Thursday, January 20, 2022

Life Begins At "89"



This makes me very happy.

The legendary Charlie Gabriel, senior member of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, will release his first solo record, "89" on the Sub Pop label.

It gets a digital release on 2/25, with CDs and vinyl due in July.

Charlie's playing on this first single is absolutely sublime.

I've seen Charlie Gabriel play more times than I can remember. He'd be a frequent guest at both Shannon Powell's Sunday night jams and Bob French's Monday night residencies at the long lamented Donna's Bar & Grill on N. Rampart Street in New Orleans. Never a bad time was had.

Again, this makes me happy.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

My Tommy Flanagan Story


I was listening to "The Incredible Jazz Guitar Of Wes Montgomery" which features Tommy Flanagan on piano, and I was reminded of the few times Flanagan had come into the shop. He was soft spoken and somewhat frail, but he was also far from warm. He'd always ask to see CDs that he had played on. We had a few but always wanted to know why we didn't have more. He was particularly keen on seeing "The Cats" with Coltrane and Kenny Burrell in the bins. Eventually, I ordered a few more. I mean, it was Tommy Flanagan.

Sometime later, he was doing a week at The Village Vanguard and I went to hear an early set. After the performance, he sat down on the banquette directly to the right of the stage. I decided I wanted to say hello and congratulate him on the wonderful performance.

"Mr. Flanagan. Hi. The set was amazing." 


"It's Sal, from NYCD on Amsterdam Avenue." 


That's my Tommy Flanagan story.

Monday, January 17, 2022

"The Boy Named If" & The Ghosts of Elvises Past



In brief, the new Elvis Costello record is one of the best of his career.

That is all.

Okay, that is not all.

I spent three solid spins with "The Boy Named If" and the last was better than the first.

It's not just because we are 45 years on from "My Aim Is True." 

Or, that Mr. McManus has tried the patience of his fans with more genre hopping releases than they'd care to remember.

Or, that no band members were in the same place at the same time at any point during the making of this album.

It's all of those things and the fact that this record reminds me of so many classic Elvis moments both solo and with his bands The Attractions and The Imposters, that I couldn't help but play "Name That Tune" while each song unfolded. For this alone, "The Boy Named If" is the most fun I have had with an Elvis Costello record in years. 

This is not to say I haven't loved his output for the last 25 years. I have. From his trip-hop experiments to his collaborations, I have loved most of it. But "The Boy Named If" is a blast from the needle drop. You don't need to figure it out. It's rock and roll.


It's hard to ignore the "Goon Squad" keyboards and "5ive Gears In Reverse/Beaten To The Punch" drive of the opener, "Farewell OK."

Or the subtle vibe and keyboard quotes of "The Beat" on "Magnificent Hurt."

Or, the similarities between "Trick Out The Truth" and "God's Comic."

Or, the melody and arrangement of "Paint The Red Rose Blue" owing more than a bit to Costello's cover of Bill Anderson's "Must You Throw Dirt In My Face."

Or, the absolutely gorgeous album closer, "Mr Crescent," which sounds like an unintentional mash-up of "All The Rage" and "Sleep Of The Just."

Intentional or not, Elvis & The Imposters have taken their greatest moves and created something brand new. "The Boy Named If" is not only musical in ways Costello hasn't been since "Imperial Bedroom," it rocks in ways Costello hasn't rocked since "Blood & Chocolate."

I can't recall the last Elvis release where I thought, "I love every single track."

Kudos to the band: Steve Nieve, Pete Thomas, & Davey Faragher.

And to the genius producer Sebastian Krys, for making "The Boy Named If" sound like the band was feeding off each other's sweat and chops in a studio together.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Songs Of The Week, 2022: 1/8-1/15



7 Rooms Of Gloom- The Four Tops
So In Love- Curtis Mayfield
Walking Spanish- Tom Waits
International Jet Set- The Specials
Thunderball- Ray Barretto
Baby, I Love You- The Ronettes
Welding- I-Roy


7 Rooms Of Gloom- The Four Tops
You can't go wrong starting a set with something from the Motown catalogue.

So In Love- Curtis Mayfield
"The one with Move On Up" is always cited as Mayfield's best. I prefer "the one with So In Love," which is "There's No Place Like America Today." This album also has the brilliant "Billy Jack" on it.

Walking Spanish- Tom Waits
Waits has been a cult figure and a respected songwriter since his debut. But once "Rain Dogs" hit, he became something bigger. Can you be a "cult superstar?" Oddly enough, "Rain Dogs" is arguably Waits' most popular record and it it ridiculously out of print.

International Jet Set- The Specials
Whenever I listen to The Specials, I reach for the debut. I finally decided to pull out "More Specials" and enjoyed it much more than I expected to.

Thunderball- Ray Barretto
Bond goes boogaloo!

Baby, I Love You- The Ronettes
For Ronnie.

Welding- I-Roy
Your "get happy, reggae moment of the week" from I-Roy.

Finally, I woke up to the news that Rachel Nagy, the powerhouse lead singer of The Detroit Cobras has passed away. Reports say she was 37, which can't be right. That would have made her 13 on the Cobras debut. I guess it doesn't matter. Even if the internet was off by 10 or 20 years, Nagy was still too young to go.

Listen to some Detroit Cobras today. They were more than just a cover band. 

Friday, January 14, 2022

Boss Of The Blues



Please enjoy the one and only Charles Brown and his 1964 cover of a song best associated with Steve Lawrence and Donny Osmond. It's only four minutes long, but it felt like I watched one of the most intense noir films of all time.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Ronnie Spector, 1943-2022


I don’t have much to add to what has already been said about Ronnie Spector except, there are few records as gloriously perfect as “Walking In The Rain.” That record has been breaking hearts for 60 years and I imagine it’s going to break a few more from here on out. 

That voice...

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

David Bowie's Albums Ranked: Rough Trade VS. Burning Wood

Who am I to argue with that meme? Or with Rough Trade's resident Bowie expert David Perry?  

He's an "expert."

Now I am no expert, but I do know a little about David Bowie's music. 

We all know these album ranking lists are nothing but click bait, and I'll be the first to admit that I fall for them every time. Still, Perry's list really rubbed me the wrong way. No Bowie "expert" is going to dismiss Tin Machine as "as bad as it gets," and then include (and rave about) the soundtrack to "Labyrinth." Or, rank the mostly dreadful "Tonight" higher than "Toy," or "Hours," or...

Damn experts! What do they know?

I had considered commentary like Perry's for each of the albums on my list, or at least replying to each of Perry's comments, but no one is paying me and quite frankly it is too much work.

I did add a comment or three when I felt inspired to do so.

My list is right below Rough Trade's. 

Thank you Paul In DK for the link and inadvertantly giving me an assignment.

Rough Trade's List Of Bowie Albums Ranked:

30. Tin Machine- I
29. Toy
28. Hours
27. David Bowie
26. Labyrinth
25. Never Let Me Down
24. The Buddha Of Suburbia
23. Reality
22. Black Tie, White Noise
21. Tin Machine - II
20. Tonight
19. Pin Ups
18. Earthling
17. Heathen
16. The Next Day
15. Outside
14. Space Oddity
13. The Man Who Sold The World
12. Lodger
11. Let's Dance
10. Aladdin Sane
09. Young Americans
08. Blackstar
07. Low
06. Station To Station
05. Hunky Dory
04. Diamond Dogs
03. Heroes
02. Ziggy Stardust
01. Scary Monsters

Burning Wood's List Of Bowie Albums Ranked:
30. Labyrinth
29. David Bowie
28. Tonight
"Blue Jean" was great. The reggae infuenced Iggy covers were not. And neither was the misguided cover of "God Only Knows." Almost 40 years later and I am still not over that one. Still, there are a few songs that save this from being complete garbage, though the production doesn't help. I have Rudy Vallee records that sound less dated.

27. Outside
Bowie and Eno reunite! What could go wrong? How about everything. This record has a few moments of brilliance, but it is mostly a boring, amelodic slog. It's 75 minutes long, for Pete's sake. If it wasn't for the handful of truly strong tracks, this might have been #30 on my list. I could edit "Outside" down to a nice, tidy 34 minutes---a proper album length---and it would shoot up to the Top 20.
"Outside" (BW's Edit)
Side One
The Heart's Filthy Lesson
Hallo Spaceboy
I Have Not Been To Oxford Town

Side Two
We Prick You
I'm Deranged
Strangers When We Meet

26. Never Let Me Down (Mario McNulty Remix)
This was always my least favorite Bowie record and it is definitely not all Mickey Rourke's fault, who happens to lend his voice to one track. But thanks to the genius work of Mario McNulty, so much of what was wrong has now been made right, including replacing Rourke with Laurie Anderson, all completed  with Bowie's approval. I now not only don't hate it, I truly like it.
25. Scary Monsters
This album is what I imagine Bowie haters think all Bowie records sound like. You can hear him posing on every track. His affected vocals even give me the twitch. But there is enough on it to like, even though it has always been one of my least played Bowie albums. That it ended up as Rough Trade's #1, is another reason to not pay attention to that list, says the non-expert. They say, "...his voice, a jagged weapon tearing restlessly into classic after classic and it sounds great." No, it doesn't. Not on all of it. It's actually his voice that ruins half of it.

24. Tin Machine- II
23. Tin Machine- I
These two records are filled with punk rock nastiness, arena rock riffs, and even a few catchy melodies. The playing almost always goes off the rails in the best possible ways, even if some of the songs have awfully embarassing lyrics. Tin Machine is not "as bad as it gets." Tin Machine were misunderstood and deserve another chance. 
22. Let's Dance
21. The Buddha Of Suburbia

20. Young Americans
I've warmed up to this record in the last 40 years. At the time, and for many years after, I saw right through it. It wanted to be soul music, but it just wasn't. Time and a different set of ears has softened me and now I can listen to this record and think, "Nice job, David" instead of thinking "Play Ziggy!" 
19. Space Oddity
18. Pin Ups
17. Hours
16. Earthling
15. Reality
14. Toy
Bowie wasn't very popular during this stretch of records. He was barely selling out clubs and theatres. But those who hadn't given up were rewarded with some of the best records of his career. The frenetic drum and bass rhythms of "Earthling" are admittedly not for everyone, but underneath those sounds were some incredible melodies. "Hours," "Toy," (see yesterday's post), "Heathen," which I will get to later," and "Reality" were almost basic compared to previous left turns in Bowie's career. Any dyed in the wool Bowie fan who dimissed these records, wasn't really listening.
13. Blackstar
I know "Blackstar" is beloved by many. Who else but David Bowie could orchestrate his own death? But I can't help believe if Bowie had survived, "Blackstar" would have been just another notch in his belt. It's fair to say nothing in Bowie's catalogue sounds like "Blackstar." It wouldn't be a stretch to say "Blackstar" doesn't sound like much else in anyone's catalogue. For that alone, it is a masterwork. But I'd be fooling myself if I didn't say, I think this record became an instant classic because of Bowie's death. I believe that. This is a demanding listen, but ultimately worth every second.
12. Lodger
"Lodger," at the time, felt even stranger than "Low" and "Heroes" before it. Like those two records, there were obvious attempts at singles--"DJ," "Boys Keep Swinging"---but unlike the two instrumental sides on the previous records, "Lodger" offered some of Bowie's most bizarre rhythms and vocals--"African Night Flight," "Yassassin." In 1979, I didn't really know what the hell I was listening to. In 2022, "Lodger" is nothing short of brilliant. "Lodger" speaks to the older me much better than it spoke to the younger me.
11. Black Tie White Noise
It was a coup. Indie label Savage Records signs David Bowie for a $3.4 million, three record deal, leaving the company $7.26 and a few Paper Mate pens to promote "Black Tie, White Noise." The company folded weeks later and Bowie's comeback reunion with Nile Rodgers and Mick Ronson was nothing short of a disaster. The music found on "BTWN" was not. It was brilliant. Funky, glammy and groovy, and reminiscent of the man's best work. But, no one cared. This record holds up better than ever.

10. The Next Day
09. Aladdin Sane
"Hot glam, I love you so!" This was the first Bowie record I bought upon its release. Picked it up at Sugar Mountain Records on Sheepshead Bay Road. There was no turning back.
08. Heathen
07. The Man Who Sold The World
06. Heroes
05. Diamond Dogs
04. Ziggy Stardust
To be straight, "Ziggy" could fall anywhere in the Top 5, including #1 all depending on the day. It's #4 right now, because the Top 3 still sound fresh to me. If I hadn't played "Ziggy Stardust" three times a day for almost all of the 70's, it might have been a no-brainer #1.

03. Low
02. Hunky Dory
01. Station To Station
I imagine few would question most of this Top Ten. Maybe you'd raise a brow to "Station To Station" at #1. But eight of the ten are pretty obvious choices, even if some of you would tweak the ranking a bit.  
Speaking of "eight" and "ten," you might ask yourself, "Heathen? The Next Day? Really?" Yes, really. If "Heathen" was a modern version of all the best parts of "The Berlin Trilogy" with a poppier edge, then "The Next Day" was a greatest hits of everything Bowie had recorded up to that point. There are days when I'd put both in the Top 5, that is how much I adore those two records. But I imagine including them in the Top Ten is controversial enough.
Just like the Stones fans who stopped listening after "Exile," or the Zep fans who gave up after "Zep 2," or those who think Todd Rundgren recorded "Hello It's Me" and then retired, I imagine there are those who think Bowie stopped making records after "Let's Dance." Before you judge, listen to "Heathen" and "The Next Day," and also the brand new, brilliant "Brilliant Adventures" box, especially if you are a) not a Bowie hater and b) can't recall hearing a note of any of those records.