Friday, August 31, 2007

M-16’s – loose bullets

I don’t remember if they found me or I found them, but I discovered the M-16’s via My Space and am damn glad that I did!

Thundering out of Perth with an obvious obsession for loud guitars and MC5-styled riffs, these cats make fantastic, high-energy r’n’r! Definitely influenced by Radio Birdman and the Celibate Rifles, I think the M-16’s out-pace them at their own game and grab the crown of Australian guitar rock!

Made up of Ken “Killer” Watt (ex-Asteroid B-612) on guitar and lead vocals, Brad Miller on bass and Adam Scuillo pounding the skins, the M-16’s carry on the tradition of emulating the fantastic early 70’s Detroit bands (a style that has led to the creation of many a Swedish and Aussie band!) and do a great job of it!

They don’t let up for a second on the ½ hour, 8-song mini-LP – no ballads for these cats! – and they have no problems wearing the references on their sleeves while still maintaining their own identity. I can’t even imagine what kind of power they must wield onstage!

It’s hard to single out any particular songs, because this is one massive explosive of rawk – so just buy it if you’re looking for another high-energy fix!

Check out the M-16's website here and videos here

Thunder Express – Republic Disgrace

I’ve missed their first record and was only able to get this one through a friend (thanks Lutz!) due to the lack of selection in Las Vegas record stores. But I’m happy I was finally able to own this!

Thunder Express can’t help sounding a bit like the current Hellacopters (Rock and Roll is Dead, as opposed to Supershitty to the Max) since their guitar slinger “Strings” (Robert Dahlqvist) leads this band as singer and guitarist. But this record also has moments that are reminiscent of Union Carbide Productions/Soundtrack of our Lives in places (TE used Soundtrack’s producer and SOOL singer Ebbot helps with the lyrics, as well), LA’s great Sacred Hearts (the original one led by Javier Escovedo) in others, as well as the Detroit/R’n’B influences of the 'Copters.

This CD opens with the title cut, a chord-riffer which could easily appear on any recent Hellacopters release though they are aided and abetted by soul singer Jaqee, which gives it a 70’s Stones influence. This style prevails in the entire record, but there are also tangents, such as the keyboard laden ballad, “Leaving With Ease”. In fact, though the band is rounded out by Robert Pehrsson (rhythm and lead guitar), Jens Lagergren (bass) and Jesper Karlsson (drums), there are plenty of additions of keyboards throughout.

“Switch” brings you back into the groove, as a dark, chord-driven warning that “it’s time to turn yourself around”. “Hellberg’s Lament” is an extremely short, Exile On Main Street-styled, blast of harmonica that leads into the equally Stones-y “Pick It Up”. Apparently, one record TE was trying to emulate with this release is Some Girls and this tune is one of the closest to that style, including more great backing vocals.

I’ve been trying to figure out the words to “Vegas”, as this and many of the songs on this CD are supposed to be about the last Hellacopters tour and they got food poisoning and were ripped off in our fine city! But, I don’t know whether the words are just a bit obscure or if I just don’t understand, but they don’t seem to be about anything very specific – just the general rigors of the road. But, it is a cool, slide-guitar rocker that starts out with “Damn you Vegas!”

“From Pleasure to Pain” is a fine rocker with a wild guitar outro. The final track, “Panic” is one of the moodiest cuts on this CD – it definitely has a Soundtrack feel with some good guitar licks intertwining around the melody.

Overall, while similar, don’t expect the next Hellacopters record, but this is a damn nice, 70’s-styled r’n’r record!

Check out the Thunder Express website here and plenty of videos here

Dollhouse – The Royal Rendezvous

This record is a party in the style of Wolfmother/Flash Express or the MC5 in their high energy rock’n’soul incarnation (which is what the former two are doing, as well). Seeing as they are Swedes, it’s not that surprising that the Hellacopters’ Nicke Andersson produced this record – those Nordic tribes seem to all hang out together!

They definitely have the drive and the power of the other Swedish bands, but Dollhouse also has a white-boy-soul feel of the above-named groups or even early Mooney Suzuki. Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels with heavier guitars also comes to my mind.

Again, I don’t really see a reason to pick out particular songs because this is really a cohesive, well-written album. The songs are there, the playing is terrific and tight, the singing is soulful – all fab stuff and a superb addition to anyone’s collection! You will certainly be far hipper once you own this and you will impress your friends with your great taste!

(Thanks yet again to Lutz at Soundflat!)

Check out their My Space page here and a great video here

The Sewergrooves - Rock'n'Roll Receiver

The Sewergrooves have been around for a few years and at one time included the Hellacopters drummer Robban Eriksson, which is how they came to my attention. (You’d never know that I was a Hellacopters fan from my reviews, would you?!)

Well, Robban left way back in 2000 (!) and the ‘grooves have been plenty busy since then! As far as I can tell, this is their fifth album and they innumerable EPs, singles and compilation cuts. I guess they need something to do during those long northern winter nights!

This band definitely has some similarities with their raucous brethren, but they do seem a little slicker, cleaner, more polished than some of the other Swedish bands. They’ve still got the energy and the riffs, but it’s not quite as wildly chaotic as, say, the early ‘Copters. The distortion is cut way back – maybe even a little farther than it should be – but they still have cool guitar lines and rockin’ tunes.

Their latest is Rock’n’Roll Receiver and it reminds me of some earlier bands, such as maybe mid-80’s Nomads or even earlier Radio Birdman. The opening song is like an uptempo Soundtrack of Our Lives with punkier vocals. There are also nods to 70’s punk here, The Dictators there, and even Kiss now & again. I also hear some 60’s influences once in a while (I think that they're using some of the same riffs that I once stole!). It all works together to form a cohesive sound (even if I’m not describing it as such!) and I think that anyone who digs the Swedish sounds will dig these cats!
Check out their website here

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Get well, Bo!

Bo Diddley suffers heart attack
Rock pioneer is in stable condition

Bo Diddley suffered a heart attack during a medical check-up in a Florida hospital and is now in stable condition, his spokeswoman said today (August 28).

The 78-year-old rock pioneer felt ill during his checkup at North Florida Regional Medical Center, and was transferred to the emergency room where the heart attack occurred.

He then underwent a surgical procedure to help the blood flow to his heart, reports Reuters.

Diddley, whose real name is Ellas Bates, has been ailing in recent months. He suffered a stroke in May that impaired his ability to speak, and has lost toes to diabetes.

The rhythm guitar style he pioneered has influenced several major rock bands, including The Rolling Stones and U2.

( - first seen at Crooks and Liars)

terribly sad

CBGB founder Hilly Kristal dies at 75

NEW YORK - Hilly Kristal, whose dank Bowery rock club CBGB served as the birthplace of the punk rock movement and a launching pad for bands like the Ramones, Blondie and the Talking Heads, has died. He was 75.

Kristal, who lost a bitter fight last year to stop the club's eviction from its home of 33 years, died Tuesday at Cabrini Hospital after a battle with lung cancer, his son Mark Dana Kristal said Wednesday.

Last October, as the club headed toward its final show with Patti Smith, Kristal was using a cane to get around and showing the effects of his cancer treatment. He was hoping to open a Las Vegas incarnation of the infamous venue that opened in 1973.

"He created a club that started on a small, out-of-the-way skid row, and saw it go around the world," said Lenny Kaye, a longtime member of the Patti Smith Group. "Everywhere you travel around the world, you saw somebody wearing a CBGB T-shirt."

While the club's glory days were long past when it shut down, its name transcended the venue and become synonymous with the three-chord trash of punk and its influence on generations of musicians worldwide.

The club also became a brand name for a line of clothing and accessories, even guitar straps; its store, CBGB Fashions, was moved a few blocks away from the original club, but remained open.

"I'm thinking about tomorrow and the next day and the next day, and going on to do more with CBGB's," Kristal told The Associated Press last October.

Kristal started the club in 1973 with the hope of making it a mecca of country, bluegrass and blues — called CBGB & OMFUG, for "Other Music For Uplifting Gourmandisers" — but found few bands to book. It instead became the epicenter of the mid-1970s punk movement.

"There was never gourmet food, and there was never country bluegrass," his son said Wednesday.

Besides the Ramones and the Talking Heads, many of the other sonically defiant bands that found frenzied crowds at CBGB during those years became legendary —
including Smith, Blondie and Television.

Smith said at the venue's last show that Kristal "was our champion and in those days, there were very few."

Throughout the years, CBGB had rented its space from the building's owner, the Bowery Residents' Committee, an agency that houses homeless people.

In the early 2000s, a feud broke out when the committee went to court to collect more than $300,000 in back rent from the club, then later successfully sought to evict it. By the time it closed, CBGB had become part museum and part barroom.

At the club's boarded-up storefront Wednesday morning, fans left a dozen candles, two bunches of flowers and a foam rubber baseball bat — an apparent tribute to the Ramones' classic "Beat on the Brat." A spray-painted message read: "RIP Hilly, we'll miss you, thank you."

Other survivors include his wife, Karen, and daughter, Lisa.

I never was able to go to CBGB's myself, but this man really did help change the course of music as we know it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Jefferson Airplane – Live at the Fillmore East 1969

Blasting out of the gate with a positively incendiary version of “Volunteers”, you know that this CD is a document of this band at its wildest apex! Mixing acid-drenched psychedelia with harmonic pop, blues and r’n’r, these characters showed the rest of the world what the best of the San Francisco scene was all about!

I’ve always been a fan of this trippy pop music and have been fascinated how they managed to make great music and still hit their harmonies even at times when they admitted that they were out of their minds! But, r’n’r is at its best when it lives on the edge and these cats certainly did that on stage!

One of the amazing things about this group is that their songs would take a very different form on stage – sometimes to the point of being unrecognizable, though still great! “Plastic Fantastic Lover” is one example of this – listening without the track listing I literally had no idea what this song was until I heard the chorus!

“3/5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds” is one of my favorite songs of theirs which has already taken on a couple of wildly different versions in the studio take and the Bless Its Pointed Little Head speed demon recording (which they seem to be trying to go faster than the title implies!). This is a more subtle variant, but enough to keep you on your toes!

This disc has plenty more to offer, including long jams (some successful, like “The Other Side of This Life”, the set closer, some not so much) and gems such as “Crown of Creation” and, of course, “White Rabbit”.

I do think that one of the best side effects of the CD revolution has been the release of so many fine recordings that we hadn’t seen for one reason or another throughout the vinyl era. Nice that so much can be packed into one disc!

If you’re into the SF psychedelic sound, be sure to pick this up!

The Stooges – The Weirdness

I was very hesitant about picking up this reunion CD of the Stooges (with Mike Watt sitting in on bass). In fact, I passed it up more than once even at the library, where I eventually borrowed it from. Reunions rarely work out and generally leave everyone involved disappointed.

Unfortunately, the CD is no exception. As I said, I did not have high hopes as I put this on, so maybe I‘m not really giving this a fair chance. Though, I really did hope that I would have been pleasantly surprised.

But, this simply sounds like another so-so recent Iggy solo album. I have nothing but respect for these cats, but the songs just aren’t there for me. None of the madness, chaos and over-the-top mania that defined the original Stooges comes through at all. Everyone plays well, but there is no real edge here. Scott still pounds the drums like a powerhouse, but Ron’s guitar is practically subdued, which is not what the Stooges should be in any way, shape or form! You do get a little blast of his old sound in “Greedy Awful People”, but this short solo is what the whole record should sound like!

Even Iggy’s voice seems a little weak, which I never thought I’d say!

“She Took My Money” is one of the better tunes but again it sounds like it could have been off of, say, Brick By Brick, rather than Funhouse. At the end of the last song, “I’m Fried”, they do attempt a Funhouse-styled guitar/sax freakout, but once more, it seems more calculated than passionate.

Again, these guys are true heroes to me and they influenced everything that I’ve done since the mid-70’s. I completely understand their reasons for the reunion and do not blame them at all. I just can’t get excited about it, which is sad…

The Small Faces – Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake

Some people equate this album to legendary releases such as Electric Ladyland, the White Album and Beggar’s Banquet (such as Bruce Eder in the liner notes for the CD) and while it is a fabulous record with some of the Small Faces best tunes, I think that might be a little over the top. I love this band, but just don’t see this as quite as revolutionary or revelationary as some of the other greats that also came out in 1968.

This does have some true gems, though. The opening title cut is a superb instrumental that goes into the sublime “Afterglow” – a song so romantic that it was played at my wedding. “Song of a Baker” is a powerhouse that uses melody and dynamics to build into an intense raver about baking bread! There’s a great video of them lip-syncing this on TV that is mind-boggling and makes me think that this must have been insane live!

I must be one of the few people on the planet who doesn’t really care for “Lazy Sunday”. I find it silly in the extreme and while that has its place, I am somewhat flabbergasted that this was the British hit from this album! (And, according to the liner notes, Marriott wasn’t thrilled either!)

Side Two of the vinyl version was a vignette about “Happiness Stan”, with between-song narration by a British children’s story-teller, Stanley Holloway. This is fairly appropriate as the story is child-like, but it does include some more excellent songs, such as “Rollin’ Over”, though “The Journey” does meander a bit. The final tune, “Happydaystoytown” is jovial but also juvenile.

So, while this is a departure for the band seeking to expand its horizons, and while it has some truly wonderful tunes, it also isn’t consistent and is a bit too darn silly to be honestly considered a landmark record.

But do buy it if you don’t have it! Just don’t expect another “Electric Ladyland” or something! (Which, thinking about it, would be odd coming from the Small Faces anyway!)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Skydog – The Duane Allman Story by Randy Poe

Living through my adolescence in the 70’s and listening to r’n’r, it was inevitable that I would be familiar with the Allman Brothers. Even before “Ramblin’ Man” became a Top 40 hit, their songs had been played regularly on FM radio, so any guitar player was familiar with “Whippin’ Post” or “Statesboro Blues”.

But, while I did like the songs that I had heard, I wasn’t enough of a slide guitar fan to really appreciate just how goddam good Duane Allman was. To this day I still find it a little embarrassing to admit that I like the band, mainly due to their extended jams – which, of course, is one of the reasons why they are so famous!

But, over the years I’ve tried to overcome my own damn “coolness” and go back and re-listen to many of the great late 60’s and early 70’s guitarists and appreciate what they did. A number of years ago I found a used copy of the double album set “Duane Allman – An Anthology” for the absurd price of 99 cents and discovered what a session genius he had been!

This book follows the career of Duane from his start as a guitarist – begging his mom for a guitar because his brother Gregg had bought one (that he paid for himself!). Because Duane kept taking Gregg’s, their mom bought Duane a ’59 Les Paul Jr. which he used through his early days in a surf band, the Escorts, who even opened for the Beach Boys in 1965!

There are a million stories here, as the brothers cross the country numerous times with various bands before splitting up and Gregg attempting a solo career in LA and Duane becoming a session musician. Duane played with some true superstars – from Aretha Franklin to Eric Clapton – and the anthology album compiles a number of the most memorable cuts.

Duane eventually finds the right people to put together the Allman Brothers band, forces Gregg to come back from LA and literally threatens him until he agrees to be the lead singer and the rest truly is southern rock history.

Poe’s story goes through the good times and the bad, the alcohol and the drugs (funnily enough only alluding to the sex) and the slow climb to stardom. Sadly, the band’s greatest successes come after Duane’s death, but none of it would have happened without his guidance and creativity.

His untimely death at a ridiculously young age (24) literally almost brought me to tears as I was reading this, even though you know it is coming. The tragic, unnecessary waste really is heartbreaking.

Of course, one reason why Duane is so legendary (besides being an incredibly creative performer) is that he did die so young, but it seems like he really did still have a lot to contribute and to call it a shame is more than an understatement.

Poe’s book does follow the careers of the rest of the Allmans after Duane’s deaths up until today, which is somewhat understandable because Duane’s story is so much the story of the band, but it does lose a little focus in those last few chapters.

But, it’s a fine book, very detailed and there is even a chapter on the equipment that he used, including a hilarious anecdote about a friend finding Duane’s first electric guitar in a pawn shop without realizing it because Duane was drunk when he pawned it and could never remember where he left it!

Anyone with an interest in great 70’s guitar players should definitely pick this up, along with the Anthology record!
(Again, sorry for the photo - I guess I should have spent more time looking around for pix!)

The Heebie-Jeebies at CBGB’s – a Secret History of Jewish Punk by Stephen Lee Beeber

An engaging – and amusing – concept for a book that I, as a mid-western catholic, had never really thought too much about.

Sure, I’ve always been aware of the Jewish influence on popular culture, especially in the 60’s and 70’s. I grew up with Mad Magazine and all of the Yiddish phrases that they threw around. And, of course, there were plenty of Jewish comedians, writers, songwriters, etc around. I think that I accepted it as part of pop culture, not necessarily part of Jewish culture.

But part of that is probably because being a white, middle class Midwesterner, I didn’t really have a culture to call my own – I was a blank slate. I drew upon influences from everywhere – blacks, british, hippie, bohemian and yes, Jewish. Which is, I’m sure, a reason why I find these types of books – those written with a spotlight on a group’s background – interesting and somewhat mysterious. It’s not something that I can really identify with. I freely admit that I am a mutt and have most often described myself as a freak. I have always been outside of any group that I was part of tangentially. I never really fit in and never really felt part of any ethnic group or even any movement. So, seeing someone put so much emphasis on a background is odd for me, though Stephen does make a good case for a lot of his subjects.

Since “punk” did start in New York and New York is one of the most Jewish towns in America, there is certainly a connection. The fact that members of pre-punk bands such as the Dictators and the Blue Oyster Cult – as well as many of their collaborators, producers and writers – were Jewish adds to the thesis. Obviously, not everyone in the movement were part of this ethnicity, but there were always some connections – whether it was a band member, a producer, a manager, or, arguably one of the most important contributors to the NY punk scene, Hilly Kristal, the owner of CBGB’s.

Beeber does stretch things sometimes and even seems to be trying to force people to admit to influences that are not necessarily there, and there are a few annoying mistakes (such as calling Andy Shernoff the Dictators’ lead guitarist!), but it is a fun concept that is explored fairly in depth.

He does lose me with his final chapter concerning John Zorn, who I am not familiar with and who seems to be a fairly minor character in the punk scene, though he certainly seems to be a player in the New York Jewish music scene.

But, all in all, an enjoyable read with some new and fascinating information.

(PS - sorry for the blurb on the cover photo - I couldn't find a clear photo without it!)

Monday, August 06, 2007

Lee Hazelwood RIP

Dan Epstein has his eloquent eulogy at La Vie En Robe

I heard "Some Velvet Morning" when i contributed to Zebra Stripes version of the song back in the mid-80's. Genius dementia!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Turbonegro - ResErection DVD

Turbonegro’s ResErection DVD was found at the same time as the Hellacopters Goodnight Cleveland and it is another great r’n’r film!

This movie tells the story of the band’s breakup in the late 90’s and documents their reunion, which is interesting in that no one really knew what was going to happen or if it would work, yet a (apparently) professional film crew follows the guys around.

The interviews are pretty candid and singer Hanke comes off very nice and sincere, even as some of the other members are kinda dicks at times. Hanke is very frank about his drug abuse causing the end of the band and readily takes the blame for the loss of momentum that this breakup caused at a pivotal period in the group’s history. The rest of the guys seem ready to remind him of this, as well, and seem to put a lot of pressure on him to make the reunion a success. It makes the viewer wonder why they didn’t replace Hanke while he was cleaning up, since a vast number of fans would not have known the difference (especially considering that the only reason that EuroBoy joined on guitar is that PalPot Pamparius was on a long vacation). So, maybe there is a closeness there that does not always come through in the movie.

But fans are treated to seeing Hanke in his home town in the North of Norway, playing sailing tunes on his radio show and giving tours at a Viking boating museum! He flies back to meet the rest of the band and they do appear to genuinely be happy to be reunited. There is footage of their first reunion rehearsal, which sounds amazingly good.

The crew follows the Turbos through their reunion shows, culminating in the Quart Festival. This must have been pretty phenomenal for a band that had basically been playing clubs when they broke up! To return and have thousands of fans literally flying in from all over the world to see you play had to have been an incredible feeling.

Of course, the guys have continued since then and put out several more albums and have been touring the world. This film gives you a view of the band at a particularly vulnerable time in their career and breaks through the façade and the craziness to see that they really were worried about what would happen and really do care.

The bonus footage has the (I believe) entire festival footage, which is pretty fantastic. When these cats are good, they are one of the best r’n’r bands playing these days and they do have a fantastic, HUGE sound!

They’re touring again, so see ‘em if you can!

Check out Turbonegros website here and My Space page here.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

13th Floor Elevators - The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators

Having owned the vinyl of this for decades, I’ve never felt the need to buy the CD. But I just found a good, used copy at a reasonable price, so I couldn’t pass it up!

“You’re Gonna Miss Me” is one of the most over-played (probably due to the movie High Fidelity) and over-covered song of all time. Sure, it’s a classic, but I could live without hearing it again and in fact, when I put this on, I skipped the first track. But there is a cool, different live version of the song as a bonus track that is just different enough to make it enjoyable again!

This record is truly one of the landmark psychedelic albums of the period. Roky Erikson’s songwriting is spectacular throughout and the band has a wild sound, with the added bonus of an electric jug (!) player!

Besides the initial song, there is plenty of greatness in this album. “Roller Coaster” is truly a roller coaster ride, “Splash 1” is a sweet ballad that then it blasts into “Reverberation”. This isn’t super fast, but it rocks with a fierce intensity that is belied by the clean/tremeloed guitars. Contradictions abound as the songs dance through your mind. Ballads build into wailings of “do you FEEL IT, FEEL IT, FEEL IT” (“Don’t Fall Down”). Rockin’ numbers like “Fire Engine” have haunting modulating vocals imitating spooky sirens. “You Don’t Know (How Young You Are)” is a beautiful tune that rockets into double time at the end. A stolen Kinks riff transports “Tried To Hide” into a rocker with a freak out solo that ends the official album on a high note!

The CD comes with 4 live bonus tracks with so-so quality, but shows that these characters were a garage band that covered the hits of the day – the Stones are given homage with a take on their version of “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” (given an extended psychedelic and psychotic freakout), another nod to the Kinks with “You Really Got Me” (with a dual guitar/jug solo and another freakout ending!) and a hyper-speed version of “Gloria” which is so fast that it is almost unrecognizable! Roky sounds like he’s just as likely to strangle Gloria as he is to make love to her in this truly crazed cover!

The CD closes with the above-mentioned live “You’re Gonna Miss Me” which is slower but damn intense and I swear even has new chords in some parts, so it’s certainly interesting to see what they did with their own material in a live setting.

Of course, you know that any follower of garage/psych music has to own this album, whether it is in vinyl, cassette, 8 track, CD or MP3!

The follow-up, Easter Everywhere is also highly recommended!

There is an upcoming movie also called You're Gonna Miss Me that is about Roky. Check out their My Space page.

And I don't know who is doing these, but here is a 13th Floor Elevators My Space page and a Roky Erickson My Space page.

And even a Roky web site

Spirit - The Best of Spirit

Our local library has started carrying an interesting variety of CDs lately, so I’ve been grabbing ones like this, that I might not have bought because I have the vinyl. But it is certainly worthwhile to spend the $1 or so on a blank CD and get a clean copy of classic albums such as this one. (shhh! Don’t tell anyone!)

I’ve been a fan of Spirit ever since “I Got a Line on You” hit big in 1969. This infectious pop-rocker has it all – great riffs, vocals, playing, etc. The story is that singer/guitarist Randy California decided they needed a hit and sat down and wrote this in a half an hour! Just goes to show that magic can be planned and spontaneous simultaneously!

Randy was always a focal point for the combo, with his fluid, sustained guitar licks, but this is definitely a band. Second guitarist Jay Ferguson also wrote hits (such as “Mr. Skin” and “Fresh Garbage”) and bassist Mark Andes, keyboardist John Locke and Randy’s step-dad Ed Cassidy (drums) all had full musical backgrounds before forming Spirit.

These 5 guys melded their influences into a psych-rock-pop group that could go from the almost prog-rock of “1984” to the gorgeous ballad “Nature’s Way” to the uptempo hit single of “Got a Line” while still maintaining a solidarity of vision.

Again, their full albums are recommended, but this is a fine starting point that includes their most famous tunes, including the bonus track of “Taurus”, which is where Jimmy Page got the idea for the intro to “Stairway to Heaven”. Great stuff!

Check out the Unofficial Spirit web page here.

the BellRays - Have a Little Faith

I’ve known these cats for many a year – basically I met them when ex-Grey Spikes guitarist Tony joined and with his razor-sharp licks and excellent songwriting they created their own genre of “Maximum Rock and Soul”. Since then they have gone through a number of incarnations, but seem to have settled down with the addition of Craig Waters on the drums and have been playing non-stop literally around the world since!

Opening this CD with “Tell The Lie”, which could be a Curtis Mayfield outtake with tasty horn fills by Vince Meghrouni, they then move into more familiar territory with “Time is Gone’ with its breakdowns, time changes and Tony Fate’s trademark jazz-gone-mad guitar fills. “Snotgun” is classic Fate punk and a terrific explosive of sound and anger!

This record also reprises their amazing title song (previously released at least once by the ‘Rays and once by the hard-rockin’ B Movie Rats) that would be a hit in a fair world. They dressed this version up with some strings and backup vocals and have made it a true soul classic. Tony has written such a wonderful, heart-felt song that I think someone would have to purposely try in order to do a bad take of this tune. Lisa Kekaula shows that she has a beautiful crooning voice as well as being a soul-shouter par excellence! Worth the price of admission on its own!

But, goddamn, you get so much more! This record is much more produced than their previous, punkier outings, which is something that some fans have been clamoring for. There is no doubt that they still put the “punk” in “Punk, Rock and Soul” (their motto and a short-lived LA musical movement that they were the center of), but this record has more variety than these versatile folks has exhibited before. Everyone here is a consummate musician and can play damn near anything (and have in various projects).

Bob Vennum (bass and guitar) writes a few of the songs in this collection also and they fit right in, proving that the BRs are now a musical unit and each one feeds off the others. Funnily enough, his offerings are some of the edgier numbers on the CD!

There’s tons of great stuff here but another revelation is “Third Time’s the Charm” - another should-be-a-hit that easily could fit in on a Stax/Volt compilation (in fact, it sorta reminds me of Carla Thomas’ “B-A-B-Y”). The horns and backup vocals hook you in and if the beat doesn’t get you moving, then nothing will!

Live, these cats are like a punk-rock gospel revival! The intensity pouring out of each member fills the room and draws you in. Lisa will at times literally shake you until you have no choice but to join in. The band can fly into a frenzy and stop on a dime and at all times corralling the madness and keeping it coherent and damn infectious!

This is a superb introduction to the BellRays, but also pick up their earlier releases to see the rawer, edgier side of this band. But definitely buy this record and see them the next time they come your way – because they certainly will at some point on their endless world tour!

Check out the BellRays website and My Space page