Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Steven Tyler – Does the Noise in My Head Bother You

As I've said before, I've been a fan of Aerosmith since I first heard them in the mid-70's - most likely when Toys in the Attic hit. I know that they put out a lot of drek in the 80's, but they would have an occasional fun tune, like "Dude Looks Like a Lady" or "Love in an Elevator". Not all that long ago they even released a great record of old blues tunes, showing that they still have the spirit inside them. Sure, they're past their prime now and they are more rumours about them breaking up than there are about any new music, but they have been an institution.

Steven's book tells his tale in his own, unique way. Far from linear - Tyler bounces all over the place chronologically - it is still a cool and is told in his own jive-talking parlance. It would have been nice to have a little more cohesion to the story (he never mentions how Brad Whitford joined the band, for instance, and, in fact barely mentions him throughout) and a little more behind-the-scenes in the recording studio, but he does go into the inspiration for a number of his tunes, which is interesting. There are some inaccuracies, including - oddly - his claim that he wrote "Big Ten Inch Record", which is, of course, an old r'n'b cover that he never claimed authorship of before, and he says that "Pandora's Box", from Get your Wings, was on Rocks.

Several chapters are spent complaining about management, the other band members and his women not understanding his affairs, which all tends to be a bit tedious, though I suppose it is informative to those who think that playing in a band is all fun and games. There are many medical issues that he has had due specifically to his stage persona (not to mention his legendary drug use), which is something that I've sure most people don't think of in terms of "stars".

Overall, enjoyable, but a bit of a downer in places, as life can be. Certainly not a definitive story of the group, though I doubt that anyone in the group could manage that. An interesting point of view of rock'n'roll and stardom through the years, though.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

well, duh - pretty obvious

Rolling Stone names Hendrix best guitarist ever

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Jim Jones Revue - Burning Your House Down

This is the follow up to the self-titled debut and here the band has ever-so-slightly cleaned up their act (less over the top distortion, reverb and echo), but not lost any of their energy or excitement.

"Dishonest John" opens the record with a blast of Black Moses-sounding punk'n'roll, while "High Horse" sounds like the MC5 doing 50's r'n'r. They seem to be working more on their grooves than their noise on tunes like "Foghorn" and "Big Len", though there is enough fuzz-driven guitar to keep anyone satisfied! "Premeditated" has a fantastic driving piano and a rockin' beat that will have you bouncin' in your seat!

Startin' with an early Stones kinda riff and a heavy blues feel, the title track is a r'n'r dance party all on its own, which Jones just growls through. Mortimer's piano dominates "Shoot First", moving it from almost a poppy number to a cool r'n'b jam. Then "Elemental" pounds in like a 2x4 to the skull - non-stop action from everyone on this number creating a wonderful r'n'r mania. Again, some flashbacks to Black Moses here, which is never a bad thing!

I'll be damned if "Killin' Spree" isn't a cross between "Natural Born Killers" and "American Bandstand" - a dance number for psychopaths! Jim is at his preachin' best in the rock gospel of "Righteous Wrong" and the band closes with a boogie-woogie rocker, "Stop the People", which actually isn't that far removed from Aerosmith's best.

Not nearly as deranged as the first record, but still a powerful piece of rock'n'roll that should be in everyone's collection!

The JIm Jones Revue - The Jim Jones Revue

Jim Jones' name has been synonymous with great rock'n'roll since the days of Thee Hypnotics and through his follow up combo, Black Moses. In this Revue, he continues with high-energy r'n'r, but now with a bit more of a 50's R'n'B revue feel to it. The driving piano of Elliot Mortimer gives this group a distinctive brand of punk'n'roll, whether plowing through originals, such as the blasting opening fairy tale "Princess & the Frog" or Rock'n'Roll Psychosis, or covers such as the mind-melting take on Little Richard's "Hey Hey Hey Hey" or the utterly psychotic version of "The Meat Man".

Some tunes are more rockabilly-ish than others, like "Fish 2 Fry", which sounds like it could be a more intense Roy Loney-era Flamin' Groovies number. "512" shows that they are masters of the rave-up, while "Another Daze" slows it down a hair, with a noisier "Roadrunner" kinda groove. Love the over-driven hollow-body guitars from Jones and Rupert Orton. The rhythm section of bassist Gavin Jay and Nick Jones on drums sure knows how to hold down a rockin' beat, as well.

Everything these cats do is over the top, whether it is the bluesy "Make it Hot" or the "Bama Lama Baba Lou" stylings of "Who's Got Mine?" or their version of Thunders' "Downtown" in "Cement Mixer". Everything is overdriven, everything is loud, and it all sounds great!

It don't get much better than this! Essential!

The Very Best of Little Richard

This greatest hits CD probably really does contain the very best of Little Richard! There is one smash hit after another here and Richard shouts and shimmies and roars through them all! When he was good, few could beat him. Jerry Lee was rawer and more intensely sexual, but Richard has his own wild abandon.

There are a couple of clunkers here, as well, such as the Tin Pan Alley standards "Baby Face" and "By the Light of the Silvery Moon", neither of which could be saved even by his whoops and hollars.

Also included is a neat little live medley and a song from his original audition tape, a re-working of Billy Wright's "Don't You Want a Man Like Me", simply titled "Baby". Nowhere near as raucous as his best, but an interesting piece of history.

You can't argue with Little Richard's hits, so if you don't have anything by the man, or just want a great CD collection, this is a good one!

Jerry Lee Lewis - A Half Century of Hits

Obviously, I've been on a little bit of a Jerry Lee kick lately, so when I found this 3 CD box set at a reasonable price, I picked it up. This contains cuts through the 90's, including several previously unreleased tunes, which makes it worth its while.

Of course, the Sun sessions that Jerry Lee cut are all stellar and are some of the most exciting r'n'r of all time. The man had boundless energy, a crazed piano style and, I think this is often overlooked, a fantastic and versatile voice. Disc one concentrates on this time, but does not contain everything and it leaves out some terrific cuts. It does include the big hits, from "Whole Lotta Shakin'" to "Great Balls of Fire" to "Breathless" to "High School Confidential" and even numbers that Sun did not release during Lewis' tenure there, such as the rockin' "Lewis Boogie". JLL always had a country side to him and one of his first recordings was Hank Williams' "You Win Again", which would help lead him back to the charts (albeit, the country charts) in the late 60's/early 70's.

I must confess that I have never been a big country fan, though I have gained a bit more appreciation for the genre (only the real stuff - not the modern pop crap that calls itself country), so disc 2's domination of C&W numbers that revived his career really does not do a lot for me, especially since most of the tunes are "sweetened" (i.e. weakened) with strings and female backing vocals. There are still goodies, such as "Hi Heel Sneakers", "I'm On Fire", "Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee" and "Meat Man", though even those suffer from the production. But, the disc ends with 2 tracks from his Live at the Star Club album, which bursts with JLL fire.

The third disc wavers from rockin' numbers to C&W again, to varied results, but ends with two true collector items - the very first numbers that Jerry Lee ever recorded back in 1952 and rescued from an acetate disc. This was simply a test recording that Lewis paid $2 to record, but shows that he was ready even then! "Don't Stay Away" was a then-current country hit and "New Orleans Boogie" was an improvised boogie-woogie that highlights his pounding piano style and proves that the rest of the world just had to catch up to him!

Again, since I am not a big country fan, much of this set does little for me, but considering the rarities included, it was well worth the price. Overall, though, I would stick to the Sun recordings to catch his most manic moments.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Neil Young International Harvesters - A Treasure

Young has always had country influences in his music, which has ebbed and flowed as he changed styles throughout his career. This live CD, recorded in 1984/1985, shows this influence in full swing as he toured with the International Harvesters, veterans of the Nashville scene.

This set includes 5 previously unreleased songs, as well the utterly appropriate "Are You Ready for the Country" (not sure why that wasn't the opener) and Buffalo Springfield's "Flying on the Ground is Wrong" (sounding like it came from the Heart of Gold sessions). Some tunes are more "straight" country than others - such as "It Might Have Been" and "Bound for Glory" - and other sounds creep in, such as the blues of "Soul of a Woman" and the bluegrass-ish romp of "Get Back to the Country".

The real stand out is the astonishing "Grey Riders" which combines country and hard rock to make an incredibly powerful statement that you can't help but be drawn into. This is a mix of "Ghost Riders in the Sky" and Rust Never Sleeps. Wonderful and perfect and one of his best.

The musicianship is stellar throughout and Young's songs are strong as ever. If you only like Young's hard rock, then this is not for you, but if you appreciate his various personas, especially his acoustic/country side, then this is another bit of greatness.

Le Noise - Neil Young

This 2010 release is a true collaboration between Neil Young and producer Daniel Lanois. I am not familiar with Lanois' work, primarily because most of the artists that he has worked with previously hold no interest for me. But here, Young performs by himself - just voice and guitar - and Lanois adds layers of sonic textures which can make you forget that Young is alone here - Lanois almost becomes the band.

That is not to say that Young's work couldn't stand on its on even if these songs were recorded simply and without any effects. I believe that Neil is one of the few artists who, while at times erratic, is still vital and creative and remains an incredibly talented songwriter as he ages. I love that he can still produce incredible noise as well as quiet, gentle ballads and everything still rings true. He is a true artist and a wonderful, mad genius.

I don't know if any of these songs will become classics as some of his past works have, but this is a fine album and something interesting and different. Not wholly unique, of course - besides harkening to some of his own past work, I hear things such as Spacemen 3 in the production - but original enough and this shows that Young continues to expand and try new things, which is an inspiration to this old man.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Lick Me - Cherry Vanilla

The full title of this book by well-known groupie Cherry Vanilla is Lick Me - How I Became Cherry Vanilla (by way of the Copacabana, Madison Avenue, the Fillmore East, Any Warhol, David Bowie and the Police). This kinda explains the whole tome right there!

Cherry's tale starts as a child in the New York area, going to the city with her parents, standing on the side of the stage at the Copacabana and even meeting Dean Martin - beginning her fascination with the famous.

As a teen, she worked at Madison Avenue ad agencies and became friends with the many gays there who turned her on to drugs, including acid, which she claims was mostly in the hands of the Mad Men at the time - that explains some of the commercials that came out then!

She came enthralled with r'n'r as the 60's went on, started hanging out and fucking musicians at the Fillmore and other venues in the NYC area and across the country (she diagnosed herself as a nymphomaniac sex addict, though what better time to be one?) and was eventually introduced to Warhol and his crowd and played the lead role in Pork during its British run. Due to Bowie's interest in Warhol, she became involved with him (sometimes as a lover) and helped run the Mainman operations for a while. That further increased her desire to become a r'n'r star herself, which led to her being backed by the pre-"Roxanne" Police in England.

She leaves off her story just as she is about to be signed by RCA - and, of course, she never really did much as a rock star - and wisely, does not go on very much about her post-r'n'r life, although even that sounds like it is more interesting than most people's!

A very entertaining book (with enough pathos, as well) of an extremely exciting time by a woman who was both overtly self-confident and self-conscious and who, I'm sure, many can relate to in some form or another.

Friday, November 04, 2011

weird and sad

GWAR guitarist Cory Smoot found dead on tour bus
I first saw GWAR in the late 80's in a small club in LA (with Celebrity Skin) with only a couple of dozen other people and was blown away - they had a massive show even in a tiny club. I saw them and their shows grow from there, but have not seen their resurgence.

According to the story, they still don't know the cause of death or even his age!