Friday, May 17, 2019

Archive Review: NoFX & Rancid's BYO Split Series, Volume 3 (2002)

NoFX & Rancid's BYO Split Series, Volume 3
The idea of the “split” disc certainly isn’t a new one – I remember seeing “battle of the bands” styled albums that pitted the Beatles against some lightweight pretenders like the Four Seasons in the bins some thirty years ago. Punk has picked up the tradition with mixed results, tho’ I wouldn’t trade my Rudiments/Jack Kevorkian’s Suicide Machines split CD for anything less than a C-note. BYO Records has made an art form out of what is essentially a commercial marketing ploy, matching dissimilar bands together on a single disc to great effect. This NoFX/Rancid pairing is the third in the series, with each band delivering covers of five of the other band’s tunes, and let me say that it kicks ass in more ways than I can recount here…
Although both NoFX and Rancid are part of a California punk rock tradition, the resemblance ends with their geographic proximity. Influenced by bands like Black Flag and the Circle Jerks, NoFX have always followed a sort of tongue-in-cheek, smutty juvenile hardcore aesthetic, which in turn has been watered down and exploited by such bubblegum punk poseurs as Blink-182. From their ska-punk roots in Operation Ivy to their current status as indie-rock royalty, Rancid has always been a group of died-in-the-wool Clash acolytes.

The dissimilarity in the styles of the two bands is what makes this split disc work, however. NoFX nail Rancid’s Clash fixation with manic readings of tunes like “Olympia WA” and “Tenderloin,” Fat Mike, El Jefe and the boys waxing Rasta with a reggae-tinged take on “Radio.” For their part, Rancid mix things up a bit and crank up the volume, sounding like nothing so much as a bunch of drunken frat boys. “Moron Brothers” is a frenetic musical leap-of-faith while covers of “Stickin’ In My Eye” and “Bob” roar from 0 to 100 mph with high-octane sound and seemingly endless energy. The disc closes with “Vanilla Sex,” a brilliant anti-censorship screed that Rancid infuses with new spirit and perspective. Altogether, the ten tracks offered here will have you bouncing off the walls like some sort of gleeful punk rock dervish. (BYO Records, released March 5, 2002)

Review originally published by Big O magazine (Singapore), 2003

Buy the CD from NoFX & Rancid’s BYO Split Series, Volume 3

Monday, May 13, 2019

Archive Review: Timothy Truman and the Dixie Pistols' Marauders (1988)

Timothy Truman and the Dixie Pistols' Marauders
If I’ve said it to you once, I’ve said it to you a million times – the best rock ‘n’ roll music isn’t necessarily found on the major labels. Case in point: Timothy Truman and his merry band of houserockin’ fools, the Dixie Pistols; Truman is best known as the writer, artist, and creator of the Eclipse Comics publication Scout, an intelligent and original graphic portrayal of the United States of the next century, a visionary work that is at once both terrifying and intriguing. A flexi-disc included as a bonus “soundtrack” is an issue of Scout illustrated Truman’s skills as a bona fide rocker and led to the release by Eclipse of Truman’s and their first vinyl project, Marauders.

Truman and the Dixie Pistols practice the working man’s blues, worshipping at the altar of Robert Johnson and kicking out a righteous blend of soul-tinged, blues-infused rock ‘n’ roll madness, creating a mutant hybrid that started 50 years ago in the Mississippi Delta and has roared as an angry golem aboard a hell-bound, lightning-powered locomotive in the soul and spirit of every sad-singing, passionate axeman and artist from Johnson through B.B. King, Albert King, Elmore James, Eric Clapton, John Mayall, and legions of others attending the selfsame shrine.

Timothy Truman's Scout
Marauders holds within its grooves the aural essence of the smoke-filled bar, the straight bourbon shot with a beer chaser, and the alluring stare of that woman at the next table. Serving up a healthy dose of house-party, bring-down-the-roof madness, Truman and the Dixie Pistols romp and frolic through ten numbers that are hotter than the dog days of summer and more soulful than a roomful o’ blues!

Marauders is the real thing, folks – sincere, inspired, joyful music unencumbered by music industry expectations, commercial concessions, or corporate image-mongering. Musically, Truman and the Pistols are a skilled bunch of musicians with frequent flashes of brilliance. Although the tunes are derivative in the genre’s style, the material is original and respectful, showing a love for the tradition without being revivalist or patronizing. All in all, Timothy Truman and the Dixie Pistols’ Marauders is an entertaining, enjoyable album and a hell of a love of fun. The best music isn’t necessarily found on those big boy labels, a fact proven by this sleeper of a disc, a solid debut from a group that nobody’s heard of, released by a comic book company. (Eclipse Records, released 1988)

Review originally published by The Metro (Nashville), 1988

Friday, May 10, 2019

Archive Review: The Mooney Suzuki's Electric Sweat (2003)

The Mooney Suzuki's Electric Sweat
There have been many artists and bands that have genuflected before the altar of Detroit rock ‘n’ roll, but among the many acolytes infected with the “Motor City Madness,” few have delivered the goods with the intensity and integrity of the Mooney Suzuki. While the critical establishment wets its collective short pants over the Strokes (this humble scribe included), across town the Mooney Suzuki is breathing fire and shooting thunderbolts from their instruments with the best impersonation of a sixties-era garage band that you’re likely to hear circa 2002.

Electric Sweat, the New York City foursome’s dynamic sophomore effort, continues the high-voltage overkill established by their year 2000 debut People Get Ready. With axes set on stun, Sammy James Jr., John Paul Ribas, Graham Tyler and Will Rockwell channel the ghosts of the MC5, the Yardbirds, Iggy, and countless other grunge masters in songs like the anthemic “In A Young Man’s Mind” or the Farfisa-drenched R&B rave-up “It’s Showtime, Pt II.” James’ vocals evoke memories of Rob Tyner while Tyler’s careless dedication to craft makes his six-string weapon of destruction roar and wail like metal clashing against metal. Feedback seeps into every corner of these songs, rock ‘n’ roll lightning dancing across every track on Electric Sweat.

Even the CD booklet brings back memories of smoke-filled nights in Ann Arbor, the photo of the four mopes in the Mooney Suzuki resembling a younger, contemporary Sonic Rendezvous Band. Forget about the Strokes, the White Stripes, the Hives and any other pretender to the throne – the Mooney Suzuki are the real thing, as true to the promise of rock ‘n’ roll  as a stack o’ tattered old copies of Creem magazine. Roll over Beethoven; tell Lester Bangs the news – the Mooney Suzuki are here to rock your world! (Gammon Records, released April 9, 2002)

Review originally published by Big O Magazine (Singapore), 2003

Buy the CD from The Mooney Suzuki’s Electric Sweat

Friday, May 3, 2019

Archive Review: Alice Cooper's Welcome To My Nightmare (1975/2002)

Alice Cooper's Welcome To My Nightmare
When Alice Cooper, the band, broke up in the mid-‘70s due to the rigors of stardom (insert imagination here), many thought that Alice Cooper, the man, was history. Alice was, after all, an honest-to-god freakshow, the controversial artist behind such future classics as “School’s Out,” “Billion Dollar Babies,” and “I’m Eighteen.” Without the backing of strong musicians such as Michael Bruce and Glen Buxton, cried the critics and other observers, Cooper was on his way to becoming nothing more than an interesting footnote in the checkered history of rock ‘n’ roll.

The 1975 release of Alice’s solo debut, Welcome To My Nightmare, proved the critics wrong and provided Cooper with some degree of vindication. With the benefit of hindsight, we critical types now consider Cooper to be one of the legends of rock ‘n’ roll, a heavy metal godfather who has influenced artists such as Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie, among many others. Back in ’75, though, teenage whiz kids such as myself couldn’t have cared less about the ruminations of a bunch of erudite college grads slumming in the ghetto of rock criticism. Alice Freakin’ Cooper had a new album out and for hundreds of thousands of high school stoners, rockers, and underachievers, that was good enough for us!

Conceived by Cooper as a concept album (which tied in with the effects-laden stage show and wildly successful tour that accompanied Welcome To My Nightmare), the album both blazed new trails and also revisited classic Cooper-styled songs. It introduced Cooper the ‘crooner’, yielding a monster hit in the ballad “Only Woman Bleed” that won the artist a new distaff audience and opened the door for power ballads by contemporaries like Ozzie and a slew of ‘80s hair bands. Welcome To My Nightmare also further defined horror rock with monster cuts like the title track, “The Black Widow” (complete with children’s choir) and “Cold Ethyl,” with narration provided by the crown price of terror, Vincent Price. “Department of Youth” was a stylistic throwback to Cooper’s previous band sound, with Detroit rocker Johnny “Bee” Badanjek delivering a solid drumbeat behind Cooper’s vocals. To replace the muscular sound of his long-standing band, Cooper recruited Lou Reed’s rock ‘n’ roll animals, guitarists Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter, who stacked up fiery riffs like so much sawmill fodder throughout the songs on Welcome To My Nightmare

The remastered Rhino reissue of Welcome To My Nightmare brings new brilliance to the sound of this classic album and adds previously unreleased live versions of “Devil’s Food,” “Cold Ethyl,” and “The Awakening” culled from an ABC television special. Manic liner notes from Cooper biographer Jeffrey Morgan and a handful of rare photos round out an exceptional package. Although I personally would like to have seen Rhino begin their restoration of the Alice Cooper catalog with early albums like Love It To Death or Killer, the work that they’ve done with Welcome To My Nightmare and, previously, Billion Dollar Babies, is nevertheless impressive. If your knowledge of Alice Cooper is limited to his early band work or more recent metal horror albums, you owe it to yourself to check out Welcome To My Nightmare. (Rhino Records)

Review originally published by Alt.Culture.Guide™, 2002

Buy the CD from Alice Cooper's Welcome To My Nightmare

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

New Music Monthly: May 2019 Releases

April showers are history, and May is gonna break the bank with more hot new music than you can shake your debit card at! Rockers can rejoice with albums by Bad Religion, Dream Syndicate, Little Steven & the Disciples of Soul, Sammy Hagar, Sebadoh, and a whole lot more. Fans of blues, soul, and R&B music will find a lot to like with new music by talents like Mavis Staples, Southern Avenue, the Cash Box Kings, Jimmie Vaughan, Duke Robillard, and Albert Castiglia as well as a red-hot live set by Joe Louis Walker and an archive release by Johnny Shines...and don't forget to check out the debut album from blues newcomer Christone "Kingfish" Ingram!

Like reggae/dub? Then check out the Adrian Sherwood-produced LP by the legendary Lee "Scratch" Perry and a new set from Steel Pulse. Throw in archival releases like a deluxe multi-disc version of British rock legends Be-Bop Deluxe's Futurama album, a multi-platter Traffic vinyl box set, and more affordable releases by Lee Moses and D.O.A. and May is going to be a great month for music lovers! 

If you’re interesting in buying an album, just hit the ‘Buy!’ link to get it from’s just that damn easy! Your purchase puts valuable ‘store credit’ in the Reverend’s pocket that he’ll use to buy more music to write about in a never-ending loop of rock ‘n’ roll ecstasy!

Be-Bop Deluxe's Futurama

Bad Religion - Age of Unreason   BUY!
Be-Bop Deluxe - Futurama [deluxe box set]   BUY!
Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes - End of Suffering   BUY!
D.O.A. - 1978 [singles & unreleased tracks]   BUY!
Dream Syndicate - These Times   BUY!
Editors - The Blanck Mass Sessions   BUY!
L7 - Scatter the Rats   BUY!
Little Steven & the Disciples of Soul - Summer of Sorcery   BUY!
Carla Olson & Todd Wolfe - The Hidden Hills Sessions   BUY!
Johnny Shines - The Blues Came Falling Down, Live 1973   BUY!
Vampire Weekend - Father of the Bride   BUY!

Joe Louis Walker's Viva Las Vegas Live

MAY 10
A.A. Bondy - Enderness   BUY!
Clinic - Wheeltappers and Shunters   BUY!
Daddy Long Legs - Lowdown Ways   BUY!
Sammy Hagar & the Circle - Space Between   BUY!
Meat Beat Manifesto - Opaque Couché    BUY!
Southern Avenue - Keep On   BUY!
Mavis Staples - We Get By   BUY!
Joe Louis Walker - Viva Las Vegas Live [CD & DVD]   BUY!

Christone Kingfish Ingram's Kingfish

MAY 17
Cash Box Kings - Hail To the Kings!   BUY!
Paul Gilbert - Behold Electric Guitar   BUY!
Imperial Wax - Gatswerk Saboteurs   BUY!
Interpol - A Fine Mess EP   BUY!
Christone "Kingfish" Ingram - Kingfish   BUY!
The National - I Am Easy To Find   BUY!
Duke Robillard - Ear Worms   BUY!
Steel Pulse - Mass Manipulation   BUY!
Traffic - The Studio Albums 1967-1974 [vinyl box set]   BUY!
Jimmie Vaughan - Baby, Please Come Home    BUY!

Black Mountain's Destroyer

MAY 24
Black Mountain - Destroyer   BUY!
Albert Castiglia - Masterpiece
Adam Holt - Kind of Blues
Morrissey - California Son   BUY!
Lee Moses - How Much Longer Must I Wait? Singles & Rarities 1965-1972   BUY!
Sebadoh - Act Surprised   BUY!

Lee Scratch Perry's Rainford

MAY 31
Duff McKagan - Tenderness [w/Shooter Jennings]   BUY!
Lee "Scratch" Perry - Rainford [produced by Adrian Sherwood]   BUY!
Psychedelic Porn Crumpets - And Now For the Whatchamacalit   BUY!
Soundwalk Collective & Patti Smith - The Peyote Dance   BUY!

Little Steven's Summer of Sorcery

Album of the Month: There can only be one "album of the month," and while May offers up lots of choices for this honor, the Rev has to go with Little Steven's Summer of Sorcery. It's the E Street legend's first collection of new music in two decades. Summer of Sorcery features a dozen Van Zandt originals, including one song revisited from his Revolution album, an outtake from the Lilyhammer score, and ten new songs written during Little Steven's Soulfire tour. Van Zandt was joined in the studio by his road-tested touring band and you can get a taste of Summer of Sorcery via the videos below...

Friday, April 26, 2019

Archive Review: The Reivers' Saturday (1987)

The Reivers' Saturday
As Zeitgeist, they delivered one of 1985’s best albums, the indie label triumph Translate Slowly, an engaging collection of tough, acoustic-based traditionalist numbers that included inspired original material alongside excellent covers (such as Willie Nelson’s “Blue Eyes Crying In the Rain”). In their present incarnation as the Reivers (glomming their moniker, appropriately enough, from William Faulkner’s final novel), this Austin, Texas-based quartet offer up Saturday, a great batch of tunes that make the wait of over two years well worth it.

The Reivers practice a sort of new wave of roots awareness, performing material that is a pleasant mixture of dreamy melodies, hook-ridden rhythmic pop, and guitar-based folk-rock harmony. Kim Longacre’s soaring, haunting vocals share the songs, lyrically, with John Croslin’s monotone, talking-blues styled delivery to create an effect that is at once both hypnotic and enchantingly ethereal. The instrumentation is tight, at times minimalistic, and serves as a counterpoint to the harmony and fluidity of the vocals.

Zeitgeist's Translate Slowly
To call the Reivers neo-traditionalists is, perhaps, a misnomer and a disservice; although they do, indeed, draw both musically and lyrically from the well of traditional music, they do so only with proper respect, incorporating such influences into their creations instead of merely mimicking those artists who passed before. The result is an entirely engaging work, artistic in scope though entertaining in execution. Saturday is a welcome return to the old friend with a new name…I just hope that the Reivers don’t wait so long before they grace our lives again with their song. (Capitol Records, released 1987)

Review originally published by The Metro (Nashville), 1987

Monday, April 22, 2019

Short Rounds: Steve Earle, Nils Lofgren, Lone Justice, Adam Sandler, Sour Ops, Robin Trower & Jimmie Vaughan (2019)

Steve Earle's Guy
New album releases in 150 words or less…

Steve EarleGuy (Yep Roc Records)
Much as he did for his mentor, Townes Van Zandt, Americana legend Steve Earle pays tribute to his friend (and musical influence) Guy Clark by tackling some of the scribe’s best songs on Guy. As great a songwriter as Van Zandt may have been, much of his material depended on his own laconic delivery style; Clark, on the other hand, was a traditional country/folk songwriter which, IMHO, makes his material better for interpretation. Earle does his old friend right, with stellar performances of well-worn Clark tunes like “Dublin Blues,” “Rita Ballou,” “L.A. Freeway,” and the classic “Desperados Waiting For A Train” as well as lesser-known songs like the lovely “Old Friends” or the rollicking “Texas 1947.” The performances, by Earle’s talented touring band the Dukes, are filled with grit, emotion, and spirit but it’s Earle’s heartfelt vocals and Clark’s transcendent lyricism that make Guy a true joy to hear. Grade: A   BUY!

Nils Lofgren's Blue with Lou
Nils LofgrenBlue with Lou (Cattle Track Road Records)
Springsteen’s E Street Band cohort Nils Lofgren is an acclaimed solo artist in his own right, with a couple dozen acclaimed albums to his name. Blue with Lou is Lofgren’s first studio LP since 2011’s Old School, and it’s a real banger, one of the best in Lofgren’s extensive catalog. Half the twelve tracks here were co-written with the late Lou Reed and their electrifying performances provide a fitting tribute to the rock ‘n’ roll legend. Nils’ original songs like “Rock or Not” and “Dear Heartbreaker,” his tribute to Tom Petty, prove that Lofgren is no slouch in the songwriting department himself and if “Remember You” – an ode to his late dog Groucho – doesn’t leave you in tears, you’re not human. Blue with Lou offers a dozen guitar-driven songs featuring Lofgren’s warm, distinctive vocals and vivid, colorful fretwork, the result an entertaining old-school rock album that revels in its innocence. Grade: A   BUY!

Lone Justice's Live At the Palomino 1983
Lone Justice – Live At the Palomino 1983 (Omnivore Recordings)
Years before signing with Geffen Records, Lone Justice was just another L.A. band trying to make a name on a competitive, creative local scene that ran the gamut from Los Lobos and the Blasters to X and Black Flag. Featuring Maria McKee’s soaring vocals and guitarist Ryan Hedgecock’s inspired, underrated guitar playing, Lone Justice combined rock and country music, delivered with punkish intensity unlike anyone else at the time. Live At the Palomino 1983 captures the band at its most feverish, this captivating live show offering glimpses of their debut album in original songs like “Working Late” and “You Are the Light” as well as red-hot covers like Merle Haggard’s “Working Man Blues.” Celebrity fans like Tom Petty, Little Steven, and Linda Ronstadt got the band a major label deal, and even if they didn’t last very long, Live At the Palomino 1983 is proof that Lone Justice burned brightly. Grade: A   BUY!

Adam Sandler's 100% Fresh
Adam Sandler – 100% Fresh (Warner Bros.)
Former SNL cast member Adam Sandler’s humor has always been an acquired taste, his stand-up chops questionable at best. Still, I’ve always cut him some slack; if he’s not as funny as his buddy Chris Rock, Sandler was still good for a couple of memorable bits per album. With 100% Fresh, the soundtrack to his new Netflix special, Sandler’s stand-up sinks as low as his recent made-for-streaming movies. A scattershot collection of half-baked sketches, unfinished songs, and plainly unfunny bits that take on the modern culture of ride-sharing, electric cars, cell phones and, yes, Amazon, there’s barely a single laugh to be had among the album’s 55 ‘tracks’. The production quality is shit, the club audiences obviously drunk, and Sadler’s smug, self-satisfying delivery tiring. Save your money and leave this turd on the shelf; buy something by comedic talents like Lewis Black, Kathleen Madigan, Mike Birbiglia, or Patton Oswalt instead. Grade: F   BUY?

Sour Ops' Tinder Flame EP
Sour OpsTinder Flame EP (Feralette Records)
Nashville’s cyclone-strength rockers quickly follow-up on their critically-acclaimed 2018 LP Family Circuit with a similarly-tailored five-song EP that’s guaran-damn-teed to blow the roof off your mobile home. Tinder Flame offers more of the same, but different, from the title track’s new wavish guitarfest and intriguing lyrics to the popish “Hung In the Trees,” which is Big Star by way of the Replacements. “Animal Magnetism” is simply magnificent, from its shimmering guitars (courtesy of brothers Price and Mark Harrison) to its heavy, uranium-weight rhythms (via bassist Tony Frost and drummer George Lilly) while “Again” is a relentless, psych-drenched leviathan demanding your allegiance. Sour Ops incorporates four decades of rock history into a sound entirely its own. If you’ve been looking for guitar-driven rock ‘n’ roll played the way the music’s forefathers (Chuck, Elvis, Mick & Keef) intended, check out Tinder Flame. Seldom have sixteen minutes of music been so damn satisfying! Grade: A   BUY!

Robin Trower's Coming Closer To the Day
Robin TrowerComing Closer To the Day (Provogue Records)
At an age when most artists would be content to rest on their laurels, 1970s-era guitar hero Robin Trower continues to regularly crank out albums. Coming Closer To the Day – the follow-up to the guitarist’s 2017 album Time and Emotion – manages to mix the bluesy undercurrent of Trower’s previous few releases with the psych-drench six-string pyrotechnics of his classic early LPs like Bridge of Sighs. While it’s always been good, Trower’s guitar playing hasn’t sounded this provocative in years, songs like the soulful “Truth or Lies,” the boogie-blues tune “Tide of Confusion,” and the exotic title track displaying a fire and purpose that you didn’t know was missing from his recent work. Yes, Trower’s flawed vocals pale in comparison to former frontmen like James Dewar or Davey Pattison, but who listens to a Robin Trower LP to hear him sing? His transcendent fretwork says all that needs to be said. Grade: A   BUY!

Jimmie Vaughan's Baby, Please Come Home
Jimmie VaughanBaby, Please Come Home (The Last Music Co)
Aside from being an incredibly-talented guitarist, Texas blues legend Jimmie Vaughan is also a remarkable song stylist. Albums like 2011’s Plays More Blues, Ballads & Favorites are loaded with covers but, unlike his friend and contemporary Duke Robillard, who perfectly captures the original vibe of an old standard, Vaughan also puts his own stank on each performance. Baby, Please Come Home is a true musical celebration, the guitarist revisiting influential blues and R&B tracks by legends like Lloyd Price, T-Bone Walker, Fats Domino, Jimmy Reed, and others. Price’s title track is infused with vintage ‘50s horn blasts, Walker’s “I’m Still In Love With You” is a sizzling shuffle with tinkling piano, Fats’ “So Glad” is a swaggering Orleans-flavored strut, and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown’s “Midnight Hour” is simply drenched in soul. Vaughan’s fretwork is astounding throughout, so if old-school rhythm and blues is your game, then Jimmie Vaughan is your man! Grade: A   BUY!

Previously on That Devil
Short Rounds, March 2019: Tommy Castro, Gary Clark Jr, R. Stevie Moore, Jason Ringenberg, 3x4

Short Rounds, February 2019: Pete Berwick, Big Star, Ted Drozdowski, Walter Trout & Watermelon Slim
Short Rounds, January 2019: Badfinger, Big Brother & the Holding Company, Billy Bremner, Dave Davies & Midnight Oil

Friday, April 19, 2019

Archive Review: Los Lobos' By the Light of the Moon (1987)

Los Lobos' By the Light of the Moon
It’s an unfortunate reality that rock ‘n’ roll, the corporate entity, is by its very exclusive nature, inherent racism, and bureaucratic unintelligence, pretty much a white man’s game. Oft times, all the hype, hoopla, and promotion is spent on the wrong artists or product, and musicians who fail, by reason of birth, to make the cut, are doomed to obscurity or, worse yet, an audience limited by racial demographics. It’s a damn shame, too, for sheer, potent rock ‘n’ roll is not an exclusively lily-white art form. Case in point – Rick James can, and regularly does, out-rock any one of a number of lesser-talented AOR staples, doing it with energy, intelligence, and a measure of ballsy braggadocio.

Still, when was the last time you heard a Rick James song on your local “rock radio”? For every Prince or Michael Jackson who achieve multi-Platinum™ success in spite of the limitations of programing and promotion, there are dozens of talented artists and bands who suffer the commercial degradation of racial inequality. This editorializing is an attempt, however successful, to let you know what you may have been missing. There’s a whole world of talented musicians out there who aren’t represented on the charts, programed on the radio, or viewed on MTV. Los Lobos is one such band.

Roaring out of the Spanish-speaking slums of East Los Angeles, Los Lobos are a damn fine rock ‘n’ roll outfit of Mexican-American origin, carrying on a tradition that began some two decades ago with the crooning of Ritchie Valens and the garage-rock of Thee Midniters and continuing in an almost unbroken line through such contemporaries as Ruben & the Jets, Con Safos, and the Plugz (who would become the Cruzados). Unlike many artists of non-Anglo heritage who attempt to hide or downplay their ethnic origins, Los Lobos are proud of who they are and where they come from.

By the Light of the Moon is Los Lobos’ second major label album and follows much the same footsteps as 1985’s critically-acclaimed How Will the Wolf Survive? A blend of soulful, R&B, American-styled guitar-rock, and melodic, haunting traditional Mexican folk music, Los Lobos and By the Light of the Moon present a stylistic offering that is fresh, original, and at once both like and unlike much of what you may have heard before (strains of Doug Sahmn’s Tex-Mex musings reach my ears, as does brooding blues music not unlike Stevie Ray Vaughan). Lyrically, Los Lobos tend to sing of romance, pride, and wisdom.

The result is an all-too-brief glimpse into a culture that parallels that of the predominantly-white Anglo record-buying public. It would be a shame to allow such intelligent and thoughtful art drop into obscurity needlessly. Artists such as Los Lobos have too much to offer to be ignored for reasons of race, demographics, or ethnic prejudice…and if this does occur, we are all the much poorer for it. (Slash Records/Warner Bros, 1987)

Buy the album from Los Lobos’ By the Light of the Moon

Review originally published by The Metro (Nashville), 1987

Friday, April 12, 2019

Archive Review: The New York Dolls’ Live From Royal Festival Hall, 2004 (2004)

The New York Dolls’ Live From Royal Festival Hall, 2004
When I was a kid, say fourteen or fifteen, I read Creem magazine religiously. It was my cultural bible, the one single lifeline I had from the rural suburbs of Nashville to the entire world of music. Seldom did Dave Marsh, Lester Bangs, and friends steer me wrong, and thanks to these pioneers of rock criticism, I discovered bands like the Stooges, the Dictators, the MC5, the Flamin’ Groovies, and the New York Dolls.

The New York Dolls always had a special place in my heart, the band’s outrageous first album a constant companion after its release. In high school, friends would invite me to parties at Wendy J’s, knowing that if they left me with a six-pack and the stereo, that I would be the deejay. I’d keep the music playing while couples paired off and wandered up the hill behind Wendy’s house to make out, lulling them into complacency with a little Billy Joel or Aerosmith. Once I knew that they were, ahem...“busy”...I’d hit ‘em with the New York Dolls. One time I made it through the entirety of side one before somebody came down the hill to request a less boisterous choice in music.

The New York Dolls’ Live From Royal Festival Hall, 2004

Unfortunately, two albums into their brief career, the Dolls started to fall apart. First guitarist Johnny Thunders left the fold, followed soon thereafter by drummer Jerry Nolan, the two forming the Heartbreakers. Dolls’ vocalist David Johansen soldiered on with guitarist Sylvain Sylvain in various incarnations of the band. There was the disastrous Malcom McLaren era, which we can blame for the creation of the Sex Pistols (i.e. Dolls lite), but by 1977 – a mere four years after their groundbreaking first album – the band was kaput. Notorious junkie Thunders would overdose in 1991 and Nolan would die a few months later of a stroke. The spirit of the New York Dolls would live on however, influencing hundreds of young bands fueled by the Dolls’ two timeless studio albums, and countless live bootlegs and outtakes/rarities collections.

One of the young artists infatuated with the New York Dolls was a chap by the name of Morrissey, who would make a splash of his own during the ‘80s as frontman for the Smiths. The former President of the Dolls’ British fan club, Morrissey invited the surviving members of the band to perform at the 2004 Meltdown Festival that he was involved in promoting. Johansen, Sylvain and bassist Arthur Kane agreed, enlisting guitarist Steve Conte from Johansen’s band and drummer Gary Powell from the Libertines for the performance. The evening was subsequently captured on both CD and DVD as Live From Royal Festival Hall, 2004, released on Morrissey’s Attack Records label and distributed stateside by Sanctuary.

You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory

Live From Royal Festival Hall, 2004 offers up a predictable selection of the Dolls’ “greatest hits,” drawing heavily from the band’s classic debut album. Tunes like “Looking For A Kiss,” “Jet Boy,” “Trash,” “Frankenstein,” and “Personality Crisis” still rock the house like a wrecking ball, Johansen’s hoarse, soulful vocals none the worse for the wear some thirty years after the fact. Sylvain still has awesome chops, and although Conte is a solid technical guitarist, he doesn’t possess the reckless spontaneity that Thunders brought to the band back in the day.

As a sort of “reunion” show, Live From Royal Festival Hall, 2004 passes muster, Johansen’s energetic performance breathing new life into the old songs. The band’s tribute to Johnny Thunders – a heartfelt reading of his “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory” – appropriately revisits one of Thunders’ best songs. The entire reunion performance was considered a success and there was talk of future shows. Sadly, tragedy struck the Dolls again shortly after the Meltdown performance when founding member Arthur “Killer” Kane died of previously undiagnosed leukemia.

The Reverend’s Bottom Line

Live From Royal Festival Hall, 2004 won’t replace the two original Dolls studio albums, but it is a fine tribute to the band’s legacy, offering a glimpse of the energy and intensity of one of rock ‘n’ roll’s finest cult bands. Just as the New York Dolls inspired a generation of punks like the Ramones, the Damned, and the Smiths, so too can their influence be found in the sound of bands like the Libertines, the Strokes, the Hives, and others who genuflect at the garage rock altar. This is music straight from the wellspring of rock ‘n’ roll, timeless in nature and a hell of a lot of fun... (Sanctuary Records, released October 5, 2004)

Buy the CD from The New York DollsLive From Royal Festival Hall, 2004