Live At Rockpalast 2 CD + DVD) By The Stray Cats

November 30, 2015


Guitarist/vocalist Brian Setzer, bassist Lee Rocker, and drummer Slim Jim Phantom, better known as The Stray Cats, cut a swath through the early 1980’s with their re-invention of rockabilly music by their adding punk elements to the mix. Songs such as “Stray Cat Strut,” “(She’s) Sexy + 17,” and “Rock This Town” not only found huge commercial success but introduced a new niche into rock music.

The band has reunited several times down through the years but it was their first incarnation that set the tone for their career.

Their newest release is a look back in time to two live performances. Live At Rockpalast is a two-CD and one-DVD set. There is a CD and DVD of their concert at Open Air Loreley, recorded August 20, 1983. The second CD is a concert recorded July 16, 1981, at Satory-Sale Cologne.

Their sound always had a primitive feel but the Loreley concert added sax player Mel Collins to the mix, who filled in a lot of the gaps and gave the band a fuller sound and more flexibility while performing live.

The two years between concerts also shows a growth in the band’s capabilities as seen through their stage presence and the increasing expansion and sophistication of their set list.

The early 1981 set find the Stray Cats near the beginning of their career. It is a set of four originals plus 10 covers of rockabilly songs. They rip through such classics as “My One Desire,” “Gonna Ball,” “Somethin’ Else,” and “Ubangi Stomp,” which are updated into a modern day rockabilly sound.

By 1983, they were well-established stars on the international scene. Originals such as “Built For Speed,” “Look At That Cadillac,” “Stray Cat Strut,” and “Rock This Town” evoke the loudest audience reaction. The also add such timeless tunes as “The Race Is On,” “Tear It Up,” and a brilliant “Banjo Time (Foggy Mountain Breakdown).”

The sound is excellent for the day. The DVD has limited angles and the band looks a little lonely on the big stage and playing in front of thousands. The audience does seem engaged and the band responds and is on fire.

The Stray Cats have reunited several times since their first dissolution in 1984. Live At Rockpalast is a nice look back to a band that not only created good music but helped bring a forgotten musical style into the modern age.

Live At Shea Stadium (DVD) By The Who

November 30, 2015

Hung Up In Your Eyes  B. Hyland

The Who were on tour in North America when they arrived at Shea Stadium for two sold out shows, October 12-13, 1982. They would not tour again for seven years and it was their last tour with drummer Kenny Jones. Also on hand was keyboardist Tom Gorman.

The entire second show has now been released with five bonus tracks from the first performance. The sound and video are both excellent and have a crispness that belies their age. Many times in a live recording, an instrument is lost in the mix but here everything is in synch, including John Entwistle’s thumbing bass, which provides the foundation for the sound. The only miner issue is the crowd, which is either turned down or was not very loud or invested.

The Who of 1982 had settled into a mature groove. Much of their frenetic approach in concert dissipated with the death of Keith Moon. Jones has not faired very well in the band’s history as Keith Moon was an impossible act to follow but he provided a steadying if not spectacular hand. This is very apparent in this concert as Townshend, Daltry, and Entwistle are connected and involved. It all adds up to one of the better Who concerts on film.

Their Shea Stadium show was a combination of big hits, well-known songs, and a number of obscurities that were rarely played live. “Dangerous,” “It’s Hard,” “Naked Eye,” “Drowned,” and “Cry If You Want” have disappeared into Who history so it is interesting to hear and see them performed on stage.

Only two songs, “Pinball Wizard” and “See Me Feel Me,” are from Tommy, which is a relief as material from the rock opera has appeared on numerous live recordings.

It is their middle career material that forms the foundation for the concert. “Behind Blue Eyes,” “Baba O’Riley,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” “Eminence Front,” and “It’s Hard” all benefit from Gorman’s keyboards and show a sophisticated approach to their live material.

The concert came to a rocking end with “I Saw Her Standing There,” “Summertime Blues,” and “Twist And Shout.”

Of the five bonus tracks “5:15” and “My Generation” were inexplicably left out of the second show, so it nice to have both as extra tracks as the energy just flows from one to the other.

Live At Shea Stadium 1982 is a nice time capsule of The Who. It is a very different live performance than any with Keith Moon as the music was getting more complex and they were in transition as a band. It fills in some gaps in their career and is a must for any of their fans.


Brush With The Moon By Quill

November 30, 2015

Hung Up In Your Eyes  B. Hyland

Country-folk rock bands are not exclusive to the United States but are alive and well in the U.K. thanks to bands like Quill, who add some unique elements to the sound.

They have expanded recently into a seven piece group fronted by vocalist Joy Strachan-Brain. Other current members include keyboardist/acoustic guitarist Dave Bailey, drummers Tim Tandler & Bev Bevan, violinist Kate McWilliam, bassist Matt Davies, and guitarist/mandolin player Tony Kelsey.  All members except the drummers contribute to the vocal harmonies.

Their new album, Brush With The Moon, is a bittersweet affair as bassist/composer and husband of Joy, Ben Brain, has passed away leaving behind several songs that form the foundation of their new release. Added to the mix are five songs taken from two of their English EP’s.

Joy Strachan-Brain has one of those voices that is striking in it clarity and timbre. When combined with their thoughtful and introspective lyrics, it produces music of rare beauty. Violinist Kate McWilliam contributes a Celtic element on many of the tracks, which gives the sound a very different flavor.

The previously released “England” is an anthem to their home country in which Brain’s vocals soar, backed by subtle harmonies. “Poppy Fields” with lyrics of longing, is a good example of McWilliam’s violin weaving in and out of the mix. “Schoolyard” is a looking back, made more poignant by circumstances. “Nine Mile Camp” showcases the purity of Brain’s voice.

It will be interesting to see if new members Bevan (ELO and Black Sabbath) and Kelsey (Robert Plant and Steve Winwood) change the approach as they come from very rock backgrounds. In some ways their current sound reminds one of a reflective Blackmore’s Night that has replaced the jauntiness with introspection.

Brush With The Moon is stunning in its simplicity and ability to convey emotions and thoughts. Quill tends to stay on their side of the Ocean so albums are their main exposure in the United States. If you are looking for something new from a group that has been together three decades, then Quill may be just the band for you.

The Complete Recordings By Ronny And The Daytonas

November 23, 2015

Hung Up In Your Eyes  B. Hyland

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, and surf music aficionados everywhere, it’s time to climb into the time machine and take a trip back to the 1960’s.

When surf music comes to mind, the names Beach Boys and Jan & Dean leap to the forefront. There were other groups producing the sounds of summer including Dick Dale, The Fantastic Baggys, The Rip Chords and the subject of this review, Ronny And The Daytonas.

During their five year existence, Ronny And The Daytonas issued two albums, over a dozen singles and recorded for three labels. Their entire output, plus some unreleased material, and a solo single by John “Ronny” Wilkin have been combined onto the newly released The Complete Recordings. This is one of the few times that complete actually means complete.

The three periods of their career have distinct sounds. The 1964 album, “G.T.O” with the title hit song was a basic surf and turf album. The music is not the caliber of the Beach Boys or Jan & Dean. Their sound is pleasant enough but they basically used two singers on the harmonies and were not adept enough in the studio to create intricate harmonies. Songs such as “Hot Rod Baby,” “California Bound,” “Bucket T,” and their big hit are pleasant pieces of grade B fluff.

Their 1966 album Sandy was unique for a surf album. The band was located in Nashville and they added a number of subtle country elements to their sound. “Nanci,” “So In Love,” “Somebody To Love Me,” “Be Good To Your Baby,” and “When The Stars Shine Bright” may not have received much commercial attention at the time but in retrospect they were a unique approach to a classic sound.

Their time with the RCA label resulted in a number of single releases that found them moving in more of a straight pop direction. “Diane Diane,” “All American Girl,” Winter Weather,” and “The Girls And The Boys” have a much more sophisticated approach, which holds up well.

As with just about all of the Real Gone reissues, the sound has been scrubbed as clean as possible. The accompanying booklet has an extensive essay by “Ronny Wilkins”, which gives a personal history of the band.

The Complete Recordings is a nice trip back in time with a band that many times slips under the radar. It should please any fan of the 1960’s surf music craze.


Game Of Love By Wayne Fontana And The Mindbenders

November 17, 2015


Glyn Ellis took his professional name from Elvis’ drummer D.J. Fontana. He and his backing band, The Mindbenders, began releasing singles in the their native country, Great Britain, in 1963. They were basically cover songs such as Fats Domino “My Girl Josephine” Bo Diddley’s “Roadrunner,” the Coasters “Love Potion Number 9,” and the eternal rock classic “Little Darlin.'” None reached the charts.

Their breakthrough came in the fall of 1964 when their take on Major Lance’s “Um Um Um Um Um” reached number five. Their first release in the United States proved to be their most successful. “Game Of Love” reached the BILLBOARD  Hot 100 on March 20, 1965. It became the number one song in America  for one week on April 24, 1965.

The vocal has an odd and quirky cadence but was memorable and perfect for top 40 radio airplay of the day.

Fontana left the band but The Mindbenders carried on and just missed the brass ring as on April 16, 1966, when “A Groovy Kind Of Love”spent two weeks at number two.

Coulda Shoulda Woulda By Holly Golightly And The Brokeoffs

November 14, 2015

Donna Loren  It's Such A Shame

English born Holly Golightly has traveled thousand of miles, both figuratively and metaphorically, from her musical roots. She spent the first part of her career as a fierce and edgy and sometimes primitive British-based music icon. Her change of direction included a move to rural Georgia and a partnership with multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Lawyer Dave. They have now released their sixth album titled Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda.”

Their Americana sound can be classified as somewhere between eclectic and eccentric. While their name sounds like a band they are basically a duo on stage and in the studio with only guitarist Jeff Walls lending a hand on three tracks.

A number of songs move in a strangely appropriate apocalyptic direction. “Heaven Buy And Buy” is energetic while Lawyer Dave provides the lead vocal for “Jump In The River” and “No Judgment Day.” Finally there is the maudlin but mesmerizing “Lonesome Grave.”

The rest of the tracks tend to travel where the wind happens to blow the duo. There is the frenetic dance trace “Karate.” There is the trailer trash rock of “Apartment 34,” which is balanced by the poignant “Jackhammer.”

The only cover is one of the oddball songs of the 1950’s titled “Marijuana The Devil’s Flower,” which fits the tenor of the album.

Despite the quirky nature of the music, it has deep textures and a sophisticated approach. The music is cohesive and while Holly Golightly And The Brokeoffs may travel the road less taken, it contains music worth exploring.

Go Back Home To The Blues By The Knickerbocker All-Stars

November 14, 2015

goodbye media man

Going Back Home To The Blues by The Knickerbocker All-Stars is a group of mostly local musicians getting together and having a good time while producing some excellent music.

The Knickerbocker Café is the type of club that used to inhabit every town USA but most closed as the years passed but a few hardy ones survived. Located in Westerly, Rhode Island, it was built shortly after Prohibition ended and has been the home for thousands of musicians and performances since.

During the late 1960’s and 1970’s, bands such as Roomful Of Blues, The Duke Robillard Band, and Sugar Ray And The Blue Tones made the club their home. Now members and former members have united for a second album of energetic blues.

The basic band consists of drummer Mark Teixeira, bassist Brad Hallen, pianist Al Copley, guitarist Mike Welch, sax players Doug James, Gordon Beadle, and Rich Lataille, and trumpet player Don Chanonhouse. Add in cornet player Al Basile on one track, trumpeter Carl Querfurth on a couple more, and vocalists Ray Nordia, Brian Templeton, and Willie Laws sharing the lead and you have the makings of a band that would be the highlight of any club.

The songs are taken from past set lists. Tunes by Bobby Bland, Freddie King, Guitar Slim, Cleanhead Vinson, and three originals by Basille inhabit the album.

It is the blues at its modern best. “Take It Like A Man,” “Blockbuster Boogie,” “Cadillac Baby,” “You Know That You Love Me,” and “I Tried” are energetics blasts that bring the blues into the 21st century.

Go Back Home To The Blues is a fun album by musicians who have a lot in common and like each other. It proves that every once in a while you can indeed go home.

A Little On The Windy Side By Paul Williams

November 8, 2015

FullSizeRender (4)

Many people relate to Paul Williams the songwriter, who wrote hit songs for The Carpenters (“I Won’t Last A Day Without You,” “Rainy Days And Mondays,” and “We’ve Only Just Begin”), Three Dog Night (“Out In The Country,” “An Old Fashioned Love Song,” and “Family Of Man”), and dozens of others. Some relate to Williams the actor, who appeared in several dozen films, most famously as Little Enos Burdette in the Smokey And The Bandit films. Finally, some people are addicted to Paul Williams the singer and performer who has issued over 20 albums.

During 1979, he issued his only album for the Portrait label. The album and the label disappeared soon afterwards.  Now, A Little On The Windy Side has been resurrected with four bonus tracks, a vibrant and clear sound, and a nice booklet that presents a history of Williams and his music.

William has always been a master composer. His singing voice is adequate but takes some getting used too. While he has written some rock songs, his albums fall into the easy listening/pop category. They are well-intentioned light pieces of musical fluff that entertain for a time and make you smile.

The only cover tune is a simple take on “Moonlight Becomes You” from the great American songbook. He gives it a light disco groove and adds some strings around the edges.

The center of the album is five songs written with Kenny Ascher. There is the laid back ballad “The Gift” and the shiny “A Little Bit More.” The upbeat “For Goodness Sake” should have been released as a single as it just stays in your mind.

In some ways the album has a cobbled together feel as three songs first appeared in films and another is an updating of 1972’s “Another Fine Mess,” which was a country hit for Glen Campbell.

The best of the bonus tracks are a gospel flavored “When The River Meets The Sea,” which was written for a Jim Henson special and an unusual direction for Williams and his simple take on “Love Conquers All,” a composition originally recorded by Seals and Crofts.

A Little On The Windy Side may not be his best work but is very representative of the many facets of his career. He still has a committed fan base who will no doubt appreciate this reissue.

Dead Center By Game Theory

November 8, 2015

Donna Loren  It's Such A Shame

Game Theory was a power pop 1980’s band who moved their sound in an experimental and alternative rock direction though the use of quirky production and melodies. They released five studio albums and two EP’s, 1982-1990. It is the EP’s, which bring us to France and this Omnivore reissue.

During early 1984, the French record label Lolita became interested in releasing some music from the west coast power pop and alternative rock scene. This lead to the release of Game Theory’s Dead Center album, which combined their two EP’s, two new songs recorded for the French release, a cover of “The Letter,” plus some odds and ends. All these are a part of a 21 track expanded reissue, which should please their loyal fan base.

Their 1983 and 1984 EP’s, “Pointed Accounts Of People You Know” and “Distortion” ushered in a new era of sophistication and maturity to their career. “Blaze Of Glory,” “Metal And Glass Exact,” “Shark Pretty,” and “Nine Lives To Regel Five” are all excellent examples of what was called the Paisley Underground Scene that was active in small clubs and college campus’ during the 1980’s.

The bonus tracks present a number of previously unreleased tracks. The live versions of “Shark Pretty,” “Nine Lives To Regel Five,” and “Penny Things Won’t” give examples of their sound and musical persona. Add in covers of R.E.M.’s “Radio Free Europe,” Badfinger’s “No Matter What,” Roxy Music’s “Mother Of Pearl,” and the classic rock song “Gloria” and you have one od the better Game Theory concert experiences.

The music of Dead Center fills in a lot of holes in Game Theory’s legacy. It is music that holds up well and presents some of the best from the 1980’s west coast independent scene.

You Don’t Know About Love By Carl Hall

November 8, 2015

dear johnny sandra dee

You Don’t Know Nothing About Love: The Loma/Atlantic Recordings 1967-1972 by Carl Hall is a soulful cry from the past.

Carl Hall, (died 1999), had a voice in a million yet failed to gain any recording success or reach any American music chart. His major noterioty came as an actor in such Broadway productions as The Wiz and Truly Blessed: A Musical Celebration Of Mahalia Jackson and the feature film Hair.

He began his career in the 1950’s as a member of Raspberry Gospel Group. While his acting career began in the early 1960’s, he recorded unsuccessfully for the Mercury label. He came under the guidance of producer James Ragovoy from 1967-1972 and released three singles for the Loma and Atlantic labels. Those six sides have now been combined with 13 unreleased tracks to form this new album.

His 1967 Loma single “You Don’t Know Nothing About Love” was his most commercial recording but its intenseness may have kept it off mainstream radio. The previously unreleased  ”Just Like I Told You” has a wonderful groove to it, while “It Was You (That I Needed)” is a ballad that rivals Gene Pitney at his sonic best. There is a stripped down demo of “Dance Dance Dance” that looks back to his gospel roots with just a piano, tambourine, and vocal group in support.

Hall could also cover other artists’ hits and take them in unusual directions. He transforms the Jefferson Airplanes “Somebody To Love” into a funky masterpiece complete with brass and strings. His vocal on “Time Is One My Side” outshines Mick Jagger in its gritty intensity. His voice soars into the stratosphere on the Beatles “The Long And Winding Road.” Possibly the best example of his voice is the demo of “What Kind Of Fool Am I,” where his only backing is a simple piano.

The question remains as to why Hall never received any commercial success during his life time as his releases were the equal of many of his contemporaries.  It may have been he never really settled into a consistent vocal style or that his voice was just too dramatic for radio airplay at the time. Also, Atlantic had a large number of artists that were more important to their success and Loma was on its last legs.

The music of Carl Hall has been out of print or never issued for decades. His voice was unique in soul music. You Don’t Know Nothing About Love: The Lomax/Atlantic Recordings 1967-1972 welcomes back music that should be appreciated by anyone interested in soul music of the era.