Wednesday, June 28, 2017

New Music Monthly: July 2017 Releases

July is on the horizon and our New Music Monthly column of upcoming releases is heating up! There's lots of great new tunes coming from folks like Blind Guardian, the Melvins, Cheap Trick, Neil Young, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, the Tangent, Steve Vai, and the Nighthawks, among others. Throw in CD reissues of classic, albeit overlooked albums from Arthur Alexander, former Uriah Heep frontman David Byron, Nick Lowe, Screaming Trees, and the Cars as well as lust-worthy vinyl reissues of LPs by Iron Maiden and we're all going to have to get a summer job to pay for all this cool music...
Haim's Something To Tell You

Blind Guardian - Live Beyond the Spheres   BUY!
Broken Social Scene - Hug of Thunder   BUY!
David Byron - Babyfaced Killer [reissue]   BUY!
Haim - Something To Tell You   BUY!
Melvins - A Walk With Love and Death   BUY!
Screaming Trees - Dust [deluxe reissue]   BUY!
Steve Vai - Modern Primitive   BUY!

Cheap Trick's We're Alright

Arthur Alexander - Arthur Alexander [reissue]   BUY!
Cheap Trick - We're All Alright!   BUY!
Lifehouse - Greatest Hits   BUY!
Nick Lowe - Nick the Knife   BUY!
Nick Lowe - The Abominable Showman   BUY!
Alan Vega - IT [vinyl]   BUY!

Brown Acid: The Fourth Trip

Chris Robinson Brotherhood - Barefoot In The Head   BUY!
Marillion - Misplaced Childhood [deluxe 4 CD/1 Blu-ray reissue]   BUY!
Mr. Big - Defying Gravity   BUY!
The Ramones - Leave Home [40th anniversary deluxe reissue]   BUY!
Violent Femmes - Two Mics & the Truth: Unplugged & Unhinged In America   BUY!

The Tangent's The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery

Alice Cooper - Paranormal   BUY!
Arcade Fire - Everything Now   BUY!
The Cars - Candy-O [expanded reissue]   BUY!
The Cars - Panorama [expanded reissue]   BUY!
Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Black Moon [expanded reissue]   BUY!
Iron Maiden - Flight 666 [vinyl reissue]   BUY!
Iron Maiden - The Final Frontier [vinyl reissue]   BUY!
Isley Brothers & Carlos Santana - Power of Peace   BUY!
The Nighthawks - All You Gotta Do   BUY!
Prong - Zero Days   BUY!
The Tangent - The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery   BUY!
Various Artists - Brown Acid: The Fourth Trip   BUY!

The Ramones' Leave Home

Album of the Month: The 40th anniversary reissue of the Ramones' Leave Home album follows the blueprint of the mucho successful deluxe reissue last year of the band's 1976 self-titled debut album. This 40th anniversary reprising of the band's sophomore effort, 1977's Leave Home, offers up three CDs and a vinyl LP as well as a swanky booklet. The first disc includes the remastered version of the original album's 14 songs as well as anniversary mixes; disc two offers up 33 unreleased alternative takes, remixes, and rarities; disc three documents a 1977 live show at New York City's notorious CBGB's club with 19 scorching tracks. As for the vinyl record, it looks like it features seven tracks comprised of the 40th anniversary mixes of tunes like "Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment," "Suzy Is A Headbanger," and "Pinhead." Gabba gabba hey, y'all!  

Monday, June 26, 2017

Fat Possum Records' historic Worried Blues LP/CD series

Furry Lewis' Worried Blues
Fat Possum Records is known these days for the label’s cutting edge rock releases by bands like Temples, Communions, or Bash & Pop. Back in the ‘90s, though, the up-and-coming indie imprint was a hothouse of blues, releasing albums by artists like R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough, Mississippi Hill Country veterans whose commercial breakthroughs during the age of college radio and alt-rock helped put Fat Possum on the map.

On July 21, 2017 Fat Possum will revisit its stories past with the release of the ten-album Worried Blues series on vinyl, CD, and digital download, available exclusively from Amazon Music. Worried Blues features rare, lost, and long out-of-print recording from ten architects of 20th century blues music: R.L. Burnside, Mississippi John Hurt, Skip James, Houston Stackhouse, Rev. Gary Davis, Honeyboy Edwards, Furry Lewis, Little Brother Montgomery, Rev. Robert Wilkins, and Bukka White, each of which are represented by an individual collection in the Worried Blues series.

Much of the material found on the Worried Blues albums was recorded from 1963 to 1972 by Gene Rosenthal, the founder of Adelphi Records, with help from legendary guitarist and musicologist John Fahey. The artists represented by the series provide a rich tapestry of blues music from across the Mississippi Delta and hill country, all of them rather obscure until rediscovered by a new generation of fans. Although these recordings were released on CD in the early ‘90s, they’ve all been out-of-print for over 20 years and have never been released on vinyl. There’s a lot of history here, as well – Skip James’ recordings for Rosenthal were his first in 30 years while historic recordings by Bukka White and Mississippi John Hurt, made at the dawn of the ‘60s “folk blues” revival, sat in the archives for decades before their brief release by Adelphi.

Bukka White's Worried Blues
The Worried Blues series covers a lot of stylistic ground as well. Although all ten artists hail from Mississippi, their individual hue of blues differs greatly, from John Hurt’s ragtime-flavored fretwork to Furry Lewis’ slide-guitar and from Skip James’ mournful sound to R.L. Burnside’s ebullient Hill Country stomp. These are no cut-rate budget releases, either, each Worried Blues album including 10 to 16 songs by the artist; the vinyl releases include a digital download card. Check out the Fat Possum Records website for track listings for each individual album, and you can buy them through our links to the vinyl releases on below.

Fat Possum's Worried Blues series:
R.L. Burnside's Worried Blues 
Rev. Gary Davis' Worried Blues
Honeyboy Edwards' Worried Blues
Mississippi John Hurt's Worried Blues
Skip James' Worried Blues
Furry Lewis' Worried Blues
Little Brother Montgomery's Worried Blues
Houston Stackhouse' Worried Blues
Bukka White's Worried Blues
Rev. Robert Wilkins' Worried Blues

Sunday, June 18, 2017

CD Review: The Dramatics' Stax Classics (2017)

The Dramatics' Stax Classics
Originally formed in Detroit in 1964 as the Dynamics, R&B legends the Dramatics recorded singles for a number of independent labels during the mid-to-late 1960s, including Golden World and Sport Records, where they scored a minor R&B chart hit with “All Because of You.” The band signed with Stax Records in 1968 but, after releasing one unsuccessful (albeit impressive) single – “Your Love Was Strange” – the Dramatics took off for greener pastures.

The band’s association with the Memphis music institution wasn’t over, though; producer Don Davis re-signed the Dramatics to the Stax subsidiary label Volt Records in 1971 after they’d teamed up with Motor City songwriter and producer Tony Hester. With Hester’s well-written, soulful songs in hand, the band’s wonderful vocal harmonies drove songs like “Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get, “In The Rain,” and “Fell For You” to the upper reaches of the R&B and pop charts.

The Dramatics’ Stax Classics

The classic Dramatics line-up featured vocalists Ron Banks, William “Wee Gee” Howard, Elbert Wilkins, Willie Ford, and Larry “Squirrel” Demps, and that’s what you saw (and heard) on the band’s biggest hit, “Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get.” A molten slab o’ soulful wax, the May single release dominated the AM radio airwaves during the summer of ’71, its syncopated, Latin-tinged rhythms and vocal harmonies leading into an infectious chorus that blew out of your car speakers like a gale of fresh air. The song charted Top Ten (R&B and Pop) but its November follow-up – the Afro-Cuban flavored “Get Up and Get Down” – fared less well commercially. An underrated entry in the Dramatics’ singles catalog, the song evinces a sly, funky groove and vocals that remind of Curtis Mayfield via the Four Tops. “Get Up and Get Down” was a rhythmic dance-floor foot-shuffler with symphonic strains that should have performed much better on the charts than it did (#16 R&B, #78 Pop).

By contrast, “In The Rain,” which followed in February 1972, became the Dramatics’ only R&B chart-topper (and achieved a respectable #5 position on the Pop chart). A moody, ambient ballad with a gorgeous instrumentation and a heady bass line to anchor the whimsical, bluesy lyrics it displayed a facet of the band that differed from their preceding singles. “Hey You! Get Off My Mountain” was a mid-tempo ballad with session pro Dennis Coffey’s filigree guitar licks, haunting harmony vocals that made good use of all the singers’ ranges, and an explosive chorus that helped drive the song to #5 on the R&B chart (#43 Pop). The single’s B-side, “The Devil Is Dope,” is a scorching anti-drug creed reminiscent of the Temptations, the song’s memorable chorus and orchestral scoring providing a larger-than-life feel to the song. Drenched in soul but offering gospel and rock undertones, “The Devil Is Dope” would have made for a strong single release on its own.

The Dramatics’ very first single for Stax – “Your Love Was Strange” – shoulda, coulda been a smash when it was released in October 1969. Showing a clear evolution of the band towards its popular ‘70s-era sound, the song is deep-fried in Motown production technique with obvious Temptations-inspired harmonies (something the band largely moved away from as they developed their own vocal magic), a minor up-tempo rhythm and singing strings. It’s a strong performance, slightly derivative but not much more than anything else on the radio in 1969. Released in August 1973, “Fell For You” would be the band’s last R&B chart hit for Volt/Stax, peaking at #5 while hanging around at #45 on the Pop chart. A low-key ballad with some impressive vocal gymnastics, producer Hester took full advantage of the band’s vocal abilities on the recording. The B-side to “In The Rain,” the uplifting “Gimme Some (Good Soul Music)” is a textbook example of fine pop songwriting with a soulful performance, the band’s soaring vocals wrapping around an inspirational lyrical message in what could have been another monster AM radio hit if it had been released as a solo single.

The Reverend’s Bottom Line

This budget-priced Stax Classics set pulls its material mostly from the Dramatics’ Top 20 hit album Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get, but also includes a number of other minor hit singles and rare B-sides from their Stax/Volt tenure. The band only hung around Memphis for three quick studio albums and a live set circa 1971 to 1974 before jumping ship from Stax to ABC Records and, later, MCA Records, where they enjoyed modest success as they incorporated disco moves into their sleek soul music. If only for their timeless early ‘70s hits, the Dramatics’ Stax Classics is worth your time and a little bit of money for a whole lot of great soul music. Grade: B+ (Stax Records, released May 19, 2017)

Buy the CD from The Dramatics’ Stax Classics

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Jane’s Addiction celebrate 25 years of Ritual de lo Habitual

Dave Navarro and Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction
Dave Navarro and Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction
Rock legends Jane’s Addiction released its groundbreaking, earth-shaking sophomore album Ritual de lo Habitual back in the early alt-rock daze of 1990 (damn, has it really been that long ago?). The album continues to pick up new fans better than a quarter-century after its release, so it’s only fitting that the band should revisit the trailblazing recording in a live setting.

On August 4th, 2017 Rock Fuel Media, in association with Sonic Films, Cleopatra Records, and MVD Entertainment Group, will release Ritual de lo Habitual Alive at 25 on DVD and Blu-ray disc as well as on CD and vinyl LP. Directed by Mark Ritchie and produced by Barry Summers of Rock Fuel Media, Jane’s Addiction - Ritual de lo Habitual Alive at 25 documents a September 2016 concert filmed at the Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre, the last stop on the band’s 20-city “Sterling Spoon Anniversary Tour.” The concert was filmed with 20 cameras spread across the venue and mixed in 5.1 Surround Sound.

Jane’s Addiction - Ritual de lo Habitual Alive at 25
Featuring classic Jane’s Addiction line-up of frontman Perry Farrell, guitarist Dave Navarro, bassist Chris Chaney, and drummer Stephen Perkins, the band performed a 90-minute show which included their entire Ritual de lo Habitual album along with hits from across the band’s 30-year career. In a press release for the video and album Farrell says “25 years – what a beautiful milestone for both Ritual de lo Habitual and Lollapalooza. As both were great achievements in our lives that also helped change the course of music history, we really sought to come up with a special show for this tour so that the fans could celebrate it with us.”

Producer Barry Summers of Rock Fuel Media adds, “The band’s great visual and very edgy performances always kick ass on stage. Ritual de lo Habitual is such an iconic album that changed the landscape of alternative rock that we wanted to capture the 25 year anniversary in stunning 4k. It’s quite mind-blowing and we think fans will enjoy this package for years to come.” Rock Fuel Media is an award-winning, full-service film and television production company specializing in multimedia content distribution. The company has worked with a diverse range of artists, including Guns N’ Roses, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Elvis Costello, Melissa Etheridge, the Beach Boys, Bonnie Raitt, and many others.

Buy Jane's Addiction - Ritual de lo Habitual Alive at 25 from
DVD/CD two-disc set
Blu-ray/DVD/CD three-disc set

The Elements of King Crimson 2017 Tour Box

The Elements of King Crimson 2017 Tour Box
If you’re one of the thousands of loyal prog-rock fans that have been enjoying the legendary King Crimson’s recent slate of shows, this news will make your month! This coming Friday – June 16th, 2017 – the band will release The Elements of King Crimson 2017 Tour Box. Like its predecessors from the past three years, the two-disc set features extracts from rehearsals, new live recordings, elements from studio recordings, full tracks, alternate takes, and finished recordings circa 1969 to 2016, many of which are making their first appearance on CD.

Every line-up of the historic band is represented on The Elements of King Crimson 2017 Tour Box, and the set includes a unique performance of “Lark’s Tongues In Aspic” comprised of studio and live tracks interspersed with elements taken from the original studio sessions and rehearsals. The set is packaged in a DVD-sized fold-out digipak-style book case with a 24-page booklet that includes photos of memorabilia, band photos, full info about the 2016 tour, and new liner notes by co-compiler Sid Smith. The Elements of King Crimson 2017 Tour Box can be ordered from King Crimson’s Schizoid shop or from using the link provided below.

The King Crimson 2017 North American tour continues through the end of July – check out tour dates here – and the band has taken the unusual step of placing its three drummers at the front of the stage. In addition to beat-keepers Pat Mastelotto, Gavin Harrison, and Jeremy Stacey, this incarnation of King Crimson includes multi-instrumentalist Bill Reiflin on keyboards, guitarist Jakko Jakszyk, bassist Tony Levin, saxophonist Mel Collins and, of course, band founding member Robert Fripp on guitar.

Buy the CD from King Crimson’s The Elements of King Crimson 2017 Tour Box

Friday, June 9, 2017

Archive Review: Johnny Rivers' New Lovers and Old Friends (1975)

Johnny Rivers' New Lovers and Old Friends
Rock music, like any other aspect of culture, seems to run in vicious cycles. With its roots in simplicity, rock music was born with a main purpose in mind: for fun. It was something youngsters could identify with, something their parents didn’t understand. And today, with styles of rock ranging from the pleasant twanging of country-oriented rock, right up to the heavy, metallic boredom present in the music of many modern groups, it sure is nice to find someone who presents us with simple, honest music. Such a performer is Johnny Rivers.

New Lovers and Old Friends is a collection of honest rock music, some old, some new. The tunes are simple, ranging from fun-time rockers to heavy ballads. And most important of all: the album doesn’t dose out heavy overproduction or extended boredom. “It’s The Same Old Song,” a Holland-Dozier-Holland tune, starts the album off. It leads into the single and Beach Boys classic “Help Me Rhonda” (with Brian Wilson on backing vocals). Just this much makes one remember summers spent on the beach, basic good times. The rest of side one is pretty soft, ballad material like “Can I Change My Mind.”

Side two begins with the title cut and leads into “Dancing In The Moonlight,” a minor hit for an unknown group. But Rivers conjures up images, his voice complimented by the guitarwork. The rest of the album rocks to the finish, leaving the listener immersed knee-deep in rock ‘n’ roll soul. New Lovers and Old Friends isn’t loud, nor is it boring What it is, is a journey to the past, to rock ‘n’ roll memories unforgotten...and fun. (Epic Records, released 1975)

Editor’s Note: In the pre-Internet dark ages, it was difficult to look up information like the fact that “Dancing In The Moonlight” was a #13 charting single in 1972 for the band King Harvest. Also, guitars on New Lovers and Old Friends were provided by the great Larry Carlton and Ned Doheny.

Originally published by Hank magazine, November 1975

CD Preview: Living Colour’s Shade

Living Colour's Shade
Heavy metal legends Living Colour haven’t ventured into the studio very often since the band got back together in 2000, releasing a pair of well-received albums in 2004’s CollideƘscope and 2009’s The Chair In the Doorway. On September 8th, 2017 Megaforce Records will release the band’s third studio album this century in Shade.

Shade was produced by Andre Betts, who first worked with Living Colour on their 1993 album Stain. Betts has worked with the band over the past five years to craft an exciting new sound. Inspired by their live performance of blues legend Robert Johnson’s “Preachin’ Blues” at Harlem’s Apollo Theatre, Living Colour has incorporated elements of Mississippi Delta dirt into their trademark heavy metal thunder. “That was really the beginning of us thinking of the direction we want to take for our next project,” says Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid in a press release for the new album. “Hearing that blend of blues and metal was really what got the wheels turning.”

While Shade offers Living Colour’s unique juxtaposition of hard rockin’ blues, the album isn’t just a collection of antiquated sounds but rather a mix of various influences. “What better way to talk to the world than through the blues?” vocalist Corey Glover asks in a press release for the album. “We recorded ‘Preachin’ Blues’ several times to jump start the project and that got everybody fired up. After that, we were ready. Shade, in its final outcome, is more of a deconstruction of the blues than an interpretation. It was the idiom that gave us our voice.”

Featuring thirteen white-hot performances, Shade offers songs like the old-school thrash of “Blak Out,” the acid-funk romp “Two Sides” (featuring a guest appearance of the legendary George Clinton), and Reid’s six-string showcase “Freedom of Expression (F.O.X.).” The album includes the band’s incendiary cover of The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Who Shot Ya?,” released late last year in protest of gun violence and racial profiling, as well as an inspired cover of the great Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues,” which stirs a bit of guitar-driven hard rock into a heady R&B gumbo.
“To me, there seems to be a shadow cast across our collective lives,” says Reid. “We can either allow it to oppress us or we can shine a light on it. Shade is the sound of a band coming to terms with the shadows and shining a light by using the blues as a mirror.”

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Thursday, June 8, 2017

Archive Review: Charlie Sexton Sextet's Under the Wishing Tree (1995)

Charlie Sexton Sextet's Under the Wishing Tree
Hendrix, circa 1968. Swirling guitar leads, banging chords, and a chaotic psychedelic sound. That’s what “Neighborhood,” the opening cut from Under the Wishing Tree calls to mind. The disc rapidly changes direction, slowing the pace down a notch and reining in a bit of the musical anarchy that kicks it off, but that doesn’t make it dull by any means.

Charlie Sexton, a Texas guitarslinger with a few miles under his young belt, is a vastly underrated picker who has never received the respect he deserves. Two previous releases – his first recorded before he was out of his teens – won Sexton a loyal following and critical accolades, if precious little else.

Under the Wishing Tree has the power to change all that. Cuts like “Wishing Tree” or “Ugly All Day” showcase a world-class player with a few tricks left under his hat, while more complex, flavorful fare like “Sunday Clothes” or “Spanish Words” offer an artist caught in the throes of growth pains, willing to experiment – musically and lyrically – in order to mature.

It is the twelve-minute story-song “Plain Bad Luck and Innocent Mistakes,” a tale as grand as the desert wasteland, that proves to be Under the Wishing Tree’s defining moment. Sexton pulls out all the stop sin the creation of an adventurous and memorable musical moment. This is rock ‘n’ roll delivered the Sexton way, full of guitar riffs, artistic sweat, and enough attitude to make it all worthwhile. (MCA Records, released March 28, 1995)

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Originally published by Bone Music Magazine, July 1995

CD Preview: The Raspberries’ Pop Art Live

The Raspberries’ Pop Art Live
The Raspberries were power-pop pioneers who, like just about anything to come from Cleveland, still struggle to get respect to this day. Formed in 1970 by singer/guitarist Eric Carmen, guitarist Wally Bryson, bassist John Aleksic, and drummer Jim Bonfanti, the line-up shifted when Aleksic left the band, Carmen took up the bass, and they added guitarist Dave Smalley. With a sound steeped in British Invasion bands like the Beatles and the Who, along with a dash of blues and gorgeous pop-derived melodies, the Raspberries enjoyed modest chart success with a half-dozen radio-friendly hits.

The Raspberries released four albums during their brief existence, including their 1972 self-titled debut and, later that year, Fresh (their best-seller, which yielded two hit singles). Side 3 followed in 1973, and the following year’s Starting Over would prove to be the Raspberries’ swansong. Carmen went on to a successful solo career after the band’s 1975 break-up, but the enduring influence of the Raspberries could be heard in the music of fellow-travelers like the Bangles, Game Theory, the dB’s, Jellyfish, and many others. The band counts among its fans such musical heavyweights as Bruce Springsteen, John Lennon, and Paul Westerberg of the Replacements.

In November 2004, the classic line-up of the Raspberries – Carmen, Bryson, Smalley, and Bonfanti – reunited at the grand opening Cleveland’s House of Blues club for a boisterous, well-received show. The response prompted the band to undertake a 2005 mini-tour which in turn led to the release of a double-album, a VH1 Classic television special, and a concert broadcast by XM Satellite radio. On August 18th, 2017 Omnivore Recordings will release the Raspberries’ Pop Art Live, a two-disc set that documents that near-legendary House of Blues concert performance from 2004.

Pop Art Live features live versions of songs from all four of the band’s classic studio albums, including favorite hits like “Go All The Way,” “I Wanna Be With You,” “Let’s Pretend,” and “Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)” as well as their unique performances of timeless songs by rock music legends like the Beatles and the Who. The double-disc set also includes notes and testimonials from fans like Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Cameron Crowe, pop music author James Rosen, and band aficionados Bernie Hogya and Ken Sharp. In addition to the CD release, plans are to release Pop Art Live as a three-album vinyl set later this year.

Buy the CD from The Raspberries' Pop Art Live

The Raspberries' Pop Art Live track list:

Disc One
1. I Wanna Be With You
2. Play On
3. I Can’t Explain
4. Nobody Knows
5. Let’s Pretend
6. Don’t Wanna Say Goodbye
7. Party’s Over
8. Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)
9. Might As Well
10. It Seemed So Easy
11. Baby’s In Black
12. If You Change Your Mind
13. Tonight
14. I Can Remember

Disc Two
1. Starting Over
2. Last Dance
3. I Saw The Light
4. No Reply
5. When You Were With Me
6. It’s Cold Outside
7. Should I Wait
8. Come Around And See Me
9. Makin’ It Easy
10. Ticket To Ride
11. Hard To Get Over A Heartbreak
12. Ecstacy
13. I’m A Rocker
14. Go All The Way