Friday, September 12, 2014

CD Preview: Shuggie Otis’s Live In Williamsburg

Shuggie Otis's Live In Williamsburg
When legendary guitarist Shuggie Otis returned to music last year after a hiatus of better than three decades, he hit the road in support of the deluxe reissue of his Inspiration Information album, which was packaged with a disc of unreleased music he’d been recording through the years titled Wings of Love. The set received nearly unanimous positive reviews and opened the door for the second (third?) chapter in Otis’s lengthy and storied career.

One of the stops on what Otis called the “Never Ending World Domination Tour” was at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, New York. On October 14th, 2014 Cleopatra Records will release this stunning performance on CD as Live In Williamsburg. A twelve-track collection that features some of Otis’s best-loved songs (“Strawberry Letter 23,” “Inspiration Information,” and “Shuggie’s Boogie” among them), Live In Williamsburg shows that Shuggie has lost none of the enormous talent that once earned him an invitation to join the Rolling Stones as guitarist Mick Taylor’s replacement.

For this 2013 “comeback” tour, Otis was backed by a band that included his son Eric on guitar and his brother Nick on drums. "It was a great feeling having my brother and my two sons playing with me in various parts of the globe last year," says Otis in a press release for the live album. "They have their own music as well, and I love them, and am also very proud of them. It's special to play with them, and it was really important to me to capture one of our performances on record."
Then again, for Shuggie Otis, music has always been a family affair. The son of R&B legend Johnny Otis (“Willie & the Hand Jive,” “Mambo Boogie,” etc), Shuggie began playing guitar at the tender age of 11 years old, performing with his father’s band and playing on recording sessions by greats like Big Joe Turner and T-Bone Walker. "Growing up musically in my father's band was a blessing," says Shuggie. "I was getting my second set of guitar lessons through having to perform on stage." Although he was already a veteran of the West Coast R&B scene by the age of 15, the young Otis was “discovered” by musician and producer Al Kooper, who enlisted Shuggie to play on his acclaimed 1968 album Kooper Session: Al Kooper with Shuggie Otis.

A year later, Otis recorded his solo debut album, Here Comes Shuggie Otis, produced by his father, followed in 1971 by Final Flight, which included his original song “Strawberry Letter 23,” which would later become a major hit for the Brothers Johnson. Otis’s seminal album, Inspiration Information, was released in 1974 when the guitarist was only 21 years old, and has since been cited by artists like David Byrne, Prince, and Lenny Kravitz, among many others, as a major influence on their own music.

Throughout this period, Otis continued to expand and build upon his talents, playing and recording with artists like Frank Zappa, Etta James (one of his father’s many discoveries), Bo Diddley, Billy Preston, and Johnny “Guitar” Watson, among others. After appearing on his father’s 1981 album The New Johnny Otis Show, Shuggie all but disappeared from the frenzied rock music scene. He was still writing and recording music, but he was also raising a family and seemed to be in no hurry to undergo the sort of roadwork necessary to sustain a career in the 1980s and ‘90s.     

We’re thrilled that Otis, one of our longtime favorites, has returned to music, and word is that he’ll be touring again in support of Live In Williamsburg. Cleopatra Records also has plans to release the performance on DVD, but until that time, you owe it to yourself to check out one of the most visionary talents of the 1970s either in person, or on Live In Williamsburg. We have the full track list for the album below.

Shuggie Otis’s Live in Williamsburg track list:

1. Inspiration Information
2. Tryin' To Get Close To You
3. Aht Uh Mi Hed
4. Island Letter
5. Me And My Woman
6. Sparkle City - Miss Pretty
7. Sweetest Thang
8. Picture of Love
9. Wings of Love
10. Doin' What's Right
11. Shuggie's Boogie
12. Strawberry Letter 23

Buy the CD on Shuggie Otis's Live In Williamsburg

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Bill Nelson’s After The Satellite Sings To Be Reissued

Bill Nelson's After The Satellite Sings
Guitarist Bill Nelson has enjoyed a lengthy career that seems to be in no danger of ending anytime soon. From the legendary albums he made with his 1970s-era band Be Bop Deluxe to a critically-acclaimed solo career that began in 1979 with Bill Nelson’s Red Noise and the release of Sound-On Sound, to the present day and nearly 40 albums later, Nelson has made his mark as an influential, innovative, and pioneering musician.

Cocteau Discs, an imprint of the British archival label Esoteric Recordings, has been the home of Nelson’s extensive back catalog for albums released from 1971 to 2001. Cocteau continues their reissue series of Nelson’s music with the September 29th, 2014 release of a newly re-mastered edition of the guitarist’s After The Satellite Sings album. Originally released in 1996 as the follow-up to the instrumental Practically Wired album, After The Satellite Sings was recorded in a mere 28 days at Fairview Studios in East Yorkshire, UK in late 1985 and features three instrumental tracks as well as Nelson’s Bowie-like vocals.

This Cocteau Discs edition of the long out of print album restores the original vinyl LP artwork and includes new liner notes by Nelson, who states in a press release for the album “After The Satellite Sings is an interesting album on many levels and I'm pleased to see it being given a re-release.” The complete track list for After The Satellite Sings below…

Bill Nelson’s After The Satellite Sings track list:

1. Deeply Dazzled
2. Dreamster 2 L.R.  
3. Flipside
4. Streamliner
5. Memory Babe
6. Skull Baby Cluster
7. Zoom Sequence
8. Rocket To Damascus
9. Beautiful Nudes
10. Old Goat
11. Squirm
12. Wow! It’s Scootercar Sexkitten!
13. Phantom Sedan (Theme From Tail-Fin City)
14. Ordinary Idiots
15. V-Ghost (For Harold and Ellen)
16. Blink-Agog

Buy the CD on Bill Nelson's After the Satellite Sings

Thursday, September 4, 2014

CD Review: Eleven 59's Always & Again

Eleven 59's Always & Again
Eleven 59 was one of the more criminally-overlooked bands to emerge from the vital late 1980s/early ‘90s Nashville area rock scene. Formed by singer/songwriter David Hart and guitarist Brian Bickel, who had both immigrated to Murfreesboro to study the music business at Middle Tennessee State University, the pair was soon joined by bassist Dave Powers and former F-Particles drummer David Prince as Eleven 59’s initial line-up in 1986.

Over the course of the next seven years, and with a revolving door of bass players (including folks like Sean Harrison and Sam Powers), Eleven 59 toiled away in the trenches, touring the Southeastern club and frat circuit, released an EP (titled 7 Stories) on Nashville indie Carlyle Records and tried to score that elusive major label deal. Failing to get noticed, they disappeared into obscurity in 1993 like tens of thousands of other bands across the fruited plains.

The band’s story might have ended there, like it did for even hundreds of major label signees, leaving Eleven 59 as nothing but a fond memory in the minds of the band’s local fans. With the appearance of Always & Again, however, a twelve-track CD released by Hart and Bickel that compiles demo recordings by the band dating from 1986 to 1991, Eleven 59 proves themselves to have been a band out of time…if they’d formed a decade or so later, they might have been huge, because their music was/is forward-thinking, melodic, and utterly timeless with that charismatic edge that defines the best of rock ‘n’ roll.

Mixing punkish intensity with power-pop song structure and hard rock guitar, Eleven 59 culled the best from the musical world around them and created a magical bunch of songs that, if the major labels hadn’t been blinded by the events in Seattle circa 1991, they should have jumped on the band in a heartbeat. From a musical perspective, the band was both as tight and as sloppy as they needed to be; Hart’s vocals evinced an esoteric British lilt that evokes the Jesus & Mary Chain or even a newer outfit like Temples while Bickel’s fretwork both stings and slashes like the proverbial six-string razor.

While Prince is a classic big-beat drummer with busy hands and a bludgeoning sound, the band’s weak point was obviously on the other half of the rhythm section, as they revolved through five bass players over their seven years, and while some of them were good, none ever seemed to lock into Prince’s keen sense of rhythm to create something truly special. Nevertheless, the band had the chops to play in the big leagues and, listening closely to the demos on Always & Again, they had some find original material to offer as well. Although the sound quality here is definitely demo-quality, it’s not as harsh as it sounds, and one can easily imagine these songs taking on more texture and depth if they’d been recorded in a big studio with a skilled console wrangler to produce.

Still, there’s no shame in the material found on Always & Again. “Politics” is a defiant statement of purpose that displays a bit of insight into the music biz, Hart’s vocals soaring above a cacophony of screaming guitars and explosive rhythms. “Glass” is equally enchanting, Hart’s voice almost lost in a swirl of mesmerizing instrumentation, the chorus providing an infectious earwig while the song also showcases some of Bickel’s most innovative slash ‘n’ burn guitarplay. “Want To” was the popular song from the band’s 7 Stories EP, a surefire live crowd-pleaser with driving rhythms and menacing guitar licks that create an overall smothering ambiance not unlike Music City contemporaries Jet Black Factory.

By contrast, “California Song” offers a glossier surface that conceals the raging heartbeat throbbing below, Hart’s vocals taking on an edgier sound while the backing soundtrack is brilliantly constructed from intertwined guitars and slam-dancing drumbeats. “Goddess” opens with delightfully shimmering guitars before settling into a whisper/roar dynamic similar to Nirvana’s best work, while the title track is a rockin’ lil’ ditty replete with feedback-ridden jet-engine guitars, a fluid bass line, and rumbling drums that almost bury Hart’s rapid-fire reading of the lyrics. “Mythology” is a similar charmer, but with more of a metallic sheen courtesy of Bickel’s broken-glass guitar tones and imaginative playing.

Better late than never, perhaps, Always & Again provides the last word on one of Nashville’s truly unique and sadly unheard bands. Unlike some other Music City rock contenders who shall remain nameless – but who shamelessly had one eye on Los Angeles and what was going on in the late ‘80s era – Eleven 59 honestly and sincerely followed their own individual muse. The result is music that flows naturally, displays an evolutionary growth in sound and skill, and follows a unique vision instead of trailing musical trends.

Melodic instead of cynical, lyrically complex, and thoroughly entertaining, Eleven 59 could have been contenders. Thanks to the band’s belated release of Always & Again, they’ll be remembered as the trailblazers they truly were…

Check out Eleven 59's ReverbNation page!

Nashville's Eleven 59...not to be confused with the current band from Texas!

Monday, August 25, 2014

CD Preview: Revisiting Michael Stanley’s Solo Years

Michael Stanley - The Solo Years 1995-2014
Forget the Raspberries, the James Gang, or even the Dead Boys…the Michael Stanley Band are Cleveland’s true favorite sons. Throughout the 1970s and ‘80s, the Ohio rockers held court in their hometown, the “mistake on the lake,” delivering their own unique vision of heartland rock that played to big audiences throughout the American Rust Belt, but failed to attract audiences on the coasts. The band scored but a single chart hit – “He Can’t Love You” – and they packed it in circa 1986 after better than a decade in the trenches.

Michael Stanley, the band’s frontman and namesake, continued to pursue his rock ‘n’ roll muse after the band’s break-up, forming outfits like the Resonators and the Ghost Poets before launching a critically-acclaimed career in the mid-1990s that continues to this day. A true working class poet and roots-rocker, Stanley is second only to Joe Grushecky, perhaps, in the ratio of great music he’s made these past 20 years versus the amount of success and respect that he’s experienced.

On November 4th, 2014 MVD Audio will release Michael Stanley – The Solo Years 1995-2014, a three-disc, 43-track set that features nearly four hours of rockin’, street-smart music. Drawing material from all twelve of Stanley’s solo albums, including his most recent work, 2014’s The Job, the set is divided into three sections: disc one is called “The Rousers” and features rockin’ fan favorites; the second disc is dubbed “The Weepies” for its strong ballads; while disc three is named “Crispy’s Critters” for longtime Stanley producer Bill Szymczyk’s nickname, “Crispy.” Songs on the third disc were personally chosen and sequenced by Szymczyk, who also wrote liner notes for the set. The Solo Years 1995-2014 also includes two previously unreleased tracks.

Michael Stanley is one of the great undiscovered rock ‘n’ roll talents of the 1970s onward, a talented songwriter and guitarist and a soulful singer who has yet to receive his due. Check out Michael Stanley – The Solo Years 1995-2014 and find out what fans in Cleveland and thereabouts have known for years…Michael Stanley rocks! Complete track list for the set below.

Michael Stanley - The Solo Years 1995-2014 track listing:

Disc 1
My Brand New Day
Nothing And Everything To Prove
It's All About Tonight
Just Another Night In America
The Ground
Lovers Lane
Sweet Jane/Wichi Tai To
Didn't We Burn
The Times We Had
The Job
I Am You
Romeo Is Bleeding
Drinkin' In The Driveway
The Hang
Disc 2
My Side Of The Moment
Talking In Tongues
You Just Never Know
When It Don't Come Easy
Any Other Fool
To Love Somebody
Any Time I Try
Fait Accompli
From A Train
Another New Year's Eve
Home Tonight
Disc 3
Coming Up For Air
Eleanor Rigby
One Good Day In A Row
Vicodin & Prayer
What Would Frank Do
Eyeball Kid
The Curves Of Bratenahl
Lap Dogs Dance
How Many Guitars Do You Need
Breaking Down
Last Good Nerve
Money Shot (Bonus Track)
Raise The Dead (Bonus Track)

Buy the CD from Michael Stanley - The Solo Years 1995-2014


CD Preview: Climb on board the Mothership with Guru Freakout!

Guru Freakout's Mothership
Almost 40 years after its critical and commercial ascent, the progressive rock sub-genre known as “Krautrock” continues to intrigue and excite listeners. At its height in the mid-1970s, the German-based phenomena counted bands like Can, Kraftwerk, Amon Düül, and Cluster at the forefront of the experimental, largely electronic-based musical revolution. Formed in 1970, Guru Guru was one of many memorable bands from the era, and for almost a decade and with several albums, they exploded the expectations of what music could be.

Mani Neumeier – Guru Guru singer, keyboardist, and drummer – it still kicking around and making mad music, and he has teamed up with multi-instrumentalist Jürgen Engler of German industrial noisemakers Die Krupps and bassist Scott Telles of the band ST 37 for a new project called Guru Freakout. On September 2nd, 2014 Cleopatra Records will release Mothership, the debut album from Guru Freakout.     

In a press release for the new album, Engler tells how the band was formed. “Mani is an old friend of mine,” he says. “Near the end of 2012, he came to visit me in Austin where I had organized a show for him to play. We also planned to do some recording for a follow up project to Cosmic Couriers' Other Places, which was released on Cleopatra in the ‘90s.”

“At the same time,” says Engler, “I was working with bass player Scott Telles of ST 37, and when Scott heard that Mani was in town, he wanted to meet him since he had always been a big fan of Guru Guru. So the three of us got together at his rehearsal studio and started jamming right away. We had a great chemistry, so we decided to record a few tracks with a little digital recorder, and also at Ohm Recording Studio. When we listened to the tracks later, we realized that we had some really good material that should see the light of day, and so those recordings became the Guru Freakout album.”

The album features two lengthy free-form jams, including the 30+ minute “Notre Dame (Mothership)” and the extended-length “The Snows of Mt. Bonnell,” which takes up the other side of the album’s vinyl release. Both songs feature Engel’s hypnotic, psychedelic blues guitar; Neumeier’s thundering percussion; and Telles’ throbbing bass lines that, when woven together, create some tasty “stoner rock grooves” (sez the press release). The CD release of Mothership includes three bonus tracks, including studio rehearsals of “A Little Bit Spacier” and “Elektrolurch-Mutation,” as well as a live version of “Elektrolurch-Mutation.” If you’re up for taking a ride through the cosmos, Guru Freakout might be what you’re looking for!

Buy the CD on Guru Freakout's Mothership