Sunday, June 23, 2019

Songs Of The Week, 2019: 6/15-6/21

You're Doin' It Too Hard- Sir Douglas Quintet
You Drive Me Wild- The Runaways
Holiday- Nazareth
Crumbling Land- Pink Floyd
Beginning (Of The End)- Todd Rundgren w/John Boutte
I Forgot To Be Your Lover- George Faith
Torchlight- Ellen Foley w/The Clash


You're Doin' It Too Hard- Sir Douglas Quintet
First time I heard "You're Doin' It Too Hard" was by Charlie Sexton on a Doug Sahm tribute record. That version kicked my ass and now Sir Doug's is a personal favorite.

You Drive Me Wild- The Runaways
The first two studio albums and the "Live In Japan" album from The Runaways are getting proper vinyl reissues for the first time next month. The news reminded me of how much I love this track.

Holiday- Nazareth
I could not get enough of this track during the summer of 1980. It also took me forever to track it down in a record store, as I kept asking for "Mama Mama Please."

Crumbling Land- Pink Floyd
Just discovered this gem hiding out on the "Zabriskie Point" soundtrack. How does one love a band as much as I love Pink Floyd and only just hear one of their 50 year old songs?

Beginning (Of The End)- Todd Rundgren w/John Boutte
When Sal's Worlds Collide! One of my very favorite singers from New Orleans meets one of my very favorite artists of all time. A beauty.

I Forgot To Be Your Lover- George Faith
My reggae binge continues.

Torchlight- Ellen Foley & The Clash
It was a toss-up between this track and "Hitsville UK."  And...well...

Friday, June 21, 2019

"Paul, Brian, Ray & Todd": THE WEEKEND MIX (2019)

Paul McCartney, born on June 18th.

Brian Wilson, born on June 20th.

Ray Davies, born on June 21st.

Todd Rundgren, born on June 22nd.

I believe this is the 5th time I have paid tribute this fab four during their birthday week.
It's self-explanatory, so dig in, and Happy Birthday Gents. You done good.


Baby Let's Swing/The Last Thing You Said/Don't Tie My Hands- Todd
Nothin' In The World Could Stop Me Worryin' 'Bout That Girl- Ray
Please Let Me Wonder- Brian
Souvenir- Paul
Wendy- Brian
Session Man- Ray
I'm Carrying- Paul
Get Back In Line- Ray
A Certain Softness- Paul
Let Him Run Wild- Brian
Past- Todd
Sweet Lady Genevieve- Ray
Feel It- Todd
Unlce Albert/Admiral Halsey- Paul
Caroline, No- Brian
Fade Away- Todd


Thursday, June 20, 2019

Is It Rolling Thunder, Bob?

I came in with The Beatles and I will go out with The Beatles, maybe with a New Orleans second line arrangement of "Here Comes The Sun." But for all points in between, which amounts to some form of music, everyday, for over 50 years, I don't think anyone affects me like Bob Dylan. And that includes "Wiggle Wiggle."

When I am sitting in my concert seat at a Bob Dylan show, I stare at him. When Charlie Sexton, or G.E. Smith before him, takes a guitar solo, I am more fascinated by what Bob chooses to do off to the side of the stage. At one Madison Square Garden show in the early 2000's, Bob stood by a speaker and sipped something out of a red plastic cup. It was something else.

I may be exaggerating, but there is some truth to how I feel. How can you not feel this way about a guy who wrote "Simple Twist Of Fate?" He also wrote, "The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll," and a few other good ol' good ones, too.

I'm fresh off watching the Martin Scorsese documentary about the Rolling Thunder tour, which might explain the gushing. This film is not your run of the mill concert film because the concerts put on by Dylan and his gang were not run of the mill concerts.  If like me, you are moved by Zim's every blink, this film captures a Bob Dylan that has never been seen, not before and not ever again. Bob Dylan manages to be both human and superhuman. Seeing him engaging in the music and with the musicians around him is like getting a glimpse of a U.F.O.. Did you really just see that?

If you are one of those who thinks Bob Dylan cannot sing, watch this film. If you are one of those, put off by Dylan's aloofness, watch this film. If you are one of those who only likes a few Dylan songs, watch this film and I guarantee you will add a few more to that list. There are too many takeaways from this film. But the one thing that I took to bed, dreamt about and woke up to, is the performance of "I Shall Be Released," sung in two part harmony with Joan Baez. It had that beautifully eerie quality that you normally associate with siblings, like The Everlys. Every bent note, inflection, every glance and shoulder shake from these two, was something to behold.

I loved this film.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Produce Or Over-Produce? That Is The Question

I have had an innocuous obsession over the last few days over the term "over-produced." A friend, whose taste in music I respect, was not quite as enamored, to say the least, with Bruce Springsteen's new release, "Western Stars," as many, including myself were, citing, "over-production." My immediate thought was, "No it isn't. Not by a long shot." Quite the contrary, "Western Stars" is arguably the cleanest and most realized record in The Boss's catalogue. "Western Stars" was most definitely "produced."

Was "Born To Run" over-produced? How about "Sgt. Pepper?" Or, "Good Vibrations?" What makes something "over-produced" and not just made into a record?

I thought about Bruce's "Dancing In The Dark." Up until the first live acoustic reading of that monster hit, "Dancing In the Dark" meant little to me. It was a fine pop tune. It sounded tailor made for MTV and the then current airwaves. Once I heard the song, stripped of the gloss during a live performance at one of Neil Young's "Bridge Benefits," it became something entirely different; a heartbreak masterpiece, which was all but lost on me amidst the synthesizers and drum machines. So, is "Dancing In The Dark" over-produced? Would it have spent four weeks at #2 on the Billboard charts, and sold one million singles as an acoustic tale of loneliness?

The first time I heard John Wesley Harding's acoustic take on Madonna's "Like A Prayer," I was quite frankly, blown away. Since that time, the ironic acoustic reading of a big and loud rock or pop song, has become commonplace, and quite often boring. It feels like JWH started the whole thing with "Like A Prayer." Hearing the lyrics, sung with an alternate passion, opened my ears to something I did not get with Madonna's hit. It was a good song, as well as a good record! But is Madonna's version "over-produced?" I think not. As a matter of fact, I think it's her best single.

Back to Bruce for a minute.

Many have suggested that both "Human Touch" and "Lucky Town" suffer from bad production. A song in particular is "Real World," a song performed acoustically, possibly for the first time, in 1990, then released in 1992 on the former, as a souped up mess, complete with church bells. Is this a case of over-producing or just bad producing? Is there a difference? I know I rarely listen to "Born In The USA." But I rarely lilsten to anything from the 80's, as most of it sounds more dated than a Rudy Vallee record. But I didn't think that at the time. I went gaga over Tony Thompson's drum sound on both Bowie's "Let's Dance" and the Power the time. Not so much anymore. Neither badly produced, nor over-produced. Just perfect for the time.

Thinking on this for a bit, doing your best not to hastily toss out examples of songs or artists you may not care for in the first place, can you give me an example of a song that you think is "over-produced" and why? Be prepared, my goal is to disagree. My goal is to defend the lost art of record-making. Your goal is to stump me, to get me to agree that your selection is indeed, "over-produced."

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Songs Of The Week, 2019: 6/8-6/14

Rip It Up- Orange Juice
Merely A Man- XTC
My Way- The Who
Where Do the Children Play- Horace Andy
Who Needs You So Bad- Lil Bob & The Lollipops
Nobody- Kaliedoscope w/Johnny Guitar Watson and Larry Williams
Bittersweetheart- Soul Asylum


No backstory on most these songs of last week, aside from a random need to hear them.

A few quick notes:

Picked up a small but potent collection of vintage reggae records that I have been enjoying immensely. One record, "Skylarking" by Horace Andy is particulartly wonderful, as is his take on the Cat Stevens tune here.

The Kaleidoscope track with JGW and Larry Williams, is without question, one of my favorite records ever!

Doesn't The Who's Eddie Cochran cover sound more like a Roger Daltrey solo track?

One last thought on Soul Asylum's "Let Your Dim Light Shine," discussed last week. This, from my old pal, Brother Mike- "I LOVE THAT FUCKING ALBUM!" Me, too, Brother Mike,. Me, too.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Western Stars: A Bruce Springsteen Record, Completely

A new Bruce Springsteen record will almost guarantee the resurrection of the "hasn't made a great album since Nebraska" conversation. The less rigid will substitute "Nebraska" for "Tunnel Of Love." But the worst of the lot won't give you anything after "Darkness On The Edge Of Town." For a world renowned superstar, respected songwriter, legendary entertainer, and Tony winner, Bruce Springsteen rarely makes a good least that's how it seems the first week of a new release. A new Bruce Springsteen record, since "Tunnel of Love" it seems, will almost be a guaranteed disappointment on first or second listen because, at least since 1980's "The River," Bruce Springsteen hasn't made a record that sounds like the Bruce Springsteen you remember loving, all those sweaty, Capitol Theater nights ago. Besides, you have Southside Johnny for that, and ironically, that band gets trashed by the cognescenti, too. It's a lose-lose, isn't it?

But things change. You come around. In the words of Jeff Tweedy, "What you once were isn't what you wanna be anymore." Not you. Not me. Not Bruce Springsteen.

Now we have "Western Stars," a "cowboy" record. "Western Stars," a "desert" record. "Western Stars," a "Laurel Canyon" record. I've been living with this record for a day now, and "Western Stars" isn't any of those things. It's a Bruce Springsteen record and it's a damn good one, and even damn good records are not perfect.

Names like Jimmy Webb, Glen Campbell and Harry Nilsson were tossed around when "Hello Sunshine" was released as the first single. In and of itself, "Hello Sunshine" is indeed a pastiche of those artists, and the music they made. But in the context of "Western Stars," the album, that single is just as much a Bruce Springsteen song as "Walk Like A Man" from "Tunnel Of Love," or "Incident On 57th Street," from 15 years before it.

Songs like "The Wayfarer" and "Sundown," are, in a word, stunning. This is record-making at its finest, with sweeping production and big finales. "Stones," the very best thing on "Western Stars," for now, has a vibe that is part "Lonesome Day" and part "Color Of A Cloudy Day," the heart-wrenching Jason Isbell/Amanda Shires song, and it too, will leave you breathless.

Not everything works for me. Not the opener, "Hitch Hikin'," a simple and repetitive cliche that would have served the record better as a closer, much like "Wreck On The Highway," closing out "The River." And "Sleepy Joe's Cafe" feels too much like "Mary's Place" from "The Rising," which felt too much like Sam Cooke, and neither particularly good.

"Western Stars" will unfold and reveal itself slowly, like a brilliant record should. I love it more than I did yesterday.  It might help to drop all labels and all expectations. I don't even expect the rumored E Street Band record to sound anything like the E Street Band when it gets released next year. But if you're a fan of The Boss and of pop music, "Western Stars" has the best of both.

"The Legendary Jay Miller": THE WEEKEND MIX

The legendary Jay Miller was born in Iota, Louisiana. It is said that he started the very first record label in Louisiana, Fais Do Do records. Over the years, I've amassed dozens of collections, featuring some of the greatest swamp pop, blues, Cajun and rockabilly, all recorded by Jay Miller. There must be over 100 of these LPs, some devoted to one artist, others featuring a theme, like "Poor Boy Blues" or "Too Hot To Handle." I was even lucky enough to see some of these amazing artists, towards the end of their careers, at various stomps and tributes in New Orleans. At one show, Phil Philips was brought back out a total of three times, each time singing "Sea Of Love" to a crowd of disbelievers. "Is this really the guy who recorded the original Sea Of Love?" It sure was!

Here's a small taste of the Jay Miller sessions. The last three songs were recorded live at the Swamp Pop Summit in New Orleans, April 2005.

Hope ya dig it.


She's Gone, She's Gone- Honey Boy Allen
Alimonia Blues- Joe Johnson
I Wanna Know- Jimmy Dotson
You Ain't Had To Cry- Slim Harpo
Those Neighbors Of Mine- Lightning Slim
Mama Mama Mama- Warren Storm
Bloodstains- Lazy Lester
I'm A Samplin' Man- Lonesome Sundown
Walkin' In The Park- King Karl
You're Humbuggin' Me- Rocket Morgan
If I Ever Get Lucky- Clifton Chenier
Confusion- Classie Ballou
Let Me Be Your Hatchet (Till Your Hammer Comes Home) - Silas Hogan
Lonely Days & Lonely Nights- Joey Gills
Cool Calm Collected- Guitar Gable
She Was Gone- Wonder Boy Travis
In The Dark In The Park- Jimmy Anderson

Live from The 2005 Swamp Pop Summit in New Orleans, featuring C.C. Adcock, Warren Storm, Tommy McClain, King Karl, Phil Philips

This Should Go On Forever- King Karl
Seven Letters- Warren Storm
Sea Of Love- Phil Philips