Sunday, January 29, 2017

New Music Monthly: February 2017 Releases

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

Black Star Rider's Heavy Fire

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

Elvin Bishop's Big Fun Trio

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

Otis Taylor's Fantasizing About Being Black

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

Eric Gales' Middle of the Road

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

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

The Feelies' In Between

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

Sunday, January 22, 2017

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

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

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

Pub Rock Legends

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

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

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

Ducks Deluxe’s Ducks Deluxe

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

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

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

Ducks Deluxe’s Taxi To The Terminal Zone

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

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

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

The Reverend’s Bottom Line

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

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

Review originally published on Trademark of Quality blog, 2007

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

Friday, January 20, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CD Preview: Eric Gales’ Middle of the Road

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

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

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

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

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

Buy the CD from Eric Gales' Middle of the Road

Monday, January 16, 2017

Video of the Week: Quinn Sullivan's Midnight Highway

Our long-awaited return to That Devil Music's "Video of the Week" feature is not so much a 'video' but rather a sound file for the title track from 17-year-old blues guitar phenom Quinn Sullivan's debut album, Midnight Highway. Scheduled for January 27th, 2017 release by our friends at Provogue Records, the track displays enormous artistic maturity to go along with impressive instrumental talent.

Quinn began playing guitar at age three and came to the attention of Chicago blues legend Buddy Guy when he was but eight years old. Since that time, he's been mentored by Guy and has played on festival stages around the world with giants like B.B. King and Eric Clapton. As heard on this track, Sullivan possesses a soulful, smooth vocal style to go along with his six-string skills. Midnight Highway, the album, is the guitarist's official "coming out" party and it should be a helluva good time. We may be looking at the next Joe Bonamassa here, so check out the track and you'll agree, Quinn Sullivan is the real deal!

BONUS TRACK! Provogue has released "She Gets Me," another great track from guitarist Quinn Sullivan's debut album, Midnight Highway, out on Friday, January 27th, 2017.

Buy the CD from Quinn Sullivan's Midnight Highway

Sunday, January 8, 2017

CD Review: John Hammond's Mirrors (1967/2016)

John Hammond's Mirrors
Blues Hall of Fame inductee John Hammond is a giant of 20th century blues, a talented songster whose work has preserved countless blues, gospel, and folk tunes that otherwise might have disappeared from the great Americana songbook. The son of famed Columbia Records A&R legend John Hammond (who discovered Dylan and Springsteen and was an early champion of Delta bluesman Robert Johnson), the young Hammond began playing guitar in high school and dropped out of college to pursue his musical vision. Living in Greenwich Village in the early-to-mid-60s, Hammond hung around and made music with fellow travelers like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Duane Allman.

Hammond has released roughly three-dozen albums since his self-titled 1962 debut, including a critically-acclaimed collection of material by singer/songwriter Tom Waits, 2001’s Wicked Grin. Known as a skilled interpreter of song, Hammond possesses an enormous knowledge of, and deep insight into the material he performs. Signed to the venerable Vanguard Records label early in his career, Hammond recorded so much material during his initial sojourns into the studio that Vanguard was releasing albums long after he’d left the label. Mirrors is one such work, a Frankensteined-production that cuts ‘n’ pastes various performances but somehow comes together as a cohesive album. The original side one is entirely ‘electric,’ Hammond joined in the studio by friends like Charlie Musslewhite and a pre-Band Robbie Robertson and Levon Helm; side two is strictly ‘acoustic.’

John Hammond’s Mirrors

Hammond’s rowdy cover of Billy Boy Arnold’s ‘I Wish You Would” spanks the planks from note one. Jimmy Lewis’s fluid bass line opens the song, Musselwhite’s greasy harp jumps in soon thereafter as Hammond growls out the vox above as funky a rhythm as you’d hear in the mid-60s. Hammond’s guitar battles with Robertson’s while the greatest master of the Telecaster, Michael Bloomfield, toils away in the background on piano. Hammond’s take on the great T-Bone Walker’s “They Call It Stormy Monday” is workmanlike but, considering how often the tune’s been covered by literally everybody in the blues biz, Hammond’s languid vocals and subdued instrumentation seem rather lackluster by comparison.

Much more interesting is the unusual reading given Piedmont bluesman Blind Willie McTell’s “Statesboro Blues.” Best known as performed by the Allman Brothers Band, Hammond’s spry take pre-dates Duane Allman’s by a half-decade and has a decidedly rockabilly tint that features guitarists Billy Butler and James Sprull chicken-pickin’ joyfully behind Hammond’s twangy vocals. A cover of Mose Allison’s “I Just Got Here” stands at the crossroads of the Delta blues and big city jazz, and Hammond’s gruff vocals slip and slide across Barry Goldberg’s minimalist keyboard riffs.

Traditional Acoustic Blues

A full-band version of Robert Johnson’s “Traveling Riverside” closes out the album’s ‘electric’ side with a bang, the rhythm section of bassist Lewis and drummer Helm laying down a locomotive groove atop which Hammond’s roaring vocals and Musselwhite’s raging harp dance alongside Robertson’s nimble fretwork. The ‘acoustic’ side of Mirrors offers just Hammond and his guitar, an engaging pairing that delves deeply into the traditional acoustic blues that Hammond adores. A pair of Johnson’s songs open the side, slow-burning “Stones In My Passageway” provided ethereal vocals and haunting guitar, effectively capturing the original emotion of the Delta blues classic.

A cover of Johnson’s “Walking Blues” is more upbeat, with Hammond’s gritty vocals and aggressive, percussive guitarplay providing a (then) contemporary sheen to the muddy Delta gem. “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” is a Rev. Gary Davis song, done up nicely here with some elegant fretwork and reverent vocals effectively mixing blues and gospel and taking the song dangerously close to Son House’s darkly-emotional turf. Casual blues fans all know Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark Was The Night,” but they don’t know that he had a much deeper songbook of blues and gospel treasures. Hammond tackles Johnson’s “Motherless Willie Johnson” (a/k/a “Motherless Children”), his reading differing greatly from Eric Clapton’s better-known cover, the song performed here with reckless abandon that successfully channels the original’s emotional energy.

The Reverend’s Bottom Line

Released by Real Gone for the first time on CD, in many ways Mirrors is the ‘long lost’ John Hammond album. Longtime fans will be glad to rediscover this obscure gem from Hammond’s bulky catalog, and newcomers will enjoy a unique blues talent. Although Hammond’s vocals sometimes lapse into parody (at least by modern standards), his reverence for the material is undeniable.

Overall, I’d rank the ‘acoustic’ side better than the ‘electric’ side, if only because of the singer’s rapt fascination for the material which is apparent in the performances. A handful of the ‘electric’ songs really rock, presaging the blues-rock blueprint that would also be followed by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band in the 1960s. Bottom line – if you’re a traditional blues fan, what are you waiting for? Grab yourself a copy of John Hammond’s Mirrors. Grade: B+ (Real Gone Music, released October 7, 2016)

Buy the CD from John Hammond's Mirrors

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Fossils, Volume One now available!

Rev. Keith A. Gordon's Fossils, Volume One
Maybe you’ve read one of the Reverend’s “Fossils” pieces here on That Devil Music; it’s been a popular feature hereabouts for a couple years. Back in the day, record labels didn’t have a network of blogs, artist websites, and social media to help market and promote new music. They only had FM radio, cash ‘payola’ to DJs and, if the budget allowed, advertisements in a handful of music rags like Creem, Trouser Press, and Rolling Stone to help provide hype for a album new release.

Much like album cover artwork, advertisements created for new album releases during the ‘70s were often works of art in themselves. Creative record label graphic designers often came up with ads that cleverly promoted the artist and their work; just as often, corporate hacks cranked out copy with little or no relation to the album being promoted. With the “Fossils” posts, I looked at these “classic rock relics,” album ads found in frayed and graying copies of cherished old music magazines.

The Reverend’s Fossils, Volume One: The '70s book is now available in paperback for the low, low one-time fee of $9.95, and if you order direct, I’ll even autograph your copy (U.S. orders only, please). Offering insightful and informative commentary on this often overlooked aspect of the classic rock era, the Rev took the 20 or so “Fossils” posts from That Devil Music and wrote a whole bunch more of ‘em…over four-dozen ads total in a 5.5”x8.5” trade paperback that runs 100 pages with high-rez scans of each advertisement.

Get your copy from or direct from the publisher, Excitable Press (PayPal link below).

Buy the book from

Buy the book from Excitable Press (via PayPal, U.S. orders only):

Blues Images 2017 calendar available!

Blues Images 2017 calendar
For better than a decade now, noted record collector and dealer John Tefteller has been publishing the Blues Images calendar. Featuring vintage 1920s-era Paramount Records advertising art – some with photos, but most with gorgeous B&W artwork – the presentation is simple, but the impact is indelible. By literally rescuing this art from the dumpster, Tefteller has preserved a vital historical exploration of blues music.

This year’s Blues Images calendar includes fanciful images that promoted Paramount releases like Jed Davenport’s “How Long Blues” (February), Memphis Minnie’s “I’m Talkin About You!” (March), Charlie Patton’s “Lord, I’m Discouraged” (May), and Blind Willie Johnson’s gospel-blues gem “Let Your Light Shine On Me” (December) as well as artwork featuring rare photos of the Mobile Strugglers and Piedmont bluesman Big Bill Broonzy. Each page is annotated with historical information on the artist, and each month includes the birth and death dates of classic blues artists.

Tefteller offers a heck of a lot of value for the $24.95 (plus shipping) you’ll spend on the 2017 Blues Images calendar – each year he includes a full-length CD with the calendar that features rare, impossible-to-find tracks from the artists that are featured with each month’s artwork. Many of the tracks are exclusives sourced from Tefteller’s extensive personal collection, and have been remastered from the original 78rpm records using the revolutionary new American Epic digital technique that really makes the sound on these antique shellac flapjacks shine. The 2017 CD includes tracks from both well-known blues artists like the aforementioned Memphis Minnie and Charlie Patton tracks as well as Skip James’ “Illinois Blues,” Ishman Bracey’s “Woman Woman Blues,” and Big Bill Broonzy’s “I Can’t Be Satisfied.”

The Blues Images 2017 CD also includes a wealth of material from obscure bluesmen like Garfield Akers (“Cottonfield Blues – Part I and Part II”), Blind Joe Reynolds (“Nehi Blues”), Joe Williams (“Mr. Devil Blues”), and the Memphis Strugglers (“Memphis Blues”). The calendar is a collector’s item as well as an attractive wall-hanger for any old-school blues fan, and the accompanying CD – with 23 tracks total – is akin to those expensive import discs you buy but with tracks that are scarcer than hen’s teeth. Get your copy from the Blues Images website!

Friday, January 6, 2017

CD Preview: Otis Taylor’s Fantasizing About Being Black

Otis Taylor's Fantasizing About Being Black
It has never been unusual for blues music – an art form created by and primarily performed by African American artists through the years – to take on issues of race and economic injustice (admittedly often in coded language). No single artist that I can think of has addressed race more frequently, intelligently, and fiercely than the great Otis Taylor. In this era of racial intolerance and divisiveness, Taylor’s unique perspective, historical knowledge, and his skilled songwriting are sorely needed. Thankfully, Taylor’s latest album, Fantasizing About Being Black, will be released on February 27, 2017 by his own independent Trance Blues Festival label.

Following his critically-acclaimed 2015 psych-blues gem Hey Joe Opus/Red Meat, which the Reverend called “a wild musical ride, to be sure…worth the price of admission” in Blues Music magazine, Taylor’s Fantasizing About Being Black offers a lyrical lesson in the historical trauma of the African American experience. In a press release for the album, Taylor says that his 15th album is about “the different levels of racism in the African American experience that are unfortunately still with us today. The history of African Americans is the history of America,” he says.

Taylor says “after 15 albums, I’ve taken all of my thoughts about the history of racial injustice and created a musical interpretation for modern times. When I started recording in 2015, I had no idea the topics would become even more relevant.” The album features seven new songs as well as stunning revisions of previously-recorded Taylor songs like “Twelve String Mile” (from When Negroes Walked The Earth), “Walk On Water” (from Truth Is Not Fiction), and “Jump Jelly Belly” (from Respect The Dead), among others. New songs include “Banjo Bam Bam,” the story of a slave in shackles; the acoustic “D to E Blues,” which expresses the yearning for freedom; and the anthemic “Roll Down The Hill.”

Musically, the material on Fantasizing About Being Black follows Taylor’s signature trance blues sound, a unique hybrid of African American culture that nevertheless offers innovative instrumentation and unique musical arrangement. Taylor recorded the album with violinist Anne Harris, bassist Todd Edmunds, and drummer Larry Thompson along with guests like guitarist Jerry Douglas, playing a koa wood lap guitar, young guitarist Brandon Niederauer, and cornetist Ron Miles. Multi-instrumentalist Taylor, of course, plays just about anything with strings as well as a wicked harmonica.

Taylor's choices for instrumentation on the album were deeply considered. “I experimented with banjo and fiddle because slaves on the southern plantations played those instruments,” he says, “and I wanted to include the richness of the early African slave instrument sounds throughout the record.” Taylor adds “if you close your eyes, you can imagine the past, yet see the connections and relevance to what’s happening now.”      

A truly unique artist who has been expanding the boundaries of blues music since the release of his 1996 debut Blue-Eyed Monster, the Blues Music Award winner has garnered a truckload of accolades over the past two decades. Otis Taylor proudly walks in the footsteps of blues legends like Charley Patton and Son House, bringing social consciousness to the blues even while putting his own innovative musical imprint on the genre.

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Otis Taylor - Hey Joe Opus/Red Meat CD review
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CD Review: Otis Taylor's Hey Joe Opus/Red Meat

Otis Taylor's Hey Joe Opus
Veteran bluesman Otis Taylor has forged a distinctive career by defying expectations. When a legion of blues guitarists tried to channel the ghost of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Taylor began playing the banjo (and quite well, I might add). While many contemporary bluesmen and women sought to take an existing form – Chicago, Delta, Hill Country blues, Memphis soul, et al – and claim it for themselves, Taylor created his own unique style and called it ‘trance blues.’ It could be argued that Taylor has done more to expand the sonic palette of the blues than any other modern artist; you just never know what he’s going to do next...

Taylor’s Hey Joe Opus/Red Meat is the follow-up to 2013’s acclaimed My World Is Gone, a conceptual song cycle recorded in collaboration with Native American guitarist Mato Nanji of Indigenous. Hey Joe Opus/Red Meat takes the old-school concept album a step further, offering songs that “explore the decisions that we make and how they effect us” [sic], tying together the vocal tracks with mesmerizing instrumentals. Breathing new life into the ancient garage-rock tune like nobody since Jimi Hendrix, Taylor imbues “Hey Joe” with an uneasy malevolence, his anguished vocals punctuated by guest Warren Haynes’ shimmering fretwork and Anne Harris’s eerie, howling violin.

Taylor uses “Hey Joe” as an artistic foundation for the album, returning to the song later, but first segueing into the exhilarating instrumental “Sunday Morning” (reprised twice later). With Taylor, Haynes, and Taylor Scott swapping guitar lines, the rest of the band fills in the corners with a breathtaking display of musicianship. The transgender tale “Peggy Lee” tackles the uncertainty of gender issues with intelligence and a gentle Piedmont blues vibe that features David Moore’s nimble banjo and Bill Nershi’s gorgeous acoustic guitar, while a seven-minute reprise of “Hey Joe” features Langhorne Slim on vocals for an entirely different take. The urgent “Cold at Midnight” benefits from Ron Miles’ haunting cornet, the strident final reprise of “Sunday Morning” sounding judgmental by contrast.

It’s a wild musical ride, to be sure, but Otis Taylor’s Hey Joe Opus/Red Meat is worth the price of admission. (Trance Blues Festival Records, released May 5th, 2015)

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Review originally published by Blues Music magazine

Grand Funk’s Shinin’ On gets Audio Fidelity upgrade

Grand Funk Railroad's Shinin' On
The first half of the ’70s was very good for classic rockers Grand Funk Railroad. From the release of the band’s 1969 debut LP On Time, Grand Funk (as they’d later become known) enjoyed a string of Top Ten Gold™ and Platinum™ selling albums that peaked with what many would consider the pinnacle of their creative and commercial success, 1973’s We’re An American Band. Working with producer and musician Todd Rundgren, the band scored a chart topping hit with the title track, the album peaking at #2 on the charts and quickly selling better than a million copies.

In the wake of the success of We’re An American Band, Grand Funk again enlisted Rundgren to fill the producer’s chair as the band recorded Shinin’ On, their eighth studio album. Mixing Rundgren’s melodic pop prowess with their traditional lumbering rock ‘n’ roll sound, Shinin’ On is often considered by critics as an inferior work – of course, many critics had dismissed Grand Funk altogether up ‘til We’re An American Band rocked their world. Shinin’ On was released in early 1974 and although it would end up selling half as many flapjacks as its predecessor, the album would still peak at #5 on the charts and score a number one single with the band’s cover of the Goffin/King classic “The Loco-Motion.”

On January 27, 2017 this oft-overlooked underdog of the Grand Funk catalog will be reissued by Marshall Blonstein’s Audio Fidelity label as a limited edition hybrid SACD. The enhanced Super Audio CD sound brings the best of the band to forefront of each song. The original vinyl album was packaged in a trippy psych-drenched 3-D sleeve with a pair of 3-D glasses embedded in the album front cover. The Audio Fidelity reissue reproduces the original 3-D sleeve and also includes a pair of 3-D glasses so that the listener can enjoy the songs and album artwork as originally intended.

Shinin' On track list:
1. Shinin’ On
2. To Get Back In
3. The Loco-Motion
4. Carry Me Through
5. Please Me
6. Mr. Pretty Boy
7. Getting’ Over You
8. Little Johnny Hooker

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