Monday, April 21, 2008

Miracle Workers – Roll Out the Red Carpet

Unlike the Primary Domain CD, this release is not so much of a surprise since it was initially put out in CD form, as well as vinyl and cassette. So, the mix is the same on all of the different media.

But that certainly does not mean that this is not a fantastic CD! This is one of the highlights of this band’s career. They really learned how to use the studio and weren’t afraid to experiment and try new sounds, though it never sounds excessive, even when they bounced tracks because 24 weren’t enough for them!

Opening with the blistering “Fool”, you know that this is a high-energy r’n’r band at the top of its game! Though this is the debut of drummer Aaron Sperske, he fits in seamlessly and kicks butt throughout. The whole band was pretty much living together at this time and they really crafted some amazing tunes.

The title song follows and is slightly slower, but still a heavy number full of guitars, blues-harp and cool lyrics from singer Gerry Mohr. Rob Butler opens “Kindred Soul” with wah-wah bass (a tribute to Black Sabbath’s Geezer Butler – Rob even called himself Wheezer Butthair for his graphic art alter ego) and the band creates another mid-tempo rocker gem. Guitarist Matt Rogers shows off his penchant for memorable riffs and general terrific playing throughout.

“Rock’n’Roll Revolution in the Streets (Part 1)” is just mind-bogglingly fantastic! Driven to hyper speed by Aaron, Rogers’ throws licks around right and left while Mohr keeps a melody on top of the madness (he even sings “it takes a little madness to make me feel alive”). Matt trades solos with himself and shows why he was one of the best on the scene at the time.

On the vinyl version this ended side one, which gave you a chance to catch your breath before flipping the record. On the CD, they move on with a bonus track, “Way Back When”. Again, it’s a little slower, with a superb opening riff by Matt, and is damn near a ballad, without losing any intensity. Rob’s “Magic Slide” follows and while it is a different mix than the one that appears on the Primary Domain CD, it doesn’t seem to be drastically different.

I guess they just couldn’t come to a consensus on a name for “Untitled” but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t one of the best tunes of the record! Absolutely rockin’, tons more great guitars, cool dynamics and nice words. I do think that Gerry was one of my favorite lyricists at the time – he would really try to say something more than “my baby left me – Wah!” – and I think that we had a lot of the same influences.

The one true ballad on the record is “Pretty One”, a sweet tune of love that still has plenty of guitar and some really nice keyboard work from Gerry. The album ended with the moody “Burn Baby Burn” (no relation to any other song with the same name), a heavy tune that contains some lonely sounding harmonica, which ended the record on a bit of a downer note. But this CD (and, if my memory is correct, the cassette, as well) ends with the ever-rockin’, organ-driven “In the Air”. This upbeat head-shaker is up there with their best and it’s kinda surprising that it was left off of the album.

Sadly, not long after this record was released, the band dissolved and this was the last official release while the band existed. There was a final effort – Anatomy of a Creep – which, while not bad, does tend to sound like what it was – a contract fulfilling record.

But Roll Out the Red Carpet stands the test of time as one of the best albums of the 90’s!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Motorhead – No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith

Featuring the classic Motorhead lineup of Lemmy, guitarist Fast Eddie and crazed drummer Philthy Animal Taylor, this 1981 recording shows the band at its peak, rampaging throughout England and Europe.

No real surprises here, but the greats are included – “Ace of Spades”, “Stay Clean”, “Metropolis”, “Iron Horse”, “Overkill”, “(We Are) the Road Crew”, “Bomber”, “Motorhead” and more!

Sounds quality is stellar throughout and you don’t have to risk your eardrums as you would if you saw them in person! (Anyone who has ever seen them has said that they were one of the loudest bands ever for any size arena!)

Basically, this is a no-brainer – it’s a rockin’ live set by an amazing group! Though, as with the Black Sabbath set Past Lives, they play so close to the originals, and the studio takes are so packed with energy as it is, that there isn’t much variation here. Bonus tracks do include an alternative version of “Capricorn” as well as a totally demented version of “Train Kept A-Rollin’”! Damn near worth the price right there!

I am reminded of an incident at one of the Motorhead shows that I saw: some asshole was throwing firecrackers and Lemmy screamed out that if he caught the fucker throwing them he would rip their eyeballs out! Needless to say, the firecrackers stopped completely!

Blues Breakers – John Mayall with Eric Clapton

I had heard some of John Mayall’s work before and even a couple of tunes with Clapton playing, but this album is a true revelation!

Clapton joined the Blues Breakers after quitting the Yardbirds due to their pop tendencies and specifically their hit single, “For Your Love”. With Mayall, he found another lover of pure blues music and so they joined forces, Eric bought a Les Paul (to emulate Freddie King) and a Marshall amp and changed the sound of the blues (and r’n’r) forever! Aided by a sympathetic producer, Mike Vernon, the band was able to capture Eric’s revolutionary sound – produced by playing at a high volume, which was seriously frowned upon at most studios at the time.

John turned Clapton on to many blues guitar heroes and he learned fast and furiously! This record shows Eric at his best – perfect tone and classic playing – never overboard, never excessive, just incredible licks in just the right place! The rest of the band is totally solid, as well, including great harp playing by Mayall.

As much as I dig Cream, the band certainly could go way overboard squeezing as many notes as possible in every measure of a song. Here, the entire group works together and produces a superb blues rock album!

J Geils Band - The J Geils Band

The debut release of the fabulous J. Geils Band was uncreatively titled The J. Geils Band but that was all that was uncreative about this release! While not as manic as their live shows, this was a terrific blast of updated, white-boy Boston blues and r’n’b! They even look way cool in their greased-hair/leather-jacketed cover pix.

I had heard most of these tunes in a live setting before I got this album, so many of them seem a little slow to me, but the intensity is still there. Opening with “Wait”, you get to hear all of their trademarks – Magic Dick’s remarkable harmonica playing, Geils’ super guitar, Justman’s cool keys, Wolf’s raw vocals and the perfect rhythm section of Bladd and Klein.

“Icebreaker” is a fun guitar/harp duet instrumental that allows each to strut their stuff and Seth even gets a hip little organ solo, too! Another fine groove is “Cruisin’ For a Love” that jumps into the drivin’ “Hard Drivin’ Man”. Their piece de resistance for this album is certainly their slow but ferocious take on John Lee Hooker’s “Serves You Right To Suffer”, which showcases each man’s many talents – powerful stuff!

One of my faves has always been their version of “Homework” by Otis Rush – terrific tune, great arrangement, prefect playing and singing and a rave-up ending! This blasts into the wonderful “First I Look at the Purse”, Smokey Robinson’s paen to materialism. I can’t count how many bands have taken this arrangement for their own, whether it be LA bluesmen Top Jimmy and the Rhythm Pigs of punk’n’rollers Nashville Pussy. Damn near perfect – only surpassed by their live version on Full House!

“What’s Your Hurry” is a good pop tune which is follows by the slow, bluesy ballad “On Borrowed Time” before they jack it up again with Walter Price’s “Pack Fair and Square”. This is a hand-clapping mover that would take some serious will power to sit still for!

The record closes with another instrumental, Albert Collins’ “Sno Cone”, keeping the groove going right to the end! More phenomenal playing by the whole crew!

A super debut, though not nearly as great as they would get! Well worth owning, though!

J. Geils Band – Nightmares and Other Tales From the Vinyl Jungle

Somehow, this release evaded me up until now – how, I don’t know – which means that this is almost a holy grail for me – a full album’s worth of prime-era (70’s) J. Geils Band!

Opening with one of the highlights of Blow Your Face Out, “Detroit Breakdown”, it’s obvious that this is another great J. Geils party record! There are only a couple of tunes from that live album on this release, and they are different enough to want to have both versions! The tunes lack a little of the intensity of the live takes but are still damn fine rockers!

Of course, there are plenty of songs here that I have never heard before. “Givin’ It All Up” is one of those and is a nice, upbeat r’n’b/pop tune that is vintage Geils! Another highlight of the afore-mentioned live record is “Must of Got Lost”. Of course, this studio takes doesn’t include Wolf’s fantastic pre-song rap, and, again, it is slightly more subdued but is still a terrific, boppin’ r’n’b number that shows the strength of the songwriting abilities of singer Peter Wolf and keyboard whiz Seth Justman, who collaborated on all of the originals on this record.

“Look Me in the Eye” is a funky groover with plenty of great Geils guitar licks and a beat that will definitely get ya movin’! Wolf shows off his DJ-rappin’ abilities on “Nightmares”, which is a short, percussion-dominated trippy number. Magic Dick’s incredible harp playing takes center stage on “Stoop Down #39” which starts as a wild, high-energy blues-blast before moving to half time (which is still uptempo!) so that Wolf can come in for another great Geils tune! Dick is truly one of the best harp players since the era of the greats like Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter, Junior Wells, and the like – he did more with the instrument than most people would even think was possible!

They move into unusual territory with “I’ll Be Coming Home”, with its tango-like tempo. The group did like to experiment and move outside of their blues/r’n’b image (though always incorporating those genres) and sometimes the experiments worked better than others. Unfortunately, this is not one of their better tries – not bad, just nothing special.

These cats must have been one of the first white bands to ever cover Andre Williams, with their take on his “Funky Judge”. It’s another mover, in a funky/reggae kinda way, but not very substantial – more of a comedy number than anything else.

Closing with the appropriately titled “Getting’ Out”, they kick up the energy again to kick out their groovin’ jams, with everyone giving it their all. Rhythm section of Stephen Jo Bladd (drums) and Daniel Klein on bass are super tight and keep a solid bottom for the rest of the guys to play over. J. Geils again proves that he is a terrific ravin’ blues player with an amazing tone, Seth shows his mastery of all keyboards (he put in piano and organ right where they are needed in each song) and I’ve already ranted about Magic Dick!

I’m damn grateful that I’ve finally found this lost (to me) masterpiece! Another excellent showing from one of the best bands of the 70’s!