brothers albums and the bonus track is a edited jam with The Who I think.

There Goes The Neighborhood issued three years later, (Walsh was busy in The Eagles to which he joined and put his solo career on hold and despite another hit single with Life Of Illusion, the record didn't connect with most folks.  In 1983 Walsh moved over to Full Moon/Warner Brothers and got Bill Symczek (sic) to produce You Bought It You Name It which could be considered Walsh comedy album.  Certainly in my opinion side for side a more consistent listen with I Can Play That Rock And Roll, the droll I.L.B.T's and Space Age Wiz Kids.  Of course the Eagles were on hand to help out on vocals whenever they can.

After You Brought It, Walsh's later albums never made much of an impression on me.  There were some good moments on The Confessor and the Terry Manning produced Got Any Gum? but for the most part there was lot more filler to contend with. Ordinary Average Guy was his final single that radio played but that album and the followup Songs For A Dying Planet I passed.  I gave Joe one more chance with his latest album for Fantasy Analog Man produced by Jeff Lynne.  It had some good moments but I couldn't recommend it, Lynne's dated 80s production didn't help things.

Still, Walsh's guitar work cannot be overlooked, especially in the James Gang or for that matter Hotel California. He remains the all around nice guy of rock and roll, and yeah I voted for him as President of the US.  His best of's remain a good sampler of what he can do, his albums you have to pick and choose.  But he still remains an original, a true rocker but a very eccentric rocker with a wry sense of humor.  I'd never count him out.

A selected discography

The James Gang (Revised)

Yer Album (Bluesway 1969) B+
Rides Again (ABC 1970) A-
Thirds (ABC 1971) B+
In Concert (Universal Special Products 1972) B
15 Greatest Hits (ABC 1973) B+


Barnstorm (ABC/Dunhill 1972) B-
The Smoker You Drink The Player You Get (ABC/Dunhill 1973) B+
So What? (ABC/Dunhill 1974) B+
You Can't Argue With A Sick Mind (ABC 1976) B
But Seriously Folks (Asylum 1978) A-
The Best Of Joe Walsh (MCA 1978) B
There Goes The Neighborhood (Asylum 1981) B
You Bought It, You Name It (Warner Brothers 1983) B+
The Confessor (Warner Brothers 1986) B-
Got Any Gum? (Warner Brothers 1988) B-
Ordinary Average Guy (Pyramid/Epic 1990) C+
Songs For A Dying Planet (Epic 1992) B-
Little Did He Know-Joe Walsh Greatest Hits (MCA 1999) A-
Analog Man (Fantasy 2012) B-

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Ted Nugent

Long time ago, in my high school years, it was cool to have Ted Nugent's first album on Epic in your collection.  The opening riffs to Stranglehold still remain a call to arms and great lead to his best album ever.  Since then he's never topped that although Cat Scratch Fever got him the hit that defined him through the years.

Nugent has always been a badassed guitar player but he's also been one big outspoken right winger to which his mouth gets him more into trouble than good.   His recent remarks about Obama for a second term would lead Ted into jail has made waves but it's different than the Dixie Chicks bashing the last president.  He takes his freedom of speech and uses it a lot it seems.

A long time ago I had a neighbor lady who my folks were friends with and we went up to Michigan in 1975 for a beer can hunt, back then I was into collecting beer cans and figure Michigan would have some special ones. Outside of Jackson on a somewhat gravel road and there was this open field about a half mile down the road from their Grandpa's place, I made my way up around there and my friend told me to get the hell off that property, that's Ted Nugent and he's been known to shoot at folks who trespass.  He was well known even back then.

Ted started out as part of the Amboy Dukes, a band of some of Detroit's finest rockers.  John Drake was the cool lead vocalist on Journey To The Center Of Your Mind and although the band was garage rock, they had a bit of prog rock and a bit of hippy dippy, even though Ted Nugent was the Tea totaling (no wonder he was Tea Party member later) and did no drugs.  He also was lucky enough not to get into the failed Vietnam War.  But then again the rumor was that Ted would crap himself to get that 4F rating. Nevertheless, The Amboy Dukes have never been much of critics favorites although I still play and love some of their music (Surrender To Your Kings, Prodigal Man, Flight Of The Byrd) and the best overall album for me was the DCC Ted Nugent And The Amboy Dukes Best Of.  Legacy's Loaded For Bear deletes some of the DCC Stuff for others (Surrender To Your Kings replaced by Mississippi Murderer) and for me the lesser of the two.  But it has the 5 minute freakout of Baby Please Don't Go and Nugent's Scottish Tea which shows off his guitar talents in their full glory.  The Amboy Dukes would see another vocalist change, Rusty Day in  for Drake and the band becoming more and more Nugent focused.  Never heard their Polydor effort Marriage On The Rocks/Rock Bottom.

Nugent was beginning to get things going when he signed up with DiscReet (the label of Frank Zappa and Herb Cohen) and made two albums that would be more high energy rock and roll than the garage hippy dippy of The Amboy Dukes and Call Of The Wild (with a minor hit Sweet Revenge) .  In fact, the bass player Rob Grange would figure into the Epic beginnings.  Call Of The Wild was good, but Tooth Fang & Claw is the Ted Nugent that we were beginning to know and love (or hate) with the hard charging Great White Buffalo and the feedback laden Hibernation.  Great White Buffalo is the price of admission.

Ted's classic stuff is the Epic years and it begins with the first album, Stranglehold was a underground FM classic (now played to death on classic rock radio more so than the hit singles Hey Baby and Snakeskin Cowboys).  There are no weak tracks on Ted Nugent, the B side stomper Stormtroopin, the boogie based Hey Baby, Just What The Doctor Ordered, and the whacked out Motor City Madness, one of the few songs that Nugent sang on.  Most of the time it was Derek St Holmes doing the vocals and it made the album lots better for it.  Free For All, was still a powerforce, with another minor hit with Dog Eat Dog and notable hits in Street Rats, Writing On The Wall (Sung by a then unknown dude by the name of Meatloaf) and perhaps one of the better unheard songs ever I Loved You So I Told You A Lie.  By then, Nugent's band was St Holmes, Rob Grange from the DiscReet Amboy Dukes era and Cliff Davies playing mad drums.  No disrespect to Ted's drummer who used to play in Dokken, but Cliff Davies was the overdrive that made the Epic recordings rock out.

Cat Scratch Fever is his second best album ever.  But it also begins Nugent's dissent into the goofy lyrics that make some of his music laughable.  Nugent, on the first two albums was very democratic in terms of who sang what but he begins to take the band over a bit on the title track and Wang Dang Sweet Pootang. St Holmes still sang the most and is on the best ones (Live It Up, Out Of Control, A Thousand Knives).  And then the 1978 live double Double Live Gonzo which pretty much sums up what you get a Nugent concert.  He does a fired up Great White Buffalo on this one but the band was breaking up, St. Holmes and Grange would leave and formed St. Paradise which made one boring album for Warner Brothers in 1978, with Denny Carmissi on drums (Montrose).

The second phase of Nugent Epic years that he got a St. Holmes soundalike in Charlie Huhn and continued to make some decent albums.  Weekend Warriors with failed hit in Need You Bad, the blues busting One Woman.  State Of Shock was better, although Nugent was going more for a pop sound, he blisters the wallpaper with Paralyzed.   Wango Tango, was the end of the road for decent new Nugent, by then Huhn's vocals were getting less and the banshee wail of Flesh And Blood and Wango Tango is Ted's.  Intensities In 10 Cities, is ten new songs getting recorded live, and although I like it fine, it turned out to be Ted's poorest selling album for Epic and after that he moved over to Atlantic.  By then Nugent dismissed his band Cliff Davies, the sole constant member for the Epic albums replaced by Carmine Appice but Derek St. Holmes was back (after a failed liaison with Brad Whitford with Whitford/St. Holmes who made one album for Columbia in 1981).  Problem with Nugent the 1982 Atlantic debut suffered from a lack of quality songs and Appice was no Cliff Davies.  St. Holmes would leave again but over the years has returned to Ted's live band from time to time and as of this writing, he is touring with Ted.

Since then, Ted's albums have been dull as he tries to fit in what the kids were into.  The next album Penatrator features a up and coming vocalist in Brian Howe and he turns Ted into Foreigner and after that Howe would join Bad Company.  Little Miss Dangerous, Ted's last notable album has more keyboards and dated sound, and the rest of the albums, just plain goofy.

The only two albums I ever brought from Ted was the 1994  Spirit Of The Wild which Ted had perhaps his best band since the Epic years, of St. Holmes, Michael Lutz of Brownsville Station on bass and Denny Carmissi on drums and there's some fun stuff on this (Fred Bear, Tooth, Fang & Claw comes to mind and Kiss My Ass is actually funny when Nugent tells Courtney Love to do just that) but problem was there were too many songs that went nowhere.  Love Grenade (2007) was just plain silly and juvenile especially the degrading album art and the all time worst song he's ever done (Girl Scout Cookies).  Musically, he still delivers but if you're not a big Ted fan, this is not where to start.  Craveman his other studio album of the 2000's was his most metal sounding but I have never heard that one all the way through.

Still in the end, Nugent's Right Wing Tea Party comments has not endured him very well to the mainstream.  Nor does he work well with others, case in point that Rock Star VH1 show that he did with Sabastian Bach, Jason Bonham showed of his my way or the highway that has been a cause for many of his band's breakups.  He'll never top St Holmes/Grange/Davies lineup, he may get better musicians down the road but they were the best for his type of in your face rock and roll.  But with Derek St. Holmes always, you get to see what made Ted Nugent a force to be reckon with back then. 

And now, if Nugent keeps his tongue in check.
Which is never, but amazingly his 2014 album Shut Up And Jam, Ted does just that and keeps the right wing policies down to in his case very minimal.  Sammy Hagar pops in on She's Gone and Derek St Holmes does sing on one track  to offset Nugent's singing and screaming.  Overlook the politics and this just might be Terrible Ted's best since State Of Shock. At least he's not singing about Girl Scout Cookies on this. ;-)

Albums of note:
Ted Nugent & The Amboy Dukes (Dunhill Compact Classics) B+
Tooth, Fang & Claw (Bizarre Planet 1975) B-
Ted Nugent (Epic 1975) A-
Free For All (Epic 1976) B+
Cat Scratch Fever (Epic 1977) B+
Double Live Gonzo (Epic 1978) B-
Weekend Warriors (Epic 1978) B
State Of Shock (Epic 1979) B+  (Later reissued on American Beat)
Live At Hammersmith 1979 (Epic 1979) NR
Wango Tango (Epic 1980) B
Intensities In 10 Cities (Epic 1981) B-
Nugent (Atlantic 1982) C
Penetrator (Atlantic 1984) C
Little Miss Dangerous (Atlantic 1986) C
If You Can't Lick Them, Lick Them (Atlantic 1988) C
Spirit Of The Wild (Altantic 1994) C
Craveman (Eagle 2000) B-
Love Grenade (Eagle 2007) C-
Shut Up And Jam (Frontiers 2014) B

Note: The Atlantic albums were reissued via Eagle Records in 2008.

Best ofs

Great Gonzos, has always been a spotty best of, although it does have the hits.  The Ultimate Ted Nugent does the best job in perserving the the best songs from Ted Nugent's first album and does have Need You Bad from Weekend Warriors but doesn't have Great White Buffalo on it.  However, the cheapo throwaway Playlist Series does have GWB so if your looking for a one CD best overview, I would go with that.  Great Gonzos is the lesser of the best ofs here.  The Essensial Ted Nugent is the same as The Ultimate Ted.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The MC5

I'll give you a testimonial, THE MC5!

With the rambling 2 minute speech from Brother J C Crawford, we get a sense of the tornado forming from within and after warming up the crowd with his five second speech, the band unleashes with the punk Ramblin Rose.  With an out of tune guitar from Wayne Kramer (he admitted in interviews it was out of tune) the band is like a uncoming train wreck.  Being one of the first albums to use the sex with your parents word KICK OUT THE JAMS MUTHAFUKKA  The Motor City Five or MC5 lays everything to waste on the way to the I Can See The Miles rip of Come Together.  The drunk tempo of Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa, one has to catch his breath before turning the record over for Borderline, the mutated blues of Motor City Is Burning (with another Brother Crawford rave up), and back to the noisegrind of  I Want You Right Now before concluding with the the trainwreck ending of Starship based on a poem by Sun Ra.  This is the beginning of the MC5.

Basically a garage rock band, but with an eye on Ornotte Coleman Free Jazz type of avant garde noise, The 5 were ahead of their time. The twin guitars of Fred (Sonic) Smith and Brother Wayne Kramer, Mike Davis' bass, Rob Tyler's screaming vocals and the underrated Dennis Thompson. The MC5 made a couple of regional singles, a fairly note for note rendering of Them's I Can Only Give You Everything, a feedback laden I'm In The Mood, a John Lee Hooker song remade as I Just Don't Know.  And the harder to find Borderline which Rhino either couldn't or wouldn't add to their mix CD of The Big Bang, a subpar overview of what MC5 had to offer.  Warts and all, it shows them to be high energy rock, even more wilder than some of the stuff that came out in 1968, but it also shows the downside of the band, adding the worthless Miss X from High Time. Wayne Kramer who wrote that also compiled the best of too.  Not much variety for oddities except for 3 of the 4 singles before they signed to Elektra and Thunder Express from a bootleg album.

The MC5 were signed to Elektra, the label that was better known for british blues and folk music rather than rock but with the success of The Doors were starting to take off.  Elektra also signed another Detroit band The Stooges but the thought was that The MC5 was going to be bigger.  And the ideal was to record The MC5 in a live setting.  Bruce Botnick recorded the happening.  Now Kick Out The Jams was a groundbreaking album for myself.  I came across the title track via the Superstars Of The 70s series that Warner Music put out and we got to hear the Brothers and Sisters version of said song but never did I hear the MF shout till I found the actual record for 1.97 at Wells years ago and proceeded to make my dad mad about hearing that, half crocked on beer and made it known that it was a piece of crap.  Especially on hearing Starship, I wonder if he was going fly off the easy chair, snatched the record off the player and break it into little pieces.  But I liked most of the record, including the first side.  Years later, I would trade a Neil Young Freedom Picture CD disc for a Japanese version of Kick Out The Jams.  40 plus years later, I still find Kick Out The Jams to be the definite MC5 statement and album.  This is rock and roll, from the pounding drums to the loud and whacked out guitar work and shouted vocals.  Rob Tyler was a shouter and not a screamer and it's a shame that nobody bothered to film their concert at the Grande Ballroom that night. You had to be there.

The 5 were radical rockers and it cost them their contract with Elektra after a now long gone department store refused to stock Kick Out The Jams and somebody responded with a F bom on Elektra paper.  Which even the radical label thought that was going way too far and they dropped them.  Atlantic actually snatched them up but begin to transfer the band into something less radical.  They hooked up with Jon Landau, a Rolling Stone review writer and future Bruce Springsteen manager and managed to make one of the more fucked up recordings in their history.  Back In The USA is a fun album.  The songs are damn  good but the recording of that record is odious and lacking any bass.  If anything Jon Landau's production was the main blame.  Some of their better known songs (High School, Tonight, Human Being Lawnmower) are here.

High Time might be the better of the two Atlantic releases.  Without Landau around they self produced it with Geoff Haslem (Velvet Underground, J. Geils Band) and perhaps this album is the one true vision of what the MC5 was all about.  The crazed beginning of Sister Anne which ends with a Salvation Army band doing a death march, the one note lead guitar ending of Baby Won't Ya, the eerie Future/Now and the punk jazz of Skunk (Sonically Speaking) you can hear the influences coming together for the MC5.  It wasn't made for the radio and sales showed it (it didn't chart).  The Five were dropped from Atlantic.

There's been a onslaught of post MC5 reissues and concerts but the three that I did buy 66 Breakout shows an early but potent lineup of the Five doing covers and plenty of James Brown.  Thunder Express was recorded in 1972 with a replacement bass player and the band runs through their better known songs.  I came across Phun City UK on a bootleg German import, the sound is K Mart recorder poor but the band is in fine form.  I haven't heard anything else when Total Energy reissued some MC5 concert performances (some were reissued via Castle/Sanctuary in the 2000s) but I'm guessing the sound quality varies from good to poor.  Buyer beware.

Just as Rhino reissued the Atlantic albums and Elektra issued Kick Out The Jams on CD Rob Tyler passed away.  Fred Sonic Smith, later married Patti Smith retired from music to raise a family and then died in 1994. Wayne Kramer would reunite with Mike Davis and Dennis Thompson to do some reunion shows in the 1990s and then in 2005 with Dick Manitoba (The Dictators, Manitoba's Wild Kingdom) did reunite and played from time to time till Davis died in 2012.  To which Kramer finally retired the Five once and for all.

In essence, The MC5 never got the credit due when they were around, album sales were lackluster to nonexistent but for those who had an album probably form radical bands of their own.  The albums are flawed but a product of the times.  But they may have been the most radical and the most dangerous band to ever come out of Detroit.  With elements of garage rock and free jazz from the likes of Archie Shepp, John Coltrane and Sun Ra, no other band even attempted this as you can hear on Kick Out The Jams, this makes the MC5 one of the more original bands of the 60s. 

And as the story goes, you had to be there to see it to believe it.


Kick out the jams (Elektra 1968) A-
Back in the USA (Atlantic 1970) B+
High Time (Atlantic 1971) B+
Thunder Express (Skydog 1972) B
The Big Bang (Rhino 2000) B-

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The White Stripes

Throughout the seven decades of rock and roll, there has always been garage rock.  It has never gone away even from the heydays of 60s garage rockers such as the Standells or Louie Louie Kingsmen. The more absurd the more fun (The Trashmen Surfin Bird, local Keokuk freakouts Gonn, Blackout Of Gretely, a more muted version of Dirty Water by The Standells). And there's plenty of historical overviews out there that celebrates the three chords and the truth bands from the garage, from Nuggets to Pebbles and even Teenage Shutdown  which really turns every rock out there to find the most  obscure garage rock band that practiced enough songs to make it to the corner tavern and then quit to get real jobs the next day.  While the major labels don't pursue the local garage band (not enough autotuner or bro country rap) many toil in obscurity.  Thank your lucky stars for Little Steven's Underground Garage which for a time, had his own Wicked Cool label to spotlight the garage rock bands as well as putting out a few volumes of The Coolest Songs In The World, the last decade's version of Nuggets and are found cheap at thrift stores.  The best of the bunch Len Price 3 and this year's The Strypes have put out new albums of garage rock fusion to indifference attitude sales and shrugs.  And so did Jack White this week with Lazaretto.

In the so called garage rock movement of the late 90s and early 00's,  the major labels did sign bands of this genre. And most was blah and missing something special.  The Strokes come to mind with Is This It? to which was the first thing I said after hearing it.  The White Stripes quietly came out of the late 90s with a low fi first album on Sympathy For The Record Industry, a label more associated with the more radical indee labels out there (Merge, Touch And Go, Taang! to name a few).  In no way did the Stripes rewrite the music book on how to make it in the music industry.  Hell, nobody even predicted that they would go far.  They were just another garage rock band intent on selling a few thousand copies of their album and then see how far it would go.

Basically it was a duo of Jack and Meg White, husband and wife.  Jack, a music lover of the blues, Nuggets and Pebbles garage rock, and of course early Robert Plant, but Jack also played drums for semi legends Goober And The Peas before meeting and marrying Meg and taking her surname.  And then managed to get her playing drums for the The White Stripes project.  Jack could play just about anything on guitar or piano or drums, but Meg White's drumming can be described as sloppy at best.  She could barely keep a beat and she would have never lasted in any other band but somehow, it worked best in the White Stripes recordings. But it seems like when I hear Icky Thump or Get Behind Me Satan, it sounded she didn't touch her drums since the last recording or live performance.

The first four White Stripes albums are testamentary classic albums upon themselves. The low fi approach to the S/T and De Stiji shows that anybody with a four track and good songs can make a great album. White Blood Cells in 2001, the press and trade papers took notice, as well as help from V2 Records and they managed to get a hit single with Fell In Love With A Girl.  Elephant is their classic moment.  The riff of Seven Nation Army has become a sporting event chant in college football stadiums all over the US, thus guaranteeing Jack White a nice check every month. Ball And Biscuit being the other major hit off this record which does in someway pays tribute to the electric blues and Zeppelin of course.

However, the last two albums are not aged very well.  Get Behind Me Satan was more acoutsic guitar and  piano driven and contains some of the worst Meg White drumming committed on record.   Icky Thump, their last, I liked at first but then it grated on my nerves.  It had its moments as well but not enough for me to recommend it.  And then, Meg White either developed a fear of the stage or just got bored with it all and wanted to settle down out of the spotlight and The White Stripes were no more in 2011.  While Meg got remarried, Jack White continued to be more busier than ever by embarking on two band projects, The Raconteurs with Brendan Benson and the members of The Greenhornes and The Dead Weather with Alison Mosshart.  And of course, two solo albums as well.  But perhaps what is best about this all, is how much that Jack White loves vinyl enough to open up a music store (Third Man Records of course) and making a whole array of vinyl art, the new Lazaretto albums has a hologram of an angel when you play the album.  And White has worked with a whole array of artists  from the past (Wanda Jackson, Loretta Lynn, Neil Young).  And enjoys working with vintage music equipment to make his albums sound a lot different from the pro tools autotuned crap of this millennium. 

In some ways, Jack White is perhaps this generation of a real rock star.  17 years after The White Stripes first album, he has managed to progress onward with a wide variety of ideals borrowed from the past and looking toward the future.  With Neil Young, he recorded A Letter Home from old recording booth to voice your own records, which was used in fairs in the late 40s and 50s.  And continues to put out vinyl of one offs, namely a Jerry Lee Lewis in store performance.  White is the anti Spotify, the pro record junkie and it's a shame there's not many more like him.  I won't say if The White Stripes were the best out of the garage rock wave of the 2000's but they were the more longer lasting and influential. 

And perhaps the most fun.

The White Stripes (Third Man 1999) A-
De  Stiji (Third Man 2000) A-
White Blood Cells (Third Man 2001) A-
Elephant (Third Man 2003) A
Get Behind Me Satan (Third Man 2005) B-
Icky Thump (Third Man/WB 2008) B

Jack White:
Blunderbuss (Third Man/Columbia 2012) A-
Lazaretto (Third Man/Columbia 2014) A-

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Angels/Angel City Revisited

In Australia the best known band remains AC/DC but prior before them you had the Easybeats to which George Young played in that band whereas Angus and Malcolm were the guitar drive in the other.  You can't escape Back In Black if you can.  It's everywhere.

AC/DC originally recorded for Albert Productions in Aussie land whereas Atco originally signed them (later Atlantic, then back to Atco before they awarded the masters to the highest bidder, Sony Music.  A lesser known band The Angels had the AC/DC guitar sound courtesy of the Brewster brothers but it was the vivid imagery, crooning and screams of Doc Neeson that for a short time gave the Angels a rival to the Young Brothers.

The Angels recorded three albums for Albert before CBS finally took a chance and compiled the best of the songs unto the Epic 1980 album Face to Face to which they became a one hit wonder with Marseilles  in 1980 to which the earliest song Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again which came from the 1976 S/T album.  The Albert version of Face To Face shows a much harder rock direction with a bit of punk overtones with lead off Straight Jacket which went into Marseilles, other songs include the more punk I Aint The One, and a live version of Live It Up.  No Exit the 1979 album gets slighty better production and a more melodramatic sound with Ivory Stairs, Save Me and the title track.  Upon The Angels signing to Epic Albert Productions put together their very on The Angels Greatest which slightly varies from the U.S. Face To Face, the US version having a more polished sound.

Dark Room is better than No Exit (the Australian version) , with Face The Day to which Great White had a hit single but I always enjoyed The Angels version better, it also features Night Comes Early, Poor Baby, the paranoia that is Devil's Gate and the medley of Wasted Sleepless Nights/Dark Room.  Again the US version differs deleting Alexander and I'm Scared in favor of a remade Ivory Steps and Straight Jacket.   It sold well enough for CBS to do another album but the end result Night Attack was spotty, as if the band was looking for a hit to get on American radio.  The title track was fairly good but the rest forgettable. Watch The Red wasn't even released in the US and has been considered to be their weakest album although I never heard it.

In 1984 The Angels signed with Mushroom Records down under and MCA to release what I consider to be their best album Two Minute Warning.  Evil and foreboding the beginning of Underground set the stage for some hard dark rock and roll with FM played favorites Small Price, Razor's Edge and the freaky Walking To Babylon although the meddling American label put Be With You on as a potential hit single, which wasn't.

And then they lost their way, MCA dropped them soon after Two Minute Warning was released (oddly, the then Warner backed Metal Blade reissued this album in 1989) and Howling the next album again wasn't released in the US but a listen to it revealed a lack of identity.  It didn't help that The Angels were adding soul chick singers, horns and more keyboards than usual.  Eddie Rayner from Split Enz played keyboards on Howling.   In 1988, Terry Manning took a crack at trying to produce The Angels and Chrysalis released Beyond Salvation a album that was half Beyond Salvation and the other half remakes of their 70s stuff.  Pointless but the drum roll on I Ain't The One threatens to blow up the speakers.  The album stiffed although two songs did get some airplay, Dogs Are Talking and the MTV played Let The Night Roll On.

You really need a score card to figure out what the hell went on with this band in the 1990s.  Red Back Fever, produced with Paul Northfield (Rush, Asia) was another clash in style and basically the band was having problems with their record label which they wouldn't record until 1998. Rick Brewster produced Sking And Bone and Kevin Shirley  (Journey, Joe Bonnamassa) mixed it.  Skin And Bone to which was their best album since Two Minute Warning although it was never released in the US.  The further complicate things Mushroom issued the very uneven The Angels Greatest Hits (the mushroom years) which cherry picks some of their albums beginning with 2 Minute Warning and adding a second CD of outtakes, live numbers and odd remixes to which Terry Manning's ZZ Top groove just didn't do the job.  To which it was the final piece of the puzzle and The Angels called it a day.  Before returning back to the fold a few years later,the original Angel City band got back together in 2008 but cause such a big riff that Doc Neeson bolted for a solo career and was replaced by former Screaming Jets singer Dave Gleeson.   I haven't heard their lastest Take It To The Streets, nor the new effort Talk The Talk.

The original Angels reunited for the 2006 reunion tour then Neeson had another falling out with the Brewster Brothers and moved on to a band of his own, Angels 100%. However  Doc Neeson's health begin to fail him and in 2010 begin to develop  brain cancer to which he beat it for a time and then it came back and eventually on June 4, 2014 died from cancer at age 67.  While the major music mags ignored Neeson's passing, many bands spoke in tribute of the contributions that Doc Neeson and The Angels have done to better music from down under.  While in the US they're only known for Marsalies, their only hit in the US, down under they had 12 gold albums to their credit.  And the replacement players (Jim Hilburn, replaced Bailey, Bob Spencer came in for John Brewster, and Brett Eccles replaced Graham Birstrup on Night Attack) were pretty good as well.  At times I think the Hilburn/Eccles rhythm section really tighten up the sound on Two Minute Warning.  The Birstrip/Bailey section was a bit more loose playing.

Nevertheless, when Neeson's health begin to fail him, The Brewster brothers put together a Rock for Doc concert last year to which most of Down Under's best came out to pay tribute and even Doc himself joined on stage.  Doc's final recording was released last month, a reworking of Flash And The Pan's Walking In The Rain.  Picking up the lead vocalist from The Screaming Jets and Sam Brewster now playing bass, The Angels continue to be a much loved band from down under although the US never embraced them (like I did).  Nothing wrong with Dave Gleason being the vocalist but for myself the Angels or Angel City,  it was Neeson the voice of that band.

With that said, it begin with being signed to AC/DC's label (Albert Productions) and it ended with Skin And Bone in 1998. If nothing else, The Angels were like that other band, guitar heavy riffs, straight ahead rhythm but Neeson was a more thoughtful songwriter although more darker than Bon Scott or Brian Johnson.  Great White covered Face The Day and even Axl Rose paid tribute to Doc with a version of Marsalies.  It's a shame The Angels never got as big in the states as their counterparts AC DC. But The Angels were a great live band with the theatrics of Neeson being the ultimate actor a added plus.  And he will be missed.  One of the best singers in rock music I think.  And that's all you need to know.

The Albums:

The Angels (Albert) 1976 B
Face To Face (Albert) 1978 A-
No Exit (Albert) 1979 B+
The Angels Greatest (Albert) 1980 B+
Face To Face (US Epic) 1980 A
Dark Room (US Epic) 1980 A-
Night Attack (Us Epic) 1981  B
Watch The Red (Liberation 1983) C+
Two Minute Warning (MCA 1984 reissued on Metal Blade 1991) A
Howling (Liberation 1986) B-
Beyond Salvation (Chrysalis 1988) B+
Red Back Fever (Liberation 1991) B+
Live Line (Liberation 1995) B-
Skin And Bone (Shock/Liberation 1998) B+
The Angels Greatest Hits-The Mushroom Years (Mushroom Pty 1999) B-
Greatest Hits (Liberation 2011) B-
Take It To The Streets (Liberation 2012) NR
Talk The Talk (Liberation 2014) NR 
Brothers, Angels And Demons (2018) NR
Symphony Of Angels (2019) NR

Chris Bailey, bass player for The Angels lost his battle with cancer on April 2, 2013, he was 62
Doc Neeson passed away from brain cancer on June 4th, 2014 aged 67.

The Angels live on.  Dave Gleeson (Screaming Jets) replaced Neeson as lead vocalist.  John and Rick Brewster continue to be the link to the past Angels with Sam Brewster playing bass and Nick Norton on drums.  However, I have not paid much attention to the latter day Angels. While Gleason is a fine singer in his own right, it's hard to replace Doc Neeson, tho' Jim Hilburn tried his best as well.  The Symphony Of Angels album is them teaming with a orchestra. Brothers, Angels And Demons goes back to the days of the Moonshine Jug And String Band and collects pre Angels music from the Brewster Brothers, leading up the today's version of the Angels.   The Liberation Greatest Hits has the recording sped up and relies too much from the live album.

Out of all the band that came up form down under, The Angels got fucked.  Each and every one of their US albums had remade versions from the first three albums and Beyond Salvation ended up one half of the album and side 2 greatest hits redone.  MCA rejected The Howling album and basically killed Two Minute Warning when the original A and R guys that signed them up got fired.   Skin And Bone was the last album to feature Doc Neeson.  The Epic Face To Face remains in print and gives the argument that The Angels were the smart man's version of AC/DC. I also think that Two Minute Warning ranks up there with Dark Room and Face To Face. Had MCA promoted it better, The Angels had a chance to make it in America but in true fashion MCA didn't.    And with the passing of Neeson, The Brewster Brothers turned them into a tribute band.  Australia will always hold high regard for them as well as collectors in the US.  As for myself, I'll stick with the original lineup.