Welcome to the first edition of a new regular addition to That Devil Music – our "New Music Monthly" column. Each month the Reverend will compile a list of new CD and vinyl releases of interest and post it here along with links to buy the albums from Amazon.com. Links within the album's titles are to our 'preview' of the album. Lots of good stuff coming out in September – rock 'n' roll, blues, punk, and funk – so start saving your pennies!
• Joe Bonamassa - Live At The Greek TheatreBuy
• Lil' Ed & the Blues Imperials - The Big Sound of Lil' Ed & the Blues ImperialsBuy
• Lee 'Scratch' Perry - Must Be Free Buy
• Bruce Springsteen - Chapter and VerseBuy
• The Sword - Low CountryBuy
• Drive-By Truckers - American BandBuy
• Jimi Hendrix - Machine Gun: The Fillmore East First Show 12/31/69Buy
• Van Morrison - Keep Me Singing!Buy
• Bob Weir - Blue Mountain Buy
Album of the Month: Bruce Springsteen's Chapter and Verse, an audio companion to the Boss's upcoming autobiography, Born to Run. Springsteen selected the songs on Chapter and Verse to reflect the themes of his book, and the compilation includes two rare tracks from Bruce's teenage band the Castiles and a total of five of the album's eighteen tracks are previously unreleased.
They never broke through to a mainstream rock ‘n’ roll audience, but Southern rockers Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ have made a hell of a lot of great music since forming in Atlanta, Georgia in 1986. Led by singer, songwriter, and guitarist Kevn Kinney, the band has released over a dozen studio and live albums and EPs over the past 30 years – critically acclaimed discs like Fly Me Courageous and Wrapped In Sky – earning the band a well-deserved reputation as an entertaining, electrifying live band. Projected for great things in the wake of R.E.M.’s enormous success in the 1990s, Dn’C nevertheless has remained a cult band known and appreciated only by a relative few fans.
On September 23, 2016 MVD Entertainment will release Scarred But Smarter - Life N Times of Drivin’ n’ Cryin’, a documentary film that delves into the history of the legendary Southern rock band, on DVD and digitally. Director Eric Von Haessler spent several years making the film, trying to discover why the otherwise engaging band hadn’t been more successful. The film uses album tracks and videos, never-before-seen performances, archival video, and interviews with Dn’C fans like R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, Darius Rucker, Jason Isbell, David Lowery, Ed Roland, Michelle Malone, and Ty Pennington as well as band leader Kevn Kinney to tell the story of this amazing, influential band.
The MVD Entertainment release of Scarred But Smarter on DVD includes extras like new music videos and full-length live performances by the band. If you’re not already hip to Drivin’ n’ Cryin’, you owe it to yourself to check out Scarred But Smarter as an introduction to the best band that you’ve never heard.
Our friends at Real Gone Music have announced their October 2016 release slate and one title immediately jumped off the page at us – John Hammond’s Mirrors album, which will be reissued on October 7, 2016. Originally released in 1967 by Vanguard Records, it’s the last of the legendary bluesman’s 1960s-era albums for the label to be reissued on CD. Mirrors was pieced together with outtakes from previous sessions for earlier Hammond albums like Big City Blues and So Many Roads.
The two sides of the original vinyl album were divided between electric and acoustic blues performances, with the ‘electric’ side featuring talented friends like Levon Helm and Robbie Robertson of the band, Michael Bloomfield (playing piano), and harp wizard Charlie Musslewhite backing Hammond while the ‘acoustic’ side is just the singer and his guitar. The tracklist for Mirrors represents a literal playbook of blues and blues-rock standards, including tunes like “Statesboro Blues,” “Keys To The Highway,” and “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” that were later recorded by artists like B.B. King, John Mayall, the Allman Brothers Band, Derek & the Dominos, and the Grateful Dead, among others.
Hammond also put his skills to the test with covers of Robert Johnson’s “Traveling Riverside,” “Walking Blues,” and “Stones In My Passway.” The Real Gone reissue of Mirrors has been re-mastered for CD by engineer Joe Tarantino and features liner notes by writer and music historian Richie Unterberger including extensive quotes from Hammond. Check out the tracklist below and then order yourself a copy of Mirrors, a near-classic collection that’s been lost far too long!
John Hammond’s Mirrors track list:
1. I Wish You Would 2. They Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday Is Just As Bad) 3. Statesboro Blues 4. Keys to the Highway 5. I Just Got Here 6. Travelling Riverside 7. Stones in My Passway 8. Walking Blues 9. Death Don't Have No Mercy 10. Motherless Willie Johnson 11. When You Are Gone 12. Rock Me Mama 13. Get Right Church
The 1985 cult movie The Return of the Living Dead was a sort of ‘punk rock’ sequel to filmmaker George Romero’s classic horror film Night of the Living Dead. Loosely based on a novel by writer John Russo, who had co-written the screenplay for Night of the Living Dead, the quasi-sequel was written and directed by Dan O’Bannon, who added more period-appropriate gore as well as morbid “splatstick” humor to the original film’s formula. Made on a low budget of $4 million, The Return of the Living Dead grossed better than $14 million at the box office and spawned four sequels while becoming a classic of the horror genre while also launching the career of B-movie ‘Scream Queen’ Linnea Quigley.
The Return of the Living Dead is credited as the first horror film to feature zombies dining exclusively on brains rather than just lumbering along as cannibalistic flesh-eaters, a fine distinction to be sure, but one that has carried over into subsequent horror films as well as TV shows. Something else the movie was known for was its high-octane punk-rock soundtrack, one of the first movies to rely on the genre as its musical backdrop. On October 14, 2016 Real Gone Music will reissue The Return of the Living Dead soundtrack on vinyl in several limited-edition variations.
Originally released by Enigma Records, the film’s soundtrack included songs by psychobilly legends the Cramps, U.K. punk trailblazers the Damned, and ‘60s cult rocker Roky Erickson as well as tracks from the Flesh Eaters, 45 Grave, Tall Boys, Jet Black Berries, 45 Grave, and T.S.O.L. Sadly, the label shoehorned in two ridiculous tracks by SSQ, an electronic dance band featuring singer Stacey Q that the powers-that-be at Enigma seemed to be enamored of at the time.
The Real Gone vinyl reissues feature the album’s original cover and label artwork and will be released in four variations: a grey “Brainsss” version, a black and red starburst version (an indie record store exclusive), an orange and green starburst version (available only from FYE/Transworld stores), all in editions of 720 copies, and a glow-in-the-dark version of 500 copies available only through the Real Gone Music website. The Return of the Living Dead track list:
Side One 1. The Cramps – “Surfin’ Dead” 2. 45 Grave – “Partytime (Zombie Version)” 3. T.S.O.L. – “Nothing for You” 4. The Flesh Eaters – “Eyes Without A Face” 5. Roky Erickson – “Burn the Flames”
Side Two 1. The Damned – “Dead Beat Dance” 2. Tall Boys – “Take a Walk” 3. The Jet Black Berries – “Love Under Will” 4. SSQ – “Tonight (We’ll Make Love Until We Die)” 5. SSQ – “Trash’s Theme”
Arjen Anthony Lucassen is best known as the mad genius behind Ayreon, the groundbreaking progressive rock project that has created such breathtaking “rock operas” as The Human Equation and 01011001, conceptual albums that have left an indelible imprint on the ongoing evolution of prog-rock. As if eight wildly influential Ayreon albums weren’t enough to cement his musical legacy, the Dutch musician has formed critically-acclaimed bands like Star One, Guilt Machine, and Stream of Passion to explore other musical dimensions.
Lucassen’s commercial breakthrough originally came with the 1998 Ayreon album Into The Electric Castle. A couple years previous, however, Lucassen was just another scrappy, struggling prog-rock visionary looking to leave his mark on a genre rapidly growing in worldwide popularity. Like so many modern ‘neo’ proggers (I’m looking at you Roine Stolt and Neal Morse), Lucassen came of age during the “classic rock” era of the 1960s and ‘70s, the future artist enchanted by the Beatles, Pink Floyd, the Kinks and other trailblazers in pop and psychedelic rock ‘n’ roll.
Arjen Anthony Lucassen’s Strange Hobby
After finishing up the recording of 1996’s Actual Fantasy, the second Ayreon album, Lucassen needed to blow off some steam…so he recorded the mysterious Strange Hobby, a covers album released in late 1996 by Transmission Records. Strange Hobby was “mysterious” in that nobody knew who made the album, and the album artwork offered no clues as to its provenance. In the middle of the front cover’s psychedelic artwork sits a bold, enigmatic question mark. In reality, Strange Hobby is a collection of Lucassen’s favorite tunes from the ‘60s, music that influenced him and helped develop the sonic palette that he would put to good use in creating his own music. The album was a bust commercially and has been out-of-print for over a decade, ratcheting up its demand as a premium (i.e. pricey) collectible.
Twenty years on, Lucassen has reissued Strange Hobby on CD on his own Aluca Music label, adding a handful of new bonus tracks to sweeten the deal. More than a gift to his loyal fans, the album is a hell of a lot of fun for anybody who loves classic rock ‘n’ roll. The reissued Strange Hobby offers up 22 rip-roarin’ takes on tunes by the aforementioned Beatles, Pink Floyd, and the Kinks alongside some not unexpected choices from the Monkees, Donovan, Bob Dylan, and the Rolling Stones as well as some totally unexpected (and, honestly, somewhat off-the-wall) covers of songs by Status Quo, the Beach Boys, and Kaleidoscope (the British psychedelic outfit, not the American band). Call it Lucassen’s personal version of Pin-Ups if you will, the singer and musician bringing the same sort of passion and love of the material to his performances as Bowie did with his legendary album.
Flowers In The Rain
The nice thing about Strange Hobby is Lucassen’s unpredictability – he doesn’t just pick the low-hanging pop/rock fruit here with his musical choices, but rather often strays from the path of orthodoxy. All of the performances are reverent to the original, but expanded upon with harder rocking instrumentation and arrangements. Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett-penned psych classic “Arnold Layne” is a fuzzed up joy with grinding guitars and cavernous, echoed vocals while another Barrett gem, “See Emily Play,” is a fetching slab of swirling guitars, cacophonous instrumentation, and clever musical flourishes. Lucassen’s cover of Status Quo’s classic “Pictures of Matchstick Men” thankfully keeps the original’s hypnotic guitar riffs but benefits from a bigger, bolder, in-your-face arrangement that provides the song a veritable “wall of sound.”
Lucassen’s reading of Dylan’s wan “I Want You” is my second favorite version of the song (behind Springsteen but in front of Bobby Z). The song’s fast-paced arrangement adds a sense of urgency to its yearning lyrics, while busy instrumentation gets the listener’s foot tapping and the blood flowing. The Move’s “Flowers In The Rain” captures the mid-‘60s lysergic innocence of Roy Wood’s original with buoyant vocals and wonderfully miasmic instrumentation while “The Letter” takes the Box Tops’ hit in a poppier direction than Alex Chilton’s soulful original while retaining the song’s romantic blues vibe. T.Rex’s “Ride A White Swan” is a glam-era treat and Arjen puts on his best Marc Bolan vox for a trippy sojourn with an infectious melody. Of the four “bonus tracks” afforded Strange Hobby, Lucassen’s original “Pretty Girls” is a gift, a period-perfect slice of psych-drenched power pop with lovely vocals and pulse-quickening instrumentation while the Monkees’ “Last Train To Clarksville” (a Boyce/Hart gem) is given a revved-up, ambitious reading delivered with gleeful, reckless abandon.
The Reverend’s Bottom Line
There’s nary a fumble in any of the 22 tracks on Strange Hobby, and just because I didn’t write about the album’s electrifying covers of the Who (John Entwistle’s “Boris the Spider”), Simon & Garfunkel (“I Am A Rock”), the Kinks (“Sunday Afternoon”), the Hollies (“Bus Stop”), or Donovan (“Catch The Wind”), among the others, doesn’t mean that they’re not worthy of mention. Lucassen imbues each performance with a sincere love of, and a unique vision for each song, resulting in an album that entertains but also reminds the listener of their own fondness for these timeless rock ‘n’ roll treasures.
Whereas many (most?) cover songs released over the past couple of decades have been recorded as a cynical commercial ploy for radio airplay and chart position, Strange Hobby is a breath of fresh air, the welcome sound of an artist-turned-fanboy joyfully recording some of their favorite music for anybody who’ll listen. The soundtrack of Arjen Lucassen’s life has served him well, and I’m glad he decided to share these songs with the rest of us. Grade: A (Aluca Music, released July 15, 2016)
Proving that there’s life after the Black Crowes, former Crowes frontman Chris Robinson slapped together his namesake Chris Robinson Brotherhood back in 2011 and hit the road. A kinda, sorta jam band more in the New Orleans style than a HORDE Festival act, the CRB pursues a musical hybrid of rootsy rock, Southern-friend funk, and blues with a psychedelic slant. The CRB benefits from having an extraordinary string-bender in guitarist Neal Casal, but the other guys – bassist Ted Pecchio, drummer Tony Leone, and keyboardist Adam MacDougall – aren’t exactly chopped liver.
After performing a number of shows after forming, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood released a pair of critically-acclaimed albums in 2012 – Big Moon Ritual, their debut, and The Magic Door – followed by a live set in 2013. A year later, they released Phosphorescent Harvest, which critics compared to the Grateful Dead. The band’s bread and butter is the live concert circuit, though, and after recently releasing their fourth studio album, Anyway You Love, We Know How You Feel, the CRB is preparing to hit the road in support. Check out the CRB video below and then gaze at our list of tour dates and make plans to catch the band when they hit your hometown.
Chris Robinson Brotherhood - Fall 2016 Tour Dates
Aug 28 @ LOCKN' Festival, Arrington VA
Sep 16 @ Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre, Morrison CO
Sep 18 @ Outlaw Music Festival, Scranton PA
Sep 21 @ Town Ballroom, Buffalo NY
Sep 23 @ The Crofoot, Pontiac MI
Sep 24 @ The Rex Theater, Pittsburgh PA
Sep 25 @ Beachland Ballroom, Cleveland OH
Sep 26 @ Beachland Ballroom Cleveland OH
Sep 29 @ Sherman Theater, Stroudsburg PA
Sep 30 @ Paradise Rock Club, Boston MA
Oct 1 @ Paradise Rock Club, Boston MA
Oct 2 @ The Westcott Theater, Syracuse NY
Oct 4 @ The Intersection, Grand Rapids MI
Oct 6 @ 20th Century Theater, Cincinnati OH
Oct 7 @ Cannery Ballroom, Nashville TN
Oct 8 @ The Blue Note, Columbia MO
Oct 9 @ Slowdown, Omaha NE
Oct 11 @ Varsity Theater, Minneapolis MN
Oct 13 @ Deluxe At The Old National Centre, Indianapolis IN
Oct 14 @ Thalia Hall, Chicago IL
Oct 15 @ Majestic Theatre, Madison WI
Oct 16 @ Turner Hall Ballroom, Milwaukee WI
Oct 20 @ Headliners Music Hall, Louisville KY
Oct 21 @ Neighborhood Theatre, Charlotte NC
Oct 22 @ Lincoln Theatre, Raleigh NC
Oct 23 @ Lincoln Theatre, Raleigh NC
Nov 9 @ The Orange Peel, Asheville NC
Nov 11 @ Music Farm, Columbia SC
Nov 12 @ Variety Playhouse, Atlanta GA
Nov 18 @ The Space at Westbury, Westbury NY
Nov 19 @ The Capitol Theatre, Port Chester NY
Nov 29 @ The Wilma Theater, Missoula MT
Dec 1 @ The Hive, Sandpoint ID
Dec 2 @ Neumos, Seattle WA
Dec 3 @ Revolution Bar & Music Hall, Portland OR
Dec 4 @ HiFi Music Hall, Eugene OR
Dec 6 @ Ace Of Spades, Sacramento CA
Dec 8 @ The Fillmore, San Francisco CA
Dec 9 @ The Fillmore, San Francisco CA
Dec 10 @ The Fillmore, San Francisco CA
Dec 11 @ Coconut Grove, Santa Cruz CA
Dec 13 @ Lobero Theatre, Santa Barbara CA
Dec 15 @ Fremont Theatre, San Luis Obispo CA
Dec 16 @ The Observatory North Park, San Diego CA
Dec 17 @ Fonda Theatre, Los Angeles CA
Sire Records should be lauded for its free-thinking attitude towards new music in the late 1970s and early ‘80s. Formed in 1966 by industry veteran Seymour Stein (who made his bones with King Records) and songwriter/producer Richard Gottehrer, Sire Records quickly earned a reputation as an independent label with an eye on the underground, releasing albums by such diverse, non-mainstream artists as the Climax Blues Band, Matthews Southern Comfort, Focus, and the Deviants. Sensing changing trends in rock music in the late ‘70s, Stein signed the cream of the CBGB’s crop to record deals, including bands like the Ramones, the Dead Boys, and Talking Heads.
Even after being swallowed whole by Warner Brothers Records in 1978, Stein ensured that Sire Records continued to sign a diverse range of artists, the label finding overwhelming mainstream success with acts like Madonna and the Pretenders, but also launching the careers of artists like the Flamin’ Groovies, the Cure, the Smiths, and the Replacements. Sire was also an early player in rap music, releasing a handful of mid-to-late ‘80s era albums by Ice T.
This “Don’t Call It Punk” advertisement from a 1977 issue of Trouser Press magazine is curiously and uncharacteristically tone-deaf for such a forward-thinking and progressive record label. Buying into the industry’s overall attempt to whitewash punk rock by re-labeling it as “new wave,” Sire went all-in by trying to hype its hot new albums – now-classic discs by Richard Hell & the Voidoids, Talking Heads, the Dead Boys, and the Saints – as the best of the “new wave,” working hard to smooth the punk genre’s rough edges and make it more commercially acceptable.
Three of the four albums featured are unabashedly punk in nature, and while I think that the ad’s general lay-out and use of copy is effective, the label’s futile attempt downplaying what made these albums attractive to young listeners in the first place is laughable in light of the fact that three of these four discs have since become known as milestones of punk rock. So it goes...
Looking at it in retrospect, the decade of the ‘80s was littered with “cult” bands – rockers like Jason & the Nashville Scorchers, the Long Ryders, Stealin’ Horses, Dream Syndicate, Green On Red, et al – that were eclipsed first by “new wave” poseurs and then by nerf-metal bands of lesser artistic stature like Poison and Ratt. Add the Rave-Ups to that long list, a talented outfit that, while enjoying the smallest taste of success, nevertheless failed to make the light-years leap towards mainstream chart success.
Originally formed in 1979 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania by singer, songwriter, and guitarist Jimmer Podrasky, the first incarnation of the Rave-Ups made a name for themselves in the Steel City before heading to Los Angeles in search of fame and fortune. They subsequently floated back and forth between L.A. and Pittsburgh, eventually breaking up. Undaunted, Podrasky returned to the West Coast and formed the second version of the Rave-Ups with drummer Tim Jimenez. After changing members several times, the Rave-Ups settled on a line-up of Podrasky and Jimenez with guitarist Chuck Wada and bassist Douglas Leonard, this version of the band signing with Fun Stuff Records and releasing the six-song EP Class Tramp in 1983.
The Rave-Ups’ Town + Country
A year later, Wada and Leonard were out and guitarist Terry Wilson and bassist Tommy Blatnik were in – this is the Rave-Ups that most fans of the band remember. The band released their full-length debut Town + Country for Fun Stuff in 1985, the album yielding a college radio hit with the song “Positively Lost Me.” The album earned almost universal acclaim, making fans of such hard-boiled critics as Robert Christgau, Robert Hilburn, and J.D. Considine, among others, and landing the Rave-Ups an appearance in the 1986 John Hughes film Pretty In Pink (Podrasky was dating the sister of the film’s star, Molly Ringwald). Naturally, the major labels came sniffing around, and after enduring a couple years of legal hassles, the Rave-Ups signed with Epic Records, recording two albums for the label – 1987’s The Book of Your Regrets and 1989’s Hamlet Meets John Doe – both of which failed to sell due to label indifference and lack of promotion, and the band subsequently broke up in 1992.
Revisited by archive specialists Omnivore Recordings, the long-awaited 30th anniversary CD reissue of the Rave-Ups’ Town + Country album is a revelation, any fond but ancient memories you may have of the band falling short of the reality pouring from one’s speakers. A whip-smart hybrid of rootsy rock ‘n’ roll that we now know as “Americana,” Town + Country displays the Rave-Ups at their best as songwriters and performers. The album opens with the college radio hit “Positively Lost Me.” The song is a sly lil’ slice of sleight-of-hand with off-balance instrumentation and hypnotic, emotional vocals that betray the swaggering, self-effacing lyrics; the song’s protagonist keeps upping the ante on what his love lost, from inconsequential material tokens to his very heart and soul. Accompanied by yelping rhythms and lean fretwork, the band offers up a different perspective on the clichéd love song.
The Rave-Ups were a lot more than just “Positively Lost Me,” although that song would become their calling card to bigger things. “Better World” is a perfect example of the band’s immense chemistry and Podrasky’s underrated skills as a wordsmith. With sparse but textured instrumentation, the singer’s subdued vocals float atop a nuanced soundtrack that serves to highlight the despair found in the lyrics. The band’s early tune “Class Tramp” is afforded a rich, albeit low-key arrangement, Podrasky’s strident vocals piercing the darkness until the band kicks in with its rollicking honky-tonk stroll. Pedal steel guitar legend “Sneaky” Pete Kleinow adds some tasty steel to the somber “Radio” but it’s the band that moves the needle with a striking performance that includes James Burton-styled shivering guitar and a languid rhythm that helps create an unsettling ambiance.
While many of the Rave-Ups’ songs are mid-to-slow tempo, the rockabilly ratchet “In My Gremlin” offers up some liver-quivering cheap thrills with scorching fretwork, a swinging rhythm, and era-appropriate echoed vocals. A cover of Bob Dylan’s obscure 1960s track “You Ain’t Goin Nowhere” is played with reckless abandon but no little reverence, while the album-closing “Rave-Up/Shut-Up” is an unbridled rocker with a 1950s vibe (think Carl Perkins) and ‘80s-era roots-rock sensibilities. This 30th anniversary edition of Town + Country offers a wealth of bonus tracks – eleven in total – including a lo-fi demo cover of Pete Seeger’s “If I Had A Hammer” that captures the anarchic energy of the original while a live performance of the Merle Travis classic “Nine Pound Hammer” infuses the hillbilly classic with a bit of blue collar blues amidst the twang. An early version of “Mickey of Alphabet City,” later recorded for the band’s major label debut, is nearly fully-formed as it stands, a magnificent story-song with elegant guitar and a fine vocal performance.
The Reverend’s Bottom Line
At their core, the Rave-Ups were a modern country-rock band that was a decade or a decade-and-a-half ahead of their time. Although critics too frequently toss the Rave-Ups into the box labeled “cowpunk” along with Jason & the Nashville Scorchers, the Beat Farmers, or Rank and File, I personally don’t hear it. The Rave-Ups could and did play upbeat material, but they lacked the inherent rowdiness of the aforementioned bands.
Instead, I look at the Rave-Ups, artistically, as falling more along the lines of contemporaries like Lone Justice or Nashville’s underrated Raging Fire – a talented, visionary group that detoured off the Lost Highway to explore new turf, taking the country-rock lessons of the Byrds and the Burritos to heart while forging their own unique, cerebral, and entirely mesmerizing sound. Town + Country is a primo slice of American music, the Rave-Ups a band worth your time to rediscover. Grade: B+ (Omnivore Recordings, released July 8, 2016)
It would be understandable if blues veteran Duke Robillard chose to bask in the glory of his 2015 album The Acoustic Blues & Roots of Duke Robillard a wee bit longer. That album earned the talented guitarist a Blues Music Award for “Acoustic Album of the Year” amid some stiff competition as well as universal critical acclaim. Still, here we are, a year later and Robillard is preparing Blues Full Circle, his latest and greatest, for release on September 9th, 2016 by his long-time label, Stony Plain Records.
Blues Full Circle was produced by Robillard and recorded at both his own Duke’s Mood Room studioas well as at Lakewest Recording in Rhode Island. The new album captures Robillard’s extraordinary guitar tone and nimble-fingered playing with a small combo, the guitarist joined by keyboardist Bruce Bears, bassist Brad Hallen, and drummer Mark Teixeira. The album can boast of some star-power guest appearances from folks like Jimmie Vaughan, who double-teams with the Duke on the instrumental “Shufflin’ and Scufflin’,” Sugar Ray Norcia from Sugar Ray & the Bluetones adds vocals to the song “Last Night,” and pianist Kelley Hunt adds some boogie beat to “The Mood Room.” Other guests appearing on Blues Full Circle include saxophonists Gordon “Sax” Beadle and Doug James.
“This album really does represent a full circle of blues for me,” says Robillard in a press release for Blues Full Circle. “Eight of the tunes are new compositions and three tunes here represent songs I wrote as much as 30 to 45 years ago when I was leader and front man for the original Roomful of Blues in the 1970s. We hope you enjoy our back to the basics approach to the music here. Just straightforward small band, old school blues.” In between his previous album and this one, Robillard experienced a potentially career-threatening injury. “The original session for this album yielded seven of the tunes here in a short afternoon session,” explains Robillard. “That was about a month or two before my rotator cuff simply gave out and became disconnected on a gig.”
“Unfortunately, soon after, I was unable to play guitar at all for close to a year,” adds Robillard. “The months and months of physical therapy after surgery was a depressing time, but these things sometimes are clouds with silver linings, and I put myself into an art frame of mind as I dove back into photography and painting.” Robillard painted the album cover artwork for Blues Full Circle and also had an exhibition of his photography at the Van Vassem in Tiverton Rhode Island during his layoff. The Duke’s fans need not worry, though, ‘cause the guitarist is back and playing better than ever, Blues Full Circle a sure-fire bet for a nomination come Blues Music Awards season.
Chicago, Illinois enjoys a lengthy and well-deserved reputation as the “Home of the Blues.” Such giants as Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, and Junior Wells called the ‘Windy City’ home, and Chicago still offers some red-hot blues in the form of Nick Moss, Dave Specter, and Toronzo Cannon, among many others. But even for a city steeped for decades in the blues, no single street in Chicago is more indentified with the blues than Maxwell Street, former home of the Maxwell Street Market. From the 1930s until around 2000, the sound of blues could be heard up and down the street every Sunday as artists like Big Bill Broonzy and Blind Arvella Gray played for shoppers for spare change.
On September 9th, 2016 Stony Plain Records will release Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters’ Maxwell Street, the new album a tribute to both the famed Chicago street but also former Broadcasters member David Maxwell, who passed away in February 2015. The album was produced by Earl and recorded at Wellspring Studios in Acton, Massachusetts and Wooly Mammoth Studios in Waltham, Massachusetts. The current Broadcasters line-up includes guitarist Earl, bassist Jim Mouradian, keyboardist Dave Limina, drummer Lorne Entress, and singer Diane Blue. Guitarist Nicholas Tabarias is a special guest on Maxwell Street.
Maxwell Street features ten tracks, including six original songs as well as covers like Otis Rush’s “Double Trouble” (Rush a musical idol of Earl’s), Gladys Knight’s “I’ve Got To Use My Imagination,” Eddy Arnold’s “You Don’t Know Me,” and Don Robey’s R&B standard, “As The Years Go Passing By,” which has been recorded by a veritable ‘who’s who’ of blues and soul music, including Albert King, John Lee Hooker, Boz Scaggs, George Thorogood, Carlos Santana, and Eric Burdon & the Animals, among others.
“This album is dedicated to my big brother David Maxwell,” says Ronnie Earl in a press release for Maxwell Street. “We were born on the same day ten years apart. His playing was as deep as the ocean, as high as the sky and as bright as a quasar. When he passed, I felt a huge loss as I still do. David was a Broadcaster and he and I made a few records together. It was always a supreme honor to play with him. He played blues as well as jazz with incredible expression from Otis Spann to Cecil Taylor. He knew and loved it all. He became Otis Spann in the later years. Our pianist David Limina wrote a tune (“Elegy for a Bluesman”) that captures the feeling of the album and we all send our love and respect to David’s family and all of our love and gratitude for David Maxwell.”
In the wild and wacky world of rock ‘n’ roll, “cult artists” are almost a given – no matter how popular a band may be, there’s still a bunch more folks who have never heard of ‘em. Hang around long enough and you may be bestowed with semi-legendary status (like, for instance, the Pogues…), but if you burn out quickly and leave a good looking corpse (figuratively speaking), you’re certain to be tagged with the “cult artist” albatross.
Case in point: Silverhead, a British hard rock band that had the ill fortune and bad timing to come wandering into the spotlight near the end of the early ‘70s glam-rock scene. Founded by vocalist Michael Des Barres, guitarists Rod Davies and Stevie Forest, bassist Nigel Harrison, and drummer/keyboardist Pete Thompson, Silverhead quickly found an audience with its flamboyant, leather-lunged frontman and no-frills, guitar-driven pseudo-metal sound. Signed to Deep Purple’s boutique Purple Records label, Silverhead released a pair of now-classic studio albums before obscurity tore the band apart.
Although they’ve been reissued on CD a couple times over the past couple of decades, the albums never hung around long enough to experience “rediscovery” by the hipster elite, and Silverhead discs have remained a hard-to-find collectible. Here’s the good news, though – the kind folks at Cherry Red Records have announced the resurrection of Purple Records and will be reissuing the three-disc Silverhead catalog on deluxe CDs with a bunch of cool bonus tracks. The band’s two studio gems – Silverhead and 16 and Savaged – will be released along with a posthumous live album, Live At The Rainbow London, on August 12, 2016.
Silverhead debuted in 1972 as Purple Records’ tenth release, the band’s audacious introductory vinyl a cracking mix of metallic hard rock, glam, and proto-punk electricity. Produced by Martin Birch, who had previously worked with Deep Purple engineering albums like Machine Head and Made In Japan, the album kicked out the jams but sadly failed to chart in the U.S. or the U.K. in spite of the band’s high-octane performances and superstar sponsorship. The Cherry Red CD reissue adds to the original ten tracks with the 7” single version of the song “Ace Supreme” as well as three scorching live tracks previously released only in Japan, culled from Des Barres’ personal collection.
The album holds up well, however, my colleague Dave Thompson, in All Music Guide, writing “before Ratt, before Hanoi Rocks, before the New York Dolls, and before a lot of the British bands which history recalls as archetypal glam rockers, there was Silverhead, the first and positively the greatest metal band ever to dress up like a bunch of weird-looking hookers. Silverhead, this unsightly, unseemly, and unconcerned behemoth’s debut album, is strutting teenage trash of the first order. Guitars totter precariously on absurdly high heels, the rhythms are offering knee-tremblers in a backstreet alleyway some place, the lyrics drape lasciviously over anybody who'll hold them up, and the riffs will spend the night with anyone.”
Silverhead’s 16 and Savaged, originally released in 1973 and produced by Stuart Wicks – seemingly the only album he’s ever produced – saw the departure of guitarist Stevie Forest, who was replaced by Robbie Blunt (Bronco). Featuring a tawdry, memorable album cover and a tighter band chemistry courtesy of their hard touring ethic, critic and music historian Martin Popoff writes in his book The Collector’s Guide to Heavy Metal, Volume One: The Seventies that “this one’s a bit less of a pub rocker, although Silverhead remain squarely one of the best hard boogie acts of England’s golden age thereof” while All Music Guide’s Bart Bealmear calls 16 and Savaged “one of the most exciting records from the glam period…” This reissue disc includes the album’s nine original songs as well as six live tracks, a pair of long-lost songs from an unreleased third Silverhead LP, “James Dean” and “Marilyn,” as well as both sides of the promo-only debut solo single from Des Barres, “Leon” b/w “New Moon Tonight.”
When 16 and Savaged stiffed commercially, the band would fall apart in late 1974 while working on their unfinished and unreleased third album. Before the break up, though, the band opened for Nazareth for a November 1973 show at London’s legendary Rainbow Theatre. Silverhead didn’t know that the concert was being recorded, and they delivered an incendiary performance that would be released exclusively in Japan in 1975 as Live at the Rainbow London, the album credited to Michael Des Barres and Silverhead. The original eight-track album featured some of the best songs from the two studio albums and this long overdue CD reissue includes a live version of “James Dean” and a cover of Chuck Berry’s classic “Roll Over Beethoven” as well as five unreleased songs from the band’s never-aired performance for the TV show In Concert, recorded at the BBC’s Paris Theatre in August 1973.
After Silverhead’s demise, Michael Des Barres relocated to Los Angeles where he formed the band Detective in 1975, a cult band not dissimilar from Silverhead, which recorded two albums for Led Zeppelin’s Swan Song Records label. Des Barres would later reappear in the early ’80s as the frontman of Chequered Past with the Sex Pistol’s Steve Jones, Blondie’s Clem Burke and former Silverhead bandmate Nigel Harrison, and Tony Sales from Tin Machine. Des Barres later found success as an actor while still performing music now and then, and he’s currently a deejay for Little Steven’s Underground Garage SiriusXM radio channel.
Harrison played with former Doors member Ray Manzarek’s band Nite City before joining Blondie and, subsequently Chequered Past while Robbie Blunt contributed to several of Robert Plant’s early ‘80s solo albums. Pete Thompson would play behind artists like Uriah Heep’s Ken Hensley and the Climax Blues Band’s Peter Haycock before becoming Robin Trower’s longtime drummer. As for Purple Records, the label set up by Deep Purple in 1971, it lasted until 1979 before closing up shop.
In the interim, aside from the band’s albums, the label released work from artists like Tony Ashton, Hard Stuff, Elf (with Ronnie James Dio), and Tucky Buzzard as well as solo albums from Purple members like Jon Lord, Roger Glover, and Glenn Hughes. Hopefully, given its revival of the Purple Records label, Cherry Red will soon be reissuing hard-to-get albums from some of the aforementioned artists.
If the blues had a baby and called it rock 'n' roll, rock had a bastard child named "progressive." Since dino-proggers like Yes, ELP and King Crimson roamed the earth during the mid-1970s, critics have mostly turned up their noses at the genre, for whatever muddy-headed reasons. When prog-rock began its long, deliberate "rebirth" with bands like Spock's Beard and the Flower Kings back during the '90s, "respectable" critics ignored the genre out of ignorance, coughing up – at most – a minor compliment on the acute technical musicianship of the artists. Meanwhile, loyal keepers of the flame like the aforementioned giants of the genre – Spock's Beard and the Flower Kings – as well as Pallas, IQ, Arena, Ayreon, and dozens of other like-minded, creative musicians continued to play to ever-increasing audiences of old (and many new) prog-rock fans.
Of course, this isn't meant to be a defense of prog, 'cause the musicians do that well enough on their own, but rather a look behind the façade of one of the most misunderstood genres in pop music. Hell, even death metal maniacs burning down churches and blowing out eardrums get more props than prog-leaning family men. However, prog-rock didn't arise out of a vacuum, and artists like Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy, and Randy George developed from a plethora of influences. Morse is the founder of the influential and popular Spock's Beard and a member of prog-supergroup Transatlantic along with Mike Portnoy, whose day job is beating the skins for prog-metal titans Dream Theater. Multi-instrumentalist Randy George is a member of Christian rock band Ajalon and also plays in Morse's band. Together, these three musicians have nearly 70 years of experience between them.
Like I said, musicians have their influences, and Morse's early Beatles' obsession aside, these three guys display a wide range of taste with Cover To Cover, a collection of, well, other people's songs. Now, I've always enjoyed the well-done "covers" album, from David Bowie's Pin-Ups collection of '60s British rock to Bob Seger's Smokin' O.P.'s album and those Springsteen and Petty bootleg cover compilations I have hidden on the shelf. Morse, Portnoy, and George deliver an incredibly diverse group of songs on Cover To Cover, nailing each tune with heart and precision. To my ears, the best cover tunes echo the original performances while improving upon the song in some small way. Really great covers, like Hendrix's reading of Dylan's "All Along The Watchtower," steal the song away from the creator. Most importantly, the song should be recorded 'cause the artist likes the song, not because some damn label marketing guru sees a way onto the Top Forty.
In the case of Morse, Portnoy, and George, the tunes on Cover To Cover were obviously chosen because they love them, and the fun they had recording these songs during several separate sessions comes jumping out of the grooves. These are the songs that influenced and motivated them to become musicians, and they're handled with joy and reverence. So what can you expect to hear on this choice platter? How about a jaunty version of the Monkees' "Pleasant Valley Sunday" or a heartfelt reading of Cat Steven's "Where Do The Children Play"? Bowie's "Rock N Roll Suicide" is a more obscure choice, and here it's provided an appropriately eerie and forceful performance. George Harrison's "What Is Life?" is supported by jangling guitars and Spectorish production while a soulful rendition of U2's "Where The Streets Have No Name" matches the original for power and majesty.
There's nothing awfully "proggy" to be found on Cover To Cover, sorry, although the Who's "I'm Free" rocks with reckless abandon, the trio kicking out a muscular jam and guitar duel that punts serious posterior. My fave cut here is the amped-up, anarchistic reading provided Joe Jackson's classic "I'm The Man." One of the first and finest pop-punk tunes to grace the '80s airwaves, Jackson's blistering condemnation of consumerism is transformed into a moshpit anthem with razor-sharp guitars and Portnoy's explosive rhythms. Your tastes may vary, however, so Cover To Cover also includes finely-tuned performances of songs from Cream, the Beatles, the Moody Blues, Blind Faith, Chicago, and Badfinger.
There's no denying the instrumental talents of these three fine players, and their choice of songs is both entertaining and enlightening. The performances are all rock solid, adding to each song's legacy rather than detracting from them. Most of all, Cover To Cover is a lot of fun, both for the musicians and, in the end, for the listener. And that's something that is sorely lacking with a lot of today's music. (Radiant Records, released September 26, 2006)
A new album from blues legend Bobby Rush appears roughly every eighteen months or so at this point in the singer’s lengthy, award-winning career but every new release is a cause for celebration. So get your party hats out, kiddies, ‘cause on September 16, 2016 Rounder Records will be releasing Porcupine Meat, the follow-up to Rush’s Grammy™ and Blues Music Award nominated 2014 album Decisions, which he recorded with the California blues band Blinddog Smokin’.
Porcupine Meat was recorded in New Orleans with producer Scott Billington, Rounder Records’ Vice President of A&R and a two-time Grammy™ Award winner. Happy to be making an album in his home state of Louisiana for the first time, Rush was accompanied in the studio by local talents like guitarist Shane Theriot, bassist Cornell Williams, pianist David Torkanowsky, and drummer Jeffrey “Jellybean” Alexander, among others. Porcupine Meat also features guest appearances by Rush’s longtime friend and collaborator, guitarist Vasti Jackson, who helped develop the Rush’s songs for the studio, as well as fleet-fingered fretburners like Dave Alvin, Keb’ Mo’, and Joe Bonamassa.
Rush’s vocals on Porcupine Meat are said to be raw, soulful, and passionate, his raging harp play displaying a different facet of his talents. Unlike some of his recent albums, Porcupine Meat includes no synthesizers and all of the rhythm tracks were recorded live in the studio, frequently edited down from extended instrumental jams. “He is the most vital bluesman of his generation,” says Billington in a press release for the album, “there are many people who still don’t know Bobby Rush, even though he is a hero in the parallel universe of the Chitlin’ Circuit – fans stop him on the street in Memphis and Helena and Little Rock.”
The songs on Porcupine Meat will certainly please Rush’s older fans, while still appealing to newcomers. Says Billington, “We wanted to come up with something fresh while staying 100% true to Bobby.” A prolific songwriter with an estimated 300+ tunes to his credit, Rush has always been a sly, clever wordsmith and the material on the new album are no different. While Rush’s bawdy sense of humor is on display in the album’s title cut and songs like “Dress Too Short,” the singer can get serious as on the racial injustice described by “Got Me Accused.” For those old-school fans looking for a taste of Rush’s trademark ‘folk-funk’ sound, look no further than “Funk O’ De Funk.”
The 82 year old bluesman keeps rolling along with the energy and enthusiasm of musicians half his age or younger. Rush still performs more than 200 shows a year, touring across the Southern “Chitlin’ Circuit” as well as worldwide; in 2007, Rush was the first blues artist to play at the Great Wall of China. His recordings are universally acclaimed, and Rush has earned three Grammy™ nominations and won ten Blues Music Awards out of 41 nominations. Last year, Omnivore Recordings released a four-disc career retrospective, Chicken Heads: A 50-Year History of Bobby Rush in celebration of the beloved bluesman's lengthy career.
I can personally vouch that Rush is one of the nicest guys that you’ll ever meet in the music business, but he takes the accolades in stride. “I just try to record good music and stories,” he says in a press release for Porcupine Meat, and if past history is any indication, the album will only add to a legacy six decades in the making.
Classic rock legends Wishbone Ash will be launching a new “British Invasion” with their upcoming ‘Take It Back’ North American tour in September 2016. The band is celebrating its 47th anniversary since forming in England in 1969, and these performances will provide a musical journey that spans the band’s 1970s and ‘80s-era albums as well as including songs from more recent recordings.
“We'd like to mix it up a little,” says Wishbone Ash founding member Andy Powell in a press release for the tour. “Perhaps include a different epic instrumental, dust off a couple of the old harmony-driven songs, feature an unexpected track from our latest album, Blue Horizon.”
Since releasing its self-titled debut album in 1970, Wishbone Ash has built a catalog of unusually high quality music, including albums like 1971’s Pilgrimage, 1972’s Argus, 1976’s New England, and 1978’s No Smoke Without Fire – a total of nine studio albums during the ‘70s, another six during the ‘80s, two dozen altogether – a slate of acclaimed works that continued with 2011’s Elegant Stealth and 2014’s Blue Horizon. The current roster includes singer, songwriter, and guitarist Powell, Finnish six-string wizard Muddy Manninen, bassist Bob Skeat, and drummer Joe Crabtree; these four musicians have been together since 2007, making it the longest-lasting incarnation of the band.
Wishbone Ash’s trademark sound is based on the band’s melodic twin lead guitars, which have influenced bands as diverse as Thin Lizzy, Iron Maiden, and Lynyrd Skynyrd, among many others. Over close to a half-century, the band has dabbled in folk, blues, jazz, and electronica along with the landmark rock ‘n’ roll sound they created during their early years. Touring constantly and logging 30,000 miles annually, the band has forged a strong bond with its loyal fans.
“We laid down strong musical roots in the '70s, and these roots continue to prove productive,” Powell says. “Also, we nurtured our fan base as much as possible through fan club conventions, newsletters and the like; but this was all given a great boost once the digital age came into being, with websites and social media.”
Check out Wishbone Ash’s September tour dates below. Buy a copy of their most recent album through Amazon.com: Wishbone Ash’s Blue Horizon
Wishbone Ash's “Take It Back” North American Tour 2016
Sept 8 @ Soiled Dove, Denver CO
Sept 9 @ Stargazers, Colorado Springs CO
Sept 10 @ Knuckleheads, Kansas City MO
Sept 12 @ Pabst Theatre – Turner Hall, Milwaukee WI
Sept 13 @ Famous Dave’s, Minneapolis MN
Sept 16 @ Wildey Theatre, Edwardsville IL
Sept 17 @ Arcada Theatre, St. Charles IL
Sept 18 @ Callahan’s, Auburn Hills MI
Sept 19 @ C2G Music Hall, Fort Wayne IN
Sept 20 @ Rex Theater, Pittsburgh PA
Sept 21 @ Sportsmen’s Tavern, Buffalo NY
Sept 22 @ The Upper Room, Albany NY
Sept 23 @ Mauch Chunk Opera House, Jim Thorpe PA
Sept 24 @ Infinity Hall, Norfolk CT
Sept 25 @ Tupelo Music Hall, Londonderry NH
Sept 26 @ Ram's Head, Annapolis MD
Sept 27 @ Sellersville Theater, Sellersville PA
Sept 28 @ Highline Ballroom, New York NY
Sept 29 @ Daryl's House Club, Pawling NY
One of the most multi-talented artists in rock music, Todd Rundgren is a singer, songwriter, and producer; he’s a pioneer in the production and promotional use of video; he’s a computer software developer and interactive artist. Rundgren’s legacy is built on better than two dozen solo and studio and live recordings as well as a significant body of work recorded with his band Utopia. As a producer, he’s shepherded more than 50 albums to completion, including successful, charting albums by artists as diverse as Badfinger, Hall & Oates, the New York Dolls, Cheap Trick, Grand Funk Railroad, Meat Loaf, and Patti Smith, among many others.
Rundgren continues to tour and record, and on August 26, 2016 you can “spend an evening” with this legendary artist when Cleopatra Records releases An Evening with Todd Rundgren – Live at Ridgefield, a two-disc CD/DVD set recorded live at the Ridgefield Playhouse in Ridgefield, Connecticut on December 15, 2015. The album features live versions of some of Rundgren’s best-known and beloved songs, including hits like “Hello, It’s Me,” “I Saw The Light,” and “Bang the Drum all Day” as well as songs originally by his bands Nazz and Utopia.
The CD features eighteen songs, including material from a whopping ten Rundgren solo albums like 1972’s Something/Anything, 1976’s Faithful, and 1985’s A Cappella plus songs from three Utopia LPs, including 1977’s Oops! Wrong Planet, and from the acclaimed albums by Rundgren's early band the Nazz, 1968's Nazz and 1969's Nazz Nazz. The DVD offers seven additional songs, and a separate single-disc Blu-ray video version of the performance will also be released.
Accompanying Rundgren on stage for the show are longtime collaborators Jesse Gress (guitar) and Kasim Sulton (bass) as well as keyboardist John Ferenzik and drummer Prairie Prince (The Tubes, Jefferson Starship). An Evening with Todd Rundgren – Live at Ridgefield is presented in a special six-panel digipak and will also be available as a digital download and as a limited-edition, ten song vinyl album. Rundgren hasn’t released that many live recordings throughout a career that now spans six decades, making this one a ‘gimme’ for Todd fans and fans of classic rock ‘n’ roll.
Buy the CD/DVD from Amazon.com: An Evening With Todd Rundgren An Evening With Todd Rundgren track listing: 1. I Saw The Light 2. Love of The Common Man 3. Open My Eyes 4. Sometimes I Don't Know What To Feel 5. Black And White 6. Buffalo Grass 7. Determination 8. Lost Horizon 9. Bang The Drum All Day 10. Kiddie Boy 11. Black Maria 12. Drive 13. Secret Society 14. Love In Action 15. Couldn't I Just Tell You 16. Can We Still Be Friends 17. Hello It's Me 18. One World