Artful Dodger – The Complete Columbia Recordings

Unsung heroes of power pop

It’s baffling how some bands make it, and some don’t. Artful Dodger is one of rock’s biggest head-scratchers. They had a treasure trove of radio-ready songs, a killer frontman, a producer with a proven track record, and the backing of a major label. Despite all this going for them, the band never had a hit single or even an entry on the Billboard Top 200 Albums Chart. Real Gone Music has just collected the first three albums of this under-appreciated group on a two-CD set, Artful Dodger – The Complete Columbia Recordings.

If the band had only recorded one song, they’d still be remembered for “Wayside.” This jangly masterpiece with a harmony-laden chorus led off their debut album, which was helmed by Jack Douglas. He’d already had success with Aerosmith, and would go on to produce Cheap Trick and John Lennon, and it’s his clever use of layered guitars and vocals that really elevates these sessions.

Their entire debut album is very good, including the darker “It’s Over,” which was a showcase for vocalist Billy Paliselli – he’s a lot closer to Steve Marriott than Eric Carmen. “You Know It’s Alright” is powered by a nice guitar riff and hook in the chorus (which reminds me of more modern bands like Sloan). “Follow Me” was another excellent rocker, while “Silver and Gold” was a gorgeous ballad that should’ve been a hit, and was so intricate, that it almost sounds like ELO. Continue reading Artful Dodger – The Complete Columbia Recordings

Brenton Wood – The Very Best of

A full disc of classic 60’s soul

California soul singer Brenton Wood had a smash hit in 1967 with “Gimme Little Sign.” As a new collection from Bicycle Music, The Very Best of, shows, there was a lot more to this artist than that one song.

What distinguishes Wood from other R&B vocalists of the day is his smooth, relaxed delivery and great falsetto. Both are on fine display throughout this new collection. His other well-known track is “The Oogum Boogum Song,” which frequently shows up on soul and Beach music anthologies, despite barely cracking the Top 40.

The biggest thing we take away from this new set is that Wood was an underrated ballad singer. Take, for instance, “I Like the Way You Love Me,” which is absolutely gorgeous. His double-tracked vocal and falsetto, along with the slow tempo makes this one of those “shoulda been” hits. Also very strong is “Me and You,” which recalls fifties doowop, complete with a spoken middle and Wood’s soaring voice. Continue reading Brenton Wood – The Very Best of

#297 – Shel Talmy – The Creation, The Kinks & the Who

Shel Talmy with the Who
Producer Shel Talmy (center), flanked by the Who’s Keith Moon (left) and Pete Townshend (right).

He helped define the sound of early Sixties’ British rock

The name Shel Talmy may not be immediately recognizable, unless you’re a liner note junkie.  But, you’ve certainly heard his work.  Talmy is responsible for producing all of the early singles for the Kinks including “You Really Got Me,” “All Day and All the Night,” and “Sunny Afternoon.” He also went on to do the same for the Who, with “I Can’t Explain,” “My Generation” and “Anyway Anyhow Anywhere.”  “Friday on My Mind” by the Easybeats is another credit.

But, probably the band he’s most proud of is one that didn’t make it.  The Creation had everything, catchy songs, a flashy guitarist in Eddie Phillips, an incendiary live show, yet they never even made a dent in the US charts.

The Numero Group is issuing Action Painting, a 2-disc set bringing together everything this seminal band put to tape, including some brand new stereo mixes overseen by Talmy, plus alternate takes, and an exhaustive booklet with multiple essays, session notes, and a treasure trove of pictures – it’s an impressive collection for any fan of mid-Sixties British rock.

We talk to Talmy about the high hopes he had for them, and why they never lived up to his lofty expectations.  We also touch on his work with the Kinks, the Who and the Easybeats.

#296 – Ruthie Foster – Joy Comes Back

 

Ruthie Foster, photo by Sue Schrader

Austin singer Ruthie Foster defies classification.  Her previous albums have featured covers from the likes of Johnny Cash, David Crosby and Adele, as well as her own originals.  For this new project, Joy Comes Back, her first release in three years, the approach is equally eclectic: she tackles songs by the Four Tops, Mississippi John Hurt and, most notably, a Son House-flavored rendition of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs.”

She’s also joined by several stellar guests, including guitarist Derek Trucks, bassist Willie Weeks and drummer Joe Vitale.  We talk to Foster about how music got her through a tumultuous chapter in her life, plus why she quit the business and signed up for the Navy several years ago.

#295 – Chandler Travis Philharmonic – Waving Kissyhead vol. 2 &1

Chandler Travis Philharmonic – photo by Cliff Spencer

What if we traveled back in time and the tour buses for the Kinks and Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five crashed into each other? Well, we’d have quite a mess on the road, but you might come close to the sound of the Chandler Travis Philharmonic, equal parts rock irreverence and vintage jazz, with a bent sense of humor thrown in for good measure.

The band is celebrating 20 years together and have commemorated the event with the release of Waving Kissyhead volume 2 & 1. Chandler Travis returns to our show to talk the new disc, the band’s ongoing “Best Bedhead Contest,” and why putting lyrics to songs almost always screws them up.   He also tells the story about playing Carnegie Hall on the opening slot for comedian George Carlin.

Colin Hay releases fantastic new album, Fierce Mercy

It’s seems silly to have to mention Men at Work every time you talk about Colin Hay. I mean, the Australian singer/songwriter has released a string of fantastic solo albums full of diverse colors and incredible depth. Yet, nothing Hay has done has even come close to the dizzying heights of his former band, who were the darlings of early MTV and sold 6 million copies of their debut, Business as Usual, in the United States alone.

If you haven’t been following Hay’s career, you’re in for a real treat. His latest album, Fierce Mercy, is an excellent place to get re-acquainted with this criminally-underrated artist.

Much of his 13th solo outing centers on love and loss. He still possesses that signature, soaring voice. Although it’s weathered a bit, he actually uses it to his advantage on “A Thousand Million Reasons”; his slightly gruff delivery is in contrast to the gentle, piano-led melody. Hay’s albums have always leaned toward acoustic instrumentation, but on Fierce Mercy, there’s an added element of Americana – the accordion on the aforementioned “A Thousand Million Reasons,” or the pedal steel of “Blue Bay Moon.”

While most of the tracks have an understated quality, Hay shows that he can still write a good rocker in the opening “Come Tumblin’ Down.” “Secret Love” is an interesting tune – the arrangement recalls the production of Phil Spector on songs like “Be My Baby,” along with baritone guitar, which sounds like Duane Eddy. The track builds to this string-laden finale with Hay’s voice cutting through.

Age plays a role in “I’m Gonna Get You Stoned,” where he discovers that the girl in question was “born today in the year of ’97,” while she asks about what it was like “back in my day.”

Several songs deal with loss. “Two Friends” talks of a pair of acquaintances that Hay lost a week apart, as he sings “carry on, my brothers.” Then, there’s the poignant “She Was the Love of Mine,” a delicately, loving tribute to the passing of Hay’s mother.

Sure, there’s nothing here that rivals the pop effervescence of “Down Under” or “Who Can It Be Now,” but that’s no longer Hay’s aim. Where Fierce Mercy succeeds is in its warmth and humanity – these songs are relatable, especially to those who have experienced heartbreaking loss. Yet, despite some of the bleak subject matter, Hay’s voice is ever-reassuring – like a ray of sunshine peeking through the clouds.  –Tony Peters

#294 – Em Rossi – Empty Space

Em Rossi
Em Rossi from her video “Empty Space”

Things are definitely looking up for singer/songwriter Em Rossi.  She’s recently collaborated with Jim McGorman, who’s worked with Avril Lavigne & Paul Stanley, and has also been a guest on our show.  The two of them have put together a series of singles that she’s been issuing on Youtube and social media.

Well, people are responding – Em’s up to 5 million views on the online video channel.  The video for her latest single, “Empty Space,” just premiered on the Huffington Post’s website.  Like many of her recent songs, it deals with the sudden loss of her father and the void that it left behind.  Em’s working toward an eventual full length album, hopefully coming soon.

We talk to her about what got her singing in the first place, the filming of her new video, and how her partnership with Smule has helped her reach even more fans worldwide.

Delbert McClinton – The Madison – Covington, KY – 2/25/17 – Delbert in concert can still bring the fire

Delbert McClinton’s true genius is his innate ability to take virtually any music style and make it his own. Blues, rock, soul and country were all on display Saturday night at The Madison Theater, near Cincinnati. While other performers try to genre-hop, McClinton is one of the rare few who do it naturally.

It certainly helps that he’s got an amazing band, led by keyboardist Kevin McKendree and guitarist Bob Britt. Dubbed the Self Made Men, these guys know just what Delbert needs for any song. Whether it’s a funky groove on Al Green’s “Take Me to the River,” or a rollicking backbone on “Old Weakness (Comin’ on Strong),” these guys were in the pocket all night. Britt played a stinging solo on “Blues as Blues Can Get,” while McClinton showed that he can still play some mean blues harp on “Gotta Get it Worked On.”

Whether it was a 1930’s blues groove of “People Just Love to Talk” or a Chuck Berry-infused rocker like “Why Me,” the band was up for any challenge.

Delbert took a break about halfway into the show, allowing saxophonist Dana Robbins a spotlight to blow on the classic “Tequila,” then Britt came to the mic to sing the Joe Cocker arrangement of “The Letter.” Finally, McKendree led a honky tonkin’ instrumental before Delbert returned.

During the second half of the show, Delbert spotlighted McKendree’s 15-year old son, James, who played some wise-beyond-his-years tasty lead lines on both “Little Fine Healthy Thing,” and “Rebecca Rebecca.” And McClinton does have a fantastic new album out called Prick of the Litter – the barroom rocker “Don’t Do It” and the pre-rock, Johnny Mercer-styled “Rosy” showed off its diversity.

“Shaky Ground” and “Givin’ It Up For Your Love” were the last songs of the set, ending things on a furious note. The band encored with the slow “When Rita Leaves” and the spirited “Everytime I Roll the Dice.”

Delbert, who is 76, looked and sounded a lot younger. In a recent interview with Icon Fetch, he talked about how having recent heart surgery gave him a new lease on life. Well, it certainly shows.

Instead of dwelling on the artists that we’ve lost, we need to be celebrating the ones that are still with us. Delbert McClinton is still alive and well, and kicking some major ass. –Tony Peters

Show #293 – Delbert McClinton – New record, Prick of the Litter, is one of his finest

“Who’s gonna stop me”?

Delbert McClinton has made a career out of doing whatever he wanted.  He got his start blowing harmonica on Bruce Channel’s classic “Hey Baby” – that was 1962, before the Beatles invaded America. In fact, that little old band from Liverpool actually opened for him on an early gig.  Not long after, he began leading his own band, and creating a body of music that defies classification, all the while winning awards in Blues, Country, and Rock.  Delbert’s just released his 19th album, Prick of the Litter, and it’s easily one of the best of his long career.

We talk his love of classic music of the Forties and Fifties, from Johnny Mercer and Charles Brown to Jimmy Reed and Frank Sinatra.  He’s also got his autobiography coming later in the year.

Show #292 – Marie Trout – The Blues (2/21/17)

Why do we love the blues?

Even though the subject matter is often sad, why is it that we feel refreshed when we listen to blues music or attend a blues concert? What is the appeal of this classic form of music in 2017? These and other questions are posed by Dr. Marie Trout in her new book, The Blues: Why It Still Hurts So Good. Trout is no stranger to the blues, as her husband is legendary guitarist Walter Trout.

She anonymously polled over 1,000 blues fans, plus scholars, musicians and music industry insiders, to find out what it is that makes this form of music so appealing to people all over the world. She also shares her own blues story – how she almost lost her husband when he fell ill and needed a liver transplant, and how the blues community came together to give assistance.