Bettye LaVette – Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook (Anti) – CD review –
Bettye is like a fine wine – she had to get good and old before people would start to enjoy her. The singer, now aged 64, is having the biggest success of her career. A video of her performing the Who’s “Love Reign O’er Me” at the Kennedy Center Honors became a Youtube sensation. LaVette didn’t just sing the song, she reinvented it and made it her own. Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook asks the question: “can she do it again”?
The answer is a resounding “yes”! Interpretations is an excellent name for this collection, because of the 13 tracks, she rarely plays the arrangements straight. If you don’t look at the track listing, you might find yourself going through half of the song before recognizing it. To say that she breathes new life into these tired old rock classics is an understatement. Bettye recreates these songs, often times singing behind the melody, turning every one of these into spine chilling soul classics.
The arrangements are sparse: slinky Stax-infused guitars, Hi-records strings and Lavette’s gravelly but powerful voice cutting through. “It Don’t Come Easy” the jangly Ringo Starr song, is transformed into an acoustic-based blues, “Maybe I’m Amazed” becomes a sermon for her to sing from the pulpit, even Zeppelin’s “All My Love” becomes a soul shouter. Plenty of artists have tried similar projects and wind up sounding like bad karaoke. LaVette not only pulls it off, she begs the question: “where the hell has she been all these years”? — Tony Peters
Scorpions – Sting In The Tail (Universal) – CD review –
Yes, there is still venom left in the band from Hannover, Germany. The Scorpions have decided to call it quits after their current tour and if Sting in the Tail (Universal) is indeed their final studio record, (17th to be exact) it is worth the purchase. This album of 12 songs could have easily fallen somewhere between their best known album of the 80’s “Love At First Sting” and their most commercially successful foyer into the 90’s “Crazy World”.
Beginning with the current radio hit “Raised On Rock”, which has a definite “Rock You Like A Hurricane” feel, guitarists Rudolf Schenker and Matthias Jabs deliver crunchy riffs and some solid solos to please any rocker. 62 year old Klaus Meine (yes that’s right, he’s 62), sounds in great vocal form on tracks like “Slave Me”, “Rock Zone”, and “Turn You On”. “The Good Die Young”, featuring the Finnish symphonic metal singer Tarja Turunen, is the weakest of the bunch, suffering from some less than stellar verses lyrically, but rebounds during the chorus.
There are even a few ballads, which the Scorpions always did well, (ala “Still Loving You” and “Winds Of Change”) in the songs, “Lorelei” and the album closer “The Best Is Yet To Come”. The lyrics are at times, unsophisticated. But, that’s not the reason anyone has ever listened to the Scorpions, right? The band have stated that the reason for their impending retirement is that “they want to end the Scorpions’ extraordinary career on a high note”, and they’ve done a pretty decent job with this CD. They are currently on the road in the U.S. and Canada through the end of August, so get out there and GET YOUR STING AND BLACKOUT before these guys call it quits. More info at the-scorpions.com. – Allen Roenker
High-octane rockers Jackyl have just released When Moonshine and Dynamite Collide (Mighty Loud Records), 12 tracks of riff-heavy, irreverent rock n’ roll. The band is best known for “The Lumberjack,” which proved that a chainsaw could actually be used as a musical instrument. Icon Fetch talks with lead singer Jesse James Dupree about the new CD, tour and filming the Full Throttle Saloon reality show for TruTV during Bike Week at Sturgis. Plus, he tells us about when things go wrong with his chainsaw on stage. Visit Jackyl’s official site for more info, www.jackyl.com. Click below for the Jesse Dupree Jackyl interview.
Earlier this week, I talked with Peter Case, a great solo artist, who also was a member of the seminal bands the Nerves and the Plimsouls. The next day, I rocked it up with Jesse James Dupree of Jackyl, who also have a new CD out. I’ve got interviews set for next week with Sam Cutler, the Stones road manager during the Altamont free concert debacle; and Peter Parcek, a great blues guitarist. Keep it locked on Icon Fetch!
AC/DC – Iron Man 2 Soundtrack (Columbia) – CD review –
AC/DC has long had an aversion to doing a “Greatest Hits” album. That stance has paid off in the continued success of their albums Back in Black and Highway to Hell. They have, however, allowed soundtracks to be created entirely made up of their music. The first one, Who Made Who, came out in 1986 as the soundtrack to the Stephen King flop Maximum Overdrive.
That collection seemed to have no rhyme or reason, and only contained eight tracks. The Iron Man 2 Soundtrack is completely different. This is AC/DC at their balls-out, fist-pumping best. Of the 15 songs, eight are from Brian Johnson and seven from original leader Bon Scott. The one omitted song that prevents this from being a “hits” package is of course, “You Shook Me All Night Long,” the song that even grandma will get up and dance to. But, that slice of pop-metal would sound out of place here.
Also missing are any of the joke songs like “The Jack” or “Big Balls.” This is serious rock n’ roll fun. Incidentally, it makes a great driving album. Oh, and it works as a soundtrack too. One final note: for fans looking to buy as little AC/DC as possible, if you pick up this collection AND Who Made Who, there is no overlap between the two and you’ve got yourself just about every essential AC/DC track. — Tony Peters
I helped host a special two-hour program on blogtalkradio called “Michael Jackson Remembered,” on the one-year anniversary of his death. I talked to Tommy James about his thoughts on Michael as a performer. Also on my segment is Dennis Coffey, a guitarist who played on many of the Motown hits of the early 70’s. My segment is about 40 minutes into the program.
For ten years, various record companies tried to put Shelby Lynne into some kind of category so they could market her to the masses, failing miserably in the process. The fact is, Lynne’s music defies categorization; there’s country, soul, rock and folk in most of what she does. To remedy this problem, she’s formed her own label, Everso Records, finally giving herself the freedom she has so badly wanted for years. Her new album, Tears, Lies & Alibis, is her first self-released disc, and it’s a more stripped-down affair, with Lynne’s guitar work at the forefront.
There are clues that a major label was forbidden to touch these tracks. Take for instance the fine “Why Didn’t You Call Me,” which clocks in at a mere 1:40. Certainly a corporate exec would’ve had her write another verse, and repeat the chorus several times, just to make it a more palatable 3:00. But, that’s just it, the song sounds fine in its brief form. Or “Something to Be Said About Airstreams,” which comes off more like a phrase someone would utter, rather than a song. “Alibi” is utterly beautiful; a flanged-out guitar adds a simple accompaniment to her sultry delivery of unfaithful love. In someone else’s hands, this would be a tear-jerker, but with Lynne, it’s self-affirming and matter-of-fact. “I guess I’ll have to meet / Your alibi.” Another in a long line of great ones from Shelby Lynne. — Tony Peters
Peter Case was the leader of the Plimsouls who had an early eighties near-hit with “A Million Miles Away.” He left for an eclectic solo career in 1986 that’s garnered him critical acclaim and three Grammy nominations. Now Peter returns with a new disc called “Wig!” He talks with Icon Fetch about having to have emergency heart surgery and the effect that it had on his life and his music. Plus the subsequent comeback shows that led to the recording of his new material. Click below for the Peter Case interview.
Elvin Bishop – Red Dog Speaks (Delta Groove) – CD review –
Elvin Bishop has been making music for almost 50 years, and his latest CD, Red Dog Speaks, is a reflection of the twists and turns he’s taken throughout his career. The title refers to Elvin’s vintage Gibson guitar, which has become his axe of choice. Some tracks on the disc are sung by him, others by John Nemeth (the best of which, “Neighbor, Neighbor,” is a blistering cover of an old Jimmy Hughes song).
While Bishop has never been much of a singer, he does make the best of it by turning his songs into conversations, as in “Fat & Sassy,” where he bemoans a trip to the doctor, where he’s told all the things he can no longer eat; or “Clean Livin,’” where he wonders how he “ever got this old / It sure wasn’t clean livin.” There are several tasty instrumentals, including the “Doo Wop Medley” which melds “In the Still of the Night” with “Maybe,” two Fifties classics that let Bishop’s slide work really shine.
There’s also “Blues Cruise,” which was actually recorded on the boat of the same name, featuring many of the other musicians who were part of the trip. The real surprise is that despite the album’s hodge podge of styles, nothing comes off as a stretch; it all works. This dog might be old, but he’s still capable of surprises like this one. — Tony Peters