Various Artists – Thank You Friends – Big Star’s Third Live…And More!

An all star lineup pays homage to a fractured masterpiece.

Back in 2010, several North Carolina musicians got together in the wake of Alex Chilton’s passing, to heal the best way they knew how – by creating music together. They chose to perform music from Chilton’s most difficult album, Big Star’s Third. Yet, the core musicians worked so well together, they decided to take the performance on the road. Thank You Friends – Big Star’s Third Live…and More is a DVD/CD set just issued from Concord-Bicycle music, which documents a star-studded show from the ironically named Alex Theater in Glendale, California from 2016.

This is hallowed territory to be sure, and musical director, Chris Stamey (who played with Chilton in a post-Big Star band), went to great lengths in arranging the material. He was able to obtain the original multi-track recordings, isolate each instrument, and learn how each part fit together. Make no mistake, this isn’t your typical all-star tribute album. The musicians really were able to dig into the essence of what made these songs so powerful in their original form, and project them in a live setting. Continue reading Various Artists – Thank You Friends – Big Star’s Third Live…And More!

#301 – Chip Taylor – A Song I Can Live With

Songs Of Freedom promotional shoot, May 2008

Chip Taylor is best known as the songwriter for both “Wild Thing” and “Angel of the Morning,” but there’s so much more to him than just those two songs. For one, he’s written hundreds of other tunes, including “I Can’t Let Go” for the Hollies, and “Try a Little Harder” recorded by Janis Joplin.

Taylor got his start in a rockabilly group, Wes Voight and the Town Three, who were signed to a subsidiary of King Records back in 1958. He released a series of critically-acclaimed solo LP’s in the Seventies before retiring from music in the Eighties.

After returning to music in the mid-Nineties, Taylor has been on a hot streak as of late, releasing an average of an album a year. He’s also issued several successful records with fiddle player Carrie Rodriguez. His latest release is A Song I Can Live With.

Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes – The Fever: The Remastered Epic Recordings (review)

Two discs of no-frills rock n’ roll at its finest

When Bruce Springsteen arrived in the early Seventies, part of his appeal was a return to the honesty of the early rock n’ roll of the Fifties.  Fellow Jersey native Southside Johnny Lyons furthered that roots appeal into a long career, featuring many twists and turns.  Although, never attaining the blockbuster success of the Boss, his band did gain the reputation for their spirited live shows.  The folks at Real Gone have coupled the three albums that the Asbury Jukes cut for Epic Records, alongside a rare, promo-only live album for The Remastered Epic Recordings.

The band’s debut, I Don’t Want to Go Home, has Springsteen’s influence all over it.  The album was produced by E. Street guitarist Steven Van Zandt, who also wrote many of the songs on the set.  In fact, the entire album is made up of tracks either written by Van Zandt or Springsteen, or are covers of classic R&B and rock n’ roll.   Continue reading Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes – The Fever: The Remastered Epic Recordings (review)

The Creation – Action Painting

Fans of the Who and the Kinks should take notice

The early singles of the Kinks and the Who are unparalleled for their raw immediacy.  Songs like “You Really Got Me” and “My Generation” are the building blocks for pretty much everything that came after.  Producer Shel Talmy, who had a large hand in creating those timeless recordings, also worked with the Creation, a band that never achieved the success of the previous two, but nonetheless, released some killer tracks, that rivaled the best of early British rock.

Numero Records has just issued Action Painting, a two-disc set bringing together everything this seminal band recorded during their early heyday, along with unreleased tracks and new stereo mixes.

Right out of the gate, the band’s debut single, “Making Time,” was breathtaking.  Crunchy guitar, soaring bass and aggressive drums, this should’ve been a huge hit.  It also features Eddie Phillips playing his guitar with a violin bow (something Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page would steal later on).   Continue reading The Creation – Action Painting

#300 – Jennifer Paige – Starflower

Georgia native Jennifer Paige scored one massive hit in 1998, the seductive pop of “Crush.”  The single went to #3 in the US and topped the charts in Spain, Denmark, Russia, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa.  Despite recording a strong debut album, she had no further hits in the States.  Her promising sophomore album, Positively Somewhere, had the misfortune of coming out the week after 9/11 in 2001.  She returned with a third album, Best Kept Secret in 2008, but lost both of her parents and was diagnosed with melanoma the same year.  Not surprisingly, she lost the desire for music.

Now, she’s healthy and has returned with her fourth album Starflower, funded by a successful Kickstarter program. We talk what got her back on the path to music, her collaboration with Coury Palermo, and the fact that she’s been one of the voices on the successful “Nationwide is on your Side” ad campaign.

Lisa Biales – The Beat of My Heart

Not sure how Lisa Biales does it, but she continues to produce fantastic, throwback R&B that sounds downright effortless.

One of the finest blues albums of the year comes from Ohio native Lisa Biales, and her latest release, The Beat of My Heart (Big Song Music). One key (and often overlooked) element in the genre is the sound, and she and her producer, Tom Braunagel, nail it. Especially good are the drums, which are upfront, but not too clean.

The album opens with a rousing turn on Mabel Scott’s “Disgusted,” featuring a fantastic sax solo. Then comes “What a Man,” an under appreciated Laura Lee song sampled in the 1990’s by Salt ’N’ Pepa. Here, Biales gives it a soulful delivery over a funky rhythm track, augmented by horns and slinky guitar. Continue reading Lisa Biales – The Beat of My Heart

Whiskey & Wimmen: John Lee Hooker’s Finest

New collection celebrates his 100th birthday

In an era overrun by tweets, texts and other fake connections, we need John Lee Hooker more than ever before.  We all crave something real, and there is nothing more real than John Lee Hooker.  Vee Jay/Concord-Bicycle Music has just released Whiskey & Whimmen, a 16-track collection that brings together many of the influential bluesman’s most important recordings.

To call Hooker “one of a kind” is sort of stating the obvious.  His music rarely conformed to the basic 4/4 conventions, his lyrics often didn’t rhyme, and his voice, an un-trained force of nature, came straight out of the Mississippi Delta.  Because of Concord’s varied connections, this disc pulls songs from several labels, the oldest being the sparse, acoustic groove of “No More Doggin,” originally cut for the Specialty label in 1954.   Continue reading Whiskey & Wimmen: John Lee Hooker’s Finest

#299 – Brad Gillis of Night Ranger – Don’t Let Up

It’s been an unbelievable 35 years since Night Ranger released their debut album, Dawn Patrol, and their first single, “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me.” The guys are celebrating still Rockin’ America and beyond with the release of their 12th album, Don’t Let Up. Here’s the thing, all the elements that make up a great Night Ranger album are still intact – great harmonies, fiery guitar solos, and choruses you can sing along to.  In 2017, that’s a rare find.

To talk about it, we welcome guitarist and founding member Brad Gillis, who talks about a few setbacks that delayed the album’s release. He also reminisces about Rubicon, a band that he and Jack Blades were in before Night Ranger.  Also, how Night Ranger’s record label knew they had a hit with “Sister Christian,” and actually held off releasing it.

Ann-Margret – The Definitive Collection

Ann-Margret – The Definitive Collection (Real Gone)

She was once billed as the female answer to Elvis!

Ann-Margret had many memorable singing parts – chasing Bobby Rydell in Bye Bye Birdie, stealing the show from Elvis in Viva Las Vegas, and getting drunk on champagne in the cinematic version of The Who’s Tommy. Yet, the Swedish-born siren also had a recording career, releasing a string of LP’s in the Sixties, all the while tackling a wide range of styles. Real Gone has collected the finest of her records on The Definitive Collection.

Ann-Margret actually started her career as a singer, before achieving success as an actress, dancer, and overall entertainer. “I Just Don’t Understand” was her lone big hit, peaking at #17 in 1961. This bluesy groove features a great harmonica solo and one of the first examples of a fuzz guitar on record. She actually does quite well with the blues-based material, another example being “It Do Me So Good.” Continue reading Ann-Margret – The Definitive Collection

#298 – Matt North – Above Ground Fools

Matt North has done a little bit of everything. In the L.A. Comedy scene, he opened for the likes of Marc Maron, Louis CK and Chris Rock.  As a screenwriter, he did Best Western, which won multiple awards, yet has never been produced. As an actor, he starred alongside Jason Alexander in HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, yet was written out of the script after one episode after Alexander left.  As a session drummer, both in Los Angeles and Nashville, he’s worked with Maria McKee, Jay Bennett, Peter Case and Mink Stole.

Over the last few years, North has taught himself guitar and piano and has just issued his first album, Above Ground Fools – ten songs all written by North.  We touch on the twists and turns of his varied career, including what got him playing drums in the first place, and the inspiration behind songs like “Cronkite and Cosell” and “I Sold it All.”

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