Blue Healer By Jimbo Mathis

July 31, 2015

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Now on his own for well over a decade, Jimbo Mathus learned his craft in such bands as the Squirrel Nut Zippers, Johnny Vomit & The Dry Heaves, and the South Memphis String Band. He has now returned with his latest release titled Blue Healer.

His last release, 2014’s Dark Night Of The Soul, traveled in a very southern rock direction. His new release moves in a number of musical directions, fusing several styles and sounds into a homogenous whole.

The album revolves around what can be loosely called the character of the Blue Healer. While only the Blue Healer knows, there are a number of excellent stand alone tracks.

“Shoot Out The Lights” and “Bootheel Witch” are the type of rockers that he is so good at producing. “Thank You” is a stripped down and gritty ballad. “Love And Affection” has a distinct and soaring gospel feel.

Jimbo Mathus always produces music from his soul. The lyrics plum the depths of his psyche and heart, and he is able to set them to catchy music. All in all he comes across as authentic, which is a quality that is all to missing in a lot of music that is being produced today.


Fun In Space (CD) By Roger Taylor

July 31, 2015

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Queen spent a lot of time on the road during 1980 but in between stops drummer Roger Taylor spent a fair amount of time at the Mountain Studios in Montreux, Switzerland, recording tracks for what would ultimately become his first solo album Fun In Space.

The music completely originated from the fertile mind of Taylor as he wrote all the songs, played all the instruments except for some keyboards here and there,  provided all the vocals, arranged the music, and produced the album.

Taylor’s career and this album in particular are very different from that of Queen. The music is more experimental as he lets his mind wander to produce material that would not have fit into the Queen sound. The use of synthesizers and the odd melodies travel a different road from the songs he wrote for the band.

“Future Management” is about as close to the mainstream as he comes. It is a sonic piece of rock that draws on influences from Pink Floyd. “Let’s Get Crazy” and “Airheads” veer in a hard rock direction complete with experimental like percussion and synthesizers. Songs such as “Laugh Or Cry,” “Interlude In Constantinople,” “My Country I & II,” and the title track have off kilter melodies that are more haunting than catchy.

There are three bonus tracks included. While Fun In Space was his first album, back in 1977 he released a non-album single “I Wanna Testify/Turn On The TV.” While they do not fit the musical concept of the album, their inclusion fills in the missing pieces of his early material. The last song is an altered version of “My Country I & II,” now titled just “My Country,” which was issued as a single in the U.K.

Roger Taylor’s solo work is always interesting and full of surprises, especially when compared to the Queen body of work. Fun In Space was the first step in his eclectic solo journey that continues down to the present day.


Big Man By Cannonball Adderley

July 27, 2015

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Cannonball Adderley’s life was short as he died at the age of 46 during 1975. His life was also prolific as he released close to 50 albums during the last 20 years of his life but his last release during his lifetime was the most unique.

Adderley is remembered as a jazz saxophone icon. He was a bop or hard bop jazz musician for most of his career but as time passed he fused elements of soul, jazz, and blues into his sound with varying degrees of success.

His last project was a musical based on the folk legend John Henry. His vision was brought to fruition when he recruited songwriters Diane Lambert and Peter Farrow to provide the lyrics and his brother Nat to help out with the music. Legendary singer Joe Williams and a young Randy Crawford were the lead vocalists and Robert Guillaume provided most of the dialogue. The album was a commercial failure and has never been released on CD until now. Adderley performed the music from the musical with his quintet a few times before his death.

Big Man: The Legend Of John Henry is an album rooted in its time. The Civil Rights movement was in full flower and the story hooked into that time period. The dialogue mixed in with the music make it an album that needs to be listened to in its entirety. Adderley rarely created music with words, which means he traveled outside his comfort zone.

While traces of Adderley’s jazz orientation can be heard in the music, it is basically an album of folk and pop music. Joe Williams was one of the great voices of his generation and is able to adapt to the tenor of the music. Crawford would go on to a long career as a solo artist but here, at 21, she is in her recording debut and is a little tentative.

Adderley created a musical that embraced the era, if not his usual musical style. Today, it is more of a historical piece that explores a rarely seen side of jazz great Cannonball Adderley.


Live In Prague By Johnny Cash

July 27, 2015

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Praise be for National Record Day. It is the time of year when companies raid the vault and issue music the old way, on vinyl. That brings us to the man in black.

Johnny Cash travelled behind the iron curtain in 1978 to Prague, Czechoslovakia for a concert of good old fashioned country music. That performance has now been issued on 180 gram vinyl. There is no CD or DVD, just a record album. The nice touch is the red vinyl because the concert was behind the Soviet Iron Curtain.

1978 found Cash at the crossroads of his career.  His famous television show was in the rear view mirror and he had issued dozens of albums. He was about to graduate to revered country icon when he arrived in Prague. In tow was his backing band, The Tennessee Three, which consisted of five musicians; bassist Marshall Grant, drummer W. S. Holland, guitarist Bob Wooten, guitarist Jerry Hensley, and pianist Earl Ball.

For an artist who had hundreds of songs to draw from, Cash keeps it very basic for this concert, as it is mostly a performance of older and traditional material. Songs such as “Ring Of Fire,” “I Walk The Line,” “Wreck Of The Old ’97,” “Orange Blossom Special,” and “Wabash Cannonball” had been in his repertoire for years. It may have been his fans in Czechoslovakia had little access to his current material but other than “Sunday Morning Coming Down” and “Folsom Prison Blues,” it is a concert that could have been performed a decade before. That fact gives the album charm as given the many recordings that have been issued since his death, this one is a unique look at his formative years and has a distinct retro feel.

His deep baritone voice is in fine form and the band is tight. His interaction with a very different audience is intimate and energetic. The sound is pristine and if you own a modern stereo system and turn table, it is an excellent listening experience.

Koncert V Praze (In Prague Live) is a fine addition to the Cash legacy. It is a solid glimpse into what his music was all about.


The Late Show – Live 1978 By Andrew Gold

July 27, 2015

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Andrew Gold, 1951-2011, was an artist who danced on the periphery of stardom and significant commercial success. He was a producer, arranger, sideman, and solo artist who shared the stage with many of the superstars of his generation. He also spent time in the duo Wax with Graham Gouldman and Bryndle with Kenny Edwards, Karla Bonoff, and Wendy Waldman.

Today he is remembered for his two big hits; “Lonely Boy” (1978) and “Thank You For Being A Friend,” which became the theme song of the iconic television show Golden Girls.

Gold released close to 15 studio albums during the course of his career but not much live material. Omnivore has now resurrected his late show recorded at the West Hollywood Roxy Theatre during 1978.

Gold’s studio albums tend to travel in a light rock and pop vein but live he rocks a little more. “Doctor Robert” has a Beatlesque flavor, while “Roll Over Beethoven” closes the concert on an energetic note. “Go Back Home Again” and “A Note From You” may not have be anywhere near the hard rock sound that was prevalent in the late 1970’s but they are smooth rockers.

Renditions of his two biggest hits highlight the concert and many of the other songs travel in the same direction. “Endless Flight,” “How This Can Be Love,  ”and“ One Of Them Is Me” are relaxed and laid back performances.

Andrew Gold is one of those artists who did not change the course of rock and roll and American music but made it a little more enjoyable. The Late Show – Live 1978 is a nice chronicle that catches him at the height of his solo career. It is a nice trip back in time from an artist that did not receive the success he deserved.


Child of The Seventies By Betty Lavette

July 18, 2015

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Bob Crewe, 1930-2014, is best remembered as a songwriter and producer for the Four Seasons. He had 37 of his compositions reach the American Top 30 including “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like A Man,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” “Let’s Hang On,” and “Rag Doll.” In 1965, he established his own label, Dynovoice Records, and produced a number of hits for Mitch Ryder including “Devil With The Blue Dress,” “Sock It To Me Baby,” and “Jenny Take A Ride.” His own Bob Crewe Generation hit the Top 20 with “Music To Watch Girls By.”

He recorded nine full-length albums during his career. The last two were for the Electra label. Street Talk (1976) and Motivation (1977) were his last attempts at solo commercial viability. Out of print for decades, they have now been reissued by Real Gone Music, complete with an array of bonus tracks and a booklet that gives an excellent biography of Crewe and the music.

The music is a product of the 1970’s and does not translate well to the new millennium. It was the disco era and Crewe created two very creative failures.

Street Talk was designed to be his grand opus. He used a 40 piece orchestra and 19 vocalists including Patti Austin and Gwen Guthrie to create his disco meets pop meets rock meets ballet meets bawdy lyrics creation in two acts.

There is a story with a protagonist named Cheery Boy who travels from the mid-west to Hollywood in search of fame and fortune. While the music is light weight and disco oriented; the lyrics are very much R rated. It really is not as good as it sounds.

1977’s Motivation travels in a very different direction. He left the producing chores to the legendary Jerry Wexler and traveled to Muscle Shoals to record the album. While such songs as “Lady Love Song,” “Marriage Made In Heaven,” “In Another Life,” and “Merci Beaucoup” may not have affected the course of American music, they are funky and catchy pieces of fluff.

The Complete Electra Recordings fills a whole in Bob Crewe’s and the Four Seasons related catalogue. Today, the music is primarily of historical interest and will appeal to only a hardcore fan.


The Complete Electra Recordings By Bob Crewe

July 18, 2015

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Bob Crewe, 1930-2014, is best remembered as a songwriter and producer for the Four Seasons. He had 37 of his compositions reach the American Top 30 including “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like A Man,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” “Let’s Hang On,” and “Rag Doll.” In 1965, he established his own label, Dynovoice Records, and produced a number of hits for Mitch Ryder including “Devil With The Blue Dress,” “Sock It To Me Baby,” and “Jenny Take A Ride.” His own Bob Crewe Generation hit the Top 20 with “Music To Watch Girls By.”

He recorded nine full-length albums during his career. The last two were for the Electra label. Street Talk (1976) and Motivation (1977) were his last attempts at solo commercial viability. Out of print for decades, they have now been reissued by Real Gone Music, complete with an array of bonus tracks and a booklet that gives an excellent biography of Crewe and the music.

The music is a product of the 1970’s and does not translate well to the new millennium. It was the disco era and Crewe created two very creative failures.

Street Talk was designed to be his grand opus. He used a 40 piece orchestra and 19 vocalists including Patti Austin and Gwen Guthrie to create his disco meets pop meets rock meets ballet meets bawdy lyrics creation in two acts.

There is a story with a protagonist named Cheery Boy who travels from the mid-west to Hollywood in search of fame and fortune. While the music is light weight and disco oriented; the lyrics are very much R rated. It really is not as good as it sounds.

1977’s Motivation travels in a very different direction. He left the producing chores to the legendary Jerry Wexler and traveled to Muscle Shoals to record the album. While such songs as “Lady Love Song,” “Marriage Made In Heaven,” “In Another Life,” and “Merci Beaucoup” may not have affected the course of American music, they are funky and catchy pieces of fluff.

The Complete Electra Recordings fills a whole in Bob Crewe’s and the Four Seasons related catalogue. Today, the music is primarily of historical interest and will appeal to only a hardcore fan.


Downtown By Petula Clark

July 15, 2015

Petula Clark was an English child star during the second World War. She had her own radio show that was broadcast over 500 times. She issued her first record in 1949 and during the 1950’s became a star in Europe.

At the age of 32 she seemed an unlikely candidate for stardom in the United States, especially in the midst of the of the British Invasion.

Producer/songwriter Tony Hatch wrote “Downtown” for Clark and it was recorded in English for release in the USA. It broke into the top 100 at number 87 0n December 19, 1964. Five weeks later on January 23, 1965, it was the number one song in the United States, where it remained for two weeks.

During the 1960’s she would place 19 singles on the Pop Chart. Her career is still going strong in her 80’s and “Downtown” continues to be part of her act.

 


Recorded Live Bitter End August 1971 By Dion

July 15, 2015

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Dion DiMucci will probably always be remembered for his series of hits, with and without the Belmonts, during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. Songs such as “The Wanderer,” “A Teenager In Love,” “Lovers Who Wander,” “Ruby Baby,” “Donna The Prima Donna,” and the number one “Runaround Sue” were some of the best and catchiest tunes of the pre-Beatles era. As with many artists, the hits came to a halt with the advent of the British Invasion.

The second part of his career began when his late 1968 release, “Abraham, Martin And John” became a huge hit single. During the course of the next seven years, he would release five albums for the Warner Brothers label that were simplistic and folk oriented.

His third album for the label, Sanctuary, contained three live tracks from a 1971 performance at the Bitter End Club in New York City. The rest of that live set sat in the vaults until now as the complete concert has finally been released.

This is not the Dion of the early phase of his career. He accompanies himself with just his guitar. The song selection is from the folk songbook of the day. The music ranges from straight folk to a real bluesy feel. His covers run the gamut from Bob Dylan’s “One Too Many Mornings” to the Beatles “Blackbird,” to Lightning Hopkins “Drinkin’ That Wine” to Leonard Cohen’s “Sisters Of Mercy.” He even reaches back into his past for acoustic versions of “Ruby Baby” and “The Wanderer.”

It all adds up to a gentle, if somewhat dated approach. The emphasis is on the lyrics. In some ways his voice is a little to smooth for a folk artist but it was a wonderful instrument back in the early 1970’s.

Recorded Live At The Bitter End August 1971 is a nice trip back in time to a far different era. It presents an artist making a career change toward music that mattered at the time.


Guitar Heroes By James Burton And Friends

July 15, 2015

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There are guitar summits and then there are guitar summits. The names James Burton, Albert Lee, Amos Garrett, and David Wilcox may not be well known to the generation of music fans under 30, but for people in the know, they present the cream of guitar players of the past half-century.

James Burton has appeared on hundreds of recording in addition to being the regular touring guitarist for Ricky Nelson and Elvis Presley. Albert Lee has released 20 solo albums, taken part in well over  2000 recording sessions, in addition to touring with Eric Clapton, Bill Wyman, and The Crickets among others. Amos Garrett can be heard with Maria Muldaur, Paul Butterfield, Doug Sahm, Bonnie Raitt, and his own jazz trio. David Wilcox was a member of Great Specked Bird, 1970-1973, played with Ian & Sylvia and Maria Muldaur, and has consistently been one of Canada’s most influential and respected guitarists.

The Masters of the telecaster came together at the Vancouver Island Music Fest, July 12, 2013. They were backed by Albert Lee’s touring Band consisting of lead vocalist/keyboardist Jon Greathouse, bassist Will MacGregor, and drummer Jason Harrison Smith. It has taken nearly two years for the concert to be released but Guitar Summitt is worth the wait.

The songs run the gamut from blues to rockabilly to good old fashioned rock and roll as the four guitarists trade licks. James Burton leads off with “That’s All Right (Mama)” and then recreates his original guitar performance of Dale Hawkins “Suzie Q.” David Wilcox provides a run of crystal clear notes on “Coming Home Baby.” Albert Lee is the ring master but steps out front on his own “Country Boy.” Amos Garrett may produce the most technically adept performance as he coaxes exquisite sounds from his guitar on “Sleepwalk.”

Songs such as “Flip, Flop And Fly,” The swamp laden “Polk Salad Annie,” and “You’re The One” are group efforts with the guitarists trading solos and coming back together.

The four guitarists play off of each other as the improvisations grow out of years of experience. While their style may be different from many modern day guitarists, their  sound is eternal.

Albums such as this need to be appreciated for what they are, as the protagonists may not pass this way again.