Friday, October 27, 2006

Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes

Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes – I Don’t Want To Go Home / This Time It’s For Real

The mid-to-late 70’s was an incredibly prolific time for an incredibly diverse amount of music! There were still left-over glam people, the beginnings of punk, hard-rock die-hards and a growing white r’n’b scene (among others!). From the more pub-rock stylings of Dr. Feelgood, the Pirates and the Rumour, to this 50’s/60’s soul/r’n’b combo, the Asbury Jukes, led by Southside Johnny.

These first two albums are real classics, with great songs – oddly enough, mostly written by “Little” Stevie Van Zandt, then of Bruce Springsteen’s band. Bruce even contributed a couple of numbers here and there. But, these songs sound nothing like the E Street Band! These are truly soulful tunes and many of them still give me chills after all these years!

The first album opens with the title track, a mid-tempo saga of a man drowning his sorrow at the local bar and refusing to heed the last call because there’s nothing left for him at home. Who couldn’t relate to this at one point or another? Super horns by the Miami Horns, also, who really add a lot of flavor to the records.

Most of the album seems to dwell on the after-effects of a break-up, from “Got to Get You Off of My Mind”, “How Come You Treat My So Bad” (which adds a funny Bo Diddley/Jerome styled “conversation” about Southside stealing another man’s woman), “Broke Down Piece of Man” to the exquisite “The Fever”. The latter follows Southside as he relates how he can’t sleep or eat or keep his mind on anything since his woman left him. He reminisces about the things they did and then practically howls in desperation “oh baby you’re my sun in the morning and my moon at night”. Man, how many times has your heart been wretched like that? The song literally sounds like a break-up!

There are a couple lighter spots on the record, such as “Fanny Mae” and the cover of “It Ain’t the Meat, It’s the Motion”, and then it closes with the fabulous, upbeat “You Mean So Much To Me” with a fantastic guest appearance by Ronnie Spector! What a closer!

This Time It’s For Real practically leaps out of the speakers at you from the get-go! You can almost see people jumping up and dancing from the first note of this party tune! This is definitely a good-time, hopeful record!

Lots of cool songs on this disc – “Without Love” about how good it is to be in love, because “without love, you’re not really you”. “First Night” is a 50’s-styled ballad, “She Got Me Where She Want Me” is very 60’s soul, and then there’s “I Ain’t Got the Fever No More” – an answer to the first album’s soul-crushing tune. Not as heart-felt as the original song, but a nice response – telling the girl that he’s over it all and she doesn’t have a hold on him any longer!

This record’s closer is “When You Dance” – and if this one doesn’t get ya moving, then you’re in a coma!

Great band, great songs, great records – definitely pick these up for the times you want to revel in your break-up misery and then when you are ready to celebrate your survival and re-join the party!

Check out this fan site and Johnny's site for more info

Backbiter - Time Again

Imagine the original Who line-up with Roky Erikson in Roger’s position and Pete taking a few lead guitar lessons, and you have some idea of what Backbiter sounds like! All excellent musicians – Heath & Bob Lee are often compared to Entwistle and Moon, and Jonathan Hall is one of the most respected guitarists on the LA scene. Jonathan can really sing as well AND he writes terrific songs. Kinda pisses me off sometimes, really!

Hard to come up with a comparison for the music, though! There are definitely Who and 13th Floor Elevator comparisons, along with a million other influences, but Backbiter really is unique.

The guitars are loud and overdriven – Jonathan has emulated Townshend by using Gibsons with P90 pickups through a HiWatt amp, among other configurations – though they have no problem quieting down for dynamics’ sake. The songs range from fast punk rock to ballads. There really is no pigeon hole for these guys!

Check out their website for some better descriptions of the band, or just buy the freakin’ CD! It you like well-written, well-played r’n’r, you will love it! “nuff said!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

this could be interesting

LOS ANGELES - The Black Sabbath boys are back, as the new band Heaven and Hell. Guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler, drummer Bill Ward and singer Ronnie James Dio — former members of British metal supergroup Black Sabbath — are forming the band named after their 1980 hit, according to their publicist. They plan to launch an international tour next year.

Of course, the real BS includes Ozzy, but it could be cool to see the 3 musicians back together again and doing something new.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Graham Parker and the Rumour - Stick to Me

I had never realized until a few years ago (when my wife told me this) that some people consider Graham Parker to be “new wave”. My introduction to GP&R is this r’n’b/pub band (that genre was very r’n’b based, of course – and pub legend Brinsley Schwarz plays guitar with the Rumour) smash, which is about as far from “new wave” as possible – other than the fact that at the time it was a great blast of fresh air!

Opening with the intense title cut, the Rumour shows that they are white-boy r’n’b at its finest! Parker has a snotty edge to his voice, which is a perfect fit to the material. The song-writing is super all the way through – this is definitely the most consistent album Parker has done (at least, that I have heard!). Fun, up-tempo tunes like “Clear Head” and “The New York Shuffle” are the closest to new wave, but then they shift gears to soulful, slow songs like “Watch the Moon Come Down”, “Thunder and Rain” and the superb “The Heat in Harlem”. This starts as almost a jump-jive number before cutting to half time and painting a vivid picture of this English white boy’s take on Harlem and of “dreaming of Broadway, around the corner, a million miles from home”.

This 1977 release is an excellent portrait of the British r’n’b scene at the time. Highly recommended!

And, just as an odd side point, the original album came with a sheet of stickers (get it? “stick to me”) of the front cover!

The Golden Gods...the thorny crown of rock and roll

With a name taken (presumably) from the movie Almost Famous, in which the leader of the fictitious 70’s band declares “I AM A GOLDEN GOD” while on acid, one would think that this band would be somewhat retro in sound. And one would be correct!

This group mimics 70’s metal to a “T” – the singer even sounds like Dio in his Rainbow days or Cloverdale in his Deep Purple days! They have 70’s hair, 70’s instruments, even 70’s platform shoes! These cats are dedicated!

So, be forewarned – me, I love 70’s hard rock/heavy metal, but if you don’t, you won’t dig this record. But if you do – you should LOVE this! From the cover I expected this to almost be a joke band, but they seem serious - though they are obviously having a blast! - and they can really write songs! Yes, there are riffs galore and plenty of loud guitars, but there are also sing-a-long melodies, big choruses and lots of harmonies. Yes, some of the lyrics are silly, in a hard rock kinda way, but nowhere near a band like Turbonegro or even the Supersuckers (who they thank, among other punk’n’roll combos). I get the feeling that these cats really believe in what they do, even if they are purposely present it in an over-the-top way. But, when has “over-the-top” been bad in r’n’r?!

Oh, and there is a bonus track of them doing a hard-rockin’ version of “I Feel The Earth Move” by Carole King!!

I was just looking at their My Space page and apparently, they have broken up! that sucks! I was really hoping to see them play some day! I'm sure they were tons of fun live!

And check out this page for "history" of the band!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

RIP Sandy West

Runaways drummer dead at 47

SAN DIMAS, California (AP) -- Sandy West, whose ferocious drumming fueled the influential all-female '70s rock band the Runaways, which she co-founded with Joan Jett, has died of lung cancer. She was 47.

West died Saturday night at a hospice in San Dimas, east of Los Angeles, her manager Mara Fox said. She was diagnosed a year ago.

West was only 16 when she started the Runaways in 1975 with Jett, a singer and guitarist.

Along with band members Lita Ford and Cherie Currie, they had such hits as "Cherry Bomb" and "Born to Be Bad."

"We shared the dream of girls playing rock and roll. Sandy was an exuberant and powerful drummer," Jett said in a statement. "I am overcome from the loss of my friend. I always told her we changed the world."


Truly sad - I loved the Runaways and Sandy was a great drummer.
Gone way too young...

Monday, October 23, 2006

Black Moses - Royal Stink

Years after the demise of the much-loved Thee Hypnotics, singer Jim Jones dons a guitar, turns up the volume, and blasts out a Royal Stink with Black Moses!

While not copying his old band, BM definitely is a sonic descendent of that terrific group. Jim, who was the excellent singer and frontman of Thee Hyp, is now singer, frontman and sole guitarist for this new combo – and he is excellent in every aspect! He has learned his lessons well from Hypnotics guitarist Ray – don’t be afraid to turn everything up and shake the sound from your guitar! Great playing, great riffs, great noisy leads – this man knows what he is doing!

Joined by Zac Kusmanov and David Axford on drums, these cats rave out the high-energy while still maintaining the melody!

I can’t say enough about this band – anyone who loves loud, noisy Detroit-styled r’n’r owes it to themselves to search this record out! I had a hard time finding it, but it was worth the search!

Black Moses web site here, My Space page here

Thee Hypnotics

As I know I have said numerous times in numerous places, Thee Hypnotics were one of the best, most refreshing and most rockin’ bands of the early 90’s! This British quartet was the real deal in regards to late-60’s Detroit r’n’r, though their influences also included non-Detroiters such as Blue Cheer, Jimi Hendrix, and early heavy metal monoliths.

Their first single, “Justice in Freedom”, showed that they were the heirs to the MC5’s high-energy-politics crown – far more than any of the many other bands who were attempting these sounds at this time. Their 12”, Liver Than God, was a monster! Guitarist Ray Hanson had an amazing variety of sounds, from seductively, hypnotically quiet, to ear-blistering noise – all quite beautiful! I love this record – as did everyone I knew in the LA underground scene – and think it is one of their best.

I got to see the band somewhere around this time and they were phenomenal live! Singer Jim Jones was a terrific front person, with enough r’n’r personality and sex appeal to entertain everyone, bassist Will Pepper and drummer Phil Smith kept the groove going while Ray man-handled his guitar and amp and blew away the jaded LA audiences!

Come Down Heavy was next and, while naturally more subdued than the live record, this is a great album that represents what I consider to be the best of their song writing. Half a Man/Half a Boy and the title cut are fab, truly heavy, head-banging tunes. In these early days of CDs, there is some filler (there is a track that is just Phil checking his drums), but overall, this is a wild, excellent example of how r’n’r should be played!

After this, there were some problems – a bad car accident on tour, the addition of a second (unnecessary – to my mind) guitarist, and the recording of their most unlikely album, Soul, Glitter & Sin. This record was very clean and very moody – I believe that they were influenced by the Bad Seeds (Nick Cave’s band, not the 60’s garage band) at this point. To me, this was an experiment that didn’t work.

They came back with Very Crystal Speed Machine, produced by Chris Robinson and sounding very much like the Black Crowes. Still a very rockin’ record with some hot songs, but nowhere near the fantastic mania of their early works.

Still, these guys left behind a helluva r’n’r legacy and will always be revered by anyone lucky enough to have seen or heard them!

Check out Thee Hypnotics My Space page here