Saturday, December 31, 2011


Just wanted to wish everyone a happy new year!

Friday, December 30, 2011



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.



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?



Saturday, December 24, 2011



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...




Friday, December 23, 2011



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.



Thursday, December 22, 2011


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



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.

ZOE 25

Sunday, December 18, 2011


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, while general onsale tickets are now available at Visit for more information.

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

Saturday, December 17, 2011



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.


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



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!

Sunday, December 11, 2011


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



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



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.



Saturday, December 3, 2011



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.