Twist And Shout 45 by The Beatles

July 31, 2012

“Twist And Shout” is one of those classic rock ‘n’ roll songs that has been covered by hundreds and probably thousands of bands. It was a song recorded by The Beatles before they became famous. Issued by the small Tollie label in the United States, it spent four weeks at number two on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart during the spring of 1964.

That was not the end of the story, however, as 24 years later it returned to the American charts. It was a featured song in the popular movie, FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF, and was pulled from the soundtrack and released as a single. This time it reached number 23 during its 15 weeks on the charts.

It remains one of the better covers of the old rock song.

Blue Light (EP) by Jimbo Mathis

July 30, 2012

Jimbo Mathus has traveled a strange and convoluted musical journey since his 1967 birth in Oxford, Mississippi. As a member of Johnny Vomit & The Dry Heaves, he was part of a punk rock band. He was a founding member of the Squirrel Nut Zippers, who combined Delta blues with New Orleans jazz. His solo albums have explored the blues, traditional country, folk, and even some string music.

He has now returned with his latest release, a six song EP titled Blue Light. He draws on his southern roots as the blues are the foundation for his new album with some rock and country steel guitars mixed in for good measure.

The opening title track sets the tone for what will follow. There is a pounding bass and some simple guitar lines but the lyrics and vocals are direct from his Delta heritage. His voice has a Ray Charles tone and phrasing and is a good instrument to interpret his stories.

“Haunted John” moves toward a traditional southern rock sound but is held back from completely crossing over by his bluesy vocal. “Fucked Up World” is a throwback to his punk days as the lyrics find him venting his anger. “Burn the Honky Tonk” is musically different from the other tracks as he slows down the tempo and moves in a country gospel direction.

As with many blues artists he is able to tell stories through his lyrics. His current songs are taken from a lifetime of southern living and travels. A press release quotes the late Memphis producer Jim Dickinson as saying Mathus has “the singing voice of Huck Finn.” That probably describes his latest musical approach.

His is backed by his band of many years, which includes fellow Mississippians Justin Showah (bass) and Eric Carlton (keyboards), plus Arkansas guitar player Matt Pierce. Drummer Ryan Rogers is the newest member having been added last year. They provide tight backing for his vocals and guitar playing.

He has been prolific since the mid-1990s. Blue Light is his ninth solo release and when you add in nine more albums by the Squirrel Nut Zippers, you have a lot of music and styles. His albums are always an adventure and Blue Light is a journey worth taking with him.

Article first published as Music Review: Jimbo Mathus – Blue Light [EP] on Blogcritics.

Batman Theme 45 by Nelson Riddle

July 30, 2012

There were a number of 45’s of the BATMAN THEME released during the 1960s and one of the most obscure was by orchestra leader Nelson Riddle.

Nelson Riddle, 1921-1985, was an orchestra leader/arranger who worked with such artists as Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and Linda Ronstadt. He only had five singles reach the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart with his biggest hit being the 1955 release Lisbon Antigua.

He release of the “Batman Theme” did not chart but it remains one of the most collectable nearly 50 years later.

In The Midnight Hour 45 by The Chocolate Watchband

July 29, 2012

The Chocolate Watchband was a psychedelic rock band formed during 1965. There were many line-up changes during their existence but originally it was guitarist Ned Torney, guitarist Mark Loomis, bassist Rich Young, drummer Pete Curry, organist Jo Kemling, and vocalist Donny Phay.

They never had a single reach the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop 100 Singles Chart. However, their releses have become very collectable.

In The Midnight Hour/Psychedelic Trip, which is a Sundazed Label reissue, is a good example of their raw rock sound.

The band reunited during 1999, and continues to play and record together.

Oh My Pa-Pa 45 by Eddie Fisher

July 29, 2012

1954 had dawned and Eddie Fisher was back on top of the pop charts. He is one of the forgotten superstars of the pre-1950s rock ‘n’ roll era. I have mentioned this a number of times but he was married to Debbie Reynolds, Elizabeth Taylor, and Connie Stevens.

He was a pop crooner who enjoyed tremendous commercial success. One of his biggest hits was “Oh My Pa-Pa,” which topped all three BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Charts.

Best Sellers In Stores Chart – 1/2/54 – 8 Weeks At Number One.
Most Played By Disc Jockeys Chart – 1/15/54 – 7 Weeks At Number One.
Most Played In Jukeboxes Chart – 1/30/54 – 6 Weeks At Number One.

His career never recovered from his divorce of Reynolds and marriage to Taylor plus the advent of rock ‘n’ roll as the dominant music form. Still, only a very few artists can match his popularity during the first half of the 1950s.

Don’t 45 by Elvis Presley

July 28, 2012

Sometimes “Don’t” slips under the Elvis Presley radar but it ranks as the 10th biggest hit of his career.

It first reached the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart January 27, 1958, and during its 20 weeks on the chart, it spent five of those at number one.

It was very different from the big hit that preceeded it, “Jailhouse Rock.” It was a slower song that just lulled the listener as Elvis got the phrasing just right. His slower material many times made you realize just how good a voice Elvis possessed.

As with most of his 1950s material, it is still worth seeking out.

I Want That Boy 45 by Blondie

July 27, 2012

Debbie Harry was and is the lead singer of Blondie, 1974-1982, and 1997-present. The band has sold over 40 million albums during the course of their career and have had four singles reach number one on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart. THey were inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame during 2006.

Debbie Harry’s solo career has not been as successful. She only had four singles reach the top 100 and none entered the top 40.

While most of her solo material has been forgettable, “I Want That Boy” stands head and shoulders above the crowd. It was really a throw back to the disco/dance era. It had a wonderful beat and just perculated along. Released as a single, it did not reach the Pop Singles Chart.

Harry wisely reunited Blondie during 2007 and they remain active in the studio and on the road.

The Kinks At The BBC by The Kinks

July 26, 2012

The Kinks have opened their vaults and those of the BBC (British Broadcasting Company) with the upcoming August 13 release of a massive five CD plus one DVD box set. The Kinks at the BBC gathers together all 24 of their performances for the BBC network beginning September 7, 1961, and ending October 8, 1994. The bonus DVD contains performances from Top Of The Pops, The Old Grey Whistle Text, and a number of assorted concert appearances. When all is said and done, it adds up to 190 different tracks.

Just about every major British music artist, and hundreds of minor and obscure ones as well, appeared on the BBC. The Kinks material is a treasure trove of live performances, in-studio session work, unreleased tracks, and interviews, many of which have not seen the light of day since their original broadcast. The sound quality varies depending on the equipment used at the various sessions. Also, the BBC erased a number of their older broadcasts shortly after they were first aired and this set fills in some gaps with material that was recorded by fans at the time. All in all, it is far superior in quality and quantity to the previously released BBC Sessions: 1964-1967, the 35 track compilation which was issued during 2001. Note that this set will also be released as a two-CD set that, while not as extensive, is a lot cheaper.

This is an essential release for any fan of The Kinks as it traces the history of the band from a unique perspective. Their well-known material combines with deep album cuts and obscurities to create an interesting musical timeline.

The oldest tracks are four songs, plus three interviews, from their September, 1964 performance at the Playhouse Theater in London. “Cadillac,” “I’m a Lover Not a Fighter,” “Little Queenie,” and the ever-present ”You Really Got Me” present the band at the beginning of their career. I don’t know if there was any studio wizardry to enhance the sound (this would happen on a consistent basis with the BBC music series) but “You Really Got Me” just may be the best version of the song I have heard. The tempo is a little faster than usual, the bass is more upfront in the mix, and the vocals are extremely clear. In fact, many of their early studio albums suffered from a muddy sound but that is not the case on many of the same songs presented here.

One of the highlights of the set is their 19-song, 1977 Christmas concert from the famous Rainbow Theatre, which appears in both audio and video format. It catches the band during the middle part of their career as songs like “Sleepwalker,” “Death Of A Clown,” “Slum Kids,” “Celluloid Heroes,” and “Alcohol” share space with many of their big hits.

The newest material was from a 1994 session recorded at the Maida Vale Studio. “Phobia,” “Over The Edge,” “Wall Of Fire,” and a revisiting of “Till The End Of The Day” find The Kinks in late-career hard rock mode. “Phobia” is about as hard as The Kinks ever rocked as Dave Davies just takes off with his guitar solos.

The several dozen video tracks create a chronicle of the band as The Kinks and their music mature before your eyes. While many of their well-known hits are presented several times, it is the deeper cuts that really make the disc worthwhile. Songs such as “Virgin Soldiers” (1972), “Muswell Hillbillies” (1971), “Village Green Preservation Society” (1973), and “Scattered” (1993) are examples of the band presenting some of their more sophisticated material live. They even crank up a version of “Good Golly Miss Molly.

The Kinks are sometimes an overlooked band from the British Invasion era, but their catalogue of material is just about the equal of most of their contemporaries. The Kinks at the BBC is an essential release in the band’s long history as it resurrects dozens of long unavailable tracks.

Article first published as Music Review: The Kinks – The Kinks at the BBC [5-CD/1-DVD Box Set] on Blogcritics.

The Complete Reprise Singles by The Electric Prunes

July 26, 2012

It was just another football victory dance during the late fall of my junior year in high school. Let me add that we had victory dances whether we won or lost. Since I did not have a girlfriend at the time, nor any prospects of one in the immediate future, I just sat and listened to the music. It is amazing what the mind remembers and what it discards, but I remember the dee-jay announcing that he was going to play a brand new single. It was my first exposure to the Electric Prunes as “I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)” blasted from the speakers. It was like nothing in my modest record collection at the time, but a few days later I tracked down a copy at a local record store. It was one of my first excursions outside the British Invasion and American pop sounds of the day, as it introduced me to psychedelic and garage rock.

The band literally had two careers before disbanding. During the late 1960s they came under the tutelage of David Axelrod and issued two fascinating and what best can be described as art rock albums. Mass in F Minor and Release Of An Oath used different musicians than their early Reprise label line-up of vocalist James Lowe, lead guitarist Ken Williams, guitarist James Spagnola, bassist Mark Tulin, and drummer Preston Ritter. Lowe, Williams, and Tulin reformed the band during 2003.

The Electric Prunes would only have two singles reach the Billboard Magazine Pop Singles Chart. The aforementioned “I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night” and the gritty “Get Me To The World On Time” would be the extent of their commercial success. While I bought a couple of their singles in addition to their two hits, little did I realize that they continued to issue singles long after their success had waned in the United States.

Real Gone Music has closed a gap in the evolution of the American psychedelic and garage rock era by resurrecting all 23 of their Reprise label single sides plus “Vox Wah Wah Pedal Radio Spot.” The sound has been cleaned up, but they are all presented in their glorious original mono sound.

Their sound was primitive in places and raw in others. Songs such as “Ain’t It Hard,” “Little Olive,” “The Great Banana Hoax,” “Violent Rose,” and “Hey Mr. President” may be from another era, but they present an important element of the music of the 1960’s.

The included booklet contains a history of the group, track commentary by the band, and a number of rare photos provided by lead singer James Lowe.

The Electric Prunes may have been a footnote in the evolution of American rock music but they filled an important niche. The Complete Reprise Singles is a welcome addition to the musical legacy of the 1960s.

Article first published as Music Review: The Electric Prunes – The Complete Reprise Singles on Blogcritics.

Groovin’ Is Easy 45 by The Electric Flag

July 25, 2012

The Electric flag were one of those bands that never fulfilled their potential. The original band of guitarist Mike Bloomfield, keyboardist Barry Goldberg, drummer Buddy Miles, vocalist Nick Graventes, and bassist Harvey Brooks combined blues, funk, and rock into a creative and unique mix. They may have been talented but the original line-up only stayed together about a year.

They first played together at the legendary Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. Their debut album, A LONG TIME COMIN,’ was released in 1968 and reached number 31 on the BILLBOARD Pop Album Chart.

The song, “Groovin’ Is Easy.” was taken from the album and released as a single. It epitimized all that was good about the band but received little airplay and did not chart.

THeir debut albums remains a good listen today.