Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Top Songs / 2010

Excellent year for music.  This is the 1st year in a long time I had to leave songs off my year-end disc, so any year I can find more than 35 songs I really enjoy I consider a good one (music-wise anyway).  In no particular order:

  • Bodega - Eric Lindell
  • You Can Dance - Bryan Ferry
  • Heart of Steel - Galactic (feat. Irma Thomas)
  • Moneygrabber - Fitz & The Tantrums
  • Coma and Get It - Eli "Paperboy" Reed
  • The Trip To Pirates Cove - Tome Petty & The Heartbreakers 
  • Susanah - 30db
  • Beggarman - Smoove & Turrell
  • Rock Dust Light Star - Jamiroquai
  • Slow - Rumer
  • The Sweetest Thing - JJ Grey & Mofro
  • I Learned The Hard Way - Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
  • Love Lives - Black Dub
  • How To Become Clairvoyant - Robbie Robertson
  • Soldier of Love - Sade
  • All My Bridges Burning - Los Lobos
  • Cold Boy Smile - The Black Crowes
  • Shaky - The Duke & The King
  • As We Enter - Nas, Damian Marley
  • Beautiful Place - Sean Carey
  • Blood Like Lemonade - Morcheeba
  • I Need A Dollar - Aloe Blacc
  • Stylo - Gorillaz
  • The Sound of Sunshine - Michael Franti & Spearhead
  • The High Road - Broken Bells
  • Cotton Was King - Widespread Panic
  • You Are Not Alone - Mavis Staples
  • Chance - James Maddock
  • Beg Steal or Borrow - Ray Lamontagne
  • Do You Love Me - Guster
  • Rocksteady - Big Head Todd & The Monsters
  • Shaky Ground - Jackie Greene
  • I Didn't See It Coming - Belle & Sebastian
  • Window Seat - Erykah Badu
  • F@#k You - Cee-Lo

Duke & The King

New band formed by the drummer (Simone Felice) from the Catskills-based band The Felice Brothers.  Excellent acoustic based folk-rock that actually has some soul.  Their music has influences as diverse as Neil Young and Smokey Robinson, and they are on the mellow side.  They've released 2 discs in the past 2 years ("Nothing Gold Can Stay" and the recently released "Long Live...") and both are very strong.  They were supposed to play Mountain Jam this past June but Simone had heart trouble and had to have emergency surgery.  From their Facebook page:  The Duke & The King are a soul-folk-glam ensemble from the sticks of New York founded, produced, and created by Simone Felice and Robert Bird Burke, featuring the sensational Simi Stone and Nowell" Reverend Loveday" Haskins, and like any traveling theatre troupe there's bound to be a growing cast of bewitching characters. Named for the traveling Shakespeare hustlers in 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn'.
An excellent new band, look forward to seeing them live.  Here's their website:

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Fitz, the Flavor of the Month

Fitz & The Tantrums is a new band from LA.  Inspired by Stax and Motown, the band sounds like a bit like the band ABC sounded to me back in the early 80's.  A caucasian approach to soul music, it relies heavily on organ and horns to provide gravitas to the songs, which are good, but not great.  The band is led by Michael Fitzpatrick who sings vocals (and has a disconcerting shock of white in his hair), and he had the good sense to hire Noelle Scaggs as the female vocalist, who's got a really great voice.  You can't get away from their song "MoneyGrabber" lately, it's even being used in a T-Mobile commercial.  I got into them after seeing them on "Live at Daryl's House", where they did an amazing set.  Their latest disc "Pickin Up The Pieces" is very good, and a nice addition to the blue-eyed soul niche.  But I've got a problem when a band suddenly comes out of nowhere and all of a sudden are everywhere.  The disc is very good, but by no means a classic.  (There are 3 or 4 very good tunes on the disc).  Maybe they could've waited until their 2nd disc to have sold out, but I also understand that there's no guarantees that a 2nd disc would materialize so "take it while you can".   Seeing them at Bowery Ballroom in a few weeks, they're supposed to be very good live.  

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Black Dub / Bowery again

Very good Black Dub show last night at the Bowery Ballroom.  Here's a link to a review
I thought the band was very good, but a few of the songs, particularly "I'd Rather Go Blind" fell flat.  
And I couldn't believe it, but Lanois introduced "The Messenger" as a song off his 1st solo album "Acadie", which it is's on "For The Beauty of Wynona", his 2nd disc.  I guess that motorcycle accident rattled his noggin a bit.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

some new music Nov

Lots of good new music recently released.  The new Jamiroquai has a few good singles off their (his) new disc, "Rock Dust Light Star" (also the name of the album) and "White Knuckle Ride", which are the first 2 songs on the disc.  I think it's amazing that the guy is still actually making relevant music, albeit from the same acid-jazz based template he's always used, but now it's a bit more disco.  He looks a bit like Mark Wahlberg in this clip from the great Jools Holland show "Later".

The new Bryan Ferry album "Olympia" is great, his best disc since "Boys and Girls". He's got many guests on the disc, including pretty much everyone from Roxy Music (Manzanera, Mackay, etc), David Gilmour and more, but the sound is late-period Roxy Music, a la "Flesh & Blood" and "Avalon".  Languid, well-orchestrated and heavily produced, it sounds like a return to form for Ferry.  The songs are consistently good, and you'd think the record was made 20 years ago, it could be a follow-up to any of the late-period Roxy albums and early Ferry solo records.  Great stuff.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Gregory Isaacs R.I.P.

The Cool Ruler, Gregory Isaacs, one of the greatest reggae singers of all time died today at 60. (The cause was cancer of the liver that spread to his lungs).  His voice is instantly recognizable, and there's no way to underestimate his importance in the reggae world.  He was one of the originators of the classic roots reggae sound, and also the best purveyor of "lovers rock" reggae ever.  Along with Dennis Brown, they were the best voices ever to sing reggae music.  (You could add Jacob Miller, Marley and a few other to the list, but the 2 best were Isaacs and Brown).   He had way too many albums to list, but some of his best singles are collected on the "One Man Against The World" compilation.  Isaacs became huge after his "Night Nurse" album in 1982, although he was much loved and well-known prior to that release.  I got to see Isaacs perform at Reggae Sunsplash at Radio City Music Hall in 1985, and saw him walk thru the airport (dressed all in white) in Kingston, Jamaica in 1991 or so.  I started to listen to reggae in 1981, and Gregory Isaacs was one of the 1st artists I heard.  Roots reggae was the primary style I enjoyed (and was very popular then) and everyone listened to Isaacs.  He was often backed up by the Roots Radics, the best reggae studio band ever.  Another reggae giant, and one of the last, is gone.

Friday, October 15, 2010

live Rads

Saw The Radiators at Mexicali Live last night.  They are a prototypical bar band, and have been touring steadily for over 30 years.  Last night's show was typical Rads, some good covers, some well-known, some obscure.  The 2nd set was very good, with some songs from their self-titled disc from 2001, along with a good cover of "Domino".  Not a packed poured last night and I think it kept some people away.  The place was less than 1/2 full for the 2nd set.  Good show nonetheless.  These guys play every type of music, and Camille (lead guitarist) is a jack-of-all-trades player.  The Rads are a true workingman's band.   (I recently bought a new ipod, which has a camera that also takes video.  I've got to learn how to actually use it...the videos I took were either sideways or upside down, and the photos were horrible.  It would be great to find a good quality compact video camera that's fairly idiot-proof.  The video below makes it look like I'm standing far way, but I'm actually about 15 feet from the band.)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

MMJ / Roots

Great performance last night on Jimmy Fallon, My Morning Jacket played "Wordless Chorus" (off their disc "Z") with the Roots.  Jim James did his best James Brown impression.  MMJ plays Terminal 5 this week, playing a different album each night.  Great band.  This video will prob be pulled shortly...

Monday, October 11, 2010

Solomon Burke R.I.P.

One of the last of the greats passed away this weekend, Solomon Burke.  There's just too much great music he produced over the course of his try and encapsulate it in a few paragraphs could never do it justice.  I was fortunate to have seen him perform live in September 1992 at Tramps in NYC.  He was still performing standing up, he wasn't on the throne full-time yet.  It was an amazing show, very close in spirit to the 1989 live disc "Soul Alive".  I remember him pulling Chaka Khan out of the audience to sing a song.  Burke was never on a par (hit-wise) with Sam Cooke, Otis Redding or some of the other early soul singers, but he was still a fantastic singer, rooted in gospel and r&b.  He had a career resurgence in 2002 and released a string of excellent albums this decade that ended this year with "Nothing's Impossible", which was the last record produced by Willie Mitchell (he died last year).   Another great talent gone....very few of the great soul singers left.

Early this morning, Sunday, October 10, 2010, the legendary King of Rock & Soul, Solomon Burke, our father, passed away due to natural causes.
Solomon had just arrived at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, the Netherlands for a sold out show at Paradiso with Dutch band, De Dijk.  He was on his way to spread his message of love as he loved to do. 
This is a time of great sorrow for our entire family.  We truly appreciate all of the support and well wishes from his friends and fans.  Although our hearts and lives will never be the same, his love, life and music will continue to live within us forever.  As our family grieves during this time of mourning, thank you for respecting our privacy.
Family of Solomon Burke

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

R&R HOF nominees (!!!)

It must be getting to the bottom-of-the-barrel-dreg-time for the Rock Hall of Fame.  This year's nominees were just announced and Bon Jovi was actually listed as a nominated act (supposedly) worthy of inclusion in the bastion of rock legends.  If they even get close it would absolutely make the Hall a farce and completely take away any imprimatur of legitimacy it holds.  Just because a band can sell tickets to a mass audience doesn't mean it has any musical value whatsoever.  Most of the time the inverse is true.  If you're reaching that many people, generally speaking, it means that what you're dishing out watered-down product.  (Or in Bon Jovi's case, rinsing out).  Also listed as nominees were Chic, Donovan, Dr. John, J. Geils Band, LL Cool J, Darlene Love, Laura Nyro, Donna Summer, Joe Tex, Tom Waits and Chuck Willis.  
Laura Nyro should be  a shoo-in, as should Chic, for their production and influence alone.  Tom Waits will most likely be inducted, although I could never acquire a taste for him, despite the fact that he's written some brilliant songs.  (I like them when they're sung by people other than Tom Waits).  

The fact that a "band" such as Bon Jovi is being nominated while classic acts such as Richard Thompson, The Spinners, Roxy Music, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Moody Blues, Yes, and more aren't in is a joke.  Music is different than can't quantify greatness sometimes.  It ain't just the amount of records you sell.  


Love these guys....great band, and unless you live in NYC it's doubtful you've heard of them.  They're a collective of supremely talented musicians and vocalists that live in NYC/Brooklyn.  They all play in other bands or have solo projects as well, as I'm sure the financial realities of being in a band today dictate.  I first discovered them the first time I attended Levon Helm's Midnight Ramble in Winter 2006.  They were unbelievably good, and I've seen them about 8 times since then - pretty much every time they play in the area.  I'll write more about them in another post (they've got a new album coming out soon), I just found this video of them performing the Nina Simone song "See Line Woman" in Banjo Jim's, a tiny bar on the Lower East Side.  I think I might've been at this show was just before Amy Helm (lead vocals) had her baby.  In any event, this place is really small, and the band is crammed into a corner, but obviously like it, as it's their "home" bar and base in NYC.  

Friday, September 24, 2010


Here's a great clip I came across....from 1973, it's a clip of The Stories performing "Brother Louie".  Jose Feliciano introduces the clip, and he couldn't be more wrong when he says "I think we're gonna hear a few more Stories from them in the next few months to come".  A classic 1-hit wonder, the band was formed by the guy that founded Left Banke (and also wrote "Walk Away Renee), but he left the band, and of course, they then had their only hit, "Brother Louie", which was huge in 73.  I remember hearing this in the summer on Top 40 radio constantly, and I still have the 45.  This was a time when music like this co-existed with drek like Tony Orlando.  Here's a list of the top 5 songs in the US in 1973, at the time that The Stories reached number 1 (8/25/73):
1) Brother Louie
2) Live and Let Die (Wings)
3) Touch Me In The Morning (Diana Ross)
4) Let's Get It On (Marvin Gaye)
5) The Morning After (Maureen McGovern)
After the band broke up shortly after this, the lead singer (Ian Lloyd) had a brief solo career, and at one of his recording sessions, the future leaders of Foreigner met (Ian MacDonald and Mick Jones) and then plotted future world domination of the pop charts.
Ian Lloyd currently lives in NYC and I guess still performs....the description on his website is classic..."with one of the most distinctive and powerful voices in the history(!!) of Rock music..."  Well he did, for 15 minutes.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

new JJ Grey album

Is the right terminology "album" or "disc"?  JJ Grey has recently released a new collection of songs called "Georgia Warhorse", which is a moniker for a type of grasshopper that is apparently prevalent in the South.  This is Grey's 5th disc (his 3rd as "JJ Grey and Mofro") and his best and most consistent cd so far.  All of his discs are very good, and if you're not familiar with him you should check him out, he's an original.  His music sounds like a mix of greasy swampy southern rock, blues, and soul.   The lead single "The Sweetest Thing" is a great duet with Toots Hibbert, a feel-good tune that's got all the hallmarks of a classic single - you can sing along almost instantly and can't get it out of your head for days.  (It's this records' equivalent to "Orange Blossoms" off the record of the same name). Fortunately, there are other excellent songs here, my favorites being the opening cut "Diyo Dayo", "Hide and Seek", "King Hummingbird", and the excellent "Beautiful World", which could also be a single.  But the difference with this disc as compared to the rest of Grey's output is the consistency.  Whereas in the past there'd be 1 or 2 really good songs and maybe a good ballad, on this disc there are really no bad songs, all of them are listenable.  He's also a very good live act and is playing the Brooklyn Bowl in November.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

great new Mavis tune

Just released on the disc she did with Jeff Tweedy, this is the single (and only new song) - "You Are Not Alone".  Written by Tweedy, it's a great soul song and (sort of) evokes the Staple Singers in tone.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

new music Sep

Some excellent new discs released recently...

Richard Thompson "Dream Attic" - another good disc from one of the masters of the guitar.  The new disc was recorded live in front of an audience (you can hear them on a few tracks).  They're all new songs, typical Richard Thompson, which means excellent writing and instrumentation, and Thompson's singular vocals.  As always there are some rockers and some mellow Celtic tracks, but no RT classics here.  If you're already a fan you'll like this very much, if not there won't be anything to convert you.  He's put out some consistently good, sometimes great, but always interesting albums over the course of his career (24 albums plus some live ones).  Too bad not enough people know about him.  Going to see him live at the Wellmont in a few weeks, he's just an amazing guitar player, can't wait.

Robert Plant "Band of Joy" - not really being a big fan of his last record (Raising Sand) I found it to be a slick overproduced "adult" record", not what I want from Plant.  This new disc is much better.  He covers a wide range of songs, from Los Lobos and Richard Thompson to traditional ballads.  The playing is much looser, and although there is a prominent female vocal (Patty Griffin..who is way too skinny btw) this is more of a vehicle for Plant to play with a true band (as opposed to strictly session players).  By no means is this "rock" music, but it does show how good a singer Plant is, and if you enjoyed Raising Sand you'll probably like this as well.  I find it a bit more rough around the edges than Raising Sand, which I like.  (Between this disc, Zeppelin, The Honeydrippers, and his solo work, all he has to do now is a rap record and he will have covered almost every genre except polka).  

Los Lobos "Tin Can Trust" - They play all types of music well, and their original music is an amalgamation of rock, Tex-Mex, country, blues, jazz and folk.  Every disc they produce has a particular focus or theme (usually involving East LA), and this excellent collection of songs talks about working class people scraping their way to make ends meet and survive.  There are some outstanding songs on this disc - "On Main Street", "Tin Can Trust", and "All My Bridges Burning" (written with Robert Hunter) among the best.  There are of course the obligatory traditional Spanish/Mexican songs, which are very good, if you like that sort of thing.  They also do a spot-on cover of the Dead's "West LA Fadeaway", (which fits perfectly with their "Bertha" cover from the 1991 Grateful Dead tribute disc "Deadicated").  The band is on a good run, as their last disc, 2006's "The Town and the City" was also excellent.  I can't understand why these guys aren't bigger.  They consistently produce excellent albums, and are a great live band.  One of the all-time great American bands.  

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Clash (what's left)

Mick Jones and Paul Simonon will be part of the touring band backing up Gorillaz when they go on the road for their "Plastic Beach" disc.  Not exactly a Clash reunion, but it'll be interesting to see if Gorillaz adds any Clash songs to their set list.  Also playing with Gorillaz as special guests are De La Soul and Bobby Womack.  Should be a good show...

Gorillaz have confirmed a partial line up of guests to appear on their highly anticipated "Escape To Plastic Beach" North American tour. The artists confirmed so far include De La Soul, Little Dragon, Bobby Womack, appearing as special guests of the Gorillaz Plastic Beach band which features Mick Jones and Paul Simonon of the Clash.

The full list of (so far confirmed) artists:
Hypnotic Brass Ensemble
Little Dragon
De La Soul
Bobby Womack
Roses Gabor
Bootie Brown

Thursday, September 9, 2010

new Clapton

I heard the new Clapton disc today (self-titled).  It sounds like a classic Sunday morning record...the music "looks backwards" (Clapton's words)'s a collection of mellow (for the most part), tin-pan alley influenced songs, with some blues.  Some songs wouldn't sound out of place in any hotel lounge, they border on easy-listening, and he covers some standards here too.  Lots of piano.  Vocals are smooth too...he's definitely mellowing.  I put this next to Van Morrison's classic "Poetic Champions Compose" for perfect rainy Sunday fall/winter morning music.  

Monday, September 6, 2010

Giant haybale accident claims ex-ELO cellist...really.

I was a big ELO fan when I was a kid, and I just read about this freak accident in the UK that killed the band's cello player.  He was killed by a giant bale of hay....I can't even comment on that.  I mean, what do you say?  It's like a giant game of Mousetrap gone horribly awry.  From several sources:

LONDON — A giant bale of hay has killed a founding member of Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) after it tumbled down a hill and crashed into his van.Cellist Mike Edwards, 62, died after the 1,323 lb bale rolled down a steep field in Devon, southern England, smashed through a hedge and careered on to the road.He died instantly in the freak accident on Friday afternoon.
Mr Edwards recorded several studio albums with ELO between 1972 and 1975. He quit the band at the height of its fame in 1975 to become a Buddhist and changed his name to Deva Pramada because of his religious convictions.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

new Franti video

This was the best single of the summer (until Cee Lo Green's recently released single "F-You"), and it's just getting officially released now, I don't get it.  Anyway, it's a really good Michael Franti song called "Sound of Sunshine".  Filmed obviously in Venice, Ca.  Should've released it in May.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

new band, Black Country Communion

Read about the new band "Black Country Communion" recently.  The band consists of Joe Bonnamassa, Glenn Hughes, Derek Sherinian, and Jason Bonham.  Billed as a US - British "supergroup", they sound like a fairly typical hard rock band, and even though they are all seasoned pros, they are aping the Audioslave template...hard charging guitar rock with hair metal vocals a la Chris Cornell (who has a better voice).  Excellent guitar by Bonnamassa, maybe this will be the vehicle for him to break out to a wider audience.  

9/21/10 - Update - I heard the disc...not terrible, but nothing original either.  The single "One Last Soul" is fairly tame, a radio-ready Foo-Fighters-ish tune.  If you're looking for some new hard-rock you could do worse than this.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Richie Hayward R.I.P.

The great original drummer for Little Feat, Richie Hayward, died on Thursday of liver cancer, he was 64 years old.  He was a tremendous drummer, and I got to see him play a few times, most recently up close at Mexicali Live in Teaneck a few years ago (also saw LF in their 1st show back after Lowell George died, at JazzFest in 1988).  During set break at the Mexicali show while I was walking outside to get some air I bumped into Hayward right outside the door by the side of the stage.  He looked old and weathered, lines all over his a true road warrior.  It was strange, here was a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in a small nightclub in Teaneck, NJ, just doing his thing.  Drums and percussion were(are) a huge part of Little Feat's music, with the New Orleans style syncopation that's present in their best tunes, and Hayward played all the parts well.  He was an integral part of an amazing band and will be missed.  

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Mule / Madman

Gov't Mule played Central Park last night...they did a cover of the great Elton John tune "Madman Across The Water"....I found a good clip.  Wish I could've been there.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

BHTM new single

Found this video of Big Head Todd (and Monsters) performing their single off their new disc.  The new cd "Rocksteady" is their best and most consistent since "Sister Sweetly".  Good midtempo grooves and a few good covers (Beast of Burden and Smokestack Lightning).  Unfortunately they also have a song on there called "Muhammed Ali" (written by Tom Russell) that could be the worst thing they've ever recorded, it's that bad.  

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Lanois update

This interview was published recently in the Toronto Star.....Lanois is also producing the new Neil Young solo album, should be excellent.  Here's the link:

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Saw Widespread Panic on Thursday night (7/22) at Radio City Music Hall.  I really like this band and they follow the general rules of jamband-dom...great live act, bad-to-mediocre studio albums.  Their most recent disc "Dirty Side Down" is a good record, and breaks a 10 year spell of inconsistency on their non-live releases. They played 3 songs from the new disc, but unfortunately didn't play "Cotton Was King", an excellent new upbeat tune in the style of "Time Zones", another great recent song from them (on 2008's "Earth to America").  I've seen these guys 8 times now (all in NYC) and this is the first show where I felt they weren't on their "A" game.  The difference in their shows (to me) is usually the setlist....and Thursday nights was not a strong one.  The crowd was also much thinner than the last time these guys were here (in 08) with lots of open seats in the rear orchestra and balconies.  They opened with a sleepy "Heroes" not one of the stronger songs off the "Ain't Life Grand" disc, but then went into "Pleas", an excellent song from their 1993 disc "Everyday".  The rest of the show was up and down, but mostly maintained a workmanlike tone, never really reaching any highs like I've experienced at other WSP shows.  Highlight for me was "Pilgrims", a great song also from "Everyday", and although it wasn't a killer performance, it's one my favorite WSP tunes, and they weren't playing many of those on Thursday .  Some of their songs can tend toward jumbled noise live, and I found the songs "Imitation Leather Shoes", "Flicker",  "Impossible",  "Bust It Big" and "Arleen" interminable live...these are songs that aren't good on album and live they became an exercise in excess.   Some of the songs just sound like an excuse for Jimmy Herring (lead guitar) to show how fast and accurate he is...he's very technically proficient but he's got no soul, and that's the problem for me with this incarnation of the band.  I also don't understand the odd setlist choices for this's their 1st NYC show in 2 years, and their only NYC appearance this year.  Some real duds in the setlist....1st set was stronger than the 2nd set, song-wise, but there are dozens of songs I would have rather heard than most of what they played Thursday night.  Guest DJ Logic was standing on the side of the stage scratching records during the always boring drums interlude, and also for a few songs in the 2nd set.  I can't say that he really added anything.  Hopefully I'll see/hear a better setlist and show next time.  They really seemed like they were going through the motions, and I felt the same when I saw their appearance on Letterman earlier in the week.  Hopefully these guys can find a way to make NYC work for them....The Beacon Theater would be a much better venue for them, Radio City is just too big.  Interesting to note that the last time WSP played NYC, they played 3 nights at RCMH (not selling them out), and this time around they couldn't even sell out 1 night.  They need to play in NY/NJ more often and at more fan-friendly confines.  Showing up once every couple of years just doesn't cut it.  And I don't think I'd see them at Radio City again.
Below is the setlist and a snippet of the drum and bass interlude with DJ Logic adding repetitive beats.

Set I: Heroes> Pleas> Imitation Leather Shoes, True To My Nature, Angels on High, Airplane> Pilgrims, Saint Ex, Protein Drink> Sewing Machine
Set II: Flicker> Diner> Stop Breakin' Down Blues, Jaded Tourist>Impossible> Drums1> Love Tractor1> Bust It Big1> Arleen1> I'm Not Alone, Solid Rock
Encore: Henry Parsons Died

1 with DJ Logic on turntables

Thursday, July 22, 2010

ruining a good thing

I went to see Tea Leaf Green the other night at Mexicali Live in Teaneck (great venue for live music).  I could only stay for the 1st set (they played 1 hour and then took a 45 minute break...???) but they sounded very good.  They always mix up their setlists and at Mexicali they didn't play anything from either of their excellent last 2 discs ("Taught To Be Proud" and "Raise Up The Tent").  Instead, they focused on their newest release "Looking West".  The songs from the new disc sounded really good....what I can't understand is why they chose to ruin them on their studio release.  I downloaded "Looking West" hoping to hear more great piano based rock (with some great guitar) similar to what's come before, as they've been a very consistent band.  But this new release is beyond a disappointment.  The songs are basically good, it's the production that's awful.  I understand bands wanting to try new directions and mix it up a bit, but what they've done here is ruined a potentially excellent album.  I don't know what they were going for on this...strange attempt at "atmosphere"?  Some of the songs are just unlistenable, as they've added ridiculous echoes and reverb that makes zero sense.  I've heard many attempts at bands looking to try new sounds by hiring producers from outside their comfort zone, and the results are hit or miss, usually miss.  "Looking West" isn't even close, it's a disaster and if you're a TLG fan I'd advise you to find these songs on live recordings instead.  At Mexicali they played "Jackson Hole" a new song that is almost listenable on the new disc, but in concert sounds transformed into a great rock tune.  I ran into Josh Clark the bands' lead guitarist (excellent player) coming out of the men's room and was tempted to ask him why the disc came out so bad, but I thought this wasn't such great timing, as the band hadn't yet taken the stage.  They were also in Teaneck, NJ on a 90 degree Tuesday night, touring in support of the new disc, so I let discretion be the better part of valor that night.  But I think they realize their mistake, as does the record company that's currently NOT promoting the disc.  They need to find a new producer for their next record.  Here's a clip of them doing the title track of their new disc:

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Expired Sugar

Sugar Minott, one of the great original voices of reggae, died yesterday from yet to be determined cause(s).  His biggest song was a cover of a Jackson 5 song called "Good Thing Going".  (I first heard it on a compilation called "Heartbeat Reggae", which was one of my first CD purchases in 1986 when I decided to make the switch from vinyl).  I don't know that much about him, other than he was a jack-of-all-trades reggae singer, singing in the different idioms of reggae music including dancehall, lover's rock, and roots. Sugar wasn't associated with any great band of musicians...many big reggae artists became forever linked to a particular producer (such as Lee Perry) or rhythm section (such as Sly & Robbie) with whom they've had success.  Sugar began by working with Clement "Coxsone" Dodd, one of the seminal producers from Jamaica, but worked in many different styles, and was particularly influential in dancehall (a style I'm not fond of at all).  He did however have a great distinctive voice which will be missed.

The golden age of reggae (imho) was the mid-70's to the early 80's, when roots and lover's rock were the foundation of the music that such great singers as The Wailers, Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs, and Jacob Miller were making.  It stills hold up today, especially when compared to the garbage electronic and dancehall reggae that eventually took over in popularity.  If you go back and listen to the music made by groups like The Melodians, The Meditations, The Itals, Third World, and many more, you hear what authentic reggae sounds like, music that was based on a spiritual ideal, with positive messages...not to mention a wicked rhythm section.   

Friday, July 9, 2010

The (surviving) Beatles

Ringo Starr celebrated his 70th birthday this week with a stop at Radio City Music Hall.  Paul McCartney came out to play "Birthday" for an encore, it must've been unreal to have been there in person.  No matter how jaded I become I still get a thrill every time I see any Beatles getting together....they're living history.  It doesn't get much better than having an opportunity to see the 2 surviving Beatles play together, no matter how brief or ultimately inconsequential the tune.  Cool.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Gary Shider R.I.P.

Gary Shider passed away last week...legendary guitar player, hugely influential.  I first heard of Shider back when I was in college (early 80's) when I discovered Parliament and Funkadelic, where Shider was  a lead guitarist (along with another classic player, Eddie Hazel, also deceased).  Shider co-wrote and played on some of the best 70's soul/funk music - "Cosmic Slop", "One Nation..." and many more.  Shider was from Plainfield, NJ and before he was in the George Clinton universe (whom he met at  Clinton's barbershop) he played with his brothers in bands backing gospel groups like The Mighty Clouds of Joy.  Parliament/Funkadelic's music was an incredibly original mix of doo-wop, soul, and unusual for black artists at that time they also used heavy Jimi Hendrix/acid-influenced guitar as well, many times within the same song.  Shider really was an original, and another great musician is gone.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

new music june

Some great new music out this spring/summer so far...the new Widespread Panic disc "Dirty Side Down" is their best album since 1999's "Til The Medicine Takes".  I'm grown used to their inconsistency on studio albums, and have looked forward to each release for 1 or 2 songs that would be as good as some of their earlier material.  "Don't Tell The Band" (their 2001 disc) had "Little Lilly" and "This Part of Town", the post-Hauser disc, 2003's awful "Ball" at least had "Fishing", 2006's "Earth to America" had "Time Zones" and "Second Skin", and 2008's incredibly mediocre "Free Somehow" had......well, I guess "Up All Night" is a good song.  But the new disc incorporates all the positive aspects of what the band has become...Jimmy Herring will never replicate the sound Michael Houser brought, but he's an incredibly talented guitarist, and has finally blended in with this band.  The opening song "Saint Ex" is opens with moody guitars and organ and a pseudo-Latin feel.  The difference is in the songwriting...these songs aren't just a few mediocre riffs strung together...the songs are relatively complex, and they've got some really strong grooves on this disc.  "Cotton Was King" is an amazing rave-up in the style of "Time Zones", and "North", a Vic Chestnutt tune, has some great lead guitar and builds nicely.  There are of course some weak tracks here (wouldn't be a Panic disc without em), but when I can count more than 4 strong songs on a new WSP disc it means I'll have some good listening this summer.

I just read that Donavon Frankenreiter has just released a disc ("Revisited") that consists of some of his early material re-recorded to reflect his love of Hawaii.  I listened to some snippets of a few songs and it sounds awful.  It's like he put the songs thru some Don Ho machine to give it Hawaiian guitar flavor and mellow the songs out even more...and these songs were already really mellow.  From what I heard there's no percussion, it sounds like Hawaiian elevator music.  The songs are narcoleptic now.  Why he did this is beyond me, he must be bored.

On a better note, the new Tom Petty album "Mojo" is excellent, and now probably my favorite disc of his.  He was always a bit too poppy for my taste but I've always respected his music. (His 4 disc live compilation is great).  The new songs on "Mojo" are great, and he follows his blues-inspired Grateful Dead/Allmans muse here.  The songs sound like they pick up right where Mudcrutch left off...easy bluesy/folky songs but this time with Mike Campbell's guitar taking front and center.  There are some excellent songs here, my favorites are "First Flash of Freedom" and "The Trip To Pirates Cove", but the disc is very consistent.  They veer from Led Zep to the Dead, and the songs are anything but pop.  

I've got to write about Mountain Jam as well...great music again this year and a smoking Gov't Mule time.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Lanois Hurt

I was never a fan of motorcycles...too much risk of injury for me.  Certainly hope he's ok.....

Daniel Lanois Critically Injured In Motorcycle Accident

Singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer Daniel Lanois has canceled all upcoming appearances by his latest project, Daniel Lanois' Black Dub, after he was injured in a motorcycle accident last weekend in Los Angeles.
Lanois was hospitalized with “multiple injuries” following the crash, according to a press release quoted by Entertainment Weekly. The highly respected producer (U2, Bob Dylan) “is expected to be released from intensive care soon.”

Due to the severity of the injuries, Lanois … will be recuperating for the next two months.”

Fans holding tickets for Black Dub’s July tour of Europe should check with point of purchase for refund information.
The band’s debut album has also been postponed and will be released “when circumstances permit.”

Friday, May 28, 2010

faces back on

In a reprise of their brief reunion last year, The Faces have just announced that they are again going to perform some shows, albeit in the UK.  Original member Rod Stewart has decided, for whatever selfish reasons, to not perform vocals.  Instead they've recruited Mick Hucknall, the Red from Simply Red, who has amazing pipes, and is one of the all time great blue-eyed soul singers.  Not sure how he'll fit in with this band but at the very least it'll be interesting.  Hucknall has always played/sang more r&b/dance pop and Faces were definitely a rowdy r&r bar band archetype (with some great ballads).  I'd love to see them play, and there's rumors that they may tour in 2011, that is if they're still alive and speaking to each other.  Here's what was on their website:

The Faces Reunion is on!
On Friday 13th August, the legendary 1970s English supergroup, Faces, will perform at the inaugural Vintage at Goodwood festival at the Goodwood Estate in West Sussex, England. The reformed Faces will feature original members Ronnie Wood, Kenney Jones and Ian McLagan, plus Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols), and vocals from Mick Hucknall (of Simply Red).
Ronnie Wood says: “We got together to receive a PRS Lifetime Achievement award last year and very simply the magic was still there. Playing with the boys again just felt right so we thought well why not? It’s exciting to be on this path again and I hope that the Faces fans are excited as we are – I’m just really looking forward to seeing them this summer  – bring it on!”
Kenney Jones says: “When we realised at the PRS Awards we hadn’t played a live gig since 1975 we just couldn’t believe it! The timing is just right, we can feel the excitement and we cannot wait to be back on stage playing to a live audience again. Expect the classics and also some incredible guests when we get back on the road, it’s going to be lots of fun.” 
Ian ‘Mac’ McLagan says: "Frustrated Faces fans can finally feel the heat as Ronnie Wood, Kenney Jones and me hit the floor with Mick Hucknall and Glen Matlock fanning the flames!"

summer music

Definitely my favorite disc this year (so far), "Antique Soul" from Smoove & Turrell came out of nowhere...I also can't find any info on these guys other than the fact that John Turrell has sung with a number of British soul bands, and Smoove is a DJ.  They're currently on tour in the UK...would love to see these guys live here soon.  Below is another good video I found of them performing "You Don't Know" live....

One EskimO is an act I've written about before...they'll be at Mountain Jam next week.  They're a mellow act that centers on Kristian Leontiou's atmospheric vocals and sparse instrumentation.  The disc is very good, and the single "Kandi" is features a sample of the great 1971 Candi Staton song "He Called Me Baby" (hence the title of the One EskimO song).  Don't ask about the spelling of the band's name, I have no idea why the affectation.  They should be good live, looking forward to seeing them.  

Smoove & Turrell - You don't know - Live from Toni Guth on Vimeo.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Discarded McConnell

As a big Widespread Panic fan I always wondered exactly why they booted George McConnell out of the band as lead guitarist.  (McConnell is a guitar player from Vicksburg, Mississippi, who had a band called Beanland, that played southern rock in a similar vein to bands like Bloodkin and Widespread).  Jimmy Herring is a phenomenal player, don't get me wrong, but I really didn't think McConnell was a bad player at all.  I saw him play with WSP in NYC a number of times and some of the shows were really excellent.  I heard rumors that it was because of his drug use, which surprises me, as he seems like a low-key guy, but whoever said mild mannered people don't abuse drugs....anyway, last year I downloaded what was his latest music from his website ( and it's very uneven, a few good songs but mostly just middling tunes, no stand outs.  It looks like he only plays shows at bars near Vicksburg, so safe to say he ain't coming to the city any time soon.  Must be wild to go from being the lead guitar player in a huge rock band to then return to playing college bars.  I wonder how many "Free Bird" requests he gets.  My favorite songs of his are "Doreatha", which is off of the Beanland disc, and "Nicotina", which he used to perform with WSP (both songs became part of the WSP live repetoire with McConnell).  Anyway, just wondering.....