Ian Jones – Results Not Typical (review)

Ian Jones – Results Not Typical (Thin Silver Records)

 Introductory full-length from Pacific Northwest singer/songwriter

The first thing that grabs you about the debut album from Seattle musician Ian Jones is how good it sounds.  Right away, you realize that this isn’t the standard, cobbled-together-on-Pro Tools affair.  There’s an airy feel and comfortable looseness that only comes from musicians playing in a room together (hence the album’s title, Results Not Typical).  

The next thing that hits you is Jones’ voice – it pulls you in, and sets you in the passenger seat for the ride that his songs take you on.  There’s a restless spirit to the eleven tracks here.  He doesn’t know where he’s going on “Rollin’,” but that’s the point – there’s freedom in that very fact.  He doesn’t want to ride on that “Lost Highway” any longer, instead saying, over and over to “let it go.”  

Many of these songs are imbued with wisdom that only comes from having lived through times, both good and bad. He’s brutally honest on “You Can’t,” where he acknowledges that we’d all like to take things back that we said…but, it’s not that easy.  On “Someday,” he gives this advice: “See you never know what might be coming / so you gotta say ‘I love you’ soon.”  

The entire album definitely has a cohesiveness, but there’s enough versatility to these tracks to keep things interesting.  The horns really propel the album’s first single, “Lost Highway,” while the strings and piano on “Athens Smiles” add a tension and release to yet another track about leaving home, and then returning again.

“Again” is sort of a Bonnie & Clyde tale where “the sun went down and we never looked back / we ditched the body ‘neath the railroad tracks” (sounds like the start of a great movie).  “Goodbyes Are the Hardest Words” wraps up this excellent album fittingly; there’s an echoey guitar solo that’s just soaked with longing near the end.

This is one of those albums that begs to played on a good pair of speakers because it just sounds that good.  The bass isn’t something that I usually pick out, but you can really hear it, and it really drives these tracks (played alternately by Gabe Noel and Jonathan Flaugher).  

Most debuts aren’t this confident. “Results Not Typical”?  Yes, and we’re grateful  —Tony Peters

407 – Savoy Brown – Final Album, Blues All Around

Savoy Brown was one of the longest-running bands of the British blues rock movement. Formed in 1965 by guitarist Kim Simmonds, the band enjoyed sold-out shows, and hit albums on the Billboard charts.  The lineup changed, but Simmonds remained constant for 57 years, until his passing in December of 2022. 

At the time of his death, he had just completed his 42nd album, called Blues All Around.  Now, that final word from Savoy Brown is being released through Quarto Valley Records. We welcome in the two remaining members of Savoy Brown, Pat DeSalvo on bass and Garnet Grimm on drums.

They talk about working with Simmonds while he was undergoing treatment; he was still giving instructions on how he wanted things to sound from the hospital. They also talk about how he had to adapt his way of playing guitar to accommodate his declining health. Pat and Garnet also reveal possible plans for even more unreleased Savoy Brown material.

The Vogues – At Co & Ce – The Complete Singles & More (review)

The Vogues – At Co & Ce – The Complete Singles & More (Omnivore Recordings)

Sonically superior sound and some b-sides making their digital debut 

The Vogues were one of the more interesting vocal groups to emerge in the mid-Sixties.  Their clever use of harmony and syncopation created some memorable singles that still stand up today.  Omnivore Recordings have just culled together all the band’s early singles, including rare b-sides, many of which have never been available in a digital platform.

The set opens with the Vogues’ cover of a Petula Clark song, “You’re the One.”  Jangly guitars and great harmonies build up to a big chorus.  It immediately made the Top Ten.  The single’s b-side, “Some Words,” is a pretty ballad with a nice sax solo.  Next, is the band’s signature song, “5 O’Clock World,” and it’s just fantastic. With a clever use of “hey” as the percussive background, the song resonates with anyone who’s sick of their job.  They’ve done fantastic work on the remastering, because the track just shimmers (many other versions on streaming sound terrible).  That track’s b-side, “Nothing to Offer You,” is a decent rewrite of the Skyliners’ “Since I Don’t Have You,” complete with a great Bill Burkette falsetto.

“Magic Town” is similar to the Drifters’ “On Broadway” in its theme of tough times in the entertainment business.  I’m surprised this wasn’t a bigger hit – it has a great chorus and piano solo.  The b-side, “Humpty Dumpty,” has a Bo Diddley beat and recalls “Hey Little Girl” by Dee Clark.  

Things started to get more sophisticated with “The Land of Milk and Honey” – dig the vocal percussion “chaaa” that repeats throughout the song.  I bet the Zombies were listening to this for their later hit, “Time of the Season.”  The b-side, “True Lovers,” features some fantastic falsetto and harmonies.  “Please Mr. Sun” is imbued with gorgeous harmonies, but the band began veering more toward the middle of the road, away from invention.

Their momentum began to stall with “That’s the Tune” – it really wasn’t the tune, it doesn’t really stand out like their other singles.  “Summer Afternoon” features a banjo, flute, and chimes, but is more of an atmospheric piece than memorable.  Their final single for Co & Ce was “Lovers of the World Unite” – a lukewarm attempt at a youth anthem.

After the several failed singles listed above, the band signed with the much-larger Warner Brothers records and managed to crank out quite a few more hits, including “My Special Angel,” “Turn Around, Look at Me,” and “Til,” but none of those featured any of the inventive elements that made songs like “5 O’Clock World” timeless, preferring instead to keep things safe.

The “& More” part of this collection consists of unreleased material during their tenure at the Co & Ce label.  Curious is “You Baby” – a song that has been done by everyone from the Mamas & Papas to the Turtles.  Not sure why this never came out, because they do a good job with it.  “Where Did We Go Wrong” has a Phil Spector feel in the production, while “Lonely Mixed-Up Girl” has an infectious, Fifties vibe.

The Vogues are certainly not among the most remembered vocal groups of the Sixties.  However, At Co & Ce – The Complete Singes & More shows that the band is deserving of another look.  —Tony Peters

406 – Robin McAuley – New Album, Alive, plus details on next Black Swan album

Robin McAuley’s career has spanned five decades – Grand Prix, Far Corporation, MSG, Survivor, solo records and more recently, the excellent supergroup Black Swan. In fact, the last few years have been some of his most productive to date. He’s back with a brand new solo album called appropriately, Alive. 

He tells us why this album rocks a little harder than the last, and also why there’s push and pull between songs like “Alive” and “Dead as a Bone.” He also recently celebrated a big birthday, and reveals plans for the next Black Swan album. 

Alive comes out Feburary 17 from Frontiers Music

NRBQ – Tiddlywinks (review)

NRBQ – Tiddlywinks (Omnivore Recordngs)

In retrospect, this might be the band’s finest record

Every new album from NRBQ is an adventure.  From the get go, the band’s main focus was to play…everything.  What genre they are varies from song to song.  That ecclecticism made it impossible to market, but was an absolute joy to their devout followers.  

Tiddlywinks, the band’s eighth album, continues the remastering campaign from Omnivore, which began with the excellent box set, High Noon: A 50-Year Retrospective in 2016.

This album just sounds fantastic. 

Engineer Tom Mark talks about all the work that went into this record in the liner notes.  Take, for example, the leadoff track, “Feel You Around Me.”  The bouncy beat and catchy melody mask the fact that there’s a lot going on here; layers of instruments (I swear there’s a ukulele in there somewhere), plus a soulful vocal from Al Anderson.  

That’s followed by one of NRBQ’s most famous tunes: “Me and the Boys,” one of the all-time great drivin’ tunes that just sounds better the further down you press the accelerator.  The song has been covered by everyone from Bonnie Raitt to Dave Edmunds, but there’s something more raw and off-kilter about the original – fantastic drumming from Tom Ardolino, and strange noises fading in and out.  Oh, a great vocal from Terry Adams too.

Since there was no way they were going to top that, the band shifts gears for the jumpin’ jazz of the “Music Goes Round and Around,” which dates back to the 1930’s and Tommy Dorsey.  Here, the band is on fire.  The Whole Wheat Horns are on full display while Adams hammers on clavinet.    

After those dizzying heights, it’s time to slow things down with bassist Joey Spampinato’s gorgeous, acoustic “Beverly.”  The harmonies will give you goosebumps and the clever keyboards add some nice flair.  Adams’ “That I Get Back Home” reminds me of Beatles’ around the Second Album era (dig the tasty, Rockabilly-infused guitar solo from Anderson, and the clever use of flange in certain places).  

And, as in all NRBQ albums, just when you thought they were gonna play it straight…nope.  “Roll Call” is, um, hard to describe.  It starts slow with just Adams singing and piano, then bursts into this incredibly catchy section featuring chiming guitars and keys, while he asks “are you here,” but then the songs quickly drops into country during the verses.  

Side two of the original album opens with the boogie woogie of “Want You to Feel Good Too.”  Geez, Anderson had a knack for writing beautiful, midtempo numbers that should’ve been hits on soft rock stations (“Ridin’ In My Car,” anyone?).  “Never Take the Place of You” would fit perfectly on some of these Yacht Rock stations, pounding piano, soulful vocal, and even “ooos” on the background vocals.  I mean, it could be Robbie Dupree or Stephen Bishop.

Things get back to rockin’ with Spampinato’s “You Can’t Hide,” but turn cute with Adams’ “Definition of Love,” featuring a tasty, countrified solo by Anderson.  Things end on the wordless, “Hobbies,” which features some Monk-ish piano plinking and honkin’ sax, the entire things ends with Adams moaning.

They’ve unearthed a few bonus tracks as well.  The harmony-laden “I Don’t Think of…” reminds me of classic Buck Owens, while Adams’ “Big Goodbyes” sounds disjointed until the chorus arrives.   There’s also a pair of commercials (one radio, one TV) featuring wrestler sensation, Captain Lou Albano, that you just have to hear to believe.  

While diversity has always been a hallmark of NRBQ’s albums, Tiddlywinks may, in fact, be the most solid collection in their catalog.  Literally, everything here works – there’s not a miss in the bunch.  Which makes Tiddlywinks an excellent entry point into the glorious world of NRBQ.  —Tony Peters

A Charlie Brown Christmas Soundtrack Gets the Royal Treatment (review)

Vince Guaraldi Trio – A Charlie Brown Christmas (Deluxe Editions) (Craft Recordings)

A holiday classic gets a makeover and the results are thrilling

Arguably the most famous jazz album in history, A Charlie Brown Christmas, has gotten the deluxe treatment with a series of new releases from Craft Recordings.  Most importantly, this classic album has been freshly remixed, breathing new life into this holiday favorite.  Larger editions include multiple discs, showcasing hours of never-before heard material from these legendary sessions.  In addition, Craft has reissued the classic, original LP in a fancy, “Gold Foil” edition,”  making the outer package now equal to the fantastic music inside.

First, let’s talk about this brand new, 2022 remix.  

Absolutely stunning

In a side-by-side comparison, the new remix is superior in every way.  In all prior versions, tape hiss is audible throughout the album (not surprising – these recordings are from 1965).  The new remix virtually eliminates all of this – it’s like peeling a layer of film off the sound.  As a result, the music leaps out of the speakers.  

Bassist Fred Marshall benefits the most from this new version: his bass is warmer, and you can hear his fingers on the strings.  Yet, drummer Jerry Granelli also shines – you can really hear his brush work on the classic, “Skating.”  Vince Guaraldi certainly benefits as well – you really feel the low notes of his piano on “Christmas is Coming.”

You don’t have to have a great ear to hear the improvements.  Take the lead-off track, “O Tannebaum.”  On the original version, Guaraldi’s piano opens and you immediately hear tape hiss.  At :37 seconds, the band joins in and Marshall’s bass is distorted.  It stays that way for the entire song.  On this new version, the bass is big, full and free of distortion – a VAST improvement.

The new remix is available in a “Deluxe Edition” on LP, CD and streaming.  The first disc is the new remix, while a second features bonus material; never-before heard, early versions of this hallowed material.  For those wanting even more, there’s a “Super Deluxe Edition,” featuring 5 discs, including a Blu Ray of high-resolution tracks, a 59-page, hardback book, and several discs of previously unreleased outtakes.  Especially interesting is a much-faster take of “Skating” (it’s speed is dizzying).

As if that weren’t enough, the original vinyl (featuring the standard mix) is also getting the royal treatment.  For a limited time, they’ve issued a “Gold Foil” edition, featuring raised images.  Many of these versions have special colored vinyl, only available at certain retailers.

The music of A Charlie Brown Christmas has surpassed the original cartoon that birthed it.  Many people consider it the greatest holiday album of all time.  And, some of the tracks, like “Linus and Lucy” and “Skating,” rank as some of the most recognizable songs in the history of recorded music.  With this ambitious reissue campaign, Craft Recordings has finally put these recordings in the light they deserve.  —Tony Peters

405 – Dar Williams – New Book, How to Write a Song That Matters

Dar Williams first garnered attention with her song, “When I Was a Boy,” from her album, The Honesty Room, almost 30 years ago. Since then, she’s issued nine more studio albums, collaborated with many artists, and written several books. Her latest is How to Write a Song That Matters from Hachette Books, to which fellow songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter says “The wisdom and the lessons she shares will illuminate not only the world of songwriters but anyone who seeks the sustenance of a creative life and practice.”

Williams tells us how she went from writing her own songs to teaching others how to write their songs. She reveals that, even if you don’t play an instrument, you can still compose a song. She also discusses ways to positively critique other songs, and how to start an open mic.

Various Artists – Halloween Nuggets: Haunted Underground Classics (review)

Various Artists – Halloween Nuggets: Haunted Underground Classics (Liberation Hall/Rock Beat)

Spice up that party with these spooky obscurities!

Halloween season is upon us.  Unfortunately, that means we get “Monster Mash,” “Ghostbusters,” “Thriller,” and a few other tired classics, over and over again.  But, it doesn’t have to be that way.  Liberation Hall has just issued Halloween Nuggets: Haunted Underground Classics, to mix things up.  

Out of the 21 songs on this collection, the only ones you’re probably going to recognize are the three movie trailers (for The Blob, Plan 9 From Outer Space, and the Creature From the Black Lagoon).  That leaves 18 Halloween-themed songs that will sound fresh to your ears, and will liven up that drab party.

Bobby Bare is probably the biggest name on this collection – he’s featured with “Vampira.” Then, there’s Ervinna & the Stylers, who one-up Redbone for their take on “Witch Queen of New Orleans.”  

“It” from Jonny Fraser and the Regalaires is a swampy instrumental fueled by a honky sax and tinkling piano.  Some of the primitive sounds, like the wind blowing and monster noises in “Rockin’ in the Graveyard” from Jackie Morningstar, add to the charm.

There’s a good deal of instrumentals here – “Graveyard” by the Phantom Five is one of the best tracks here, it’s kind of the haunted version of the surf classic, “Pipeline,” complete with a similar sax solo, while “Devil Driver’s Theme” from The Vettes, mixes car sound effects with werewolf sounds to great result, and Richard Rome’s “Ghost a Go Go” eschews the typical guitar/sax approach and replaces it with organ and harp.

Things go from the strange to the absurd with The Elites doing “Jack the Ripper” who is “decreasing the population / disturbing the situation.”  “Zombie Stomp” by Billy Ghoulston has a Motown feel to it.

This groovy collection is available to stream, and, in physical form on CD and vinyl.

About my only complaint with this great collection is the lack of liner notes.  It would’ve been nice to have a line or two about each song – at least telling us what year every one of the tracks was from.  

Wake the dead with this great new collection from Liberation Hall.  —Tony Peters

404 – Doug “Cosmo” Clifford of CCR – New Album, California Gold, Features Bobby Whitlock of Derek and the Dominoes

Doug “Cosmo” Clifford was the drummer for legendary rockers Creedence Clearwater Revival. He and bassist Stu Cook formed Creedence Clearwater Revisited, and helped keep that great music alive. He’s continuing to go through his “Cosmos Vault,” releasing tapes that he made over the years with his musical buddies.

His latest release is California Gold, a collaboration with Derek and the Dominoes’ vocalist Bobby Whitlock. The tracks also feature the great Donald “Duck” Dunn on bass.

Clifford talks about how he and Whitlock came together, and how, unfortunately, the project never took off. He also talks about the newly released Live at the Royal Albert Hall concert movie, which is available now to stream on Netflix.

403 – Bob Cowsill of the Cowsills – New Album, Rhythm of the World

The Cowsills are the original family band. Formed in Rhode Island, the group started out with a trio of brothers: Bill, Bob & Barry, but eventually grew to include brothers John and Paul, sister Susan and mother Barbara. They had big hits with “The Rain, the Park and Other Things,” “Indian Lake,” and “Hair.”

The Cowsills were the inspiration for the hit TV series The Partridge Family. Then, years later, the group got their own documentary, “Family Band,” which is available on streaming services.

At a time when division is at an all-time high, we need some of that familial harmony once again to bring us together. The Cowsills have regrouped for their first new studio album in almost 30 years, called Rhythm of the World, from Omnivore Recordings.

We talk with founding member Bob Cowsill on how he, brother Paul and sister Susan, put this new album project together, with the trio of them writing the bulk of the songs. He reveals how one song was inspired by a saying from Howard Kaylan of the Turtles, another was written about how Hurricane Katrina affected their family.

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