Sunday, April 26, 2015

CD Review: The Moody Blues' The Magnificent Moodies (2015)

The Moody Blues' The Magnificent Moodies
An individual’s memory of the Moody Blues depends entirely on their age. Although the band was formed in 1964 as a sort of Merseybeat/British R&B hybrid, copping licks from the Beatles and the Animals, they would experience a long, almost continuous evolutionary arc from then until the present day. The Moodies were directly responsible for merging classical music with pop-rock with their classic 1967 album Days of Future Passed, and they continued to explore symphonic psychedelia with albums like 1968’s In Search of the Lost Chord and the following year’s On the Threshold of A Dream. The 1970s framed the Moodies as prog-rock pioneers, focusing their high-flying muse on collections like A Question of Balance and Seventh Sojourn that would be among the most commercially successful albums of the decade.

During the 1980s, the Moodies became more of a commercially-oriented pop band, cleverly incorporating classical nuances with a contemporary, synth-driven sound to score a number of hits in the MTV era. It’s the early Moodies that we’re concerned with here, however, the often overlooked and underrated R&B outfit that was formed by singer Ray Thomas and keyboardist Mike Pinder. Adding bassist Clint Warwick, drummer Graeme Edge, and guitarist Denny Laine (who would become better known in the 1970s as a member of Paul McCartney’s Wings), the band went in search of a signature sound. A number of singles were released, the Moodies finding the top of the U.K. charts with the hit “Go Now!,” which would subsequently lead to the full-length 1965 album, The Magnificent Moodies (released as Go Now – The Moody Blues #1 in the states).  

The Moody Blues’ The Magnificent Moodies


Even with the benefit of a number one single, The Magnificent Moodies failed to chart on either side of the Atlantic, the album seemingly lost in the madcap shuffle of the British Invasion. It’s a shame, too, as not only was this the only LP recorded by the original Moodies line-up, it’s also a fine collection of vintage ‘60s Mod pop. The album kicks off with the brash, cocksure R&B romp “I’ll Go Crazy,” a playful rave that, perhaps, should have been the band’s initial single instead of “Steal Your Heart Away.” With an indomitable spirit and a big band beat, “I’ll Go Crazy” is a stand-out performance that deserves wider praise. The U.K. chart-topping “Go Now!” is a classic of British pop that still finds radio airplay, the song chalk full of heartbreak and soul with whimsical instrumentation that sounds as melancholy today as it did 50 years ago.

The remainder of the album displays a similar mix of lovely Merseybeat and British R&B (i.e. American blues and R&B filtered through British sensibilities). Songs like the carefully-crafted “Stop,” with its complex harmonies and minimalist (albeit effective) instrumentation, or “True Story,” a Laine/Pinder original that allows Laine to stretch out and show off some fine guitar chops, show a band still finding its way in the competitive U.K. pop scene. A cover of Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Bye Bye Bird” (penned by the great Willie Dixon) closes out the original album, the performance showing that the band had a deft hand at reinterpreting blues music for young white audiences…it’s not the Yardbirds, but it ain’t half bad, and the song would be a big hit in blues-lovin’ France.

Singles & B-Sides


It wasn’t unusual in the mid-to-late 1960s for bands to be squeezed by their label to frequently record songs to be released every few months as singles, one-off performances that may or may not ever make an appearance on any subsequent album release. This 50th anniversary reissue of The Magnificent Moodies includes all of the band’s non-album singles released circa 1965 to ’67, leading off with their lead-off attempt, “Steal Your Heart Away.” It’s a strong song (tho’ it’s no “I’ll Go Crazy’), a sort of mid-tempo torch-song that displays spark but few flames. “I Don’t Want To Go On Without You” had the unenviable position of following “Go Now,” and it’s an entirely different sort of beast, a slow-dance number with some elegant fretwork and a somber melody that barely scratched its way to #33 on the U.K. charts (and not charting at all stateside).

“From The Bottom Of My Heart (I Love You)” was the Moodies’ fourth single, an evolutionary leap for the band that brought the soul to the forefront and included a fuller, fully-realized soundtrack. The single fared somewhat better, hitting #22 in the U.K. but it’s clear that the Moodies were struggling to find an identity. Subsequent singles experienced diminishing commercial returns, tho’ “Everyday” is still pretty nifty, the single building on the full sound of its predecessor and sounding lushly cinematic in scope. The rarity “People Gotta Go” is from the French EP Boulevard de Madeleine, the song itself an exotic slice of continental pop with a syncopated rhythm and odd, but infectious melody. “Life’s Not Life,” recorded during Laine’s last session with the band, is equally engaging, the Moodies clearly evolving beyond their Merseybeat roots towards something greater, the song incorporating a more complex melody and even Thomas’s lively flute playing as the band expands its sonic palette. 

Saturday Club Sessions


This expanded version of The Magnificent Moodies includes a bonus disc that’s jam-packed to the rafters with musical goodness. Seven various unreleased tracks circa 1964 to 1966 lead off, mostly alternate takes of the better songs from the original album, like a slower, funkier, less-orchestrated take on “Go Now!” which is heavier on piano but lacking the mesmerizing nature of the hit. “Steal Your Heart Away” really sizzles with slow-burning desire (better than the single version, really) while the jumpin’ jivin’ alternative take of “I’ll Go Crazy” is a step behind the perfection of the LP track. Copping the spirit, if not the melody, of “Save The Last Dance For Me,” the Moodies’ “You Better Move On” is a sheer delight, a passionate romantic ballad that sounds and feels like a 1950s-era doo-wop classic.

As was pretty much required during the era, the band made several appearances on the BBC Radio program Saturday Club, and The Magnificent Moodies includes material culled from a handful of those promotional broadcast sessions. The ubiquitous “Go Now!” makes another appearance here, the radio performance sounding better and more wistful than the studio version, and the ethereal take on “From The Bottom Of My Heart (I Love You)” clearly displays a glimpse of the band’s future musical direction with its textured arrangement. A cover of Rufus Thomas’s “Jump Back” is a trifle – but a rockin’ trifle it is – relying on a Bo Diddley rhythm and harmony vocals to lend a sense of energy and motion to the song.

The Moody Blues

The Denny Cordell Sessions


A brief interview with Ray Thomas and Graeme Edge leads into “You Don’t (All The Time),” the song a B-side to the “Everyday” single, a swaggering performance displaying more than a few shades of Beatles influence. Amidst constant touring and promotional appearances, the Moodies returned to the studio in August and September 1966 to begin work on a follow-up to The Magnificent Moodies. Working again with producer Denny Cordell, these 1966 sessions resulted in a number of songs that, for whatever reasons, remained unreleased until now.

There are several good tunes here, too, foremost being “This Is My House (But Nobody Calls),” a lively slice of period pop-rock written by Laine and Pinder. Offered here in mono and stereo alternate takes (the stereo mix sounding stronger), the song had enough Mod undertones to tie in with the band’s previous work, but with a more sophisticated musical arrangement. Released as a single in 1966, “This Is My House” sank like a stone. Although psychedelic influences had yet to hit the world of rock ‘n’ roll full-blast, “We’re Broken” certainly enfolds an acid-rock vibe with its full instrumentation, urgent vocals, crashing cymbals, and delicious harmonies, while “I Really Haven’t Got The Time” has one foot in the dancehall R&B of the band’s recent past with flailing piano and fleet-footed harmonies.    

The Reverend’s Bottom Line


This isn’t the Moody Blues as you might know them, The Magnificent Moodies standing separate but equal to every note of music that would follow from the band. The Moody’s lack of chart success after 1965 lead to Warwick leaving the band (replaced, briefly, by Rod Clark); the bassist’s departure was followed shortly by Denny Laine’s resignation. The band had to regroup out of necessity, bringing on new guitarist Justin Hayward and bassist John Lodge, abandoning their R&B sound and reliance on cover tunes to embrace new sounds and to begin writing their own material. Beginning with the gradual success of Days of Future Passed, the Moodies enjoyed a string of a dozen commercially successful releases, all of which yielded hit singles and high chart positions, achieving Gold™ and Platinum™ sales status in the U.S.

It all began with The Magnificent Moodies, though, and this deluxe box set is a “must have” not only for Moody Blues fans, but for Merseybeat and British Invasion collectors as well. There’s a lot to digest here – a total of 56 songs on two discs, half of them previously unreleased, most of them recorded in mono, and all re-mastered from the original first generation master tapes. Accompanied by an illustrated booklet with rare photos and a lengthy, informative essay by writer Mark Powell, the deluxe set also includes three promotional postcards and a cool double-sided poster. For those who only want a taste, there’s also a single-disc version of The Magnificent Moodies available that includes the original dozen album tracks and all the band’s singles (essentially disc one of the deluxe set).

Either way you go, with the single disc or the box set, The Magnificent Moodies provides lots of entertaining and historically important early music from one of rock’s most popular and enduring bands, the Moody Blues. Grade: B (Esoteric Recordings, released January 13, 2015)

Buy the CD from Amazon.com: The Moody Blues' The Magnificent Moodies

Friday, April 24, 2015

Little Richard – The Best of the Specialty & Vee-Jay Years

Little Richard's Directly From My Heart
Little Richard – The Best of the Specialty & Vee-Jay YearsOne just can’t overestimate the importance and influence that Mr. Richard Penniman – better known as “Little Richard” – had on the evolution of rock music. Along with Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley, Little Richard formed the Holy Trinity of 1950s rock ‘n’ roll, influencing a generation of rockers and soul shouters to follow, from the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Elton John to James Brown, Michael Jackson, and Prince, among many others. Little Richard’s string of hits, classic songs like “Long Tall Sally,” “Lucille,” “Good Golly Miss Molly,” and “Tutti Frutti,” have long been considered standards of rock ‘n’ roll.

Little Richard’s flamboyant and incendiary mix of New Orleans boogie-woogie, R&B, and gospel music was revolutionary in the mid-to-late 1950s, and throughout a lengthy career that continues to this day, Little Richard’s most groundbreaking work was created during his tenure with the Specialty Records and Vee-Jay Records labels.

On June 2nd, 2015 Specialty Records, which is now a division of the Concord Music Group, will release Little Richard’s Directly From My Heart: The Best of the Specialty & Vee-Jay Years, a three-CD box set featuring 64 songs that document the singer and pianist’s gravy years with the two labels, circa 1956 to 1965. Directly From My Heart includes Little Richard’s classic hits from the era, single B-sides, and several rarities as well as a 30+ page illustrated booklet with seldom-seen photos and brand new liner notes by singer/songwriter and music historian Billy Vera.

The Legendary Little Richard, photo courtesy Specialty Archives
After short-lived stints with RCA Victor and Don Robey’s Peacock Records, Little Richard was signed by Art Rupe’s Specialty Records label in 1955. Rupe sent Richard to New Orleans to record with legendary producer Cosimo Matassa and an all-star band of Crescent City talents like pianist Huey Smith, guitarist Justin Adams, bassist Frank Fields, and drummer Earl Palmer. After a bumpy start, the sessions started rockin’ and the results were pure magic; Little Richard enjoyed a run of success with Specialty, placing fourteen songs in the R&B Top Ten between 1955 and ’57, at which time he temporarily retired from rock ‘n’ roll to pursue the ministry.

Upon returning to secular music in 1964, Little Richard signed with Vee-Jay Records, where he spent a year, recording classic material like “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” and “Money Honey,” which were released on the Little Richard Is Back album. The Upsetters, Richard’s touring band at the time, included a young hot-shot guitarist who would later find his own stardom as Jimi Hendrix. But during Richard’s hiatus, pop and rock music had evolved, and British Invasion bands that he’d influenced, as well as the Motown sound, dominated the charts.

Directly From My Heart: The Best of the Specialty & Vee-Jay Years includes all of the above-listed songs, and many more, the three discs representing a particularly inspired and prolific period of Little Richard’s career that would lead to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and a well-deserved status as a legendary artist.

Royal Southern Brotherhood Visits Muscle Shoals

Royal Southern Brotherhood's Don't Look Back
The award-winning roots ‘n’ blues outfit the Royal Southern Brotherhood has gone through some changes as of late, but they’re happy to announce that the band is back in the groove and ready to rock! The RSB’s third studio album, Don’t Look Back: The Muscle Shoals Sessions, will be released digitally on May 26th and on compact disc by Ruf Records on June 9th, 2015.

Don’t Look Back was recorded at the legendary FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama – the same room where giants like Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, and Otis Redding, among others, made their musical magic. The sessions were overseen by Grammy™ Award winning producer Tom Hambridge (Buddy Guy, George Thorogood) and feature a new Royal Southern Brotherhood line-up that is lead by the legendary Cyril Neville, whose incredible musical pedigree includes the Neville Brothers and the Meters.

Following the departure of guitarists Mike Zito and Devon Allman following the release of the band’s 2014 album HeartSoulBlood, the Royal Southern Brotherhood brought in two new talented gunslingers in Nashville-based bluesman Bart Walker (whose 2013 debut album Waiting On Daylight is pretty darn great) and Tyrone Vaughan, the son of the great Jimmie Vaughan. The band’s line-up is rounded out by frontman Neville and the awe-inspiring rhythm section of bassist Charlie Wooten and drummer Yonrico Scott. Dumpstaphunk’s Ivan Neville (Cyril’s nephew) added keyboards to the album while former Wet Willie soul-shouter Jimmy Hall brought his raging harp to the party.

As for the new album, well, Don’t Look Back doesn’t veer far from the signature RSB blend of Southern rock, blues, soul, and funk that has quickly earned the band a growing worldwide audience. Working in the storied FAME Studio, however, helped the band achieve a transcendent creativity that, with the addition of a pair of talented artists on guitar, broadens and sharpens the overall Royal Southern Brotherhood sound.

In a press release for the new album, producer Tom Hambridge says “we got to Alabama and dug deep down in the dirt of Muscle Shoals and created this wonderful gumbo of sound. It’s easy to get creative with a band when everybody is open and flowing in the same direction. This band has such a positive energy around it. They are truly a brotherhood and it was a joy producing this album.” Not surprisingly, the band will hit the road in support of Don’t Look Back, and we have the initial slate of tour dates below.

Summer of RSB tour dates:
05/02 @ New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, New Orleans LA
05/02 @ Saenger Theatre, New Orleans LA
05/15 @ Stargazers Theatre, Colorado Springs CO
05/16 @ Lost Lake Lounge, Denver CO
05/17 @ Taste of Durango, Durango CO
05/19 @ The Orpheum Theater, Flagstaff AZ
05/20 @ The Rhythm Room, Phoenix AZ
05/23 @ Simi Valley Cajun and Blues Festival, Simi Valley CA
05/24 @ Semi-Annual Blues Festival, Oroville CA
06/19 @ Blues on the Fox, Aurora IL

Royal Southern Brotherhood 2015, photo by Jerry Moran

CD Preview: Sonny Landreth’s Bound By The Blues

Sonny Landreth's Bound By The Blues
It’s been almost three years since the extraordinary guitarist Sonny Landreth released his last album, 2012’s Elemental Journey. The disc was Landreth’s first totally instrumental work, and it veered – ever so slightly – from his typical Delta-bred slide-guitar sound into a more jazz-flecked direction. On June 9th, 2015 Provogue Records will release Bound By The Blues, which is said to represent a return, of sorts (he never really left) to his blues-based sound.

Landreth returns to the microphone for Bound By The Blues, the album offering ten tracks that showcase the guitarist’s amazing tone and dexterity, as well as his subtle, uniquely twangy vocals. The album’s title track name checks Landreth’s musical heroes like Muddy Waters and Jimi Hendrix, and thanks to the good folks at Provogue Records, you can listen to it below via SoundCloud.

In a press release for Bound By The Blues, Landreth says "ever since The Road We’re On, fans have been asking me, “When are you going to do another blues album?’ After expanding my songs for Elemental Journey into an orchestral form, I thought I'd get back to the simple but powerful blues form. I’d been playing a lot of these songs on the road with my band, and we’ve been taking them into some surprising places musically. So going into the studio to record them with just our trio seemed like the next step.”

Landreth has enjoyed a lengthy and critically-acclaimed career. Through the years, Landreth has played and recorded with artists like John Hiatt, John Mayall, Eric Clapton, and Jimmy Buffet, among many others. Since the 1981 release of his solo debut Blues Attack, the guitarist has released better than a dozen live and studio albums that mix blues, rock, folk, zydeco, and jazz into a sound that defines the Americana genre.

“Developing a style and an approach that is your own musically is not something to be taken for granted,” says Landreth. “I'm at a point in life where I want to make the most of every moment I can and that changes your perspective, your priorities and how you relate to everyone else. And at the end of the day, I think that's the essence of what I wanted to express with Bound By The Blues.”

Buy the CD from Amazon.com: Sonny Landreth's Bound By the Blues

Sonny Landreth tour dates:
4/26 @ Mid-City Bowling Lanes, New Orleans LA
4/29 @ Guitar Frenzy, New Orleans LA
5/03 @ Mid-City Bowling Lanes, New Orleans LA
5/07 @ Acadiana Center For The Arts, Lafayette LA
5/08 @ Acadiana Center For The Arts, Lafayette LA
5/16 @ El Paso Blues and Jazz Festival, El Paso TX
5/30 @ Dallas International Guitar Festival, Dallas TX
5/31 @ Dallas International Guitar Festival, Dallas TX
6/04 @ Callahan's Music Hall, Auburn Hills MI
6/05 @ Fitzgerald's, Berwyn IL
6/06 @ Fitzgerald's, Berwyn IL
6/11 @ World Cafe Live At The Queen, Wilmington DE
6/12 @ Musikfest Cafe, Bethlehem PA
6/13 @ Boulton Center For The Performing Arts, Bay Shore NY
6/14 @ City Winery, New York NY
6/18 @ The Southern Cafe and Music Hall, Charlottesville VA
6/19 @ Ram's Head, Annapolis MD
6/20 @ Columbia Pike Blues Festival, Arlington VA
6/21 @ Bayou Boogaloo And Cajun Food Festival, Norfolk VA
7/11 @ La Fete de Marquette, Madison WI
7/16 @ Gitare En Scene Festival, St. Julien, France
7/17 @ Sion Sous Les Etoiles Festival, Sion, Switzerland
8/02 @ Sonny Landreth Workshops - Vail Academy, Vail CO
8/03 @ Sonny Landreth Workshops - Vail Academy, Vail CO
8/04 @ Sonny Landreth Workshops - Vail Academy, Vail CO
8/05 @ Sonny Landreth Workshops - Vail Academy, Vail CO
8/09 @ Guitar Town, Copper Mountain CO
8/15 @ Big Bull Falls Blues Festival, Wausau WI


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Book Review: Merrell Fankhauser's Calling From A Star (2014)

Merrell Fankhauser's Calling From A Star
Singer, songwriter, and guitarist Merrell Fankhauser is the epitome of the rock ‘n’ roll “cult artist.” He has paddled furiously against the tide of a largely indifferent recording industry for better than 50 years, amassing an impressive catalog of material that roams across a wide swath of 20th century musical styles, from surf and psychedelic-rock to folkish singer/songwriter and traditional Hawaiian music. He’s written literally hundreds of songs and released dozens of albums, and if Fankhauser isn’t a household name, it’s not due to a lack of talent or effort on his part.

Merrell Fankhauser’s Calling From A Star


Calling From A Star is Fankhauser’s long-awaiting autobiography, a no-frills and concise recollection of better than a half-century spent on the fringes of the music biz. The book opens with some family history and Fankhauser’s early days, none of which is especially fascinating, but it does serve to lay a foundation for the stories to follow. Fankhauser was the child of proud, hard-working blue collar parents that provided invaluable support for what would become a life-long obsession with music. Born in Kentucky, the Fankhauser family made its way to California, and once they’ve settled in The Golden State, that’s where the rock ‘n’ roll tale really begins. 

Fankhauser’s first band of note was the surf-rock combo the Impacts, whose song “Wipe Out” is claimed (with some controversy) as the inspiration and/or basis for the Surfaris' hit by that name. Regardless, the Impacts were a popular coastal California performing band in the early 1960s, and Fankhauser would frequently revisit the instrumental surf-rock of his youth across a number of album releases in the 1980s and ‘90s that earned him a significant following in Europe and Japan. A cascade of bands followed the Impacts – outfits like Merrell and the Exiles (which emerged during the British Invasion years), Fapardokly (amusingly named for the band members’ initials, they were less a band than a 1966 psych-folk LP that would become a much sought-after collector’s item), Merrell and HMS Bounty (late 1960s psychedelic rock), and MU (early ‘70s era psych-blues and space-rock).

Through the years, Fankhauser has performed with a veritable “who’s who” of California musicians. Jeff Cotton and John “Drumbo” French of Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band both played in a version of the Exiles, and Cotton was also a major part of MU as Fankhauser and the band re-located to the then-lush jungle island of Maui in Hawaii. Amidst some discord, MU recorded a pair of albums, although only one would be released during the band’s existence. Fankhauser also recorded with John Cipollina of Quicksilver Messenger Service and Ed Cassidy of Spirit, and extensively as a solo artist or as a duo with various female partners. Through the years, he has appeared on stage with artists like Dean Torrence (of surf-rock duo Jan and Dean), Chuck Negron (Three Dog Night), Sky Saxon (The Seeds), and country music legend Willie Nelson, among many others.

Visiting The Tiki Lounge


Merrell Fankhauser
To his credit, Fankhauser never sugar-coats the rough ‘n’ tumble life of a professional musician on the edge of fame. Through his lengthy career, Fankhauser has escaped largely unscathed by the drug and alcohol abuse that claimed so many of his friends. Fankhauser has loved and lost several women to his dogged pursuit of rock ‘n’ roll, and he speaks of the time he regretfully didn’t spend with his two sons. In the pages of Calling From A Star, Fankhauser brilliantly outlines the personality conflicts, intramural squabbles, and petty jealousies that derail even the best of bands, the break-up of MU a particularly unsavory clash of egos and religion. Seldom speaking poorly of his former bandmates, Fankhauser saves his scorn for the record business itself, telling a tale of lost (and stolen royalties), false starts and near misses, and the lies and deception that sometimes seem to fuel the industry.

Still, Fankhauser has kept on truckin’ through the decades, and he has enjoyed a bit of a revitalized career over the past decade as albums from his former bands received legitimate re-release (amidst a sea of bootleg releases of often-dodgy quality) alongside a lot of his solo albums. Although having an impressive body of work behind you helps when appealing to new fans, Fankhauser’s recent higher profile has been fueled partly by YouTube and the Internet, as well as by his long-running cable TV show Tiki Lounge. Featuring performances by Fankhauser and various musician friends, the popular regional program has transcended its humble roots to achieve a worldwide cult audience, and Fankhauser has some great stories connected to the show in the book.

In 2014, prior to the release of Calling From A Star, Gonzo Multimedia in the U.K. released The Best of Merrell Fankhauser, a delightful two-disc compilation that features 32 tracks and over 90 minutes of music, comprised not only of Fankhauser’s solo performances, but also material from Merrell and the Exiles, Fapardokly, Merrell and HMS Bounty, and MU as well. Released at the same time were two volumes of Tiki Lounge on DVD, so a lot of Merrell Fankhauser’s music is now available (at a reasonable price, as opposed to inflated collectors’ tolls) for both the new listener and longtime fan alike.

DIY and Proud Of It


The Best of Merrell Fankhauser CD
Calling From A Star is a refreshing change of pace from most celebrity bios, Fankhauser consistently focusing on his music-making while still unflinchingly recounting the many ups and downs of his life in music. Fankhauser’s writing style is conversational and flows in an effortless and laid-back style seemingly not much different than the artist’s overall personality. Although he’s often prone to excitement (using a lot of exclamation marks!) and infrequent exaggeration, Fankhauser is honest to a fault, and this eye-opening tome offers a cautionary tale that should be required reading for any young artist with an eye towards a career in music.

The book’s DIY nature befits the artist, but a good editor could have reined in some of Fankhauser’s editorial lapses (misspelled words, incorrect grammar and punctuation) and while profusely-illustrated, Calling From A Star suffers from the same marginal photo reproduction quality as many of my own “print on demand” titles. Those minor cavils aside, Fankhauser’s wit, humor, and dedication to his music make the book a quick read.     

At this point in his lengthy career, Merrell Fankhauser is unlikely to strike gold, and I’m sure that he long ago gave up any dreams of rock ‘n’ roll fame. Still, he’s enjoyed a lifetime of making music on his own terms, and all his songs that I’ve heard have been of uniformly high quality and creativity. With a wealth of suddenly available music by Fankhauser, Calling From A Star provides a fitting accompaniment the late-career emergence of one of the best rock ‘n’ roll artists that you’ve never heard!

Buy the book from Amazon.com: Merrell Fankhauser's Calling from a Star

Buy the CD from Amazon.com: The Best Of Merrell Fankhauser

 



CD Review: Pat Travers' Retro Rocket (2015)

Pat Travers' Retro Rocket
Guitarist Pat Travers earned his considerable reputation by playing aggressive, livewire rock ‘n’ blues music. Along with such contemporaries as Leslie West, Robin Trower, and Frankie Marino, Travers was a bona fide 1970s-era arena-rock guitar god. As musical currents changed during the mid-to-late ‘80s, though, Travers et al found themselves on the outside looking in, commercially speaking, as a new wave of punk, pop, and stylized rock washed away the heroes of the previous decade. The guitarist has soldiered on for better than four decades, pursuing his own unique vision of blues-rock music while playing to a loyal, if dwindling fan base.

To be honest, I didn’t expect much more than a good time from Retro Rocket, Pat Travers’ latest album. Although I’d heard and enjoyed a number of Travers’ post-2000 releases, some of them recorded with bassist T.M. Stevens and drummer Carmine Appice, none of the albums really broke new ground. Sure, Travers’ guitar playing has remained top notch, but often the performances were lacking in inspiration. So when I read that Retro Rocket was, in part, patterned after such late ‘70s and early ‘80s creative and commercial triumphs as Heat In The Street, Crash and Burn, and Black Pearl, I was hopeful. Nothing, however, could have prepared me for the rock ‘n’ roll juggernaut that is Travers’ Retro Rocket.      

Pat Travers’ Retro Rocket


Retro Rocket leaps from the launching pad from the very first track, “I Always Run” fueled by a rampaging riff that’s met by wiry lead strokes before Travers’ whiskey-soaked vocals come roaring in. The six-string interplay between Travers and guitarist J├╝rgen Engler displays a primo, 1970s-style scorched earth style, the song’s driving rhythm (courtesy of bassist Scott Telles and drummer Lisa Cameron) building a perfect foundation for the dueling guitarists to dance atop. It’s a muscular song, a throwback to an earlier time, perhaps, when dinosaurs ruled the rock ‘n’ roll planet, but it strikes a perfect chord for this child of the ‘70s. Both high-flying and yet earthy, “I Always Run” defies any expectations you might have had of Retro Rocket.

“Searching For A Clue” is less affecting, perhaps, albeit just as pumped-up and steroidal as its predecessor, with stunning guitarplay and locomotive rhythms. The surprise of the opening cut may damper enthusiasm a bit for track two but on its own, “Searching For A Clue” is a no-frills rock ‘n’ stomp wailer that should pacify any guitar geek. Musically, “Who Do You Turn To” reminds of British blues-rock stalwarts Savoy Brown, the song displaying a similar blue-veined hue, but Travers’ vocals soar effortlessly over the song’s complex arrangement while the instrumentation builds to a chaotic crescendo that channels more than a little late ‘70s punk-rock energy in its anarchic sound and gnashing fretwork. 

Hellbound Train


Damn, “Up Is Down” is a nearly perfect hard-rock romp, beginning with Telles’ Jack Bruce-styled opening bass line and Cameron’s crashing drumbeats and peaking with the psychedelic-tinged, yet bombastic guitar licks that dominate the song. You won’t find a more “old school” performance than this, but Travers and his merry pranksters pull out the stops to make it sound fresher than any of the young crop of retro-rockers currently plodding across the musical horizon. The song jumps effortlessly into “Mystery At The Wrecking Yard,” a sly little tale that delivers lyrical cheap thrills above relentless, devastating, wrecking-ball instrumentation that shreds metallic while welding shards of blues and acid-rock to the chassis. If this pyrotechnic display doesn’t rock you, then I can only conclude that you’ve assumed room temperature…in which case, it sucks to be you, don’t it? 

Travers swaps bands for the final four songs on Retro Rocket, with drummer Sean Shannon bashing the cans and keeping time while bassist Neil Carpenter holds down the bottom end. Guitarist Joe Stump jumps in here for a couple of songs, “I Am Alive” being the better of the two, Stump and Travers laying waste to everything that lies before them. Stump brings a more brutal, metallic style for Travers to play off of on this lyrical statement of defiance, and it’s sheer delight hearing the two of them tear it up. Travers' “Hellbound Train” isn’t a cover of the Savoy Brown classic but rather a co-write by the guitarist and drummer Shannon. No less menacing than its namesake, this “Hellbound Train” rips up the grooves like an out-of-control tornado, Travers’ lower-register vocals delivered above raging guitar while the song’s crushing instrumentation paints a bloody backdrop.

In a somewhat different vein, a vintage live recording of “Looking Up” – the title track of Travers’ 1996 album – sounds a bit out of place…but only slightly, the song’s bluesy fretwork and explosive percussion tempered by a funky groove laid out by bassist Kevin Ryan. Travers’ solos are no less expressive, and just as powerful as any of the newer songs on Retro Rocket, so the song slots in here perfectly. Travers’ take on “Lead Me Home,” the theme from The Walking Dead TV show, is included here as a “bonus track,” and it’s a resonant lil’ sucker. Travers’ wailing vox are paired with some fine, shimmering git-picking that capture the spirit of the lyrics perfectly.    

The Reverend’s Bottom Line


With nary a punter to be found on Retro Rocket, Pat Travers delivers a stunning tour de force that equals any of the classic albums he recorded during his halcyon years. Seldom has Travers’ playing sounded more vital, energetic, and passionate than it does here, and working on creating material that evokes his glory days while remaining contemporary in feel clearly lit a fire under the guitarist’s sleepy muse. Retro Rocket delivers an unabashedly hard-rocking set of guitar-driven songs that will make you fall in love with Pat Travers all over again… Grade: A (Purple Pyramid Records, released March 17, 2015)

Buy the CD from Amazon.com: Pat Travers' Retro Rocket

 

Classic LPs by Joe Cocker & the Doors on SACD

The Best of the Doors SACD
Audio Fidelity main man Marshall Blonstein has been on a helluva roll lately, licensing all sorts of classic rock and blues discs for re-release as Super Audio CDs on his label. With this latest announcement, however, I think that Mr. Blonstein may have outdone himself. On June 2nd, 2015 Audio Fidelity will release The Best of the Doors and Joe Cocker’s With A Little Help From My Friends on hybrid SACD discs.

There have been numerous “hits” compilations released on legendary L.A. rockers the Doors, both before and after the mysterious death of band frontman Jim Morrison. The Best of the Doors LP that was released in 1973 is considered the best collection by far, a potent single-disc effort that features eleven tracks total, including seven of the band’s eight Top 40 hits. Audio Fidelity is reissuing The Best of the Doors as a limited edition, numbered Quadraphonic 4.0 multichannel hybrid SACD. The two-channel stereo and DSD layers of the SACD were re-mastered from the original two-track tapes, which became available for the first time since 1970.

The 4.0 Quad layer of The Best of the Doors mirrors the earlier CD-4 QuadraDisc format, and the original Quadraphonic eight-track and reel-to-reel tapes. Rather than use the 1973 master as their source for these songs, Audio Fidelity preferred to use the original two-track master tapes of the band’s eight studio albums released between 1967 and 1971, providing the listener with the cleanest and most honest sound possible. The material deserves such white glove treatment, too, with songs like “Hello, I Love You,” “Soul Kitchen,” “Riders On The Storm,” “Love Her Madly,” and “Light My Fire” (all on The Best of the Doors) rightfully considered bona fide rock classics.

Joe Cocker's With A Little Help From My Friends SACDThe other June release from Audio Fidelity is equally impressive. In honor of legendary British vocalist Joe Cocker’s death last December, the label is releasing the singer’s 1969 debut album, With A Little Help From My Friends, as a hybrid SACD. Backed by longtime stalwarts the Grease Band – which featured the talented guitarist Henry McCullough and keyboardist Chris Stainton – Cocker also had a few famous “friends” drop by the studio to help with the record, including guitarists Jimmy Page and Albert Lee, keyboardists Steve Winwood and Matthew Fischer (Procol Harum), and a heavenly choir that included backing singers Merry Clayton and Madeline Bell.

Cocker had already enjoyed a number one hit in the U.K. with his 1968 cover of the Beatles’ “With A Little Help From My Friends,” but the critically-acclaimed mix of rock, blues, and soul found on his full-length debut yielded a Top 40 hit in a cover of Dave Mason’s “Feeling Alright” while the album peaked at #35 on the U.S. charts and #29 in the U.K. Aside from the two hits, With A Little Help From My Friends features an inspired mix of covers like Dylan’s “Just Like A Woman” and “I Shall Be Released” and the Animals’ hit “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” as well as underrated originals written by Cocker and Stainton like “Marjorine” and “Sandpaper Cadillac.” If you haven’t heard Cocker’s soulful wail, this is the album to start with!

Buy the CDs from Amazon.com:
The Doors' The Best of the Doors SACD  
Joe Cocker's With a Little Help From My Friends SACD

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Real Gone Music Rocks June!

Black Oak Arkansas’s Raunch ‘N’ Roll Live
Our friends at Real Gone Music have announced their June release schedule, and for rockers like us, there are a couple of real gems to be found! On June 2nd, 2015 Real Gone will be reissuing an expanded version of Black Oak Arkansas’s classic Raunch ‘N’ Roll Live album and Ball, Iron Butterfly’s 1969 follow-up to their breakthrough In-A-Gadda- Da-Vida LP.

Southern rockers Black Oak Arkansas were a Dixie-fried boogie band, but with a little more grease and a lot more twang than contemporaries like Foghat or Humble Pie. Three early 1970s studio albums earned the band a well-deserved reputation as beer drinkers and hell raisers; while hovering in the upper regions of the charts, BOA was a mid-tier but sturdy live band, hard-touring wild men that always delivered a good time. Led by wild-ass frontman Jim “Dandy” Mangrum (David Lee Roth before he was David Lee Roth), Black Oak Arkansas mixed up hard rock, rockabilly, blues, and country with a spirit and energy unlike any other Southern band (save for Molly Hatchet, perhaps).

Raunch ‘n’ Roll Live was released as a gatefolded single LP back in 1973, and it provided fans outside of the BOA touring radius with a fair-to-middlin’ representation of the band’s raucous live show. Many critics believe it to be the band’s best album, and I’d agree – it’s certainly their most consistent, with Jim Dandy bellowing out high-octane live takes on studio tracks like “Hot and Nasty,” “Hot Rod,” and “When Electricity Came To Arkansas.” Real Gone has dug deeply and found the master tapes from the two 1972 shows used to source the original album, and they’re releasing an expanded two-disc version called The Complete Raunch ‘N’ Roll Live. Blown up to 17 songs, the reissue includes new tracks like “Fever On My Mind,” “Keep The Faith,” and “Lord Have Mercy On My Soul” that were previously unreleased.

Iron Butterfly's BallWe’ve written about the mighty Iron Butterfly before, and the recent slate of vintage live recordings have been proverbial manna from heaven for long-suffering fans of the band. Sadly, much of Butterfly’s back catalog has been in shambles, a criminal oversight partially redeemed by Real Gone’s reissue of Ball. The band’s third album, Ball was recorded by what is considered to be the classic Butterfly line-up – singer/keyboardist Doug Ingle, guitarist Erik Brann, bassist Lee Dorman, and drummer Ron Bushy – and with another year of touring under their collective belts, Ball featured tighter, shorter, and punchier songs with a hard rock edge and more melodic undertones than their previous acid-rock dirges.

Not that Ball doesn’t include its flights of psychedelic fancy, but singles like “In The Time of Our Lives” and “Soul Experience” proved that Iron Butterfly had more talent and vision than critics had previously given them credit for possessing. Ball rose to #3 on the Billboard album chart, beating its predecessor and representing the peak of the band’s commercial fortunes. The Real Gone reissue of Ball is also an expanded edition, with two bonus tracks (non-LP single sides), re-mastered sound, and brand spankin’ new liner notes by writer Bill Kopp.

Interesting trivia for fellow fanatics – Iron Butterfly’s Lee Dorman and Mike Pinera (who joined the band in 1970) produced Black Oak Arkansas’s self-titled 1971 debut album. Small world, innit?

Buy the CDs from Amazon.com:
Black Oak Arkansas's The Complete Raunch 'N Roll Live (2xCD)  
Iron Butterfly's Ball (expanded edition)

Friday, April 10, 2015

Canned Heat Live From The Archive!

Canned Heat with John Lee Hooker Carnegie Hall 1971
As a band, blues-rock legends Canned Heat have a checkered history that has definitely tarnished what is otherwise a considerable legacy. Formed in 1965 by Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson and Bob “The Bear” Hite – two rabid blues fans and collectors – Canned Heat was named for a song by obscure Delta bluesman Tommy Johnson. By 1967, the band had gelled around guitarist/harp player Wilson and singer Hite, with guitarist Henry “The Sunflower” Vestine, bassist Larry Taylor, and drummer Adolfo “Fito” de la Parra rounding out the line-up.

This was the “classic” Canned Heat band that recorded albums like 1968’s Boogie With Canned Heat and Living The Blues, which scored hits with the songs “On The Road Again” (#16 on the Billboard chart) and “Going Up The Country” (#11 on the chart). Vestine left prior to the band’s Woodstock performance, to be replaced by the talented Harvey Mandel, and throughout the 1970s and ‘80s the band survived tragic deaths (Wilson in 1970, Hite in 1981) and musician defections but they kept on truckin’.

Through the years, talents like Walter Trout, Mike “Hollywood Fats” Mann, and Junior Watson played with the band, using Canned Heat as a springboard to greater things. Adolfo de la Parra has kept the band rolling through the present day but, to be honest, it just isn’t the same as it was even 30 years ago, and records like 2007’s Christmas Album have done the band’s reputation no favor. Back in the 1960s and early ‘70s, though, Canned Heat had its finger on the pulse of where blues-based rock would go in the decades to follow, and albums like the two mentioned previously, as well as 1970’s Future Blues and the band’s 1971 collaboration with the great John Lee Hooker, Hooker n’ Heat, are stone cold classics.

Canned Heat was, perhaps, one of the original “jam” bands (sorry Deadheads), but precious little live music from that period has survived…which makes Cleopatra Records’ plans to release three Canned Heat live performances on CD all the more remarkable! Next week (April 14th), Cleopatra will release Carnegie Hall 1971, a historic recording from the band’s tour with John Lee Hooker that followed the release of Hooker ‘n Heat. On May 12th, 2015 Cleopatra will release Stockholm 1973 on CD, and they’ll follow up on July 7th with the release of the Illinois Blues 1973 album. 

Canned Heat's Stockholm 1973Credited to Canned Heat with John Lee Hooker, Carnegie Hall 1971 offers up six scorching tracks on both CD and limited-edition green vinyl. Featuring liner notes by esteemed rock critic Dave Thompson that includes a new interview with de la Parra, we’ve included the tracklist for Carnegie Hall 1971 below. 
 
Canned Heat’s Carnegie Hall 1971 tracklist:
  
1. Framed
2. Let’s Work Together
3. Hey Babe
4. Shake ‘n’ Boogie
5. Back Door Man
6. Tease Me Baby

Scheduled for May, Stockholm 1973 features a previously-unreleased show from a post-Wilson band that featured Bob Hite on the microphone, guitarists Henry Vestine and James Shane, bass player Richard Hit, drummer Adolfo de la Parra, and keyboardist Ed Beyer, the line-up that recorded 1973’s The New Age album, and the live set list includes three songs from that LP written by Shane and Beyer, as well as the band’s well-worn hit, “On The Road Again.” Here’s the tracklist for Stockholm 1973, as well as a little video for your listening enjoyment!

 Canned Heat’s Stockholm 1973 tracklist:

1. Let’s Work Together
2. On The Road Again
3. Harley Davidson Blues
4. Election Blues
5. So Long Wrong
6. Shake ‘n’ Boogie
7. Goodbye For Now

Buy the CDs from Amazon.com:
Canned Heat's Stockholm 1973
Canned Heat & John Lee Hooker Carnegie Hall 1971

 

 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Book Review: Fantagraphics' Zap The Interviews (2015)

Fantagraphics Book's Zap: The Interviews
Maybe it wasn’t the first underground comic book, but Zap Comix was undeniably the most important and influential title to emerge from the 1960s. Zap’s free-wheeling storytelling and frequently anarchic artwork – which ranged from cartoonish to crude, and from psychedelic to carefully-crafted fine art – shattered the limitations of what a comic book could be. Unabashedly adult in nature, with sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll filling its pages, Zap opened the door for comic artists to experiment in the pages of mainstream titles published by DC and Marvel as well as influencing a generation of young creators like Jaime Hernandez (Love & Rockets) and Daniel Clowes (Eightball), among many others.

Zap Comix


The first issue of Zap was published by artist/writer Robert Crumb in 1968, Crumb and his wife selling copies of Zap #1 out of a baby stroller on the streets of San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. The book kick-started the underground comix business and it wasn’t long until head shops and other counter-culture retailers were stocking titles like Zap Comix, Dopin’ Dan, Young Lust, and The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers.

Given the popularity of Zap #1, Crumb decided to open up the book to other artists, enlisting talents like Gilbert Shelton, Spain Rodriguez, S. Clay Wilson, Robert Williams, Rick Griffin, and Victor Moscoso to bring creative diversity to the book. This visionary group of creators became known as the Zap collective and they shared equally in the subsequent success of the book, which saw new issues published sporadically every few years. Even after the underground comix “boom” fizzled out during the mid-1970s due to too many books and not enough talent to sustain them, Zap just kept on truckin’…

Zap Comix #1
Artist Paul Mavrides, known for his incredible work for the Church of Sub-Genius, was brought on board after Rick Griffin’s tragic death in a motorcycle accident in 1991, and Crumb himself left the title in the 1990s. Spain Rodriguez succumbed to cancer in 2012, and health problems have left S. Clay Wilson unable to draw, so it’s unlikely that we’ll ever see another new issue of Zap Comix. Over the course of 15 mind-blowing issues, however, Zap influenced not only mainstream and alternative comics, but also concert posters, album covers, animation, and even fine art as well as introducing timeless characters like Crumb’s incorrigible Mr. Natural, Wilson’s Checkered Demon, and Shelton’s Wonder Wart-Hog to readers.

Zap: The Interviews


In 2014, Fantagraphics Books published an ultra-deluxe box set that includes beautiful reproductions of all 15 issues of Zap Comix as well as a previously-unpublished 16th issue. While the set includes an extensive oral history of Zap as well as an artist portfolio and other heretofore unseen goodies, its hefty $500 price tag puts it beyond the reach of all but the most well-heeled of comics and art collectors. Hopefully Fantagraphics will see its way clear to reprint the comix themselves in paperback versions for those of us of more modest means.

While The Complete Zap Comix box raised the title to fine art status, the set garnering an impressive amount of publicity upon its release, another Zap-related title was published by Fantagraphics around the same time but to much less fanfare. The ninth volume in the company’s acclaimed “Comics Journal Library,” Zap: The Interviews is a highly-collectible tome in its own right. An oversized (10”x12”) trade paperback running some 264 pages, the profusely-illustrated volume collects previously-published interviews with the eight different Zap artists from the pages of The Comics Journal, as well as a number of unpublished interviews, conversations that range from as long ago as 1972 (the first Gilbert Shelton interview) to as recent as 2012 (including what may have been Spain Rodriguez’s final interview).

There’s a lot of meat in the 264 pages of Zap: The Interviews. One might think that Robert Crumb as, perhaps, the most famous of the Zap artists, would receive a lion’s share of the book, but that’s not the case. The erudite and outspoken S. Clay Wilson and Spain Rodriguez receive nearly as much or more ink than Crumb, and only Gilbert Shelton – at a mere fourteen pages – seems to be shorted here. Plenty of each artist’s work is reproduced in the extra-large volume, providing a visual touchstone for readers unfamiliar with an individual Zap contributor’s work.

Robert Crumb & Spain Rodriguez


Crumb’s lengthy interview, from 1988, is both informative and entertaining, and while I personally would like to have seen a more updated conversation with the artist included here, there’s plenty of other material available for those wanting to discover more about Crumb (and, in fact, Fantagraphics publishes numerous Crumb collections worthy of spending your hard-earned coin upon). Other Zap contributors haven’t achieved nearly the level of fame and notoriety of Mr. Crumb, so it was particularly gratifying to find several interviews with Spain Rodriguez – one of my personal faves – by The Comics Journal’s Gary Groth and underground comix historian Patrick Rosenkranz.

Covering Rodriguez’s childhood in Buffalo NY through his time with the Road Vultures motorcycle gang and his eventual move to the West Coast and Zap Comix, there are 50+ pages here on Spain, providing invaluable insight into his art, his left-leaning working class politics, and the overall unique worldview which colored his gritty, often ultra-futuristic art. The section on S. Clay Wilson is also lengthy, but nowhere near as interesting, as multiple interviews spanning a couple of decades tread a lot of same turf, with Wilson often repeating his stories, sometimes with interesting flourishes, and while these conversations do open a window to Wilson’s blood ‘n’ guts style of artwork, they also become exhausting to read.

Rick Griffin & Victor Moscoso


Zap Comix #16
The initial interview with Rick Griffin is also somewhat mundane, although subsequent conversations offer some fascinating nuggets. Griffin was already a well-known psychedelic concert poster artist and surfer legend when he hooked up with Zap, but he seems somewhat reticent in sharing himself with his interviewers in the same manner as Rodriguez or Wilson. That’s definitely not the case with Victor Moscoso, whose brash manner and confidence were a refreshing change of pace after slogging through the Griffin material. The oldest of the Zap collective, Moscoso’s psychedelic-tinged fine art style stood out on Zap’s pages, and his conversations here provide a lot of information on both the man and his art.

As mentioned above, Gilbert Shelton – the legendary creator of such beloved comix characters as the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, Wonder Wart-Hog, Oat Willie, and others – definitely receives the worst coverage in Zap: The Interviews. With a mere handful of pages, Shelton isn’t given a lot of room to talk compared to the others, a sin considering his status as probably the second-best known and popular underground comix creator. Ditto for the infamous Robert Williams, whose unique vision and style has made his artwork extremely collectible (and with the prices to prove it!). Williams gets only a dozen pages here and while they touch upon his lengthy history and include a smattering of artwork, the brevity of the section doesn’t do the artist justice. Last but not least, several Paul Mavrides interviews not only provide a lot of back history on the influences found in his art, but also showcase the artist’s indelible sense of humor and intelligence.  

The Reverend’s Bottom Line


Those minor cavils about Shelton and Williams aside, Zap: The Interviews is a fascinating, informative, and entertaining collection that serves as an invaluable companion to the collected run of Zap Comix itself. By looking under the hood and gazing deeply into the inner mechanics of the book and its artists, Zap: The Interviews provides important context for each creator’s work.

With individual copies of Zap Comix readily available from eBay and comics shops at not-too-obscene prices; books by Williams, Rodriguez, and Wilson are easy to find with a little digging; and with Robert Crumb’s nearly entire artistic milieu available in multiple paperback volumes, comix fans can patch together an impressive collection of art and stories in no time. Zap: The Interviews is the place to begin, however, the book introducing the larger-than-life talents that created the comix revolution and proving a place in history for their art and efforts. (Fantagraphic Books, published January 4, 2015)

Late-breaking news: it looks like Fantagraphics will be publishing an 80-page paperback version of Zap Comix #16 in graphic novel form in December 2015. Stay tuned, faithful readers! - yer manic editor

Buy the book from Amazon.com: Zap: The Interviews

Got money to spend? Buy The Complete Zap Comix Boxed Set from Amazon.com

Thursday, April 2, 2015

CD Preview: Mick Abrahams’ Revived

Mick Abrahams' Revived
Guitarist Mick Abrahams is one of the underrated and overlooked treasures of British blues-rock. He was an original member of the legendary Jethro Tull, playing on the band’s debut album This Was, before a difference in musical direction with bandleader Ian Anderson prompted Abrahams to leave and form the groundbreaking, influential outfit Blodwyn Pig. Under Abrahams’ guidance, Blodwyn Pig released two magnificent discs of blues and rock with jazz-fusion overtones – 1969’s Ahead Rings Out and the following year’s Getting To This – before breaking up.

After Blodwyn Pig, the guitarist formed the Mick Abrahams Band, releasing a pair of acclaimed blues-rock collections before quitting the music business for a while in the mid-1970s. Since then, Abrahams has released the occasional solo album, toured and recorded with various reunited Blodwyn Pig line-ups, and even led a band called This Was with other Tull alumni performing Ian Anderson songs. The past few years have seen a steady flow of archival releases and the sporadic live album, all the more remarkable considering that Abrahams has been battling health issues for several years now.

You can’t keep a true bluesman down, though, and Abrahams has put together a new album of some of his favorite songs. Titled Revived, the album will be released on April 7, 2015 – Abraham’s 72nd birthday – by Gonzo Multimedia, who will also be offering a limited edition DVD version of the album. The guitarist is joined by some famous friends on Revived, an ‘A’ list team that includes legendary vocalist Paul Jones (former Manfred Mann frontman and a beloved solo bluesman in the U.K.), guitarists Martin Barre (Jethro Tull), Bernie Marsden (Whitesnake), and Elliott Randall (Steely Dan); bassist Bill Wyman (the Rolling Stones, Rhythm Kings), drummer Jim Rodford (the Kinks), and a slew of other talented musicians.

Along with his famous and not-so-famous friends on Revived, Abrahams knocks out a lengthy set list of blues, R&B, and rock covers and originals, including Jimmy Reed’s “Bright Lights, Big City,” Chuck Berry’s “Nadine,” Leadbelly’s “Goodnight Irene,” and the Lieber/Stoller gem “Poison Ivy,” among many others. Abrahams is a pretty darn good guitar player with Delta mud running through his veins, so Revived promises to provide a heck of a ride. Check out the complete tracklist below and then watch the video preview we’ve so graciously provided for your entertainment...

Mick Abrahams’ Revived tracklist:

1. Summer Day
2. What About Us
3. Elz & Abys Jam
4. On The Road Again
5. Nadine
6. Remember
7. I Can Tell
8. I'm A Hog For You
9. Bright Lights Big City
10. Dragonfly
11. Boney Moronie
12. Goodnight Irene
13. Poison Ivy
14. Red River Rock
15. North By North West
16. Hungry For Love
17. Summer Day With Hammond