Thursday, February 25, 2021

Timothy Truman's Scout comic (Eclipse Comics)

 This mid-80's series was another fine comic from the time, featuring a near-by apocalyptic future (most of the series has now occurred in what is our past) and stars an Apache named Emmanuel Santana, who, besides his Native American upbringing, was trained as a marine, making him a formidable foe in the hellscape that the American Southwest became.

With some fantastic artwork, Truman combines Santana's native spiritual roots - he has a spirit guide, he fights supernatural monsters, he regularly performs cleansing ceremonies, etc. - with his military training and survival skills to enable him to live through the adventures he has and the characters that he meets. There are rock'n'roll/blues musicians (Truman was a musician himself and often included old songs in the stories and even recorded a flexi disc to coincide with one issue and later put out a full length album), Las Vegas slimeballs, mutants, religious fanatics based on a mentally challenged youngster who preaches the word of Tolkien (sorta/kinda), super-powered beings and so much more! 

Truly enjoyable story lines, fine dialogue, fairly realistic relationships (considering), and superior artwork, along with the mix of mysticism and rock'n'roll made this one of my faves of the time. Worth digging up!

Not Brand Echh - Marvel comic


Not Brand Echh was Marvel's parody/satirical comic series that ran for 13 issues in the late 60's. I, of course, gathered them up when they first came out, although I believe that at least some of the copies that I currently have (I believe that I have the entire series, in shambolic shape, unfortunately) were re-bought in the 80's, when such things were fairly easily possible.

In the 60's, you couldn't talk derogatorily about your competitors while using their name, hence the idea of saying "Brand X', which led Marvel to cheekily use Brand Echh, and since this series was not the competitor, these were Not Brand Echh!

Anything was fair game here - plenty of their own stories were parodied, often using the original stories' artists (Gene Colan and Marie Severin were especially good at this), as well as some DC and other comic publishers, along with movies (often cast with Marvel characters in place of the original actors) and even some music parodies, such as Sgt. Pepper's and Cheap Thrills with Marvelized characters and song lyrics!

The stories still hold up as goofy fun, although there is some slightly cringey, un-PC racial humor (a little surprising about that, considering how forward thinking Marvel was in general). And, of course, Forbush Man, Marvel's mascot, became a "real" superhero in this series. Naturally, the comics are more relatable if you're familiar with the original, then-current, stories, but I'm sure that any comic geek would still dig these.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Harvey Scales and the Seven Sounds - Love-Itis

 I cannot even imagine how many original records the J. Geils Band has sold for the bands that they have covered, but this is another one for me! Known for their amazing choice of cover songs, the Geils Band has made people aware of so many incredible acts (here's a list of their covers) and I am always grateful to discover another new-to-me act! 

I had no idea that Love-Itis" was even a cover up until a week or so ago, when I found out that besides the original and the Geils version, even the fabulous Sonics have recorded it! For Harvey Scales, it was simply the B-side of the Seven Sounds biggest number, "Get Down", which reached number 32 in 1967 (these two songs are, appropriately, the first two on the comp). This CD shows that he had plenty of other great material, as well, with sweet, soulful ballads mixed with upbeat funk and sweaty dance numbers.

"Get Down" is a super-fun, soulful, funky dance number with excellent machine gun drum breaks - just try keepin' still while this plays! - followed by the title track, which is somewhat slower and more groovin' that the Geils version, kinda hintin' more at Otis Redding, especially in the horns - certainly nothing wrong with that! Pure upbeat James Brown-styled funk in "Broadway Freeze", the drums really drive "I Can't Cry No More", making it a defiant call rather than a weeper, "Too Good To Be True" is kind of a Jr. Walker swinger, there's some hints of gospel in "Love Is a Gas", they finally slow things down for a sweet ballad in "Don't You Ever Let It End", back to the bouncin' beat for the Booker T and the MG's-ish instro "The Sound of Soul", "Welcome Home" is a slower, sad soul ballad (sort of a "Have You Seen Her" feel that somehow morphs into upbeat funk for the last few bars as the woman finally comes back) and "Trackdown" is  another steady groover.

In the dance craze number, "The Yolk" (odd concept, yes), Harvey borrows a bit from Sly and the Family Stone as well as James Brown, which naturally continues in "The Funky Yolk", which has some fine sax wailin' and sex-beat rhythms. "Get Down 1970" is pure high-energy, danceable funk, this continues in the kinda goofy "Funky Football", "Bump Your Thang" is a bit silly, as well, but good fun, "Trying to Survive" is somewhat more message-based (it is aptly compared to Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" in the liners) with a hep groove, "Groove On Sexy Lady" is, naturally, more lighthearted, "Rock the World" isn't quite as captivating but still pretty darn cool, "Follow the Disco Crowd" is too disco-oriented for my taste, but the finale, "Love Thief" brings back enough funk to make it a keeper.

Harvey had a terrific voice and the band was stellar, with the horn section and the drums really driving the songs. They kinda became known for songs describing a dance craze, which limited the lyrical content, but regardless, the sound generally kept a fine, soulful, deep funk to it all. Nice stuff!

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Preacher (comic) - Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon

 After seeing friends talk about the Preacher TV show - which disappointed us so much that we stopped watching after a few episodes - I searched out and finally dug up the graphic novels that we bought back in the day - 25+ years ago - how is that possible? My lovely wife discovered this - one more reason that I'm grateful to have married the coolest chick on the planet - and it became such an important part of our lives that we have a quote from the comic inscribed in our wedding rings! Yes, we are that geeky!

The story, in a nutshell, is that an angel and a demon had a lovechild, a new concept with incredible powers, which escaped heaven and inhabited Jesse Custer, who at the time was a fucked up, drunken preacher in a small town in Texas. This inhabitation causes an explosion killing his entire congregation and drawing the attention of his ex, Tulip, and a wandering vampire, Cassady, and they all team up to search for God, who has abandoned his post (due to Genesis, the lovechild) and left Earth to its own devices! Whew!

As all three are first class fighters, and Jesse now has the "word of God", which means that he can make anyone do anything by simply telling them to, this exploration runs afoul of an incredible cast of characters, from law enforcement to the Saint of Killers to angels to the Grail (a secret group keeping the bloodline of Jesus pure) to Jesse's truly insane family to, eventually, God Almighty, himself.

Dillon's artwork explores the sexy and the bloody, with plenty of intimate exchanges of both types, and an emphasis on grotesque destruction of human beings. Ennis does kinda revel in the gore, but at the same time he explores everyone's motivations, paranoias, friendships, power struggles, family issues (to say the least) and much more, but the bond between Jesse and Tulip was especially strong and while we would obviously never go on a cross country, blood-soaked spree, we could relate to their intimacy.

I've just started getting back into this and while some of the tangents are not as strong as the others, the story writing is still completely compelling, right from the start. As I said, I gave up on the TV series since it bastardized J&T's relationship, so I can't speak on how that turned out later and whether fans of the show could even relate to the comic, but anyone who wants to have a violent, blasphemous good time, the comics have been reissued several times, apparently. Terrific stuff!

RIP Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, literary citadel of San Francisco, dies at 101 

Sunday, February 21, 2021

RIP Gene Taylor

Gene Taylor, Boogie-Woogie Piano Player With the Blasters, Dies at 68 
I have to say that I always dug the Blasters without the piano, but I can't deny this man's talent and his pedigree. And, once again, way too young.

The Last Drive - Underworld Shakedown


Among the hippest bands to ever come out of Greece, the Last Drive released their debut on the world in 1986, showing a highly original take on garage, mixing surf'n'psych with a heavy dose of raw power. Nothing is pure revivalism, even when they delve into the surf - a cover of "Miserlou", originals like "Me'N My Wings" and "Sidewalk Stroll" - they add demented energy and a darkness - like surfing at midnight while trying to escape Jack the Ripper! The originals are dripping in reverb'n'echo'n'feedback, there's a wild cover of "The Night of the Phantom" and it would not surprise me if their take on "Blue Moon" - yes, that "Blue Moon" - is what Spaceman 3 based their entire sound on! 

I always loved the 80's bands who used garage as a starting point for their own sound and these cats did an amazing job! Dig it!

Saturday, February 20, 2021

The Pirates - Skull Wars


This second album by the reconstituted Pirates came out the following year ('78) and contained a lot more new originals, but still has their stamp of energetic R'n'B, although some of it is a bit slicker and more produced than Out of Their Skulls.

Certainly not nearly as frantic as the previous album, this opens with the original "Long Journey Home", followed by a cover of "Dr. Feelgood" (funnily enough, as the band Dr. Feelgood was mining similar territory at this same time), then a so-so original "All In It Together" (although it has hints of 999, of all things!), then back into their groove for Mick Green's homage to Chuck Berry in "Johnny B. Goode's Good" that blends into insanely frantic live takes of, of course, "Johnny B. Goode" and "I'm Talking About You" with the audience shimmying'n'shakin'n'sweating right along with them.

Flip the vinyl over for another live take, this time it's Fats Domino's "I'm In Love Again" and then more originals with the groovin' "Voodoo", an upbeat "Four to the Bar", a down'n'dirty, nasty-soundin' live "Honey Hush", a bit more laid back blues in "Diggin' My Potatoes" before ending with the heavy blues mixed with a bit of almost reggae rhythms and punk energy in a wild hybrid!

Out of Their Skulls is pretty damn indispensable and this one isn't quite up to that standard, but it has some fine moments, as well. If ya wanna explore more, pick this up, but only after getting the 60's records from Johnny Kidd and the Pirates!

The Pirates - Out of Their Skulls


This 1977 release of the Pirates - the fantastic and inspirational Mick Green on guitar, Johnny Spence on bass and lead vocals and Frank Farley keeping the rockin' rhythm - is of course, the living members from the amazing 60's combo, Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, minus Kidd, who had passed by this time. Spence's vocals are grittier, but totally works with the edgier, energetic sound that they were producing at this time.

Their set list is mostly old numbers here, but given a new life under their fingers, with songs they made famous in the 60's like "Shakin' All Over" and "Please Don't Touch" side-by-side with blistering takes on "I Can Tell", "Peter Gunn", "Lonesome Train" and "Milk Cow Blues" and the live first side of the album.

The studio side is no less rockin', with Pirating takes on "Drinkin' Wine Spo'De'O'D", "Do the Dog", "Gibson, Martin Fender", "Don't Munchen It" (hah!), "That's the Way You Are" and "You Don't Own Me", the last four being new originals that fit right in with the rest of the rockers.

I bought this one when it came out and it's been my fall-back LP any time I'm in the mood for high-energy R'n'B. Although Kidd's vocals are missed, this is almost better than the 60's cuts since they did not have to cow-tow to producers and they just flat-out git-it! 

The Count Bishops (Chiswick)


Formed in 1975, The Count Bishops were another band that linked the British R'n'B scene with the burgeoning punk rock scene, pretty damn seamlessly, really. Slightly low-fi in sound - not bad, though, by any means - they fairly slay garage-y covers like "I Need You" (Kinks), "Good Guys Don't Wear White" (Standells) along with bluesy/R'n'B tunes like "Down in the Bottom", "Shake Your Moneymaker", "Down the Road Apiece" and the rough'n'ready, downright trashy "Don't Start Crying Now". Their originals mix their influences in a rock'n'roll blender and come out with some 60's garage/pop/R'n'B tunes played with some fine fire'n'energy.

These cats could easily have fit in with the R'n'B/Pub Rock scene in the mid-70's England, but also had enough grit'n'feistyness for the punkers. 

Not something I listen to regularly for some reason, but pretty damn hep, regardless.

The Morlocks - Emerge (Midnight Records)


Midnight Records was doing their best to pick up the coolest garage bands in the country around this time (mid-80's) - those that Dionysus didn't pick up, anyway, and this San Diego offshoot of the Gravedigger V is one of the best they put out. With singer Leighton and guitarist Ted from the V, the group added Jeff on bass, Tommy on wailin', fuzzy lead guitar and Mark on poundin' drums. They made a name for themselves quickly on the West Coast and while this mini-LP (a 12" with only 8 songs) is pretty strict garage rock'n'roll (certainly not a bad thing) , they expanded their sound a bit to include some heaviness over their musical life. Leighton has a new version of the band in Europe (Germany, I think?) so be sure to check 'em out if you're in the old country!

Snarling, snotty vocals and loud, fuzz-driven guitars are the order of the day as their tear through numbers like "By My Side", "In the Cellar", "24 Hours Every Day", "Judgement Day", "Born Loser", "Project Blue", "It Don't Take Much" and "One-Way Ticket", making the original 60's covers their own and making their own new songs sounds like they were decades old! 

If you're into garage rock'n'roll - which is, simply, rock'n'roll - then this is pretty damn essential. Again, not sure how available this is nowadays, but find it and dig it!

Motherfucker 666 (Get Hip Records)

 The punkily-named Motherfucker 666 was a 1996 punk rock "super-group" made up of the infamous Jeff Dahl (guitar/vocals), Keith Telligman (bass/vocals) and Allan Clark (drums) from the Lazy Cowgirls and Mike Metoff (Ike Knox) of the Pagans/Cramps and numerous others. Despite the name and the members' pedigrees, the music, while obviously punk, is not as over the top maniacal as one might expect. Some of it is downright poppy, if I dare say so!

Everyone but Allan sings (which is funny since he sings regularly in all of his other groups) and there's a mix of high energy originals and some truly interestingly hip covers. The cover has minimal liner notes, but Jeff obviously sings lead on a majority of the numbers, also Keith and Mike get their chances and they even thrown in a semi-surf-intro in "Blues Theme From Teengenerate vs Godzilla"! The Kinks' "Celluloid Heroes" is given the 666 treatment, as is the Stooges "Head On" (giving it a bit more coherence than the Metallic KO version) and Zaida (Zebra Stripes) joins in for their rockin' take on the Crystals' "Then He Kissed Me".

Fans of any of these cats other bands would be sure to dig this one. Don't know how available it is any more, but search it out - it's a keeper!

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Year of the Monkey - Patti Smith


Yeah, it's a continuance of my Patti Smith kick with another book that I found at a good price. In this one, Patti has just finished a run of concerts in San Francisco culminating on New Year's Eve 2015/2016 and ends up at the Dream Inn in Santa Cruz to ruminate'n'reflect. Sandy Pearlman, who she's known since the early Blue Oyster Cult days, was supposed to be there to show her around, but he ended up in the hospital and would die a few months later. Her prose is lyrical and poetic, as is her wont, and a bit hallucinationary, as is also her wont, never quite knowing what part of the tale is "real" and what is dreamt. The Dream Inn predominates the story, regardless of where she ends up.

Her photos - she is quite good - accompany the text and give more visual representation to her ramblings. She moves around the country, sometimes simply on a whim, sometimes visiting friends and fellow writers, sometimes performing concerts or giving talks. Her lifestyle certainly elicits jealousy from those of us who have to earn our living stuck inside of a set of four walls. 

The tale moves around friends, acquaintances, strangers, traveling, life, death - especially death, which has touched her quite a bit - and even the horrifying election of 2016 and its consequences, as we move through the Year of the Monkey to the Year of the Rooster. Nothing is resolved, as things in life often are not, but the story comes to an end, reflecting on the beginning.

I've been a fan of Smith's since the 70's (she is in her 70's now, ironically) and I have enjoyed most of her work, some better than others, of course, but this is another good one. Certainly recommended for her fans and even newcomers would probably dig this one.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Lovesick Blues, The Life of Hank Williams by Paul Hemphill


This brief (200-ish page) bio was another impulse buy since I had already read Colin Escott's more detailed bio a little while back. but I'm always game for another point of view on an artist as fine as Hank.

Hemphill is the son of a trucker, who discovered Hank on a trip with his father way back in 1949, where the songs resonated with both of them - as well as millions of others at the time. He tells Hank's story well, with a brief overview of his childhood, his health issues, his early love of music and a career in music that he almost drank away before he turned 20. But, a new wife and his domineering mother helped keep his alcoholism at bay just enough to get his career off the ground and thriving again, even if he was known for being unreliable. He was popular enough for at least some promoters to put up with his issues.

Once Hank started writing in earnest, his career took off, first as simply a songwriter and then as a singer/songwriter/performer in his own right. While he had many ups'n'downs, he also had an astounding run of hits, which continued even after his untimely death at 29, in the back seat of his own limo on the way to a New Year's Day gig.

Hemphill covers the story fairly quickly, but gives a good feel for the insanity of his life, with Hank's women troubles, health issues, drinkin' problems and much more. While Escott's book is a lot more detail - Hamphill even references it, making me kinda wonder why he undertook this book himself, other than his own love for Williams' music - Hemphill does a good job and the interviews with Hank's steel guitarist Don Helms are an especially nice touch.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

RIP Larry Flynt

Larry Flynt, founder of Hustler magazine, dies at 78 
While his main mag was a bit too explicit for me, Flynt was certainly a major part of our pop culture for decades, with crazy tales of his conversion to Christianity, the assassination attempt on him, his defense of the First Amendment and much more. 

Woody Guthrie - Seeds of Man


This was yet another impulse buy, as I wanted to help out a bookstore that was closing. Of course, I am a Guthrie fan though I was not familiar with this book at all, but it was in very good shape for a very good price, and I wanted to see what else the man had to say.

Turns out this is a sorta/kinda autobiographical story, although, per the forward, he took a number of liberties with the facts and even with the people involved - which I guess is why the sub-title is "An Experience Lived and Dreamed". The tale is told mostly through conversation, with an emphasis on the dialects spoken - plenty of slang, nicknames, abbreviations, made-up words and hillbilly /Mexican /Native American/etc. accents. 

Here, Woody is set to ramble on to Canada with some family members when the women-folks talk the men outta it (it was in the middle of a blizzard) and instead, Woody convinced several of them to go with him searchin' for a lost gold mine down south on the Mexico boarder! Cobbled together from at least a couple of different manuscripts, the story flows well and you get the feel for the different folks involved. Considering the time it was written - mostly in the 40's - there are fairly explicit sex scenes which kinda surprised me, as did some of the language used.

The men run into quite a cast of characters on their treacherous way down south, sometimes pushing their truck up hills (with humorous notations of people walking alongside the truck without getting left behind) or flying down declines with little or no brakes or spending time in a little town while waiting for someone to give them directions. Cowboys, children, medicine men, and, of course, more enticing women.

Nineteen year old Woody learns some life lessons - at least presumably/hopefully he does - as the men go through multitudes of changes and discover things they never knew about each other and the world. There's not an easy/happy/precise ending, but each of the four go searching for themselves in the end.

While it takes a bit to get used to Woody's dialectic writing style, it does work within the confines of the tale and it ends up being quite enjoyable. Well worthwhile!

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

RIP Mary Wilson

Mary Wilson, Co-Founder of the Supremes, Dies at 76 
The Supremes were another major part of my youth. Although the Motown sound is generally a bit slicker than the things I normally listen to, it still is close to my heart and something that I have always loved. The songs were almost always excellent and the singing and presentation were top notch. Sad to hear of another innovator leaving us.

Monday, February 08, 2021

Bob Dylan - Blood on the Tracks

 Yes, I am still going through a Dylan phase after reading Howard Sounes bio and am catching up on some records that I never talked about here. This 1975 release is one of his best selling albums with the opening cut, "Tangled Up In Blue", justifiably becoming a Top 40 single. It's mid-tempo, simple arrangement, catchy chorus and extended story line made it one of his most popular tunes, even if the record did not attain much critical acclaim on its release, although it is now looked on as a milestone.

"Simple Twist of Fate" is reminiscent of his 60's acoustic work and is again pretty damn memorable, while "You're a Big girl Now" is a lightweight piano ballad, "Idiot Wind" is stronger'n'more powerful and has become another fave from the record, the lengthy-titled "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When you Go" is bouncy but not that enduring, although "Meet Me in the Morning" has a fine, slow-burin', bluesy groove and "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts" is an hip, upbeat number that also received plenty of airplay back in the day. "If You See Her, Say Hello" is a quiet ballad, again sounding a bit like his 60's acoustic work, "Shelter From the Storm" was another that the radio dug, again justifiably, as one of his more durable songwriting efforts with another basic, acoustic arrangement and robust lyrics, while the finale, "Buckets of Rain", is a pretty, romantic, finger-picked tune, although a bit light for my taste.

A great outing by this immensely talented man - certainly one of his best of the 70's.

Thin Lizzy - Live at the BBC

 As usual, after reading a fine bio on Phil Lynott, I started revisiting my Thin Lizzy albums, although, despite being a huge fan of Jailbreak and Fighting, I only have a couple of others. I put this one on my wish list a while back and finally got around to picking it up. I've got to say, it is fairly amazing to this American that BBC Radio really went out of their way to promote up'n'coming bands like Lizzy with a number of BBC sessions well before they truly became popular. I was always a bit jealous at the national media coverage that less-popular bands received in England as opposed to the States, but that's a whole 'nother story...

This collection begins early on in the career as a trio, with lesser known songs that are fun and have some nice riffs'n'songwriting touches, but sound a bit thin and a little disjointed at times. Some early rockers mix with their "hit" with the trad "Whiskey In The Jar" along with ballads like "Saga of the Ageing Orphan" that then moves into the upbeat (but awkwardly phrased) "Things Ain't Working Out Down on the Farm" and one of my faves, "Suicide" is given a slower, slide treatment and, very strangely, an intro quoting "Jailhouse Rock"! Other highlights include "Slow Blues" which starts off extremely strongly and then becomes a raggae-infused blues, of all things! Of course, "The Rocker" is absolutely rockin', while "Little Girl In Bloom" has some sweetly melodic guitar lines, "Showdown" is a funky slow tune, "Little Darling" and "Black Boys On the Corner" are both strong, powerhouse rockers.

Disc 2 includes some of the more familiar (to me, anyway) numbers, with greats like their cover of Bob Seger's "Rosalie", "Sha La La", "Jailbreak", "Cowboy Song", "Don't Believe a Word", "Bad Reputation", "Dancing in the Moonlight" and, of course, the finale of "The Boys Are Back in Town". Some of the later tracks in front of a live audience sound essentially the same as the versions from Live and Dangerous, though I don't think they're the same cuts, just from the same period, with similar raps and audience interaction by Lynott. 

This set is chockfull of music - each CD being pretty lengthy - and well worth the price. Lizzy fans will certainly dig this one!

Friday, February 05, 2021

Bob Dylan - Desire

This is another CD that I picked up while reading the latest Dylan bio and realizing that I never owned, despite always being a fan of his hit from this album, "Hurricane". Although the production is a bit slicker than I normally prefer, it still has plenty of nice touches - the violin by Scarlet Rivera is especially good here and adds a lot to the sound - and the songs are particularly strong.

While the sound is softened by the 70's production, and there is quite a bit more harmony singing than usual (by Emmylou Harris, among others), the songwriting  is particularly good here, as evidenced immediately by the opening homage to the (apparently) falsely imprisoned boxer, "Hurricane" Carter. Dylan's penchant for storytelling is on point here, even if he takes a few liberties with reality, as most storytellers do, and the song is truly catchy, as well. "Isis" is a rollin', swayin', piano-based tune with Bob's extensive, narrative verses and no particular chorus, although it still works, followed by "Mozambique", initially a goof to see how many words he could rhyme with the title, but it is actually darn memorable, as well, upbeat, with a fine melody and nice harmonies - damn poppy, in fact! For the oft-covered "One More Cup of Coffee" he presents a minor-key number with an almost Mid Eastern  melody line highlighted by Emmylou's excellent harmony vocals, which also contribute mightily to the delicate acoustic ballad "Oh, Sister", that is almost reminiscent of songs like "The Weight". This blends fairly seamlessly into the longest song on the album, "Joey", a 12 verse romanticized'n'sentimental ballad about a gangster, once again playing poetically with the truth for the sake of the song, which caused a bit of controversy. After filming Pat Garrick and Billy the Kid in Durango, Dylan wrote "Romance in Durango" similarly about outlaws on the run, with an appropriately Mexican flavor, which apparently includes Eric Clapton on guitar, although you would never know it. "Black Diamond Bay" is a rather complex, multi-perspective narrative about the volcanic destruction of an island - what a concept for a song! - while the finale, "Sara", is a lovely tribute to his then-wife, during a turbulent period of their relationship, which did temporarily help with a reconciliation before they eventually divorced.

Definitely one of his better post-60's albums and one that any Dylan follower should own!

Johnny Thunders - Stations of the Cross


While there seems to be some misprints in the scant liner notes included with this CD, this actually seems to be a version of the Heartbreakers - Thunders, Lure, Nolan and someone named "Talarico" - live at the Mudd Club. The date says 1992 but says it was mixed in 1986, so I assume that it really was '82, which would make sense considering the line-up and song selection.

The sound is actually reasonably good for this - probably about the same as the Max's Kansas City album - and while Johnny - as usual - babbles a bit, insults the audience, tunes his guitar a lot, makes a few false starts and staggers around a bit, the band is pretty rockin' throughout.

Opening with their usual high octane take on "Wipeout", they run through a hep selection including "In Cold Blood", "Just Another Girl" (a bit of misogyny along with the truly (funnily) offensive "Who Needs Girls"), "Too Much Junkie Business", "Chinese Rocks", the truly politically incorrect "Just Because I'm White", "Little London Boys" and plenty of others, including more covers like "Do You Love Me?", "Seven Day Weekend", and "Stepping Stone".

Don't pick this up if you're easily offended (although you wouldn't be a Thunders fan if you were) or if you're a stickler for a tight rock'n'roll combo. This is certainly rock'n'roll, but it's about as far from tight as you can go without being the Shaggs! Pretty darn good, tho!

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Bob Dylan - The Times They Are A-Changin'

 This one surprised me - although I've had the title song on numerous records, along with a couple of the other tunes, I never owned this record, oddly enough. But, I guess after a while, it's hard to keep up with all of the albums that this man has put out. But this one should be owned!

Opening with the iconic title track, one of Bob's most political, even if it is a bit vague, as his songs normally are. In fact, this album alone would guarantee his role as a political/civil rights spokesman, even if he wasn't ready for the title. "Ballad of Hollis Brown" is a bleak, flat-picked, acoustic ballad telling the tale of a desperate farmer who kills his family and himself, "With God on Our Side" talks of the hypocrisy of those who use religion to defend their atrocities, "One Too Many Mornings" has bits reminiscent of the title track, which is interesting as they are only a couple of cuts apart, and "North Country Blues" is another acoustic folk ballad telling of a mining town that is devastated and the sorrow it brings to the townfolks.

He celebrates Medgar Evers, a civil rights activist who was murdered, in "Only a Pawn in Their Game", and then lovers torn apart by their ramblings in "Boots of Spanish Leather" while in "When The Ship Comes In" is an upbeat acoustic number inspired by a hotel clerk denying Dylan entry due to his unwashed appearance, and "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" is a powerful number about a black slave murdered by her white owner, who, naturally, was not punished for the deed, and the album concludes, appropriately, with "Restless Farewell", somewhat based on an old Scottish folk tune.

This third LP was once again simply Bob and his guitar'n'harmonica and it showed just how strong this simple folk medium could be, and was instrumental in making Dylan the "spokeman for his generation". One of his great ones!

Bob Dylan - Street-Legal

 This one I knew nothing about - I don't remember this coming out and don't even remember the cover, but it was being sold at a discounted price so, what the heck?

This is a weird one - Dylan was definitely in a transitionary stage and was certainly having issues with his writing. The songs here are all quite lightweight, especially lyrically, although not bad, with a 70's pop-rock, almost yacht-rock backing with a touch of soul flavoring, with a surprising emphasis on melody, highlighted by the female backing vocalists he was using (and marrying/having affairs with) at the time. It all combines for an effort that isn't terrible, and in fact is reasonably good considering, but certainly not something that you would expect from Dylan. I do have to say that the Kenny G-ish saxophone is not a great addition, though!

As I say, this is odd, but not bad, really. Dylan has been chameleon-esque throughout his career so each record could be completely different from the last, and thankfully, this period did not last, but interesting, nonetheless.

Monday, February 01, 2021

Down the Highway - The Life of Bob Dylan by Howard Sounes


Of course, I have read many books about Bob, but this was recommended by another friend also named Bob (thanks Bob!) and I found it at a fair price, so what the heck?

Sounes aspiration was to rectify some of the inaccuracies surrounding Dylan's life (often due to Dylan's own tall-tale-telling) and to round of the picture of Bob. Compiling interviews with an impressive number of Bob's friends and family, Sounes does a pretty fine job with a nice, free-flowing style that easily sucks you in. A number of times he claims that the information he is giving has never been told before - something that I can't verify and maybe is unnecessary to stipulate, but I suppose he is trying to give the readers their money's worth.

While Bob's early life is somewhat unremarkable for someone interested in music - a shy kid whose real personality came out when he made music, on piano and guitar, with a fascination with the early rock'n'rollers (especially Little Richard) that evolved into a love for poetry and eventually folk music. After a half-hearted attempt at college, where he hung out at the coffee house scene, he moved to New York where he started meeting important figures - everyone from Woody Guthrie to John Lee Hooker to Dave Van Ronk and many others - and relatively quickly became a name on the burgeoning scene there.

It's a kinda amazing tale how this kinda shy, kinda obnoxious twerp of a kid from small town Minnesota with a Woody Guthrie fixation almost overnight became BOB DYLAN, revered, respected and worshiped'n'adored by fans'n'peers alike, and a master songwriter and a voice of the generation. It's a story that probably could only have happened in the 60's. He did practically turn on a switch and became a true original songwriter instead of yet another folk copyist and churned out incredible classics, one after another, that are still covered and marveled at to this day. But the adulation grew in the extreme - again, only as it could in the 60's - and he eventually turned his back on some of his early supporters.

An interesting point that Sounes continues to being up is Dylan's apparent disinterest in politics - apart from a couple of early rally appearances, coerced by others, and some mostly vague lyrics, he does not get involved in any particular political party or even protest movements. He valued his privacy, as is expected of someone of his celebrity, and had many uncomfortable run-ins with fanatical fans and even did his best to keep his marriages and children out of the spotlight.

By the mid 70's or so, he kinda ran out of steam and spent a long period of time with endless touring and unspectacular albums. As usual for me, the early years are the most interesting, from his days as a struggling unknown to his most respected work. After that, the story revolves mostly around his convoluted love life, his touring (mostly simply saying where he played, without a lot of anecdotes), and his recording, which admittedly, covers a lot of records that I am unfamiliar with. He also intimates that after a while, Dylan was basically touring and recording simply for the money and often his heart wasn't in it and, as evidenced by several albums of covers, his muse has mostly left him.

Sounes does a good job overall, keeps the narrative interesting and, apparently, brings out some previously unheard sources. It's a good one!