Icon FAMILY Week Starts This Tuesday!

This coming week, we’ve got a unique set of guests who are all blood related to famous musicians.  First, it’s Ray Charles Jr., who just wrote a book about his experiences with his dad entitled “You Don’t Know Me.”  Then, it’s Antonia Bennett, whose brand new EP, Natural, harkens back to the music of her father, Tony.  And, finally we’ve got Teeny Tucker, daughter of bluesman Tommy Tucker (“Hi Heel Sneakers“), who is promoting her latest disc “Keep the Blues Alive.”  KEEPIN’ IT IN THE FAMILY!

Krokus – Hoodoo (CD review)

Krokus – Hoodoo (Sony International) – CD review –

Hoodoo may be Krokus’ best album ever.  Consider this: back in metal’s heyday, bands were concerned with how many high notes their singer could hit and how much hairspray they should use.  Now, three decades removed for all that, they’ve stripped away all the bullshit.   What remains is a blistering set of the most straight-ahead rock that Krokus has ever laid down.

They’ve reunited with a lineup that last played together way back in 1982  It begs the question “if Krokus could’ve been this good, what the hell took them so long”?  There’s no effects, no big 80’s drums, just in-your-face guitar with a driving beat.  Most of the record is based around the same kind of catchy riffs that made early AC/DC so much fun.  The fact that these guys are pulling this off this late in their career is astonishing.  “Keep Me Rollin’” has that insistent guitar riff that makes you want to pump your fist high in the air, while “In the Blood” flat-out rocks.

The most telling song, “Rock n’ Roll Handshake,” is about getting the old guys back together: “Breakin the fight / With an old song./ Makin it right / Cause it was wrong.”  Grizzled and back with a vengeance; let’s hope this lineup can continue putting out records as good as this one. –Tony Peters

John Mellencamp – No Better Than This (CD review)

John Mellencamp – No Better Than This (Rounder) – CD review –

John Mellencamp has scored ten Top 10 hits over his long career.  But, rather than try and compete with the Lady Gagas of the world, he’s chosen to go in the complete opposite direction,  and in doing so, he’s created a dream album.  Plenty of artists have attempted to go “back to their roots;” Springsteen did it for “Nebraska,” Elvis did it for his “Memphis” album, but no one has done it with as much authenticity as John Mellencamp.

The bulk of the record was done at the legendary Sun studios in Memphis, once the home to Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and B.B. King.  Sure, recording there isn’t anything new.  But, Mellencamp chose to lay everything down on No Better Than This live to a vintage reel to reel tape machine using  only a single microphone.  Now, how’s that for old school?  All thirteen tracks were penned by Mellencamp, yet many sound closer to the guys who originally recorded in these studios.  “Coming Down the Road” has that early Johnny Cash feel, complete with slapback bass and clean guitar sound.

The title track sounds like a Billy Lee Riley outtake, while “Each Day of Sorrow” recalls John Lee Hooker’s “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer.”  The one track that music geeks will surely fawn over is “Right Behind Me,” actually recorded in the very same hotel room in San Antonio that Robert Johnson laid down his cryptic tracks, some 80 years previous.  That song, with its echoey fiddle and lyrics about the devil add to the creepy surroundings.  By stripping away all but the bare necessities of music, Mellencamp has turned in an album worthy of a classic. –Tony Peters

#25 – Richard Barone – Glow

Richard Barone

Richard Barone fronted the new wave band the Bongos in the early eighties, then went on to a critically-acclaimed solo career, which Rolling Stone dubbed “chamber pop.”  He took several years off to work on projects for other people.  He also wrote a book called Frontman – Surviving the Rock n’ Roll Myth.  Now, he’s set to release his first studio album in 16 years, Glow.  Icon Fetch talks with Barone about working with legendary producer Tony Visconti (David Bowie, T.Rex), his new toy – the Digital Les Paul, and writing songs with legendary tunesmith Paul Williams.  Click below for the Richard Barone interview.

#24 – Teeny Tucker – Keep the Blues Alive

Teeny Tucker

Teeny Tucker’s dad was the famous bluesman Tommy Tucker, who had a hit with “Hi Heeled Sneakers” back in 1964.  Teeny, who stands only 5’1″, is continuing in her father’s tradition with her new release, Keep the Blues Alive. She talks with Icon Fetch about her new CD, her writing process and the true story behind the song “Old Man Magnet.”  Click below for the Teeny Tucker interview.

#23 – Antonia Bennett – Natural

Antonia Bennett

She is the youngest daughter of Tony Bennett, Antonia Bennett has just released her debut EP called Natural.  Not surprisingly, the material is very reminiscent of her dad’s classic, piano-dominated sound.  Yet, she’s also no clone of her parent either.  Antonia’s voice is, at times, playful, and others, sultry, showing off a unique, interpretive quality befitting of her pedigree.  She’s currently touring the world, opening shows for her father.  Icon Fetch talks Ms. Bennett about following in her dad’s footsteps, playing the famed Royal Albert Hall, and having to sing the “Hokey Pokey” on stage as a kid.  Click below for the Antonia Bennett interview. 

#22 – Ray Charles Jr. – You Don’t Know Me

Ray Charles Jr.
He is the son of Ray Charles, yet for most of his early life, his dad was not around; constantly out on the road.  Ray Charles Jr. has just written the book “You Don’t Know Me,” which delves deeper into the story of his father than the movie “Ray” ever did.  He talks candidly about how his dad’s transgressions had a lasting impact on he and his brothers, and how despite seeing firsthand the dangers of drug abuse, he traveled down that very same destructive path.  Ray Jr. talks to Icon Fetch about his memories of his dad in the studio, his thoughts on the “Ray” movie, and how his own daughter has a chance to carry on the legacy left by her grandfather.  Click below for the Ray Charles Jr. interview.

Classic Album – Utopia – Utopia (CD review)

Utopia – Utopia (1982) – CD review

Utopia began life as a Todd Rundgren side project to indulge his progressive rock leanings.  But as his solo work became more esoteric, the music he made with Utopia began leaning more toward the pop side of rock.  Utopia is the band’s peak.  Originally released with a “bonus disc” containing five extra songs, all fifteen now fit nicely on a single CD.  While Something / Anything was Rundgren’s high point for pop songwriting, this record comes in a close second.

Any longtime follower of Rundgren’s career knows his catalog is littered with half-baked experiments, heavy on over-indulgent studio trickery and concepts.  That’s what makes Utopia such a joy: for once, Rundgren and company deliver an entire album of tight, catchy pop songs, sung with gleeful abandon, and with no subplot.  What’s more, the experimentation is almost completely absent; the entire disc sounds like it could’ve been recorded in a single session.

The disc opens with the pounding “Libertine,” sung by bassist Kasim Sulton with a feaux-guitar keyboard solo from Roger Powell.  All four members contribute lead vocals, with drummer Willie Wilcox turning in the surprise rocker “Princess of the Universe.”  Sulton and Rundgren duet for the Beatles-ish “Say Yeah,” and Rundgren turns in a great ballad “I’m Looking At Your But I’m Talking To Myself.”  Powell’s “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now” actually reached the lower rungs of the charts.  Not as groundbreaking as earlier or later material, Utopia provides a more simple pleasure. –Tony Peters

Classic Album – Peter Frampton – Frampton Comes Alive! (CD review)

Peter Frampton – Frampton Comes Alive (1976) – CD review –

One of the most bizarre success stories in rock: how did little known Peter Frampton become a household name with this mega-selling record?  A closer look to Frampton Comes Alive! reveals the answers. 

For one, Framp was easy on the eyes, making him an instant hit with the ladies.  But, he also could play the hell out of the guitar, making him a hit with the dudes as well.  But, Frampton had had zero success with his previous solo efforts.

What makes this all work is the excitement oozing from the grooves of this record; you truly feel like you’re part of the show.  His charisma is contagious and the songs all have a level of energy only hinted at in the studio versions.  Adding to the fervor is Frampton’s use of the “talk box,” a device that allows him to make his guitar “speak,” most apparent in the hits “Show Me the Way” and the stoner anthem “Do You Feel Like We Do.”  The other hit, “Baby I Love Your Way,” was a ballad for the ladies.

While most double-live efforts lose steam, the record’s clever pacing helps keep things interesting: there’s an acoustic set right in the middle of a couple of long jams.  He also throws in a raucous cover of the Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” for good measure.  A final note about the audience: Frampton was not yet a big star when these concerts were recorded, yet he must’ve had a cult following.  The crowd is worked up to a frenzy by the band’s performances, adding another element to the already great songs.  There was no way this crazy, runaway success could ever have been followed up.  Not surprisingly, he quickly faded back to cult status.  Still, Frampton Comes Alive continues to be the benchmark for electrifying live albums. –Tony Peters

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