Saturday, March 29, 2008

weird 80's rock scumbag story

Poison drummer arrested on rape warrant

PHILADELPHIA, Miss. - Poison drummer Rikki Rockett was arrested on a rape warrant and his case was turned over to the district attorney's office for possible grand jury consideration, officials said Friday.

Rockett, 46, was arrested Monday at or near Los Angeles International Airport, Los Angeles police said. He was booked and released, and was awaiting an extradition decision by Mississippi prosecutors.

A woman in Mississippi filed a complaint that she was raped on Sept. 23, 2007, at the Silver Star Casino, Neshoba County sheriff's investigator Ralph Sciple said.

"The subject, Rikki Rockett, forcibly had sex with an adult in one of the hotel rooms," according to a complaint.

Sciple said the woman contacted authorities several days after the alleged attack. He did not discuss details of the case, but said his office believed the woman's complaint warranted review by the district attorney.

The casino-hotel complex in Philadelphia, about an hour northeast of Jackson, is owned by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.

Rockett, whose real name is Richard Ream, did not have a listed number in the Los Angeles area and could not be reached Friday for comment.

Rockett was booked into the Los Angeles County jail under his stage name and released early Tuesday, according to jail inmate information on the county sheriff's Web site. Sciple said there was no immediate attempt to bring Rockett back to Mississippi and a decision on extradition would await action by the district attorney.

Rockett and singer Bret Michaels founded Poison, the glam-metal band with a string of hits in the 1980s, including "Talk Dirty to Me."


Obviously, i have no idea whether the accusations are true or not, but how weird is it that this guy accused of rape is actually named Dick Ream?!?!

And considering the sleazy - and terrible - band that he was in, why did he change his name?!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Slade – Beginnings/Play It Loud

After picking up the terrific comp, In For A Penny, I was really looking forward to getting this release of early Slade. Songs like “Sweet Box” and their version of “Shapes of Things to Come” made me want to hear more of their pre-glam-success recordings. Unfortunately, this release overall is not as great as those songs would have indicated.

The first album shows the band floundering for an identity, whether this was due to their own uncertainty or because of record company mechanizations, I have no idea, but it is a shame. There are moments when their future greatness peaks out, but there are also many weak points here.

Beginnings starts with “Genesis” (pretty funny in a biblical kinda way!), which is actually an instrumental version of “Know Who You Are” with someone going crazy with the phasing. The song appears with lyrics on “Play It Loud” and it is definitely more effective in the latter version.
This record is heavy with covers, some more effective than others. Being a huge Steppenwolf fan, I dig their versions of “Everybody’s Next One” and “Born to be Wild”, both done more than credibly, though not really changing or adding to the fantastic originals. I’m not sure who wrote “Knockin’ Nails Into My House”, but it is an interesting semi-mersey, semi-mod number that isn’t bad. “Roach Daddy” is an original but is a fairly ordinary blues-based tune. Then they pull out a truly outrageous cover – the Mothers of Invention’s “Ain’t Got No Heart” from Freak Out! This is actually pretty damn cool, though, again, not vastly different from the original. It sounds a lot less sarcastic coming from Noddy though and it highlights the guys’ playing skills.

“Pity the Mother” is a nice piece of English freak-beat styled music – somewhat psychedelic and still far removed from their later works! They do another instrumental with “Mad Dog Cole” with some hip guitar/vocal duets, previewing those two lead instruments’ heavy influence in their future!

They even cover the Moody Blues – believe it or not - in “Fly Me High”, an unexceptional 60’s pop tune, and then Marvin Gaye in “If This World Were Mine” a soul tune that is close but still misses the mark, though I dig Noddy’s singing on it. Even the Beatles are mined for – of all things – “Martha My Dear”! (Though they did have some “dance hall song” leanings in their 70’s ballads.)

By far the wildest raver on the record is the afore-mentioned “Born to be Wild”, which is taken to an even more over-the-top extreme on their live album! They close with the Amboy Dukes’ “Journey to the Centre (sic) of Your Mind” (funny how they changed it to the English spelling!). This is also pretty good, though Dave Hill is not quite the guitar madman that Nugent is.

By their second album, Play it Loud, the band was growing more confident in their songwriting and thus created a more interesting record. They are still flirting with a skinhead image (much to their chagrin – this misguided idea wasn’t theirs and they thankfully moved off into the successful and fun glam image) but the songs are starting to take shape.

You can see some of their future ideas forming in “Raven”. If the guitars were a little tougher this could be pretty damn cool. “See Us Here” does have a little more “oomph” to the instruments and Holder is showing us what he is capable of vocally. I dig this early example of their “rock’n’rave” style! A semi-ballad in the style of songs like “My Friend Stan”, “Dapple Rose” works in that aspect. I don’t know who wrote “Could I”, but it is a little confused, psychedelic tune that is followed by “One Way Hotel”, another original. Again, this gives some indication of their future strengths and is another good one.

The first single from this record was their take on “Shapes of Things to Come”, which is truly great! They make this their own, with Noddy’s excellent singing and Dave’s powerful guitar riffing (including a neat “morse-code” section in the last verse) throughout. If the whole album sounded like this, it would be a true gem! “Know Who You Are” is another monster – not quite as perfect as the live version, but still an incessant, simmering song that boils over on the choruses.

“I Remember” and “Pouk Hill” are a bit of a bring-down after those two pieces of greatness, but again, not bad, just not memorable. I do like “Angelina”, though again I’m not sure who did it originally. It sounds like one of their 50’s-styled rockers, which is always good fun! “Dirty Joker” seems to be a kinda weird take on the Everly Brothers “Bird Dog” turned inside out. But the album closer, “Sweet Box”, is a filthy Slade classic – good melody, incredibly dirty lyrics, a good beat and more rockin’ playing!

Bonus tracks on this CD include the semi-forgettable “Wild Winds are Blowing” and the truly amazing “Get Down and Get With It”, which is probably their first perfect take! Yes, live it was even crazier, but this is true “rock’n’rave” material and shows the band at their best.

Overall, an uneven collection, but for fans it is an intriguing look into the early history of this phenomenal band! The booklet included has some great early pix too, which show the reason why Hill grew his hair so long and wore such high platform heels!

Miracle Workers – Primary Domain

The first thing I noticed about this CD release is the dramatic re-mixing by Gerry Mohr making it sound vastly different than the album. Not that this is bad, but considering that I have listened to the album a million times or more, the changes are almost startling. I don't know if I would say that either mix is better, but they are quite distinctive, making the purchase of the CD worthwhile regardless of whether or not you have the vinyl (of course you won't want to get rid of the vinyl now!).

There are several bonus tracks, such as bassist Rob Butler's "Memory Lane", which, in an unusual move, opens the CD! It’s a great rocker and a great start for the record! The rest of the tracks have changed order from the vinyl, as well. “69 Ways” is another high-energy head-shaker with Gerry’s cool line “didn’t want to fall in love but maybe now I do”! “The Most Righteous Way” was the album opener and is still a raver! Starting with one of Matt Rogers’ excellent guitar riffs, they play with dynamics in the verses and then slams out the choruses. Matt provides a rockin’ solo as well, showing off his prowess as one of the best guitarists of the scene!

“Ninety-Nine” continues in this vein, though this is pure, non-stop power-rock! Another incredible break by Rogers as Mohr sings about touring, including a nod to a trip that my band went on with them: “hand me that Fourgiven pin, and a coke can to poke it in” (in order to make a disposable bong)!

Gerry worried that the band could become one dimensional and wanted to prove that they were more than crazed rock’n’rollers. “Your Brown Eyes” is downright pretty and ballad-y, though in no ways dull! Romantic and sensitive as hell, but, while much quieter, still has a beat and is a super tune!

Butler’s contribution to the vinyl release is “Long Gone on her Night Train”, which I find to be a funny play on words, and is a cool garage rocker with nice harp playing by Rob and even a guitar/harmonica duet!

The band’s masterpiece for this album is the fantastic “Mary Jane”. They couldn’t be more obvious in regards to the subject of the song (though it specifically references some friends in Switzerland, where Gerry and Rob eventually moved) and the riffs, keyboards and reverbed vocals makes it sounds like you’re stoned! Still more terrific guitars from Matt and Gerry plays some cool keyboards.

Another bonus track on the CD is the acoustic “Senor Amore Theme”, dedicated to a friend of the musical family by the same name. This is a nice instrumental interlude. The band follows this with the intense mania of “She Came to Stay”, a wild ride that has an incredibly slow bridge stuck in the middle before returning to the insanity for the end!

“Tick Tock” is an almost agonizingly slow acoustic ballad that is my least favorite song of the record – maybe of the band’s career. It’s not terrible, just not up to this group’s high standards and the tempo – it literally moves with a “tick tock” rhythm – slows the record’s momentum to an abrupt halt. This has always reminded me of the MC5’s “Let Me Try” from Back in the USA – breaking up an otherwise super strong record.

“Earlier Today” isn’t manic, but it is a superb mid-tempo r’n’r tune, with excellent words and melody. I realize that I haven’t given kudos to drummer extraordinaire, Gene Trautman, but, while he doesn’t get any specific spots, he is perfect throughout the record and was an amazing time-keeper for this band. He has gone on to such bands as the Queens of the Stone Age and Eagles of Death Metal. Nice guy and incredible musician – any success is well deserved!

The final track is another bonus and another Butler tune, “Magic Slide”, another garage rocker previously released – in another version – on the great Roll Out the Red Carpet CD.

This highlights absolutely one of the best bands of the 80's at their prime. This record sounds great (thanks at least in part to their sound man and all around cool cat, Hutch, who worked on this album) and shows off the band at their peak musically and in their songwriting. An essential garage/punk'n'roll effort!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Dictators – Every Day is Saturday

This compilation of unreleased tunes and demos spans the band’s career from before Go Girl Crazy right up to D.F.F.D. Cassettes of a number of these songs have been traded by fans for decades but having everything and more all in one place, on CD no less, is damn near a Dictators-holy-grail!

Sure, the sound quality fluctuates throughout but the quality of the tunes is undeniable! Opening with a demo of “Weekend” (which I hadn’t heard before), this goes through a number of songs that were on those bootleg cassettes – “Backseat Boogie”, “Firemen’s Friend” (based on an episode of the Superman TV show!), “America the Beautiful” (rockin’ patriots that they are!), “!6 Forever” (covered by many bands and most exceptionally by the Nomads) – and includes a large number of unreleased versions of Bloodbrothers tunes, as well as some from the other albums. In fact, as I look closer, this includes different takes of every song from Bloodbrothers other than their cover of the Flamin' Groovies' “Slow Death”!

I love hearing their variations on their themes! Absolutely genius stuff and sometimes maybe even better than the released versions (especially in the case of the Bloodbrothers numbers)!

I wasn’t even aware of this release until I stumbled upon it on Amazon, of all places, but this is one of my more exciting buys in recent times! An extensive booklet is included, as well. This probably isn’t the best starting place, but utterly essential for fans!

one of the sillier things i have ever heard

Dr Pepper issues challenge to Guns N' Roses

NEW YORK (Billboard) - Many have tried, but so far nobody has been able to pry the decade-in-the-works Guns N' Roses album "Chinese Democracy" from the hands of lone remaining original member Axl Rose.

Now, Dr Pepper thinks it's up to the challenge. The soft drink company says it will give a free can of Dr Pepper to "everyone in America" (excluding ex-Guns members Slash and Buckethead) if "Chinese Democracy" arrives anytime during the calendar year 2008.

Rose responded on his band's web site that the band was "surprised and very happy to have the support of Dr Pepper." But the offer did not prompt him to rose to the challenge.

"Chinese Democracy" was most recently scheduled for release in March 2007, but promptly vanished from the schedule without a new date being set. Rose said at the time that all the recording had been completed, but there were some "scheduling difficulties."

It will be the first album of fresh Guns N' Roses material since the 1991 sets "Use Your Illusion I" and "Use Your Illusion II." Rose has reportedly burned through $13 million in recording expenses for "Chinese Democracy," and also burned his bridges with the bandmates who helped him turn Guns into one of the biggest rock groups in the world by the early 1990s.

What a bizarre marketing scheme! I can't imagine that Dr. Pepper thinks that something this silly would affect Axl's decision in any way.

Also, does anyone actually think that anybody in the world gives a shit about this album? Did anyone even care about the last album released 17 years ago?! This was an incredibly over-rated band with an exceptionally bad singer that put out some crap a couple of decades ago. Do even old fans want this shit? Does anyone even remember Axl?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Alice Cooper – School’s Out

The last of their 3 near-perfect albums (Billion Dollar Babies is still pretty hot, but was already showing the band’s fracturing, especially with the addition of outside musicians), School’s Out blasts out the title cut with one of the greatest guitar riffs of all time (written by Michael Bruce and played by Glen Buxton)! In a truly masterful move, Alice took a line from a Bowery Boys movie in which they were basically saying “wise up” – y’know, “school’s out, you should know this by now” – and made it a yearly anthem.

Every teenager in the country was singing along with the “no more teachers, no more books” nursery rhyme and rockin’ out to the shrieking lead guitars, high energy and amazing lines like “we can’t even think of a word that rhymes”! Right up there with “Eighteen” and “Be My Lover” as an amazing hit single and one of their most memorable songs of all time!

They don’t let up on “Luney Tune”, another teen anthem that has a bit of an off-kilter beat, but still rocks. It tells a story of getting locked up for being a rebellious teen and committing suicide in the loony bin – typical Alice! Bassist Dennis Dunaway - one of the best in the biz - helped to co-write this one, which makes sense as he was one of the weirder ones even in this group!

The band’s movie-musical side is blatantly obvious in their tribute to West Side Story, “Gutter Cat Vs. The Jets”. Stealing the movie’s main musical theme, they twisted this from a love story to dirty sex as Alice sings lines like “she made my eyes bug out, my tail stand up, I was even in heat for a mutt”! But they retained the Jet’s theme, which is a damn good song! This set up the story that worked as psychotic theater live, as the band literally fought each other on stage during the following “Street Fight”.

“Blue Turk” is practically a jazz tune, complete with horn solos, which almost makes it sound like their version of an MC5 experiment, though a lot more controlled than that band’s freakouts! Alice’s lyrics are sexy/scary – “you’re squirming wet baby” along with “earthworms rule your brain”. These cats were demented!

Starting as an actually quite pretty piano-driven tune, “My Stars” then barrels into a heavy, shouted rocker that continues to switch back and forth from near a-rhythmic timing to hard rock! “Public Animal #9” is pure teen angst – talking about “cheating at the math test” and “carving dirty words in our desks” and giving “a month of cigarettes for just a couple of lousy beers”. Fantastic r’n’r in every aspect right through to Alice’s guttural growls at the end!

Written by phenomenal drummer, Neil Smith, “Alma Mater” is surprisingly un-rocking, overall, but tells a tale of a kid who was obviously popular in high school and is afraid of becoming a nobody in the real world and of his classmates forgetting him. But the “so long, everybody, I hope that I will see you again” does have some fun oomph to it and I’m sure that there were plenty of Cooper fans who could relate as well as plenty who hated this character!

The “Grande Finale” is indeed that – a 4-1/2 minute, horn-driven instrumental that sounds like a finale to a show or a movie, even incorporating themes from the rest of the record – pretty fitting for this band, as their concerts were as much theater as anything else.

The packaging on the long player was pure genius (which the CD unfortunately cannot emulate), even considering what you would expect from this group! The cover folded open like a school desk top, with graffiti and “carved” initials from the band throughout, and the vinyl itself came in paper panties as opposed to a dust cover! Utterly perfect!

Edwin Starr – 20th Century Masters – the Best of

I picked this up cheap without really realizing the number of hits that this man was responsible for. Of course, I grew up with the incredible “War” blasting through my AM radio, but I was less familiar with his earlier tunes.

Opening with the R’n’B Top Ten hit “Agent Double-O-Soul”, Starr shows that he is a terrific song writer as well as singer, and he had a knack for a clever turn of phrase. This continues on “Stop Her On Sight (S.O.S.)”, which has a similar feel and became another hit for him.

“Twenty Five Miles” is a true classic – a great, upbeat sing-along about being determined to walk back to his baby because of her lovin’! “I got to keep on walkin’” he shouts over an incessant dance groove as he counts down the miles. A near-perfect r’n’b raver!

On a mellower note is “Oh How Happy”, a duet with Blinky Williams, which is lovely and became a soul standard after this recording.

Funnily enough, despite his obvious song-writing talents, “War”, probably his best known song, was not written by him, but by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, originally for the Temptations. Starr was smart enough to jump for this when it was offered to him and, coming shortly after the Kent State shootings, it became a number 1 hit in 1970. Rightfully so – funky, strident, angry, but still retaining its groove and melody. It does sound a bit like late 60’s Temptations, now that I think about it… By the way, the mix and mastering seems especially strong on this collection and I hear bits that I hadn’t heard before, such as the lead guitar lines that are somewhat buried on this tune.

“Stop the War Now” is a sound-alike that is a little too derivative to stand alone but would probably be thought of as a good song if you hadn’t heard “War” first. He does some nice funk with “Time” and “Funky Music Sho Nuff Turns Me On”.

There are a couple of more tunes on here, including a disco song, “Contact”, which I think is fairly mediocre even for the genre, but overall, this is amazing soul collection!

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Ramones – Brain Drain

In my opinion, this is one of the more powerful Ramones’ releases from the 80’s, with truly strong songs that actually shows growth in the band’s writing! They received some help along the way by such NY luminaries as Daniel Rey (who I understand plays a lot of the extra guitar work on their albums), Andy Shernoff and Ritchie Stotts.

Starting with “I Believe in Miracles”, Joey sounds like he does sincerely believes in the lyrics he sings and he is in great voice. A great, tough opening that still has a catchy chorus.

“Zero Zero UFO” is a bit obscure and while it rocks, it is not one of their best efforts. Their frustrated tough guy character is back in “Don’t’ Bust my Chops”, which I think may reflect Dee Dee’s feelings about the band at this time. Ritchie Stotts (Plasmatics) contributes to Dee Dee’s “Punishment Fits the Crime”, which Dee Dee sings and sounds a bit un-Ramones-like, and more standard rock (maybe like Stotts was doing in his solo band at the time) but is damn good stuff.

Joey stands out with his “All Screwed Up”, with its “baby baby’s” sprinkled liberally throughout. Their super charged version of “Palisades Park” came as a bit of a surprise to me and some of our friends, as our cover band, Donovan’s Fairies, came up with this same arrangement (actually saying “let’s do this Ramones-style”) and we know that people who knew the band had seen us play this prior to the recording of this album. Just kinda funny…

One of Dee Dee’s stand-out masterpieces (co-written by the aforementioned unsung NYC hero Rey) is the title song for Stephen King’s movie, “Pet Semetary”. Spooky sounding, but with a cool melody, perfect lyrics and it is still rockin’. This isn’t one of the amazingly genius punk rock tunes from the first few albums but is – dare I say it? – a somewhat mature song! Their video for this is pretty freakin’ terrific, as well, with dozens of NY scenester cameos!

The band goes into semi-hardcore territory for “Learn to Listen”, which means it isn’t one of my faves, though not bad. Joey’s songs from this period are fairly identifiable – there’s something in his sad romanticism, such as “Can’t Get You Outta My Mind” and “Come Back Baby”. They’re very Ramones-esque, though. This is contrasted by his contribution to their hard-core repertoire in “Ignorance is Bliss”, a collaboration with Shernoff.

Brain Drain closes with another classic, Joey’s “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)”, which is one of the perfect r’n’r Xmas tunes of all time. Fun, funny and even touching – one of Joey’s best!

I think most Ramones fans have to have heard this album by now, but if not, it’s a damn fine one – just don’t be expecting ‘76-era Ramones. Regardless, it is one of their highlights of the 80’s.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Gogol Bordello & Skindred at the Canyon Club (at the 4 Queens casino), Las Vegas March 15, 2008

Melanie and I discovered Gogol Bordello quite by accident when flipping channels in boredom one night and ending up on IFC or someplace similar who was showing a documentary on the New York No Wave movement. Somehow, Gogol was believed to be a modern continuation of this movement. Their absurd stage show especially appealed to Melanie and she then bought their CD.

We never expected them to come to Las Vegas, as we get so few touring bands and we assumed that no one here would know who they were.

Boy, were we wrong! This show by far had the longest line of any show that we’ve been to out here. I don’t think that the venue had any idea of their popularity, either – they made everyone enter through an outside entrance (we’re guessing so that the line wouldn’t enter the casino) and we had to pay cash to get in, as they couldn’t move their cash register to the back. They didn’t ignore the fire laws as most clubs in LA would do, but it was more crowded than any gig we’ve seen out here!

Opening was Skindred, from the UK, who we had never heard of but obviously a number of people in attendance were fans. They had a large portion of the audience slamming, pogoing and singing along to their weird mix of alternative, punk, reggae and rap! The singer can truly sing, but it was a bit too odd for me – but then I don’t care for reggae or rap, so I couldn’t relate.

Eventually, GB appeared and lived up to their odd reputation as Gypsy Punks! I can’t imagine how they came up with this concept, but I find it even weirder that it has become as popular as it has. Considering that bands such as the Hellacopters have painfully small audiences in this town, I can’t comprehend how this joke band got such a following. But, then, I’m an old fogey and certainly not in tune with the modern crowd. Melanie understood though and loved them!

While I can’t deny that they put n a funny, energetic show, for me it was just silly entertainment – I didn’t care for the music. It is an even odder combination of eastern Europe folk music, polka, zydeco, reggae, and rap (the reggae and rap influences are less pronounced on the recordings that I've heard) with the main instruments being acoustic guitar, fiddle and accordion! Their entourage is huge though, with a drummer, electric guitarist, electric bassist, rapper (in addition to the main lead singer), girl backup singers and various percussionists! They paced the show well, with more people coming on stage as the evening went on until the final song with at least a dozen people on stage in various wacky costumes playing a variety of instruments.

I had never before thought of the connection between zydeco, polka and reggae, but as GB perform, it seems undeniable. Unfortunately, I don’t really care for any of those styles overly much. Melanie does, though, and she loved the whole thing, as did the audience, who went crazy the entire night! Everyone was singing along and pogoing non-stop! I have no idea how this band has become so popular, but maybe I’m the only person who doesn’t know them! The crowd ranged from punks, to normal folks who looked older than me to hippies of all ages. I can only guess that the reggae influence draws the hippies (there were hippie dances and recorder playing going on before the band started) and the intense weirdness draws in the punks.

In any case, if you want to see a spectacle, this is for you! Just don’t expect a r’n’r band, but if you dig the other musical styles I mentioned, and enjoy a good laugh, Gogol Bordello will provide that!

Friday, March 14, 2008

David Bowie - Hunky Dory

While gaining some notoriety with “Space Oddity” as well as the Man Who Sold the World LP, Bowie rise to prominence really started with this album and the single, “Changes”. While not an AM hit, it received enough FM radio airplay to garner a fan base which then, of course, exploded with the release of the follow-up, Ziggy Stardust.

This record is one of David’s many transitional steps. He started his career as a folkie, went almost hard-rock with the aforementioned Man Who Sold the World and on Hunky Dory he almost straddles the two as he strives to create his own style.

I really can’t imagine why “Changes” wasn’t a huge hit – it is a great tune that every teenager can relate to. I can only guess that Bowie’s androgynous image was working against him in these pre-glam times. I think that classic radio has created a bigger hit in hindsight than it originally was. Reprising this theme in “Oh! You Pretty Things” David sings of the “homo superiors” (in a nod to his gay fans as well as to Marvel comics' the X-men) but this is really a metaphor for the rebellious teens who would become the core of the glam fan base.

“Eight Line Poem” is a nice forum for Mick Ronson’s guitar playing but is, truthfully, not a very substantive song. But, “Is There Life on Mars” is a great one with a melody that shows off Bowie’s range as well as his songwriter skills. Oddly enough, Rick Wakeman of Yes fame plays keyboard on this album, along with Bowie and Ronson. So while Mick shines throughout, this record if fairly keyboard dominated.

A truly sweet song for his first born (Zowie Bowie), “Kooks” is a self-deprecating look at Dave and Angie, who obviously loved their child. This is followed by the sparse folk-oriented “Quicksand” which harkens back to the “Space Oddity” days. While I don’t consider this one of the highlights of the album, it does contain the line “knowledge comes with death’s release” that the Nomads used to create a great, rockin’ tune in the 90’s! “Fill Your Heart” is more of the same type of folk-rock.

But then comes “Andy Warhol” (so to speak!). While this is acoustic guitar driven, it is an upbeat number and a classic tune. A cool climb and descent riff by Rono starts the song and Bowie sings funny lyrics about the pop artist and includes a damn catchy chorus. His next tribute to a star is “Song For Bob Dylan” which is somewhat folk-rock sounding as Mick does his best to propel it with his electric guitar. Good stuff!

The most r’n’r sounding tune on this record is definitely “Queen Bitch”. Still beginning with Bowie’s acoustic guitar, Ronson then comes in with his heavy metal guitar roaring out of the speakers and driving the song with a bit of a counter-play to David’s rhythms. A smartly-written build up leads into the cool chorus and forms a superb creation! Undoubtedly one of Bowie’s most under-rated songs.

Hunky Dory closes with “The Bewlay Brothers” and while not bad, I don’t think that this is quite the intense piece that is was meant to be. A precursor to “Rock and Roll Suicide” from Ziggy, but not quite there yet.

This is probably Bowie’s last folk record (that I know of, anyway) and while it suggests some of what is to come, it is not as solid as his next two records. In fact, I may prefer Man Who Sold the World, but that is probably simply my preferences for loud guitars talking! Still, a record that any self-respecting lover of 70’s rock should own!

David Bowie - Pin Ups

Coming after the incredibly successful triumvirate of albums Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust and Alladin Sane, Pin Ups seems to often be overlooked, but although it is comprised entirely of cover songs, it is an incredibly strong effort.

While all too many people either re-do a song by copying the original or by doing their best to eradicate every vestige of the tune, Bowie manages to always keep the spirit and the feel of the song while still making it his own. He is aided and abetted by a truly phenomenal band who really play together in a way that all too few groups do – they actually interact and play around each other to create a fantastic whole. In addition to stellar guitarist Mick Ronson, fellow Spiders From Mars member, bassist Trevor Bolder is joined by drummer extraordinaire Aynsley Dunbar and Spiders keyboardist Mike Garson.

Ronno’s distinctive guitar tone dominates this record and gives many of the songs their updated, original feel. Opening with the Pretty Things incredible “Rosalyn”, the record blasts off in a wave of high energy! As I said, the song is true to the original, but still has a heavy 70’s glam feel. Great, rockin’ stuff!This immediately segues into their take on Them’s “Here Comes the Night” with cool saxophone by Bowie and/or session player Ken Fordham. One of the songs that I was least familiar with is Billy Boy Arnold’s “I Wish You Would”, which, at least in Bowie’s hands, is a cross between the Who and the Pretty Things again driven by Ronson’s Les Paul and then, bizarrely, finishing with an electric violin solo!

“See Emily Play” is still eerily psychedelic, but is still tougher than Pink Floyd even when David sounds particularly fey in his singing. Aynsley’s drumming makes the middle freak-out section sound somewhat Who-like but this is still damn trippy!

The other fairly obscure tune of the collection is the Mojos’ “Everything’s Alright”, which I’m told was a beat group hit in England with none other than Dunbar playing drums! (Not to be confused with the Mojo Men, of “Sit Down I Think I Love You” fame.) It’s a damn good tune, though I dare say that Bowie changed it up a bit cuz it hardly sounds like a standard beat song in this incarnation.

A slowed down, sax-driven, incredibly distorted guitar version of “Can’t Explain” somehow changes it from a amphetamine ode to teen sexual frustration to a seductive number. The Easybeats’ “Friday on My Mind” is actually reasonably straight-forward, though the original’s intricate guitar interplay would be difficult to improve upon! There is a truly clever version of the Mersey’s “Sorrow” (I knew it from the Searchers) with overlapping vocals on a verse and a really nice ending – a super Mersey-beat pop tune!

The rest of the album is powered out takes on some huge hits by the best of the British 60’s stars. “Don’t Bring Me Down” is another Pretty Things’ screamer with Mick’s terrific guitar propelling it along and some good harp playing by Bowie. “Shapes of Things to Come” is probably more related to the Jeff Beck Group version rather than the Yardbirds, which only means it is even heavier! Ronson does a fine take on Beck’s innovative solo, as well.

“Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere” sounds like the version the Who would’ve done if they had included it in their Live at Leeds set – maniacal hard rock! Again, Dunbar shows off his skills and shows why he was one of the highly respected drummers of the 70’s.

Finishing this album is an impassioned take on the Kinks classic “Where Have All the Good Times Gone” and while it is not wildly different from Davies’ original, Bowie sings it like he means it while the band cooks behind him.

I think that Bowie is an incredible songwriter, but this collection is super fun, extremely well played and despite the closing song, is an damn good time!

(In a supremely odd move, Bowie apparently even covered Bruce Springsteen’s (!) “Growin’ Up” during the Diamond Dog recording session, though it is not included on the original Pin Ups. I haven't heard it, but I guess it isn't quite as odd as it sounds - I could see it alongside of "Changes", maybe...)

The Sweet - Desolation Boulevard and Give Us a Wink

The Sweet came to prominence in the early 70’s with legendary Chin-Chapman productions of somewhat silly (but still great!) pop tunes such as “Little Willy” and “Wig Wam Bam”. Some of the earlier tunes are questionable (what the hell was anyone thinking with drek like “Poppa Joe” and “CoCo”?) but once they hit their stride, they were an unstoppable pop-rock machine!

But as they grew more confident as songwriters, they felt that they were much more. While they continued to pump out Chin-Chapman tunes, they also created their own form of heavy-metal pop with the likes of “Fox On the Run” (a very misogynist anti-groupie paean). Their playing was stellar – guitarist Andy Scott should rank right up their with hard rock greats like Ritchie Blackmore and I can only assume that he doesn’t due to the pop mantel that the Sweet carries – and, of course, the singing was beyond phenomenal. Once they got past their initial silliness, they were far from light-weight! Loud guitars dominated the material from “Little Willy” on. They were simply carrying on the tradition of the Who, with even flashier playing and, admittedly, wilder outfits as they crashed the Glam Rock scene.

“Fox on the Run” & “Action” – the first 2 self-penned hits – propelled their self-produced records, Desolation Boulevard and Give Us a Wink, to stardom! These two albums are absolutely their best (American) releases. Very different track listings were put out elsewhere, but the American releases are super-strong!

Starting with their gargantuan smash, “Ballroom Blitz”, Desolation Boulevard assures you that this is no wimpy pop band! Yes, they were glammy, fey and even somewhat kitchy (especially in the memorable introduction), but once the guitars blast in, this monster doesn’t stop! The fact that they have several more rockers that are just as memorable is a testament to the level of songwriting these guys – and Chin-Chapman – were capable of!

Their ode to the teen years, “The Six Teens” has some uncommonly political lyrics alongside of strong guitar lines and a catchy, group chorus. “No You Don’t” is incredibly heavy and practically slams the power chords over your head! “A.C.D.C.” is rockingly upbeat and has funny lyrics about a girlfriend having a girlfriend and was aptly covered by Joan Jett on a recent album.

In a precursor to the Ramones, “I Wanna Be Committed” includes the Sweet's patented vocal harmonies yet still sounds somewhat psycho - or, at least schizophrenic as they move from irresistible sing-alongs to whacked out sections. The band seems to be seeing just how much they can get away with in calling a song “Sweet F.A.”! If that wasn’t enough, they sing “if she don’t spread I’ll bust her head” while synthesizers swirl and wildly distorted guitars abound. Andy adds a particularly crazed and fantastic, whammy-bar-driven solo at the end, as well.

Of course, the star of the album is their huge hit, “Fox on the Run” which, while astonishingly misogynist, is still a phenomenal pop tune and was certainly a breath of fresh air screaming out of AM radios in the ‘70’s!

Practically uncontrolled high-energy is exhibited in “Set Me Free” with the drivin’ guitars moving this along at super-speed! Another superb guitar solo is thrown in for good measure, too! They bring things back to a manageable speed on “Into the Night” – though no less hard rockin’ with more extremely heavy guitar tones, though Scott can still create super-sweet melodies, as well.

The album closes with “Solid Gold Brass” with particularly pretty vocals countered by still more guitars! A solid tune completing a freakin’ great glam-pop-hard-rock record!
The follow up to DS was Give Us a Wink, with a cover that would “wink” at you as you pulled out the dust sleeve. I guess that this gimmick showed that the record company knew that this would be another huge seller.

And the band delivers with the hard-drivin’ “Action”! All of their tricks are here – insane harmonies, great melody, tons of guitars and even some synthesizer for sweetener. Another pop-rock masterpiece that was a godsend for 70’s radio!

“Yesterday’s Rain” (not sure what the title refers to) is semi-misogynist and actually threatens to withhold sex from the woman in question (at least until he is “up to his balls inside her”)! Still, a relentless beat and truly clever 6-string licks (and some interesting production tricks) make for a fine song, though hardly teen-pop fare.

Vocal tricks and super-high harmonies dominate “White Mice”, but Andy is highlighted yet again and continues to show off his expertise in wild solos and memorable riffs. While I think that most people think of the harmonies when they think of the Sweet, I think of these insanely terrific solos!

Starting with a head-bopping beat that never lets up, “The Healer” seems to be one of their more serious songs. The groove truly is irresistible – steady but never boring. Returning to their pop tune mold in “The Lies in Your Eyes”, there is no reason why this shouldn’t have been a hit right up there with “Action”. Truly clever – even for them – melodies and harmonies while still r’n’r. Then it’s back to the power for the more metallic “Cockroach”, which sounds like it could’ve been off of a Deep Purple record!

This record ends with the uncharacteristically acoustic and romantic ballad “Lady Starlight”, showing another side to the band.

The Sweet is certainly one of the many highlights of the 70’s glam scene and anyone who digs loud, rockin’ guitars and incredibly perfect harmonies should own these 2 classic albums!

Blondie - Blondie

This debut is the band’s one damn-near perfect album before moving onto other territories such as disco and some so-so pop. Not that they didn’t do any good music after this, but nothing was ever quite as consistent again.

Opening with the shoulda-been-a-hit “X Offender”, Blondie displays their 60’s pop tendencies to the hilt, with cheesy (and terrific!) Farfisa organ, girl group vocals and reverbed guitars. This did become an underground hit but for some reason just couldn’t break into the mainstream.

The rest of the album is almost as good, with some truly fantastic 60’s-styled pop tunes. In fact, if the band had come out ten (or maybe even 5) years later, they would have been considered one of the 60’s revival bands instead of a new wave/punk group.

There are lots of little lyrical twists to promote singer Debbie Harry’s undeniable sexiness – “no girl he likes to ball better”, “I could give you some head…and shoulders to lie on”, etc. Would they have gotten the attention they did without her beauty? No way to know, but regardless, guitarist Chris Stein could really write some great songs.

“In the Flesh” is pure girl group ala the Shangra-las, “Look Good in Blue” contains the “head and shoulders” line as well as some cool guitar lines, “In the Sun” is their New York twist on surf music which is followed by their West Side Story tribute, “A Shark in Jet’s Clothing” which captures the movie’s feel while somehow still updating it all.

I really like the whole vibe of “Man Overboard”, though I can’t really say how I would describe it! Nice and somewhat eerily moody, though. “Rip Her to Shreds” is a super-snarky, anti-groupie tirade with call and answer vocals and biting lyrics like “she looks like she washes with Comet” and “red eye shadow, green mascara – Yuch! She’s too much”.

“Rifle Range” sounds like girl-group mixed with spy move themes that then moves into “Kung Fu Girls”, which is probably the “punkiest” tune on the record, with its feedback-driven guitars and acerbic vocals, but there are still heavy 60’s-keyboard sounds abounding. The album closes with the, quite frankly, silly “The Attack of the Giant Ants”, which is still good fun in a b-movie kinda way.

The CD release has 5 bonus tracks, including a terrific early take on the Shangra-las “Out in the Streets” as well as a couple of other previously unreleased (possibly Stilettos songs?) “The Thin Line” and “Platinum Blonde”. It closes with the single versions of “X Offender and “In the Sun”.

Overall, an absolutely great updated 60’s pop album!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

33-1/3 - James Brown Live at the Apollo by Douglas Wolk

Douglas actually has an advantage over many authors in the series in that the recording of this historic live album took place the same week as one of the most frightening events in recent history – the Cuba missile crisis. It’s possible that the excitement generated at this show is at least partially due to the fact that no one in the Apollo knew whether or not they would live through the week! I guess that there are far worse ways to go than after seeing James Brown at his prime!

He intertwines the events of the crisis with the week of the show and even the night of the show! It is amazing and quite scary just how close we came to nuclear war.

Wolk walks you through the evening, listing all of the opening acts (and informing us that Brown was on stage playing with his band, who was the backing band for a number of the acts) and their current hits and what songs (3 each, in most cases) they most likely performed. He then details James’ MC’s introduction to “STAR time!”

You do tend to feel like you are experiencing the show and not just the recording as Douglas goes through the details. That is when I think that this book series works – when the author is not afraid of the fine points. That’s what I’m interested in. You can figure out the gist of it on your own – I want to know as much as possible!

Douglas continues to intersperse the events that almost led to war with the events of the night of the show – mentioning that at about this moment in the show a bomber with a nuclear payload took off or a “saboteur” was shot outside a base (who turned out to be a bear).

On a lighter side, he also informs us of the chart placement of the songs performed (the studio versions as well as the versions from this album) and their history, as well as the story of the performers backing Brown this night – their solo careers as well as their time spent with James.

Definitely one of the more successful and interesting books of this series!