Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Ric Menck On The Black Crowes Reunion

"Devote more time to working on yourself and worry a lot less about how bands conduct their business?"

So let me get this straight, Ric. This reunion tour of the Robinson Brothers, two guys who make Ray & Dave Davies look Jack & Bobby Kennedy playing touch on a Hyannis lawn, is really NOT about the fans? What you're saying to long time devotees of The Black Crowes who might seem a tad skeptical is, shut up? Take it or leave it? Trust the judgment of two people who are notorious for making bad judgments? Oh wait...am I not allowed to write about this until I take stock of my life?

One of the main reasons I have been a long time fan of The Black Crowes live performances was their drummer, Steve Gorman. That he will not be on this upcoming reunion may be of little to no interest at all to the throngs of people who will no doubt show up for these shows. (Two original members of a band is two more than most on their "Remember Us, We Are Going To Die Soon" Tours. Most don't care who is on stage.) But his absence, for me personally, is a big deterrent. Another small detail is, as much as I love the BC's debut, knowing ahead of time that the tour will be "Shake Your Money Maker" in its entirety with "all the hits," deflates that balloon of surprise that has always been a big part of a Black Crowes concert.

But, all that aside. Maybe Ric Menck is right. Maybe Chris & Rich Robinson have chosen some truly fine new Crowes. And maybe, about a half dozen shows into the tour, the band will decide to mix things up. Maybe the chemistry will be off the rails and this "reunion" will become something other than a way to make some extra bucks. Time will tell.

Last night's warm-up set at The Bowery Ballroon consisted of the entire debut played in order and an encore of the Stones' "It's Only Rock N Roll." That doesn't seem to be about the fans, if you ask me. Short set, the album. One encore. But, I wouldn't want to upset Ric Menck by getting "hung up" on all this. I mean, "What have I done for you lately?' (I may be wrong but, Ric's last Velvet Crush record was in 2004.)

I'll admit to being less than excited about this Black Crowes reunion tour. But I had no intention of writing about it until I saw Ric Menck's post, something I found far more offensive than what he was ranting about. Are the Robinsons crying already? Is that what this is all about?

Without the fans, Chris and Rich Robinson might be working in some Atlanta office. And if you think some backlash by a few fans who might not be on board at the moment will make this tour any less of a success, you're fooling yourself.  

"Does it make you feel better to sling shit," Ric asks? I don't know. Does it make YOU feel better to sling shit, Ric?

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Songs Of The Week, 2019: 11/2- 11/8

Sally Sue Brown- Arthur Alexander
Cold Rain- Irma Thomas w/ David Torkanowsky
Tried So Hard- Gene Clark & The Gosdin Brothers
Madness- Prince Buster
A Certain Softness- Paul McCartney
I Love The Night- Blue Oyster Cult
Mother Whale Eyeless- Brian Eno


Sally Sue Brown- Arthur Alexander
For years it was impossible to find the original version of this on CD. The rerecord seemed to be everywhere. Here's the superior original, just one of about sixteen great tracks on Alexander's "A Shot Of Rhythm & Blues" collection on the Ace label.

Cold Rain- Irma Thomas w/ David Torkanowsky
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Soul Queen of New Orleans, Miss Irma Thomas released two of her greatest records. The first, "After The Rain," was a beautiful, subdued yet heartfelt set of what Irma does best. The second, "Simply Grand," was a stripped down affair, pairing Irma with some great piano players that included Dr. John, Marcia Ball, Randy Newman, Jon Cleary and on this track, one of my favorite New Orleans musicians, David Torkanowsky. I had been thinking about how both of these records deserve a deluxe vinyl release. Here's a fave off the latter.

Tried So Hard- Gene Clark & The Gosdin Brothers
This album was the subject of a Bad Kitty Music post and what he wrote made me want to hear it.

Madness- Prince Buster
I only just found out that this popular Madness track was not a Madness original. How did I not know that? This is Prince Buster from 1963, I believe.

A Certain Softness- Paul McCartney
My bi-annual "Chaos & Creation In The Backyard" lovefest took place this week. This time, I took it on the road to Facebook. It was a success. Many agreed that this album was peak Paul.

I Love The Night- Blue Oyster Cult
So often misunderstood as either two hit wonders, or worse, a heavy metal band, here is the fabulous, spooky and gorgeous second to last track from their greatest, "Spectres."

Mother Whale Eyeless- Brian Eno
Listened to the entire "Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)" record, one of the four solo Eno masterpieces and this track made this week's cut.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Deep Cut Six Pack Volume Eight: Happy Birthday Roy Wood

While Todd Rundgren was doing it all by himself in Philadelphia and New York, there was a madman doing the same thing plus bagpipes and cellos across the pond in Birmingham. His name is Roy Wood and he is responsible for at least three of my favorite albums of all time, and over two dozen more individual tracks that have remained in heavy rotation for over 40 years.

Today is Roy Wood's birthday, so in his honor, here is a Deep Cut Six Pack that represents a tiny fraction of what this man can do. Six songs is simply not enough, especially if you're a fan. If you are a casual listener of The Move or Wizzard, and these songs do anything at all for you, please say so, and I'll get right to work on Part Two.

For now, give this a spin:

All The Way Over The Hill is the opener from Roy's first solo album, "Boulders," and it is a prime example of what he does best. To sum it up in one word: more. With Roy Wood, there is always more. The perfect pop melody and arrangement just isn't enough for this track. In Roy's mind, it needed an Irish jig for a coda.

Don't Throw Stones At Me is an unreleased Roy original recorded for the BBC with The Move, and though there are countless others I could have included, this one is a recent discovery for me and I was excited about it.

Beautiful Daughter, from The Move's greatest achievement and one of my favorite records of all time, "Shazam," is quite simply, gorgeous.

Caroline is a 1969 UK hit from The Casuals, a British beat group whose most famous hit was "Jesamine." This track was written and produced by Roy Wood and might as well be Roy Wood through and through.

Keep Your Hands On The Wheel was the single from Roy's last solo record for Warner Brothers, "On The Road Again." It unmistakably features John Bonham on drums and Roy Wood on everything else. It's the Beach Boys meets Led Zeppelin, if you can believe it. This is the single edit because this time, it didn't need the Irish jig coda.

We close things out with the brillliant U.K. hit "Forever," Roy's nod to Brian Wilson and Neil Sedaka.

As I said, these six tracks barely scratch the surface of what this genius is capable of producing, and like my other musical hero, Todd Rundgren, not all of it works. But you can't blame the madmen for trying.

Enjoy, I hope. Feedback is welcome.

Happy Birthday Roy!


Thursday, November 7, 2019

Tracks On The Blood: A New Book and Record From Alison Moorer

Alison Moorer has been making records for years, but most have been lost on me. She has a wonderful voice and she can certainly write a song. But it wasn't until her collaboration of covers with her sister Shelby Lynne, 2017's "Not Dark Yet," that I got on board. I wish I could tell you the precise reason why 20 years of prior recording failed to pique my interest. But I can't. Wrong place, wrong time, I guess. 

Now seems to be the right time, as her new release, "Blood," the companion to her memoir of the same name, has really shaken me up. Moorer's not so secret life includes among other things, a divorce from husband Steve Earle, and of course, the 1986 murder-suicide of her parents, both of which I imagine take up more than a few pages in the book. While I plan on reading the memoir, until then, "Blood," the album, will get heavy rotation, thanks to some truly amazing songs, like the beautifully heartbreaking "I'm The One To Blame," a song written by sis Shelby, or "All I Wanted (Thanks Anyway)," a song Jagger & Richards have been trying to write since 1975.

My plan is to go backward and catch up on all of the Alison Moorer I have missed, that is how good "Blood" is. Give it a spin, or just sample what I have posted here. This record is another winner for 2019 and will no doubt finish high on my year-end list.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Reasons To Stay Alive: Best Selling Book & Candidate For One Of The Best Albums of 2019

Best selling author Matt Haig's 2015 memoir "Reasons To Stay Alive," about living with severe depression is now the subject of a musical collaboration with singer/songwriter and Razorlight drummer Andy Burrows. Released earlier this year, "Reasons To Stay Alive," the album, is a stunning, moving and completely musical collection of songs that manages to be both joyful and uplifting despite the subject matter.

An NME review of the album, mentions both Queen and Elton John as influences, but aside from the occasional layered harmonies and the presence of a piano, I don't really hear either. What I hear is a perfectly crafted set of adult songs and smart yet restrained production. There is certainly a 70's feel to "Reasons To Stay Alive," but to say it resembles any one artist would be selling it short.

Give these tracks a spin, and let me know what you hear. I hear one of the best records of 2019.

Special thanks to John of the John Sally Ride for pointing this gem out.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Jeff Lynne: Handle With Care

"People tend to underestimate Jeff Lynne. Mention ELO and they think of spaceships, OTT arrangements, cheesy vocoder FX and silly lyrics  like 'Whama-lama-bama-lama rock and roll is king.' They mistake his modesty for modest abilities, take for granted the skills required to make such dense music seem so simple. Publicly, at least, Lynne too makes light of himself and 'my little songs'- a phrase he often applies to his work, even when he's playing the songs with a 13 piece band to 60,000 fans at Wembley Stadium."

That is the opening paragraph to Quinton Winter's Mojo review of Lynne's new ELO release "From Out of Nowhere," and it saved me the trouble of having to come up with an opening paragraph for my review.

I've been reading some negative comments regarding Jeff Lynne's new collection of songs that once again point out the canned drum sound, the layered harmonies and even a few nitpicks like, "oh look, another song about rain." And these comments were from fans!

Once again, I ask, what do we want from our rock and roll heroes who are now in their seventies and have been making music for over 50 years? I won't reopen the banal discussion about "music being better before." But I will say, few artists, if any, could create ten perfect pop songs as consistently as Lynne has since "Telephone Line" became a monster hit over forty years ago. If you've been a fan, would you have preferred a hip-hop collaboration from Lynne and Ke$ha? Or, an EDM record? How about Jeff Lynne tackling nu-soul with D'Angelo? To trash an ELO record for sounding like an ELO record in 2019 seems like a wind-up for the sake of a wind-up. I think you are missing the point.

If you're not a fan, then there is nothing to hear here. But if you've loved the Wilburys, or Petty's brilliant "Full Moon Fever" and "Highway Companion," or if you were one of the handful like myself who thought Lynne's first ELO comeback "Zoom," might have been his career masterpiece---not hyperbole---there is plenty to love on "From Out Of Nowhere," his second release in just four years.

You will find songs inspired by Lynne's heroes, Del Shannon, Roy Orbison, Lennon & McCartney, of course & Chuck Berry, songs with hooks and choruses to die for, and yes, canned drums. But this should not be a surprise to anyone who claims to love the man anymore than Bob Dylan's last 10 records having the same fuzzy "Jack Frost" production, or any one of T- Bone Burnett's projects sounding like they were recorded in mud and murk. Paul McCartney gets trashed for using autotune, for working with Kanye West, for singing standards AND for getting sentimental and writing songs about John. Come on people! You're not playing fair! What is it you want?

I'll tell you what I want: another two or three Jeff Lynne records with ten great pop tunes that sound just like Jeff Lynne. I'm a fan.

Jeff Lynne is riding high and arguably more popular than ever and "From Out Of Nowhere" is short, solid and just what an ELO record should be.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Songs Of The Week, 2019: 10/26-11/2


Keep Happy- Papa Mali
Shadrach- Beastie Boys
Mary (Alternative Take)- Robert Fripp & Daryl Hall
Baby Don't Do It- 5 Royales
You Were So Warm- Dwight Twilley Band
Over My Head- Ray Davies
Guess I'm Dumb- Jules Shear


Keep Happy- Papa Mali
The Friday before I took off, my friend Allen played this track on his radio show "All That Gumbo," which airs on Fridays at 4PM on WIOX from the Catskills. That drum pattern stayed in my head for days and I kept it up on the site until I returned. Great sentiment with a great groove.

Shadrach- Beastie Boys
From the "Revolver" of hip hop records, "Paul's Boutique," this Beasties track felt like a perfect follow-up to Papa Mali.

Mary (Alternate Take)- Robert Fripp & Daryl Hall
Terre Roche provides the lead vocal on this track from Fripp's "Exposure," while the Daryl Hall version sat in the vault for years. As much as I love Terre's vocals, I think I like Daryl's better.

Baby Don't Do It- 5 Royales
"Don't do it. Don't do it. Don't do it. Don't do it. Don't do it. Don't do it. Don't do it. Don't do it."

You Were So Warm- Dwight Twilley Band
But is it power pop? Who cares really? It's perfect pop.

Over My Head- Ray Davies
Arguably the best Ray Davies track of the last 20 years,

Guess I'm Dumb- Jules Shear
A great cover of Glen Campbell covering Brian Wilson.