Sunday, October 29, 2017

New Music Monthly: November & December 2017 Releases

We're in the home stretch for 2017 as the number of new releases slows to a trickle, the big exception being Record Store Day's Black Friday event at the end of February (which brings more than a few vinyl goodies for we collectors!). Still, there's a wealth of crazy cool stuff coming in November/December including new albums from Billy Bragg, blues guitarist extraordinaire Ronnie Earl, and the great singer Mavis Staples, among others. We also have reissues and archive releases from the legendary Little Richard, Chuck Berry, King Crimson, Apples In Stereo, Richard Thompson, and the Rolling Stones!

If we wrote about it, there'll be a link to it in the album title; if you want an album, hit the 'Buy!' link to get it from's just that damn easy! Your purchase puts money in the Reverend's pocket that he'll use to buy more music to write about in a never-ending loop of rock 'n' roll ecstasy! Y'all have a great holiday season and we'll be back with a fresh 'New Music Monthly' column in 2018!

Little Richard's Here's Little Richard
Anti-Flag - American Fall   BUY!
Billy Bragg - Bridges Not Walls   BUY!
Cannibal Corpse - Red Before Black   BUY!
Converge - The Dusk In Us   BUY!
Little Richard - Here's Little Richard   BUY!
The Apples In Stereo - Tone Soul Revolution [vinyl reissue]   BUY!
Strawbs - The Ferryman's Curse   BUY!
Richard Thompson - Live at Rockpalast   BUY!

Quicksand's Interiors

King Crimson - Earthbound [deluxe reissue]   BUY!
Quicksand - Interiors   BUY!
R.E.M. - Automatic For The People [deluxe reissue]   BUY!

Dead Ending's Shoot the Messenger
Chuck Berry - Rockit   BUY!
Dead Ending - Shoot the Messenger [vinyl]   BUY!
Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters - The Luckiest Man   BUY!
Morrissey - Low In High School   BUY!
Mavis Staples - If All I Was Was Black   BUY!

Chuck Berry's Rockit

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - Who Built The Moon?   BUY!
The Apples In Stereo - Her Wallpaper Reverie [vinyl reissue]   BUY!

The Searchers's Another Night: The Sire Recordings 1979-1981

The Rolling Stones - On Air   BUY!
The Searchers - Another Night: The Sire Recordings 1979-1981   BUY!

The Rolling Stones' On Air

Album of the Month: The Rolling Stones' On Air is a multi-format (CD/2-CD/2-LP) collection of early-era Stones performances on various BBC programs like Saturday Club, Top Gear, and Blues In Rhythm. The single CD and vinyl formats feature 18 tracks, from the band's first single – a cover of Chuck Berry’s “Come On” – to classic tunes like “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Memphis, Tennessee,” “Mercy, Mercy,” and “Down the Road Apiece.”

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

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Archive Review: Testament's The Spitfire Collection (2007)

Testament's The Spitfire Collection
One of the most influential and enduring bands in heavy metal, Testament may not be as well-known as Anthrax, as controversial as Slayer, or as commercially-successful as Metallica. Due to the band member’s instrumental virtuosity and the band’s unique blend of technical proficiency, raw power and thinly-veiled lyrical malevolence, however, Testament’s original brand of thrash-metal has withstood the test of time.

Originally forming in San Francisco in 1983 as “Legacy,” the band’s earliest line-up included vocalist Steve Souza, guitarist Eric Peterson, bassist Greg Christian, and drummer Louie Clemente. It was with the addition of lead guitarist Alex Skolnik two years later that the band changed its name to Testament and rapidly became one of the top names in a local metal scene dominated by Metallica.

With several major labels sniffing around the Bay Area for thrash bands in the wake of Metallica’s success with their Ride The Lightning and Master of Puppets albums, Testament was receiving their share of label attention when Souza left the band to form Exodus. The loss, although significant at first, proved to be beneficial when the band recruited vocalist Chuck Billy to take over the lead position. Billy’s dark-hued vocals and wider melodic range paired well with the band’s instrumental prowess and the table was set for Testament’s future.

Testament's The Spitfire Collection

With Billy at the mike, Testament signed with Megaforce Records, the indie label already a well-known brand in heavy metal households. The band released its powerhouse debut, The Legacy, in 1987, the album’s fortunes benefiting from Megaforce’s recent distribution deal with Atlantic. The album shook up the metal hierarchy; The Legacy was deemed an overnight classic and Testament found themselves thrust into the upper stratosphere of thrash-metal, rarified heights that included hometown rivals Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer, and Megadeth.

Testament followed their debut with an equally-powerful offering, The New Order, in 1987, and would subsequently record a couple more albums for Megaforce before the label was absorbed by Atlantic altogether. By the time of the band’s fifth album, 1992’s The Ritual, Testament had been on the verge of Platinum™ sales level stardom for a half-decade. The rigors of constant touring and borderline superstardom took its toll, and when the otherwise solid album was overlooked in favor of grunge bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden, Testament began to fall apart. Guitarist extraordinaire Skolnik was the first defection, leading to a revolving door of various members circling around mainstays Chuck Billy and Eric Peterson.

The band soldiered on during the difficult ‘90s, recording albums both bad (Return To the Apocalyptic City is pretty dodgy) and extremely good (Demonic is industrial-strength scary). Testament signed with notable hard rock/metal label Spitfire at the end of the century, and the band’s best-known and beloved line-up (Billy, Skolnik, Peterson, Christian, and Clemente) even reunited for a lengthy world tour in 2005, reasserting the Testament brand name in heavy metal for years to come.

All of which brings us, in a roundabout way, to The Spitfire Collection, a heady fourteen-song compilation that documents Testament’s tenure with Spitfire Records. After the band signed with the label in 1999, Spitfire reissued albums such as Live At the Fillmore and Demonic that Testament had previously released independently. Along with newer albums such as The Gathering, Spitfire has amassed a large chunk of the Testament catalog, easily enough material to assemble a top-notch collection.

First Strike Still Deadly

True believers will not be disappointed by The Spitfire Collection. The album kicks off with a trio of red-hot tracks culled from Live At the Fillmore, an overlooked gem in the Testament catalog in this humble scribe’s opinion. Although Skolnick had been gone for a couple of years by the time of the album’s original 1995 release, metal journeyman James Murphy (Death, Obituary) picks up most of the slack on scorched-earth jams like “The New Order,” “Souls Of Black” and “Practice What You Preach.” The choice of three vintage live tracks to kick off this comp was sheer genius on somebody’s part.

From Live At the Fillmore, the collection jumps to a flurry of cuts from 1997’s Demonic, including the truly HEAVY “John Doe” and the equally-frightening “Hatreds Rise.” With Demonic the band had pursued a heavier sound that bordered on the industrial darkness of Ministry or My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, only with chainsaw guitars replacing any wimpy dancefloor rhythms. The album retained all of the thrashy goodness that fans had come to expect from Testament, however, piling on layer-after-layer of threatening vocals and heavy riffing.

Three takes from 1999’s The Gathering come next, building upon Demonic’s newfound aggression with an even greater sense of insane urgency. With Chuck Billy’s extreme vocals, chaotic slashing guitar interplay between Peterson and Murphy, and tribal drumwork courtesy of Slayer skinman Dave Lombardo, much of The Gathering sounds like a cross between Norwegian death metal and Killing Joke’s worst nightmares.

For 2001’s First Strike Still Deadly, the band ventured into the studio with former members Souza, Skolnik, and drummer John Tempestra to re-record a disc’s worth of the band’s best songs. The gimmick received lukewarm response from the fans, and a fair degree of venom from critics, cuts like the driving “Over The Wall” and “The Preacher,” while benefiting from better production, nevertheless not adding anything essential to the original versions of the songs. The Spitfire Collection tops off with three songs from Live In London, the aforementioned reunion of the band’s classic line-up throwing out caustic live versions of ‘80s-era songs like “Into The Pit” and “Trial By Fire.”

The Reverend’s Bottom Line

And there you have it…The Spitfire Collection in a nutshell or two. The album does a fine job of documenting Testament’s later years, collecting material from each of the band’s vital works over the last decade onto a single disc. The chosen material also does a strong job of displaying the talents of the individual bandmembers: Chuck Billy’s awe-inspiring metallic vocals, Eric Peterson’s rock-solid riff-and-rhythm-fretwork and, on the few modern-era tracks that he appears, Alex Skolnick’s fluid, still-shocking-and-shockingly-electric leads.

Sure, rabid fans already have all of this stuff on other discs, but The Spitfire Collection provides an intriguing introductory sampler for young metalheads to discover this legendary band. It also includes some of the band’s better recent material on a single easy-listening disc. What more could you ask for? (Spitfire Records, released March 13, 2007)

Review originally published on the Trademark of Quality music blog

Buy the CD from Testament’s The Spitfire Collection

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Bootleg Rodeo: Marshall Tucker Band, Steely Dan & Joe Walsh

The Marshall Tucker Band's Take the Highway
#4 - October 2017

Thanks to the vagaries created by loopholes in international copyright law, it seems that live music from the 1970s – particularly FM radio broadcasts – are fair game for release on CD by dodgy European labels. The situation is a godsend for rock ‘n’ roll fans, who now have access to budget recordings by their favorite artists that were only previously available as higher-priced bootleg titles.

Not all of these so-called “copyright gap” releases are worth your time and money, however, which is where That Devil Music’s “Bootleg Rodeo” comes into play. This monthly (give or take) column aims to separate the wheat from the chaff and let you know which of these recordings deserve a place in your collection and which should have been left to collect dust in a closet somewhere. Get ‘em while you can, kiddies, ‘cause one never knows when copyright treaties will be revised and the availability of these albums disappears.

For this month’s “Bootleg Rodeo” column, the Rev has chosen to round up recently-released live CDs from Joe Walsh, Steely Dan, and the Marshall Tucker Band, with links to buy ‘em from

The Marshall Tucker Band – Take the Highway (Laser Media)
As a teenaged Southern Rock fanatic, the Reverend was an avid fan of the Marshall Tucker Band. Take the Highway documents a 1973 radio broadcast from the good ol’ country boys, sourced from Ultrasonic Studios and probably broadcast on WLIR-FM out of Long Island NY. Considering the shabby sound quality, it seems like it was taped off a tin can with the string thinly stretched to another can placed at the station’s back door. This is a damn shame – WLIR concert broadcasts are usually of fairly decent sonic quality – and the MTB kicks up a hell of a performance here. With Doug Gray slinging the microphone and Toy Caldwell pickin’ on the strings, the rest of the band swings with its usual aplomb, mixing up rock and country with a bit of blues spicing it up with some jazzy licks.

Five of the nine tracks here hail from the band’s self-titled 1973 debut album with several – “Take The Highway,” “Ramblin’,” and “Can’t You See” – becoming fan favorites and staples of the band’s live set to this day. As alluded to above, the performance is high-energy and spirited, bucking like a bronco but offering some tasty instrumental jams as well. I’m not sure that I’ve ever heard a Laser Media release that sounded better than stuffing your ears with wet sand, though, and their packaging is minimally unspectacular. This often-bootlegged performance can probably be found online if you look hard enough, and the Shout! Factory set Way Out West captures a different show from the same ’73 tour that duplicates seven of the nine songs here. The Rev’s recommendation: forget about it!

Steely Dan's Doing It In California
Steely Dan – Doing It In California (Sutra Records)
With the recent death of Walter Becker, ½ of the brilliant duo that was, basically, Steely Dan I thought I’d go looking for some unauthorized live stuff to share with you gentle readers. As Steely Dan basically ceased being a touring band after the release of their excellent third album (Pretzel Logic), digging up vintage recordings of the band proved to be a minor chore. Luckily, the Reverend scored with Doing It In California, a seventeen-track compilation of questionable provenance that offers up the bulk of two live shows. The first nine tracks are sourced from a March 1974 FM radio broadcast of a California performance while the back seven hail from a notorious and often-‘legged April 1974 show at the Ellis Auditorium in Memphis, Tennessee. Both performances here are top notch, the sound quality suffering a bit because of primitive recording technology but quite listenable nonetheless.

The Cali tracks include spunky performances of Steely Dan faves like “Do It Again,” “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” and “Reelin’ In The Years” along with a rare sighting of “This All Too Mobile Home,” which was never recorded in the studio by the band. The Memphis performance is equally as enchanting, with a little less sonic buffing done to the tapes, but featuring songs like “Bodhisattva,” “Brooklyn (Owes The Charmer Under Me),” and “Dirty Work,” the band again throwing in an unrecorded song with “Your Gold Teeth II” (different than the version on Katy Lied). A sonically-shabby version of “Do It Again” dating from a 1973 TV broadcast of The Midnight Special is unnecessarily tacked on to the end here. The band came off the road in mid-’74 and didn’t play again live until the reunion of Becker and Fagen in 1993. If you’ve checked out Steely Dan’s excellent 1995 Alone In America live set and need more, grab up a copy of Doing It In California or Going Mobile, a virtually identical radio broadcast of a similar vintage. The Rev’s recommendation: buy it!

Joe Walsh's All Night Long
Joe Walsh – All Night Long (Smokin’ Records)
As the former frontman for the James Gang, a successful solo artist, and member of the Eagles, Joe Walsh has become a bona fide rock ‘n’ roll legend. A unique and colorful personality, Walsh is an expressive, if average singer but is nevertheless a phenomenal guitarist and a skilled wordsmith when he puts his mind to it. While his back catalog is a mess of half-realized song ideas and cocaine-fueled questionable creative decisions (i.e. much of the decade of the ‘80s), there’s precious little to criticize among his 1970s-era albums like Barnstorm, The Smoker You Drink, the Player You Get, and But Seriously, Folks. Probably due to his enduring popularity, a rash of live FM broadcast CDs featuring Walsh performances have been released as of late. All Night Long, sourced from a radio broadcast of a July 1981 concert in Dallas, Texas is undeniably the pick of the litter.

Touring in support of 1981’s There Goes The Neighborhood, this live set offers up only two tracks from that album – “A Life of Illusion” (a spruced-up old Barnstorm outtake) and “You Never Know.” The rest of All Night Long plays like a career-spanning anthology, Joe and the gang kicking out the jams with electrifying reads of James Gang faves (“The Bomber,” “Funk #49”) and previous solo hits (“Rocky Mountain Way,” “Life’s Been Good”) as well as album obscurities like “Over and Over” and “Theme From Boat Weirdos.” A couple of non-album rarities show up here, notably Walsh’s excellent “In the City,” from The Warriors movie soundtrack, and the Top 20 chart hit “All Night Long,” from the Urban Cowboy soundtrack. Altogether, this is an entertaining set and a ‘must have’ for any Joe Walsh fan. The Rev’s recommendation: buy it!!

Previous Columns:
Bootleg Rodeo #1 - Tom Petty, Carlos Santana/John Lee Hooker, George Thorogood & the Destroyers 

Bootleg Rodeo #2 - Tom Petty, Stephen Stills & Manasass, Neil Young  
Bootleg Rodeo #3 - Bob Seger

Book Review: Aubrey Powell's Vinyl . Album . Cover . Art (2017)

Aubrey Powell's Vinyl . Album . Cover . Art
If you’re of a similar vintage as the Reverend (i.e. the back end of the ‘Baby Boom’) or maybe just a fan of 1970s-era ‘classic rock,’ the odds are good that you’ve run across album art created by the incredibly imaginative design studio that was Hipgnosis. Formed in 1967 by photographer and designer Aubrey Powell and graphic designer Storm Thorgerson, the pair were still students at the Royal College of Art when they were asked by their school friend Syd Barrett to design the cover for Pink Floyd’s second album, A Saucerful of Secrets.

Their success with that cover design led to jobs on albums by artists like Free, the Pretty Things, Tyrannosaurus Rex (Marc Bolan), Alexis Korner and, by 1970, Hipgnosis (named by Barrett) had opened its studio on Denmark Street in London. Musician, photographer, and designer Peter Christopherson (Throbbing Gristle, Coil) joined Hipgnosis in 1974 as an assistant, becoming a full partner in 1978 and providing his invaluable creative insight to the studio’s many projects. Throughout the decade of the 1970s and inching into the ‘80s before the studio dissolved in 1983, Hipgnosis designed literally hundreds of album covers, arguably defining the art form for a generation or more.

Aubrey Powell’s Vinyl. Album. Cover. Art.

10cc's Look Hear
There have been other book-length collections of Hipgnosis album artwork published before, but none have been so sumptuous a feast for the eyes and senses as Aubrey Powell’s Vinyl. Album. Cover. Art. A solid, bricklike 8” x 9.5” hardback tome consisting of 320 thick pages featuring some 480 illustrations, the book is no mere coffee table decoration but rather a valuable research tool for those of us enamored of the art of album cover design. A beautiful, carefully-constructed book (thus the $40 price tag, though it’s not hard to find a cheaper price), Powell does more in Vinyl. Album. Cover. Art. than merely offer up color photos of past glories.

As one of the innovative creators of the vast majority of the album covers presented herein, Powell frequently tells the story behind a cover, the (then primitive) graphics process used in creating the artwork, and often-humorous tales that provide insight into the rock ‘n’ roll world for which Hipgnosis provided the public face that would be seen in advertising, record stores, and music collections around the world. One of my personal fave stories in the book is that of British rockers 10cc and the cover to their 1980 album Look Hear, featuring a sheep lying on a psychiatrist’s couch placed on a beach. After the band signed off on the idea, Powell was flown to Hawaii to handle the cover photography, only to find that his Freud-inspired couch prop was nowhere to be found on the island.

Hipgnosis – Visual Innovators

Bad Company's Straight Shooter
The label paid to have a couch constructed while Powell hung around the beach, but then they had trouble getting the sheep to sit still on the couch, the skittish animal scared by the sound of the ocean’s waves. They finally got the shot and a cover was created – with no expense spared in getting the photograph, an illustration of the lengths artists (and their long-suffering record labels) would go to get the right album cover art to represent their music. Hipgnosis was a youthful group of visual innovators, and those bands that took advantage of the studio’s collective overactive imaginations must have been happy with the results – Hipgnosis could brag of many ‘repeat customers,’ the studio designing multiple album covers for artists like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, 10cc, UFO, Wishbone Ash, Bad Company, Gentle Giant, the Pretty Things, Paul McCartney & Wings, among others.

Hipgnosis used the entire 12” x 12” album size as a blank canvas upon which to tell a story to compliment the music (sometimes 12” x 24”, encompassing the back cover as well), the studio providing every project with brilliant, colorful art that has withstood the test of time. Although there are many classic albums in the Hipgnosis catalog – Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy and Presence, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here, Wings’ Band on the Run, etc – the studio’s lesser-known work for relatively-obscure bands like Audience, Strawbs, Hydra, Caravan, and Brand X, to name but a few, is equally stunning, memorable for its artistic expression and unforgettable imagery.

The Reverend’s Bottom Line

Brand X's Unorthodox Behavior
The late 1960s and the bulk of the ‘70s were a time of expansion and experimentation in music, photography, and visual art of every kind as traditional clichés fell away, young creative minds pursued new avenues of thought (sometimes assisted by recreational chemistry), and technology progressed in step to support artistic intentions. Album cover art began to become a ‘thing’ during the 1960s as artists wanted more than just a boring band photo to adorn the front cover of their new album. Cover art exploded in the ‘70s as label art budgets (charged back to the bands) were increased to support the bands’ desire for imaginative imagery to represent their music. Budgets for both cover art and album advertising would continue to grow until the late ‘70s, allowing studios like Hipgnosis to blossom.

Sadly, these budget dollars would slow to a trickle as the 1980s wore on, and by the time that the compact disc came to dominate commercial music sales in the ‘90s, cover art was reduced to the 5” x 5” dimensions of the CD, becoming somewhat of an afterthought to music video as the prime avenue for marketing new music. Sensing, perhaps, the end of an era, the partners of Hipgnosis went their separate ways in 1983, Powell going into film and video, creating music videos for artists like Yes, Robert Plant, and Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour. With Vinyl. Album. Cover. Art. however, Powell has provided readers with a look to the past when album cover artwork was second only to the music, something to pore over as the vinyl spun around the turntable, the sound weaving its magic. Grade: A+ (Thames & Hudson, published May 16, 2017)

Buy the book from Aubrey Powell’s Vinyl . Album . Cover . Art

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Essential Modern Progressive Rock Albums

Essential Modern Progressive Rock Albums
It’s no surprise that we’re prog-rock fans here at HQ…the Reverend got his first taste of King Crimson when he was in short pants. Throughout our years publishing the Alt.Culture.Guide™ music webzine (1998-2006), we covered the growth of progressive bands like Spock’s Beard, IQ, the Flower Kings, Porcupine Tree, and many others. In 2011, the Rev and ACG writer/editor Tommy Hash published Prog 2010, a book-length collection of the best album reviews and artist interviews from the webzine along with some tasty new, exclusive content that covered the first decade of the progressive millennium. Suffice it to say, when it comes to prog, we know our stuff ‘round here!

Which is why the Rev is excited to hear about Essential Modern Progressive Rock Albums: Images and Words Behind Prog’s Most Celebrated Albums 1990-2016 by Roie Avin, editor of The Prog Report online zine. A 280-page paperback book featuring color photos, album cover artwork, and original press photos, Essential Modern Progressive Rock Albums revisits more fifty ‘gotta have’ album releases by better than 30 bands from the past quarter-century of progressive rock music, a chapter each for works by artists like Porcupine Tree, Opeth, Spock’s Beard, Marillion, the Flower Kings, Riverside, and others. The book includes original interviews with innovative prog musicians like Mike Portnoy and John Petrucci of Dream Theater, Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree, Roine Stolt of the Flower Kings and Transatlantic, Neal Morse of Spock’s Beard, and many other artists.

Essential Modern Progressive Rock Albums: Images and Words Behind Prog’s Most Celebrated Albums 1990-2016 can be ordered now from The Prog Report website and is scheduled to ship at the end of November. Pre-orders come with a free download of a chapter from the book covering prog supergroup Transatlantic’s classic album The Whirlwind. Check out the video trailer for the book below and I think that you’ll agree that this is a tome deserving of a place on the bookshelf of every prog-rock fan.

Finding Joseph I: The HR From Bad Brains Documentary DVD

Finding Joseph I: The HR From Bad Brains Documentary
Hardcore punk pioneers Bad Brains were formed in 1977 by members of the Washington, D.C. based jazz-rock fusion outfit Mind Power after the bandmates became enamored of the first wave of punk rock. Fronted by charismatic, albeit troubled frontman Paul “H.R.” Hudson, the earliest incarnation of Bad Brains was comprised of guitarist Dr. Know (a/k/a Gary Miller), bassist Darryl Jenifer, and drummer Earl Hudson (H.R.’s brother). The band members were also followers of Rastafarian spirituality, so they mixed energetic reggae rhythms into their groundbreaking blend of punk, funk, heavy metal, and soul music.

Bad Brains would become one of the most influential bands of the decade of the 1980s, inspiring a generation of hardcore punk bands to follow as well as stylistically-diverse outfits like the Beastie Boys, Sublime, Living Colour, Fishbone, and Faith No More, among many others. On November 3rd, 2017 MVD Visual will release Finding Joseph I: The HR From Bad Brains Documentary on DVD. Representing filmmaker James Lathos’ debut movie, Finding Joseph I chronicles the turbulent life of Bad Brains frontman H.R., offering the in-depth story of the singer’s career with never before seen archival footage and exclusive interviews.

Finding Joseph I
provides a complex portrait of a unique artist, interviews with H.R. featuring the singer discussing his life, career, and spiritual philosophy. Exclusive interviews with Earl Hudson, Ras Michael, and Ian MacKaye (Fugazi) as well as members of Sublime, the Deftones, Fishbone, the Wailers, Living Colour, and others round out the story; the film also features original music from Miguel Happoldt (Long Beach Dub All Stars), and Aaron Owens (Hepcat). The film itself was inspired by the 2016 book Finding Joseph I: An Oral History of HR From Bad Brains, which was written by Lathos and Howie Abrams. Check out the trailer below and use the link to order the DVD.

Buy the DVD from Finding Joseph I: The HR From Bad Brains Documentary

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Short Rounds: Action Skulls, Arthur Adams, The Nighthawks & UFO (2017)

Action Skulls' Angels Hear
New album releases in 150 words or less…

Action Skulls – Angels Hear (CMP Records)
Comprised of John Cowsill (‘60s-era pop hitmakers the Cowsills and the Beach Boys’ touring drummer); child actor and adult musician Bill Mumy (TV’s Lost In Space, Barnes & Barnes); Vicki Peterson (The Bangles); and the late Rick Rosas (journeyman bassist who’s played with the likes of Neil Young and Johnny Rivers), Action Skulls deliver every pop/rock delight that the band’s pedigrees promise. An eleven-track collection of original tunes, Angels Hear resembles 1980s-styled college/alternative rock with a glossy millennial finish, not dissimilar to Dream Syndicate or Game Theory with dreamy psych-pop balanced with intricate folkish rock. Peterson’s lofty vocals are always welcome while Mumy’s fretwork is surprisingly deft and imaginative. As independent as indie rock can get, don’t overlook Action Skulls’ Angels Hear, a fine collection of mesmerizing and carefully-crafted rock ‘n’ roll. Grade: A-   BUY IT!

Arthur Adams' Look What The Blues Has Done For Me
Arthur Adams – Look What The Blues Has Done For Me (Cleopatra Records)
The Nighthawks' All You Gotta DoArthur Adams’ first new studio album since 2009 – the two-disc Look What The Blues Has Done For Me – offers a new recording from the underappreciated bluesman as well as a bonus disc of early tracks previously-unreleased on CD. The talented vocalist sounds a lot like Bobby “Blue” Bland on the thirteen new blues-oriented tracks, Adams knocking it out of the park with energy and emotion on songs like “Low Down and Dirty,” “I’ve Had Enough,” and “If You Let Me Love You.” With the band establishing a low-slung groove, Adams’ displays his B.B. King-influenced guitar style and deft songwriting skills. Disc two offers another thirteen tracks from four ‘70s-era albums, criminally-obscure soul-blues gems like “I’ll Never Be the Same,” the haunting “The Blues,” and the funky “Let’s Dance” guaranteed to get your liver quivering! It’s never too late to discover the soulful blues sound of Arthur Adams. Grade: A   BUY IT!

The Nighthawks – All You Gotta Do (Ellersoul Records)
Roots ‘n’ blues stalwarts the Nighthawks have released better than two-dozen live and studio albums over the past 40+ years, delivering up spirited originals and inspired covers that feature founder Mark Wenner’s gritty vocals and raging harp-play as well as some scorching fretwork, most recently courtesy of guitarist Paul Bell. The band’s latest, All You Gotta Do, doesn’t depart from this tried-and-trued formula, offering up entertaining moments like the rollicking “That’s All You Gotta Do,” a low-slung, greasy cover of Randy Newman’s “Let’s Burn Down the Cornfield,” and a raucous reading of the garage-rock standard “Dirty Water.” The band is at its best on its infrequent originals, tho’, drummer Mark Stutso’s “VooDoo Doll” a sly lil’ bit of bluesy hoodoo and Wenner’s “Blues For Brother John” a sleazy instrumental romp. Throw in high-octane covers of Sonny Boy Williamson, R.L. Burnside, and Willie Dixon tunes and you have yourself a party! Grade: B+   BUY IT!

UFO's The Salentino Cuts
UFO – The Salentino Cuts (Cleopatra Records)
British hard rock legends UFO deliver a long-overdue Pin-Ups styled covers disc in The Salentino Cuts and achieve mixed results. On one hand, golden-era rock ‘n’ roll tunes like “Heartful of Soul” (The Yardbirds) and “It’s My Life” (The Animals) are so finely-crafted that it’s hard to do them wrong. Surprise choices like “River of Deceit” (Mad Season) and “Ain’t No Sunshine” (Bill Withers) provide charming moments while hard rockin’ tracks like “Mississippi Queen” (Mountain) and “Rock Candy” (Montrose) are right up the band’s dark alleyway. On the other hand, stabs in the dark like “Paper In Fire” (John Mellencamp) and “Honey Bee” (Tom Petty) lack the subtlety and nuance of the originals, Phil Mogg’s voice too ravaged by time and abuse to pull off. Like I said, a mixed bag of classic rawk tunes. Grade: C+   BUY IT!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Here’s Little Richard 60th Anniversary

Little Richard's Here's Little Richard
The influence of rock ‘n’ roll legend Little Richard (a/k/a Richard Penniman) has spanned seven decades now and shows absolutely no sign of dwindling in the new millennium. Little Richard’s groundbreaking blend of R&B-tinged, rockin’ piano-pounding earned the singer Top 20 hits with a string of red-hot 45s, songs that would inspire a generation of rock, soul, and funk artists to follow. Little Richard would be inducted into the very first Rock & Roll Hall of Fame class in 1986 and was also inducted into the Songwriters Hall of fame and earned Lifetime Achievement Awards from both The Rhythm and Blues Foundation and The Recording Academy.

For the singer, it all began with the hit singles that would end up making up the bulk of his debut album, Here’s Little Richard. Released in March 1957, the album built upon Little Richard’s previous chart success, the singer scoring six Top 40 hits over the previous year, five of which were included on Here’s Little Richard, driving the album to #13 on the pop charts. In celebration of the 60th anniversary of Little Richard’s auspicious debut, Craft Recordings – the catalog division of Concord Music – is reissuing the landmark album as a two-CD set on November 3rd, 2017. This deluxe reissue of Here’s Little Richard includes the original twelve-track album, anchored by timeless rockers like “Tutti Frutti,” “Ready Teddy,” “Long Tall Sally,” “Rip It Up,” and “Jenny Jenny.” The second disc features twenty-two demos, alternate takes, and previously-unreleased material from the original studio sessions.

The package also includes new liner notes by Grammy® Award-nominated writer and music journalist Chris Morris, who writes “like the classic recordings on Here’s Little Richard, these alternate versions reveal the blossoming of an unprecedented and wholly original talent whose first recordings broke down the categorical doors between R&B and pop. As they did in late 1955 when Little Richard arrived, like something from another planet, these wailing, rampaging songs present something new, rich and strange under the sun.”

Buy the CD from Little Richard’s Here’s Little Richard

The Searchers’ Sire Years Revisited

The Searcher's Another Night
Overshadowed by competitors like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Kinks, and the Who, British Invasion rockers the Searchers are too often overlooked. The band nevertheless collected almost a dozen Top 40 hits in the U.K. between 1963 and 1966, including timeless tracks like “Needles and Pins,” “Don’t Throw Our Love Away,” “Sugar and Spice,” and “When You Walk In The Room.” The hits dried up as the decade wore on, but the Searchers persevered as a touring band, playing the old songs as well as contemporary hits to enthusiastic audiences.

In 1979, the band came to the attention of Sire Records’ head honcho Seymour Stein, who saw them perform and offered them a deal with the label which, at the time, featured bands like the Ramones, Talking Heads, and the Dead Boys. Inspired musically by the early ‘70s British pub rock scene, the Searchers recorded a pair of albums for Sire, their self-titled 1979 disc produced by Pat Moran (Be Bop Deluxe, Dr. Feelgood) and offering a mix of original songs and covers of songs by artists like Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, the Records, and Mickey Jupp.

The following year, the Searchers released Love’s Melodies (released as Play For Today in the U.K.). Produced by Ed Stasium (The Ramones, Talking Heads), the LP featured more exhilarating original tracks as well as covers of rockin’ tunes from artists like Moon Martin, Big Star, John Fogerty, and others. Neither album performed well commercially, the label dropping the band as they prepared to record a third album. History has smiled kindly on the Searchers’ two Sire recordings, though, which have been released several times around the world with different track lists, B-sides and mixes, though sadly both albums have been out-of-print for better than a decade.

On December 8th, 2017 Omnivore Recordings will release Another Night: The Sire Recordings 1979-1981, a two-disc compilation that empties the vault of what many consider one of the Searchers’ most productive and inspired periods. The set includes all twenty-two tracks from the original two albums and adds seven alternative takes and outtakes, including a previously-unreleased cover of John Hiatt’s “Ambulance Chaser.” The package also features album cover artwork from various previous releases as well as an essay by writer Scott Schinder with new interviews with band members Mike Pender, John McNally, and Frank Allen. Check out the album trailer below and then check out Another Night, a fine collection by the long-forgotten British Invasion hitmakers the Searchers.

Buy the CD from The SearchersAnother Night: The Sire Recordings 1979-1981

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Archive Review: Metallica's Garage Inc.

Metallica's Garage, Inc.
A large part of the reason for Metallica's longevity as a band and their continuously growing popularity is that they provide their audience what they want: aggressive, no frills, ass-kicking, hard-edged rock 'n' roll. Flying in the face of both conventional wisdom and industry tradition, Metallica have thrust themselves into the rarified heights of multi-platinum bands with little or no radio airplay or video presence. Relying instead on constant touring and a very deliberate recording process that produces the kind of album that the band themselves would want to buy, the not-so-secret key to Metallica's success is that they are, at their very core, music fans themselves.

Because they are fans, Metallica's collective musical closet is filled with cover tunes, B-sides and obscure songs by bands that only the hardcore are familiar with. Garage Inc. is the foursome's tribute to their influences, a two-CD collection of songs that they themselves are quite fond of. Some of the material on Garage Inc. will be familiar to Metallica fans – the band's legendary and long out-of-print 1984 The $5.98 EP: Garage Days Re-Revisited is included here on the second disc, as are numerous B-sides, many of them songs performed live on a regular basis by the band. Even at this stage of the game, releasing an album of covers – much less a two disc set – is a bit risky even for a chart-topping fan's band like Metallica. But they seem to have pulled it off, as shown by initial sales figures (which is all that matters to the label), mostly because they bring such joy, sincerity and energy to the songs on Garage Inc.

Metallica's Garage Inc.

Like most affairs of this nature, Garage Inc. has its share of hits and misses. What matters here is that the band hits the bull's eye more often than not. Many of the covers here are derived from what is called the “New Wave of British Heavy Metal” (NWOBHM), a late '70s/early '80s musical phenomenon that was to have a striking affect on the various members of Metallica. So strong an influence was NWOBHM band Diamond Head that their “It's Electric,” with its soaring vocals and roaring guitars, sounds like it could very well be a Metallica original. Garage Inc. offers four of the English band's songs spread across its two discs – it seems that every time Metallica starts cranking out the covers, it's Diamond Head they turn to for inspiration. Other NWOBHM bands represented on Garage Inc. include Holocaust, Blitzkrieg, and Sweet Savage.

There are takes – some odd and some not so odd – to be found on the discs here. Black Sabbath's “Sabbra Cadabra” receives an appropriately eerie reading, Thin Lizzy's version of the traditional Irish “Whiskey In The Jar” is provided a particularly inspired performance while the Misfits' “Die, Die My Darling” is just the sort of metal-tinged punk horror story that Mr. Danzig envisioned all those years ago. Lynyrd Skynyrd, another band that had more in common with their fans than their critics or label executives, is revisited here with a somber rendering of “Tuesday's Gone” that includes guests like Blues Traveler's John Popper, Alice In Chain's Jerry Cantrell, Les Claypool of Primus, and Gary Rossington of Skynyrd, among others.

The Reverend's Bottom Line

I personally prefer the songs found on the first disc, which are the newest of the batch, above the more trashy, early Metallica covers of the Garage Days Re-Revisited era. The “Motorheadache” performances from Lemmy's fiftieth birthday party, closing the second disc, provide a thunderous good time, as Metallica pays homage to one of heavy metal's godfathers. Whether it's punk (Discharge, Anti-Nowhere League, the Misfits), metal (the aforementioned Motorhead, Mercyful Fate, various NWOBHM bands), classic '70s rock (Blue Oyster Cult, Queen, Bob Seger), or the truly obscure (Budgie, Nick Cave, Killing Joke), all receive a proper “metallicizing.”

Garage Inc. is a hell of a lot of fun, and if this collection of 27 well-chosen covers inspires just one young rocker as much as the original tunes influenced Metallica, then the band has done their job well. (Elektra Records, released November 24, 1998)

Review originally published by Alt.Culture.Guide™ music zine, 1999

Buy the CD from Metallica's Garage Inc.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Book Review: Martin's Popoff's Led Zeppelin - All the Albums, All the Songs (2017)

Martin's Popoff's Led Zeppelin: All the Albums, All the Songs
From their groundbreaking self-titled debut album in 1969 until they called it quits in 1980 after the death of drummer John “Bonzo” Bonham, Led Zeppelin re-wrote the book on rock ‘n’ roll stardom. The band’s immense popularity allowed them to get over on promoters who, at that point, were taking the lion’s share of box office receipts from a concert. Zeppelin grabbed that cash for themselves, forever changing the playing field for a generation of touring bands. They flew around the country to perform in their own private jet (nicknamed The Starship), launching from their base at the Continental Hyatt House hotel (a/k/a “Riot House) in Los Angeles. Stories of the band’s rock star excess are legend.

Musically, the band built on its blues-rock roots to incorporate British folk and Middle Eastern flourishes, among other disparate influences, etching in stone a blueprint for hard rock and heavy metal bands to follow. The band’s musical and cultural influence is inestimable, but Zeppelin was also incredibly successful commercially. The band’s meager catalog of nine studio and one live album released during between 1969 and ’82 have sold better than one hundred million copies domestically, placing them second only to the Beatles in U.S. record sales, earning the band six chart-topping albums. Posthumous releases like 1997’s BBC Sessions and 2003’s live How the West Was Won have only added to that sales total while numerous compilation albums, box sets, and reissues have kept Zep’s popularity strong here in the second decade of the new millennium.   

Martin Popoff’s Led Zeppelin: All the Albums, All the Songs

Zeppelin’s status as one of a handful of truly legendary acts in the history of rock music has resulted in the publication of, literally, hundreds of books that discuss and dissect nearly every aspect of the band’s storied history. So, nearly four decades after the band called it quits, the question is ‘do we really need another book on the almighty Zep?’ If it’s Martin Popoff’s Led Zeppelin: All the Albums, All the Songs, the answer would be a resounding ‘Yes!’ The founder and former editor of the acclaimed Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles music zine, Popoff has literally written the history of hard rock and heavy metal with over 70 published books that cover every rock ‘n’ roll legend from Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath, and Yes to relatively obscure bands like Riot and Max Webster as well as acclaimed trilogies on the ‘New Wave of British Heavy Metal’ and his recently-completed history of thrash metal.

It must be noted that Martin is a friend and colleague, but it is without bias that I can unequivocally state that Led Zeppelin: All the Albums, All the Songs is his best-looking tome to date, the book’s imaginative and striking design and graphics even edging out Popoff’s lush Ramones coffee-table book (Ramones at 40). A gorgeous 8”x10” hardback rife with color and B&W photos, Popoff’s Led Zeppelin is more than a mere looker to leave sitting on a table to impress your rock ‘n’ roll friends. Popoff’s commentary on every single song from the band’s nine studio albums is impressive in its scope, not only providing the reader with detailed information on each tune but offering context and historical asides as well.

As such, Popoff dives deep into songs like the band’s cover of blues legend Willie Dixon’s “You Shook Me” (from the debut album), exploring its roots and offering critical appraisal of the band’s tentative performance. The band’s best-known, if not most popular song – “Stairway To Heaven” – is compared with its original influence (Spirit’s “Taurus”), its roots in British folk revealed in depth. Just about every song in the Zeppelin catalog is thus discussed, Popoff bringing new details to these well-worn compositions, each song commented upon with knowledge and insight. Popoff balances his Zeppelin fandom with the critical eye of a music historian, his words accompanied by a wealth of band photos, memorabilia, rare import album covers, and other cool graphics. The only ‘omission’ that I found is that of the Zeppelin rarity “Hey, Hey, What Can I Do,” a personal favorite that was the B-side of the “Immigrant Song” single and the band’s only non-album B-side (at the time, it only appeared on a Dutch compilation of British folk-rock bands).

The Reverend’s Bottom Line

That’s a minor cavil, indeed – the rest of Led Zeppelin: All the Albums, All the Songs shines as brightly as the band did at its mid-to-late ‘70s peak. Well-researched and mulled over and written with the enthusiasm that Popoff brings to every book project, this is one tome that every Led Zeppelin fan is going to want to add to their collection. After reading Led Zeppelin: All the Albums, All the Songs you’ll find a newfound appreciation of those songs and albums that you love and know so well. Grade: A+ (Voyageur Press, published October 1, 2017)

Check out Martin Popoff’s website

Buy the book from Martin Popoff’s Led Zeppelin: All the Albums, All the Songs

Related Content:
Led Zeppelin’s Led Zeppelin I CD review
Martin Popoff’s Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers book review
Martin Popoff’s Time And A Word: The Yes Story book review

Led Zeppelin photo courtesy Atlantic Records
Led Zeppelin photo courtesy Atlantic Records

The Stones Roll Back the Years

The Rolling Stones' On Air
Rock ‘n’ roll legends the Rolling Stones have been kicking around since the early ‘60s, the band’s enormous and influential back catalog of music including some 30 studio albums, 23 live releases, and better than two dozen various compilations and box sets…not to mention a slew of DVDs and literally dozens of bootleg albums. The band’s early years are a sorely underrepresented part of the Stones’ milieu, an oversight that will be rectified with the December release of On Air on CD and vinyl.

On December 1st, 2017 Universal Music will release the Stones’ On Air in various formats, including single and double-CD sets and a two-disc vinyl album. The compilation collects the band’s live BBC sessions recorded between 1963 and 1965, with many of the performances previously-unreleased. The single CD and vinyl formats feature eighteen tracks that range from the band’s first single – a cover of Chuck Berry’s “Come On” – and include classic tunes like “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Memphis, Tennessee,” “Mercy, Mercy,” and “Down the Road Apiece” performed on various BBC programs like Saturday Club, Top Gear, and Blues In Rhythm.

For fans willing to cough up a few extra dollars for the double-CD set, you’ll get another fourteen songs like “Carol,” “Confessin’ the Blues,” “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” and “2120 South Michigan Avenue,” the performances highlighting the band’s blues and R&B roots. None of these tracks have appeared on CD before (although four songs were included on a 7” vinyl EP included with the band’s 2012 GRRR! compilation), and eight of the songs have never been recorded in the studio or even released by the band. Each recording has been restored via a process called “audio source separation” to provide a full, cleaner sound.

On Air is the audio companion to the recently-published The Rolling Stones on Air in the Sixties by author Richard Havers, who also co-wrote Bill Wyman’s book Rolling with the Stones. The book represents the first official, in-depth history of the Stones as viewed through their early television and radio performances and it includes many previously-unpublished documents and photos from the BBC archives. Copies of both the book and On Air are available direct from the Stones’ website as stand-alone or bundled purchases, or you can use the links below to order from

The Rolling StonesOn Air track listing:

Disc 1
1. Come On (Saturday Club, 10/26/1963)
2. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (Saturday Club, 9/18/1965)
3. Roll Over Beethoven (Saturday Club, 10/26/1963)
4. The Spider and The Fly (Yeah Yeah, 8/30/1965)
5. Cops and Robbers (Blues In Rhythm, 5/9/1964)
6. It’s All Over Now (The Joe Loss Pop Show, 7/17/1964)
7. Route 66 (Blues In Rhythm, 5/9/1964)
8. Memphis, Tennessee (Saturday Club, 10/26/1963)
9. Down The Road Apiece (Top Gear, 3/6/1965)
10. The Last Time (Top Gear, 3/6/1965)
11. Cry To Me (Saturday Club, 9/18/1965)
12. Mercy, Mercy (Yeah Yeah, 8/30/1965)
13. Oh! Baby (We Got a Good Thing Goin’) (Saturday Club, 9/18/1965)
14. Around and Around (Top Gear, 7/23/1964)
15. Hi Heel Sneakers (Saturday Club, 4/18/1964)
16. Fannie Mae (Saturday Club, 9/18/1965)
17. You Better Move On (Blues In Rhythm, 5/9/1964)
18. Mona (Blues In Rhythm, 5/9/1964)

Disc 2 (included with deluxe edition)
1. I Wanna Be Your Man (Saturday Club, 2/8/1964)
2.Carol (Saturday Club, 4/18/1964)
3. I’m Moving On (The Joe Loss Pop Show, 4/10/1964)
4. If You Need Me (The Joe Loss Pop Show, 7/17/1964)
5. Walking The Dog (Saturday Club, 2/8/1964)
6. Confessin’ The Blues (The Joe Loss Pop Show, 7/17/1964)
7. Everybody Needs Somebody To Love (Top Gear, 3/6/1965)
8. Little By Little (The Joe Loss Pop Show, 4/10/1964)
9. Ain’t That Loving You Baby (Rhythm and Blues, 10/31/1964)
10. Beautiful Delilah (Saturday Club, 4/18/1964)
11. Crackin’ Up (Top Gear, 7/23/1964)
12. I Can’t Be Satisfied (Top Gear, 7/23/1964)
13. I Just Want to Make Love to You (Saturday Club, 4/18/1964)
14. 2120 South Michigan Avenue (Rhythm and Blues, 10/31/1964)

Buy from
The Rolling Stones’ On Air double-CD set
The Rolling Stones’ On Air double-LP vinyl set
Richard Havers’ The Rolling Stones on Air in the Sixties

The Rolling Stones
Rolling Stones photo courtesy Universal Music

Monday, October 2, 2017

CD Review: Chris Bell's I Am the Cosmos (2017)

Chris Bell's I Am the Cosmos
Perhaps desiring to make his own music outside of the long shadow of Alex Chilton, Big Star co-founder Chris Bell left the Memphis cult band after the 1972 release of their debut album #1 Record. A classic slab of rock ‘n’ roll wax, the album’s influential, ahead-of-their-time power-pop tunes penned by Bell and Chilton sold poorly at the time and only after years of retrospection has #1 Record earned its legendary status. As co-writer of many of the album’s songs, as well as one of the band’s two singers and guitarists, Bell’s fingerprints are all over #1 Record and he was an integral part of the early Big Star sound.

After his departure from the band, Bell released only two songs before his tragic, accidental death in 1978 at the age of 27 years – “I Am the Cosmos” and “You and Your Sister” appeared as a single on Chris Stamey’s (The dB’s) Car Records label. Bell had also recorded several songs at the Château D’Hérouville in Paris as well as at Shoe Studios and Ardent Studios in his hometown of Memphis. Some of this material was released by Rykodisc in 1992 as the critically-acclaimed I Am the Cosmos CD; an expanded 2009 reissue nearly doubled the tracklist, adding alternative mixes and a handful of Bell’s pre-Big Star recordings. The Omnivore reissue of I Am the Cosmos offers the definitive version of this pop-rock gem, expanding upon the previous two releases by adding another ten tracks to the two-disc set, eight of them previously-unreleased and the other two only ever released on long out-of-print vinyl.

Chris Bell’s I Am the Cosmos

Bell’s scattered solo material largely follows the same melodic framework that he helped build with Alex Chilton for Big Star. The album’s title track and Bell’s lone single, “I Am the Cosmos” is a lofty, psych-drenched mid-tempo stunner with gorgeous miasmic guitars and wistful vocals. The B-side, “You and Your Sister,” is a gentle, pastoral, folk-drenched pop song with yearning lyrics and elegant fretwork with minimal backing. There are a lot of similarly mesmerizing moments on I Am the Cosmos, from the haunting beautiful guitar strum and wan vocals of “Speed of Sound” to the ethereal vocals afforded “Look Up,” a spiritual ballad with lovely acoustic guitar and lush instrumentation courtesy of an unnamed Mellotron player.

Bell was than a mere folkie balladeer, though. “Better Save Yourself” is a muscular, mid-tempo rocker with flaring guitars (reminding of Neil Young) and self-confident, hard-hitting drums. “Get Away” offers clattering vocals, piercing fretwork and feedback-tinged cacophony, resembling Big Star on steroids while “I Got Kinda Lost” is a clamorous pop-rock treat with hardy riffs, muffled vox, and cascades of percussion reminiscent of Cheap Trick’s best stuff. “Make A Scene” is the sort of cockeyed inventive and influential pop-rock gem that Big Star delivered with Bell’s scorching guitars accompanied by Ken Woodley’s bass and drummer Richard Rosebrough’s syncopated rhythms while “Fight At the Table” is a Beale Street-flavored, honky tonk-tinged number highlighted by Jim Dickinson’s raucous piano-pounding, former bandmate Andy Hummel’s steady bass line, and Carl Marsh’s raging saxophone.

The bonus disc accompanying I Am the Cosmos offers fans a wealth of alternative takes and various remixes mostly of interest to the Big Star completist. That’s not to say that there aren’t a few treasures to be found in the grooves, though…an extended version of “I Am the Cosmos” sounds like a DJ Screw production with drawled, trippy vocals, guitar solos, and an overall heavy lysergic vibe. Bell teams up with fellow Memphis music legend Keith Sykes on his “Stay With Me,” the innate chemistry of the two artists creating an ambitious mix of country twang and popish rock with angelic vocals; Bell’s guitar solo on the song is short but effective. A song featuring singer Nancy Bryan, “In My Darkest Hour,” is strangely alluring with Bryan’s sonorous vocals accompanied by only Bell’s fleet guitar playing. Bell reunites with Chilton for the studio outtake “Get Away,” a spirited instrumental with scraps of surf guitar, blustery drumbeats, and a fractured six-string solo or two to puncture the chaos.

The Reverend’s Bottom Line

The Complete Chris Bell
The time is right for a critical reappraisal of Chris Bell’s small but notable body of work, as well as rediscovery of this tragic talent by a new generation of fans. Earlier this year, Omnivore released Looking Forward: The Roots of Big Star, a 22-track collection that features Bell’s early recordings with Memphis bands like the Wallabys, Rock City, and Icewater. In November 2017, the label will be releasing a massive six-album vinyl LP set that collects everything from Looking Forward and I Am the Cosmos along with a previously-unreleased interview with the artist.

As for Bell’s I Am the Cosmos, the album is a treasure, a masterful melding of melodic pop/rock, folkish sincerity, and rock ‘n’ roll energy that makes one wonder why it took almost 15 years after Bell’s death before these songs would be released on CD. At the end of the ‘70s, a Chris Bell solo album may have faced the same indignities as Big Star’s previous attempts at grabbing the brass ring, but as shown by I Am the Cosmos, the man had some great creative ideas, spinning gold from imagination and leaving behind some timeless, classic rock music. Grade: B+ (Omnivore Recordings, released September 15, 2017)

Buy the CD from Chris Bell's I Am the Cosmos

Sunday, October 1, 2017

New Music Monthly: October 2017 Releases

You just gotta love a month that ends with Halloween and the promise of sweet treats, and while the month doesn't promise the same quantity of new albums as did September, there are plenty of sweet treats to be had anyway. From new albums by old stalwarts like the Church, Liam Gallagher, and Robert Plant to the third album this year from the King Gizzard folks as well archive releases from the Replacements and Peter Case and the last of Yep Roc's Nick Lowe reissues, no matter your taste in music, there's something for you in October!

If we wrote about it, there'll be a link to it in the album title, if you want an album, hit the 'Buy!' link to get it from's just that damn easy! Your purchase puts money in the Reverend's pocket that he'll use to buy more music to write about in a never-ending loop of rock 'n' roll ecstasy!

The Church's Man Woman Life Death Infinity

The Church - Man Woman Life Death Infinity   BUY!
The Darkness - Pinewood Smile   BUY!
Liam Gallagher - As You Were   BUY!
The Original Blues Brothers Band - The Last Shade of Blue Before Black   BUY!
The Replacements - For Sale   BUY!
Jerry Yester - Pass Your Light Around   BUY!

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard's Sketches of Brunswick East

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard - Sketches of Brunswick East   BUY!
L.A. Guns - The Missing Piece   BUY!
Robert Plant - Carry Fire   BUY!
The Pretty Things - Greatest Hits   BUY!

Kim Wilson's Blues and Boogie Vol One
Flat Duo Jets - Wild Wild Love   BUY!
Nick Lowe - Party of One   BUY!
Nick Lowe - Pinker and Prouder Than Previous   BUY!
N.R.B.Q. - Happy Talk EP   BUY!
Kim Wilson - Blues and Boogie, Volume One   BUY!

Looking at the Pictures in the Sky

Peter Case - On The Way Downtown   BUY!
Hollywood Undead - Five   BUY!
Various Artists - Looking at the Pictures in the Sky   BUY!
Weezer - Pacific Daydream   BUY!

Album of the Month: Robert Plant's Carry Fire is the Rock God's eleventh studio album and first new work in three years. Backed by his long-time band the Sensational Shape Shifters, Plant further explores the possibilities of rock music in his own undeniable fashion. Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders is a guest and Carry Fire will be released on CD and digitally as well as on lovely vinyl!