#392: The EP Connection By Marshall Crenshaw

May 27, 2016

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Back in 2013, Marshall Crenshaw embarked on an artistically creative journey. During the next two and a half years, he released six 3-track vinyl EP’s. Each record contained one new song, one cover song, and one song from his vast catalogue that he re-recorded. Now the original material and the cover songs have been combined with a live track and an early demo to form the album #392: The EP Collection.

Marshall Crenshaw has always been an underappreciated artist and for the turntable impaired, it is good to have this material available on CD for the first time.

Interestingly the six original tunes lead off the album and while they contain his sense of wry humor set to solid melodies; there is a sameness that was not apparent in the extended CD series.

The best of the new material is the poignant “Grab The Next Train” and the memorable “Driving And Dreaming” with its lyrical beauty. The cover tunes travel a more diverse journey. He resurrects the Carpenters hit “Close To You” and then rocks on the forgotten Bobby Fuller Four gem “Never To Be Forgotten.” Throw in the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Didn’t Want To Have To Do It” and you have the beginnings of a group of songs molded into his musical image.

Making its debut is a rocking live version of the Everly Brothers “Man With Money,” which Crenshaw transforms from smooth pop to a powerful cover.

For the last three plus decades, Marshall Crenshaw has issued some of the best rock music on the American music scene. While most of the music contained in #392: The EP Collection has been around for a couple of years, its release on CD will make it available to a wider audience. It may not push the boundaries of his musical vision but it is well-worth a listen.


World War Trio Part II + III By Consider The Source

May 27, 2016

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I really had not heard much of Consider The Source until their new album, World War Trio Parts II & Three, graced my stereo system. I was pleasantly surprised as it is a very, and I mean very good album album modern day pergressive rock.

Many people consider them a jam band but it is not as simple as that. Their music travels in a number of directions with songs having jazz, psychedelic, Far Eastern, African, and even science fiction influences. There is also a melodic quality that underpins their music.

Gabriel Marin (guitars and stringed instruments), John Ferrara (bass instruments), and Jeff Mann (drums and percussion) are a tight unit who give each other room to experiment within the structures of their songs.

It is a two CD set that clocks in at a little over two hours. Not everything works but it is an interesting journey to find what does. “You Are Obsolete” is the beginning of a science fiction journey. “Absence Of A Prominent Tooth” is based on a Balkan dance melody. “More Than You’ll Ever Know” finds psychedelic rock being fused with a progressive rock framework.

Perhaps the most creative track is “Many Words Of Disapproval” where the lead guitar acts as the vocalist and the bass provides the rhythm guitar and bass parts.

The band extends the parameters of modern day progressive rock sound and their use of a fretless guitar and a slide bass is unique. Consider The Source has issued an album well-worth exploring.


Shakedown Soul By Kelley Richey

May 27, 2016

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Kelly Richey is one of those musicians who is committed to her craft. Now 35 years into her career, she has traveled in the vicinity of 800.000 miles, performed live close to 3700 times, and will shortly issue her 16th album.

She has always been a superior guitarist who fuses rock and blues. She usually fronts a basic trio with drummer Tobe Donohoe and bassist Rikk Manning.

Shakedown Soul departs from her norm in places. “You Wanna Rock,” “Love,” and “I Want To Run” are well-crafted rock and roll. On the other hand, the acoustic “Fading” is a delicate song placed in the middle strings. “Only Going Up” adds electronica technology to the mix.

Every once on a while an artist needs to experiment a bit to stay fresh. While the album is still a straight blast of blues and rock, it does contain a few surprises.


Ballyhoo By JD & The Straight Shot

May 27, 2016

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Ballyhoo finds a veteran band stripping their sound down to basics with an all-acoustic release.

Many times the best way to know and understand a band is to clear out the electronica, the studio gadgets, and all the extras, and just have at it acoustically without any pretense.

“Better Find a Church” is representative of their approach as it is a catchy upbeat performance. The fact that it was actually recorded in a church makes it all the more authentic. They reach back into their past for a re-working of four songs including the edgy “Under The Hood,” which is given a stark performance. The only non-original composition is a trip back in rock and roll history for a harmonic filled cover of Spirit’s somewhat obscure “Nature’s Way.”

Ballyhoo is a nice counterpoint to the electric rock of their previous releases. JD & The Straight Shot have issued an album of music to reflect upon and savor.


Yesterday By The Beatles

May 21, 2016

“Yesterday” was one of the most recorded songs of the 20th century. It was also a Paul McCartney solo effort released under the Beatles name.

In the studio producer George Martin suggested the McCartney record the song with just an acoustic guitar backed by a string quartet. It may not have been typical rock and roll but it became one of the most recognizable songs in music history.

“Yesterday” reached the top of the American Singles Chart on October 9, 1965, and there is remained for four weeks.


Daydream Of Hope By Jefferson Grizzard

May 14, 2016

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Sometimes it is difficult to understand why a musician does not receive more commercial success. Such is the case for Jefferson Grizzard.

Grizzard combines incisive lyrics with an ability to create memorable melodies. He has a gruff rock and roll voice that brings passion and emotion to his songs. His music includes explosive rock and sensitive ballads that are well-conceived and produced.

“We’re Just Kids Babe” proves that he can rock with the best in the business when so inclined. The poignant “Adelaide” and the delicate ballad “Lonely Senorita” are nice counterpoints to his rock and roll persona. The album opening “Give Me A Sign” finds him a master of words as his creates his stories.

Daydream Of Hope is an excellent introduction to his mind and music. Hopefully it will provide a gateway to some increased commercial success.


Ralph Stanley And The Clinch Mountain Boys By Ralph Stanley

May 14, 2016

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If you are a fan of rock music, or pop, or jazz, or rhythm & blues, then read no further because this is a blue grass review, pure and simple.

Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys may have created the blue grass music form, but Ralph and Carter Stanley were close behind. The Stanley Brothers performed together from 1946 until Carter’s death in 1966 at the age of 41. Ralph and his Clinch Mountain Boys have continued on to the present day. Now 88 years old, Ralph Stanley is one of the very last of the original blue grass musicians.

During his 70 year career, Ralph Stanley has produced an estimated 1200 recordings and recorded for many different labels. During 1971 he was part of three albums recorded for the Jessup label. Those three albums form the basis for his latest release The Complete Jessup Recordings Plus.

One evening when Stanley was late for a concert, he found high school seniors Ricky Skaggs and Keith Whitley performing his songs until he arrived. Taking them under his wing, they recorded together for Jessup. Skaggs and Whitley released Tribute To The Stanley Brothers, which was later retitled Ralph Stanley And The Clinch Mountain Boys Featuring Ricky Skaggs and Keith Whitley. The other tracks are culled from the albums Sing Michigan Blue Grass and Gospel Blue Grass, which also included Skaggs and Whitley.

The music is traditional and very raw by today’s standards. Its roots are in the hills of the south where it was played on wash boards, boxes, and spoons. Stanley is one of America’s legendary banjo players and his voice is pure old-style country. In addition to guitarist/vocalist Whitley and mandolin player/vocalist Skaggs, he is joined by guitarist Roy Lee Centers, fiddle player Curly Ray Cline, and bassist Jack Cooke. Cline and Cooke continue to record and tour with Stanley.

Musically and lyrically, blue grass music chronicles a way of life. “Are You Proud Of America” and “Let’s Keep Old Glory Waving” were released in August, 1971, while the Vietnam War was raging and the student protest movement was in full flower. The gospel music is straight forward and out of the Christian tradition. It formed an important part of both the Stanley Brothers and Ralph Stanley’s solo catalogue with Roy Lee Centers providing the harmonies in place of the deceased Carter. “In Heaven We’ll Never Grow Old,” “Wings Of Angels,” “Masters Bouquet,” and “White Dove” are all out of a southern prayer meeting.

Ralph Stanley is a legend within his musical niche. He recently received the National Medal Of Arts and a Doctorate of Music from Yale. He is a rare artist who never tried to fit in with the musical trends of the day. Through the British Invasion, disco era, grunge, and modern country; he has continued to produce his brand of mountain blue grass. If you are a fan of the blue grass style, then this glimpse into the mind and style of Ralph Stanley is a must.

 


After What I Did Last Night By Henry Wagons

May 14, 2016

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Henry Wagons is a star in his home country of Australia. Any fame he has achieved in the United States is probably though his half-dozen country-rock albums released with his band Wagons.

He has now traveled to Nashville to record his first full-length solo album. After What I Did Last Night is due to be released next week.

He has not strayed very far from his sound and style with Wagons. There is a country foundation with a dash of rock and roll mixed in. The lyrics are more personal than in the past as he puts many of the chapters of his life to music.

The songs range from tender to witty, to biting with a dark edge. The tender are the love songs “Anything You Want” and “Tomboy.” The dark are “Cold Burger, Cold Fries” and the alcohol laden “King Hit.” The witty are “Head Or Heart” and “Cowboy In Krakow.”

Some of his best writing is about the reflections of his family, “Only Child” and thoughts about his home, “Melbourne.”

Henry Wagons has created a fine introduction to himself and his music. After What I Did Last Night is worth a listen or two.


The Lost Broadcasts: Yhe Beat Club ’68 By Frank Zappa

May 14, 2016

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If there is anything more eclectic than a Frank Zappa concert, it is a Frank Zappa rehearsal for a concert.

The Lost Performance: The Full Performance is a film of a Frank Zappa and The Mothers Of Invention rehearsal recorded October 6, 1968, in Germany. As Zappa’s career progressed, he recorded dozens of performances but there is surprisingly little footage and documentation of the early Mothers Of Invention.

The rehearsal is a long continuous performance. Zappa plays director and the band will occasionally break into recognizable songs such as “King Kong,” “A Pound For A Brown On A Bus,” “Sleeping In A Jar,” “Let’s Make Water Turn Black,” and “Uncle Meat.” A brass section of Ian Underwood, Bunk Gardner, and James Sherwood, bassist/vocalist Roy Estrada, keyboardist Don Preston, and drummers/percussionists Art Tripp and Jimmy Carl Black were one of Zappa tightest units and able to follow his directions and signals.

It is a release that will basically appeal to fans of Zappa and especially of his early career. The lack of structure makes it difficult to follow unless you are familiar with the music.

There are issues with the sound and picture at times and it is certainly not up to modern day standards, so beware.

The Lost Broadcast: The Full Performance is more of a historical document than a release you will want to play continuously. Still, it is an interesting look into the mind of Frank Zappa and how he plotted his concert approach.


Tiger In A Cage By Johnny Rawls

May 4, 2016

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Johnny Rawls learned his craft as O.V. Wright’s band leader until his death in 1980. He then continued to lead the Ace Of Spades band for the next 13 years as they backed many of the leading blues artists of the day including B.B. King, Little Milton, Bobby Bland, and Johnny Taylor. In 1996, he released his first solo album Here We Go. Now 12 Blues Music Award nominations later, he will issue his latest album, Tiger In A Cage, on February 19th.

Rawls has one of those wonderfully soulful voices that is able to convey passion and emotion in a released manner.

His new album consists of three covers and nine original compositions. The Rolling Stones “Beast Of Burdon,” Sam Cooke’s “Having A Party” and Jackie Wilson’s classic “Your Love Is Lifting Me (Higher And Higher)” are all transformed into his laid back and bluesy style.

His own compositions; “Born To The Blues,” “Every Woman Needs A Working Man,” “Southern Honey,” and “I Would be Nothing” continue his string of old-school party type music releases.

Johnny Rawls has carved out a nice niche for himself. His latest release, Tiger In A Cage, is a nice addition to his sweet soul and blues legacy.