A Hard Days Night By The Beatles

January 30, 2015

It had been eight weeks since the Beatles had a number one single but that streak ended on August 1, 1964, when “A Hard Day’s Night” reached the top of the charts for the first of two weeks.

The film of the same name premiered July 6, 1964, to favorable reviews. The cream of high society turned out and over 10,000 people gathered around the theater.

One of the highlights of filming was George Harrison meeting Patti Boyd, his (and Eric Clapton’s) future wife, on set.

“A Hard Day’s Night” entered the BILLBOARD Hot 100 at number 21 and two weeks later it was number one.


Calling All Blues By The Duke Robillard Band

January 30, 2015

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And now …. all the way from his birth place of Woonsocket, Rhode island, Duke Robillard has returned with his newest album Calling All Blues.

Robillard is not only one of the best blues guitar players alive but he is also prolific both in the studio and on the road. He began his career as a founding member of Roomful Of Blues (1967-1990), then went on to be a guitarist for The Fabulous Thunderbirds (1990-1993), before settling into a solo career fronting his own band. He has been a part of close to thirty albums and toured constantly for decades.

Accompanying him on his new release are his band of keyboardist Bruce Bears, bassist Brad Hallen, and drummer Mark Teixeira. Also on hand to fill in the gaps are vocalist Sunny Crownover and a brass section of Rich Lataille, Mark Early, and Doug Woolverton.

Robillard is a bluesman pure and simple and the eight original compositions and two covers reflect that orientation. He may explore different facets of the blues idiom but he never travels to far from home.

There is some down home Memphis cooking on “Down In Mexico” and the slow blues of “Blues Beyond The Call Of Duty” with a smoky vocal by Crownover. His cover of the Gary Nicholson/Ron Sexsmith “Emphasis On Memphis” fuses southern soul with the blues. “Nasty Guitar” is an apt title as he just lets loose on his guitar.

Now in his mid-60s, Robillard is a master of his craft. Calling All Blues is another fine example of his years of experience.


Rag Doll By The Four Seasons

January 26, 2015

 

It may have been the Beatles era but on July 18, 1964, The Four Seasons reached the top of the charts for the fourth time.

“Rag Doll” is the eternal story of the poor girl. The song originated in the mind of Bob Gaudio when he stopped at a traffic light and a little girl ran out and cleaned his window hoping for a tip. Gaudio later said she looked like a rag doll.

The song entered the BILLBOARD Pop Chart June 20, 1964, and a month later it was number one, where it remained for two weeks. It remains of the classic pop songs of the 1960’s.


Love On A Shoestring By Kerry Chater

January 25, 2015

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Kerry Chater may not be an instantly recognizable name to many music fans but he has had two distinct and successful careers. During the 1960’s he was the bassist for the Union Gap on such hits as “Woman Woman,” “Young Girl,” “Over You,” and “This Girl Is A Woman Now.” For the last several decades he had been a noted Nashville songwriter whose songs have been sung by the likes of Anne Murray, Lee Greenwood, George Strait, Reba McEntire , and Alabama.

In-between those two careers he released two solo albums. Part Time Love, (1977) and the album under review, Love On A Shoestring (1978). Those albums have now been resurrected by Real Gone Music.

The music ranges from the gentle piano based title track to the brass laden “Well On My Way To Loving You.” Covering the middle ground is the smooth and bluesy “Say Your Mama Won’t Mind” and “Once Is Enough,” which has a country rock feel complete with pedal steel guitar.

The album received little notice when it was released and its failure pushed Chater toward his successful career as a songwriter. Still, it was a pleasant, if non essential, album of light p


Live In Williamsburg By Shuggie Otis

January 25, 2015

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Once upon a time, back in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, Shuggie Otis was thought to be another Jimi Hendrix in waiting. His albums Here Comes Shuggie Otis (1969) and Freedom Flight (1971) showed great promise and are still worth tracking down.  While he didn’t attain the heights predicted for him, he remains one the many times underappreciated guitarists of the last half-century.

Shuggie is the son of Blues and Rock And Roll Hall Of Famer Johnny Otis and spent a number of years touring and recording with his father. The family genes are being passed on as his son Eric and brother Nick both play in his band, while another son Lucky is a producer.

His recorded out-put as a solo artist has been sparse down through the years but he has remained active. He has now issued the first live album of his 45 year old career titled Live In Williamsburg.

While he remains one of the better technical guitarists working today; the concert has a maturity and smoothness that only years of practice can bring.

“Sparkle City” is a languid and bluesy jam that sounds familiar as it flows along, while “Shuggie’s Boogie” has a little more bite to it. The nine minute “Wings Of Love” is the best example of his ability to take a melody and improvise.

If you are a fan of Otis, then “Aht Uh My Head” will prove interesting as the use of brass to provide a foundation for the guitar sound is very different from the original studio version and are what the best live concerts are all about. “Trying To Get Close To You,” ”Me And My Woman,” and the up-tempo “Doin’ What’s Right” fuse the type of funk and blues that he was so proficient at creating.

The concert ends with his most famous composition. “Strawberry Letter #23” was a number one R&B hit and a top five pop hit for the Brothers Johnson in 1977. His version has more textures than a straight funk song but is instantly recognizable.

Hopefully Shuggie Otis will be more active in the future. Live In Williamsburg gives a nice hint of the talent and power waiting to be unleashed.

 


Peepshow CD Reissue by Siouxsie & The Banshees

January 21, 2015

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A year after their 1987 all cover-song album Through The Looking Glass; Siouxsie and The Banshees returned with an album of original material. The core of the group, vocalist Siouxsie Sioux, bassist Steven Severin, and drummer Budgie remained intact but now guitarist Joe Klein and keyboardist Martin McCarrick filled out the band.

Peepshow is an album that explores two sides of the band’s personality. A couple of the songs move toward the mainstream in a way that runs counter to most of their material, while the majority of the album is a “peepshow” into the mind and soul of the band, which turns out to be an odd and dark journey. This may not make for a totally cohesive release but it all adds up to one of the more interesting albums of their career.

“Peek-A-Boo” is a smooth and very polished track that fits in with pop radio. If there is such a thing as alternative hip-hop, this is it. “The Lost Beauty Of My Heart” is a stunning love song on which Siouxsie’s voice purrs and soars as she tells a tender tale.

Many of the other tracks are perfect for a Halloween party late at night. “Scarecrow” builds on a sinister bass line. “Burn-Up” is a track that builds and builds to a frenetic conclusion. “Rawhead And Bloody Bones” is a sparse, dark track that is not for the faint-hearted.

The melodies are intact but travel in a different direction than is the norm. Siouxsie’s voice is an instrument that is made for the material as it conveys the stories with power and passion.

There are three bonus tracks included. “The Killing Jar” remix has not been in print for 25 years and “The Last Beat Of My Heart” Live at Lollapalooza in 1991 is nice to compare to the studio version.

Peepshow is an album where the individual parts are better than the whole. Still, it is a good representation of the creativity of the band and is a solid link in their musical chain.


Hard Luck Child By Rory Block

January 20, 2015

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Rory Block left home at 15 to seek out surviving Delta Blues artists and released her first album at the age of 17. She is now one of the leading female blues artists with five W. C. Handy Awards to her credit.

Several years ago she began what she calls her Mentor Series, which are albums dedicated to the music of some of the old bluesmen that influenced her career. Previous releases have featured Son House, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Reverend Gary Davis, and Mississippi John Hurt.

She has now returned with Hard Luck Child, which showcase the music of Skip James.  Nine of the ten tracks are devoted to his music, with the tenth being a biographical piece.

Skip James, 1902-1969, may not have been as well-known as some of his contemporaries but he was a pure Delta style bluesman. Like many of the artists who invented the blues, he made a celebrated comeback during the mid-1960’s beginning at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival. Today he is probably best remembered for Cream’s cover of his “I’m So Glad.”

Block has an intimate connection with all of the bluesmen she has covered as she met them as a teenager. She is a vocalist/guitarist who has devoted her life to the blues and now brings a precision and passion to her craft. Her “Nehemiah James” is the lead track and sets the tone for what will follow. It is part blues, part gospel, and part biography all held together by her guitar and voice.

“Hard Luck Child” is the blues at its best as she tells a quiet story. “Cypress Grove Blues” has a smooth and ominous sound. Skip James always had a sad side to his music and “Little Cow And Calf Is Gonna Die Blues” reflects his melancholy nature. “Jesus Is A Mighty Good Leader” finds her fusing the old with the new.

Interestingly she adds more of a spiritual quality to the music than James’ originals but they are her interpretations, which makes the music that much more authentic.

Rory Block, through her voice and guitar, has created another personal masterpiece that brings some forgotten music of the past back to life. Hard Luck Child is a worth-while purchase for any fan of the blues.


I Get Around By The Beach Boys

January 16, 2015

 

The Beach Boys had come close to toping the charts with “Surfin’ USA” (number 3), “Surfer Girl” (number 7), “Be True To Your School” (number 6), and “Fun Fun Fun” (number 5) but finally and appropriately on July 4, 1964, the eternal American band reached number one with “I Get Around” and there they remained for two weeks.

“I Get Around” ushered in a new level of sophistication for Brian Wilson and the band as the sound and vocal harmonies were layered and just washed over the listener in waves. The song also became their first top ten hit in England.

The flip side, “Don’t Worry Baby,” was one of the best ballads  of their career. It is difficult to find two better songs on one single release.


Ragged & Dirty By Devon Allman

January 13, 2015

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Sometimes it’s not who you know but what genes you share. And so it is with Devon Allman who is connected to a father named Gregg and an uncle named Duane. He may not have grown up with his father or met his uncle but he certainly inherited the music genes that run in the family.

Now in the third decade of his career, he has to be one of the busier musicians working today. He continues to front Honeytribe, the band he founded, as well as touring and recording with the super group The Royal Southern Brotherhood. In addition to his band affiliations, he has now about to release his second solo album titled Ragged & Dirty.

For the first time in his career, Devon left his southern comfort zone behind. He traveled to Chicago and not only used musicians from that city but had Grammy winning producer and songwriter Tom Hambridge on board as well. Hambridge was a wise choice as the production is impeccable and he co-wrote four of the 12 tracks.

Devon’s music and original compositions have always been rooted in the rock and blues that have been associated with The Allman name. “Leave The City” is a stripped down affair featuring only Hambridge’s drumming supporting his guitar and bluesy lead vocal. The nine minute instrumental  “Midnight Lake Michigan” proves that he can hold his own on an extended track with an improvisational feel as his guitar thunders and wails. Many times it is a slow blues piece that defines an album and so it is with the slow-building “Back To You.”

The title track is a Luther Allison composition, which is now taken in a funky direction due to a thumping bass line by Felton Crews. Hambridge’s “Leavin’” finds him making each note crystal clear in a precise performance. It is interesting to hear him and additional vocalist Wendy Moten transform the Spinner’s “I’ll Be Around” from soul to blues.

Devon Allman has established an identity firmly rooted within a rock and blues fusion sound. Ragged & Dirty is his latest stop along a career path that was set in place at birth.

 


A World Without Love By Peter And Gordon

January 11, 2015

The Beatles may not have been number one on June 27, 1964, but a Lennon/McCartney tune was at the top of the charts. Actually it was a Paul McCartney composition but attributed to the duo.

Peter Asher (1944) and Gordon Waller (1945-2009) were a pop duo formed in the early 1960’s who placed 14 songs on the pop charts 1964-1967. The sang a gentle brand of light pop/rock.

Peter Asher had a younger sister Jane. A lot of people have younger sisters but very few who dated Paul McCartney. “A World Without Love” was rejected by the Beatles and then by Billy J Kramer. Peter and Gordon were offered the song and after some re-writing by McCartney, released it as their first single. It spent the week of June 27, 1964, as the number one song in the United States.

McCartney would write “Nobody I Know,” “I Don’t Want To See You Again,: and “Woman” for the duo and all would reach the American top 20.

They would re-unite a number of times but Peter Asher would become one of the legendary producers of the rock era (James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt among others). They left behind the first Lennon/McCartney song to top the charts other than by the Beatles.