Last Band Standing (CD Box Set) By The Ides Of March

August 29, 2015

a10The Ides Of March were a band that could have, a band that should have, but in the final analysis a band that only almost did.

The Ides Of March was formed in the mid-1960’s by teenagers Jim Peterik, Bob Bergland, Larry Millas, and Mike Borsh. They had immediate success with a moderate national hit in 1966 with “You Wouldn’t Listen.” By the end of the decade they had added a brass section and produced their biggest hit “Vehicle,” which reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100 during 1970. There have been some stops and starts for the band but a half century later they are still standing.

In celebration of their 50th anniversary, they have released a definitive 5-disc box set covering all parts of their career. Their first four studio albums, Vehicle (1970), Common Bond (1971), World Woven (1972), and Midnight Oil (1973) are presented in all their remastered glory. There are tracks from their early days and their comeback in the 1990’s. The fifth disc is a DVD of a live performance of 15 songs recorded May 31, 2014, at Chicago’s House of Blues. Just about everything and anything that you may have wanted to hear from the band is here.

Their sound was more soulful than Blood, Sweat & Tears and had a harder edge than Chicago, which may have been the rub for long term commercial success. Their first two studio albums were probably superior to those of the BS&T and Chicago but were just out of the mainstream. That fact, combined with a similar musical approach, made it difficult for them to compete for essentially the same fan base.

Vehicle and Common Bond are a trip back to the early 1970’s in a good way. The albums have a flow and their use of the brass instruments as equal partners to the guitars and keyboards was unique and creative at the time. The vocals have a gritty and soulful quality.

There are several new tracks that bring their recording career full circle. “Who Am I” features the brass section and would have been at home on their early albums. “Too Far To Turn Around” is a group effort, while the title track features guest Steve Cropper.

Their concert footage brings the band into the present a half-century after their birth. Old television appearances, new interviews, and rare photos are some of the included extras.

The Ides Of March are one of those bands you cannot help but like and appreciate once you have heard them. Last Band Standing: The Definitive 50 Year Anniversary Collection is a wonderful ride through their career.  A necessary release for any fan of the band or of good music.




Make It Easy By Toots Lorraine

August 29, 2015

i make a fool of myself valli

So what’s in a name? Toots Lorraine is a name that oozes swing and jump blues from a past era. The sound is crisp and modern but Toots and her backing band mine the musical heritage of a by-gone era.

Her new album, titled Make It Easy, is a combination of smooth originals and blusy covers of Howlin’ Wolf, Joe Turner, and Bib Mama Thornton. Songs such as “Let Your Tears Fall Baby,” “Built For Comfort,” “Hindsight,” and “Why Did You Stop Tryin’” are nice trips through the swinging side of the American blues.

Toots Lorraine and her backing band have produced an album that is worth seeking out. Something old, something new, something for any lover of the blues.

My Girl By The Temptations

August 25, 2015


If ever a single deserved to be number one it was “My Girl.” Sometime life and especially the music industry is not fair, but every once in awhile the universe is in sync and so it was when “My Girl” topped the BILLBOARD Pop Chart the week of March 6, 1965.

Eddie Kendrick had been the lead singer on the first few Temptations singles but now for the first time, Jimmy Ruffin took over the lead vocal role. The result was one of the classic and eternal love songs in American music.

This Diamond Ring By Gary Lewis And The Playboys

August 18, 2015

Sometimes life is a lot easier when you have a famous parent, which brings us to Gary Lewis, the son of comedian Jerry Lewis.

Gary Lewis and The Playboys experienced success right from the start of their career. An appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show propelled their first single release, “This Diamond Ring,” to the top of the BILLBOARD Pop Chart on Feb. 20, 1965, where it remained for two weeks.

Lewis produced a simple but melodic brand of pop and his first seven releases all made the top ten. “Count Me In” and “Save Your Heart For Me” just missed the top of the chart stalling at number two.

The band had ten hits within a two year span but Lewis was drafted in late 1966. When he returned from his military service, his career never regained its momentum. He still appears in concert from time to time but never had another chart entry.

Carnegie Hall 1971 By Canned Heat With John Lee Hooker

August 16, 2015


My enduring memory of Canned Heat is not visual but as providing the opening theme song to the original Woodstock movie.

Canned Heat was formed during the mid-1960s and after performances at the Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock; they became one of the top concert attractions in the world during the first half of the 1970’s. During 1970 they went into the studio and recorded an album with John Lee Hooker titled Hooker “n” Heat. Shortly thereafter, founding member and lead guitarist Alan Wilson died at the age of 27.

On April 15, 1971, about six months after Wilson’s death, the band and John Lee Hooker performed at Carnegie Hall, not exactly a venue known for the blues. That concert, Carnegie Hall 1971, has now been released as the first in a three part series of live Canned Heat releases, which include Stockholm 1971 and Illinois Blues 1973.

First the bad news; the concert is not complete. For some reason the tape did not run throughout the entire performance so what was recorded is what you get. Particularly missed is the opening John Lee Hooker set. Now the really bad news; the sound borders on the terrible. There are places where it really detracts from the music.

The good news is what is there is some of the finest examples of early 1970’s electric blues that you will find. The 19 minute “Shake “n” Boogie” is a jam fest delight as the improvisation of the band goes on and on and on, proving that the Grateful Dead were not the only improvisational band of the era.

“Back Door Man” has deep rhythms, while “Tease Me Baby” has Hooker out front. Fold in “Framed,” “Let’s Work Together,” and “Hey Babe” and you have just about an hour of excellent rock/blues.

The liner notes trace the history of the band and their relationship with Hooker.

Despite the above mentioned negatives; Carnegie Hall 1973 is a worthwhile addition to any blues collection.

Songs From The Road By The Spin Doctors

August 16, 2015


The Spin Doctors were formed during the late 1980’s and grabbed the brass ring with  their first release as Pocket Full Of Kryptonite sold in excess of five million copies in the United States. While they have not had any other releases reach that level, they have remained in the forefront of the music scene for the last two decades.

They have now returned as a part of Ruf Records Songs From The Road series. Their 14 song set was recorded live at the Harmonie Club in Bonn, Germany, on October 17, 2013. Released as a CD/DVD set,  it presents the modern day version of the band and their songs.

The set catches the band in a smaller venue. They come across as a gritty, hardworking band who are very in touch with their audience.

The material covers their career from their early big hits “Two Princes” and “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong” to material from 2013’s If The River Was Whiskey.

The Spin Doctors may not receive the press of 20 years ago but The Road proves that they remain relevant nearly thirty years after their formation.

You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ By The Righteous Brothers

August 8, 2015

Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield defined the term blue-eyed soul. They were one of the most successful duos of the mid-1960’s placing 18 singles on the Pop Chart, 1963-1967.

They hit the big time when producer and record label owner Phil Spector bought their contract from the Moonglow label. He then hired songwriters Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann to write a song especially for them, and so a number one song was born.

“You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” entered the Billboard Hot 100 December 12, 1964 and reached number one February 6, 1965, where it remained for two weeks. It was the first song to reach seven million air-plays on radio.

It also topped the charts in England. Oddly the number two song was “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” by Cilla Black proving that a good songs is always a good song.