Sunday, September 16, 2018

Short Rounds: Junior Byles, Guadalcanal Diary, Peter Holsapple & the Textones (2018)

Junior Byles' Rasta No Pickpocket
New album releases in 150 words or less…

Junior Byles – Rasta No Pickpocket (Nighthawk/ Omnivore Recordings)
Deservedly a big star in Jamaica, reggae artist Junior Byles is tragically unknown here in the states. Working with producers like Lee “Scratch” Perry, Rupert Reid, and Lloyd Campbell, Byles enjoyed a string of hit singles in his homeland during the early ‘70s. Mental health issues and an attempted suicide sidelined the singer for over a decade, until the recording sessions that resulted in Rasta No Pickpocket. Originally released by Nighthawk Records in 1986 and reissued by Omnivore as part of their Nighthawk label restoration, the album is a reminder of just how good a vocalist Byles was…songs like the gently skanking, socially-conscious “I Don’t Know,” the rhythmic, sing-song “I No Got It,” the Rasta fantasy “Cally Weed,” and the mesmerizing title track showcase the singer’s mellow tones and insightful lyrical skills. Several previously-unreleased tracks sweeten the pot and further display Byles’ soulful vocals. RIYL Bob Marley or Gregory Isaacs. Grade: A   BUY IT!

Guadalcanal Diary's At Your Birthday Party
Guadalcanal Diary – At Your Birthday Party (Omnivore Recordings)
Guadalcanal Diary was often overshadowed by upstarts like Pylon or R.E.M. but, truth is, they were a damn fine studio outfit and even better live rock band. Taken from a pair of January 1998 reunion shows in Atlanta, At Your Birthday Party was originally released independently by the band. Omnivore’s reissue puts the album back in print after almost 20 years, providing wider distribution for this entertaining disc. A band screaming for “rediscovery,” Guadalcanal Diary was firing on all cylinders these nights. From the haunting “Trail of Tears” and the poppy “Pretty Is As Pretty Does” to the raging rocker “Whiskey Talk” and the rowdy, cowpunkish “Watusi Rodeo,” band frontman Murray Attaway and crew crank out 16 wired performances of songs from all four of the band’s LPs circa 1984-1989. Like the college rock radio playlist of your misspent youth, At Your Birthday Party is a very fine present, indeed. Grade: A  BUY IT!

Peter Holsapple's Game Day
Peter Holsapple – Game Day (Omnivore Recordings)
The voice of the revered power-pop outfit the dB’s, Peter Holsapple hasn’t released a solo album in 21 years (since 1997’s Out of My Way), but he climbs back in the saddle effortlessly with the gorgeous, shimmering Game Day. Holsapple’s deft songwriting chops and emotive vocals have always fueled his band’s best material, and with his second solo effort, he dials up the intensity to eleven. Game Day’s thoughtful, melodic songs run the gamut from the electrifying “In Too Deep” and the rocking “Tuff Day” to the delightfully-morose “Don’t Ever Leave” or the devastating ballad “Don’t Mention The War,” where Peter channels his inner Neil Young. An explosive cover of Buddy Miles’ “Them Changes,” mixed with the New York Rock & Roll Ensemble obscurity “Sing Lady Sing,” provides a new dimension to both songs. Holsapple plays nearly every note on the excellent Game Day, making it a true “solo album.” Grade: A   BUY IT!

The Textones' Old Stone Gang
The Textones – Old Stone Gang (Blue Elan Records)
The Textones’ Carla Olson put the original band back together (sans Phil Seymour, R.I.P.) for another shot at the brass ring, and their first new album in 30+ years sounds like they never really left the game. The band’s pioneering hybrid of rock, country, and a touch of soul (i.e. ‘Americana’) is much in evidence on songs like the jaunty title track, the thoughtful rocker “All That Wasted Time,” the country-toned “Ride On,” the engaging story-song “Carly Jo,” or the bluesy “Midnight Roundabout.” Guitarist George Callins and Olson make a helluva songwriting team, penning four of the album’s best tunes, but other band members also deliver solid material, creating a cohesive and entertaining overall effort. The Textones’ Old Stone Gang offers a lot of twang and bang for your buck, and if you didn’t know them back in the ‘80s, you owe it to yourself to discover the band today. Grade: A   BUY IT!

Bonus Track:

Bill Kopp's Reinventing Pink Floyd
Bill Kopp – Reinventing Pink Floyd (Rowman & Littlefield)
Music Journalist Bill Kopp is a colleague, writing for publications like Blurt and Goldmine (among others). With Reinventing Pink Floyd, his first book, Bill focuses his insight on the legendary British rock band, exploring Floyd’s early years “from Syd Barrett to the Dark Side of the Moon.” His efforts pay off, as Reinventing Pink Floyd provides a deep dive into the band’s years in the wilderness, as they forged a significant career in the wake of founder and guiding light Barrett’s departure. There’s plenty of musical experimentation to be found on ‘70s-era albums like Atom Heart Mother and Meddle before Floyd crafted its signature sound and found superstardom, and Kopp walks the reader through the chaos and creation of a legend. Bill delivers all the minutiae and anecdotes that a Floyd fan demands, weaving a fascinating story of one of the most influential, pioneering bands in rock ‘n’ roll history. Grade: A   BUY IT!

Check out Bill’s own music zine, Musoscribe


Previously on That Devil Music.com:
Short Rounds, August 2018: Gene Clark, Kinky Friedman, David Olney, The Posies, Boz Scaggs, & Southside Johnny
Short Rounds, July 2018: The Damnation of Adam Blessing, Elvin Bishop’s Big Fun Trio, Howlin’ Rain & the Rockers OST
Short Rounds, May 2018: Brinsley Schwarz, Eric Corne, Roger McGuinn & Shuggie Otis 

Stax ’68: A Memphis Story box set

Stax ’68: A Memphis Story box set

We’ve written about the legendary Stax Records label on That Devil Music.com before. At a time when the music industry was centered on the coasts, the Stax label put Memphis soul on the map in the mid-to-late ‘60s with influential and innovative records by giants like Sam & Dave, Rufus Thomas and his daughter Carla, Otis Redding, and Booker T & the M.G.’s. As they approached the decade of the 1970s, the label branched out into blues music with essential recordings by guitarist Albert King and they pioneered ‘70s soul and funk with groundbreaking releases by the great Isaac Hayes. In our house, there’s no such thing as too much music from Stax Records.

Stax Records, now owned by the Concord Music Group, celebrated its 60th anniversary last year with a slew of archival releases including vinyl reissues of vintage LPs by Otis Redding and Carla Thomas; a four-disc Isaac Hayes box set; and individual “best of” CDs by some of the label’s biggest stars. The celebration has continued into 2018 and on October 19th, Craft Recordings, Concord’s archival imprint, will release Stax ’68: A Memphis Story, a five-disc box set that offers the A- and B-sides of every single released by the label during that tumultuous year. The set also includes a 56-page book with in-depth liner notes by writers Robert Gordon, Andrea Lisle, and Steve Greenberg as well as rare and previously-unpublished photos.

More important is the music – more than 120 songs spread across the five CDs – featuring both some of Stax’s marquee stars like Redding, Hayes, William Bell, Johnnie Taylor, Eddie Floyd, and the Staple Singers but also from underrated talents like Mable John, Linda Lyndell, the Soul Children, and the Mad Lads. The year was a tough one for Stax, which had lost its distribution deal with (and control of the label’s back catalog to) Atlantic Records. The assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis had a profound effect on the label’s multi-racial roster of musicians, and Stax was already reeling from the December 1967 death of the great Otis Redding.

Stax ’68: A Memphis Story box set
Considering the enormous track listing for the Stax ’68: A Memphis Story box, I’m amazed at the sheer amount of great music Stax released over the course of the year. While not all of the singles were huge hits, they were all of uniformly high quality. Of course, there are the ‘heavy hitters’ – songs like Otis Redding’s posthumous hit “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” Sam & Dave’s classic “I Thank You,” Johnnie Taylor’s smooth-as-silk hit “Who’s Makin’ Love,” and Albert King’s fiery “Blues Power” – but there are also faintly-remembered tunes like Booker T & the M.G.’s “Soul Limbo” and Carla Thomas’s “A Dime A Dozen.” The box set also includes long-lost material by folks like the Memphis Nomads, the Bar-Kays, Shirley Walton, Judy Clay, Billy Lee Riley, and the Epsilons as well as rock ‘n’ roll by cult band Southwest F.O.B. and the first recordings by Delaney & Bonnie and Bobby Whitlock (Derek & the Dominoes).

The Stax ’68: A Memphis Story box retails for roughly $70 (less for a downloadable digital version) but is also available in various “deluxe bundles” from the Stax Records online store. Ranging in prices up to $120, you can get bundles with a cool letter-pressed vintage poster, Stax hat and t-shirt, or all of the swag in the “Superb Bundle.” The release of Stax ’68: A Memphis Story coincides with two exhibits opening at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis, Tennessee – “The Sound of ’68” and “Give A Damn! Music + Activism at Stax Records.” Details on both exhibits are available from the museum website.

Buy the box set from Amazon.com: Stax 68: A Memphis Story

Also on That Devil Music.com:
Otis Redding - Live at the Whiskey A Go Go CD review
Sam & Dave - Stax Classics CD review
Carla Thomas - Stax Classics CD review
Isaac Hayes - Stax Classics CD review

CD Preview: Anthrax’s State of Euphoria 30th Anniversary

Anthrax’s State of Euphoria
New York City’s own Anthrax is widely considered to be one of the leading thrash-metal bands of the decade of the ‘80s, one of the “Big Four” along with Metallica, Megadeth, and Slayer to change the musical currents and influence a generation of hard-rockin’ bands to follow. Since releasing its earth-shaking debut album Fistful of Metal in 1984 on the pioneering Megaforce label, Anthrax has gone on to release eleven studio and six live albums.

Anthrax benefited from a distribution deal that Megaforce signed with Island Records, the increased availability of the band’s music allowing their third album, 1987’s Among the Living, to reach a wider audience that was already growing due to their explosive, uncompromising live performances. Among the Living earned the band a Gold™ Record for 500k+ in sales and set the stage for the band’s 1988 release, State of Euphoria. The band’s fourth studio effort, State of Euphoria would hit #30 on the U.S. charts and #12 in the U.K. – no mean feat for a thrash-metal outfit – and earn Anthrax their second Gold™ Record.

On October 5th, 2018 Island Records/UMe will reissue a 30th anniversary deluxe edition of Anthrax’s State of Euphoria. A two-disc set, the reissue will feature the remastered original album and all of the B-sides originally released with the singles from State of Euphoria, as well as a 1989 live performance of the song “Antisocial” from the Hammersmith Odeon in London. The second disc, “Charlie’s Archives,” was curated by the band’s drummer and archivist Charlie Benante, who specifically chose the material to display the evolution of the album’s songs. “We recorded everything back then,” says Benante in a press release for the reissue. “We would sit in the rehearsal room with a little two-track machine; record everything we did in rehearsal while we were putting the songs together.”

The State of Euphoria reissue includes a 20-page booklet with liner notes by British music journalist Alexander Milas, the former editor-in-chief of Metal Hammer magazine. The package also features previously-unpublished photos of the band and memorabilia from the period including magazine cover art and advertising. Also, Benante went on social media and asked that the band’s fans to comment on the album, stating “I think fans will be really excited when they see their own quotes in the package.”  

Aside from the two-CD set, State of Euphoria will also be reissued as a double-vinyl set on black wax and as a limited edition red and yellow-colored vinyl set. “State of Euphoria is the album that we always felt we never got to finish properly” says Benante. “We wished we had had a little more time to spend on it. But, having revisited it while putting together this package, I really got to enjoy it again, it took me back to that time when everything was a whirlwind.”

Buy the CD from Amazon.com: Anthrax’s State of Euphoria

Sunday, September 9, 2018

CD Review: Manfred Mann's Mann Made Hits (1966/2018)

Manfred Mann's Mann Made Hits
It’s a memorable scene from the hit 1981 movie Stripes, a military comedy starring Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, and John Candy. The platoon, in a full-gear march, is led in cadence by Ramis’s character with a version of Manfred Mann’s 1960s-era hit “Do Wah Diddy Diddy.” The scene is so memorable that, during my own short stint in the military, our platoon marched to the mess hall to “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” when left on our own at the Fort Leonard Wood reception center over a long holiday weekend. Manfred Mann, named for band keyboardist Mann, was one of the first ‘British Invasion’ bands to find an audience in North America. While the band’s stateside commercial success was sporadic and largely dependent upon the strength of their then-current single release, Manfred Mann nevertheless enjoyed a string of U.K. chart hits between 1964 and the band’s break-up in 1969.

As was frequently the practice in the ‘60s, different versions of the band’s albums were released on the two continents, with the U.K. versions representing the ‘true’ album and U.S. releases generally ‘frankensteined’ together from a band’s singles, EPs, and album tracks. By way of example, Manfred Mann’s first U.K. album was the stellar 1964 release The Five Faces of Manfred Mann, which displayed the band’s blues and R&B roots with a mix of solid originals and covers of material by revered artists like Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, and Bo Diddley. Manfred Mann’s debut U.S. album, the imaginatively-titled The Manfred Mann Album, took eleven songs from the band’s U.K. debut and tacked on the chart-topping hit single “Do Wah Diddy Diddy.” An album titled The Five Faces of Manfred Mann was subsequently released stateside in 1965, but it only had two songs in common with its British doppelganger. Got all that?

The British Invasion


The band’s proper sophomore effort, titled Mann Made, was released in 1965 in both the U.K. and the U.S., where it was the band’s fourth (!) studio album, and they shared a lot of songs between them. Singer Paul Jones and guitarist Mike Vickers both left the band in early 1966, and EMI’s His Master’s Voice imprint, which had enjoyed significant sales with Manfred Mann, dropped the band but kept singer Jones on contract, feeling that he was the real ‘star’ of the outfit. Whereas Jones subsequently scored a handful of hits – most notably 1966’s “High Time” and the following year’s “I’ve Been A Bad, Bad Boy” – he would split his time between music and acting from the late ‘60s well into the ‘70s before becoming a popular British radio and TV personality.

Meanwhile, Manfred Mann moved bassist Tom McGuinness to guitar, added singer Mike d’Abo and bassist Klaus Voorman (after the legendary Jack Bruce kept the seat warm for a few months), signed a new deal with Fontana Records, and continued to chalk up hit singles for the next couple of years. After Jones’ departure from the band, however, EMI played a number of dirty tricks on Manfred Mann, first cashing in with a quickie EP of early, unreleased songs titled As Was (designed to be confused with the band’s first post-Jones LP, As Is). Then they used session players to complete an unfinished Manfred Mann song, “You Gave Me Somebody To Love,” which featured Jones on vocals, the single hitting #36 on the U.K. charts despite the band officially disowning the release.

Manfred Mann’s Mann Made Hits


In a move that would be duplicated numerous times over the years by different record labels exploiting other bands, EMI released a ‘posthumous’ compilation album of the band’s singles and album tracks titled Mann Made Hits. In this case, however, the label really did fans a favor by collecting all this material together under one roof. Billed as “Manfred Mann with Paul Jones,” Mann Made Hits provides the perfect bookend to Jones’ successful years with the band. Across fourteen tracks, the album showcases the many facets of the band’s talents as well as its enormous musical chemistry, with songs running the stylistic gamut from ‘60s pop, rock, and jazz to American blues and folk music. Manfred Mann’s big cross-continental hits are all here – the love-struck yearning of “Pretty Flamingo” (#1 U.K./#29 U.S.), the band’s breakthrough rocker “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” (#1 U.K./#1 U.S.), the poppy singalong “Sha La La” (#3 U.K./#12 U.S.), and the soulful ballad “Come Tomorrow” (#4 U.K./#50 U.S.).

But there are a lot of great songs on Mann Made Hits that will be unfamiliar to even the most avid Anglophile. There are those British singles that never sailed across the Atlantic, fine songs like the revved-up rocker “5-4-3-2-1,” which would become the band’s first Top 10 U.K. hit and the theme song for the popular British TV show Ready Steady Go. The band’s first flirtation with the Bob Dylan songbook, a faithful cover of the Bard’s country-flavored “If You Gotta Go, Go Now,” hit #2 on the U.K. charts while their reading of Dylan’s haunting “With God On Our Side” is, perhaps, the definitive recording of the song, Jones’ emotional vocals accented by Mann’s reverent piano accompaniment and swelling instrumentation. A couple of Jones’ original songs stand out, notably the self-referential “The One In The Middle,” a strutting R&B-styled rocker with swagger to spare, and the blues-infused “I’m Your Kingpin,” which features Jones’ subtle harmonica-play, jazzy free-form piano, and Mike Hugg’s shimmering vibes.

The Reverend’s Bottom Line


The band that recorded much of the material found on Mann Made Hits – singer Jones, keyboardist Mann, talented guitarist/bassist Tom McGuinness, guitarist Mike Vickers, and drummer Mike Hugg – essentially ceased to exist by the time of the album’s release. But the music they made together has proven to be timeless, and if they’re not as well-known as other British Invasion bands like the Beatles, the Kinks, and the Rolling Stones, Manfred Mann nonetheless left their mark on the decade’s pop-rock firmament. The band members recently formed their own Umbrella Music label to reissue these early albums on CD, and the U.K. versions of these albums, including Mann Made Hits, are readily available online.

As for the band members’ future endeavors, as mentioned above, Paul Jones became a British radio and TV personality while also fronting the popular U.K. act The Blues Band (which also included Manfred Mann guitarist Tom McGuinness). Manfred Mann, the band, soldiered on until 1969, their last big hit a chart-topping cover of Dylan’s “The Mighty Quinn.” Manfred Mann, the musician, formed the short-lived jazz-rock band Manfred Mann Chapter Three with Mike Hugg, releasing a pair of albums in 1969 and 1970 before forming Manfred Mann’s Earth Band in 1971. A prog-rock oriented outfit with pop-rock undercurrents, the Earth Band carries on to this day, but found modest success throughout the late ‘70s and early ‘80s with albums like The Roaring Silence (1976), Watch (1978), and Somewhere In Africa (1983), among many others…but that’s a story for another time. Grade: A (Umbrella Music, released July 6, 2018)

Buy the CD from Amazon.com: Manfred Mann’s Mann Made Hits






Early Lenny Kravitz Albums Reissued On Vinyl

Lenny Kravitz vinyl reissues

Virgin Records and UMe have announced a September 21st, 2018 release date when four of rocker Lenny Kravitz’s first five albums will be reissued on both glorious black vinyl and as individualized, limited-edition colored wax versions. The four albums – 1991’s chart breakthrough Mama Said, 1993’s Are You Gonna Go My Way, 1995’s Circus, and 1998’s 5 – collectively sold better than eight million copies stateside and yielded hits like “It Ain’t Over ‘til It’s Over,” “Are You Gonna Go My Way,” “Believe,” and “Fly Away.” Kravitz’s 1989 debut album, Let Love Rule, will be reissued on vinyl on November 30th.

Each album will be released as a two-disc set and four of the five also feature non-album bonus tracks, many of which are appearing on vinyl for the first time. The colored wax versions of the albums are all different – Let Love Rule is 50/50 semi-transparent brown and yellow, Mama Said is marbled white and gray, Are You Gonna Go My Way is transparent red and purple, Circus is solid white and clear transparent, and 5 is solid orange and white.

Kravitz’s first five LPs made the singer, songwriter, and guitarist one of the 20th century’s last big rock stars (along with the White Stripes’ Jack White). Kravitz’s unique throwback hybrid of rock, blues, soul, and funk, all delivered with a heavy psychedelic influence, earned him a reputation as one of the decade’s most engaging artists, and he won the Grammy™ Award for “Best Male Rock Vocal Performance” four years in a row from 1999 to 2002. Much like the late, legendary Prince – the closest comparison to Kravitz that you could justifiably make – Kravitz frequently played all the instruments on his albums himself while recording.

Whether you spend your hard-earned cash on the plain black versions of these Kravitz reissues or cough up for the colored variations, there’s no argument that it will be good to have these albums back on vinyl for the first time in over 20 years.

Buy Lenny Kravitz vinyl on Amazon.com:
Mama Said
Are You Gonna Go My Way
Circus
5

Studio One reissues Ska Authentic comp

Studio One's Ska Authentic
Good news, indeed, for reggae fans – the legendary Studio One record label will be reissuing its essential compilation album Ska Authentic on September 21st, 2018, making it available for the first time since 1964 – almost 55 years!

Ska Authentic will be reissued on CD, vinyl, and digital formats and represents one of the rarest albums in the Studio One catalog. It has been remastered and features the ultra-cool original album artwork as well as liners written by reggae expert Chris Wilson.

The coolest thing about the reappearance of Ska Authentic, though, is that is rescues and documents early performances by reggae legends like The Skatalites, Toots & the Maytals, Lee “Scratch” Perry,  and The Gaylads that originally lit up Jamaican dancehalls in the late 1950s and early ‘60s. Check out the album’s complete track listing below and then get over to Amazon and buy a copy.

Buy the CD from Amazon.com: Ska Authentic
 
Ska Authentic track listing:
1. Tommy McCook – “Freedom Sounds”
2. The Gaylads – “Brown Skin Gal”
3. Roland Alphonso – “Full Dread”
4. Andy and Joey – “You’re Wondering Now”
5. Jackie Opel – “Turn Your Lamp Down Low”
6. Lee Perry – “Mother in Law”
7. Roland Alphonso – “Bridge View”
8. The Gaylads – “Rolling Down”
9. Roland Alphonso – “Lee Oswald”
10. The Maytals – “Heaven Declare”
11. Tommy McCook – “Sca-Ba”
12. Delroy Wilson – “Sammy Dead”

Friday, September 7, 2018

Living Colour & Mike Doughty vinyl reissues

Living Colour’s Time’s Up
Great music and charity have gone together forever, and there are a couple of special releases coming that are worth your time and money to buy. On September 28th, 2018 Living Colour’s Time’s Up and Mike Doughty’s Live At Ken’s House albums will be released as limited-edition green vinyl editions as part of the Mindful Vinyl initiative for mental health awareness. A portion from the proceeds of both albums will benefit The Jed Foundation (JED), a non-profit organization that exists to protect emotional health and prevent suicide for teens and young adults.

Originally released in 1990 as the follow-up to the band’s breakthrough LP Vivid, the equally hard-rockin’ Time’s Up featured tracks like “Pride,” “Elvis Is Dead” and “Love Rears Its Ugly Head.” Winner of a Grammy Award for “Best Hard Rock Peformance,” Time’s Up featured guest appearances by Maceo Parker, Little Richard, Doug E. Fresh, and Queen Latifah. The album is being reissued by Megaforce Records.

Mike Doughty's Live At Ken's House
Mike Doughty’s Live At Ken’s House was released in 2014 and featured the frontman of 1990s-era alt-rockers Soul Coughing performing re-imagined versions of his former band’s best-known material. The singer/guitarist was back on the live performance by Catherine Popper on upright bass and Pete Wilhoit on drums. This vinyl reissue of Live At Ken’s House is being released by Doughty’s own Snack Bar label. In a press release for the vinyl reissue, Doughty – who has written frankly about his own mental health challenges in his memoir The Book of Drugs – says “there's an emotional-pain crisis in America, and it's incumbent on us to make medical care and talk therapy normal and accessible for people who suffer from depression and anxiety.”

The Mindful Vinyl initiative was created in 2016 with a goal of increasing conversation and awareness of mental wellness issues and connecting those conversations to music. Other titles reissued on vinyl as part of their series include Living Colour’s Stain, Fishbone’s The Reality of My Surroundings, and the Silver Linings Playbook movie soundtrack. JED partners with high schools and colleges to strengthen their mental health, substance abuse, and suicide prevention programs and systems. You can learn more about JED on the organization’s website.

Buy the vinyl from Amazon.com:
Living Colour’s Time’s Up
Mike Doughty’s Live At Ken’s House

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

CD Review: Willie Nile's Children of Paradise (2018)

Willie Nile's Children of Paradise
Willie Nile is the “Old Faithful” of the rock ‘n’ roll world…you can depend on getting a brand new studio album from the talented singer/songwriter every couple of years, and you always know that it’s gonna be great! Nile has released six studio albums (and several live discs) over the past twelve years, including some of the true gems in his catalog – masterworks like 2006’s Streets of New York, 2009’s House of A Thousand Guitars, and 2016’s World War Willie. Nile stepped outside of his own comfort zone for 2017’s Positively Bob: Willie Nile Sings Bob Dylan, a collection of, er...well, Dylan tunes…which means that he’s otherwise penned dozens of original songs over the past decade or so.

It wasn’t always this way, though...Nile took the long road to achieving his relative success. By the time that his self-titled debut album was released in 1980, Nile had already established himself as a folk-rock songwriter performing with punkish intensity. The following year’s Golden Dawn received praise equal to his debut, but legal issues kept Nile out of the studio until 1991’s long-delayed Places I Have Never Been, which included guest turns from folks like Richard Thompson and Roger McGuinn. Nile’s career was subsequently misplaced during the grunge tsunami in the ‘90s, the artist releasing Beautiful Wreck of the World on his own in 1999.

Willie Nile’s Children of Paradise


So yes, Nile has suffered his share of indignities during his career, but he’s been undeterred from pursuing his unique musical vision, delivering some of the most reliably rockin’ albums you’ll find on your local record store’s shelves since the turn of the millennium. Following up on his Positively Bob LP, 2018 brings us Nile’s Children of Paradise, a twelve-track collection that could be seen as the songwriter’s response to the political upheaval of the past couple of years. It is, perhaps, the most socially-conscious work of Nile’s nearly 40 years in the trenches; but there are no morose dirges or dire folk entreaties to be found on Children of Paradise. Instead, Nile infuses his songs with hope and humor, and the music crackles with the electricity of a live power line.

The album opens with the gorgeous “Seeds of A Revolution,” a defiant statement of inclusivity that offers unity for humanity in spite of the “sound of distant thunder,” regardless of race, gender, or nationality. It’s an uplifting effort that spits in the face of our contemporary society’s tragic embrace of racism, homophobia, and xenophobia. Nile has an answer for corporate greed as well, the hilarious and very punk “Don’t” offering the sage advice “don’t let the fuckers kill your buzz.” The rockin’, up-tempo “All Dressed Up and No Place To Go” is the sort of Dylanesque tune that has become Nile’s signature, filled to the brim with brilliant imagery and imaginative character portraits.

Earth Blues


Nile’s “Earth Blues” is as up-to-the-minute topical as a songwriter can be and is the best song about Mother Earth that’s been written in decades. Referencing California wildfires, melting arctic ice, animal extinction, climate change, and other planetary tragedies, Nile concludes “there’s a storm outside that’s ragin’, it smells like Judgement Day. When the landlord comes to take a look, there’s gonna be hell to pay.” His apocalyptic poetry is accompanied by a fierce soundtrack of strutting rhythms and martial drumbeats. The album’s title track is a mid-tempo ode to lost souls everywhere, delivered with the same sort of anthemic instrumentation as Springsteen’s “Born To Run” and it features a scorching guitar solo.

“Getting’ Ugly Out There” is another dance with the devil you know, a bluesy acoustic tale where “Baby Jesus” is getting the hell out of town and the Reaper laughs. Children of Paradise isn’t devoid of old-fashioned love songs, though. “Have I Ever Told You” is a lyrically beautiful tune rife with emotion while “Lookin’ For Someone” displays a troubadour’s heart and a true romantic’s yearning with its protagonist wanting to “be a painting, I don’t wanna be a sketch” while “looking for someone who is breakin’ just like me.” The song’s use of mandolin adds to power of the wistful lyrics. By contrast, “Rock ‘N’ Roll Sister” blows out of the gate like a nitro-drunk hot rod, Nile singing of a woman who is “a risk-takin’, I ain’t fakin’, body shakin’ meteorite” above a rollicking, unbridled arrangement, the song name-checking Springsteen, the Stones, the Kinks, the Clash, and the Who as it shakes the rafters with no-frills rock ‘n’ roll.

The Reverend’s Bottom Line


Longtime Willie Nile fans won’t be disappointed by the more topical material on Children of Paradise, most of which is delivered with a rock ‘n’ roll spirit. In spite of the album’s frequent lyrical vision of a world in flames, Nile closes out the song cycle with the hopeful, pastoral “All God’s Children.” The song offers salvation through faith in our fellow humans and (unspoken) the power of rock ‘n’ roll to transcend life’s indignities. Nile’s simple plea of “sing for the angels, sing for the sinners, all of the losers one day will be winners…” provides a ray of light piercing the darkness that has enveloped our society. You can ask of nothing more from the true artist. Grade: A+ (River House Records, released July 27, 2018)

Buy the CD from Amazon.com:
Willie Nile’s Children of Paradise 

Also on That Devil Music.com:
Willie Nile’s Positively Bob: Willie Nile Sings Bob Dylan CD review
Willie Nile’s Beautiful Wreck of the World CD review





NRBQ’s All Hopped Up reissue

NRBQ's All Hopped Up
A long-time favorite ‘round these parts, after nearly 50 years of making records, the mighty NRBQ are finally getting the respect they deserve these days. Much as they did in restoring the Big Star catalog to its righteous glory, archival label Omnivore Recordings seems to be jumping on the New Rhythm & Blues Quartet train. The label reissued the band’s self-titled 1969 debut album on CD earlier this year and now, on October 26th, 2018 Omnivore will reissue NRBQ’s fifth album (counting their 1970 collaboration with rockabilly legend Carl Perkins, which I do…), the sublime All Hopped Up, on both CD and vinyl.

All Hopped Up was the first recording to feature the classic NRBQ line-up of keyboardist Terry Adams, guitarist Al Anderson, bassist Joey Spampinato, and drummer Tom Ardolino which would go on to make a lot of great music together over the following 20+ years. All Hopped Up was the first album to be released by the band’s own independent Red Rooster Records label and the first to feature the ‘Whole Wheat Horns’, comprised of trombonist Donn Adams and saxophonist Keith Spring. The Omnivore reissue of All Hopped Up features the original album’s front and rear artwork and track sequencing and sports new liner notes by writer John DeAngelis as well as a bunch of rare photos. For wax fanatics, the vinyl release offers a deluxe gatefold jacket.

NRBQ's April Showers EP
Before the October resurrection of All Hopped Up, however, ‘Q fans can enjoy the September 28th release of the digital-only three-song EP April Showers, which includes the title track, featured in the upcoming film Change In the Air, which was scored by Terry Adams and Bill Frisell. The EP also features two previously-unreleased live bonus tracks from the April 1977 record release party for All Hopped Up. Recorded at the Shaboo Inn in Willimantic CT (near the University of Connecticut), these two songs – “It Feels Good” and “Still In School” – will take the ‘Q fan back in time to the band’s early days.