Saturday, July 14, 2018

Short Rounds: The Damnation of Adam Blessing, Elvin Bishop's Big Fun Trio, Howlin' Rain & Rockers OST (2018)

The Damnation of Adam Blessing
New album releases in 150 words or less…

The Damnation of Adam Blessing – The Damnation of Adam Blessing (Exit Stencil Records, vinyl reissue)
The heavy, psych-drenched guitar rock and molten sludge riffs of the self-titled 1969 debut album by Cleveland, Ohio’s The Damnation of Adam Blessing was easily five years ahead of its time. Band namesake Blessing’s vocals are of the period, strongly bluesy with power and nuance, but the band’s complex, textured, and highly-amplified hard rock sound reminds of Blue Cheer while beating Black Sabbath to the gates of doom with guitarists Bob Kalamasz’s blistering leads and Jim Quinn’s thick rhythmic designs. Original tunes like the slightly-jazzy “Dreams,” the riff-happy “Hold On,” or the mournful, dark-hued “Lonely” play to the band’s instrumental strengths, but a cover of Bonnie Dobson’s “Morning Dew” (a Grateful Dead fave) is hauntingly beautiful with its stinging fretwork, and the Monkees’ “Last Train To Clarksville” is provided a deeply funky instrumental groove and joyfully delivered with all the glee of a dog playing with a chew toy. Grade: A   BUY IT!

The Damnation of Adam Blessing's The Second Damnation
The Damnation of Adam Blessing – The Second Damnation (Exit Stencil Records, vinyl reissue)
A high-priced “Holy Grail” of psych-rock collectors, indie vinyl reissue label Exit Stencil Records has brought both of the legendary Cleveland rock band’s first two albums back to shiny black vinyl. Released in 1970, The Second Damnation features the same players but displays a modicum of artistic growth beyond the debut’s bludgeoning riffs and gale-force rhythms. Opening track “No Way” is delightfully doom-drenched while the molten licks and muscular rhythms of “Driver” are in a league with contemporary metallic-blues outfits like Cactus and Josephus. “Back To the River” is a dense, bluesy jam featuring Bob Kalamasz’s stunning fretwork, the socially-conscious “Money Tree” rumbles like a gang-fight with switchblade guitars, and the locomotive “In the Morning” welds a funky groove to an uncompromising hard rock din. The Second Damnation falls just short of the debut, but is every bit as rockin’. Kudos to Exit Stencil, too, for the über-cool gatefold repro cover! Grade: B+   BUY IT!

Elvin Bishop’s Big Fun Trio's Something Smells Funky ‘Round Here
Elvin Bishop’s Big Fun Trio – Something Smells Funky ‘Round Here (Alligator Records)
Elvin Bishop’s Big Fun Trio is a lean, mean, blues-making machine, and with the band’s second effort, Something Smells Funky ‘Round Here, they pursue a tack similar to their self-titled 2017 debut. The musical chemistry of these three talented veterans undeniable; and Bishop’s trademark sense of humor sharply defines the politically-charged title track, the story-song “Lookin’ Good,” and the loping “That’s The Way Willy Likes It.” Beautifully-performed vintage R&B covers like “I Can’t Stand the Rain” feature Willy Jordan’s deeply-soulful vocals while the instrumental “Bob’s Boogie” displays pianist Bob Welsh’s fleet fingers and infectious sense of rhythm. Bishop’s twangy instrumental “Stomp” is the perfect showcase for his often-underrated six-string skills while “My Soul” is a juicy, Cajun-styled blues romp that shows off the trio’s individual chops. Elvin Bishop’s Big Fun Trio doesn’t break any new ground here, but they’re having a hell of a time just makin’ music! Grade: B   BUY IT!

Howlin’ Rain's The Alligator Bride
Howlin’ Rain – The Alligator Bride (Silver Current Records)
A damn fine rock band, Howlin’ Rain nevertheless brings a soupçon of its previous Americana-styled twang to the songs on The Alligator Bride, their fifth album. Infusing deceptively complex tunes with elements of the Grateful Dead, Neil Young, and even Joe Walsh, The Alligator Bride provides a shining display of frontman Ethan Miller’s songwriting chops and the band’s immense instrumental skills. There are a lot of echoes of the past in these grooves, the album evincing a convincing early ‘70s rock vibe, each song’s sonic bliss driven by Miller’s plaintive vocals, the twin ringing guitars of Miller and Dan Cervantes, and a rock-solid rhythm section. There are only seven songs, clocked at a breakneck 40 minutes, but with flamethrowers like the epic title track and the raging “Missouri,” or the dreamy “Speed,” you won’t get whiplash. The album’s wonderfully-balanced musical dynamics make it sound like it’s 1975 all over again. Grade: A   BUY IT!

Rockers OST
Various Artists – Rockers OST (MVD Audio, vinyl reissue)
Reissued on red, green, and yellow-splashed vinyl that looks simply glorious spinning on your turntable, this soundtrack to the 1978 semi-documentary film Rockers provides a brief but toothsome history of the reggae genre. The LP hits many of the expected notes – Junior Murvin’s hypnotic “Police & Thieves” (later covered by the Clash), Peter Tosh’s blistering “Stepping Razor,” the Maytones’ melodic “Money Worries,” and Burning Spear’s powerful spiritual expression “Jah No Dead – but it offers a few pleasant surprises as well. Junior Byles’ “Fade Away” is a damning indictment of social inequality featuring haunting vocals and staccato rhythms; Bunny Wailer offers an equally devastating performance on the album’s title track, sounding like Curtis Mayfield singing to a reggae beat; and Gregory Isaacs’ “Slave Masters” is simply mesmerizing, its caustic lyrics matched by a deceptive rhythmic drone. Featuring fourteen burning tracks, Rockers is “must have” LP for any serious reggae collection. Grade: A   BUY IT!


Previously on That Devil Music.com:
Short Rounds, May 2018: Brinsley Schwarz, Eric Corne, Roger McGuinn & Shuggie Otis
Short Rounds, April 2018: Catfish, Jimmie Vaughan Trio, King Crimson & Memphis Rent Party
Short Rounds, March 2018: 6 String Drag, The Doors, the Nick Moss Band & Jack White

CD Preview: Return of the Textones!

The Textones' Old Stone Gang
It’s no secret ‘round these parts that the ol’ Rev is partial to ‘80s-era rockers the Textones, one of the decade’s sadly overlooked and underappreciated bands. Suffering the same unjust fate as fellow travelers Jason & the Nashville Scorchers, the Long Ryders, Green On Red, Stealin’ Horses, and the Del-Lords, the Textones made a couple of great records that went largely unnoticed by the decade’s zombified, MTV-suckling music consumers before bandleader Carla Olson launched her long-running solo career. Omnivore Recordings reissued the Textones’ two critically-acclaimed albums – 1984’s Midnight Mission and 1987’s Cedar Creek – a couple years back, which has helped reignite interest in this trailblazing band.

Although founding member Phil Seymour (former Dwight Twilley Band drummer) sadly passed away back in 1993, Olson rounded up the rest of the old gang – guitarist George Callins, multi-instrumentalist Tom Jr. Morgan, bassist Joe Read, and Cedar Creek drummer Rick Hemmert – to record a new album. On September 21st, 2018 Blue Élan Records will release Old Stone Gang, the Textones’ third official studio album and their first in over 30 years. There have been efforts to reunite the band through the years, but life (marriage, family, jobs, etc) got in the way, but a potential reunion started in 2012 when the members recorded four tracks that ended up on Old Stone Gang. Omnivore’s reissues of the band’s first two LPs probably didn’t hurt the cause, and now we old-time Textones fans have a new album to look forward to in the fall. In addition to the original band members, the album also includes guest appearances from the legendary Allan Clarke of the Hollies and Rusty Young of Poco.

After the band broke-up, Olson recorded a couple of very fine albums with rock ‘n’ roll legends Gene Clark (The Byrds) and Mick Taylor (The Rolling Stones), launching her solo career with a 1989 self-titled debut album and rolling through the ‘90s with well-received efforts like 1993’s Within An Ace and 1994’s Reap the Whirlwind. Olson’s most recent solo effort was 2013’s Have Harmony, Will Travel; but she promises some surprises on the Textones’ Old Stone Gang. In a press release for the album, she states “I think the new album is just as viable, important, and relevant as Midnight Mission and Cedar Creek. It sounds similar to what we used to do, but of course we are now older and supposedly wiser [laughs] and I like to think, a little more sage.”

Related content: The Textones Midnight Mission & Cedar Creek CD reviews

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Book Review: Martin Popoff's The Clash - All the Albums, All the Songs (2018)

Martin Popoff's The Clash: All the Albums, All the Songs
For many of us – then and now – The Clash were “the only band that matters.” The new British Fab Four took their homeland by storm in 1977 with the release of their self-titled debut album. Featuring raucous tunes like “Janie Jones,” “White Riot,” and “Career Opportunities,” the album would hit a respectable #12 on the British charts even amidst a crowded field of U.K. punks that included the Damned, the Sex Pistols, the Stranglers, and too many others to count. What guitarists Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, bassist Paul Simonson, and drummer Terry Chimes (i.e. “Tory Crimes”) achieved with their debut album was remarkable, as impactful today as it was the day it was released.

With Chimes replaced by Nicky “Topper” Headon, the Clash’s recorded its sophomore effort, Give ‘Em Enough Rope, in the U.S. with producer Sandy Pearlman (Blue Oyster Cult, the Dictators). The album served as a proper stateside introduction to the band when released in late 1978 (the band’s debut album wouldn’t be released in the U.S. until July 1979). Fueled by singles like “Tommy Gun” and “English Civil War” as well as enduring album tracks like “Safe European Home” and “Julie’s Been Working For the Drug Squad,” the Clash’s Give ‘Em Enough Rope would rise to #2 on the U.K. chart but hit only a meager #128 in the U.S.

However, it would set the stage for the band’s landmark 1979 album London Calling, which transcended punk rock to incorporate elements of reggae, jazz, pop, and hard rock in creating an innovative, genre-busting work that would chart Top Ten in the U.K. and peak at #27 stateside on its way to sales in excess of five million copies worldwide. Other albums would follow – 1980’s controversial albeit daring triple-album set Sandinista!; the Platinum™-selling smash 1982 album Combat Rock, with the hit songs “Rock the Casbah” and “Should I Stay or Should I Go”; and the band’s 1985 swan-song Cut the Crap – but the Clash would never again scale the creative heights that they would with London Calling.

Martin Popoff’s The Clash: All the Albums, All the Songs


The Clash's London Calling
Writer Martin Popoff is best known as the finest scribe that heavy metal has ever produced, publishing lengthy tomes on classic rock and metal bands like Deep Purple, Metallica, Black Sabbath, Dio, and Motörhead, among many, many others. The founding editor of Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles magazine and prolific to a fault, Popoff has penned better than 70 books overall and in excess of 7,000 published album reviews (i.e. twice as many as the Reverend has written). In the interest of full disclosure, Martin is also a friend and colleague of mine, and in spite of spending a lifetime working in music journalism, I’m continuously amazed by his depth of knowledge of, and wide-ranging tastes in music.

See, it’s not all metal all the time for the esteemed Mr. Popoff, no sir – he enjoys and appreciates a broad palette of music, including prog-rock (his book on Yes is essential for any fan) and, yes, even punk. That’s where The Clash: All the Albums, All the Songs enters our story. Much as he has done previously for Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Rush and, most recently, Pink Floyd, Popoff has taken it upon himself the Herculean task of listening to every single song by the Clash from every studio album and penning pithy, insightful, and interesting mini-reviews of every tune in the Clash canon. Popoff’s critical appraisals of each Clash album are spot-on, rightfully lauding London Calling as the landmark album that it is while putting the critical confusion of Sandinista! into proper context.

Popoff isn’t afraid to ‘call a dog a dog’ with his keen critical eye, either, dismissing the band’s final effort, the miserable Cut the Crap, as the glorified cash-grabbing demo tape that it is, or correctly surmising that the 36 songs on the three-disc Sandinista! could have easily been culled back to a couple dozen to create a more cohesive artistic statement. His deep dive into the Clash’s first two albums, which aren’t nearly as well-known stateside as the band’s post-London Calling efforts, provides the reader with a fascinating “look behind the scenes” into their creation, as well as a bit of historical discussion of the social and economic state of the U.K. that helped inspire songs on both (and mold lyricist Strummer’s left-leaning politics). Interviews with producer Pearlman, keyboardist Mickey Gallagher (who played on several Clash albums), singer Ellen Foley (Mick Jones’ girlfriend at the time), and justifiably-maligned manager Bernie Rhodes provide an even closer look at the band’s creative process both on stage and in the studio.

The Reverend’s Bottom Line


Much like Popoff’s other books published by Voyageur Press in the All the Albums, All the Songs series, The Clash’s entry is a freakin’ gorgeous hardback book. Whoever the company’s graphic designer is, they deserve the highest praise (and, no doubt, more money). The book is beautifully-laid out, Martin’s succinct prose complimented by dozens of color photos of the band, show posters, album covers and singles picture sleeves, and other rare memorabilia that will leave the Clash fan drooling. The book is pricey, running around $30 – all that color ain’t cheap! – but there’s a lot of great information about the band and its records here, and a good bit of history. But it’s the combination of Popoff’s writing and the book’s stunning visuals that make The Clash: All the Albums, All the Songs an essential purchase for any fan of “the only band that matters.” Grade: A+ (Voyageur Press, published May 15, 2018)


Martin Popoff's The Clash: All the Albums, All the Songs book

Buy the book from Amazon.com: Martin Popoff’s The Clash: All the Albums, All the Songs

Check out Martin Popoff’s website for more cool books!

Also on That Devil Music:
Martin Popoff - Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers book review
Martin Popoff - Time and A Word: The Yes Story book review
Martin Popoff - Led Zeppelin: All the Albums, All the Songs book review

Celebrating 50 years of The Band’s Music from Big Pink

The Band's Music from Big Pink
It’s hard to believe that a half-century has passed since the July 1st, 1968 release of the Band’s landmark debut album Music from Big Pink. It shouldn’t have been a big surprise, really, but the Bob Dylan’s former backing band shocked the world of rock ‘n’ roll out of its complacency with their original and forward-thinking hybrid of roots-rock, country, blues, and soul music.

Whereas the Beatles awed listeners a year previous with the evolutionary production technique and complex musical arrangements afforded their classic Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band LP, the Band drove in an absolutely opposite direction, stripping the music down to its bare bones and delivering a raw, emotional, and often haunting collection that drew from the roots of American music tradition.

On August 31st, 2018 Capitol Records and Universal Music will celebrate 50 years of the Band’s Music from Big Pink with a super-duper, ultra-deluxe reissue in a bunch of different formats. Newly remixed and expanded with a half-dozen “bonus” tracks in the form of alternate takes and studio outtakes, the album will be available as a single CD, double-vinyl LP, and limited edition double-LP on pink vinyl as well as a special Blu-ray disc.

All the anniversary edition reissues feature a new stereo mix created by Grammy® Award-winning producer Bob Clearmountain, who has worked on albums by Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, the Pretenders, and many others. Working from the original four-track analog master recordings, Clearmountain’s new mix brings a new clarity to the album’s sound and incorporates previously-unreleased studio chatter from the original sessions.

The Band's Music from Big Pink

The album will also be released as a deluxe collectors’ box set with CD, Blu-ray, vinyl, and hardbound book. Exclusive to the box set, the Blu-ray disc features a new 5.1 surround mix by Clearmountain as well as the high-resolution (96kHz/24 bit) stereo mix. The box set also includes a reproduction of the band’s vinyl 7” single for “The Weight” b/w “I Shall Be Released” while the hardbound book features a new essay by Rolling Stone magazine scribe David Fricke alongside rare, seldom-seen photos by Elliott Landy.

The Band would go on to make a lot of classic music after Music from Big Pink, including landmark albums like 1970’s Stage Fright and the live 1972 double-album Rock of Ages. It was with their debut album, though, that the band – Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel, and Garth Hudson, talented multi-instrumentalists all – would create a template for the Americana music movement and influence subsequent generations of musicians, from 1970s-era bands like the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers Band to early ‘00s outfits like the Drive-By Truckers, the Hold Steady, and My Morning Jacket. The Band was inducted into Canada’s Juno Hall of Fame in 1989 and into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio in 1994. In 2008, the Band was honored with The Recording Academy’s “Lifetime Achievement Award.”

The Band's Music from Big Pink
Music from Big Pink enjoyed modest commercial success upon its release, peaking at #30 on the Billboard magazine albums chart, but in the ensuing half-century has become considered as one of the most important and influential album’s in the history of American music. Perhaps critic Greil Marcus summed it up best in his 1975 book Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock ‘n’ Roll Music, writing “the richness of ‘Big Pink’ is in the Band’s ability to contain endless combinations of American popular music without imitating any of them. The Band don’t refer to their sources any more than we refer to George Washington when we vote, but the connection is there.”

Buy the album from Amazon.com:
The Band’s Music from Big Pink CD
The Band’s Music from Big Pink 2-LP vinyl

Celebrating 40 years of Bob Marley’s Kaya

Bob Marley & the Wailers' Kaya
Sandwiched, as it is, between Bob Marley & the Wailers’ classic 1977 album Exodus and the following year’s enormously popular Babylon by Bus live LP, Marley’s relatively low-key 1978 studio album Kaya has often been unfairly overlooked. With many of the album’s songs recorded at the same time as the material comprising Exodus during the reggae legend’s self-imposed exile in London, Kaya offers some of Marley’s best-loved songs, including “Is This Love” and “Sun Is Shining.”

On August 24th, 2018 the Marley Family, along with Island Records and Universal Music will celebrate the 40th anniversary of Kaya with a special deluxe reissue set. The two-disc CD or 180gr double-vinyl reissue will feature the album’s ten original tracks alongside Stephen “Ragga” Marley’s vibrant new “Kaya 40” mixes of all the songs. A digital version of the album will offer Marley’s mixes only. For those rabid vinyl collectors among our readership, a special limited-edition 180gr version of Kaya on cool herbal green vinyl is available exclusively at the Bob Marley website.

Kaya was released in March 1978, a month before Marley & the Wailers headlined the One Love Peace Concert on April 22nd, held at The National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica and representing Marley’s return to his home country after spending better than a year in England after a failed December 1976 assassination attempt at his home in Kingston. Recorded with a new Wailers line-up that included brothers Carlton and Aston “Family Man” Barrett on drums and bass, keyboardist Tyrone Downie, percussionist Alvin “Seeco” Patterson, guitarist Julian “Junior” Marvin, and backing vocalists the I Threes – Rita Marley, Marcia Griffiths, and Judy Mowatt – Kaya would provide Marley with a new perspective on life and music that would subsequently result in the controversial and classic albums Survival (1979) and Uprising (1980).

According to the press release for the reissue, “Stephen’s goal in mixing Kaya 40 was to create a balance that drew heavily from the original versions. Using Bob’s vocals from demos from original Kaya sessions that were recorded at different tempos, Stephen synched the vocals with alternate takes and layered it over different instrumental arrangements. Stephen tried to keep the flavor as authentic as possible. To mix the album, he used a similar minimal approach, basing his version heavily off the classic analog concepts they used in the 1970s.” Sounds like an interesting approach towards framing an underappreciated album in a new light for a young generation of reggae fans.

Buy the CD from Amazon.com: Bob Marley & the WailersKaya

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Archive Review: Walter Trout's The Outsider (2008)

Walter Trout's The Outsider
Madman guitarist Walter Trout has credentials that put most of his peers to shame, earning his guitar star status after spending the latter part of the 1970s as a “gun for hire” with the touring bands of John Lee Hooker and Big Mama Thornton. Trout further honed his skills on the road as a member of blues-rock band Canned Heat, and performed with the legendary John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers alongside guitarist Coco Montoya for a few years. Trout launched his solo career in 1989, and has since racked up accolades and acclaim for both his electrifying live performances and over a dozen live and studio albums.

Following up on 2006’s Full Circle album, where Trout collaborated with friends and fellow travelers like Mayall, Montoya, Guitar Shorty and Joe Bonamassa, The Outsider is Trout’s second new studio effort since 2001, a strong electric-blues collection that literally raises the roof. If many blues-rock guitarists sound like they’re skipping stones across a pond, Trout and his pick-up band of rock veterans hit your ears like a wrecking ball demolishing a building.

Walter Trout’s The Outsider


The Outsider opens with the white-hot bulldozer “Welcome To the Human Race,” a strong first pitch that roars across the plate with an abundance of screaming fretwork, muscular bass lines, and ‘70s-style big-beat drum bashing. Trout’s voice barely scrapes above the swirling maelstrom of 100% pure blues noise, singing about the highs and lows, temptations and obstacles of humanity, the lyrics striking these ears as more than a little biographical in nature. It’s a mighty powerful opening statement, one that helps set the stage for much of what follows on The Outsider.

You’d expect a bit of a letdown after a burner like “Welcome To the Human Race,” but Trout doesn’t stumble as much as he slows down the pace from a maddening race to a deliberate gallop with “The Next Big Thing.” Ostensibly an Old West parable, the song doubles as a metaphor for the blues game…just replace “gunslinger” with “guitarist” and you’re in the same lyrical ballpark as, say, Bad Company’s “Shooting Star.” Trout’s guitar wiggles and moans and cries throughout the song, finally jumping up and flying away with an exotic squiggly pseudo-psychedelic guitar fade-out.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Bluesrock


Pitched to a bluesy Texas shuffle, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Bluesrock” is a fairly cheeky little bit o’ fun, Trout taking aim at the poseurs and wanna-bes that equate self-destruction with suffering when singing that they have the blues. It’s a subject that, perhaps, Trout knows a little bit about, but his accusations here are tactful rather than venomous, supported by a raging Stevie Ray-styled guitar-mangling and explosive, machinegun drumbeats.

“Child of Another Day” is a sophisticated story-song about another lost soul on the blues highway, an insightful tale complimented by a powerful Trout vocal turn, some fine lyrical imagery, and guest star Jason Ricci’s rockin’ harpwork. Between Trout’s axe and Ricci’s harp, the two instrumental bruisers move the song into the heavyweight category so that the rhythm section can deliver the knockout punch. The acoustic intro to “Turn Your Eyes To Heaven” will catch you off guard, until you figure out that this is Trout all by his lonesome, the singer delivering an uncharacteristically subtle performance on a smart song about hypocrisy and judgement.

The Restless Age


The 1970s-era hard rock vibe of “The Restless Age” is created by Trout’s spoken-sung vocals, swinging guitarwork, and the addition of pianist Jon Cleary’s boogie-woogie barrelhouse key-pounding. The world-weary lyrics of “Gone Too Long” are given a bit of Latin flavor by Sammy Avila’s keyboard punctuations and Trout’s sassy, Santana-styled riffing. “Can’t Have It All” is another swaggering blues-rock romp, taking its cue from the John Lee Hooker songbook, its martial rhythms marked by descending guitar notes and foot-stomping six-string riffs.

The surprising “Sanjay” is Trout’s yin to the yang of Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane.” Written in support of “Bollywood” film star Sanjay Dutt – sentenced to prison on questionable charges in his homeland of India – the song is a stomp-and-stammer rocker with a bit of New Delhi flavor and some blistering string-bending. The album closes with the title track, an introspective and thoughtful meditation on what it’s like to be on “the outside looking in,” Trout’s gruff vocals complimented by a strutting, soaring electric-blues soundtrack. Trout’s fingers dance in the fire, Rick Knapp’s bass paces like a caged tiger, and Kenny Aronoff’s drums cruise with the sonic subtlety of a jet fighter.

The Reverend’s Bottom Line


With a new studio band consisting primarily of roots rock journeymen James “Hutch” Hutchinson (Delbert McClinton, Ryan Adams) – who plays bass on ten of the album’s thirteen songs – and drummer Kenny Aronoff (John Mellencamp, Bob Seger), Trout has formed a trio that is flexible enough to hold up the bottom end of his throwback electric-blues/classic rock sound. More than this, The Outsider features some of Trout’s strongest songwriting in a decade, and flaming six-string work that is out-of-this-world. A collection that puts the “rock” into blues-rock, The Outsider showcases Walter Trout at his very best. (Provogue Records, released June 24, 2008)

Buy the CD from Amazon.com: Walter Trout’s The Outsider

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels returns on DVD!

Frank Zappa's 200 Motels
Released in 1971, the movie 200 Motels was the actualization of a lifelong dream for Mothers of Invention founder Frank Zappa. Absurd, entertaining, and totally off the wall, the film attempts to capture the reality of life on the road for a touring rock ‘n’ roll musician…in a manner. Comprised of a number of individual nonsensical vignettes threaded together into a loose story and intercut with concert footage of the Mothers, the film is punctuated with the innovative use of special effects like double-exposures, solarisation, speed changes and such in an attempt to create a surreal rock ‘n’ roll documentary. It made history as the first feature film shot on videotape and transferred to 35mm film stock using a Technicolor film printer used by the BBC.

200 Motels was co-written and directed by Zappa and Tony Palmer, a British music critic and filmmaker who had previously produced documentary films on Cream, Peter Sellers, Jack Bruce, and Fairport Convention. The movie starred Academy Award nominee Theodore Bikel as the “Master of Ceremonies” and also included Zappa friends like Ringo Starr, Keith Moon of the Who, and infamous L.A. groupie Pamela Des Barres. Zappa had put together a new version of the Mothers prior to working on the film that included guitarist Jeff Simmons, keyboardist George Duke, journeyman British drummer Aynsley Dunbar, bassist Jim Pons and singers Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan (i.e. “The Phlorescent Leech & Eddie”), all three from the Turtles.

This new version of the Mothers debuted on Zappa’s 1970 solo album Chunga’s Revenge, which was produced as a sort of precursor to the film. Scoring for 200 Motels was provided by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and all the then-current members of the Mothers as well as former members like Don Preston, Ian Underwood, “Motorhead” Sherwood, and Jimmy Carl Black (as “Lonesome Cowboy Burt”) appeared in the movie, which was underwritten by United Artists with a $650,000 budget. The movie was released to mixed reviews as many middle-aged film critics just didn’t ‘get’ the surreal nature of the story, and it was accompanied by a double-LP soundtrack that included music from the film, new music not in the film, and spoken word pieces. Grabbed up by Zappa fanatics, the 200 Motels soundtrack peaked at a respectable #59 on the U.S. charts.

Frank Zappa's Chunga's Revenge
Needless to say, the film didn’t make a lot of money at the box office, and its history of availability on home media is spotty, to say the least. The soundtrack album didn’t come out on CD until 1997, released by RykoDisc under a licensing deal with the Zappa Family Trust and has long since been out-of-print and available only on the collectors’ market. The film itself was restored and released on DVD in 2009 with audio commentary by Tony Palmer, but has also long been unavailable stateside.

For Zappa fans that have never had the pleasure of watching this notorious cult film, MVD Entertainment is reissuing 200 Motels on DVD on August 14th, 2018 for the realistic price of $19.95 retail (but you can probably find it cheaper online). Check out the film that legendary movie critic Roger Ebert said “assaults the mind with everything on hand” and which Daily Variety called the “zaniest piece of filmusical fantasy-comedy since the Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night.” It would be grand if the Zappa Family Trust could manage to reissue the soundtrack album on vinyl, like they are with the upcoming release of Chunga’s Revenge.


Buy the DVD on Amazon.com: Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels



Also on That Devil Music.com:
Mothers of Invention - Burnt Weeny Sandwich LP review 

Frank Zappa’s Chunga’s Revenge returns on vinyl!

Frank Zappa's Chunga's Revenge
Last month, the Zappa Family Trust reissued the transitional Mothers of Invention album Burnt Weeny Sandwich on glorious black vinyl. They’re wasting no time in following up on the success of that previous offering, as on July 20th, 2018 Zappa Records and Universal Music will reissue Zappa’s 1970 solo effort Chunga’s Revenge on 180gram audiophile vinyl. Mastered for reissue by industry veteran Bernie Grundman (who has worked on albums by Prince, Michael Jackson, and Kendrick Lamar, among many others), the reissue was cut directly from the original analog master tapes. The album has been unavailable on vinyl for over 30 years, when it was included as part of the 1986 Old Masters Box Two vinyl box set, and the reissue features the original album artwork.

Zappa oversaw the release of three albums in 1970, the first two – Burnt Weeny Sandwich and Weasels Ripped My Flesh – really posthumous Mothers albums ‘frankensteined’ together from existing material after Zappa had broken up the original band. After a few months, though, the Maestro put together a new version of the Mothers of Invention that included guitarist Jeff Simmons, jazz keyboardist George Duke, journeyman British drummer Aynsley Dunbar, and singers Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan (i.e. “The Phlorescent Leech & Eddie”) from the Turtles, all of whom appear on Chunga’s Revenge. The lone holdover from the earlier incarnation of the Mothers was multi-instrumentalist Ian Underwood.

Stylistically speaking, Chunga’s Revenge was all over the board. As I wrote in my Frank Zappa Buying Guide book, “as he was wont to do, Zappa again changed musical directions with his second solo album, eschewing both the social satire of the early Mothers albums and the jazz-rock fusion of Hot Rats to deliver the intriguing and eclectic Chunga's Revenge. Set against a diverse musical backdrop that included lengthy guitar jams (“Transylvania Boogie”), jazzy outtakes from Hot Rats (“Twenty Small Cigars”), and bluesy rockers (“Road Ladies”), the critically-slagged album would find greater acclaim later in the context as a precursor to Zappa's 200 Motels.”

The album has held up well through the years, showcasing Zappa’s talents as a composer and instrumentalist as well as displaying an immediate musical chemistry with the talented members of his new band. It really needs to be heard on vinyl to fully appreciate Zappa’s nuanced production, so what are you waiting for? Order the LP from Amazon right now!

Also on That Devil Music.com:
Mothers of Invention - Burnt Weeny Sandwich LP review

Sunday, July 1, 2018

New Music Monthly: July 2018 Releases

The industry typically slows down during the dog days of summer, but July this year has a bounty of great music by some solid rock, blues, and Americana artists. For you blooze fans, check out new tunes by Rory Block, Boz Scaggs, and the Apocalypse Blues Revue. For the rockers among you, there are reissues of classic LPs by folks like Guadalcanal Diary, Soul Asylum, and the almighty Lords of the New Church as well as new jams from folks like Ty Segall, Willie Nile, and Peter Holsapple.

I didn't forget my Americana friends, either, the genre represented this month by the legendary Kinky Friedman's first album of new music in 40 years as well as platters by the Jayhawks and Elvin Bishop (which, to be fair, treads the fine line between Americana and blues). And for those folks that prefer their music on vinyl, how about reissues of albums by Rolling Stone bassist Bill Wyman, Americana star Jason Isbell, British space music pioneers Hawkwind, Swans, and U2?! No matter your taste in music, there's something this month for everybody!

If we wrote about it here on the site, there will be a link to it in the album title; if you want an album, hit the 'Buy!' link to get it from Amazon.com...it'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!

Kinky Friedman's Circus of Life

JULY 6
The Animals - Animalisms   BUY!
Rory Block - A Woman's Soul   BUY!
Fate's Warning - Live Over Europe   BUY!
Kinky Friedman - Circus of Life [first new album in 40 years]   BUY!
Hawkwind - Live Hits [vinyl]   BUY!
The Nude Party - The Nude Party   BUY!
Wishbone Ash - Here to Hear (import)   BUY!

Elvin Bishop's Big Fun Trio's Something Smells Funky 'Round Here

JULY 13
Cowboy Junkies - All That Reckoning   BUY!
Elvin Bishop's Big Fun Trio - Something Smells Funky 'Round Here   BUY!
Guadalcanal Diary - At Your Birthday Party   BUY!
Jason Isbell - Sirens of the Ditch [vinyl reissue]   BUY!
The Jayhawks - Back Roads and Abandoned Motels   BUY!
Bill Wyman - Monkey Grip [vinyl reissue]   BUY!
Bill Wyman - Stone Alone [vinyl reissue]   BUY! 

Lords of the New Church

JULY 20
Apocalypse Blues Revue - The Shape of Blues To Come   BUY!
Lords of the New Church - Lords of the New Church: Special Edition   BUY!
Ty Segall & White Fence - Joy   BUY!
Soul Asylum - Made To Be Broken   BUY!
Soul Asylum - Say What You Will...Everything Can Happen   BUY!
Swans - Soundtracks For the Blind [vinyl reissue]   BUY!

Dee Snider's For the Love of Metal

JULY 27
Galen Ayers - Monument [daughter of Kevin Ayers]  BUY!
Drivin N Cryin' - Too Late To Turn Back Now [reissue]   BUY!
Peter Holsapple - Game Day   BUY!
Willie Nile - Children of Paradise   BUY!
Michael Romeo - War of the Worlds, Pt. 1   BUY!
Boz Scaggs - Out of the Blues   BUY!
Dee Snider - For the Love of Metal   BUY!
U2 - Achtung Baby [vinyl reissue]   BUY!
U2 - The Best of 1980-1990 [vinyl reissue]   BUY!
U2 - Zooropa [vinyl reissue]   BUY!


Album of the Month: In a month with promising new albums from both Peter Holsapple of the dB's and Willie Nile, I'm going to have to go with Nile's Children of Paradise. Although Holsapple is an extremely talented songwriter and musician, he hasn't released a solo album in 21 years, and his last recording altogether was six years ago, with the wonderful dB's 2012 reunion album Falling Off the Sky. We're not sure what we're going to get, we just figure that it's going to be good. With Nile, though, who has been cranking out new music every couple of years, the singer/songwriter may be at the top of his game; his songwriting pen is sharp and his lyrics insightful and concise, the music rockin' like nobody's business. If you could only afford one album this month, I'd go with the Willie Nile. But if you can squeeze two CD purchases into July, grab the Peter Holsapple disc, too...you'll be glad that you did!  

CD Review: Various Artists - Trojan Ska & Reggae Classics (2018)

Trojan Ska & Reggae Classics
For even some of the most knowledgeable fans, reggae music remains an enigma. While most will know of Bob Marley and the Wailers, fewer still will be familiar with Jimmy Cliff, Toots Hibbert, or Peter Tosh. More obscure entries in the reggae canon – talents like Dennis Brown, Bunny Wailer, or the Upsetters – are strictly niche artists in the U.S., known and appreciated by a select few fans. But for 50 years now, the legendary Trojan Records label has been popularizing the influential genre by continuously hitting “replay” on its deep and rich catalog of early reggae recordings. Formed in 1968 by British record store owner Lee Gopthal with Chris Blackwell of Island Records, who was a bigtime reggae fan, Trojan Records successfully introduced the genre to a worldwide audience, scoring a number of U.K. chart hits throughout the ‘70s with a steady stream of 7” singles often licensed from well-known Jamaican producers like Duke Reid, Leslie Kong, Joe Gibbs, and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry.

Reggae itself was a result of the cross-pollination of the ska and rocksteady music styles popular in Jamaica in the late 1950s and early ‘60s. Ska was the island equivalent to American rhythm & blues, which could be heard on AM radio in Jamaica, broadcast by U.S. clear-channel stations like the 50,000-watt WLAC-AM in Nashville, Tennessee. Featuring a distinctive rhythmic pattern, jazz-influenced horns, and spry vocals, ska would become the predominant pop music style in Jamaica during the ‘60s. Rocksteady would follow, slowing down the rhythm of ska and downplaying the horns in favor of vocals and heavier guitars. Reggae, heavily influenced by the Rastafari movement on the island, would assimilate both native styles along with American rock influences to create an entirely new genre that would lead to a global commercial explosion of artists like Bob Marley, Toots & the Maytals, Black Uhuru, and many others.

Throughout its first two decades, Trojan Records released singles in every island style, resulting in an abundant catalog of hundreds of songs that the label continues to promote to this day. In celebration of the Trojan’s 50th anniversary, they’ve released a handful of historic multi-disc compilation CDs, including Trojan Ska & Reggae Classics and This Is Trojan Roots, as well as the monster six-disc vinyl set This Is Trojan, featuring a tracklist comprised of 60 of the label’s biggest hits. Although ownership of Trojan Records has changed hands several times over the past five decades, eventually landing on BMG Music’s doorstep, the music released by the label during its halcyon days remains timeless.

Trojan Ska & Reggae Classics


The first disc of Trojan Ska & Reggae Classics is titled “Ska Explosion,” comprised of mostly Jamaican music OGs plowing the now-familiar rhythmic pattern for hit singles on the island. The disc, appropriately enough, opens with what might well be the label’s historically best-selling single, Desmond Dekker & the Aces’ “Israelites.” The 1969 classic hit #1 in the U.K. and charted Top Ten in the U.S. and a half-dozen other countries on its way to selling better than a million copies worldwide on the strength of its syncopated vocals, socially-conscious lyrics, and melodic rhythm. “Double Barrel,” a 1970 single by Dave and Ansel Collins, was another U.K. chart-topper that also hit Top 20 stateside; the song’s tinkling piano and odd, often-shouted lyrics was an unlikely successor to “Israelites,” but its undeniable melody digs deep into your brain.

There are a number of other familiar tunes representing the “Ska Explosion,” great songs like the Maytals’ “Monkey Man,” the Upsetters’ “Return of Django” (produced by Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry), Dandy’s “Rudy, A Message To You” (a 1979 U.K. hit for the Specials), and the Paragons’ “The Tide Is High” (a 1980 #1 hit for Blondie in the U.S. and U.K.). Harry J Allstars’ rollicking instrumental “Liquidator” was also covered by the Specials, but the original recording features the instrumental talents of several members of the Upsetters and the Wailers. There are a few pleasant surprises on the first disc, too, like the Ethiopians’ lively “Last Train to Skaville,” with its driving rhythm; Tony Tribe’s “Red Red Wine,” a reggae-remake of an early Neil Diamond song and a 1983 hit for British reggae acolytes UB40; and the reedy “Let’s Do Rock Steady” by Dandy, featuring a laid-back groove and a chunky, infectious rhythm.

Reggae For Lovers


Trojan Ska & Reggae Classics
Disc two of Trojan Ska & Reggae Classics is dubbed “Reggae For Lovers” as it features songs with a more romantic lyrical slant. To be honest, this material is less familiar although it features a few of the artists from disc one, and I’ve heard of some of the other singers among the disc’s 20 songs. This lack of familiarity merely provides fertile ground for discovery, and it should be no surprise that there are a lot of great performances here. Ken Boothe is one such discovery, as the singer’s 1970 album Freedom Street was recently reissued on vinyl. Boothe’s “Everything I Own” is a cover of David Gates’ 1972 Top Ten U.S. hit by his wimp-rock band Bread. Boothe injects the song with great soul and passion, raising it above its meager roots to create a truly impressive romantic plea. The prolific and influential Dennis Brown shows why Bob Marley called him “The Crown Prince of Reggae” with the wonderful “Money In My Pocket,” his soulful crooning bouncing perfectly off the jaunty rhythm track.

Desmond Dekker proves that he was no “one trick pony” with the doo-wop inspired “Sing A Little Song,” the subtle instrumentation supporting Dekker’s high-flying vocals and the band’s backing harmonies. Former Paragons’ frontman John Holt nails a cover of Kris Kristofferson’s classic ballad “Help Me Make It Through the Night,” the song’s mid-tempo arrangement allowing Holt’s vocals to shine while spare use of horns spice up the mix. Another Boothe performance, “Crying Over You,” places equal emphasis on the instrumentation as it does his emotional vocals, while Dennis Brown’s “Love Has Found A Way” could easily be mistaken for a 1970s-era soul hit by Teddy Pendergrass or Curtis Mayfield if not for the ever present reggae rhythm. A cover of the 1968 Merrilee Rush hit “Angel of the Morning” by Joya Landis and Tommy McCook with the Supersonics lacks Rush’s hauntingly vulnerable vocals, but Landis nevertheless does a fine job of capturing the song’s inherent romantic yearning.

Reggae For Dancers


Disc three, “Reggae For Dancers,” closes out the Trojan Ska & Reggae Classics set by delivering exactly what it promises – foot shuffling, energetic dance tracks with spry rhythms, songs that inspired the U.K. Two-Tone movement in the ‘80s that resulted in bands like the Specials, the (English) Beat, Madness, and the Selector, among many others. “Uptown Top Ranking,” recorded by Jamaican teens Althea Forrest and Donna Reid and produced by Joe Gibbs, was an unlikely 1977 U.K. hit done on a whim by the young singers. Played, evidently by accident, by legendary British DJ John Peel, his radio audience quickly requested more spins of the record. It was ‘frankensteined’ together by Gibbs using a re-recorded rhythm track from a ten-year-old Alton Ellis song and pieces of Trinity’s “Three Piece Suit,” to which “Uptown Top Ranking” was ostensibly an “answer song.” Nevertheless, the song’s hypnotic vocals and droning rhythm veers dangerously close to dub territory. Desmond Dekker’s 1970 hit cover of reggae legend Jimmy Cliff’s “You Can Get It If You Really Want” is a soulful slab of old-school rocksteady influenced by 1950s-era American R&B songs.

The country music gem “Love of the Common People,” with its socially-conscious lyrics, has been covered by dozens of artists, ranging from Waylon Jennings and Wayne Newton to British blue-eyed soul singer Paul Young and Irish punk-rockers Stiff Little Fingers. Working with producer Joe Gibbs, Jamaican reggae artist Nicky Thomas scored a Top Ten U.K. hit with his pop-tinged reading of the song, selling over 175,000 copies of the single. Trinidadian singer Lord Creator’s “Kingston Town” is more of a calypso-flavored R&B song with a strong rhythmic undercurrent while a cover of the 1970 Bobby Bloom hit “Montego Bay” by Freddie Notes & the Rudies is delightfully revved-up and turbocharged with soul. Changing their name to Greyhound, Notes and his band would score a bigger hit with their 1971 cover of the American folk song “Black and White,” which would later become a huge stateside hit for rockers Three Dog Night. The most surprising track on the set is the Hot Shots’ cover of the 1966 pop novelty song “Snoopy Versus the Red Baron,” the song’s lilting melody and jacked-up rhythm tailor-made for Jamaican reinterpretation.

The Reverend’s Bottom Line


Reggae detractors always say that the genre is “too bland,” that its underlying rhythmic foundation makes every song sound alike. The musical bias of these amateur critics aside, reggae is full of nuance and character, with individual singers like Desmond Dekker, Ken Boothe, Toots Hibbert, and Dennis Brown transcending the mundane to deliver performances the equal of any American or British blues or soul vocalist.

Offering 60 red-hot tracks on three discs and running better than three hours in length, the budget-priced Trojan Ska & Reggae Classics set offers a lot of bang for the buck, the compilation preserving some of the finest reggae performances of the past half-century with even-handed re-mastering and pretty decent sound (considering that some of these songs were recorded almost 50 years ago on often primitive equipment). If you’re a newcomer to reggae, the set offers an instant lesson in the genre’s history; for us longtime fans, it collects some of our favorite artists and songs in a single package. Grade: A+ (Trojan Records/BMG, released June 8, 2018)

Buy the CD from Amazon.com: Trojan Ska & Reggae Classics






Long Lost Drivin' N Cryin' Album Reissued

Drivin' N Cryin's Too Late To Turn Back Now
Back in 1997, Atlanta-based Southern rockers Drivin’ N Cryin’ were coming off a seven-year major label run that saw the critically-acclaimed band record four albums for Island Records (including 1990’s classic Fly Me Courageous) and a single disc for Geffen Records (the very fine Wrapped In Sky). Finding themselves dropped back into the indie-rock trenches, the trio – singer, songwriter, and guitarist Kevn Kinney with bassist Tim Nielsen and drummer Jeff Sullivan – signed with hometown label Ichiban Records for a self-titled one-off album.

Formed in 1985, Ichiban Records originally specialized in blues and R&B artists like Clarence Carter, Little Johnny Taylor, and Raful Neal while, in the 1990s, they branched out into hip-hop with albums by rappers like Sir Mix-A-Lot, Gangsta Pat, Detroit’s Most Wanted, and (ugh!) Vanilla Ice. In between the two extremes, the label dabbled in indie rock, releasing albums by well-regarded bands like Dash Rip Rock, the Fleshtones, and Drivin’ N Cryin’. By the end of the decade, however, the label was in bankruptcy and the bulk of back catalog of recordings - including that self-titled Drivin’ N Cryin’ album – have been long out-of-print.

Kevn Kinney and Drivin’ N Cryin’ continue to rock ‘n’ roll, though, touring steadily and releasing a series of EPs between 2012 and 2014. The band continues to pick up new fans for its gritty, uncompromising hard rock sound, and although its back catalog of music is mostly in shambles, a lot of it is still available as used discs in various conditions. For the hardcore D’N’C fan, however, here’s some good news – on July 27th, 2018 New West Records will reissue that long-lost self-titled Drivin’ N Cryin’ album on both CD and 140-gram black vinyl.

Retitled Too Late To Turn Back Now, the album was originally produced at Casino Studio in Atlanta by the legendary Kosmo Vinyl (The Clash), who also contributed the snazzy new cover artwork for this reissue. With little or no label promotional budget when it was first released, the album gained little traction on the charts and received meager airplay beyond the band’s raucous cover of John Denver’s “Leaving On A Jet Plane,” which excited FM radio listeners in Alabama for some reason. The material has been remastered for this reissue, and the album will appear on vinyl for the very first time. A truly overlooked album by one of rock’s best, albeit underappreciated bands, Too Late To Turn Back Now is a long-missing chapter in the ongoing Drivin’ N Cryin’ saga.

Buy the vinyl from Amazon.com: Drivin’ N Cryin’s Too Late To Turn Back Now

CD Preview: The Magpie Salute’s High Water I

When the Black Crowes finally split up for good after eight studio and five live albums released over a quarter-century and selling better than 30 million records, band founders and (feuding) brothers Chris and Rich Robinson went their separate ways. Band frontman Chris picked up with his solo project, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, which has been relatively prolific with a trio of well-regarded albums to the band’s credit. Guitarist Rich has pursued a solo career with mixed results, releasing his fourth solo record, Flux, in 2016. The same year, Robinson formed the Magpie Salute with former Crowes’ members Marc Ford (guitar) and Sven Pipien (bass).

Although Chris Robinson has unfairly dismissed his younger brother’s efforts as a glorified Black Crowes cover band (yes, they do perform songs by Robinson’s former band as well as material from Robinson and Ford’s solo albums). However, I think that Chris is missing the boat here (full disclosure…I’ve run into conflict with Chris before and, well, don’t think much of him as a person). The Magpie Salute’s 2017 self-titled live album was not dissimilar to the Black Crowes (sans Chris’s Steve Marriott-styled vox), showcasing heavier guitars and a sonic identity that falls somewhere between Gov’t Mule and the Allman Brothers Band. The album included inspired covers of songs by Delaney & Bonnie, Pink Floyd, Bob Marley, and Ronnie Lane as well as a smattering of tunes by Robinson.

On August 10th, 2018 the Magpie Salute will release their debut studio album, High Water I, via Eagle Rock Entertainment in the U.S. and the Mascot Label Group in Europe. High Water I will be released on both CD and as a two-disc set on blue and white splatter vinyl. The band is currently comprised of Robinson, Ford, and Pipien along with vocalist John Hogg, keyboardist Matt Slocum, and drummer Joe Magistro. The album’s first single is “Send Me An Omen” (check out the video below), of which Robinson, in a press release, says “wraps up all of the elements of this band. There’s pure rock ‘n’ roll juxtaposed with these pop melodies sung with a melancholy that creates this beautiful balance of surreal dark and light.”

High Water I was produced by Robinson and recorded at Dark Horse Studios in Nashville. The twelve-track collection is said to “represent a musical union of swaggering rock ‘n’ roll, psychedelic blues, and campfire-worthy storytelling” (according to press release hype), and while I haven’t heard it (yet), I enjoyed the band’s self-titled debut so I’m certainly looking forward to hearing this one. The band has plans to release a second studio set, High Water II, at some point in 2019 but in the meanwhile they’ll be hitting the asphalt this summer to spread their musical gospel to a stage near you (tour dates can be found on the band’s website).

Buy the CD from Amazon.com: The Magpie Salute’s High Water I