Wednesday, March 31, 2010

forgotten bar band

For people of a certain age, The J. Geils Band name conjures up memories of dated synthesizer-focused pop tunes and early MTV videos featuring scantily clad teenagers and Peter Wolf running around them.  But the band was a great Boston-area (and beyond) bar band prior to their "Love Stinks" and "Freeze-Frame" stranglehold on the pop charts in the early 80's.  Their music took a turn toward the trendy for the "Love Stinks" record, but before that in albums like "Sanctuary", "Bloodshot" and "The Morning After" they cranked out some really great r&b influenced rock.  They didn't have any big selling singles but they released some great songs before they struck it rich, including some of my favorite FM singles in the 70's - "One Last Kiss", "Must of Got Lost", and "Give It To Me" .  They also released a great live album in 1976 ("Blow Your Face Out") that showcased how great a live act they'd become from years of touring.  They featured Peter Wolf on vocals and Magic Dick on harmonica, along with Seth Justman (keyboards and main songwriter) and J.Geils (also on guitar).  But as consistent and good as they were, they just couldn't break through with their brand of r&b and rock, hence the radical change in 1979 (with "Love Stinks") to a more contemporary synthesizer-first sound, which was becoming popular at that time.  I remember hearing "Come Back", the first single off the "Love Stinks" album, and wondering what disco group it was.  I went back recently and downloaded some of their early albums and was surprised at how fresh they sound.  But I still don't think I can listen to the songs  "Love Stinks" or "Freeze-Frame" ever again.  They get together and perform reunion tours once in a while, probably still a good show, minus the synths.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Misc Alberta Cross, Eli Reed, She & Him

New Alberta Cross video out for "Old Man Chicago". Glad to see they're getting exposure, I still prefer the version off of "The Thief and the Heartbreaker" as opposed to the new polished studio disc "Broken Side of Time".

I heard the new cd from She & Him, and I gots to say that I don't like it. I enjoyed the 1st one, it was a good summer retro-pop record that I didn't expect to be good. But where Zooey Deschanel sounded new and endearing on the 1st disc, on the new one her voice just sounds cutesy and it becomes grating. "Twee" is the adjective I read in a review of this record, and I agree. They should call it "Twee & Him".

Good new record coming out from Eli "Paperboy" Reed. He's from Boston, and plays soul, r&b with conviction (for a white soul). Reed favors the Otis Redding school of vocal styles, but also incorporates influences such as James Brown and Clarence Carter. The new record is called "Come and Get It" and it's much more consistent than his last album "Roll With You". Here's a video of the band performing the title track of the new disc acoustically in what appears to be a hallway or near a hotel front desk, I can't tell...the site I got this from is Spanish and as I don't speak the language I haven't a clue the context.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Alex Chilton

Alex Chilton died yesterday of an apparent heart attack, he was 59.  He was the leader of the band Big Star, which had (has) a fairly large cult following, and although I wasn't really a fan he was a big influence on a lot of bands (REM, The Replacements).  He was also the lead singer (at 16) of The Boxtops, which had a huge hit with "The Letter". 

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ron Lundy RIP

If you grew up in the NYC area in the 70's and listened to the radio, you know who Ron Lundy was.  My source of music when I was a kid was AM radio, and the station that everyone listened to was 77WABC.  ABC played Top 40 (incredible how diverse Top 40 was back then, no narrowcasting, music was either "pop" or "FM") and was everywhere.  I just heard that Ron Lundy ("Hello, love" was his calling card) died on Tuesday.  I associate his voice along with other WABC dj's Harry Harrison, Dan Ingram, Bruce Morrow, Johnny Donovan and George Michael (RIP) with my early childhood in Staten Island.  Another's a link to some audio of Ron Lundy counting down the top 100 in 1975:

Allmans 3/16/10

Went to the Allmans show last night at United Palace again.  Sat lower loge center, good seats, overhangs the orchestra.  Completely different vibe last night, not as much energy as opening night of the run.  I had an extra ticket and lost money trying to get rid of it out front right before the show (cost=$150, sold for=$50).  There were tickets available at the box office, so these shows are not selling nearly as well as the Beacon shows regardless of seating capacity.  Hate to be critical of the Allmans, but Gregg was way off last night.  The band sounded good, Derek and Warren were playing well, but something wasn't quite right.  The jams took a bit longer to come together and the pacing was slightly off.  And the setlist had way too many repeats from Thursday night.  These guys don't have a huge repetoire to draw from, but they do have enough songs that they shouldn't be repeating as often as they have been....half (3/6) of last night's 2nd set was played on Thursday (One Way Out, No One To Run With, That's What Love Will Make You Do).  They opened strong with my favorite Allmans opener "Don't Want You No More>Cross To Bear" and then went into "Leave My Blues At Home", also very good.  44 Blues was played much slower than normal, and the band just didn't seem to have the energy level I saw Thursday.  The 2nd set opened with a guest - James "Blood" Ulmer playing guitar and singing...I'm not a fan of his and I thought the set should've opened with a more uptempo number.  Eric Krasno (of Soulive) came out to play guitar on "That's What Love..." and he is not in the same league as Warren or Derek.  (Certainly wasn't Eric Clapton).  On "No One To Run With" Gregg messed up the lines a few times, it was a joke. It sounded like Warren and Derek just wanted to do their solos and get it over with. To make matters worse the security is much too overbearing.  They are constantly patrolling the loge area shining their lights.  Sitting a few seats to my left was some sloppy fat drunk woman gyrating in her seat, and against her boyfriend.  She lit up a cigarette and the security guards (with their flashlights) decended asking her to put it out.  She held the cigarette from her outstretched arm and looked at them asking "you mean this?" while taking huge puffs, it was hilarious.  She did this about 4 times.  Anyway, the whole feel last night seemed to be "next year we'll be back at The Beacon where we belong".  I just think that after so many years at The Beacon they really weren't prepared for the differences at The United Palace.  And the longer they play at UP and see the empty seats in the balcony, the more it reinforces those feelings.  They even played "Elizabeth Reed" last night, but by the time they got to it the night was spent.  Next year.....hopefully.  Set list:

1st Set:
Don't Want You No More
Not My Cross To Bear
Leave My Blues At Home
Midnight Rider
Forty Four Blues
End Of The Line
The Same Thing

2nd Set:
I Asked For Water (She Gave Me Gasoline) - w/James Blood Ulmer
One Way Out
Blind Willie McTell
That's What Love Will Make You Do - w/Eric Krasno
No One To Run With
In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed>>JaMaBuBu>>Bass>>
>>Jam>>In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed
Southbound - w/Rob Barraco & Eric Krasno

Saturday, March 13, 2010

more Allmans - video/United Palace 3/11

Decent video of the band performing "Every Hungry Woman" 3/11/10. (Song begins 39 seconds in, after the guy that recorded this talks to his buddy).   

Friday, March 12, 2010


That time of year again - The Allman Brothers are back in NYC.  Not the Beacon, this time around (for the 1st time in 21 years) the band is playing the United Palace Theater on 175th street in Washington Heights.  It's an excellent venue, very similar to the Beacon.  It was built as a Lowes movie theater, it's now used as a church (the Rev. Ike is based here).  I've seen the Allmans about 30 times and it's always a little more energetic and intense in NYC than other places like the outdoor sheds in the summer.  The Allmans sounded excellent last night, with no rust whatsoever.  The first 3 songs were taken from their first 2 albums...they opened with "Don't Keep Me Wondering" (never heard them open with this) and went into "Hot 'Lanta" and "Statesboro Blues" right after.  They did a few songs I've never heard them do live - the Little Milton warhorse "That's What Love Will Make You Do" (first time they've played it) and a Bobby Bland song "Ain't No Love In The Heart of the City", both were great.  They also broke out "Kind of Bird", a good instrumental off the mediocre "Shades of Two Worlds" disc, a song they haven't played live since 1992.  Without a doubt these guys are the best live band around, they bring it every night.  I had amazing seats (3rd row center, thanks Brad) and seeing Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks live is one of the all-time great musical experiences.  I can't think of another band (ever) that has 2 world-class lead guitarists....every time I see them I'm amazed.  They play the old songs and the new (not new, exactly...they haven't released a cd of new material in 8 years) with equal intensity, and the solos are incredible.  Gregg Allman played and sounded great, and Oteil and the drummers (Jaimoe, Butch Trucks and Marc Quinones) were in sync as always.  I didn't get an Elizabeth Reed or Dreams, but the setlist was great.  Yet another smokin' night in the city from the Allmans. At the bottom is a clip from their appearance on The Jimmy Fallon show last week. 

Set list - 3/11/10  United Palace Theater, NYC
1st set
Don't Keep Me Wonderin
Hot 'Lanta
Statesboro Blues
That's What Love Will Make You Do
No One Left To Run With
Every Hungry Woman
And It Stoned Me
Kind Of Bird

2nd set
Ain't No Love In the Heart Of The City
Come & Go Blues
Rockin' Horse
Black Hearted Woman
bass > drums

Preachin' Blues
One Way Out

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

more Van Ghost

I was glad to see that Van Ghost will be playing Mountain Jam this June, it's about time these guys got to the NY area.  Here's a video I found recently on YouTube from a performance on JBTV in Chicago.  The girl singing backup is Jennifer Hartswick from the classic Trey Anastasio band (she sings and plays trumpet).  Good stuff.

New music, etc. / Broken Bells

Broken Bells, the new cd/collaboration  from James Mercer (of The Shins) and Danger Mouse (Brian Burton), is my favorite new disc of 2010.  Coming out of nowhere (for was apparently announced in the Fall of last year), the music is an amalgamation of different styles, heavily influenced by 80's bands such as The Cure, New Order, and other synth/guitar bands of that time.  Not so much in the dance aspect of that music, but more in a chamber-pop way.  The music is consistently good, with a few standout tracks, including the single 'The High Road", which is a great atmospheric track with a faintly  apocalyptic mood and lyrics.  I haven't been a fan of The Shins, though I enjoyed some of Danger Mouse's music, (I never did listen to his remix of The Beatles White Album, The Grey Album) and I thought "Crazy" (Gnarls Barkley) was a great single.  But the two different personalities have obvious chemistry, and this is an excellent debut disc.  Maybe because they come from different sides/styles of music, they were able to combine instead of compete.  I read Jon Pareles review of this disc in the Times,( with whom I usually agree, but in this instance I think he overanalyzed a bit....the lyrics on this cd are not easy to understand anyway, and if the artist has a great sound and the music hits you the right way, what difference does it make if the lyrics "hold anguish and malaise"?  It's got a good beat and you can dance to it, and sometimes (most times) that's enough.

I heard a really good single last week - "Stylo" by Gorillaz.  Not a huge fan of Gorillaz, I've liked a few of their singles in the past but found the albums lacking.  Their new one (Plastic Beach) follows that pattern, but this song is really good.  Bobby Womack sings on it, as well as Mos Def.  I'm a huge fan of Womack, who is one of the all-time great soul singers.  Good video too (below) with Bruce Willis. 

I read on Saturday that The Allman Brothers cancelled the last 5 dates of their upcoming run at the United Palace Theater.  Not surprised, although I definitely don't think it's because of a "family matter" as they posted on their site.  I think they overreached big-time.  Yes, the Beacon screwed up royally by booking Cirque Du Soleil during March, and they had to find a new home.  Yes, United Palace is the next best venue in NYC for them...BUT... it holds 3300 as opposed to The Beacon's 2800.  Then they made the genius decision to raise ticket prices. Don't forget that last year was the 40th anniversary of the band, with tons of special guests appearing.  And The Beacon isn't located on 175th street.  There are only so many Allman Brothers fans in the NY area willing to shell over $150 a ticket to see the band....and when you factor in all of the above (no guests of note, higher prices, larger venue, bad location/geography-wise) what happens is cancelled shows due to a lack of ticket sales.  So, instead of a 13 night run, they are able to sell enough tickets to support a 10 night run.  Still pretty good though...and I'm looking forward to going, as they are still the best live band around.  But their management should have had enough common sense to know 13 nights at those prices was just too much. 

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

New neo-soul (Caucasian style)

It seems that every few years there's a rekindling of the soul flame by male singers of the white variety.  I love most types of soul and r&b, whether it's the original releases by the masters (Stax, Hi, Motown, James Brown, etc), the late 70's/80's variety (Earth, Wind & Fire, Prince, Sade) or more recent artists (Sharon Jones, Erykah Badu, Maxwell).  Most, if not all, great soul, r&b, and funk has been produced by, and mostly for, a largely black (primarily Southern) audience.  (Great book on the subject - "Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom" by Peter Guralnick).  Blue-eyed soul has been around as long as rock and roll...white artists/labels/managers would take songs originally performed by black artists and marketed to black audiences and water them down for a white mainstream audience.  Pat Boone singing "Tuttie Fruitie" comes immediately to mind - it's really awful and the clip I've seen of him singing the song is like a bizarre minstrel show.  But then there's also excellent soul music performed by white artists and not diluted at all.  The music is real authentic soul, and it's sung with such conviction that it erases any predisposed notions of who should sing what kind of music.  Steve Winwood, Boz Scaggs, and early Hall & Oates were my original introduction to this mini-genre.  More recently, both Joss Stone and Amy Winehouse both have incredible voices that are a great fit with soul music.  (Although Winehouse's producer Mark Ronson tends a bit too much toward mimickry and production tricks).  And someone named Remy Shand released an excellent neo-soul CD in 2002 but hasn't been heard from since. There's a boatload more as well, I'm just touching on a few artists.  But I digress, as the reason for this entry is that I've heard a few new artists whom have released some new music that fits the criteria: a) good songs rooted in more or less traditional soul, and b) they're white. 

Mayer Hawthorne - real name is Andrew Mayer Cohen, released a CD ("Strange Arrangement") in Sep 09.  A Jewish kid from outside of Detroit (now based in LA) he's obviously heavily influenced by Curtis Mayfield, Motown, Al Green, and more.  One can't pick better role models for this kind of music, and the disc is excellent.  You'd never know it was some geeky kid from Ann Arbor.  The band is good, and there's a few outstanding songs including "The Ills" a great Curtis Mayfield tribute/rip-off. 

Daniel Merriweather - I honestly don't get all the hype.  He's an Australian singer that hooked up (professionally) with Mark Ronson.  He sang on a few of Ronson's songs on his CD, and now Ronson has produced Merriweather's first disc.  It's ok, he's got a good voice, but the production just doesn't sound  authentic to me, although they try very, very hard.  The songs are just ok and much of it sounds just like what the NEXT BIG THING would sound like.  Overproduced and slick.

Sean Carey - I have no idea who this guy is, evidently there's another singer named Sean Carey, but that's not who I mean (if you know what I mean).  I found him while on Eric Lindell's new site, which links to his new record label, Sparco.  Which is horribly run, judging by the site.  Zero information and the links for purchasing music don't work.  In any event, they stream a few songs from the roster, and this guy sounds great, particularly the song "Beautiful Place".  The album comes out in April, hopefully the label will get it's act together to properly promote it.  They also have the new Lindell disc coming out then too, called "Between Motion and Rest", it sounds very good, much better than his incredibly mediocre last disc.