Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Grand Funk Railroad - On Time and Grand Funk (the Red Album)

Long before they were boasting of being an American band, and way before they starting doing the loco-motion, GFRR was one of the wildest, craziest, noisiest bands to come out of Detroit. They could hold their own along with the other motor-city maniacs from the time, like the MC5, Stooges, Alice Cooper, the Amboy Dukes, etc, etc…. their fuzz-drenched wall of sound influenced many, many bands to come and was certainly the basis for the 90’s Seattle “grunge” sound.

Their first album – On Time – is by far one of their best and certainly one of the most over-the-top r’n’r albums ever released! “Are You Ready” is more of a demand that a question and it practically knocks you over when it leaps out of the speakers at you! Loud, fast, raw and obviously recorded live in the studio (there are only a few overdubs on the whole record), they sound pissed, but they also sound like rock’n’roll is their lives.

There are lots of cool tunes on this record, and it also contains some of their most timeless and best known songs of their early years. TNUC (spell it backwards) isn’t one of the best, but it was Don’s drum solo song and the title is funny as hell, and I even used it as the name of my GFRR cover band!

But then there is the incomparable “Into The Sun’. Nice, melodic intro followed by a power-chord riff, and away we go! Super catchy, high-energy song, bitchin’ wah-wah lick into a noisy, fuzzed-out lead. Everything about this song is great!

From there is right into “Heartbreaker” – yes, the title has been used many, many times since then, but it’s a helluva song, anyway! Mark sounds truly melancholy as he sings this. Several parts to this song, also, and at the end there is a rave-up with positively massive fuzz-chords – too good!

The second album, titled (for some strange reason) Grand Funk, is widely known as the “red album” for obvious reasons. This record came out within months of the first one and sounds as if it could have been recorded at the same time – certainly not a bad thing!

It opens with the blockbuster “Got This Thing On The Move” – starting with a power chord riff moving into dueling guitar and bass lines, this is another classic opener! A cool breakdown with Mark’s soulful singing over the bass & drum lick goes into another change for the solo! It all makes sense as it goes along and it all rocks!

I think there may be a little more variety on this record – even though it is extremely intense all the way through – with tunes like “Please Don’t Worry”, “High Falootin’ Woman” and the hilarious “Mr Limousine Driver” in which Mark begs his driver to “let her in the door and don’t look back her no more cuz she says she loves me and that’s a fact”! Pretty much epitomizes early 70’s rockers!

Man, so much great stuff on here! “In Need” talks of Mark realizing that some old “friends” only care about his money, not about him. “Winter and My Soul” is a moody rocker with a cool groove. All the melancholy is blasted away by the ultra-heavy opening chords of “Paranoid” – the grunge bands all WISH that they could’ve created a sound like this!

The album culminates in a fantastic version of the blues tune “Inside Looking Out”, with a minor lyric change for the fans – “spending my time making up nickel bags”! Really superb jam – this one song was their entire set on a 1970 TV showing of a Cincinatti Rock Fest – and a high-energy ending for a terrific record!

People who have only heard the hits have no concept of what these cats were capable of! Anyone who loves high-energy, heavy r’n’r needs these records!

The Riverboat Gamblers, the Eagles of Death, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts

Another good night of music in Las Vegas! How bizarre! We’re trying not to get used to this. This was one of 4 shows that we wanted to get to over this weekend and now we don’t see anything that we’re interested in for the rest of the year. That’s life in LV!

The night started off fairly early once again, but we’re not complaining! We got to see 3 bands, hang out afterwards and still got home by midnight or so! Us aging rockers appreciate that!

First up was The Riverboat Gamblers, whose singer is basically a pinball – if it could move in 3 dimensions instead of only two! From the first note he was in the air and didn’t stop moving the entire time they were on the stage. And oddly enough, he could really sing! They were more melodic than most of the current crop of punk’n’rollers – almost comparable to a band like American Heartbreak. But definitely cool punk rock with fast, heavy guitars and everyone moving on stage. The drummer kept us entertained by throwing his sticks in the air and not even coming close to catching them! Great live band and the new CD, To The Confusion of Our Enemies, is highly recommended!

The Eagles of Death Metal is one of the most unlikely combinations of musicians that I have seen in recent memory. Gene Trautmann was the drummer for the fantastic Miracle Workers and continues to look like a hip, young rock’n’roller. Dave Catching played in numerous LA bands, including the wacked-out Honk If You’re Horny, and now dons the stage in jeans, a flannel shirt, huge goggles strapped to his head and a short-short blond Mohawk, which all makes him look completely demented while playing his Flying V. Bassist Brian O’Connor does indeed have the biggest hands I have ever seen on any human being, and this oddity is offset by wearing a vest, tie and bowler hat! Singer Jesse Hughes looks like a 50’s greaser version of Earl from the “My Name Is Earl” tv show! Not exactly a sexy r’n’r band! All the more ironic considering that their new album is titled “Death By Sexy” and Jesse constantly repeats “let’s hear it for the ladies!” throughout the show! I can’t even begin to describe the music, but check it out!

One of the first “girls” (she was all of 16 or so) to play in-your-face r’n’r, Joan Jett continues to kick butt 30 years (!!) later. She looks and sounds great and has a super stable of tunes to choose from. I could quibble on a couple of the song choices (I would have liked to have heard some of the Evil Stig-era stuff, but the omission is understandable) but overall it was a great set from the reigning queen of straight-forward guitar rock.

I think Joan was a little under the weather this night and she did have some vocal help from a keyboardist/singer behind the curtains, but she still delivered. All the hits were there and she had the crowd with her, singing along, the entire time.

I have nothing but respect for this woman. She completely understands her history and keeps up with current music, as well – and is even politically aware! She’s as good now as she was when I saw the Blackhearts in ’79, so see her when you can!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Groovie Ghoulies, Demolition Doll Rods, The Cramps – House of Blues, Las Vegas, 11-2-06

Groovie Ghoulies, Demolition Doll Rods, The Cramps – House of Blues, Las Vegas, 11-2-06

Yee-haw! What a night of fun, sexy, silly & scary (sometimes all at once!) rock’n’roll! Gorgeous girls, skinny, wild frontmen, and great music – what more could you ask for?!

The night started at the absurd hour of 6:30 (!!) with the Groovie Ghoulies and their Ramones-styled bouncy punk-pop and they had the kids dancing (really! No shit!) from the first blast from Roach’s guitar! Kepi is still the eternal teenager – he looks great and pogos almost non-stop as he sings while playing bass. Relative new-comer Scampi is yet another ultra-cool female drummer – where do they keep finding them?! The GG’s kept taking requests from the audience and never turned one down – from their hits like “Island of Pogo-Pogo” and “Beast With 5 Hands” to brand new tunes. We hadn’t seen them in years but they’re still a complete blast and still some of the nicest people in r’n’r! Support them every way that you can!! Their new record, Berry’d Alive is a batch of Chuck Berry tunes given the patented GG touch, with superb packaging from Tom Neely! Get it!

The Dem
olition Doll Rods is another band that we hadn’t experienced in many a moon and they were also better than ever! Margaret and Danny Doll Rods (both on guitar and vocals – no bassist) are now joined by Tia “Baby Doll” Doll Rod on drums, who was cute & sexy while pounding on her two drums (which she plays while standing up) and trying to keep from falling out of her skimpy bikini! In fact, all three members wore bikinis of some sort – even Danny, another guy who remains r’n’r skinny even after years (decades?) of playing! The songs were some of their best – lots of new stuff and great covers of the Creation’s “How Does It Feel” and “Open Up Your Door” (Richard and the Young Lions), both of which they turned into sleazy sex romps! Really fun, noisy, trashy mania!

And finally, the Cramps! Again, it had been ages since we had seen these loons loose on stage and they didn’t disappoint – in fact, it was one of their best shows we had seen! With Harry Drumdini and White Zombie’s Sean Yseult on bass, Lux & Ivy still looked fantastic (though I couldn’t get used to Lux with blond, slicked back hair!) and put on an incredible show! Ivy remains the sultry siren on guitar with a mass of red curls, and Sean echoes the look with her similar mane flanking Lux, who has calmed down slightly and is less maniacally self-destructive, but is still one of the best frontmen ever! Fans couldn’t ask for a better set list, with some of their most-loved tunes, from Goo-Goo Muck, Teenage Werewolf, Sunglasses After Dark, Most Exalted Potentate of Love, right through to their crazed closer, Psychotic Reaction. Lux still leaves a swath of destruction in his wake – wine bottles, broken mikes, mike stands bent in two (and more!) – so watch it, but be sure to see it! They just celebrated their 30th anniversary of their first show and they are showing no signs of stopping! I wouldn’t have believed how good they were if I hadn’t seen it – definitely check them out whenever you can!

Truly a wild, wacky night of fabulous noise! Thanks to all of the bands for bringing their madness to Las Vegas!