Friday, October 25, 2019

Archive Review: John Mayall's Bluesbreakers - Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton (1966/2001)

John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton
It’s hard to believe by listening to the sort of watered-down pap that Eric Clapton has cranked out the past few years, but at one time the big “King of all Guitar Gods” played with great style, passion and ingenuity. Look no further than Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton to find documentation of the artist’s early six-string prowess.

Clapton first made a splash on the collective rock consciousness while handling the heavy axework for the Yardbirds. Although not the first posse of British dandies to get their hands dirty playing the blues, the Yardbirds were one of those who did it best, and Clapton’s early contributions went a long way towards establishing that band’s reputation. Clapton left the Yardbirds in 1965, beginning a lengthy artistic journey that would inevitably lead him to becoming the corporate shill that he is today.

John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton

First stop on the evolutionary express for the youthful Clapton was with John Mayall & Bluesbreakers, one of England’s best-known traditional blues outfits. Luring Clapton away from the Yardbirds was a major coup for bandleader Mayall. Getting the guitar wizard into the studio to record Mayall’s third album resulted in what may well be the best British blues romp to find its way onto tape. Clapton is allowed to stretch out on a set of blues and R&B standards such as Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say,” Freddie King’s “Hideaway,” the Otis Rush hit “All Your Love” and the blues classic “Parchman Farm.”

Choice Mayall originals compliment the covers on Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton, especially the Mayall/Clapton co-written “Double Crossing Time,” which features an incredible Clapton solo that sounds like it descended straight from Maxwell Street in Chicago. Clapton even makes his debut as a vocalist, offering a fine rendition of Robert Johnson’s “Ramblin’ On My Mind.” Throughout Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton, the guitar star’s axework is first rate, his playing fluid and innovative. Backed by a solid rhythm section that included future Fleetwood Mac namesake John McVie on bass and drummer Hughie Flint (who would go on to play on several Clapton solo elpees), Clapton had the necessary support to let his imagination fly.

Mayall was a strict bandleader, demanding a lot from his players but here he lets Clapton become the superstar he had the potential to be. Clapton would leave Mayall’s outfit after Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton to form Cream and achieve international stardom. Mayall would run through a thousand and one band members during the next 35 years, discovering such talents as Peter Green (Fleetwood Mac) and Mick Taylor (Rolling Stones) along the way. Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton would reach the British top ten and became one of the biggest albums of 1966 in the U.K.

The Reverend’s Bottom Line

The album remains a cult favorite in the United States while Clapton is better known for his subsequent work with Cream and Derek and the Dominoes. While rock ‘n’ roll fanboys continue to genuflect at the mention of the Yardbirds name, worshipping the trio of guitar gods that legendary band would produce (Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page), John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers are unfairly consigned to a lesser place in history. A spin or two of Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton shows what the fuss was all about in the first place, placing the album among the greatest blues-rock efforts that the genre has produced. (Polydor Records, released 1966, reissued June 5, 2001)

Review originally published by Alt.Culture.Guide™, 2001

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Archive Review: Killing Joke's Pandemonium (1994)

Killing Joke's Pandemonium
Arguably one of the most influential bands of the past twenty years, Londons Killing Joke is nonetheless the most obscure bunch of musical geniuses that you’ve never heard of. Chances are you’ve heard the work of the children these gray-beards stylistically fathered, however, with bands like Nine Inch Nails, Faith No More, Rage Against the Machine, and Ministry all owing Killing Joke a debt of creative gratitude.

Their ground-breaking hybrid of socio-political rage, technological overkill, industrial nihilism, and white noise was delivered via a handful of classic early eighties albums that would shape much of what would be created in the genres of punk, heavy metal and industrial music throughout the ensuing decade.  

With Pandemonium, the band strips down to its original founding trio, buffing up its musical muscles and delivering an hour of unrelenting noise, fury and thought. Killing Joke have always been an ideological bunch of cynics, eschewing the depressing, suicidal aura surrounding much of Britain’s rock scene in favor of a realistic and hopeful vision of the world they find collapsing around them. Against a musical backdrop so heavy that it’ll send even the most jaded headbanger into a fit of manic glee, Killing Joke approaches the coming millennia with an almost metaphysical view, even sojourning to Egypt to record portions of Pandemonium in the King Chamber of the Great Pyramid.

The band’s collective experience of the past few years pays off with an expanded sense of creativity and lyricism, Pandemonium adding disparate strains of Middle Eastern and Asian culture to its blend of white light/white heat. The resulting effort lives up to the band’s heady legacy, even while it builds upon a bright new future for Killing Joke. (Zoo Entertainment, released 1994)

Review originally published by R.A.D! zine

Friday, October 18, 2019

Archive Review: Mississippi Fred McDowell's The Best of Mississippi Fred McDowell (2001)

Mississippi Fred McDowell's The Best of Mississippi Fred McDowell
Like most rock fans, I came to know the legendary Mississippi Fred McDowell through the Rolling Stones’ version of his “You Gotta Move” and covers of songs by McDowell acolyte Bonnie Raitt. Once you discover the real thing, though, you’ll never go back.

Born in rural Tennessee in the early part of the twentieth century, McDowell started playing slide guitar at the tender age of fourteen. His parents died while he was young, and McDowell played for tips in the streets of Memphis while still a teen. He eventually tired of rambling and settled down to a life of farming in Como, Mississippi. It was here that folk music archivist Alan Lomax found McDowell some thirty years later, first recording this enormous talent in 1959.

Mississippi Fred McDowell’s The Best of Mississippi Fred McDowell

McDowell’s “discovery” threw the folk and blues community on their collective ears as Lomax had found an authentic Delta bluesman that had never been captured on tape before. McDowell’s ambitions never led him to seek out the traveling “record men” who haunted the Mississippi cotton fields and backwoods, so no recorded legacy from the 1920s and ‘30s existed for modern listeners to familiarize themselves with McDowell’s considerable talents. Arhoolie Records founder Chris Strachwitz was one of those people amazed by McDowell’s music and the young producer promptly sought out the humble McDowell in Mississippi. Arhoolie recorded and released two excellent volumes of McDowell’s homespun country blues during the mid-‘60s, which subsequently made the artist a popular draw on the festival circuit throughout the decade until his death from cancer in 1972.

Arhoolie’s The Best of Mississippi Fred McDowell revisits material originally released by the label on four previous titles, and recorded between 1964 and 1969 in a number of different locations. Much like Arhoolie’s recent Lightning Hopkins compilation, this CD is a wonderful overview of the artist’s too-brief career. McDowell’s songs drew upon a Delta tradition that was heavily flavored by the work of contemporaries like Robert Johnson, Tommy Johnson, and Charlie Patton. McDowell brought a distinctive flair to his slidework, an impressive individualism that sets his playing apart from that of other Delta bluesmen. His voice was extremely expressive, showing a remarkable range and emotion.

The Best of Mississippi Fred McDowell offers up a stylistic cross-section of material, from the country blues of standards like “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” to timeless McDowell originals like “Levee Camp Blues” and “You Gotta Move.” There are gospel tunes here too, McDowell’s performances echoing those of Blind Willie Johnson on traditional songs like “I Wish I Was In Heaven Sittin’ Down” and “Keep Your Lamp Trimmed And Burning.” The album closed with a previously unreleased 1965 live performance from the Berkeley Folk Festival.

The Reverend’s Bottom Line

Mississippi Fred McDowell was a powerful and charismatic performer, an artist that came into his own late in life but had spent a lifetime working hard and playing music long before his discovery. McDowell’s was a unique talent and vision, The Best of Mississippi Fred McDowell a wonderful introduction for the uninitiated and a welcome addition to the library for those of us still earning a degree in the blues. (Arhoolie Records)

Review originally published by Alt.Culture.Guide™ webzine

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Archive Review: Peter Townshend's The Definitive Collection (2007)

Peter Townshend's The Definitive Collection
As the guiding force behind rock legends the Who, guitarist/songwriter Peter Townshend’s induction to the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame was all but guaranteed. One of the original, first wave “British Invasion” bands that assaulted the colonies in the aftermath of the Beatles, the Who were blessed with a wealth of talent. All four members of the Who would have stood out in nearly any other band and, indeed, three of these four musicians would eventually succeed in their own solo endeavors.

Frontman Roger Daltry was a strutting, larger-than-life figure with a big voice and rock star charisma. Bassist John Entwistle played rock ‘n’ roll with an improvisational jazz sensibility, and was a better songwriter than most of his contemporaries. Drummer Keith Moon was an anarchic wildman, bashing and crashing the skins with reckless abandon. Then there was Townshend…an immensely gifted songwriter, a powerful guitarist and a whirling dervish onstage, leaping and spinning and seemingly flying on the wings of the music; he was also intellectual, introspective and often spiritually troubled.

Pete Townshend’s The Definitive Collection

Townshend was a prolific songwriter, one of the greatest in the history of the rock genre. His creative accomplishments with the Who are second only, perhaps, to those of John Lennon of the Beatles. What a lot of people seem to forget, however, is that Townshend also enjoyed a significant solo career, receiving overwhelming critical acclaim and some degree of commercial success. Townshend recorded demos of just about every song he ever wrote for the Who, and discarded more songs than the band ever recorded. A lot of this material has shown up in various “odds-n-sods” collections through the years, and Townshend’s own demo versions of songs have made his Scoop albums a series much sought-after by collectors.

The Definitive Collection is a brand-new collection of Peter Townshend solo material. Now I’m a little wary of record label hype, and calling any compilation album “definitive” is, perhaps, stretching the definition of the word. In the case of Peter Townshend’s The Definitive Collection, however, I’m going to set my reservations aside and instead revel in the music. Featuring material culled from Townshend’s 35-year “solo” career, The Definitive Collection does a worthy job of presenting the many faces of this rock legend.

Townshend’s first solo effort, Who Came First, was a low-key affair released in 1972 as an outlet for the songwriter’s growing catalog of material. Collecting songs unsuitable for the Who as well as more personal, spiritually-oriented material, the album offered an insightful glimpse into the depth of Townshend’s songwriting talents. “Sheraton Gibson,” an underrated cut from Who Came First, is a wonderful, lively song about life on the road and the accompanying loneliness, Townshend’s vocals darting in and out of the mix, complimented by his fluid, mesmerizing guitarwork.

From Rough Mix, Townshend’s acclaimed 1977 collaboration with ex-Faces’ bassist Ronnie Lane, “Street In the City” is a melodic, observational song that relies on Townshend’s winsome vocals to rise above the rich string-orchestral arrangement. Also from Rough Mix, “My Baby Gives It Away” is a twangy rocker with a loping groove and rapid-fire lyrics. Rough Mix is the jewel of Townshend’s solo career, a rambling collection of roots rock, British folk and country overtones and well worth checking out on its own.

Who Came First

The Definitive Collection also includes three songs from Empty Glass, Townshend’s 1980 solo breakthrough and his best-selling album to date. The album was written as Townshend struggled with the death of Who drummer Keith Moon. The personal nature of the lyrics and their combination of pop melodies and gutter-punk rockers took Empty Glass to the number five position on the charts. The album’s radio-ready singles were easy choices, but “A Little Is Enough,” an engaging love song with new wavy synth overtones and a driving beat is a fine addition to the collection, sounding amusing retro albeit featuring, perhaps, some uncharacteristically inane lyrics. He redeems himself with “Let My Love Open The Door,” the hit single combining the most attractive elements of ‘80s synth-pop with old-fashioned vocal harmonies and a killer hook. Befitting its title, “Rough Boys” shows a little more muscle, with a forceful Townshend vocal performance, imaginative keyboards and some tasty six-string riffing.

Townshend followed Empty Glass with the obtusely-named All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes in 1982. Overall Townshend’s most maddening album, both loved and hated by his fans, its arty, pretentious songs have withstood the test of time. The album’s “Slit Skirts” is a dynamic song, with interesting lyrics, an infectious chorus, and various musical twists and turns with signature changes and intriguing instrumental interludes. “The Sea Refuses No River” could just as easily have been one of Townshend’s compositions for the Who, a grand, majestic song that showcases some of Townshend’s most subtle vocals and his skills as an arranger. The song is, perhaps, one of the most overlooked of the artist’s canon.

By the mid-80s Townshend seemed to be going in a thousand directions at once, and seemingly lost sight of his creative strengths. “Face The Face,” from 1985’s White City: A Novel, is an intriguing choice for this collection, an almost experimental piece that starts off small, with an atmospheric intro, dissonant piano and clanging sounds building to a steady rhythm, kind of like a train coming down the track, straight at your stalled-out car. Townshend’s multi-layered vocals are one part electronic wizardry and one part Gospel fervor. “A Friend Is A Friend,” from The Iron Man: A Musical, is a slight slip of a song – perhaps that misbegotten album’s best, but a pale choice nonetheless. The two tracks included from 1993’s Psychoderelict fare somewhat better; a concept album ridden with spoken word interludes and weak material, “English Boy” is nevertheless a knock-down rocker with one of Townshend’s best vocal performances in a decade and some truly unusual musical undercurrents.

The Reverend’s Bottom Line

The Definitive Collection is a fairly decent overview of the ups and downs of Peter Townshend’s solo career, replacing the decade-old The Best of collection with a better song selection. I personally would have liked to have seen one of the Who’s classic tunes from Townshend’s Deep End Live! album included here. Also, all of the best stuff from this compilation – and then some – was included two years ago on the double-disc Gold collection, part of the industry’s efforts to cannibalize itself through countless variations on the same compilations.

However, if you remain among the uninitiated that just wants a taste of Townshend, The Definitive Collection is the way to go; go for the Gold if you want a deeper drink of the artist’s talents. If you like what you hear, grab copies of Empty Glass and Rough Mix to get a full measure of Townshend’s greatest work. (Hip-O Records, released January 23, 2007)

Review originally published by the Trademark of Quality blog

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Thursday, October 17, 2019

Free Music: Lee Scratch Perry's Here Come The Warm Dreads (2019)

Sometimes the press release says it all:

“Here Come The Warm Dreads” is a meeting of legendary musical innovators as dub pioneer Lee “Scratch” Perry collaborates with polymath Brian Eno. “Here Come The Warm Dreads” is a radical dub re-work overseen by Adrian Sherwood, re-configuring the track “Makumba Rock” from this year’s Rainford album for the forthcoming dub companion LP Heavy Rain. which is being released December 6th by On-U Sounds.

Enjoy! (Buy the album from

Friday, October 11, 2019

Archive Review: Meshuggah's obZen (2012)

Meshuggah's obZen
Displaying less of an egghead Einstein approach to their metallic onslaught, this time out finds Sweden’s Meshuggah – they of the mighty signature changes and predisposition towards formulaic improvisation – providing a welcome bludgeoning dominance to their normally scalpel-precise barnstorming. ObZen, thus, provides the best of all worlds for fans of the bombastic. Meshuggah slices-and-dices single notes unlike any metal outfit before or since, but with ObZen they add the soul-crushing dimension of hardcore HEAVINESS to their considerable arsenal.

A creepy, scraping riff and teetering cymbals kick off “Combustion,” as appropriately-named a song as you’ll experience this year, a blast-a-minute mindfuck of guttural vocals, blistering drumbeats and fretwork that will flay the skin from your bones before you know it. “Electric Red” ramps up the amps with powerful tribal rhythms, plodding discordant riffs and Jens Kidman’s gutted-pig vox. Treading dangerously close to doom-turf, the song’s down-tuned axes and stomping Killing Joke drumbeats are simply to die for…

Meshuggah’s ObZen

If these first two songs set the stage for what will follow on ObZen, nothing could prepare the listener for the unrelenting barrage of noise-as-pain and pain-as-aural-pleasure that is to follow. Although Meshuggah’s technical mastery has long been established, the machine-precision and robotic chaos of ObZen is truly staggering. Drummer/songwriter Tomas Haake ventures away from the computer for many of these songs, proving acidic live skins that beat the hell out of any other metal posse plying their trade in these dark streets today.

Haake’s work on “Bleed” is outright scary, his bass drum bludgeoning the listener with ferocity that even Fenriz can’t muster, his machinegun rhythms complimented by the sting of Fredrik Thordendal’s flippant guitar solos, while MÃ¥rten Hagstrom’s rhythm guitarwork provides some of the strongest steel-beam construction that you’ll find in contemporary metal. The song is simply exhausting on so many levels, but satisfying in a way that non-metal fans could never understand. The title track offers more of the same, monster riffs and syncopated rhythms forever melded with tortured vocals and an innate sense of musical outrage.

The textbook poly-noodle of “Pineal Gland Optics” starts with a snaky recurring riff and modal synth signature before descending into Kidman’s own personal hell, his powerful vocals drowning amidst the rapidly-shifting quicksand of the song’s ultimate confusion. The six-string work here blisters-and-peels any surface close enough to be impacted by the scraping riffage and bonfire rhythms, and the vox are guaran-damn-teed to give you nightmares for a week. “Dancers to a Discordant System” offers more of the big-bore chalkboard formula of previous Meshuggah albums, providing fans of the band’s more scientific sound with some tasty integrated circuits to bite down on … though there’s nothing here to alienate lunkhead purists, either, Kidman’s death-throes vocals and Thordendal’s switchblade solos fulfilling the perceived math-to-metal quotient.

The Reverend’s Bottom Line

Altogether, Meshuggah’s sixth studio effort is a fine kettle of chaos, indeed, ObZen offering up plenty of everything that today’s young headbanger could ever desire. Although the album further showcases the band’s awestruck instrumental virtuosity and ability to change directions on a dime within a single song, there are also enough bone-crunching rhythms, surgical airstrike guitars, and city-destroying Godzilla bass lines to leave any listener a drooling mass of quivering cretinism…and what more could you ask for from any metal album? (Nuclear Blast Records, released May 15, 2012)

Review originally published by Dancing On the Edge blog

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Archive Review: Lightnin' Hopkins' The Best of Lightning Hopkins (2001)

Lightnin' Hopkins' The Best of Lightning Hopkins
The legendary Lightnin’ Hopkins is a giant among Texas bluesmen, an important link between the early traditional blues of Blind Lemon Jefferson and highly-amped, rock-influenced guitar-slingers like Charlie Sexton and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Like many of his Chicago counterparts, Hopkins was often cast by labels in an R&B light, recording material with a full band and an eye on the black music charts. Where I feel Hopkins is at his best, however, is when he and his guitar are unaccompanied, Lightnin’ kicking out some dirty country blues.

Hopkins was a prolific recording artist, much like John Lee Hooker, spitting out sides for whatever record company was paying any particular week. Blues artists got paid when they recorded or performed live; royalties were seldom paid by the labels on the 78s that they spun out during the 1940s and ‘50s. During a career that spanned seven decades, Lightnin’ recorded for dozens of labels, including Gold Star, Aladdin, Jewel, and Modern. Pinning down any best of collection on Hopkins is like hunting down a snipe – you’re better off not trying in the first place. The best that you can hope for is to isolate several distinctive eras in the artist’s career and dig up recordings that represent his best efforts in that time and place. Once you’ve done that, you can simply buy Arhoolie’s The Best of Lightnin’ Hopkins.

Lightnin’ Hopkins’ The Best of Lightning Hopkins

There are several reasons to choose this set over the dozen or so other ‘best of’ collections that you’ll find on your local dealer’s shelf. Arhoolie founder Chris Strachwitz was a fan of Hopkins, and it was after seeing Lightnin’ perform live in 1959 that Strachwitz decided to form his own record label. Strachwitz recorded Lightnin’ several times during his career, and many of those recordings – especially the Texas Blues album – are considered bona fide blues classics. Many of the best of those tracks, recorded during the 1960s, are included on this disc. Finally, Arhoolie got their hands on the 78s that Hopkins recorded for the Houston-based Gold Star label from 1947-1950 and several of those sides, including a couple of unreleased songs, are included on The Best of Lightnin’ Hopkins.

Ultimately, however, the music is why you should check out this Arhoolie compilation. Hopkins had a distinctive vocal style and a quick-witted ability to reinvent his songs and lyrics as whim and wisdom dictated. His electrifying guitar style is without peer; you can hear echoes of Lightnin’s riffing in the work of Stevie Ray, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Doyle Bramhall II and other blues-based rockers. This collection includes a fine cross-section of Lightnin’s career, from the magnificent country blues of songs like “Grosebeck Blues” and “Tim Moore’s Farm,” which sound like vintage 78s, to R&B flavored tunes like “Come On Baby.” Along the way, Lightnin’ steps up to the keyboard and invents zydeco (“Zolo Go”) and refines the 1960s-era protest song (“Please Settle In Vietnam”). Hopkins’ friendly vocals and blistering six-string wizardry are the stuff of legend, and the sound quality on The Best of Lightnin’ Hopkins – many of the songs appearing here on CD for the first time – benefits from top-notch production and lots of TLC.

The Reverend’s Bottom Line

For those unfamiliar with Lightnin’ Hopkins, this ‘best of’ compilation serves as a fine introduction to an important and influential artist. After you’ve whetted your appetite on this Arhoolie collection, might I suggest you pick up a copy of Texas Blues and the two-CD compilation The Complete Aladdin Recordings for a better overview of this magnificent blues legend’s career. You’ll be glad that you did... (Arhoolie Records, 2001)

Review originally published by Alt.Culture.Guide™, 2001

Friday, October 4, 2019

DVD Review: Man's At the Roundhouse 1976 (2008)

Man's At the Roundhouse 1976
First things first – ya gotta remember that this is a DVD of a 32-year-old concert film. If you’re expecting a lovely, multi-camera digital tape with pristine 5.1 surround sound, well, you’re living in the wrong era, Charlie Brown. What you do get from At the Roundhouse 1976 is an engaging vintage performance by one of rock music’s most overlooked prog-oriented bands, Man.

At the Roundhouse 1976 features, perhaps, Man’s best line-up as far as pure talent and chemistry is concerned. The performance captured on tape includes vocalist/guitarist Mickey Jones, guitarist/vocalist Deke Leonard, keyboardist Phil Ryan, bassist John McKenzie, and extraordinary drummer Terry Williams. Man was formed by Jones and Leonard in 1969 in Swansea, Wales and was originally considered somewhat of a pub-rock band. Influenced by the San Francisco sound of bands like Quicksilver Messenger Service, Man also incorporated elements of blues, psychedelic and prog-rock into their unique sound.

Man’s At the Roundhouse 1976 DVD

Over the course of the band’s history, Deke Leonard would depart and return a number of times, recording brilliant solo albums before coming back to the comfort of the band atmosphere. Guitarist and keyboardist Clive John was an original member of Man, leaving during the mid-‘70s to pursue a solo career that resulted in a single highly-collectible album before disappearing from the scene. Williams, who came on board for the band’s self-titled third album, would later play with both Rockpile and Dire Straits.

At the Roundhouse 1976 was originally designed to be the band’s swansong, a final shot at glory captured for the ages on celluloid. After 1,500+ performances and 13 albums over the course of eight years, the band had decided to call it a day. Man returned to the site of their greatest triumph, London’s Roundhouse, where they had experienced their breakthrough performance for the Greasy Truckers Party benefit show and resulting LP. The band decided to say “farewell” to their fans with three nights at the Roundhouse, which were filmed for this DVD.

At the Roundhouse 1976 kicks off with the bluesy “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You,” a rock-and-soul song with a distinctive rhythmic groove, Jone’s pleading vocals, and tasty twin guitars that mimic Quicksilver Messenger Service (just one of the band’s numerous influences). QMS had often performed this song in their early ‘70s concerts, and QMS guitarist John Cippolina had appeared with Man during the band’s 1975 tour, Man and Cippolina jamming together on the tune. Man kept the song in their set list, and here it’s captured for posterity in all of its funky glory!

“C’Mon” follows, beginning as a raucous call-and-response styled rocker with an odd, spacey interlude in the middle. Jones sings some nonsensical lyrics that are wedded to the strange tones that coaxes from his guitar. As the song stretches out, the band wanders into uncharted territory, each instrumentalist adding their own color to the overall musical tapestry. Leonard provides a few scorching leads, Williams’ powerful drums support the song’s unlikely structure, and Ryan’s keys lend an otherworldly hue to the song. The result is a breathtaking, unconventional jam.

Let the Good Times Roll

“Let the Good Times Roll” is a jazzy blues romp. Leonard’s vocals aren’t particularly suited to the song, but they’re supported by Jones’ soulful backing vox. McKenzie sets a steady bass groove and Leonard’s stinging six-string accomplishes the expression that his voice couldn’t. “7171-551” is a swaggering, riff-driven up-tempo rocker that showcases Jones’ wild guitar leads and Leonard’s more deliberate, scorched-earth style. Both axemen rock hard throughout the song, infusing the rhythm with a thunderstorm of lightning fretwork and squalls of sound.

Leonard’s edgy, rough-hewn vocals are better-suited to “Born With A Future,” a less-than-subtle raver that provides short, sharp shocks of guitar pyrotechnics. There’s an unexpected slow passage where Jones lends his vocals above washes of keyboards, before he and Leonard dive into some fine harmonies. Leonard provides the song with some first class axe-mangling, riffing madly with reckless abandon as Jones throws his single-note leads into the deep, chaotic instrumentation.

The longtime audience favorite “Bananas” is provided an OTT performance; a balls-out rocker that fades into near silence before swelling with Ryan’s effervescent keyboard romps and Williams’ steady, potent drumbeats and fills. Jones adds a finely-crafted solo with hints of rich tone and McKenzie’s bass work is funky without overpowering the song’s unique vibe. Leonard’s vocals are crazed here, swapping back-and-forth with Jones more grounded voice, and the song ends the show as a last-man-standing instrumental free-for-all.

At the Roundhouse 1976 provides the viewer with a true concert atmosphere, sans smoke and crowd noise. The band’s performance is shot mostly in close-ups, more than likely by a lone pair of cameras. The DVD’s sound is quite good and consistent throughout, much better than I would have though given the age of the concert. Lighting is as good as one could hope for: spotlights sometime flare up into mini-sunspots of white light, but mostly the visuals are clear and well-lit. In-between songs, especially near the beginning, there are brief interviews and commentary by the band and its fans, and backstage footage shows the various band members loose and ready to roll. Forget about the tracklist on the rear of the DVD box, ‘cause it’s just plain wrong – the way that I outlined the performances above is how they play out on your TV screen.

The Reverend’s Bottom Line

By 1976, virtually all of Man’s progressive elements had largely disappeared from the band’s music, replaced by a hard rock edge that benefited from their explosive twin guitars and the powerful drumming of Terry Williams. Man would break-up after these Roundhouse performances, and a final live album culled from the shows would be released in ‘77 as All’s Well That Ends Well.

Jones would reunite with Leonard as Man a few years later, however, and over the past 25+ years former Man band members like Williams, Ryan and original bassist Martin Ace would rotate in and out of the roster for performances and recordings (many live). Man continues to perform in Europe to this day, and released the band’s most recent album, Diamonds and Coal, in 2007. (Voiceprint U.K.)

Review originally published by the Trademark of Quality blog, 2008

Buy the DVD from Man’s At the Roundhouse 1976

Archive Review: Muddy Waters' One More Mile (1994)

Muddy Waters' One More Mile
Muddy Waters is one of the most respected bluesmen in history, and perhaps the most revered (and thus, imitated) artist in the genre. Waters, it can be argued, defined the Chicago blues style, while his raucous slide-guitar technique was destined to influence a legion of white rock guitarists. It was long thought that the well had run dry, however, and that every side of note that Waters had recorded had been issued and analyzed, captured on one of his many albums. Thus the pleasant surprise that is One More Mile, a two CD set and the first in the proposed ‘Chess Collectibles’ series that will also see the release of rare material from Howlin’ Wolf, Etta James, and Little Walter, among others.

One More Mile presents material covering a time span from 1948 through 1966, offering a sort of musical chronology of Waters’ career and development. Many of the 41 cuts here are alternate takes and acoustic or unreleased versions of Waters’ signature songs, although there are several obscure B-sides included as well. Alongside versions of such blues classics as “Hoochie Coochie Man,” “Baby Please Don’t Go” and “Crawlin’ Kingsnake” are such wonderful finds as “You Gonna Need My Help” and “My Dog Can’t Bark.” Regardless of the many changes in band members, Waters’ own Delta-influenced style and forceful musical personality always shined through the material.

One of Waters’ greatest strengths was his ability to recognize other artists’ talents, and to successfully blend them with his own. As One More Mile shows, not only did Waters know a great song when he heard one – he recorded material written by a number of songwriters, including Sonny Boy Williamson, Willie Dixon, and Jimmy Reed alongside his own considerable creations, but he also had an ear for other players. Through the years, he played with many great bluesmen, such as Dixon, James Cotton, Otis Spann, Little Walter, and Ernest Crawford, among many others. The resulting collaborations created a legend, one well served by the work found on One More Mile. (Chess Records, released March 15, 1994)

Buy the CD from Muddy WatersOne More Mile

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

New Music Monthly: October 2019 releases

Lotsa great music this month, with new tunes from friends old and new like Wilco, the Wildhearts, Joseph Arthur, the Muffs, Swans, and others. Not enough? How 'bout a new album from prog-rock supergroup Flying Colors (with Steve Morse, Neil Morse, and Mike Portnoy)? The first new LP in decades from glam-rockers Angel? A new set from Mississippi bluesman Jimmy "Duck" Holmes (produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys)? Maybe archive releases and reissues from Frank Zappa, Jethro Tull, Neil Young, and Big Star will scratch that itch. No? There's just no pleasing you people...

Release dates are subject to change and nobody tells me when they do. If you’re interesting in buying an album, just hit the ‘Buy!’ link to get it from’s just that damn easy! Your purchase puts valuable ‘store credit’ 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!

North Mississippi Allstars' Up and Rolling

Angel - Risen   BUY!
Flying Colors - Third Degree [prog supergroup w/Steve Morse, Neal Morse & Mike Portnoy]   BUY!
North Mississippi Allstars - Up and Rolling   BUY!
that dog. - Old LP   BUY!
Wilco - Ode To Joy   BUY!
The Wildhearts - Diagnosis EP   BUY!

Vinnie Moore's Soul Shifter

808 State - Transmission Suite   BUY!
Joseph Arthur - Come Back World   BUY!
Babymetal - Metal Galaxy   BUY!
Kim Gordon - No Home Record   BUY!
Lacuna Coil - Black Anima   BUY!
Vinnie Moore - Soul Shifter   BUY!

Jimmy Duck Holmes' Cypress Grove

Alter Bridge - Walk the Sky   BUY!
Fastball - The Help Machine   BUY!
Rob Halford - Celestial   BUY!
Jimmy "Duck" Holmes - Cypress Grove [produced by Dan Auerbach]   BUY!
Jim James - The Order of Nature   BUY!
Jethro Tull - Stormwatch [40th anniversary box]   BUY!
Mark Lanegan Band - Somebody's Knocking   BUY!
Refused - War Music   BUY!

Jan Akkerman's Close Beauty

Jan Akkerman - Close Beauty   BUY!
Big Star - In Space [CD & vinyl reissue]   BUY!
Longwave - If We Ever Live Forever   BUY!
The Muffs - No Holiday   BUY!
Grace Potter - Daylight   BUY!
Sunn O))) - Pyroclasts   BUY!
Swans - Leaving Meaning   BUY!
Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Colorado   BUY!
Frank Zappa - Halloween 73   BUY!

Big Star's In Space

Album of the Month: Big Star's In Space, a reissue of the band's 2005 "reunion" album on both CD and vinyl. Big Star founder Alex Chilton had put together a new version of the band a decade previous, built around original drummer Jody Stephens and the talented duo of Jonathan Auer and Ken Stringfellow from the Posies. In Space was the only studio LP released by this line-up and would prove to be Chilton's last album released before his death in 2010. Although it's often criticized as no better than a Chilton solo album, one has to ask "what's wrong with that?"