Tuesday, September 18, 2007

boring old farts

Sex Pistols announce 30th anniversary gig

LONDON (AFP) - Punk legends the Sex Pistols announced Tuesday that they will stage a one-off gig in November to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their controversial album "Never Mind the B*llocks".

Proving once again that they really did just want to be another rock'n'roll band, just like the ones they used to denigrate.

And proving that someone at AFP is a moron:
The band's original bass player, Sid Vicious, died after a drug overdose in 1979.


Thursday, September 06, 2007

Slade – In For a Penny: Raves and Faves

I became a Slade fan the first time I saw them on “In Concert” in the 70’s with Noddy Holder’s loud voice and mirrored top hat, Dave Hill’s “super-yob” silver jumpsuit, shaking his ass with glitter literally poured all over him and his cool SG, Jim Lea’s SG bass and Don Powell’s bashing drum beats, their image was utterly wacky but the songs were terrific! Hearing “Cum On Feel The Noize” made me go to the record store the very next day and order their latest (our small town store didn’t stock their stuff). Funnily enough, it turned out that the latest was Slayed, which didn’t have that song, but I loved the album anyway!

Welp, this collection was put together by super-cool rockaphile and writer (see La Vie En Robe) Dan Epstein (who also writes the liner notes), though the record company did limit some of his selections. (Actually, Dan corrects me and says that it was the band management, not the record company.) Fantastic stuff on here, including some that I had never heard before.

Starting out with a cover of Max Frost and the Troopers’ “Shape of Things to Come” while they were still Ambrose Slade, this gives us a glimpse of things to come for Slade! I really love this version and keep thinking how great it would have been if they had done a 70’s remake of Wild In the Streets with Noddy Holder taking over the country!

“C’mon C’mon” and “Sweet Box” actually seem comparably complex for Slade – more concentration on harmonies and arrangements than their later hits, but still quite fun and catchy (and, as Dan says, “Sweet Box” barely evens qualifies as a double entendre!).

One of my faves from the live Slade record is included – “In Like a Shot From My Gun”. This live album is one of the most exciting ones ever recorded and the crowd is with them from the first minute. You can hear everyone chanting along with the band on this cut.

“How D’You Ride” is the opening cut for Slayed and it is still a super rocker that pretty much epitomizes their sound – and is such a cool progression that I stole from it myself!

One of their crowning achievements is the over-the-top version of Janis Joplin’s “Move Over” that they turn into a high-energy raver! Utterly manic! Then Noddy shrieks into “Don’t Blame Me” and you can’t help but wonder if he blew out mics in the studio! Anyone who saw them live in their heyday says that the only things you heard in concert were Dave Hill’s high-end guitar and Noddy’s voice! “Do We Still Do It” is probably the last song on this comp from their most popular period and it’s another excellent one – a rebellious sing-a-long that every teen can relate to.

To show that they could write pop songs too, there’s “When the Lights Are Out”, which is down-right Beatle-esque! And then “Thanks for the Memory” is Slade’s version of “funky” with a rhythmic clavinet (?) and a chorus stolen from a Christmas song that is eluding me right now.

The closer of this set is “Burning in the Heat of Love”, which is almost R’n’B-ish rock and, almost surprisingly, really works – it’s a hot song!

This is not meant to be the definitive Slade collection – in fact, Dan recommends Get Your Boots On – the Best of Slade – but this has some odds’n’sods and some super classics! I’d say it’s a must for fans!
(And funnily enough, I am just now reading the Led Zeppelin book, Hammer of the Gods, and it claims that at one point Slade considered Robert Plant for a lead singer, but a couple of the guys thought that he was too prissy! I think it's a good thing all around that that never happened!)

The Twenty Second Sect

I first discovered the Twenty Second Sect via Sympathy for the Record Industry and their release of the band’s Get That Charge 7 song mini-LP. (Thanks, John!)

As soon as I put the needle down and “I’ll Be Your Navigator” literally came screaming out of my stereo, I knew that I’d love this group! Ultra-high-energy, female-fronted Aussie rock, at a time when Aussies were some of the rockin’-est rockers around! (Kind of like Sweden is now!).

The guitars are monsterous, the rhythm section blasts away, and singer Liz Dealey sounds positively viscous and totally pissed off! Amazing stuff!

“I Never Said” cuts back the franticness slightly, but then “Beach Rock” is completely insane, with its non-stop, machine-gun snare rolls! But despite the nearly untamed ferocity, these are actual songs – and damn good ones, too!

One of my fave bands at this time (mid-to-late 80’s) was Sweden’s Union Carbide Productions, also due to their wildness. Well, the Sect pulls out one of UCP’s heavier cuts, “Ring My Bell”, which has nothing whatsoever to do with the disco song of the same name (thankfully)! I didn’t think that anyone could match UCP, but the TSS do a fine job acting as crazy as the Swedes! I don’t think that it is possible to be any closer to the edge without falling off!

Working with dynamics a bit more on “Pull the Trigger”, they move from slower and quieter to shrieking – both guitars and vocals – as Liz sings (as best I can tell) about unrequited love that goes very wrong. “Hell” (possibly due to the actions in the previous song?) has a minimalistic beat on the verses that again becomes more intense on the choruses.

This record closes with the title track, which is absolutely unrelenting – this band must have been out of control live!

Sympathy also put out a 4 song 7” that is just as great! “UXB” is more high-energy, “Gimme Control” smolders along and seems more like a plead to lose control, “I’m a Man” is a wacked-out version of the Spencer Davis tune and “Hey Baby” is again slightly slower, but still intense with noisy guitars and the repeated “I don’t know what I’m gonna do with you” line that sticks in your head!

The released another album on Greasy Pop Records in Australia that I have never found, but I would say that if you love out-of-control r’n’r, then search out this band! You won’t be sorry!

There's a good interview with the band done for Noise For Heroes in 1990 here.

Steppenwolf Gold

At different times in my life, Steppenwolf has been one of my all-time favorite bands, though for some reason they weren’t a big influence on my music, so I didn’t always list them as such. But these cats were vitally important in my adolescence as hard-rocking, politically savy role models!

Of course, everyone in the universe is aware of the awesomeness of “Born To Be Wild”, their first hit. A million bands have covered this song a million different ways and it is always wild! But this is far, far from their only stab at greatness.

This compilation of course doesn’t have everything that John Kay & company did over their prolific career, and a couple of album cuts that I love are missing, but it is a damn good overview.

“Sookie Sookie” is an R’n’B-styled groove-shaker that I’m amazed hasn’t been covered by some of the current crop of bands, such as Mooney Suzuki or Wolfmother. One of their best and loved by teenagers who would sing along “suck me, suck me, suck me, sue!”

The Steppenwolf re-working of Hoyt Axton’s “The Pusher” is one of their best known songs, most likely due to the inclusion in the intro of Easy Rider. Fantastically evil sounding and again, teens could relate to the message that it was ok to get high, but just don’t get hooked on the hard stuff. Of course, this was another song that we would blare at our annoying, square neighbors so that they could be offended by “GOD DAMN, the pusher man”!

Some of the album cuts are songs that even I am not extremely familiar with, such as “The Ostrich”, which is as memorable as many of their hits.

But then comes “Magic Carpet Ride”! Wow! What a ride! Dominated by Gold McJohn’s rhythmic organ (hit would look like he was slapping the keyboard as he played), this song has a wild, almost off-beat (but super catchy) cadence, a psychedelic solo section and a chorus that is almost impossible to get out of your head (not that you’d want to)! Another superb hit!

A “number” that didn’t become a hit for obvious reasons is “Don’t Step on the Grass, Sam”, a very cool call-and-answer pro-pot swagger. Lyrics such as “it’s evil, wicked, mean and nasty / don’t step on the grass sam / it will ruin our fair country / don’t be such an ass sam / it will hook your sue and Johnny / you’re so full of bull sam / … please give up, you’ve already lost the fight” were damn near a call to arms to the smokers – and who wasn’t one back then? (The ending is damn funny, as well!)

“Tighten Up Your Wig” goes back to their days in Canada as Sparrow – this is pretty much note-for-note the same arrangement as appears on the bootleg recording of the earlier band. Another great lyric “just before we go I’d like to mention Junior Wells – we stole this thing from him and he from someone else”!

More rock grooves appear in “It’s Never Too Late”, “Jupiter’s Child”, and “Rock Me”, all of which would easily fit in with current sets of bands like the Hellacopters, Thunder Express, Monster Magnet, Wolfmother, etc.

One of their most political songs is “Monster/Suicide/America”, a mini-history lesson which tells us how little we have learned over the years, and unfortunately, this is at least as relevant today as it was when Kay wrote it in the 60’s. Because of its relevancy, this is one song that I always meant to cover and never managed to. It is a great song, as well as a great statement – every word is painfully poignant still, but ends with a rallying call: “America, where are you now, don’t you care about your sons and daughters? Don’t you know we need you now, we can’t fight alone against the monster.”

Disc 2 starts out with “Move Over”, which is basically a part two to “Monster” with lyrics such as “yesterday’s glory won’t help us today / you ought to retire, get out of the way” and “the country needs a father, not an uncle or big brother”. Again, they fit this into a rockin’ tune – they don’t sacrifice the song for the sake of the message.

Another cut that you can’t help but know is “Hey Lawdy Mama” – another justifiable hit! These guys really knew how to write catchy r’n’r songs!

Unfortunately, towards the end of the band, some of the songwriting started to suffer and while they are some more terrific tunes on this second disc, you can see the quality declining. But, besides the above-mentioned songs, there are greats such as “Screaming Night Hog”, “For Ladies Only” and “Ride With Me”.

The CD ends with a few John Kay solo cuts – his version of Hank Snow’s “Movin’ On” is most successful – sounds almost like Steppenwolf! I could live without the take on “Drift Away”, which I never cared for in the first place and John doesn’t improve on it.

Overall, another super compilation and a perfect starting point for someone who is just getting into the band, or just a good CD for those – again, like me – who don’t always want to pull out their old records! Once again, while all of their 60’s and 70’s albums are highly recommended this is good for the hits!

Check out their official website

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Dave Edmunds Anthology (1968-90)

Opening with “River to Another Day”, this collection shows that it will reflect a wide variety of Edmunds’ career. The song is quite psychedelic – reverbed vocals, backwards guitars, etc – and quite different from most anything else Dave ever did. It’s a cool song, but certainly not what you would expect from a Dave Edmunds record!

“The Stumble” is much more his style, though it was recorded for a album of “blues” that his record company decided was the current big thing, so they wanted his band, Love Sculpture, to do a blues LP! But, whether initially contrived or not, this sounds like vintage Edmunds – great guitar playing, great tone and a basic r’n’r backing.

Then comes the hit! Love Sculpture’s insane re-working of “Sabre Dance”, supposedly influenced by the Nice’s Keith Emerson and his takes on classical works. This is wild, high-energy r’n’r with Edmunds riffing like a madman and showing just what a fantastic guitar player he is! Amazing stuff!

Dave does a superb version of “Summertime”, as well – heavily reverbed vocals with nice harmonies and again, a terrific solo. This set really shows off what an under-rated guitarist this man is – he is up there with the best!

Love Sculpture tried to recreate the magic they had with “Sabre Dance” on “Farandole”, but unfortunately, it simply sounds like a so-so copy of their hit (though Dave claims that he likes it better). After this last hurrah, LS basically dissolved.

Dave’s first solo venture, a remake of “I Hear You Knocking”, done in a studio converted from a potato loft(!), became one of his biggest hits and a template for his sound for the rest of his career! Fifties-influenced r'n'r became his trademark from here on out.

“Down, Down, Down” is another fun rocker, and then we get a couple of Edmunds tunes from his “wall of sound” era, such as “Born To Be With You”. (He also did an amazing version of “Baby, I Love You”, that is not included in this compilation).

Rockpile was Dave’s “super-group” with Nick Lowe, Billy Bremmer (guitar) and drummer Terry Williams and is represented with a number of cuts. This band was truly terrific and I have the pleasure of seeing them in 1978/1979 and can attest to their power live! These cuts are some of the best work that any of these gentlemen did and it is a shame that the group didn’t last longer.

The band only released one album as “Rockpile” but the musicians backed up both Edmunds and Lowe on several records. All of the tunes are super-fun, upbeat r’n’r and you really can’t do any wrong with any of these – “Here Comes the Weekend”, “I Knew the Bride”, “Little Darlin’”, “Trouble Boys”, “Deborah” and “Never Been in Love”. I can’t pick a fave – they are all superb!

Disc 2 starts off with Elvis Costello’s “Girls Talk”, which became a #1 hit for Edmunds in England. Also showing off how well he could interpret other people’s tunes is a cover of Graham Parker’s “Crawling Through the Wreckage” – another live Rockpile fave.

This inventive interpretation is most evident in “Queen of Hearts”, written by Emmylou Harris’ steel player Hank DeVito. This was another smash in England but for some reason the record company would not release it in America and instead Juice Newton had a massive hit here with it, doing the Rockpile arrangement. Such is life!

Yet another cover is Joe Tex’s “If Sugar Was As Sweet As You”, which Rockpile does as a bouncy, fun, country-ish number. This is the band doing what it does best! “Almost Saturday Night” doesn’t vary too much from John Fogerty’s original, but has very nice harmonies and is another good-time tune.

This collection is jam-packed with great tunes! “(I’m Gonna Start) Living Again If It Kills Me” was co-written by Nick Lowe and Carlene Carter and is a tribute to the Everly Brothers wonderful style. Next up is “The Race is On”, which was recorded while Dave was producing the Stray Cats. This George Jones song is rockabilly-fueled country done in a single take at the end of a night!

“Me and the Boys” is a harder-rockin’ version of an NRBQ song and “Warmed Over Kisses” is pure bluegrass, with banjo and guitar-pickin’ – definitely a bit different from Edmunds standard country-influenced r’n’r.

Even more different is Dave’s mid-80’s work with Jeff Lynne of the Electric Light Orchestra! The guitar still has Dave’s distinct tone, but the rest of the production is very 80’s (hence very dated now) with far too much synthesizer nonsense and bad drum sounds. Several tracks from this period are represented here, but they are unfortunately pretty forgettable, though there is a decent cover of the Four Tops’ “Something About You”.

“King of Love” is a return to form via an unsolicited tape that actually got to Edmunds, he liked it, he recorded it! Sounding a little bit like a Cajun, early-60’s call and answer, it’s another fun, rockin’ number! This collection closes with “Closer to the Flame”, a nice enough R’n’B influenced tune, but not stellar.

All in all though, this is a fantastic collection of songs by an incredibly talented guitarist and singer. If you’re already familiar with Dave Edmunds, then you know how good this all is! If you’re not, this is a great start! But, be sure to check out his full albums – especially those from the 70’s – for lots more great stuff!

Here's a good site on Dave Edmunds and here's some good videos