Robbie Robertson Goes to Little Willie John, and then to Hell?

A few weeks back Peter noted some great stuff about Little Willie John on the site.

And, that kicked my brain cells back to Robbie Robertson’s eponymously named debut album which is a killer in my meager opinion.

Employing Peter Gabriel and U2 and the Bodeans among others to help with instruments and especially vocals, the album really goes all over the map musically, with each song a little stronger than the cut before.

This one, Somewhere Down the Crazy River is clearly the one that tripped the Little Willie John wires:

But, this song, Hell’s Half Acre is as driving and kickass a rocker as ever lived. I can actually leave it in a loop for five or six playings on my phone it is so good and visceral.

Here is hoping everyone out there has a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving holiday!

“Pick On” Pink Floyd

Every week on my show on FNTSY (the Tout Wars Hour, 9-11 PM, ET every Thursday night he plugged shamelessly) I ask my special guest to reveal a favorite album, movie, TV show, athlete to watch, and food and the list, as Fantasy now spreads generations, is big fun.

There are wonderful surprises like Tim McLeod loving Sunburst Finish  by Be Bop Deluxe and Eno Sarris, being a fan of his namesake’s Taking Tiger Mountain by Storm.

A couple of weeks ago my special guest was Jeff Zimmerman, and when I suggested  that basic script for the show that week I also noted that during our final five minute  segment we do indeed review those pop items like players we like to watch and music  we like to listen to.

Jeff warned me in advance that he was not that much of a music person, and I  responded no problem, and there must be a Beatles or Stones or some kind of album or song in his head somewhere he liked and just do the best you can.

But, never, ever, ever, did I expect his actual entry to the list which is a blue grass cover of The Wall performed by Luther Wright and the Wrongs.

So, I went digging a little, and found the album, and during my guitar lesson that same week I asked my friend and mentor Steve Gibson if he knew about Luther and his band’s treatment of the Floyd.

Steve did not know The Wall specifically, but he was more than hep to Nashville musicians gathering and deconstructing famous albums and bands in a phenomenon known as “pick on,” as in “pick on Aerosmith” or “pick on AC/DC.”

I cannot say that this revisionism is totally my cup of tea as much as I like both the Floyd and blue grass. Clearly these guys are knockout musicians, but I think I actually prefer to hear them cover the Carters and Irish jigs, but just discovering this subculture of music was a kick and a half.

This is Luther’s treatment of my favorite tune from the Floyd album. I still prefer David Gilmour’s chorusy guitar ripping through, but this is still pretty good.




Rolling Stone’s Top 40 Punk Albums of All Time is Alt Fact!

When it comes to pissing matches and irreconcilable pluralism, no one does it better than Rolling Stone magazine.

They decided to make a list of the 40 best punk rock albums of all time. But, they limited each band to one elpee.  While I can see the reason for the limitation, I think having decided upon it, they should have realized that calling it the Top 40 Punk Albums of All Time was a falsehood.

Also, should compilation records qualify? Singles Going Steady was almost contemporaneous, sort of, but the Bikini Kill singles album came out way later. Terminal Tower was kind of Pere Ubu’s Kinks Kronikles, but does that make it chartworthy?

Might not be a bad idea for us to play around with our own Top 10s, with as many elpees from any band as you feel is warranted in, in the comments. Think I’ll invite Dave Marsh to contribute. I’m sure he’s got a Bob Seger record in mind.

So here it is. Sharpen your knives. Have fun.

While reading, listen to this, ponder (and read fast).



Ten Most Lasting Albums From Your Teen Years (per Lawr)

Peter put up a great post here, and Steve responded with a cool list. I am, I believe, the oldest (Steve is still the most curmudgeonly, though) so my teen years halt at 1972 meaning Brit Pop and Psychedelia ruled my adolescene.

My list:

  1. Tommy, The Who. Boy did I relate, especially as a misunderstood, chronically sick kid who saw things differently than seemingly everyone else around me.
  2. Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake, Small Faces. A killer bit of British psychedelics, packaged way weirdly, and displaying maybe the best band of instrumental players ever who were in a single band Steve Marriott went on to Humble Pie, Ronnie Lane recorded with many including Pete Townshend’s early solo stuff, Ian McLaghlen played all over including with the Stones, Kenny Jones was the Who drummer after Keith Moon, and Ronnie Wood? Duh.
  3. Cheap Thrills, Big Brother. Live garage rock at its very best. These guys are so fucking tight it is scary
  4. Blonde on Blonde, Bob Dylan. A seminal part of my life: I listened to it every night as I went to sleep for two years.
  5. In Search of the Lost Chord, Moody Blues. My foray to prog rock, and since my parents drilled classical music into me early on this was the perfect synthesis. And, it still sounds good to me.
  6. Otis Live in Europe, Otis Redding. With Cheap Thrills, 801 Live, Allman Brothers Live at the Fillmore East, this is maybe the best live album ever.
  7. The White Album, Beatles. Man, all over the map. When I was a little older than my Blonde on Blonde days, I would listen to this (like Cheap Thrills) on my headphones, at night, as I was going to sleep. So interesting and all over the place for maybe the most creative band ever.
  8. Surrealistic Pillow, Jefferson Airplane. I remember the day I bought it, and where I bought it. Still kills and is so sophisticated for such a young band.
  9. Moby Grape, Moby Grape. Too bad these guys couldn’t hold up. As noted, one of two Peter (my asshole brother, not my mate the wonderful Mr. Kreutzer) dissed.
  10. The Doors, The Doors. The other the bro dissed, and one I listened to every time I put a stack on the spindle.I will always wonder if the Doors were really a great band, but no question this is a great album.

Afternoon Snack: The Who, “Jaguar” and “Rael”

I have been listening to the complete reissue of The Who Sell Out, which has the original tracks and bits of commercials supporting Peter Townshend’s penchant to make an album a cohesive unit.

Townshend, as most of you likely know, imagined the album as a daily radio program on the BBC, so he sprinkled in radio spots, largely performed by the band making the music sparkly, the ads goofy and funny, and the entire work just so different and musically prescient that the whole affair just kills me. In fact, The Who Sell Out is my favorite album by the band.

With the reissue all the original cuts are indeed there, along with the released spots, but there are almost 30 cuts on this, with several takes on several songs in several styles making the whole smorgasbord kind of fascinating in so many ways.

But, at the core is the music which my mate Steve Gibson called alternative, even though the album was released 10 years before the Sex Pistols saw daylight.

If you listen to the song below, Jaguar, I think you will see what Steve means.

If you drop down to Rael, you will find an instrumental riff that worked its way into Underture from Tommy.



LINK: Album Covers Suitable for Hanging in a Gallery

Screenshot 2015-05-02 13.39.54I’m not sure about the premise of this slideshow in the Guardian, that these are the album covers that should hang in an art gallery, but it is a good reminder that album covers were an important part of listening to music back in the day of albums.

The big art of an album cover was a message about the product, often a statement about intentions or aesthetic purpose. Or just a lark, but one that connected the artist with the fans.

We lost that when we moved to CDs, and while vinyl sales are up, the vinyl elpee is no longer the face of a musical artist. That image has fractured into many competing versions, each shaped and colored for its particular audience. Which is why I think looking at nice reproductions of these album covers feels so fresh.

Ms Conception

Patti_Smith_in_Rosengrten_1978Patti Smith did an interview with Alan Light back in 2007, when she was promoting her album of covers, Twelve. For whatever reason (he wrote a news piece, not an interview at the time) the interview got filed, and has now emerged on Medium’s Cuepoint. It offers a quick  and insightful overview by Smith of her career, which is worth reading, and it ends with this, which is excellent:

Alan Light: What do you think is the biggest misconception about you?

Patti Smith: The thing that bothered me the most was when I had to return to the public eye in ’95 or ’96 when my husband died. We lived a very simple lifestyle in a more reclusive way in which he was king of our domain. I don’t drive, I didn’t have much of an income, and without him, I had to find a way of making a living. Besides working in a bookstore, the only thing I knew how to do was to make records—or to write poetry, which isn’t going to help put your kids through school. But when I started doing interviews, people kept saying “Well, you didn’t do anything in the 80s,” and I just want to get Elvis Presley’s gun out and shoot the television out of their soul. How could you say that? The conceit of people, to think that if they’re not reading about you in a newspaper or magazine, then you’re not doing anything.

I’m not a celebrity, I’m a worker. I’ve always worked. I was working before people read anything about me, and the day they stopped reading about me, I was doing even more work. And the idea that if you’re a mother, you’re not doing anything—it’s the hardest job there is, being a mother or father requires great sacrifice, discipline, selflessness, and to think that we weren’t doing anything while we were raising a son or daughter is appalling. It makes me understand why some human beings question their worth if they’re not making a huge amount of money or aren’t famous, and that’s not right.

My mother worked at a soda fountain. She made the food and was a waitress and she was a really hard worker and a devoted worker. And her potato salad became famous! She wouldn’t get potato salad from the deli, she would get up at five o’clock in the morning and make it herself, and people would come from Camden or Philly to this little soda fountain in South Jersey because she had famous potato salad. She was proud of that, and when she would come home at night, completely wiped out and throwing her tip money on the table and counting it, one of her great prides was that people would come from far and wide for her potato salad. People would say, “Well, what did your mother do? She was a waitress?” She served the people, and she served in the way that she knew best.

Afternoon Snack: Jesus Christ Superstar, “Heaven on Their Minds”

Diane and I, as noted here before, don’t have a lot in common musically.

Surely, my partner has a shuffle, and a bunch of tunes she likes to listen to when she is running, but virtually none of the songs are ones that interest me. She likes hip hop, and dance songs from the 90’s, mostly, although occasionally an AC/DC (Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap) or Boston (Foreplay/Long Time) song will sprinkle into her play list.

Not so, JCSS, which, when we discovered we each loved, caused me to download the original 1970 version from Amazon. Diane also was most familiar with that version, that featured Ian Gillian and Murray Head, although she also likes watching the movie when it appears at Easter (kind of like I enjoy watching Ben Hur at Christmas time).

What is also funny, was shortly after we both discovered a mutual love for JCSS, I was at our local recycle center, where in addition to dumping cardboard and styrofoam peanuts, there is an area where folks dump books and old records and DVDs (well, more like VHS tapes), and what was on top of a stack of vinyl but a copy of the original album (no liner notes, though). So, I grabbed it, and played it last week going through my vinyl binging.

When that album first came out, in 1970, I confess that I knew virtually nothing about Jesus historically. Having grown up as a nice Jewish boy in Suburban Sacramento, the subject just didn’t come up.

But, I did buy the cassette for some reason back then, and at least learned the Rice/Lloyd Webber take on the final week of Jesus’ life. And, I thought (and still do) that the whole work–vocals, lyrics, arrangements, and the musicianship–are just fantastic.

In particular, that body of players who delivered the guitars and bass and drums were indeed the part that has intrigued me most. Culled largely from the Grease Band, who toured behind Joe Cocker (check them out at Woodstock: killer) the principle rock musicians in JCSS play so beautifully, and appropriately, that it is almost sick.

Led by Henry McCullough (the Grease Band, and Wings) and Neil Hubbard (the Grease Band, and Roxy Music) on guitars, bass player Alan Spenner (the Grease Band, Mick Taylor, Alvin Lee, and Roxy Music), and drummer Bruce Rowland (Fairport Convention, and the Grease Band), Jesus Christ, Superstar is arguably the best of that oddity known as the rock opera. That means I like it better than either Tommy, or Quadrophenia, both of which I love to pieces, meaning this is high praise.

I do puzzle, though for usually rock’and’rollers don’t sight read symphonic charts, which I would guess is what was produced, and conversely, I have a hard time with Rice/Lloyd Webber thinking in terms of bending an “A” to a “B” starting on the seventh fret of the fourth string, with a little bit of reverb for a fill, so I do wonder just where the collaboration starts and stops.

Fortunately, it is simply a philosophical question, and in no way interferes with just how dead on the drums are, how the strumming and guitar play just enhances the words (which are very good), and how the bass interplays with both.

You can look down your nose at this work, and it might not even be your cup of tea, but no doubt these guys can seriously play.