Thursday, April 16, 2015

Real Gone Music Rocks June!

Black Oak Arkansas’s Raunch ‘N’ Roll Live
Our friends at Real Gone Music have announced their June release schedule, and for rockers like us, there are a couple of real gems to be found! On June 2nd, 2015 Real Gone will be reissuing an expanded version of Black Oak Arkansas’s classic Raunch ‘N’ Roll Live album and Ball, Iron Butterfly’s 1969 follow-up to their breakthrough In-A-Gadda- Da-Vida LP.

Southern rockers Black Oak Arkansas were a Dixie-fried boogie band, but with a little more grease and a lot more twang than contemporaries like Foghat or Humble Pie. Three early 1970s studio albums earned the band a well-deserved reputation as beer drinkers and hell raisers; while hovering in the upper regions of the charts, BOA was a mid-tier but sturdy live band, hard-touring wild men that always delivered a good time. Led by wild-ass frontman Jim “Dandy” Mangrum (David Lee Roth before he was David Lee Roth), Black Oak Arkansas mixed up hard rock, rockabilly, blues, and country with a spirit and energy unlike any other Southern band (save for Molly Hatchet, perhaps).

Raunch ‘n’ Roll Live was released as a gatefolded single LP back in 1973, and it provided fans outside of the BOA touring radius with a fair-to-middlin’ representation of the band’s raucous live show. Many critics believe it to be the band’s best album, and I’d agree – it’s certainly their most consistent, with Jim Dandy bellowing out high-octane live takes on studio tracks like “Hot and Nasty,” “Hot Rod,” and “When Electricity Came To Arkansas.” Real Gone has dug deeply and found the master tapes from the two 1972 shows used to source the original album, and they’re releasing an expanded two-disc version called The Complete Raunch ‘N’ Roll Live. Blown up to 17 songs, the reissue includes new tracks like “Fever On My Mind,” “Keep The Faith,” and “Lord Have Mercy On My Soul” that were previously unreleased.

Iron Butterfly's BallWe’ve written about the mighty Iron Butterfly before, and the recent slate of vintage live recordings have been proverbial manna from heaven for long-suffering fans of the band. Sadly, much of Butterfly’s back catalog has been in shambles, a criminal oversight partially redeemed by Real Gone’s reissue of Ball. The band’s third album, Ball was recorded by what is considered to be the classic Butterfly line-up – singer/keyboardist Doug Ingle, guitarist Erik Brann, bassist Lee Dorman, and drummer Ron Bushy – and with another year of touring under their collective belts, Ball featured tighter, shorter, and punchier songs with a hard rock edge and more melodic undertones than their previous acid-rock dirges.

Not that Ball doesn’t include its flights of psychedelic fancy, but singles like “In The Time of Our Lives” and “Soul Experience” proved that Iron Butterfly had more talent and vision than critics had previously given them credit for possessing. Ball rose to #3 on the Billboard album chart, beating its predecessor and representing the peak of the band’s commercial fortunes. The Real Gone reissue of Ball is also an expanded edition, with two bonus tracks (non-LP single sides), re-mastered sound, and brand spankin’ new liner notes by writer Bill Kopp.

Interesting trivia for fellow fanatics – Iron Butterfly’s Lee Dorman and Mike Pinera (who joined the band in 1970) produced Black Oak Arkansas’s self-titled 1971 debut album. Small world, innit?

Buy the CDs from Amazon.com:
Black Oak Arkansas's The Complete Raunch 'N Roll Live (2xCD)  
Iron Butterfly's Ball (expanded edition)

Friday, April 10, 2015

Canned Heat Live From The Archive!

Canned Heat with John Lee Hooker Carnegie Hall 1971
As a band, blues-rock legends Canned Heat have a checkered history that has definitely tarnished what is otherwise a considerable legacy. Formed in 1965 by Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson and Bob “The Bear” Hite – two rabid blues fans and collectors – Canned Heat was named for a song by obscure Delta bluesman Tommy Johnson. By 1967, the band had gelled around guitarist/harp player Wilson and singer Hite, with guitarist Henry “The Sunflower” Vestine, bassist Larry Taylor, and drummer Adolfo “Fito” de la Parra rounding out the line-up.

This was the “classic” Canned Heat band that recorded albums like 1968’s Boogie With Canned Heat and Living The Blues, which scored hits with the songs “On The Road Again” (#16 on the Billboard chart) and “Going Up The Country” (#11 on the chart). Vestine left prior to the band’s Woodstock performance, to be replaced by the talented Harvey Mandel, and throughout the 1970s and ‘80s the band survived tragic deaths (Wilson in 1970, Hite in 1981) and musician defections but they kept on truckin’.

Through the years, talents like Walter Trout, Mike “Hollywood Fats” Mann, and Junior Watson played with the band, using Canned Heat as a springboard to greater things. Adolfo de la Parra has kept the band rolling through the present day but, to be honest, it just isn’t the same as it was even 30 years ago, and records like 2007’s Christmas Album have done the band’s reputation no favor. Back in the 1960s and early ‘70s, though, Canned Heat had its finger on the pulse of where blues-based rock would go in the decades to follow, and albums like the two mentioned previously, as well as 1970’s Future Blues and the band’s 1971 collaboration with the great John Lee Hooker, Hooker n’ Heat, are stone cold classics.

Canned Heat was, perhaps, one of the original “jam” bands (sorry Deadheads), but precious little live music from that period has survived…which makes Cleopatra Records’ plans to release three Canned Heat live performances on CD all the more remarkable! Next week (April 14th), Cleopatra will release Carnegie Hall 1971, a historic recording from the band’s tour with John Lee Hooker that followed the release of Hooker ‘n Heat. On May 12th, 2015 Cleopatra will release Stockholm 1973 on CD, and they’ll follow up on July 7th with the release of the Illinois Blues 1973 album. 

Canned Heat's Stockholm 1973Credited to Canned Heat with John Lee Hooker, Carnegie Hall 1971 offers up six scorching tracks on both CD and limited-edition green vinyl. Featuring liner notes by esteemed rock critic Dave Thompson that includes a new interview with de la Parra, we’ve included the tracklist for Carnegie Hall 1971 below. 
 
Canned Heat’s Carnegie Hall 1971 tracklist:
  
1. Framed
2. Let’s Work Together
3. Hey Babe
4. Shake ‘n’ Boogie
5. Back Door Man
6. Tease Me Baby

Scheduled for May, Stockholm 1973 features a previously-unreleased show from a post-Wilson band that featured Bob Hite on the microphone, guitarists Henry Vestine and James Shane, bass player Richard Hit, drummer Adolfo de la Parra, and keyboardist Ed Beyer, the line-up that recorded 1973’s The New Age album, and the live set list includes three songs from that LP written by Shane and Beyer, as well as the band’s well-worn hit, “On The Road Again.” Here’s the tracklist for Stockholm 1973, as well as a little video for your listening enjoyment!

 Canned Heat’s Stockholm 1973 tracklist:

1. Let’s Work Together
2. On The Road Again
3. Harley Davidson Blues
4. Election Blues
5. So Long Wrong
6. Shake ‘n’ Boogie
7. Goodbye For Now

Buy the CDs from Amazon.com:
Canned Heat's Stockholm 1973
Canned Heat & John Lee Hooker Carnegie Hall 1971

 

 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Book Review: Fantagraphics' Zap The Interviews (2015)

Fantagraphics Book's Zap: The Interviews
Maybe it wasn’t the first underground comic book, but Zap Comix was undeniably the most important and influential title to emerge from the 1960s. Zap’s free-wheeling storytelling and frequently anarchic artwork – which ranged from cartoonish to crude, and from psychedelic to carefully-crafted fine art – shattered the limitations of what a comic book could be. Unabashedly adult in nature, with sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll filling its pages, Zap opened the door for comic artists to experiment in the pages of mainstream titles published by DC and Marvel as well as influencing a generation of young creators like Jaime Hernandez (Love & Rockets) and Daniel Clowes (Eightball), among many others.

Zap Comix


The first issue of Zap was published by artist/writer Robert Crumb in 1968, Crumb and his wife selling copies of Zap #1 out of a baby stroller on the streets of San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. The book kick-started the underground comix business and it wasn’t long until head shops and other counter-culture retailers were stocking titles like Zap Comix, Dopin’ Dan, Young Lust, and The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers.

Given the popularity of Zap #1, Crumb decided to open up the book to other artists, enlisting talents like Gilbert Shelton, Spain Rodriguez, S. Clay Wilson, Robert Williams, Rick Griffin, and Victor Moscoso to bring creative diversity to the book. This visionary group of creators became known as the Zap collective and they shared equally in the subsequent success of the book, which saw new issues published sporadically every few years. Even after the underground comix “boom” fizzled out during the mid-1970s due to too many books and not enough talent to sustain them, Zap just kept on truckin’…

Zap Comix #1
Artist Paul Mavrides, known for his incredible work for the Church of Sub-Genius, was brought on board after Rick Griffin’s tragic death in a motorcycle accident in 1991, and Crumb himself left the title in the 1990s. Spain Rodriguez succumbed to cancer in 2012, and health problems have left S. Clay Wilson unable to draw, so it’s unlikely that we’ll ever see another new issue of Zap Comix. Over the course of 15 mind-blowing issues, however, Zap influenced not only mainstream and alternative comics, but also concert posters, album covers, animation, and even fine art as well as introducing timeless characters like Crumb’s incorrigible Mr. Natural, Wilson’s Checkered Demon, and Shelton’s Wonder Wart-Hog to readers.

Zap: The Interviews


In 2014, Fantagraphics Books published an ultra-deluxe box set that includes beautiful reproductions of all 15 issues of Zap Comix as well as a previously-unpublished 16th issue. While the set includes an extensive oral history of Zap as well as an artist portfolio and other heretofore unseen goodies, its hefty $500 price tag puts it beyond the reach of all but the most well-heeled of comics and art collectors. Hopefully Fantagraphics will see its way clear to reprint the comix themselves in paperback versions for those of us of more modest means.

While The Complete Zap Comix box raised the title to fine art status, the set garnering an impressive amount of publicity upon its release, another Zap-related title was published by Fantagraphics around the same time but to much less fanfare. The ninth volume in the company’s acclaimed “Comics Journal Library,” Zap: The Interviews is a highly-collectible tome in its own right. An oversized (10”x12”) trade paperback running some 264 pages, the profusely-illustrated volume collects previously-published interviews with the eight different Zap artists from the pages of The Comics Journal, as well as a number of unpublished interviews, conversations that range from as long ago as 1972 (the first Gilbert Shelton interview) to as recent as 2012 (including what may have been Spain Rodriguez’s final interview).

There’s a lot of meat in the 264 pages of Zap: The Interviews. One might think that Robert Crumb as, perhaps, the most famous of the Zap artists, would receive a lion’s share of the book, but that’s not the case. The erudite and outspoken S. Clay Wilson and Spain Rodriguez receive nearly as much or more ink than Crumb, and only Gilbert Shelton – at a mere fourteen pages – seems to be shorted here. Plenty of each artist’s work is reproduced in the extra-large volume, providing a visual touchstone for readers unfamiliar with an individual Zap contributor’s work.

Robert Crumb & Spain Rodriguez


Crumb’s lengthy interview, from 1988, is both informative and entertaining, and while I personally would like to have seen a more updated conversation with the artist included here, there’s plenty of other material available for those wanting to discover more about Crumb (and, in fact, Fantagraphics publishes numerous Crumb collections worthy of spending your hard-earned coin upon). Other Zap contributors haven’t achieved nearly the level of fame and notoriety of Mr. Crumb, so it was particularly gratifying to find several interviews with Spain Rodriguez – one of my personal faves – by The Comics Journal’s Gary Groth and underground comix historian Patrick Rosenkranz.

Covering Rodriguez’s childhood in Buffalo NY through his time with the Road Vultures motorcycle gang and his eventual move to the West Coast and Zap Comix, there are 50+ pages here on Spain, providing invaluable insight into his art, his left-leaning working class politics, and the overall unique worldview which colored his gritty, often ultra-futuristic art. The section on S. Clay Wilson is also lengthy, but nowhere near as interesting, as multiple interviews spanning a couple of decades tread a lot of same turf, with Wilson often repeating his stories, sometimes with interesting flourishes, and while these conversations do open a window to Wilson’s blood ‘n’ guts style of artwork, they also become exhausting to read.

Rick Griffin & Victor Moscoso


Zap Comix #16
The initial interview with Rick Griffin is also somewhat mundane, although subsequent conversations offer some fascinating nuggets. Griffin was already a well-known psychedelic concert poster artist and surfer legend when he hooked up with Zap, but he seems somewhat reticent in sharing himself with his interviewers in the same manner as Rodriguez or Wilson. That’s definitely not the case with Victor Moscoso, whose brash manner and confidence were a refreshing change of pace after slogging through the Griffin material. The oldest of the Zap collective, Moscoso’s psychedelic-tinged fine art style stood out on Zap’s pages, and his conversations here provide a lot of information on both the man and his art.

As mentioned above, Gilbert Shelton – the legendary creator of such beloved comix characters as the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, Wonder Wart-Hog, Oat Willie, and others – definitely receives the worst coverage in Zap: The Interviews. With a mere handful of pages, Shelton isn’t given a lot of room to talk compared to the others, a sin considering his status as probably the second-best known and popular underground comix creator. Ditto for the infamous Robert Williams, whose unique vision and style has made his artwork extremely collectible (and with the prices to prove it!). Williams gets only a dozen pages here and while they touch upon his lengthy history and include a smattering of artwork, the brevity of the section doesn’t do the artist justice. Last but not least, several Paul Mavrides interviews not only provide a lot of back history on the influences found in his art, but also showcase the artist’s indelible sense of humor and intelligence.  

The Reverend’s Bottom Line


Those minor cavils about Shelton and Williams aside, Zap: The Interviews is a fascinating, informative, and entertaining collection that serves as an invaluable companion to the collected run of Zap Comix itself. By looking under the hood and gazing deeply into the inner mechanics of the book and its artists, Zap: The Interviews provides important context for each creator’s work.

With individual copies of Zap Comix readily available from eBay and comics shops at not-too-obscene prices; books by Williams, Rodriguez, and Wilson are easy to find with a little digging; and with Robert Crumb’s nearly entire artistic milieu available in multiple paperback volumes, comix fans can patch together an impressive collection of art and stories in no time. Zap: The Interviews is the place to begin, however, the book introducing the larger-than-life talents that created the comix revolution and proving a place in history for their art and efforts. (Fantagraphic Books, published January 4, 2015)

Late-breaking news: it looks like Fantagraphics will be publishing an 80-page paperback version of Zap Comix #16 in graphic novel form in December 2015. Stay tuned, faithful readers! - yer manic editor

Buy the book from Amazon.com: Zap: The Interviews

Got money to spend? Buy The Complete Zap Comix Boxed Set from Amazon.com

Thursday, April 2, 2015

CD Preview: Mick Abrahams’ Revived

Mick Abrahams' Revived
Guitarist Mick Abrahams is one of the underrated and overlooked treasures of British blues-rock. He was an original member of the legendary Jethro Tull, playing on the band’s debut album This Was, before a difference in musical direction with bandleader Ian Anderson prompted Abrahams to leave and form the groundbreaking, influential outfit Blodwyn Pig. Under Abrahams’ guidance, Blodwyn Pig released two magnificent discs of blues and rock with jazz-fusion overtones – 1969’s Ahead Rings Out and the following year’s Getting To This – before breaking up.

After Blodwyn Pig, the guitarist formed the Mick Abrahams Band, releasing a pair of acclaimed blues-rock collections before quitting the music business for a while in the mid-1970s. Since then, Abrahams has released the occasional solo album, toured and recorded with various reunited Blodwyn Pig line-ups, and even led a band called This Was with other Tull alumni performing Ian Anderson songs. The past few years have seen a steady flow of archival releases and the sporadic live album, all the more remarkable considering that Abrahams has been battling health issues for several years now.

You can’t keep a true bluesman down, though, and Abrahams has put together a new album of some of his favorite songs. Titled Revived, the album will be released on April 7, 2015 – Abraham’s 72nd birthday – by Gonzo Multimedia, who will also be offering a limited edition DVD version of the album. The guitarist is joined by some famous friends on Revived, an ‘A’ list team that includes legendary vocalist Paul Jones (former Manfred Mann frontman and a beloved solo bluesman in the U.K.), guitarists Martin Barre (Jethro Tull), Bernie Marsden (Whitesnake), and Elliott Randall (Steely Dan); bassist Bill Wyman (the Rolling Stones, Rhythm Kings), drummer Jim Rodford (the Kinks), and a slew of other talented musicians.

Along with his famous and not-so-famous friends on Revived, Abrahams knocks out a lengthy set list of blues, R&B, and rock covers and originals, including Jimmy Reed’s “Bright Lights, Big City,” Chuck Berry’s “Nadine,” Leadbelly’s “Goodnight Irene,” and the Lieber/Stoller gem “Poison Ivy,” among many others. Abrahams is a pretty darn good guitar player with Delta mud running through his veins, so Revived promises to provide a heck of a ride. Check out the complete tracklist below and then watch the video preview we’ve so graciously provided for your entertainment...

Mick Abrahams’ Revived tracklist:

1. Summer Day
2. What About Us
3. Elz & Abys Jam
4. On The Road Again
5. Nadine
6. Remember
7. I Can Tell
8. I'm A Hog For You
9. Bright Lights Big City
10. Dragonfly
11. Boney Moronie
12. Goodnight Irene
13. Poison Ivy
14. Red River Rock
15. North By North West
16. Hungry For Love
17. Summer Day With Hammond


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Muddy Waters & Friends Jam In Chicago (circa 1974)

Soundstage: Blues Summit In Chicago, 1974 DVD
Thirty-plus years after his death, the great Muddy Waters remains the undisputed King of Chicago Blues. Sure, Buddy Guy may be his heir apparent, but with a wealth of Waters’ back catalog CDs and DVDs remaining in print for new listeners to discover, and with new treasures from the archive trickling out each year, it’s going to be hard – if not impossible – for anybody to claim Waters’ throne anytime soon…

Legacy Recording will be adding another priceless gem to the Waters’ treasure chest on April 21st, 2015 when they reissue Soundstage: Blues Summit In Chicago, 1974 on DVD for the very first time. Credited to “Muddy Waters and Friends,” the DVD documents a July 1964 concert by Waters and a few friends that would be broadcast as the first episode of Soundstage, a beloved live concert series that was broadcast by PBS stations around the country for 13 seasons during the late 1970s and early-to-mid-1980s (and was resurrected for more episodes in the early ‘00s).

Waters by himself is a potent onstage presence, especially with a band at the time that included talents like guitarists Bob Margolin and Luther “Snake Boy” Johnson, bassist Calvin “Fuzz” Jones, pianist Pinetop Perkins, and drummer Willie “Big Eyes” Smith. Among the heavy “friends” appearing with Waters are fellow Chicago blues giants Koko Taylor and Willie Dixon; guitarists Michael Bloomfield, Nick Gravenites, and Johnny Winter; former Waters’ band harp player (and solo star) Junior Wells; and pianist Dr. John, among others. Together, these storied musicians put on a hell of a show (the full DVD tracklist can be found below).   

“This first edition of our Soundstage series definitely stands the test of time,” says Soundstage producer Ken Ehrlich in a press release for the DVD. “The same greatness that these blues legends like Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Junior Wells and Koko Taylor showed in this iconic gathering of blues greats continues to influence current generations of blues players and fans. The only difference is that now, 40 years later, the other artists on the show like Johnny Winter, Mike Bloomfield, Dr. John and Buddy Miles have now achieved similar legendary status as those first generation blues artists they came to honor back in 1974.”

Soundstage: Blues Summit In Chicago, 1974 tracklisting:

Muddy Waters – “Blow Wind Blow”
Muddy Waters – “Long Distance Call”
Junior Wells & Nick Gravenites – “Messin’ With The Kid”
Junior Wells – “Stop Breaking Down”
Muddy Waters –  “Mannish Boy”
Willie Dixon & Koko Taylor – “Wang Dang Doodle”
Johnny Winter – “Walking Through The Park”
Muddy Waters & Willie Dixon – “Hootchie Kootchie Man”
Dr. John – “Sugar Sweet”
Muddy Waters – “Got My Mojo Workin’”

Buy the DVD from Amazon.com: Muddy Waters and Friends' Soundstage: Blues Summit Chicago 1974