Linda Ronstadt – Simple Dreams (1977) – CD review –
Linda Ronstadt walked away from rock n’ roll in 1983 and never looked back. Perhaps that’s why she’s mostly ignored by classic rock radio and rarely shows up on “greatest singer” lists. The truth is, Ronstadt was incredibly influential.
She showed an entire generation that women could keep up with the boys in the rock n’ roll department. She was also a gifted interpreter of other people’s songs, always being able to inject some new life into even the most shop-worn classic. Simple Dreams is her finest moment; a varied mix of rock, country and oldies, and Ronstadt handles them all equally well. She takes the obscure Buddy Holly song “It’s So Easy” and turns it into a rocker, Roy Orbison’s “Blue Bayou” becomes a twangy masterpiece, and even “Tumblin’ Dice” keeps pace with the Stones original.
It’s not that these are vast reinventions of the songs; they’re basically the same arrangements, but filtered through Linda and her great band. And who else could turn Warren Zevon’s “Poor Poor Pitiful Me” into a hit song? It’s time to give this lady some more credit. –Tony Peters
Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) – CD review –
So much has been written about this album that it can be difficult to separate historical significance from the actual music. Upon its release, Sgt. Pepper sent shockwaves through the music industry. It stretched the boundaries of what was acceptable in pop music and it also introduced many elements of studio trickery that were equally unique. However, over 40 years later, what really matters is the music, and frankly, this is not the best the Beatles had to offer.
This isn’t their best album by far; it probably isn’t even in the top five (I would put Rubber Soul, Revolver, Abbey Road, Help and Beatles For Sale all ahead of this one). There are several songs here that simply aren’t that good, like “Lovely Rita,” “Good Morning Good Morning,” “Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite,” and “When I’m Sixty Four.” Then, there’s the George Harrison Indian flavored “Within You Without You” which is experimental, but listenable?
Not really. Only “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” “Getting Better,”and “A Day in the Life” truly stand as spectacular moments. Greatness transcends time and circumstance. But, without the historical background, this album doesn’t really stand on its own. If you’re trying to explain the Beatles to someone who’s never heard their music, start with Beatles 1. –Tony Peters
Legendary producer Arif Mardin was responsible for the success of so many artists, from Aretha’s “Respect” and the Rascals’ “Good Lovin’,” to “Nights on Broadway” by the Bee Gees and “She’s Gone” from Hall and Oates, Arif lent his magic to countless hit records over the years. He also produced the Grammy-sweeping Come Away with Me by Norah Jones. Arif was working on a unique project called All My Friends Are Here when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
The disc featured many of the artists that Arif worked with over the years, including the Bee Gees, Norah Jones, Hall & Oates, Phil Collins, Chaka Khan, and Bette Midler. Sadly, he passed away before completing the project. However, his son, Joe Mardin, did finish the disc, and he talks to Icon Fetch about the process and his dad’s legacy in music.
Jann Klose is a Grammy-nominated entertainer, musician, singer/songwriter to be reckoned with. There is a need for this many titles for him because, well, the man is just hard to peg down to specifics or a genre. Reverie, Jann’s latest release, which contains 12 songs, has strong singer/songwriter qualities minus that big yawn that this sometimes means. “Beautiful Dream” is the first track off of his album and it literally will take you on a trip into, yes, a beautiful dream.
“Hold Me Down” has a nice groove that is a bit funky and not at all comparable to “Beautiful Dream”. “Doing Time” is more of the same, in that it is completely and totally different from the songs that lay in its wake. This song, featuring a ¾ time signature and steel guitar, is a demonstration of Jann’s wonderful range of musicality. The video for this one is just as entertaining as the song, and is shot in stop-motion which is reminiscent of a Peter Gabriel video. “Give Into This Life” is another golden one with its gorgeous harmonies and incredible passion; the best on the album. This song is authenticity — you will believe in what Jann is telling you in this song! “All These Rivers,” “Question Of The Heart,” and “Remember Your Name” all have one common thread and that is that you can tell it is the same artist performing, but the songs are all so uniquely their own, brothers and sisters to one another, but clearly not multiples.
One can hear all the different musical influences that may have played a role in what makes up Jann’s “musical soup.” He has lived in several different corners of the world, which include Kenya, Germany, South Africa, Ohio and now New York — all those lovely sounds are present. Reverie is something that you will continually go back to for a good listen to hear something familiar, comfortable, and solid in what it has to offer. Jann is someone to keep an eye on, for he has the same spark that people like Don Henley and James Taylor have. He is currently working on new material. In the meantime, Reverie is something that will be revered.
Keyboardist Gary Wright had a pair of monster hits in 1976 with “Dream Weaver” and “Love is Alive.” He’s just released his first rock-oriented album in 20 years called Connected. It’s a star-studded affair, with appearances by Ringo Starr on drums, and Joe Walsh & Jeff “Skunk” Baxter on guitar. The deluxe edition of Gary’s CD contains some unreleased footage from George Harrison. Icon Fetch talks with Gary about his new disc, his friendship with two ex-Beatles, and what drew him to keyboard technology.
Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On (1971) – CD review –
The Dark Side of the Moon of soul music. Artists on Motown records were only allowed to sing, and were not involved with the creative process, until Marvin broke free with this stone-cold masterpiece, which he helped write and produce.
Covering topical subject matter like war, race relations and pollution, you’d think What’s Going On is a bummer. But, that’s what makes this so special: Marvin wraps these songs in lush arrangements that are as sweet going down as honey. Yet, never once does he sound preachy. This is the art of gentle persuasion (something he would perfect in the bedroom suite Let’s Get it On two years later). “What’s Going On,” “Mercy Mercy Me (the Ecology),” and “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler),” were all singles, but the entire album is flawless. And the whole record fades from one song to the next, a trick Pink Floyd would use to great effect a couple years later. Marvin Gaye actually did the impossible: he made a listenable protest album. –Tony Peters
The story seems crazy now: a band of blues-rockers from a decade earlier became the darlings of MTV, and this is the album that did it. Sure, you have to give some credit to the clever videos with the 1933 Ford in them, but it’s the music that lingers even today.
As with many great albums, it’s true appeal is it’s danceability; a perfect blend of blues-rock and four-on-the-floor beat. The icing on the cake comes with the sprinkling of keyboards into the mix; this is ZZ Top with just a pinch extra. The Eliminator album produced several hit singles and radio hits, including “Gimme All Your Lovin’,” “Sharp Dressed Man,” “Legs,” “Got Me Under Pressure,” and “TV Dinners.” Instead of sticking to this winning formula, the ‘Top decided to jump headfirst into synthesizers. It’s kind of like eating a cake with nothing but icing: it’s just wrong, there’s no substance. The resulting album, Afterburner now sounds dated and misguided, while Eliminator still stands up. –Tony Peters
Quite possibly the greatest debut LP in history, Boston reset the standard for perfection in a rock album. Sure, there were other LP’s that had strived for sonic perfection, Dark Side of the Moon comes to mind, but that was meant as a “headphone album.” Boston rocks, yet every note is where it should be:
The guitars are big, the vocals soaring and the hooks are 100 percent grade A. Taking a good part of a decade to create, Boston still stands as one of the most fully-realized debuts in history. The album would yield the anthemic “More Than a Feeling.” The stratospheric height that Boston achieved would be a one-time deal. Don’t Look Back from two years later, sounds rushed and unfinished. Subsequent LPs were mired in legal battles and over-production. But the first Boston still stands up after all these years. –Tony Peters
Veteran blues guitarist Elvin Bishop returns with a new CD “Red Dog Speaks,” on June 15th. The title refers to his favorite stringed instrument, a 1959 Gibson hollow body. Bishop’s storied career includes a stint in the acclaimed Butterfield Blues Band in the mid 1960’s. In ’68, he went solo and played a series of stellar co-headlining shows with the Allman Brothers Band at the Fillmore East. Bishop’s “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” hit #3 in 1976 and is still a staple at classic rock stations around the country. He was also nominated for a Grammy for Best Blues Album for 2008’s star-studded “The Blues Rolls On.” You can order Elvin’s CD by going directly to his record label’s site or at amazon.com as well.
Creed Bratton plays himself on the NBC hit comedy “The Office.” The true part of his character is that he was the lead guitarist of the sixties band the Grass Roots, who had hits with “Let’s Live For Today,” “Midnight Confessions,” and “Things I Should’ve Said.” He’s just released a new solo disc, appropriately titled Bounce Back. Icon Fetch talks to him about his dual career as actor and musician.