Filet Of Soul By Jan & Dean

January 18, 2018

Jan & Dean are best remembered for their string of surf and car hits during the 1960’s. Jan Berry may not have had the extended musical vision of Brian Wilson, but in the studio he was able to combine the voices of the duo into a melodic choir. In concert they were unable to re-produce their soaring sounds of the studio, so they mixed comedy into their act.

In 1965 they owed the Liberty label one last album. Filet Of Soul was a mixture of live performances, comedy, and studio sound effects. The label promptly rejected it for release. A year later Jan Berry was involved in a car accident that virtually ended the duo’s career for over a decade. The label released Filet Of Soul three weeks after the accident to cash in on the Jan & Dean legacy. They removed the sound effects and most of the comedy. I was a big fan, but even I knew the album was terrible.

Now 52 years later, Filet Of Soul Redux: The Rejected Master Recordings has returned in all its fake crowd noises, studio sounds, and some of the lamest comedy ever to grace an album. And yes, it is still terrible but at least for the hard core fan, it is a slice of the 1960’s that mercifully, in this case, will not be revisited.

The best past of the release are the liner notes by Dean Torrence. He gives a full history as to the why of the music. One other strong feature was the backing band on the true live performances. They are all introduced, so I assume they were actually present. The brass section is excellent but how Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame drummer Hal Blaine got involved in all of this is beyond me.

The listener quickly learns that the duo should not sing The Everly Brothers (“Cathy’s Clown”) or the Beatles (“Michelle” and “Norwegian Wood”) and can’t sing many of the hits of the day (“Lightning Strikes” and “Hang On Sloopy”).

The truncated original release was in many ways not their fault but this one was intentional. It is a release only for the hard care fan. If you want their best and most enjoyable, seek out their greatest hits compilation.

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Looking Forward By Chris Bell

January 18, 2018

Since the death of Alex Chilton, everything Big Star and anything associated with the band has been or is being released. Latest in the Big Star sweepstakes is Looking Forward by Chris Bell.

Chris Bell’s time with the band was short. He contributed to their terrific debut album #1 Record. His solo career showed promise but he was killed in a car accident in 1978 at the age of 27, leaving him as a “what if” of rock music.

Looking Forward gathers together his unreleased and rarely found pre-Big Star material. His participation in bands such as Rock City, Icewater, and the Wallabys explore his development and thus the roots of Big Star.

Seventeen of the 22 tracks are finished, well-recorded songs by the aforementioned bands. They may sound a bit primitive by today’s standards but Bell’s melodic approach and tight harmonies are present.

The best tracks are from his time with Rock City. The ten tracks have a cohesive feel and should have been placed chronologically on the CD. “The Wind Will Cry For Me,” “I Lost A Love,” “The Answer,” and “Think It’s Time To Say Goodbye” are fairly mature and have a finished feel.  The six Icewater and Wallabys contributions find him not as settled and travelling in a number of directions, including several bluesy vocals.

Bell never really enjoyed any large commercial success during his lifetime. While his post-Big Star material is more polished and focused; Looking Forward is an eclectic look at his early career and is well worth a listen.


Approved By Snakes By Jason Ricci & The Bad Kind

January 18, 2018

Jason Ricci is one of the best harmonica players working today, period. Backed by his band, Bad Kind, he has just released his 11th album Approved By Snakes.

It is not an album for the faint hearted. “My True Love Is A Dope Whore,” “Something Just Arrived,” “Demon Lover,” Terrors Of Night Life,” and “Got Cleaned Up” deal with drugs, the seediness, sexuality, and the darker side of life. His gritty voice compliments the explicit lyrics as he communicates his messages.

Still, any Jason Ricci album revolves around his harp. He and guitarist John Lisi are able to play off of each other and their music comes across as more of a jam band approach.

Ricci’s albums are always musically interesting and creative but many times they have an uncomfortable element to them. Recommended but hold on.


A Boy From Tupelo: The Sun Sessions By Elvis Presley

January 18, 2018

Ladies and gentlemen; “Elvis has re-entered the building.” Elvis Presley’s material has been released in just about every conceivable way and form. The latest entry in the Elvis Presley sweepstakes takes us back to the beginning of his career. Elvis Presley: A Boy From Tupelo is a massive 85 track box set that contains every studio track, live performance, alternate take, and spoken word ever recorded for the Sun label. It even includes a new unearthed live track.

If you do not have the inclination or cash to purchase the big set and want to go a little retro then I recommend the vinyl release containing 17 tracks of his best known early material. The sound is just about as perfect as the 60 year masters will allow.

The vinyl LP just presents the basics. There is no duplication due to various takes or incomplete songs.

Songs such as “Mystery Train,” “That’s All Right,” “Baby Let’s Play House,” “Blue Moon Of Kentucky,” and “Milkcow Blues Boogie” not only began Elvis’ career but changed the face of American music. They show his ability to fuse country with rhythm & blues into what would quickly become rock and roll.

When Elvis moves away from the rock and roll, some of the electricity is missing. In some ways “Harbor Lights,” “Just Because,” and “Tomorrow Night” seem a little out of place but remain a part of his legacy and represent a style he would return to later in his career.

Despite the clarity and format, the music has been issued a number of times. Therefore this is a release that will appeal only to an Elvis fan, a vinyl collector, or someone who wants to explore the roots of rock and roll. If you fall into either of these categories, then this is a release for you.


Monday Monday By The Mamas And Papas

January 5, 2018

“Monday Monday” reached number on the Billboard Magazine Top 100 on May 7, 1966 for the first of three weeks.

John Phillips had the ability as a producer to combine his own voice with that of Mama Cass, Denny Doherty, and Michelle Phillips into a virtual pop choir.

Safely ensconced in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, “Monday Monday” was their first and only number one song and one of the smoothest performances in pop history,


All You Gotta Do By The Nighthawks

December 26, 2017

The Nighthawks are an ultimate bar band who made good. Now five decades into their career, they continue to play their unique and gritty brand of blues, rock, and roots music. The have now issued their latest album All You Gotta Do.

They keep it straightforward and simple on their latest release. They are no guests; just the members of the band. There also keep overdubs to a minimum. Basically what they record in the studio is what you get.

While many of their albums contain almost all original tunes, here except for three songs, they move outward to cover material from a number of very different artists.

The blues have always provided the band’s foundation. Muddy Waters “Baby I Want To Be Loved” is a grade school primer of the blues, Chicago style. They move Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Ninety Nine” close to rock and roll with Mark Wenner’s harmonica filling in the gaps. “Snake Drive” has a driving beat that would fit the smoky club scene late at night.

The three original songs travel different paths. “Another Day” is a folk-like protest piece clothed in a blues framework. “Blues For Brother John” is a hybrid song that focus’ on Wenner’s harmonica. Mark Stutso’s “Voo Doo Doll” is the requisite love song.

Harmonies have always been a part of the Nighthawks appeal. Jesse Winchester’s “Isn’t That So” is a gentle harmonic romp though one of a song masters creations. The Standells “Dirty Water” is an ultimate garage song Thousands of wanna-be bans have covered this song. They change it up a bit but it is a fine salute to a uniquely American style.

All You Gotta Do finds the Nighthawks in fine form. An album of solid blues and rock and roll from a veteran band who have honed their craft for decades.


Timeless: Blues Image Featuring Mike Pinera By Mike Pinera

December 26, 2017

Not quite what I expected. Blue Image, with and without singer/guitarist Mike Pinera, was an under rated rock/blues band 1966-1970, who released three studio albums that are still worth tracking down. The commercial peak of their career was the hit single “Ride Captain Ride.” Pinera were on to become a member of Iron Butterfly, The New Cactus Band, and enjoy a long solo career, which is where these albums problems begin.

Pinera covered a lot of Blues Image and Iron Butterfly material during his solo career. Much of it is solid rock and roll but it appears here under the Blues Image moniker, which is a tad misleading. There are no other members of Blues Image listed in the credits. If you want a primer or over view of his solo career, then this is a good album to explore.  If you want to explore Blues Image or Iron Butterfly material, then look elsewhere.

“Ride Captain Ride,” “Love Is The Answer” with guest Jonathan Cain, and “Pay My Dues” with Pat Travers are songs that appeared on the second Blues Image album Open. Here they are modernized versions of the songs. Travers adds a little edge to”Pay My Dues” but moves it toward hard rock and away from its original blues foundation.

His time with Iron Butterfly is represented by “In A Gadda Da Vidda,” which is just too modern and “Butterfly Blue,” which is saved by Pat Travers.

Four tracks are taken from his 1996 solo album In The Garden Of Eden” and 2012’s Isla. “Fantasy Of Love,” and the two title tracks are competent but do not rise above that level.

Timeless: Blues Image Featuring Mike Pinera is a disappointing release that in and of itself, never rises above the ordinary. It also make one yearn for what it could have been.