Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Wesley Stace, Where Have I Been All Your Life?

My friend and band mate, John Dunbar has been singing the praises of Wesley Stace, AKA John Wesley Harding for as long as I've known him. To say I've resisted wouldn't be quite accurate.  I bought JWH's full length debut "It Happened One Night" back in '88 and liked it enough to buy his next three. But I never fell in love with any of those records. There was something about his voice that bothered me. It's hard to explain, the same way I can't explain why I don't like Teenage Fanclub other than, every song sounds the same, or why I hate the sound of a Fender Rhodes piano. I just know, it'd be a turn off, even if Beethoven was giving me a personal recital on it.

By the time he started using his real name, and got a deal with Yep Roc records, there were way too many JWH/WS records to catch up with, and the occasional song I did hear, failed to grab me long enough to convince me, though "There's A Starbucks (Where The Starbucks Used To Be)" is quite brilliant. Plus, I've been following him on Instagram. Stace is an avid record collector and posts some terrific pics and often hilarious commentary of records he has purchased, as well as anything he thinks is worthy of snapping and chatting about. I was loving his Instagram feed more than his music.

Then I found a cheap vinyl copy of his most recent Yep Roc release, "Wesley's Stace's John Wesley Harding," which like the most recent Ray Davies, has The Jayhawks backing him up. (You know where I am headed, don't you?)

30 years later, including the 6 months or so after the initial release of this new record, and now I am just slightly obsessed with catching up on all things Wesley Stace. I love this record. I fell like a sack of rocks at the opening tune, "I Don't Wanna Rock And Roll."

"I'm hanging up my leather jacket/my backstage passes and my laminates
Take my name up off the list/I've seen the show, I've got the gist
No more purchasing of merchandise/someone else can do your advertising
Every day another debut/I'll find something new to do cause...
I don't wanna rock and roll no more"

I've been feeling this for years, only my version doesn't have The Jayhawks harmonizing behind me.

Just about every song has something to hold onto, and unlike "Americana," which I have not gone back to since it came out, I think The Jayhawks lend themselves better to JWH's voice than to Ray Davies, and this new-ish release has been doing hard time on my turntable.

"You're a song and someone else is singing you now"

Man, I wish I had written that line.

For those who already know what I have been missing for years, it is time for me to catch up. But if like me, you never found a minute to listen to John Wesley Stace Harding, try out this new record and let me know what you think.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Songs Of The Week, 2017: 8/5-8/11

Easy Silence- Dan Wilson
Apple Scruffs- George Harrison
Have You Seen Jackie- Dukes Of Stratosphear
Lost Without You- Randy Newman
Anytime- Neil Finn
She Walks Her Dog In Pajamas- The John Sally Ride
Southern Man- John Boutte


Friday, August 11, 2017

"This Ain't No Monkeying Around": THE WEEKEND MIX

It was only a few weeks ago that I had two separate conversations with some friends who love all music, but who also claimed to know little about the Monkees music other than the hits. One said, "I had no idea just how good they were." Another said, "I just never bothered." Maybe it was the wacky TV series that turned them off. Or possibly, the hits themselves, though wonderful and hook-laden, a bit lighter than some of the deeper tracks that showcased Mike Nesmith's songwriting and great vocal harmony of all four members. Whatever it is, The Monkees never seemed to get the respect that so many of their peers had gotten during the heyday.

Things have changed, and The Monkees, 50 years later, are definitely getting respect. But there are many who still have no idea what they sound like beyond "Cheer up sleepy Jean," so maybe this mix will shed some light....and sound.

Here are 18 of my favorite tracks, with only a smattering of hits tossed in to keep things honest.


You Told Me
I Won't Be The Same Without Her
(I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone
Daily Nightly
While I Cry
Tapioca Tundra
Me & Magdalena (Version 2)
Carlisle Wheeling
Someday Man
What Am I Doing Hangin' 'Round
You Just May Be The One
The Girl I Knew Somewhere
Papa Gene's Blues
Don't Wait For Me
Take A Giant Step
Pleasant Valley Sunday


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Your Thursday Morning Hook-Filled, McCartney-esque Rocker From Denmark

It only took four years, but I finally nailed a copy of Tim Christensen's "Honeyburst" on a beautiful 2 LP set. And now, I am bingeing on the guy. If you are not familiar with this Great Dane, check out my post from 2013. 

If today's song doesn't do it for you, the sheer joy of his live "Ram" performance with his band The Damn Crystals and featured players Mike Viola and Tracy Bonham surely will.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

And Dat's Dat

I doubt there is anyone out there with the time, patience and math skills to conduct this same experiment by pitting different songs against each other, just to see if "Rubber Soul" ends up having more songs in the mix. So, we will conclude this experiment with the final track list of 9 songs for "A Hard Day's Night" and 4 for "Rubber Soul." And I have no doubt that, when asked to rank The Beatles work from best to worst, "A Hard Day's Night" will still be left off of the Top 5.

1. A Hard Day's Night
2. Norwegian Wood
3. If I Fell
4. Nowhere Man
5. And I Love Her
6. Tell Me Why
7. Can't Buy Me Love
8. Anytime At All
9. Girl
10. Things We Said Today
11. In My Life
12. You Can't Do That
13. I'll Be Back

Suggestions for a future album battle?

Monday, August 7, 2017

THE FINALE: "I'll Be Back" VS. "If I Needed Someone"

"You Can't Do That"- 29
"Wait"- 9

Here we are at the end of the contest. I realize how flawed all of this has been. Would "Wait" have made the final cut if put up against "What Goes On?" How would "And I Love Her" do against "In My Life?" Still, I maintain, we've come to believe from years of basic "say so," that certain classic records are better than others, and I think it's great fun taking those classic records and picking them apart.

It looks as if "A Hard Day's Night" will have more songs chosen than "Rubber Soul." Does that make it a better record? I like it better, but the debate will continue over what "Rubber Soul" represented versus what "A Hard Day's Night" represented. I like getting right down to the songs and what they have to offer.

I hope you all had some fun.

That said...

We still have one more round...and one extra song.

The next battle is between "I'll Be Back" and "If I Needed Someone," leaving the last song on "Rubber Soul" uncontested. I certainly did not plan this, but I think "Run For Your Life" is the worst song on "Rubber Soul" and one of my least favorite Beatles tunes. If it was up to me, I'd forget it altogether. So, let's do this.

After casting your vote for either "I'll Be Back" or "If I Needed Someone," give a yay or nay for whether "Run For Your Life" should be tacked on to the final tracklist.

As for "I'll Be Back," it's a true gem in the Lennon/McCartney songbook, though it is all Lennon. A personal fave of Lennon's, to boot. With no real chorus, the song, even at 2:23, feels epic. As Ian MacDonald wrote, "Fading away in tonal ambiguity at the end of A Hard Day's Night, it was a surprisingly downbeat farewell and a token of coming maturity." And that trick of going from the major chord to the minor chord is genius.

"If I Needed Someone" might be George Harrison's best tune thus far, even if it was snatched from The Byrds.  But as good as it is, it does not hold a candle, at least to my ears, to "I'll Be Back."

And a big NO, to "Run For Your Life."

1. A Hard Day's Night
2. Norwegian Wood
3. If I Fell
4. Nowhere Man
5. And I Love Her
6. Tell Me Why
7. Can't Buy Me Love
8. Anytime At All
9. Girl
10. Things We Said Today
11. In My Life
12. You Can't Do That

Previously on Album Battle:













Saturday, August 5, 2017

Songs Of The Week, 2017: 7/22-8/4

Tattooed Love Boys- Pretenders
About To Give Out- Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
I Won't Be The Same Without Her- The Monkees
Don't Let Him Take Your Love From Me- Jimmy Ruffin
Two Hearts (Solo Acoustic)- Bruce Springsteen
Living In The Past- Billie Davis
Power Trippin'- Power Station
Touch Too Much- AC/DC
That's Just What You Are- Aimee Mann & Glenn Tilbrook
Make A Little Love- Alex Chilton
C30 C60 C90 Go- Bow Wow Wow
Blame It On Your Heart- Deborah Allen
Two Fux- Adam Lambert
Sunny- Marvin Gaye