Saturday, December 31, 2011

OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW!

Just wanted to wish everyone a happy new year!


Friday, December 30, 2011

SOUL SURVIVOR

CHARLES BRADLEY: NO TIME FOR DREAMING





A voice doesn't come much rawer than Charles Bradley's, which has been honed from a lifetime of paying dues. Another fantastic entry in the Daptone catalog, Bradley labored for decades at various day jobs from Maine to Alaska, singing and performing in his spare time before finding his musical home.

Backed up by Dap-Kings guitarist Thomas ''Tommy TNT'' Brenneck (who also produces the disc) and the Menahan Street Band, it's Charles Bradley's time to shine, with real, authentic soul that gets better with each listen. In his distinctively rough-hewn timbre one hears the unmistakable reflection of the trials along his rocky path to discovery,

There's Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, and Al Green.

Charles Bradley is ready to take his place alongside them.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

R.I.P. CHICKENFOOT 4/1/2009-12/27/2011

Today, I am really bummed.

Regular readers will remember Chickenfoot, the cat named after the band formed by Sammy Hagar and friends a couple of years ago.

I had to have him put down today.



Christmas night, he was his normal pain-in-the-ass self, chasing the older cats around the house and getting into things I would prefer he not get into.

Monday morning he seemed a little out of it, but nothing that concerned me.

This morning (Tuesday), I came out to feed them and he seemed to be having an epileptic fit. I ran him into the vet, and they spent all day with blood tests and fluids and oxegen and medications that are supposed to relieve pressure in the brain, and at 3pm they still did not know what was wrong. They said they could transfer him to some sort of specialty animal hospital, but did not think there was much optimism.

So I made the call. Watched as the needle plugged into the IV line and as his little heart slowed, and then stopped.

Very sad.


I'd gotten Foot (one of his nicknames I can actually print) because another cat was older (ten) and had been diagnosed with a heart murmur. She outlived him, and that was with him chasing her around the house every day.

Of course tonight I've been second guessing not taking him in yesterday, and wishing I'd not yelled at him so much for getting on the counters and other assorted infractions that do not seem so important tonight.

But I think he had a pretty good, if short, life.

He certainly demonstrated a whole lot of attitude.

And I'm gonna miss him.


NOT SO BAD AFTER ALL...

TOM WAITS: BAD AS ME



I have been saying for close to three decades that Tom Waits has not put out much worth listening to since 1980’s Heartattack & Vine, but a couple of years ago I came to acknowledge that the decline happened after Waits’ next effort, the One From The Heart soundtrack in 1982.

Since then, some of Waits' output has been BAD.

I mean, downright unlistenable.

With this year’s Bad As Me, Waits puts something on record he has not done much of late…melodies!

Imagine that!

You can actually hum along to most of the tunes on this record! And this is an album that is definitely worth listening to!

While many of the pieces (like the title track) still feature the unusual arrangements that have made Waits a college radio favorite, his voice is in pretty good form (meaning you can understand the lyrics), and the songs are quite listenable.

There’s one number that shows Tom getting his Elvis on (“Get Lost”), as well as the balladry that Waits served up like no one else in his Asylum years (“Back In The Crowd”, “Last Leaf”) and the imagery that Waits can infuse into a lyric that puts you right beside him in the story (“Face To The Highway”).

I’ve kept up with the Waits catalog over the years but this is the first title since the early eighties that I would actually recommend. Welcome back, Tom-where’ve ya been?


FACE TO THE HIGHWAY







 
 
LAST LEAF
 
 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

CHRISTMAS TIME IS HERE

VINCE GUARALDI TRIO: A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS




This is an easy review...I really don't have to say much besides the CD title!

We all remember A Charlie Brown Christmas, the first animated special featuring the characters from Charles M. Schulz’ Peanuts comic strip.

We all remember wanting to be able to dance like Snoopy, or wrap our secutiy blanket around a frail young sapling and have it bloom into a Christmas tree.

And is there one of us who does not instantly recognize the tune "Linus And Lucy?"

With music by the Vince Guaraldi Trio, the soundtrack to that special has been an annual cash cow since 1965. It seems that if you wait until after Black Friday, you can’t find it.

While there are other instantly recognizable tunes ("Christmas Time Is Here," "Hark The Herald Angels Sing," "Oh Tannenbaum"), "Linus And Lucy" is along reason enough to buy this CD and have it in your holiday rotation.

Gary Hoey also does a rockin' version that is worth checking out. Give one or both of 'em to someone on your list!
 
So without further ado...


LINUS AND LUCY




CHRISTMAS TIME IS HERE




LINUS AND LUCY (GARY HOEY'S VERSION)


Friday, December 23, 2011

ALL SHE ASKED FOR WAS AN AUTOGRAPH

CANDICE NIGHT: REFLECTIONS



Candice Night started out as a model.

The Long Island native transitioned to radio in her twenties; seeming destined for a career in communications.

In 1989 she approached rock legend Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple, Rainbow) for an autograph.

It wasn’t long before she was singing backup for Deep Purple on tour.

Now married to Blackmore, Candice Night is the lead singer of Blackmore’s Night.

Candice Night is not just the beneficiary of good fortune; however, she is a serious vocalist who has also performed with the likes of Sass Jordan, Glenn Hughes and Beto Velazquez.

Night strikes out on her own with Reflections, a collection of ten power ether rock songs that show off her voice in fine fashion.

Night’s voice is highly trained, a fact that becomes quickly evident on the opening track, “Wind Is Calling (Hush The Wind)”.

Night mixes hard pallet sounds with a soft tone in unusual and intriguing fashion. The melody is utterly memorable, built within a well-constructed arrangement that’s part lullaby and part fairytale.

Night serves up high-energy, vocal driven rockers with catchy choruses that could be breakout hits with the right push and the right luck.

Other songs, such as “Black Roses,” are pretty and haunting; dark but with a sparkle of light in the middle. Night gets ethereal, plays on the edge of innuendo and plays on Celtic themes with gorgeous melodies that will haunt you long after the album has finished playing.

Reflections is a successful collection of songs that perhaps don’t exactly fit within the Blackmore’s Night songbook, but are perfectly fitting to Candice Night’s voice and style. There are a couple of down moments her, but on the whole the album is entertaining and worth spending some time with. Night does the ethereal and lyric stuff so well, but she is surprisingly good when she lifts her face into the headwinds of rock and roll and lets loose as well. Reflections is a worthwhile trip.






BLACK ROSES

 
GONE GONE GONE
 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

BLUES THROUGH AND THROUGH



Etta James, the seminal R&B singer, is terminally ill, according to her doctor, Elaine James (no relation), who has cared for the singer at her home in Riverside since March 2010.

Dr. James told The Press-Enterprise in Riverside, Calif., that family members were told two weeks ago that Ms. James’s chronic leukemia could not be cured.

“I am Southern and Christian and would just ask for the prayers of her fans and friends,” Dr. James said. “They know she’s been sick, but not how sick.”

Etta James, 73, has been among the most celebrated American blues singers for decades, recording enduring hits like “At Last,” “Tell Mama” and “I’d Rather Go Blind.” Her career had its share of obstacles, including drug addiction, troubled love relationships and health and legal problems, but James continued to overcome.

James was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.

UPDATE: Ms. James passed away on January 20, 2012.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR

FISH: 13TH STAR



How some artists manage to continue a long career while others fade has always been a mystery to me.

By the time I knew who Marillion was, Fish had already left the band, and most thought his career was over.

I found a copy of Internal Exile at St. Mark's Sounds (the one you have to go up stairs to get into) and purchased it without knowing it was the former lead singer of Marillion-one of my fellow CD scroungers that day had to tell me.

Since then, I'd stayed current with both Marillion and Derek W. Dick (Fish's alter ego).

Interestingly, both careers followed similar paths, as both realized the power of the online community in the mid-90's and began releasing albums on their own.


13th Star, Fish's most recent release, seems to have received some of his best reviews in a long time from both critics and fans alike.

13th Star is a solid album, with most of this material was written by Fish and co-writer/bass player Steve Vantis, who brings a more contemporary feel to the proceedings and gives the overall sound a little more of an edge.

Originally released as a limited edition available through Fish's website or at shows, the album features good music, good musicians, good production, and even good artwork (by long-time Fish and Marillion illustrator Mark Wilkinson).

The lineup for the album includes Frank Usher and Chris Johnson (guitars), Steve Vantsis (bass), Foss Paterson (keyboards), Gavin Griffiths (drums), Dave Haswell (percussion) and Lorna Bannon (background vocals).

Lyrically Fish is often at his best when going through a relationship breakup (Misplaced Childhood, Fellini Days), and 13th Star documents his well publicized split from one time fiancée Heather Findley (from Mostly Autumn).



Most lyrics deal with, or are at least implicitly in reference to, this failed relationship.

Written as a concept album, the lyrics presenting a narrative of someone on a journey of self- discovery, with the 13th Star serving as the guiding light or the destination. Sadly, what are missing are hooks-no obvious singles here.

Vantsis' contributions lend a rougher, more guitar-based and slightly industrial sound, and while Fish's voice is not what it used to be, it still has fits the material well.



Although he has made good use of the internet to keep his celebrity alive, there is no disputing that Fish's commercial fortunes have declined over the years. However, he continues to put out quality work and while this album may sound like a departure, it should please old fans as well as new converts.

For all you old-schoolers, there was a limited edition (2,500 copies) double vinyl gatefold album released as a mail order only release, with the core album tracks spread across the first three of four sides, with live bonus songs rounding out side four. There may still be some available on Fish's site.







ARC OF THE CURVE
 
 
 
 
 
ZOE 25
 
 
 
 
 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

CENTENNIAL BLUES

The legacy of legendary bluesman Robert Johnson will get the all-star treatment when The Roots, Shemekia Copeland, Bettye Lavette, Taj Mahal, Keb’ Mo,’ Sam Moore and Todd Rundgren gather in NYC in 2012.



Co-produced by Steve Berkowitz, Michael Dorf, Joe Morton and Patricia Watt and taking place March 6 at New York City’s famed Apollo Theater, net proceeds will go to funding the construction of the Blues Hall Of Fame in Memphis. Expect more artists to be announced in the weeks to come.

VIP ticket packages are available via RobertJohnson100.com, while general onsale tickets are now available at Ticketmaster.com. Visit ApolloTheatre.org for more information.


And you can pick up Todd Rundgren's Robert Johnson tribute CD here:


Saturday, December 17, 2011

BACK IT UP

NILS LOFGREN: OLD SCHOOL



Nils Lofgren, best known these days as a 27-year member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, delivers a contemplative record after a difficult period in that band's history, in the wake of losing both E Street saxophonist Clarence Clemons (who passed in June at age 69 from complications following a stroke) and organist/keyboard player Danny Federici (after a battle with cancer in 2008).

As a result, Old School opens with the title track, a bold rock ‘n’ roll kiss off to whiners, featuring a guest vocal turn by Lou Gramm of Foreigner fame (who knows a little about dealing with adversity after his battle with cancer).

Lofgren proceeds to deliver white knuckled riffs and rockabilly songs that would not be out of place on one of his employer's albums, with another guest vocal from Free/Bad Company vocalist Paul Rodgers.

Lofgren's quiet tribute to Ray Charles ("Miss You Ray"), has the same emotional tone as Springsteen’s "Blood Brothers," and could easily be about the recently departed Clemons. Old School finds Lofgren sharing his journey through grief and anger with us.

Old School is Nils Lofgren’s first studio album since 2008s The Loner: Nils Sings Neil. Anyone who’s followed Lofgren’s career know about his diverse solo offerings as well as his other sideman stints, which include spots with Neil Young, Willie Nelson and Ringo Starr. Those influences shine on this record, which brings out his diverse best. His debut still shines as the brightest gem in his catalog, but this one is an addition you should consider adding to your collection.




OLD SCHOOL

60 IS THE NEW 18

MISS YOU RAY (Live in Phoenix, AZ)






 









E STREET BAND ALERT! As I type these words, there has been a small mention in the pages of Rolling Stone of an album and tour next year from Nils' other job...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

BLUES LINEAGE

JIMMIE VAUGHAN: BLUES, BALLADS AND FAVORITES



Steve Ray's brother returns with his first album in nine years, Blues, Ballads and Favorites.

Jimmie Vaughan founded the iconic Fabulous Thunderbirds in 1974, and they became famous for the high-octane blues-rock sound that earned them critical acclaim in the '70s and platinum-selling albums in the '80s. In 1990, Vaughan recorded a duets album, Family Style, with his brother shortly before the latter's untimely death, and then went on to launch a solo career.

Blues, Ballads and Favorites is Vaughan's tribute to the music that inspired him, with covers of songs by Little Richard, Jimmy Reed, Roy Milton, Roscoe Gordon and others.

Recorded in Austin, Texas, and featuring guest appearances by Lou Ann Barton and Bill Willis, Blues, Ballads and Favorites is an enjoyable excursion into some well chosen covers and standards topped up by a typically tasteful JV instrumental.


This album has a little of everything, as the title might suggest. Vaughan's guitar playing is expressive and clear with a fairly contemporary sound.
And good news...the follow-up is already in stores!
 
THE PLEASURE'S ALL MINE
 
 
 
COMIN' & GOIN'
 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

RUNDGREN-MANIA?

It's not Todd Rundgren, but an incredible simulation.

Veteran rocker Todd Rundgren is planning to launch his own tribute band so he can retire from touring after almost 45 years on the road.

The songwriter/producer began his career with Nazz in 1967 before going solo two years later.

He is still regularly touring and recording at the age of 63, but admits the rigours of life on the road are wearing him down - and he's considering finding an impersonator to take his place at concerts.





Rundgren tells Mojo magazine, "I'm 63 years old and there's a limit to what I can do physically. So I'm thinking ahead: how can I alter what I do in order to accommodate that without compromising any of it?

"The hardest part of it now is the travelling - it's getting to the gig. So I'm thinking about starting my own tribute bands. They can go out to work."

Now there have been other bands with successful tribute bands, but they tend to be acts that sell quite a few more concert tickets than Todd.

The Australian Pink Floyd Show has been touring the globe for years putting on shows that are quite good (I saw their Wall and DSTOM shows and was pretty impressed).

Brian May has been interviewed as looking to form an authorized tribute band for Queen some twenty years after Freddie Mercury's death.

A few months ago, I guest-posted on Tossing It Out  and the topic was ghost writers-keeping an author's fiction series alive after the author's death.

This looks to be the musical equivalent of that phenomena.

So maybe it won't be long before I curl up with a Spenser tribute novel while listening to a Todd tribute band.

But I'll be wearing an Australian Pink Floyd tee shirt!

For books I was on the fence-for music there is no question in my mind. When the musician has had enough, it should end.


Todd-when you retire, I'm going to be sad.

But you weren't exactly setting sales records - what makes you think a tribute band would do any better?

My idea? Don't travel. Continue to write and record, and do some local shows each year.

Let the fans come to you.

Heck, you live in Hawaii.

You had fans building vacations around Akron, Ohio. They'd probably be willing to vacation in Hawaii.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

REAL NOWHERE LAND

SLAMER: NOWHERE LAND




Multi-talented British guitarist Mike Slamer has had a rock career spanning more than a quarter of a century, working with Steve Walsh in Streets in the early eighties, and working with a variety of artists as a producer, player and songwriter, including Fiona, House Of Lords, Steelhouse Lane and Warrant. Slamer is currently a member of the band Seventh Key, also with former Kansas member Billy Greer.


Frontiers Records serves up Mike's latest effort, "Nowhere Land." This album is a superb effort, a genre-blending mix of melodic, hard and progressive rock. A great combination of mid-tempo numbers and some hard rocking tracks pace this album perfectly from beginning to end. Slamer shines on each track, and Billy Greer's vocals set a powerful, image-evoking atmosphere.

Many melodic rock fans have been listening to Mike Slamer for more than twenty years and just didn't know it. This album, sadly, will not see the light of day in the United States, but is available from our friends at NEH Records.

 
 
 
 
 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

BRIDESMAID TO THE CARS

DOUG POWELL: FOUR SEASONS



I'm sure all of you reading this have also read my review of the New Cars CD that was posted a few months back.

You all know how Todd Rundgren was called upon to fill the void left by Ric Ocasek.

What you may not know is that former Todd Rundgren opening act Doug Powell was also approached about being in The New Cars.

Doug's Four Seasons album features six songs he'd written in anticipation of joining the band. It`s amazing how Doug captured `their sound.`

If The New Cars had stayed together and worked on new material, guess what? They would have had a hard time doing better than any of these tracks. The scary thing? Doug tossed these babies off as a creative exercise.

This was the last album we saw for a while from Doug as he took a hiatus from music to concentrate on his writing and graphic design business.

Not a bad highlight to go out on, a joy-filled send-off that most pop fans will enjoy, available from CD BABY.



FEEL FOR YOU


GOD BLESS US ALL


Saturday, December 3, 2011

BLUEGRASS RENEGADE

TOMMY SHAW: THE GREAT DIVIDE



Montgomery, Alabama is a few hundred miles from Nashville (and Skynyrd says it's a real sweet home), but it took Tommy Shaw thirty-six years to get to Music City, taking a three-and-a-half-decade detour through Chicago (and the world) as a rock icon, singer and guitarist in Styx and Damn Yankees.


Tommy's early love of roots music always burned bright, and his remarkable path of musical discovery and storytelling has led him back to those roots on his newest solo effort, The Great Divide.

Working with some of the finest bluegrass session players around, and with guest appearances by Dwight Yoakam, Alison Krauss and Brad Davis, Shaw’s bluegrass debut is a down-home country album that is quite reminiscent of the Shaw-Blades debut.

The songs on this record (it was released on vinyl, you licorice pizza junkies!) are intelligent and soulful, old-style country music written with old-style country lyricism and genuine country musical simplicity, not the modern pop that passes for country these days.

Tommy does not stray far from his natural voice (no 'put-on' southern twang drenched in nasal tones) but he is in fine voice here. Shaw manages to capture a bit of the high lonesome sound at times, and the Alabama boy delivers a roots album that deftly blends traditional bluegrass sound and modern songwriting. Shaw’s writing is sharp with a light feel that suits the material. Several of these songs would not be out of place on a Shaw-Blades album, built around traditional instrumentation and rootsy arrangements.

All in all, a surprising and pleasing turn from Shaw, and one fine bluegrass album.

BACK IN YOUR KITCHEN


 
I'LL BE COMING HOME
 
 


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

CAREFUL YOU DON'T GET STUNG

SCORPIONS: HUMANITY HOUR 1




Reprinted from the DiscConnected MySpace page

A scorpion is an arthropod with eight legs. I sometimes find them in my garage (I live in Phoenix), and if they sting you it kicks your butt.

Scorpions are a hard rock band from Germany who have been kicking butt in the music world since 1972, with anthems like "Rock You Like A Hurricane" and "No One Like You." They have sold over 70 million records in their career. Contrary to common usage, the band's name is "Scorpions," not "The Scorpions." Make a note of that. And while you're taking notes, you may want to jot down that the new Scorpions album is a five-star release.

Scorpions' 2007 album is called Humanity Hour 1.

Like the aforementioned eight-legged critter, this CD stings hard and will kick your butt. Sometimes all the pieces fall neatly into place, and with this record, after a few not-so-spectacular albums, Scorpions got it all in the right place at the right time.

Helping out on songwriting detail are Eric Bazillian (of The Hooters fame), Russ Irwin and Billy Corgan, and it pays off-not since the Savage Amusement album has a Scorpions record had so many songs of such high quality.

Produced by the legendary Desmond Child (Bon Jovi, Meat Loaf among many others), this album delivers. I did not have high expectations because their last few had been middle-of-the-road. Solid, but unspectacular.

This effort mixes their old-school AOR melodies with a bit of a modern edge and still rolls it into a classic eighties commercial style that manages to sound fresh. Child proves once again that he has the ability to bring out the best in a band with an updated guitar sound and masterful production for a sound only a master behind the board could achieve.

Sometimes a band just nails it, and this is one of those times. Run out and buy it, or you just may find a scorpion in your garage.

WE WERE BORN TO FLY


Sunday, November 27, 2011

STORMY WEATHER

ISSA: THE STORM

Frontiers Record’s marketing for Norwegian vocalist Issa plays up the whole 'sex-kitten'
angle that really does not suit her, or her new album, The Storm..

The lady is an AOR talent, but comparing her in a press release to Celine Dion and Avril Lavigne is somewhat misleading.


Issa is a powerful female lead vocalist with a solid band behind her, performing memorable melodic hard rock with a modern edge to the album in the guitar tone and production, and Issa’s very likable, melodic vocals.

The selection of songs features compositions from the label’s gang of usual suspects, and there are some great songs on here, but I’d rather see Issa contribute more than the three tracks cowritten with husband James Martin, two of which are album highlights.

Issa’s debut album was very impressive and The Storm follows a very similar path.

This follow-up features great production with a similar energy, the same powerful vocals and a good dose of melodic hard rock. The production has some modern tweaks, with a little more contemporary sound than the debut.

The songs are good, and stand outs include the super catchy and hook filled “Looking For Love,” the monster power ballad “Invincible” and another ballad, “Too Late For Love. “

Recommended for fans of melodic rock.



LOOKING FOR LOVE




INVINCIBLE

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

CLASSY WHITE BRAT R&B

TODD RUNDGREN: NEARLY HUMAN



It is a crime against the cosmos that Warner Brothers deleted Nearly Human, Todd Rundgren's 1989 masterpeice, from it's catalogue.

You heard me right. The album that Rolling Stone hailed as "the best album of classy white-brat R&B since 1973′s Abandoned Luncheonette" has been deleted for more than a decade.

Nearly Human may be Todd's most underheard and overlooked album, and in my opinion it is his best; an extraordinary return to form, a soulful exercise recorded live in the studio with the usual top notch production.

This album stands as the only masterwork in the later stages of Todd's career. The first four original songs alone ("The Want Of A Nail," The Waiting Game," "Parallel Lines," and "Can't Stop Running") give you your money's worth and would qualify as a work of genius for most other rock musicians.

Other highlights include "Hawking," one of Todd's most personal and haunting composotions and still a live staple, his version of the Tubes/Rundgren composition "Feel It," and "Fidelity," a beautiful melody even if I don't agree with its' morality. The album closes with the gospel-infused "I Love My Life," and leaves you wanting more.

"Three Little Hitlers," the Elvis Costello cover that sits at track four did not even appear on the original vinyl version, and was a CD bonus track that would have made a better running order if it had been placed at the end of the program.

That is pretty much the only negative thing that I can say about this release.

Any Todd fan who ever liked any of his "Philly-soul" influenced material will absolutly love this release, recorded digitally and live in the studio. The tour which followed this release featured many of the same singers and musicians, was universally acclaimed as being briliant, and live documents on CD and DVD are still available at Amazon.

Anyone who remembers all of the song lists we did last year know that this CD is on my desert island list, and that the song Parallel Lines made my top love songs list (not to mention being the soundtrack for one of the most important relationships in my life).

This is an essential release for any serious music fan, and you better snap it up when you see it because they're asking $70 for a new copy on Amazon!

Here's a reprint of David Fricke’s review from the June 29, 1989 issue of Rolling Stone (#555).

Patti Smith once said Todd Rundgren had “the ability to devour and juggle the best of what has passed and shoot it into future perfect.” In fact, she said it in these very pages, back in 1971, in a review of his second solo LP, The Ballad of Todd Rundgren.

It would be another year before the young studio savant issued his magnum pop opus, the four-sided Something/Anything, generally acknowledged to be the consummate early-Seventies ear-candy album. But even then, Smith, no minor judge of what constitutes the art of rock, recognized in Ballad‘s beguiling songs of love and loss the imprint of a gifted craftsman with the intellect and imagination to make tomorrow’s pop today and the chops to do it with one hand tied behind his back.


Nearly Human, Rundgren’s first solo release of new material since his 1985 look-Ma-no-instruments album A Capella, actually produces the opposite effect – technique plus brains plus vision equals vintage Seventies Todd pop.

Ever since Something/Anything, Rundgren has diligently made records according to his own rebellious aesthetic and utopian spirituality, only intermittently exercising his ability to create lush, loving ballads and bright sing-along singles.

Admittedly, he’s made more than enough of those to fill Rhino’s new almost-two-hour-long compilation, Anthology (1968-1985). (There’s another volume dedicated to his work with the band Utopia.)

Still, Nearly Human is as deliciously retro as Rundgren has ever been, not only begging comparison to the bumper crop of radio-ready jewels on records like Something/Anything and 1978′s Hermit of Mink Hollow but harking back even further to his deep roots in sophisto-Philly soul.


Simply put, Nearly Human is the best album of classy white-brat R&B since 1973′s Abandoned Luncheonette, by Rundgren’s old homeboys Hall and Oates.

Cut au naturel in the studio with a veritable philharmonic of strings, brass and background singers (sort of Rundgren conducts the Love Unlimited Orchestra), it’s a colorful evocation of Motown dance frenzy, the light gauzy cool of Aja-period Steely Dan and the silken grandeur of Philadelphia International’s greatest hits.

It’s also dosed with an almost garage brashness in Rundgren’s distinctive vocal style, a seductive amalgam of choirboy polish, shivering shy-boy croon and strained suburban-punk testifying. Rundgren doesn’t pretend to make textbook soul; he only wants to rev up his own kind of quiet storm the old-fashioned way.


The album’s boisterous opener, “The Want of a Nail,” boasts truly righteous roots – the O’Jays or Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes could have done a real torch job on this one back in ’75. As it is, guest singer Bobby Womack pours on his own soul kerosene while Rundgren turns his white wail loose in this rousing parable about horses, shoes and the importance of details (“For the want of a nail/The world was lost”). He shows equal chutzpah when he takes on a twenty-two-voice chorale in the album’s hallelujah finale “I Love My Life,” although the “Reverend Todd” shtick in the middle drags on to minimal effect. He may be A Wizard/A True Star, but he’s no Jesse Jackson.


That’s okay, because the ballads are the real heart of the record. “Hawking” is a pensive, hesitant ode to a Higher Love in the image of the slow, meditative beauty “The Verb ‘to Love’,” on Faithful. “Feel It,” co-written by keyboardist Vince Welnick of the Tubes, is a kind of Rundgrenesque take on Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” with whispery female vocals and a come-hither chorus. And even at his most accessible, Rundgren never lapses into the predictable; he throws a couple of neat vocal-harmony curves in “The Waiting Game” and “Parallel Lines” that are as captivating as his simple, addictive melodies.


Indeed, the most extraordinary thing about Todd Rundgren’s talent for making compelling if eccentric pop is that he has no solo platinum to show for it.

THE WANT OF A NAIL



THE WAITING GAME


PARALLEL LINES




PARALLEL LINES (live with band)



PARALLEL LINES (from UP AGAINST IT soundtrack)




PARALLEL LINES (alternate live version)




(do ya get it-I love this song. and if EM happens upon this blog-it still reminds me of you!)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

WHERE THE STARBUCK'S USED TO BE

JOHN WESLEY HARDING:
THE SOUND OF HIS OWN VOICE



19 albums into his career, John Wesley Harding delivers The Sound of His Own Voice.


Now that he’s living a double life as a musician and a novelist (having published 3 books under his given name, Wesley Stace), Harding leaves his serious side on the printed page. While his tenth studio album, shows he still has a point of view and no shyness about expressing it, from a musical standpoint, this is one of his most engaging pieces of pop songcraft since he burst onto the scene with Here Comes The Groom way back in 1989.

Recorded at the Type Foundry in Portland, Oregon, the album was produced by Harding and Scott McCaughey (The Minus Five, R.E.M., Young Fresh Fellows) and mixed by Tucker Martine (My Morning Jacket, The Decemberists, Spoon).

It features the all-star King Charles Trio, whose lineup includes John Moen, Chris Funk, Jenny Conlee and Nate Query, all members of The Decemberists, Peter Buck of R.E.M. and McCaughey. Rosanne Cash, Laura Veirs and John Roderick (The Long Winters) also lend their vocal talents to the record.

The results are beautifully crafted and entertainingly eclectic, encompassing jaunty folk-rock and nervy rock & roll with R&B underpinnings. It's fitting that the album is bookended by tributes to songwriting and music, as clear that Harding is having the time of his life writing and playing on this collection. The production and arrangements are expansive without being overbearing.

Sharp words and bright and poppy music abound, his clever wordplay appearing honed by his recent literary efforts. Songs like "There's a Starbucks (Where the Starbucks Used To Be)," are irresistable, and rarely do you see a songwriter embrace vocabulary with lines like: "They're as sharp as Occam's razor/as subtle as Aquinas/They define us and refine us with their beta-query-minus."

Harding seems to have gotten better at making records now that he’s doing it as a sideline. This album is stronger in every respect than the last, and may be one of the most satisfying albums of his career.

THERE'S A STARBUCK'S (WHERE THE STARBUCK'S USED TO BE)
 
 
 
I MIGHT BE DEAD
 
 
 
THE WAY WE WEREN'T
 
 
 
SING YOUR OWN SONG
 
 
 
I SHOULD HAVE STOPPED
 
 
 
 
THE WORLD IN SONG
 


Thursday, November 17, 2011

INTO THE SUNRISE

ETTA JAMES: THE DREAMER



Etta James was hailed as the “greatest of all modern blues singers”, in the words of Atlantic Records founder Jerry Wexler. Outside the studio, James has had a turbulent life, fraught with drug addiction, bad relationships, and jail sentences.


Now 73 and dogged by illness, James says she's hanging up the mike after a career of more than 50 years.

You might expect her farewell album, The Dreamer, to demonstrate the ailing singer’s railty and weariness, a soul singer’s trip down the darkening lane that Johnny Cash trod in his later recordings.

This batch mostly of vintage R&B classics (recorded in 2008) is a raw, emotional reminder of why James endured for so long, covering most of the bases touched by her magnificence over the past 50 years.

James's voice is slightly diminished but not so much as to still not be the real deal on this chugging ensemble dominated by guitars and horns. Sometimes stately, seldom subtle, the singer remains a vivacious and strong-willed presence throughout the album.

James puts her soul stamp on everything from the simmering Cigarettes & Coffee (Otis Redding) to the hard-rocking Welcome to the Jungle (Guns N' Roses). The works of Ray Charles, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Johnny "Guitar" Watson and others get similar treatment, assuring that James won't bow out quietly

Outstanding songs include Dorothy Moore's "Misty Blue" and Bobby Bland's "Dreamer". Another highlight is a worldly, seductive take on Otis Redding’s “Cigarettes and Coffee,” as good a note as any on which to exit.

Cut to Etta James leaving a smoky blues club as dawn breaks

She will be missed.

DREAMER



CIGARETTES & COFFEE
 
 
WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE
 
 
 
MISTY BLUE
 
 
 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Rest In Peace, Moogy Klingman

Moogy Klingman, a musical associate of Todd Rundgren, passed away last night after a difficult battle with cancer.




Mark "Moogy" Klingman (born 7 September 1950, in New York City, New York, USA), was a founding member of Todd Rundgren's musical team Utopia and later became a solo recording artist and songwriter.

Klingman's association with Todd Rundgren commenced in 1969. Moogy was the original keyboardist for Todd Rundgren and Utopia. In his Manhattan loft, he and Rundgren constructed the "Secret Sound" recording studio where Rundgren produced his A Wizard, A True Star, Todd, and other albums. He played on 10 Todd Rundgren albums, as well as several Utopia albums.

Klingman played live for Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix, Buzzy Linhart, the Allman Brothers/Gov't Mule and a summer tour with blues legend, Bo Diddley. Klingman is the co-founder of the band The Peaceniks, along with Barry Gruber.

Klingman recorded solo albums for Capitol and EMI records, as well as on his own label. Klingman has released several solo albums containing songs that went on to be recorded by people like Johnny Winter, Eric Clapton, Barry Manilow, Bette Midler, Todd Rundgren and others. He wrote the song "Dust in the Wind" (not to be confused with the hit song of the same name by Kansas), which Todd Rundgren recorded on his Something/Anything? album and Guns N' Roses have occasionally performed live in concert.

Klingman collaborated with William "Buzzy" Linhart on the authorship and composition of the selection (You Got To Have) Friends, which soon became Bette Midler's de facto theme song. He produced and played keyboards for Midler on her Songs for the New Depression.

Klingman has played, recorded and/or had his songs covered by many rock legends, including Jimi Hendrix, Chuck Berry, Luther Vandross, Bob Dylan, Bo Diddley, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Allan Woody and Warren Haynes from the Allman Brothers & Gov't Mule. Klingman has also worked with great female rockers like Carly Simon, Cindy Lauper, Shawn Colvin, Irene Cara, and Thelma Houston.
A recent benefit concert (Feb 2011) for Klingman's medical expenses due to cancer saw the original Todd Rundgren's Utopia, featuring Ralph Schuckett, Kevin Ellman, John Siegler and Klingman, reunite on stage for the first time in well over thirty years.

Rest in peace, Moogy!

original post at http://toddrundgrenarena.blogspot.com/2011/11/mark-moogy-klingmans-bio.html

Sunday, November 13, 2011

STRAIGHT OUTTA TONY SOPRANO'S FAVORITE GARDEN STORE

FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE: SKY FULL OF HOLES



Unlike the iconic Ft. Wayne NJ garden store (featured in a couple of Sopranos episodes) that inspired its name, Fountains of Wayne are still very much open for business.

In fact, on their new album Sky Full of Holes, powerhouse songwriting duo Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger continue their reign as pop music masters while exploring new frontiers within their unique respective songwriting aesthetics. Since 1996 they have been writing finely observed, neatly rhymed character studies set to sleekly produced pop-rock.


The album title comes from a line imagining how a 21-gun salute leaves a ''sky full of holes'' at a military funeral, in a kindly song called ''Cemetery Guns,'' a march accented by snare-drum rolls.  They can still turn a pop phrase, as evidenced by a couplet like  ''Let's get your phone reconnected/Let's get this room disinfected,''


FOW's music has its heart in the 1970's, a decade where the Eagles, Stealers Wheel and Nick Lowe strummed acoustic and electric guitars, repeated octaves on the piano and sang wordless vocal-harmony choruses.

Ranging from high-energy power pop to intimate, acoustic-driven ballads, Sky Full of Holes showcases the band's renowned storytelling abilities and flair for creating memorable characters in what may be FOW's most successful distillation of their musical maxims to date.

And while that sounds impressive (coming from me, anyway) and cerebral, said differently, this album is a whole lot of fun.

RICHIE AND RUBEN




HATE TO SEE YOU LIKE THIS (live)


CEMETARY GUNS (live)


Friday, November 11, 2011

SMELLS LIKE NIRVANA

NIRVANA: SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT (DELUXE EDITION)



Twenty years ago, rock was changed forever when a little called song 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' hit radio airwaves.

This song sheared the hair off the hair bands and knocked the King of Pop off his throne.

Although this was their second album, Nevermind was their major-label debut, so Nirvana was viewed as an overnight sensation.

Issued to celebrate the platinum anniversary of it's original release, the Deluxe Edition of Nevermind is quite a comprehensive collection of songs from this era of the band.


I won't go into the songs very deeply, as everyone knows the album by now. I did not preview the whole package, since no one sent me a preview copy (ya hear that, Universal?), but I found tracks in lossless format of (ahem) questionable origin online and listened to them.

While I often do not hear the differences in remasters, I do here. The album's sound has been carefully remastered, not overdone, but sounding fresher and crisper than before. For die-hards worried about whether or not 'Endless, Nameless', the famous hidden track on the original album is present, it is, only the dead-space silence has been cut.

After the orginal album, disc one presents the B-sides tracks from each of the four singles released from the album, including live tracks. If you have the Singles box set, you already have all these, although they too have been remastered.

Disc two starts with the Smart Sessions, showcasing the band rehearsing such powerhouse songs like 'In Bloom'. The With The Lights Out box set already had released 'Pay To Play' and 'Here She Comes Now,' but completists will want the other tracks.

The disc continues with "The Boombox Rehearsals," sounding rough around the edges, but an interesting lsten into the orgins of these soon-to-be classics. The last two tracks were recorded at the BBC, including 'Something In The Way' performed electric.

So, with all that said, is it worth it?

I was not a huge fan of the band, but if you found yourself holding a vigil after Kurt Cobain died, and you don't have either the Singles or With the Lights Out box sets, I'd think you'd want to spring for this not only for the extra tracks but for the improved sound.

There is also a Super-Deluxe five-disc box set for the hard-core fans, with a DVD and extra audio discs featuring alternate album mixes, more BBC recordings, music videos and a hard-cover book. It wouldn't surprise me if there was a scratch-and-sniff Courtney Love centerfold in there!

Useless Trivia Time!

Three-month-old Spencer Elden was the little tyke showing his junk while reaching for a dollar bill on the album cover.

Elden's parents were paid just $200 for allowing him to be photographed back in 1991, and were the album released today, it would be considered kiddie porn. Add in the dollar bill, it's probably kiddie prostitution!

Elden told reporters that being the Nirvana baby has its perks. He references it when trying to pick up ladies, and was once invited to swim in a rather wealthy woman's pool.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

HOW MANY ARE IN YOUR COLLECTION?

Following is a list of the top ten selling albums of all time.

A couple surprises for me here, the first and foremost being that I thought Frampton Comes Alive would be on this list.

It's not even in the top fifty. But Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys appear in the top fifty more than once each, as do the Spice Girls and Janet Jackson.

I'm pretty sure those are signs that the Mayans are right about 2012.

Without further ado, here are the top ten...

1 Michael Jackson, Thriller (100+)

2 AC/DC, Back in Black (45+)
3 Meat Loaf, Bat Out Of Hell (43+)
4 Eagles, Their Greatest Hits (42+)
5 Dirty Dancing Soundtrack (42+)  
6 The Bodyguard Soundtrack (42+)
7 The Phantom of the Opera (40+)
8 Backstreet Boys, Millennium (40+)   
9 Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack (40+)
10 Fleetwood Mac, Rumours (40+)

No Beatles? No Rolling Stones?

The Bodyguard was a surprise to me, but mainly because it was released so recently that I figured the 60's and 70's icons would have too much of a head start.

The Backstreet Boys?

At least The Beatles and Led Zeppelin make the top twenty, and Bruce Springsteen has one at number 21.

Todd Rundgren did not make it-no surprise there. But he got a boatload of royalties from producing the  number three album of all time, and he lives on the beach in Hawaii, so there!

Monday, November 7, 2011

SWEAR TO GOD

NEAL MORSE: TESTIMONY TWO




Neal Morse shocked the progressive rock world by announcing his departure from the band he started, Spock’s Beard, immediately following the release of their sixth album Snow.


Neal felt a calling to make his personal faith more prominent in his recorded output and felt that this would not be possible or appropriate in a band context. And you have to give him credit for sticking to his inspiration when the band was just reaching commercial success.

In 2003, Neal Morse released his Testimony album, an epic, introspective composition which features Kerry Livgren of Kansas and Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater.

With the sequel, Testimony Two, Morse goes even deeper into unchartered musical and lyrical territory.

Legendary drummer Mike Portnoy returns, and with the help of excellent bassist, Randy George, Morse’s breathtaking follow-up is a prog epic that dazzles with melodies and lyrics that reach into the soul.

Morse gives listeners another glimpse of his personal and spiritual journey on Testimony Two, beautifully capturing the conflict he felt as he toured in a rock band by night while undergoing a spiritual transformation by day.

The conflict in the lyrics show a man who is truly struggling not only with his faith, but with his own identity, and this directness is what makes the album compelling.

This straightforward approach makes Testimony Two an album that will serve as inspiration for fans of Morse’s post-spiritual awakening work, and provide a document of his life after leaving Spock’s Beard.

SAMPLER CLIP




IT'S FOR YOU
 
 
 
THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE
 
 

Friday, November 4, 2011

At Last! TODD Coming On DVD and CD!




By the time he recorded the eponymous Todd in 1973, Todd Rundgren had charted with such evergreen hits as “Hello It's Me," “I Saw the Light" and “We Gotta Get You a Woman," and had also been dubbed “Rock's Renaissance Man" by Rolling Stone after releasing studio masterpieces Something/Anything? and A Wizard, A True Star. Todd was a departure; the iconoclastic artist included pop ballads alongside medleys, anthems, and prog rock. The album is universally heralded as one of Rundgren's best, often compared to Electric Ladyland and Pet Sounds.


In 2010, 37 years after its original release—Rundgren performed Todd live in its entirety for the first time ever, as part a special limited six-date sold-out tour (the Healing album was also performed, which will be a subsequent stand-alone live DVD/CD release).

The September 14 date at Philadelphia's Keswick Theater, in Rundgren's hometown, was videotaped and is being released as both a live DVD by S'More Entertainment and a live audio CD by sibling RockBeat Records.

Joining him onstage were Utopia's Kasim Sulton (bass), The Cars' Greg Hawkes (keyboards), The Tubes' Prairie Prince (drums), Guitar Player Magazine's editor Jesse Gress (guitar), Bobby Strickland (sax) and a full choir. Both the DVD and CD will hit retail on February 14, 2012.

In addition to the musical performance, multiple Emmy Award-winning television personality and sportscaster Roy Firestone, whose knowledge of Rundgren's work is encyclopedic, was enlisted to conduct an extensive in-depth conversation with Rundgren onstage, which will also be packaged with the DVD.

From pop classic “A Dream Goes on Forever" to rocker “Heavy Metal Kids," from the anthemic “Sons of 1984" to the explosive Blue Eyed Soul of “The Last Ride," from the industry satire “An Elpee's Worth of Toons" to the Gilbert & Sullivan homage “The Lord Chancellor's Nightmare Song," Todd is a masterful example of Rundgren's broad musical palette.

A Wizard, A True Star, the title of Todd Rundgren's 1973 solo album, aptly sums up the contributions of this multi-faceted artist to state-of-the-art music. As a songwriter, video pioneer, producer, recording artist, computer software developer, conceptualist, and, most recently, interactive artist (re-designated TR-i), Rundgren has made a lasting impact on both the form and content of popular music.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Rundgren began playing guitar as a teenager, going on to found and front The Nazz before pursuing a solo career, and forming Utopia, combining technical virtuosity and creative passion to create music that, for millions, defined the term “progressive rock."

Rundgren's myriad production projects include albums by Patti Smith, Cheap Trick, Psychedelic Furs, Meatloaf, XTC, Grand Funk Railroad, and Hall and Oates. Rounding out his reputation as rock's Renaissance Man, Rundgren composed all the music and lyrics for Joe Papp's 1989 Off-Broadway production of Joe Orton's Up Against It (the screenplay commissioned by the Beatles for what was meant to have been their third motion picture). He also composed the score for several features including Dumb & Dumber as well as for a number of television series, including Pee-wee's Playhouse and Crime Story.

Early last year Rundgren performed his iconic 1973 album A Wizard, A True Star in concert in its entirety for the first time ever, and recently did the same with a double bill: Todd and Healing. His latest two studio albums are Todd Rundgren's Johnson, a collection of classic Robert Johnson songs, and reProduction, covers of songs Todd has produced for other artists.

S'more Entertainment, Inc. are proud purveyors of classic TV, cult films, long-form music and unique special interest programming, and Rockbeat Records is a new audio label dedicated to the release of enhanced CDs and vinyl and the creation of reissues and compilations on a variety of music genres.


SONS OF 1984