354 – The Claudettes – explore “Garage Cabaret” on High Times in the Dark

Out of Chicago come The Claudettes – their music grabs elements of jazz, blues, surf rock and punk, and the results are what the band likes to call “garage cabaret.”  They’ve just recorded their fifth record, called High Times in the Dark, for Forty Below Records.  It was helmed by Ted Hutt, who’s produced Old Crow Medicine Show, the Violent Femmes and the Dropkick Murphys. 

The results of the collaboration is easily their best album to date – a perfect showcase for singer Berit Ulseth. Johnny Iguana is the keyboardist, he also writes all the songs.  He has an impressive list of collaborations, including being Junior Wells’ piano player, as well as stints with BB King and Buddy Guy. 

353 – Sass Jordan – Rebel Moon Blues

Sass Jordan – photo by Derek Sharp

It makes everybody happy…what the heck?

Canadian rocker Sass Jordan is probably best known in the States for a pair of gritty albums in the mid-90’s and hit singles like “Make You a Believer” and “High Road Easy.”  She won a Juno award for Most Promising Female Vocalist of 1989, she’s portrayed Janis Joplin in the off-Broadway musical Love Janis, and she dueted with Joe Cocker on a song from the Bodyguard soundtrack.  But, all along, the best word to describe Sass is REAL. 

Her latest project, Rebel Moon Blues, embodies that description, featuring seven blues covers, casting a wide net over the genre – from Willie Dixon and Elmore James, to Rory Gallagher and Taj Mahal.  Plus, she’s written a brand new original that fits in perfect with this hallowed material.  Everything was done live in the studio with her signature, whiskey-soaked vocals over top.

Sass talks about the origin of this project and the fun process of picking the songs. Plus she talks about how she was able to have raw rock hits, even during the height of Grunge.

352 – Robin McAuley of Black Swan – New Album, Shake the World, and Health Scare

Robin McAuley is probably best known for his stint in the McAuley Schenker Group in the late 80s/early 90s – putting songs on rock radio like “Anytime” and “When I’m Gone.”  McAuley has also spent time in Grand Prix, Survivor and Far Corporation. 

His latest project is a star-studded affair – Black Swan features McAuley on lead vocals along with Reb Beach of Winger and Whitesnake on guitars, Jeff Pilson of Dokken and Foreginer on bass, and Matt Starr of Ace Frehley and Mr. Big on drums.  The combination of all four of these great musicians manages to sound both familiar and fresh. 

McAuley talks about how this all-star lineup came about, how vampires inspired one of the new songs, and how he almost died earlier in the year!

351 – Johnny Mathis – The Voice of Romance Tour, “Misty,”…and Bill Russell

2020 marks Johnny Mathis’ 64th anniversary as a recording artist.  He has never stopped touring and recording since his first album was released back in 1956. “Chances Are,” “Misty,” “It’s Not For Me To Say,” and “Wonderful, Wonderful” are just a smattering of his timeless hits.

He continues to stay busy in many ways – he’s recently dueted with both Freda Payne and Dionne Warwick on two new songs, plus Second Disc and Real Gone Music have been reissuing some of Johnny’s albums from the Seventies, including a “lost” record with him and the funk band Chic.  In addition, he’s recently guested on the season finale of Criminal Minds. 

Johnny is currently on the road with his Voice of Romance Tour, coming to a city near you.

We talk with Mathis about the “Voice of Romance” moniker, plus he tells us how he beat out NBA legend Bill Russell in a high jumping competition (and what he thinks of the hoopster’s singing ability!). Mathis also talks about his other interests outside of music and gives us the story behind his classic song, “Misty.”

350 – Marshall Crenshaw – Miracle of Science revisted

Marshall Crenshaw has spent the last 40 years creating memorable, melodic-laden rock songs, scoring hits with songs like “Someday, Someway” and “Whenever You’re on My Mind.” Plus, he co-wrote “Til I Hear it From You,” a big hit for the Gin Blossoms, and he’s had several bit parts in some Hollywood movies, like La Bamba and Peggy Sue Got Married. 

Well everything old is new again – when Crenshaw was issuing albums in the 1990’s and early 2000s, vinyl was dead – so those records only came out on CD.  Now, he’s regained the rights to those albums and has started reissuing them, with bonus tracks – and on…you guessed it, vinyl.  The first in the series of reissues is Crenshaw’s 1996 album, Miracle of Science, which also features some brand new material.

349 – Myles Goodwyn – April Wine and Friends of the Blues

Myles Goodwyn – photo by Darren Lulka

Myles Goodwyn has been a guiding force behind Canadian rockers, April Wine, for 50 years running now, scoring hits in the US, like “Just Between You and Me,” “Roller,” and “You Could’ve Been a Lady.”  In 2018, Goodwyn issued a solo album titled Myles Goodwyn – Friends of the Blues, which garnered an East Coast Music Award and a Juno nomination. Now, he’s back with Friends of the Blues 2, and once again he’s assembled a who’s who of Canadian blues giants, including Jack De Keyzer, Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne and Angel Forrest.

Goodwyn, who’s known more for his rock music, talks about how this blues project came about.  He also tells us the origin of April Wine’s first hit, “You Could’ve Been a Lady,” and how the band was embraced in the early days of MTV.

Rush – Clockwork Angels Tour (vinyl edition)

When I was a growing up in the 1970’s my neighbor owned a custom van. Both sides of the vehicle were the canvas for a larger than life painting of an owl, with piercing yellow eyes and outstretched wings; a meticulous airbrushed version of Hugh Syme’s original album artwork for Rush’s second album, Fly By Night. This was a van that belonged to a true Rush fan, a place where any music would do as long as it was all Rush all the time.  

My musical journey with the band started in earnest a few years later with my oldest sister’s copy of Exit Stage Left. There was and is something special about listening to music on vinyl.  I remember holding the album, reading the liner notes and seeing the artwork that Hugh Syme designed for the album, it would have looked great on an Econoline van.  

Fast forward to 2019, the five LP box set Clockwork Angels Tour (Rhino/Atlantic Records) arrives in the mail.  In the era of streaming music, it feels almost remarkable to see and hold an LP box set.  Clockwork Angels Tour is an exquisitely packaged and pressed live recording from Rush’s tour to support the studio album Clockwork Angels.  While it is possible to stream thefive-album box set,this is a body of work that begs to be consumed in a linear fashion, on vinyl.  Clockwork Angels Tour is an epic 31-song musical journey, that rolls, twists and intertwines, each song effortlessly slides into and beyond the other.  

The majority of the tracks from the exceptional Clockwork Angels album are found on Sides C-F of the box set.  These songs are not a separate act of the play, but a musical thread that weaves the incredible talent and development of Rush, it’s the evolution and pursuit of the craft.  With Rush this pursuit never seems to be complete, it is the process and the product. 

The brilliance of the band’s 38 years of musical creativity is on display, this is not a greatest hits album it’s a sample of the live experience with Rush. It’s a complex story that seems to be aimed at drawing you in and placing you within the interplay of all things that came before and will come after.  Clockwork Angels Tour is a musical and artistic work of art, that begs you to slow down, take some time and lose yourself in the remarkable musical talent of Rush.  —Brian Dzwonek

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Willy and the Poor Boys (vinyl edition)

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Willy and the Poor Boys (180 Gram Vinyl Edition) (Fantasy/Concord)

This new version blows the original vinyl away

As a lifelong collector of vinyl, I will often tell you that “older is better.”  I’d rather search out an original pressing of an album than buy some new version.  The reason is that, in my experience, a lot of new vinyl is done with very little quality control.  Well, here comes Craft Recordings to, once again, prove me wrong.

Craft Recordings has recently re-issued both Green River and Willy and the Poor Boys on vinyl in celebration of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s 50th anniversary.  They sent us Willy and the Poor Boys and we compared it to an original vinyl copy in our library.

The results are stunning.

While the original vinyl sounds pretty good, this new, 180-gram, edition is far superior in every way.  First, this new version is very quiet – the pressing was done with a great deal of care.  Second, and really the biggest difference, is that there is so much more depth to this new pressing.  The guitar at the beginning of “Down on the Corner” is rich, there’s more punch to the drums on “It Came Out of the Sky,” and the acoustic guitars on “Cottonfields” are warm.  

The album was created using the half-speed mastering process, meaning the original audio was played back at half the speed and the cutting lathe was also slowed down, allowing the grooves to be cut more precisely.  

Everything from “Fortunate Son” to “The Midnight Special” jumps out of the speakers.  These classic recordings have never sounded this good on their original, vinyl format.

As an added bonus, the album comes packaged in a heavy weight cardboard sleeve, replicating the original, tip-on jacket.  

CCR were one of the original, roots-rock American bands.  It makes sense then, that they should be enjoyed in analog.  

I sincerely wish that all vinyl reissues were given the same treatment as this Willy and the Poor Boys edition.  Vinyl fans rejoice!  —Tony Peters

348 – Franke Previte – The Knockouts Complete & Dirty Dancing

Franke Previte was a founding member of Franke & the Knockouts, who had a top ten smash in 1981 with “Sweetheart.”  “You’re My Girl” and “Without You,” also charted on the Top 40, plus the songs “Come Back” and “Never Had it Better” got significant play on rock radio back in the day.  In all, the band issued three albums for major labels, two on Millennium and one for MCA. 

After the band’s demise, Previte worked on his songwriting craft, co-writing the two big hits off the Dirty Dancing soundtrack, “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” and “Hungry Eyes” (the former hit won an Academy Award for Best Song in 1987).

If you try and find any of the Franke & the Knockouts albums online, you’ll find that they’re fetching a lot of money.  That motivated Previte to issue Franke & the Knockouts – The Complete Collection from Friday Music. 

Featuring all three albums, plus some choice bonus tracks – this fantastic music is back in print.  Plus, part of the proceeds from each collection will go to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network in honor of his friend, Patrick Swayze, who succumbed to the disease.

347 – Kim Simmonds of Savoy Brown – City Night

I know that at any moment…this could stop

Savoy Brown, one of the longest-running British Blues Rock bands.  Formed in 1965 by guitarist Kim Simmonds, the band achieved success with songs like “Train to Nowhere,” “I’m Tired,” and “Hellbound Train.”  Former band members have gone on to success with groups like Yes, Fleetwood Mac, and several members forming Foghat.  But, through all this, Simmonds has remained the one constant, guiding force. 

The band’s 40th album, City Night, has just come out on Quarto Valley Records, and Simmonds searing guitar is once again, front and center, augmented by Pat DeSalvo on bass and Garnett Grimm on drums, the most consistent lineup in the group’s history  The band is also in the midst of a US tour.

We chat about how Simmonds saw the Rolling Stones very early in their career, plus how he was influenced by Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac, and why he doesn’t play his signature Flying V guitar much anymore.

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