Thursday, February 16, 2017

CD Preview: John Lee Hooker’s Whiskey and Wimmen

John Lee Hooker's Whiskey & Wimmen
Blues legend John Lee Hooker was prolific to a fault, recording hundreds of albums during the 1940s and ‘50s under cover of various pseudonyms like John Lee Booker, Johnny Lee, Texas Slim, and others – all the better to take the money and run. Hooker also had years of stability during his career, however, recording a number of acclaimed singles and albums for the Chicago-based Vee-Jay Records label circa 1955-1964, interspersed with LPs created for labels like Specialty and Riverside Records during the late 1950s and into the ‘60s, finishing the decade with a 1969 release by Stax Records of material he put to tape back in 1961.

On March 31st, 2017 Vee-Jay Records, an imprint of Concord Bicycle Music, will release Whiskey & Wimmen: John Lee Hooker’s Finest, a sixteen-track compilation that spans several record labels and includes many of the blues giant’s most iconic songs. Widely known as the “King of Boogie” for the undeniable rhythm of his performances, Hooker’s career took off with the 1948 single “Boogie Chillun,” which sold better than a million copies and led to subsequent R&B chart hits like “Boom Boom” (#14), “I Love You Honey” (#29), and “I’m In The Mood” (#1), all of which influenced generations of blues and rock artists, from Canned Heat and the Rolling Stones to George Thorogood, Carlos Santana, and Tommy Castro. Before his death in 2001, Hooker had been inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame (1980) and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (1991) and received a Grammy™ Lifetime Achievement Award.

John Lee Hooker
Photo courtesy Concord Music
Whiskey & Wimmen: John Lee Hooker’s Finest includes the above-mentioned singles as well as great tunes like “Crawlin’ Kingsnake,” “Dimples,” and “It Serves Me Right To Suffer;” we’ve included the entire track list below. To be honest, much of this material is available on other compilations – there are literally dozens of ‘em, many long out of print – but collected here on one disc, it makes a perfect introduction to the charms of the ‘Hook.’

Once you’ve had a taste of Hooker’s classic early work, you can make your way to such 1970s-era delicacies as Hooker ‘n Heat (recorded in 1971 with acolytes Canned Heat) or 1972’s Never Get Out of These Blues Alive (recorded with Elvin Bishop, Steve Miller, Charlie Musselwhite, and others) before moving onto late-career triumphs like 1989’s Grammy™-winning The Healer (which includes collaborations with folks like Bonnie Raitt and Carlos Santana) and 1991’s Mr. Lucky (produced by Ry Cooder and including artists like Van Morrison, Johnny Winter, and Booker T. Jones). But Hooker’s legacy began with the material featured on Whiskey & Wimmen.

Buy the CD from John Lee Hooker's Whiskey & Wimmen  

Whiskey and Wimmen track list:
1. Boom Boom
2. Boogie Chillun
3. Dimples
4. I'm in the Mood
5. I Love You Honey
6. Whiskey and Wimmen
7. I Need Some Money
8. Grinder Man
9. I'm Going Upstairs
10. Big Legs, Tight Skirt
11. No More Doggin'
12. No Shoes
13. Crawlin’ Kingsnake
14. Frisco Blues
15. It Serve Me Right to Suffer
16. Time Is Marching

Video of the Week: Blackfield’s “From 44 to 48”

Blackfield's Blackfield V
Art-rockers Blackfield – a collaboration between prolific British prog-rock legend Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) and Israeli songwriter/musician Aviv Geffen – have released a “lyric” video for their latest song, “From 44 to 48,” from their upcoming album Blackfield V, which will be released on March 17th, 2017 by Kscope Records.

In a press release for the new album, Wilson comments “even though I don’t really write songs with specific projects in mind, as soon as I wrote this one I knew it was for Blackfield.” Continuing, Wilson says, “‘From 44 to 48’ is a song about growing older and letting go of dreams.” The song’s insightful, timeless lyrics and ethereal soundtrack is made all the more otherworldly by Geffen’s winsome string arrangement as performed by the London Session Orchestra. It’s a subtle, but powerful performance captured perfectly by the video.

Blackfield V was written and recorded over eighteen months in both Israel and England, the album featuring thirteen conceptually-linked songs that form a single 45-minute ocean-themed song cycle. Wilson and Geffen provide the album’s vocals, guitars, and keyboards, the duo backed in the studio by drummer Tomer Z and keyboardist Eran Mitelman. Legendary musician, producer, and engineer Alan Parsons worked on three of the album’s tracks. Blackfield V will be released in a number of formats, including a two-disc CD/Blu-Ray deluxe set that offers the album in both high-rez stereo and 5.1 surround sound mix and includes a 36-page color booklet.

Blackfield V will also be available as a single CD and as a two-disc 180g heavyweight vinyl set cut at 45rpm for better sound and packaged in gatefold sleeve with a four page booklet and free mp3 download. A limited edition single 140g vinyl picture disc featuring Lasse Hoile artwork (and including a mp3 download) will also be released on March 17th; a digital download of the album is already available.

Buy the CD from Blackfield’s Blackfield V

Saturday, February 4, 2017

CD Review: Elvin Bishop - Elvin Bishop's Big Fun Trio (2017)

Elvin Bishop's Big Fun Trio
Venerable roots ‘n’ blues legend Elvin Bishop has long since passed the point where he could comfortably rest on his laurels and play out the string, wherever it leads. As shown by Elvin Bishop’s Big Fun Trio, the follow-up to the singer, songwriter, and guitarist’s Grammy™-nominated 2014 album Can’t Even Do Wrong Right, there’s still a lot of joy in the music for Bishop, and he continues to look at fashionable new ways to dress up his tried-and-true signature sound.

Fear not, true believers, Mr. Bishop isn’t trying to reinvent the blues in, say, the same manner that Run the Jewels has challenged hip-hop traditions. Nor is he trying to appeal to younger listeners by radically changing his sound, attitude, or appearance…he’s still the same fun lovin’, happy-go-lucky Elvin that hundreds of thousands of fans around the world have come to love and respect as a sincere, talented Americana traditionalist.    

Elvin Bishop’s Big Fun Trio

No, what Bishop has done with Elvin Bishop’s Big Fun Trio is to alter the angle at which he approaches these songs. As he says in the album’s liner notes, he and a couple of buddies began jamming in the studio and it sounded so good and they were having such a good time that the ‘Big Fun Trio’ was formed with guitarist Bishop, singer and percussionist Willy Jordan, and pianist and guitarist Bob Welsh. The proof is in the grooves, as they say, and the album-opening “Keep On Rollin’” is a great example. A rollicking, humorous, mostly-spoken piece with Elvin and Willy trading verbal jabs, Welsh’s New Orleans-flavored piano runs are paired with a funky, foot-shuffling rhythm and Bishop’s jagged fretwork.

The fun continues with the scorching “Honey Babe,” a rockabilly-tinged romp that offers up some of Bishop’s finest guitar pickin’ and great tone. A solid reinvention of a song that originally appeared on Bishop’s 1974 album Let It Flow, it’s a fine showcase for the guitarist’s often-underrated talents. Jordan takes the microphone for the Chicago blues-styled rave-up “It’s You Baby,” his soulful vocals riding high atop Welsh’s juke-joint piano-pounding and guest Kim Wilson’s raging harp play. Bishop fills in with some red-hot licks, Jordan’s vox reaching Little Richard level intensity in a great performance that is certain to stomp listeners into submission in a club setting.

Bishop brings in another friend, harp wizard and Chicago blues legend Rick Estrin to blow some notes on the rockin’ “Delta Lowdown,” a spry instrumental that showcases Estrin’s immense skills and Welsh’s keyboard mastery. A cover of the Bobby Womack gem “It’s All Over Now” offers up Jordan’s lively vocals and a raucous, rhythmic arrangement that showcases Bishop’s stinging six-string  solos while Bishop’s rootsy sense of humor shines on the hilarious story-song “That’s What I’m Talkin’ About” as he and Jordan swap culinary-obsessed verses over a Southern-fried soundtrack. Friend and compatriot Charlie Musselwhite joins in on the biographical “100 Years of Blues,” a rowdy, low-slung history of the music that name-checks legends like Sonny Boy Williamson and Muddy Waters while Charlie blasts some mean harp and Bishop lays out some choice git licks above the shufflin’ rhythm.

The Reverend’s Bottom Line

Working in a stripped-down trio format, the song shorn of everything but the essence of the performance, what’s left is pure salt-of-the-earth roots ‘n’ blues. Bishop always sounds like he’s having fun in the studio, but with Elvin Bishop’s Big Fun Trio, the three musicians play with reckless abandon, reveling in the sheer joy of making music. Bishop could have begun phoning it in years ago and fans would still enjoy his immense talents and charisma; that he is still looking for new ways to excite himself and his bandmates musically is both the key to Bishop’s longevity and a testament to the heart and soul that he brings to every performance. Grade: B+ (Alligator Records, released February 10, 2017)

Buy the CD from Elvin Bishop's Big Fun Trio

Friday, February 3, 2017

Sidemen: The Long Road To Glory Kickstarter Project

Sidemen: The Long Road To Glory

The Reverend doesn’t ask readers to donate to crowdfunding projects all that often, but I’m going to break with tradition and recommend…nay, demand that y’all offer up some coin for Sidemen: The Long Road To Glory. An award-winning documentary film about the lives, music, and legacies of blues guitarist Hubert Sumlin, pianist Pinetop Perkins, and drummer Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, Sidemen: The Long Road To Glory premiered at the 2016 SxSW Film Festival and had an extremely successful festival run.

Now the producers are looking to take the film worldwide and although they have cleared the music and video footage rights for festival showings, they need to raise some cash to clear the rights for wider release of the film, and that’s where y’all come in. Directed by filmmaker Scott Rosenbaum and narrated by Marc Maron, Sidemen: The Long Road To Glory presents these three bluesmen as the important musicians they were, the three lending their talents to legends like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. The film includes testimonials from such musical heavyweights as Keith Richards, Bonnie Raitt, Gregg Allman, Derek Trucks, Warren Haynes, and many others. Filmed during the final years of the artists’ lives, Sidemen captures the late career triumph of Perkins and Smith upon winning a Grammy™ Award for their 2010 album Joined At The Hip.

The Kickstarter campaign for Sidemen is trying to raise $225,000 for wider distribution of the film. They have plenty of cool rewards for donors, such as digital downloads of the film, a copy of the cool movie poster seen to the right, a DVD of the film, buttons, t-shirts, and other memorabilia as well as a one-year subscription to Blues Music magazine. Check out the Sidemen Kickstarter page to find out more about this worthy project.

Odd Fellows: R. Stevie Moore & Jason Falkner's Make It Be

R. Stevie Moore & Jason Falkner's Make It Be
Here’s a match made in rock ‘n’ roll heaven: on March 10, 2017 Bar None Records will release Make It Be, a brilliant collaboration between underground rock legend R. Stevie Moore and power-pop icon Jason Falkner. The album was recorded by Falkner at his Rhetoric Studio in Hollywood, California and features a number of Moore originals as well as one co-write by Moore with longtime Nashville cohort Roger Ferguson and a song by Falkner.

R. Stevie Moore is a pioneer in lo-fi rock as well as the Godfather of Nashville rock ‘n’ roll. His classic 1976 album Phonography kick-started a nascent Music City scene that, until that time, had mostly consisted of Moore and his circle of friends playing original music, and a handful of horrible cover bands playing Top 40 tunes in local dive bars. Moore moved to New Jersey shortly after the release of Phonography and forged a reputation as an extremely prolific singer/songwriter, cranking out over 400 albums over the course of his lengthy career. Moore was also one of the original D.I.Y. artists, selling cassettes and CD-Rs via mail order, and making low-budget music videos that would become YouTube favorites. Moore moved back to Nashville a couple years ago and continues to make intriguing, creative music.

Jason Falkner came to prominence as a member of the L.A. “Paisley Underground” band the Three O’Clock, performing on their 1988 major label debut album Vermillion before the band broke up. He later joined neo-psychedelic rockers Jellyfish, working with the band on their classic 1990 album Bellybutton, his restless muse leading him to launch his solo career with the 1996 album Presents Author Unknown. In between Jellyfish and his solo debut, Falkner recorded the 1994 cult fave LP Ro Sham Bo with the Grays. Over the past 20 years, Falkner has earned a well-deserved reputation as a melodic songwriter and dynamic performer with four solo albums to his credit, the most recent being 2009’s All Quiet on the Noise Floor. Falkner has also lent his talents to recordings by artists like Beck, Brendan Benson, and Paul McCartney.

It’s an odd pairing – the power-popper and the lo-fi rocker – but it’s a collaboration that works. Moore is an exceptional songwriter and underrated guitarist, and his winsome vocals mesh perfectly with Falkner’s melodic tones. The two men put together exciting arrangements for the material that explore the boundaries of pop, rock, and avant-garde instrumental experimentation. Throw in a few spoken word passages and some spacey instrumentals alongside the pop/rock performances and the listener will find Make It Be to be an engaging, challenging, and entertaining collection of 21st century rock ‘n’ roll.

In a press release for the new album, Moore explains how the collaboration came together. “We unknowingly shared a mutual admiration bigtime and finally got in direct contact mid-2000s,” says Moore. “I think my friend Tim Burgess was the first one to turn him onto my stuff. Recording with him was a dream, totally incredible. We showed a similar sense of both crazed adventure and textbook pop discipline. The sessions moved fast, just gleefully piling on overdubs. I am grateful he allowed me to just dive into any left-field idea I felt. JF’s a marvelous producer and killer drummer, but I don't think he usually gets quite as much creative leeway to tinker with things as he did with me.”

If you’re unfamiliar with the brilliant – albeit unusual – talent that is R. Stevie Moore and have an hour to be entertained, check out the documentary film on the artist embedded below. Then get on over to and buy R. Stevie Moore and Jason Falkner’s Make It Be CD (also available on shiny black wax for you vinyl aficionados!)

Sunday, January 29, 2017

New Music Monthly: February 2017 Releases

It may be  cold outside, but February's "New Music Monthly" offers up some scorching hot sides for the music lover's rock 'n' roll gratification! Black Star Riders' hard-rockin' third album Heavy Fire arrives this month, and roots 'n' blues veteran Elvis Bishop delivers joyful noise with Elvin Bishop's Big Fun Trio while new albums from the Sadies, Son Volt, Otis Taylor, and the Feelies are sure to please. Here's the music you'll be spending your hard-earned coin on in February!

Black Star Rider's Heavy Fire

Black Star Riders - Heavy Fire   BUY!
Communions - Blue   BUY!
The Soul of John Black - Early In The Moanin'   BUY!

Elvin Bishop's Big Fun Trio

Elvin Bishop - Big Fun Trio   BUY!
Arthur Lee - Arthur Lee   BUY!
Chuck Prophet - Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins   BUY!
The Sadies - Northern Passages   BUY!

Otis Taylor's Fantasizing About Being Black

Merrell Fankhauser - Things   BUY!
Son Volt - Notes of Blue   BUY!
Otis Taylor - Fantasizing About Being Black   BUY!

Eric Gales' Middle of the Road

The Feelies - In Between   BUY!
Eric Gales - Middle of the Road   BUY!
Wesley Stace - Wesley Stace's John Wesley Harding (w/the Jayhawks)   BUY!

(Album release dates are subject to change without notice and they don't always let me know, so there...)

The Feelies' In Between

Album of the Month: The Feelies' In Between, the band's first album in six years. The Feelies reformed in 2016 in celebration of the band's 40th anniversary and the reissuing of their classic albums Time For A Witness and Only Life. The new LP promises more of the same avant-pop genius that inspired bands like R.E.M. and Yo La Tengo, among many others. Get a taste of the new Feelies album below.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

CD Review: Ducks Deluxe' Ducks Deluxe / Taxi To The Terminal Zone (2001)

Ducks Deluxe & Taxi To The Terminal Zone
Back in the day, some thirty long and gruesome years ago, my high school buddy Thom King published what you’d call today an “alt-weekly” newspaper. Only we tended to publish monthly instead of weekly, and some months were longer than others, if you catch my meaning. Times were tough back then in Nashville for bohemian types, especially those with an axe to grind and a paper to publish.

Ad dollars were scarce, advertisers didn’t even know what the hell an “alternative newspaper” was, and we published the rag out of a funky pre-Civil War warehouse in pre-urban renewal downtown Nashville. Drunken derelicts, gun battles, stolen mail trucks, and rabid bats were all part of our daily routine...

Pub Rock Legends

One of the many perks of publishing Take One Magazine, apart from the “anything can happen at any time” Dodge City vibe on Second Avenue, was the free music. Since fledgling critics such as Thom, Sam Borgerson, and yours truly were cranking out a couple-dozen album reviews each issue, the labels graced us with all sorts of promo discs. There were lots of favorites that would be spun daily on the office turntable, from NRBQ to the Fabulous Poodles, but one of the best and most frequently played was Don’t Mind Rockin’ Tonite by Brit rockers Ducks Deluxe.

Sandwiched somewhere between Glam and the first generation of prog-rockers, and pre-dating the “revolution of ‘77” and punk rock, Ducks Deluxe was lost among the ranks of those bands deigned “pub rock” by the British music press. Alongside colleagues like Ace, Dr. Feelgood, and Bees Make Honey, Ducks Deluxe cranked out timeless music in the vein of Chuck Berry and the Rolling Stones. As described by Ducks’ guitarist Martin Belmont, “all these bands played music that was good for drinking and dancing, and had its r’n’b/soul/country/blues/and rock’n’roll roots highly visible.” Pub rock was better experienced live, in the club, rather than on album and the genre died out quickly in the wake of punk, leaving nothing but a fond memory for a lot of music lovers.

Tragically, Don’t Mind Rockin’ Tonite was released by RCA Records in 1978, three years after the band’s demise. The label had pretty much fumbled its promotion of Ducks Deluxe’s first album stateside, and only released Don’t Mind Rockin’ Tonite, a compilation of songs and B-sides from the band’s two original albums, in response to the UK notoriety of Ducks Sean Tyla (Tyla Gang), Nick Garvey (The Motors), and Martin Belmont (The Rumour). Thom and I played the hell out of the album at the time, though, not knowing or caring about its pedigree. The music of Ducks Deluxe (and most of their pub rock brethren) remains criminally neglected stateside. Luckily, British revival/reissue label BGO Records (Beat Goes On) placed both of the band’s two albums on a two-disc set a couple of years back, a mighty twofer that puts Ducks Deluxe and Taxi To The Terminal Zone in the proper light.

Ducks Deluxe’s Ducks Deluxe

Ducks Deluxe's Don't Mind Rockin' Tonite
Disc one, the band’s self-titled 1973 debut, kicks off with “Coast To Coast,” the band’s first single, a shambling trainwreck of a song, a sort of “we’re here to rock” introduction to the band that best illustrates Sean Tyla’s throaty vocals, Martin Belmont’s Duane Eddy-influenced guitar skills, and the band’s roots-rock vibe. Featuring Nick Garvey’s somber baritone vocals, “Nervous Breakdown” punches the clock, rockabilly style, sounding like a cross between Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues” and Jason & the Scorchers’ manic country blues. The band slows down to a simmering funky groove for “Daddy Put The Bomp,” a Sean Tyla composition that somehow captures all of the swaggering soul and swamp-rock flavor of Allen Toussaint’s New Orleans in spite of the fact that Tyla had yet to ever visit the U.S. at the time he wrote the song.

My personal fave track on Ducks Deluxe is “Please Please Please,” a Beatlesque pop masterpiece as channeled through the Bluecap ghost of Gene Vincent’s guitar. Garvey’s strangled vocals are perfect, a combination of denial and vulnerability, the fractured melody as catchy as anything you’ll ever hear. I played this tune on the radio once as a guest DJ, on New Year’s Eve 1978/79, and it blew the music programmer’s mind; he rang up the station’s engineer and wanted him to pull the plug on me. Shows the sorry fucker’s ignorance – this is an incredible tune, with Belmont’s guitar ringing crystal clear, great harmony vocals, a simple arrangement and a timeless theme of romance and betrayal.

From this point, Ducks Deluxe runs off the tracks, a musical freight-train rocking from side to side at speeds too dangerous for the band to survive with any certainty. “Fireball” is a Velvet Underground-inspired rocker with Lou Reed vocals and “Sweet Jane” riffing backed by Tim Roper’s big beats and solid rhythms. “Don’t Mind Rockin’ Tonite” is a 100mph cross-country flight through Chuck Berry country with Southern rock flavor and circular riffage as big as all of Texas. Tyla’s western fantasy comes to life with “West Texas Trucking Board,” a big sky ballad with Gram Parsons’ zip code written all over it. Tyla’s Dylanesque vox and the band’s tasty “Big Pink” arrangement belie their UK roots; this is pure Americana roots-rock easily a decade (a generation in rock ‘n’ roll) before bounders like the Long Ryders, Green On Red, and the True Believers would discover Grievous Angel.

Ducks Deluxe’s Taxi To The Terminal Zone

Ducks Deluxe closes with another rocker, Bobby Womack’s Southern rock classic “It’s All Over Now,” delivered with Stonesish aplomb, taut guitars, and joyful vocals. When the dust had cleared, the band’s debut album was met with some sort of critical acclaim but faced commercial indifference – the fate of virtually all of the “pub rock” bands of the era. Undeterred, the Ducks added full-time keyboardist Andy McMasters to the mix and ventured into the studio after gigging around Europe to record Taxi To The Terminal Zone.

Produced by Dave Edmunds, Taxi To The Terminal Zone (1975) carries on much in the same vein as its predecessor, that is an inspired mix of blues-flavored boogie, rockabilly filtered through a UK pop culture filter, and shambling three-chord Chuck Berry-styled rave-ups that would serve notice on a generation of punk rockers a few years later. The album’s lead off, “Cherry Pie,” is a tart delight, an early-Stones-styled rocker with wiry guitar and an unrelenting beat. “Rainy Night In Kilburn” is a lovely, piano-led ballad with twin keyboards and Martin Belmont’s quiet, elegant vocals. Belmont’s subtle guitar style shines through on “I’m Crying,” Nick Garvey’s soulful vocals caressing the lyrics, staggering emotion flowing around Belmont’s exceptional leads.

Written by new Duck, pianist Andy McMasters, “Love’s Melody” is an infectious pop confection with an irresistible melody, a big fat ‘60s-styled hook of a chorus and Ventures-inspired riffing by Belmont. Garvey had been a roadie for U.S. rockers the Flaming Groovies a few years previous and the Ducks give that band’s “Teenage Head” a proper work-out, with swirling, sparkling guitars, tough rhythms and muted, scary-as-hell vocals. “Paris 9” is a rollicking raver that evokes Mott The Hoople, with McMasters’ Jerry-Lee-Lewis-on-the-highway-to-hell keyboard riffing, strong harmonies and a big beat.

The Reverend’s Bottom Line

Sadly, Taxi To The Terminal Zone – named after a line in a Chuck Berry song – went nowhere, and it was left up to the Clash, and the Sex Pistols a couple of years later to turn British rock on its pointy little head. Ducks Deluxe broke up shortly after the album’s release, the members going on to their individual destinies.

I always viewed Ducks Deluxe in much the same vein as underappreciated U.S. bands like the Flamin’ Groovies and the Dictators that never received their due. They live on in legend, however, leaving behind two ├╝ber-cool albums for those of us that don’t mind rockin’ tonite, or any other night... (BGO Records, released December 10, 2001)

Review originally published on Trademark of Quality blog, 2007

Buy the CD from Ducks Deluxe's Ducks Deluxe/Taxi To The Terminal Zone

Friday, January 20, 2017

Get Real Gone in March with the Rascals, Southside Johnny & Artful Dodger

The Rascals' The Complete Singles A’s & B’s
Our friends at Real Gone Music have announced their slate of new releases for March 2017 and there’s a heck of a lot to like here for fans of old-school rock ‘n’ soul, including collections from the Rascals, Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes, and acclaimed cult rockers Artful Dodger, all of which are scheduled for release on March 3, 2017.

The Rascals (originally known as the ‘Young Rascals’) are one of the tragically overlooked bands of the 1960s. Working with engineer Tom Dowd and arranger Arif Mardin, the band – which included singer/keyboardist Felix Cavaliere, singer Eddie Brigati, guitarist Gene Cornish, and drummer Dino Danelli – racked up a string of 19 charting singles, including a trio of #1 hits, as well as five Top 20 albums. Despite the band’s success and reputation as the “U.S. Beatles,” there has never been a comprehensive Rascals singles collection, due in part to the band having recorded for both Atlantic Records and Columbia Records.

Real Gone has cut through the red tape to compile The Complete Singles A’s & B’s, a two-disc, 47 song compilation that offers the A and B-sides of every singles the Rascals ever released. All the goodies are here, including “I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore,” “Good Lovin’,” “Groovin’,” and “People Got To Be Free.” The band’s early hits are offered in their original mono single mixes (representing 28 of the set’s 47 songs), later songs in their stereo single mixes. Writer Ed Osborne has penned a 4,500 word essay for the CD booklet that includes exclusive quotes from Cavaliere, Brigati, and Cornish and features rare photos, including European picture sleeves. The set was remastered by Mike Milchner at SonicVision and represents the first, and definitive career-spanning collection from this too-frequently-overlooked blues-eyed soul hit machine.

Southside Johnny's The Fever – The Remastered Epic Recordings
Southside Johnny Lyon and his band the Asbury Jukes were signed to Epic Records on the strength of their connections to Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s ‘Miami’ Steve Van Zandt. Produced by Van Zandt and including songs written by Miami Steve and ‘The Boss’ alongside R&B and rock ‘n’ roll gems from Ray Charles, Solomon Burke, and Steve Cropper, Southside Johnny’s 1976 debut, I Don’t Want To Go Home, has long since come to be considered a classic of blue-eyed soul. Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes would record three albums for Epic, including 1977’s This Time It’s For Real and 1978’s Hearts of Stone, experiencing modest commercial success along with widespread critical acclaim.

As part of Real Gone’s March slate, the label is releasing the two-disc, 40 song The Fever – The Remastered Epic Recordings, which includes the aforementioned trio of Southside Johnny studio albums as well as the rare 1976 promotional album Jukes Live at the Bottom Line, which has never been released on CD before. The albums have been remastered from the original master tapes by Mark Wilder at Battery Studios in New York and includes new liner notes by Chris Morris that include new quotes from Southside Johnny as well as Springsteen’s original liner notes for I Don’t Want To Go Home. Springsteen contributed a bunch of great songs for his friend to sing, including “The Fever,” “Love On The Wrong Side of Town,” “Trapped Again,” and “Hearts of Stone.” Van Zandt produced all four albums, and contributed several songs himself including “I Ain’t Got The Fever No More,” “Some Things Just Don’t Change,” and “This Time Baby’s Gone For Good.” The set includes special guests like Ronnie Spector, the Coasters, the Drifters, and the Five Satins.

Artful Dodger's The Complete Columbia Recordings
Artful Dodger was another underrated 1970s-era outfit, power-pop pioneers that recorded three albums for Columbia Records in the mid-to-late-‘70s that weren’t dissimilar to music being made by contemporaries the Raspberries or Blue Ash. The band included singer Billy Paliselli, guitarists Gary Herrewig and Gary Cox, bassist Steve Cooper, and drummer Steve Brigida. Noted producer Jack Douglas (Aerosmith, Cheap Trick) worked with the band for its 1975 self-titled debut and the following year’s Honor Among Thieves while Eddie Leonetti (Angel, Moxy) produced Artful Dodger’s 1977 swansong, Babes On Broadway. None of the band’s albums made the charts and, deeming them lacking in commercial potential, the label dropped the band. Artful Dodger would go on to make one more album for Ariola Records in 1980 before breaking up.

The band’s back catalog has been represented sporadically during the CD era, with reissues of the first two albums rapidly going out of print while Babes On Broadway has never been released on CD. Real Gone will satisfy longtime Artful Dodger fans and newcomers alike with the March release of the band’s The Complete Columbia Recordings. The two-disc collection features all three of the band’s ‘70s-era albums for the label, as well as rare singles releases, 31 tracks in all remastered by Maria Triana at Battery Studios in New York. The set includes new liner notes by Ugly Things zine contributor Jeremy Cargill with new quotes from Steve Cooper and Steve Brigida as well as rare photos from the Columbia Records vaults. If you’re a power-pop fan and you haven’t heard Artful Dodger, with The Complete Columbia Recordings you have a chance to rediscover this long-lost and talented outfit.

Buy the CDs from
The Rascals’ The Complete Singles A’s & B’s
Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes’ The Fever – The Remastered Epic Recordings
Artful Dodger’s The Complete Columbia Recordings

CD Preview: Eric Gales’ Middle of the Road

Eric Gales' Middle of the Road
Memphis born-and-bred blues-rock guitarist Eric Gales has enjoyed a storied career. His Hendrix-influenced but unique guitar style was unveiled when Elektra Records released his debut album as the Eric Gales Band (with brother Eugene) in 1991 when the guitarist was but sixteen years old. The talented string-bender has released fourteen studio albums total in the quarter-century since his debut, including ten on major labels, as well as live discs like last year’s A Night On The Sunset Strip CD and DVD.

On February 24th, 2017 Provogue Records will release Gales’ Middle of the Road, the guitarist’s follow-up to his critically-acclaimed 2014 album Good For Sumthin’. It’s Gales fourth album for the esteemed European blues/blues-rock label, including 2010’s Relentless and 2011’s Transformation. The title of the new album – “middle of the road” – is also the theme of the collection. Says Gales, in a press release for the album, “it’s about being fully focused and centered in the middle of the road. If you’re on the wrong side and in the gravel you’re not too good and if you’re on the median strip that’s not too good either, so being in the middle of the road is the best place to be.”

Middle of the Road was recorded with producer Fabrizio Grossi (Supersonic Blues Machine) in locations like Fab’s Lab and Room A Studio in North Hollywood as well as Cuz Studio and Sound in Cleveland, Mississippi and Cotton Row Studios in Memphis, Tennessee. Gales was backed in the studio by drummer Aaron Haggerty, keyboardist Dylan Wiggins, and backing singer LaDonna Gales with Eric providing vocals, guitar, and bass. “I played bass on the entire record, it was beautiful. I’m a bass player at heart,” says Gales, “so Fabrizio was like ‘bro you need to be playing the bass’. It was something that was very natural for me, too. I loved it.” Guests on the album include Lauryn Hill, Gary Clark Jr, Lance Lopez, and brother Eugene, among others.

Much of Middle of the Road deals with the changes in Gales’ life as he’s kicked his addictions and embarked on a new journey. This new direction is reflected on “Change In Me [The Rebirth]” of which Gales says, “I changed up some things in life and decided to go a new route.” The song “Carry Yourself,” co-written with Raphael Saadiq, is about Gales’ wife LaDonna. “It’s about how we met and how we grew to get to know each other through life and how she’s always carried herself. It has always been something I’m fascinated with.” The album’s lone cover is of Freddie King’s “Boogie Man,” which features a duel with fretburner Gary Clark Jr., while Gales’ original “Help Yourself” features sixteen year-old guitarist Christone “Kingfish” Ingram.

Although he’s been in the trenches for better than 25 years now, Gales has seldom received the acclaim that he so richly deserves. Fellow musicians are aware of his talent, however, with artists like Joe Bonamassa, Carlos Santana, Dave Navarro (Jane’s Addiction, Red Hot Chili Peppers), and Mark Tremonti (Alter Bridge), among others, singing Gales praises. Middle of the Road may just be the album that earns Eric Gales the success and status he’s due.

Buy the CD from Eric Gales' Middle of the Road