Category Archives: Reviews

Cheap Trick – The Epic Archive Vol 1 (1975-1979)

Through demos, outtakes and live tracks, an alternate history of this revered band

Cheap Trick took their unique blend of power pop, metal, punk and glam, and went on to become one of the most influential bands in all of rock. While numerous “best ofs” will give you the hits, The Epic Archive: Vol 1 (1975-1979), a new collection from Real Gone Music, shows the path the Rockford, Illinois quartet took to get there. Continue reading Cheap Trick – The Epic Archive Vol 1 (1975-1979)

Honeybeat – Groovy 60s Girl Pop

Star Trek’s Lt. Uhuru and Aretha’s sister are just two surprises waiting for you in this excellent collection of lost gems

The early days of rock n’ roll were dominated by guys, while the girl-led music was viewed as merely “cute” and “throwaway pop.”  Over time though, the ladies’ contributions have been reassessed.  Now, girl group fans are some of the most rabid in all of popular music.  Honeybeat – Groovy 60’s Girl-Pop, just released from Real Gone Music, uncovers 19 obscure tracks which add to the canon of this much-revered sub-genre. Continue reading Honeybeat – Groovy 60s Girl Pop

The Rascals – Complete Singles – A’s & B’s

5 Top Five hits, including three #1’s.

The Rascals rarely get the accolades they deserve. The New Jersey quartet practically invented “blue-eyed soul” with songs like “Good Lovin,” “People Got to Be Free,” and “Groovin.” But, as a new compilation from Real Gone Music, The Complete Singles – A’s & B’s, makes very clear, the Rascals had a lot more than just those three songs.

While the band has been compiled several times before, this is the first where the focus is placed on their singles, both the A and B sides. Plus, everything is presented in the original, hit single versions, which means mostly the hard-to-find-mono mixes. At 47 tracks, it’s also the most expansive of their collections. Continue reading The Rascals – Complete Singles – A’s & B’s

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!

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

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

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

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