#300 – Jennifer Paige – Starflower

Jennifer Paige

Georgia native Jennifer Paige scored one massive hit in 1998, the seductive pop of “Crush.”  The single went to #3 in the US and topped the charts in Spain, Denmark, Russia, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa.  Despite recording a strong debut album, she had no further hits in the States.  Her promising sophomore album, Positively Somewhere, had the misfortune of coming out the week after 9/11 in 2001.  She returned with a third album, Best Kept Secret in 2008, but lost both of her parents and was diagnosed with melanoma the same year.  Not surprisingly, she lost the desire for music.

Now, she’s healthy and has returned with her fourth album Starflower, funded by a successful Kickstarter program. We talk what got her back on the path to music, her collaboration with Coury Palermo, and the fact that she’s been one of the voices on the successful “Nationwide is on your Side” ad campaign.

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

#299 – Brad Gillis of Night Ranger – Don’t Let Up

Night Ranger - Don't Let Up

It’s been an unbelievable 35 years since Night Ranger released their debut album, Dawn Patrol, and their first single, “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me.” The guys are celebrating still Rockin’ America and beyond with the release of their 12th album, Don’t Let Up. Here’s the thing, all the elements that make up a great Night Ranger album are still intact – great harmonies, fiery guitar solos, and choruses you can sing along to.  In 2017, that’s a rare find.

To talk about it, we welcome guitarist and founding member Brad Gillis, who talks about a few setbacks that delayed the album’s release. He also reminisces about Rubicon, a band that he and Jack Blades were in before Night Ranger.  Also, how Night Ranger’s record label knew they had a hit with “Sister Christian,” and actually held off releasing it.

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

#298 – Matt North – Above Ground Fools

Matt North - Above Ground Fools

Matt North has done a little bit of everything. In the L.A. Comedy scene, he opened for the likes of Marc Maron, Louis CK and Chris Rock.  As a screenwriter, he did Best Western, which won multiple awards, yet has never been produced. As an actor, he starred alongside Jason Alexander in HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, yet was written out of the script after one episode after Alexander left.  As a session drummer, both in Los Angeles and Nashville, he’s worked with Maria McKee, Jay Bennett, Peter Case and Mink Stole.

Over the last few years, North has taught himself guitar and piano and has just issued his first album, Above Ground Fools – ten songs all written by North.  We touch on the twists and turns of his varied career, including what got him playing drums in the first place, and the inspiration behind songs like “Cronkite and Cosell” and “I Sold it All.”

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

Brenton Wood – The Very Best of

A full disc of classic 60’s soul

California soul singer Brenton Wood had a smash hit in 1967 with “Gimme Little Sign.” As a new collection from Bicycle Music, The Very Best of, shows, there was a lot more to this artist than that one song.

What distinguishes Wood from other R&B vocalists of the day is his smooth, relaxed delivery and great falsetto. Both are on fine display throughout this new collection. His other well-known track is “The Oogum Boogum Song,” which frequently shows up on soul and Beach music anthologies, despite barely cracking the Top 40.

The biggest thing we take away from this new set is that Wood was an underrated ballad singer. Take, for instance, “I Like the Way You Love Me,” which is absolutely gorgeous. His double-tracked vocal and falsetto, along with the slow tempo makes this one of those “shoulda been” hits. Also very strong is “Me and You,” which recalls fifties doowop, complete with a spoken middle and Wood’s soaring voice. Continue reading Brenton Wood – The Very Best of

#297 – Shel Talmy – The Creation, The Kinks & the Who

Shel Talmy with the Who
Producer Shel Talmy (center), flanked by the Who’s Keith Moon (left) and Pete Townshend (right).

He helped define the sound of early Sixties’ British rock

The name Shel Talmy may not be immediately recognizable, unless you’re a liner note junkie.  But, you’ve certainly heard his work.  Talmy is responsible for producing all of the early singles for the Kinks including “You Really Got Me,” “All Day and All the Night,” and “Sunny Afternoon.”

He also went on to do the same for the Who, with “I Can’t Explain,” “My Generation” and “Anyway Anyhow Anywhere.”  “Friday on My Mind” by the Easybeats is another credit.

But, probably the band he’s most proud of is one that didn’t make it.  The Creation had everything, catchy songs, a flashy guitarist in Eddie Phillips, an incendiary live show, yet they never even made a dent in the US charts.

The Numero Group is issuing Action Painting, a 2-disc set bringing together everything this seminal band put to tape, including some brand new stereo mixes overseen by Talmy, plus alternate takes, and an exhaustive booklet with multiple essays, session notes, and a treasure trove of pictures – it’s an impressive collection for any fan of mid-Sixties British rock.

We talk to Talmy about the high hopes he had for them, and why they never lived up to his lofty expectations.  We also touch on his work with the Kinks, the Who and the Easybeats.

#296 – Ruthie Foster – Joy Comes Back


Ruthie Foster
Ruthie Foster, photo by Sue Schrader

Folk-blues singer covers Black Sabbath on her new album

Austin singer Ruthie Foster defies classification.  Her previous albums have featured covers from the likes of Johnny Cash, David Crosby and Adele, as well as her own originals.  For this new project, Joy Comes Back, her first release in three years, the approach is equally eclectic: she tackles songs by the Four Tops, Mississippi John Hurt and, most notably, a Son House-flavored rendition of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs.”

She’s also joined by several stellar guests, including guitarist Derek Trucks, bassist Willie Weeks and drummer Joe Vitale.  We talk to Foster about how music got her through a tumultuous chapter in her life, plus why she quit the business and signed up for the Navy several years ago.

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