Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Heiz - Salvo

I picked up this CD along with Pronounced de Heiz at their show last weekend and have been diggin' them both immensely.

Coming out of the gate with a big-beat, call'n'answer, soul/rock'n'roll dance number, "777", they show they are ready to to be the soundtrack for your rock'n'roll party tonight! "Daybreak Jailbreak" is pure power-punk-pop, Watanabe takes the lead on the Buddy Holly-meets-the-Heartbreakers "Here Comes the Weekend", drummer Kimura sings the goofy, ska-meets-the Router's-"Let's Go" in "I'm Starving". there's a mid-tempo 60's bopper in "Cyborg Rock", "Teenage Volcano" is a cool, minor-key, 50's styled rockin' stomper and Watanabe comes back for the 70's punk rocker "Good Good News", that has cool drums breaks and plenty of harmonies.

More Ska influences in the melodic "The Louder the Better" (that also has obligatory Ramones and 60's stylings), "Automatic Sunday" is almost Deep Purple-ish, there's bits on Sonics'n'surf, ska'n'punk in the hilarious "ABCDEF**K", more power pop in the ballad-y "Traveling Band Rhapsody", frantic punk rock (with some hints of heavy metal) in "Another Helping", a sweet 70's pop ballad in "Nobody Knows" (with a bit of a melodic nod to "Whatever Gets You Through the Night" and something else that I can't place", and then a big bash'n'crash ending with a live take of "Too Much Rock'n'Roll Business" from the previous CD.

More big fun from this fab Japanese trio! Any lovers of rock'n'roll with a sense of humor should go ga-ga over these cats'n'kitten!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Heiz - Pronounced de heiz

After catching the Heiz, one of Japan's finest rock'n'roll bands, at the Double Down last weekend, I had to pick up the CDs that they had available. Mixing Ramones punk rock energy with 50's and 60's r'n'r, these cats do what Japan has been doing for years - distilling American r'n'r to its coolest elements and shipping it back to us.

Starting with their version of a 60's Beat number, "Don't Let Me Down", they show off all of their strengths - great vocals (more power-pop/ melodic that you can gather at live shows), cool riffage, plenty of spirit, and plenty of r'n'r references. "Black Pepper Girl" could have been a 70's glam number (as Glam Rock took liberally from the past, as well), "Too Much Rock'n'Roll Business" is a mix of Chuck Berry and the Heartbreakers (Thunders combo), "Wait Wait Wait" is a slightly slower 70's power-pop tune, "Sixteen Reasons" is a fun punk rocker that relies on counting (as opposed to spelling), "Dead End" is a simple, 50's styled punker with (female) bassist Watanabe singing fairly nonsensical lyrics (with a nod to the Herman Hermits/Ramones) and they do a Stray Cats-ish take on "I Love Rock'n'Roll".

More Ramones lifts in "Monday Morning Blues" and the incredibly goofy "Whole Lotta Pizza" and then a complete change of pace with a 70's-styled, Top Forty pop ballad, "Please Don't Cry" (I actually thought this was a cover at first - it sounds like something someone like Boz Scaggs would have done in the 70's). Back with the frantic'n'furious "S.O.S. Rock'n'Roll", more punk-ish rockabilly mixed with some 60's pop in "Hurry Up Baby", a take on Elvis' version of "Hound Dog" that is pretty respectful and then the finale, a live medley of "Wipe Out" and "Do You Remember Rock'n'Roll Radio".

This trio is truly rock'n'roll fun personified. Don't come knockin' on their door if you're not looking for a goofily good time!

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Very Best of Sandy Nelson

The Thanksgiving weekend allowed me to pull out and play some vinyl, something that I don't get a chance to do very often. I randomly ended up in the "N" section and realized that I hadn't played this one in ages.

Sandy Nelson is, of course, a drummer and band leader responsible for innumerable session work as well as a fairly prolific solo career. He had a number of instrumental hits in the 60's and this LP has some of his best.

His tom-heavy propulsion on "Teen Beat" is immediately identifiable and gives a real distinction to this groovy, surf-y number. "Big Noise From the Jungle" has a swingin' baritone guitar line, "Honky Tonk" was a hit for Bill Doggett but Sandy gives it a cool, danceable reading,he really drives "All Night Long" with snappy snare work and short solos (the honkin' sax and calls of "all night long!" are frantically fun, as well) and side one concludes with "Drums Are My Beat", a melodic number that is still based on the rhythm and Sandy does more swingin' here.

As you might imagine, "Let There Be Drums", one of his bigger hits, follows in his drum-heavy style, but with a cool surf/horn section over it all, "Land of a Thousand Dances" is the famous number, done instrumentally, kinda with a Booker T. vibe, "Drums a Go Go" is kind of a take off on "Peter Gunn", "The Stripper" is a pretty traditional take on the famous song, and the closer is another groover, sounding like a jazzy spy movie theme with more great drums breaks.

This vinyl is all too short, but gives a great overview of some of this man's coolest work.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Heiz, Franks & Deans and the Psyatics at the Double Down, Friday Nov 25, 2016

I couldn't make it out for every night of the Double Down Anniversary Weekend, but had to make it out for this amazing line up!

I have been thwarted by the fates from seeing one of my fave local bands, the Psyatics, for some reason and tonight was almost no exception. While they were scheduled to play third, I still came down early to see all of the bands but due to the lack of parking (the club was packed this evening) and a surprise set time change, I showed up several songs into their set. Still, they sounded better than ever with "new" drummer Mark Bartschi kicking things into high gear with his excellent, snappy rolls'n'fills while guitarist Jack provided plenty of noise'n'intricate licks (while playing up to the audience at every chance) and Rob completed the mix with rolling bass lines and his sharpy sardonic lyrics. They received an amazing reaction from the jammed crowd for their originals and their cover of Pink Floyd's "Pigs"! Excellent start to the evening.

Franks and Deans have been touring the West Coast with the Heiz and were tighter than ever with their set of punk rock versions of standard tunes - as if Jello Biafra and Joey Ramone had been part of the Rat Pack! Lots of Ska influences, as well, along with plain, old fashioned rock'n'roll, as when they got up punk rock stalwart Hanson to play harp on "Mess Around". Of course, the lovely Nickole Muse added her unique visual interpretations to the tunes, as well.

All the way from Japan, Double Down favorites, the Heiz, returned for the anniversary weekend. This three piece - Shaku on guitar, Watanabe on bass and Kimura on drums - play a mix of Ramones-styled punk rock and 50's and 60's rock'n'roll. Playing the opening instrumental with their backs to the audience for some reason, they then blasted into a high-energy set with all members flailing about while still playing great and singin'n'shoutin' their hearts out. All members sang lead at times - though Shaku is the mainman - including Kimura doing a Ramones-y medley of "Do You Wanna Dance" and "Let's Dance" as well separate songs about starving (appropriately titled, "I'm Starving", from what I could gather) and pizza. Other highlights included "Heartbreak Hotel", Sean Cassidy's "That's Rock'n'Roll", a surfy/Link Wray medley and I believe the final was "Back in Vegas".

Super stylish - certainly among the best dressed bands to ever play the DD - and super players, they totally understand what rock'n'roll is all about - songs and presentation - and come to entertain. I've been meaning to see this combo for years and am glad I finally did. Don't miss the chance if they come to your town - they are a big barrel of rock'n'roll fun!

Big Bill Broonzy - Do That Guitar Rag 1928-1935

Big Bill was one of the more prolific blues singer/ songwriter/ guitarists of his time. He had a long a varied career that spanned from the 20's through the late 50's and encompassed a number of styles.

This album showcases much of his earlier work, as a solo artist and with other musicians (guitar and piano) and singers (primarily Jane Lucas, providing some sexy double entendre work, particularly on "Pussy Cat Blues"). The songs range from standard blues ("Worrying You Off My Mind" is a take off on "Sittin' on Top of the World") to ballads to intricate rag-time guitar picking - Broonzy was an excellent player whose guitar lines continue to impress to this day.

Again, I got this Yazoo LP long before the CD-reissue revolution and it was a fine introduction to this type of early acoustic guitar blues work. Obviously, Broonzy has had a large number of reissues released nowadays (and a terrific homage by the Alvin brothers), but again, this is a super collection for vinyl-minded folks.

Joe Turner - His Greatest Recordings

Back in the days before virtually everything was reissued on expansive CD's you had to search through places called Record Stores to find vinyl compilations of classic rock'n'roll and blues artists. I happened upon this a few decades ago and while I have since bought CD comps of the Big Man, I still pull this one out for the sound and the cuts that haven't been added to other collections.

Big Joe Turner got his nickname from both his size and his huge, blues-belting voice. The album truly does have some of his best recordings that showcase his vocals along with his jumpin' pre-r'n'r, r'n'b style.

Of course, "Shake, Ratlle and Roll", the cut that helped to bring Bill Haley and the Comets to prominence, is included in its original swingin' state - less frantic than Haley but certainly more sexy) as well as similar cuts like "Honey Hush", "Flip Flop and Fly" and "TV Mama". His take on "Corina, Corina" is, for me, marred a bit by some corny backing vocalists, but there's lots more groovy, honkin' sax boogie like "Oke She Moke She Pop", "Boogie Woogie Country Girl" and "Midnight Cannonball". "Chains of Love" is a true, weepy ballad, "Crawdad Hole" is a slower, sultry blues and the closer, "The Chicken and the Hawk" is another killer jumpin' jive number.

I certainly don't know all of the comps that are currently available, but if you are vinyl-centric and come across this one, be sure to pick it up. Cool gatefold with plenty of loner notes, too!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Beg, Scream and Shout!: The Big Ol' Box of 60's Soul

Rhino Records is known for its amazing packaging and excellent compilations, but they really outdid themselves on this one. A box made to look like a 60's singles carrying case, SIX jam-packed CDs (a full track listing is shown on this Amazing listing) that are insert into sleeves so that they look like 45's, a big booklet and a box of "playing cards" with info on each and every artist included! Simply amazing!

Of course, the music is stellar, with an amazing selection of smash hits and some more obscure items. Some songs you might not know the originals but you would recognize from the covers of bands like the Rolling Stones, the J. Geils Band, Rare Earth, Rod Stewart, the Go-Go, Soft Cell and many, many more.

Simply fantastic all around, with hours'n'hours of auditory and visual stimulation. I'm not sure if this is still in print, but it is well worth searching out. I don't know how this could be better!

Stax/Volt Revue Live in norway April 1967 (DVD)

Stax and its subsidiary Volt Records put out some of the greatest Soul music of all time in the 60's and in 1967, sponsored a European tour of some of its most dynamic performers. The kids in Europe and England were eating up this music and regurgitating it as their form of R'n'B/R'n'R and were eager to see their inspirations and heroes. The artists did not disappoint and the audience went wild most nights.

This evening, April 7, 1967, was recorded for a Norwegian TV airing and shows practically the full revue - some parts were lost and/or damaged in the ensuing years. Here we can see some of the greatest names in Stax soul at their prime. We get Booker T. and the MG's (Steve Cropper on guitar, Donald "Duck" Dunn on bass, Al Jackson, Jr., on drums and, of course, Booker T. Jones on organ), the Mar-Keys (Joe Arnold on sax, Wayne Jackson on trumpet and Andrew Love on sax) as well as vocalists Arthur Conway ("In the Midnight Hour" and "Sweet Soul Music"), Eddie Floyd ("Raise Your Hand", which the J.Geils Band did fantastically later on), and Sam and Dave and Otis Redding sweatin' out their greatest hits.

As is common for live acts, the songs are often extended for maximum audience participation and the kids are always ready to participate - sometimes a little more enthusiastically than the security would prefer! The band is excellent, of course - there are good reasons why these folks are legends - and the night was obviously jam-packed with fun'n'excitement!

The DVD also includes modern interviews with Sam moore (Sam and Dave), Jim Stewart (Stax Records), Steve Cropper and Wayne Jackson, along with a large booklet with tons of cool pix. A great package all around!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Swank Bastards presents Basstravaganza IV at the Double Down, Wednesday Nov 23, 2016

It has become a Double Down tradition to begin the celebration of their anniversary weekend with the Swank Bastards and for the last 4 years that has meant Basstravaganza! Starting out of necessity when a regular bassist couldn't make it for the gig, Basstravaganza now consists of an equal amount of bass players for each year the DD is commemorating - hence 24 bassists this year!

As always, this is led by Bastards mainman/guitarist Jesse Del Quadro and now features four different drummers - all of whom currently play in the Bastards (Jesse plays a lot and no one other musician can keep up with him!) - along with the plethora of low range masters, who range from regular members of the Swanks, to friends from other bands to guitarists who switch to four strings for the evening to complete novices. It's all in the spirit of fun'n'celebrations and no one is supposed to take anything too seriously - hence the big finale with everyone on stage for a cover of Spinal Tap's "Big Bottom"!

The event was pretty damn jam-packed with players, friends'n'fans, all of whom were diggin' on the surfy vibes sent up by Jesse and whatever combination of Bastards he came up with. Plenty of surf standards, some instro punk covers, some Black Sabbath (a regular staple of Bastards shows) and even some originals!

A fun, happy vibe all around! Thanks to Jesse for bringing so many friends together for this and thank you to the Double Down for 24 years of Las Vegas punk rock!

(I hope that I got pix of everyone - apologies if I missed anyone and if any of the photos suck.)