On Air (CD) By The Rolling Stones

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On Air

The Rolling Stones

Interscope 2017

Review by David Bowling

 

Saturday Club, Blues In Rhythm, Top Gear, and The Joe Loss Pop Show are just a few of the bevy of music shows that dominated English television a half century ago. Bands such as The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Kinks, and The Who made regular appearances. Now 32 performances, recorded between 1963-1965, by the Rolling Stones have been resurrected and officially released for the first time.

On Air is similar to opening a time capsule and exploring past history. These performances present the Stones in their formative years. The were still primarily a rhythm and blues cover band and Brian Jones was the controlling force.

Jones’ harmonica play is front and center and on a number of old blues covers substitutes for the sax sound. He also plays a mean slide guitar before the style was popular. Mick Jagger is at his gritty and sarcastic best. Keith Richards takes the lead on a number of songs and demonstrates how he established his reputation of one of rock’s best guitarists.

Many of the tracks have been bootlegged a number of times but now the sound has been scrubbed as clean as possible. While it is not perfect by the standards of today and there are still a few tracks that have problems; overall it is very presentable and provides a good listening experience.

While there are a few familiar songs including “It’s All Over Now,” “Spider And The Fly,” “The Last Time,” and a scintillating “Satisfaction;” it is the covers and rarely heard material that make the album worthwhile and a treasure trove for Stones fans.

Keith Richards puts his unique guitar stamp on Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Memphis Tennessee.” “One can almost imagine Mick Jagger strutting on stage as he grinds through “Walkin’ The Dog,” “Confessin’ The Blues,” “Mercy Mercy Mercy,” and “I Just Want To Make Love To You.”

On Air presents a raw and developing band. While they had achieved some success, the future was still uncertain, so it is a band fully committed to their performances. It is also interesting to hear Brian Jones as one of the focal points because as the band slowly became one of the best rock and roll bands in music history, his role would be diminished.

On Air fills in some big gaps in the Stones journey and is an essential look into understanding their music.

Rating: ****

 

 

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In Tune (CD) By Oscar Peterson + The Singers Unlimited

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In Tune

Oscar Peterson Trio + The Singers Unlimited

MPS 2017

Review by David Bowling

 

Oscar Peterson, 1925-2007, was a legendary jazz pianist, who unlike many of his contemporaries focused on a melodic approach. His classical influences and technical ability allowed him to find commercial acceptance outside of jazz music.

The Singers unlimited were a jazz vocal group led by singer/producer Gene Puerling. His ability to combine their voices into a virtual choir was amazing given the technology of the early 1970’s.

Peterson’s strongest albums were usually recorded as a trio. Here he is accompanied by bassist Jiri Mraz and drummer Louis Hayes. What is different is he departs from the norm and records with a vocal group with the result being a collaborative effort released in 1971.

In Tune is a quiet and in many ways a subtle album. The flash is provided by the vocal harmonies but it is Peterson’s playing that provides the substance.

“Sesame Street” is the album opener where the two different styles of the trio and vocals come together and set the tone for what will follow. “Once Upon A Summertime” is a simple ballad with vocalist Bonnie Herman. “The Shadow Of Your Smile” finds Peterson knowing when not to intrude on the vocals but to act a supporting musician.

Oscar Peterson is recognized as one of the unique and great jazz pianists of the last half of the 20th century. Any of his Verve recordings is a must for the jazz aficionado. However, if you want something a little different from Peterson, In Tune is a good place to start.

Rating: ****

 

 

Rollin’ With It (CD) By John McNamara

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Rollin’ With IT

John McNamara

BMM 2017

Review by David Bowling

 

It is a long way from Australia to Memphis, Tennessee, but John McNamara seems to have successfully made the journey both physically and musically. The musical result is a solid album of blues titled Rollin’ With It.

McNamara is one of those underappreciated guitar masters, but he also possesses a wonderfully soulful voice. Backed by some of Memphis’ finest backing musicians, complete with a sparkling horn section, he romps through seven original and three cover songs.

If you are looking for some smooth and expressive blues, Rollin’ With It is a good place to start.

Rating: ***

 

Fantastic Plastic (CD) By The Flamin’ Groovies

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Fantastic Plastic

Flamin’ Groovies

Severn Records

Review by David Bowling

 

Someone once dubbed the Flamin’ Groovies as “the best rock & roll band you never heard of.” Formed in 1965 as a classic San Francisco underground psychedelic rock band by Cyral Jordan; they incorporated some power pop into their sound with the addition of Chris Wilson during the early 1970’s. They have now released their first studio album in over two decades with Fantastic Plastic. 

Their new release is a guitar album at its foundation. Wilson and Jordan are both excellent guitarists and producer J. Jaffe contributes some steel and slide guitar as well.

The album is graced by ten new compositions cutesy of Jordan and Wilson. They wisely do not try to re-invent themselves but build on their past.  “What The Hell’s Goin’ On” is emblematic of their guitar driven rock approach with the vocals piled on top and is easily recognizable to anyone who has followed the band. “Just Like A Hurricane” finds them moving in a blues direction. Songs such as “I’d Rather Spend My Time With You,” “Let Me Rock,” and “Crazy Macy” are all well written and produced rock and roll.

There are two cover songs in addition to the ten original compositions. They move NRBQ’s “I Want You Bad” in a pop direction. The Beau Brummels were another unappreciated band from the era and they put some energy into their “Don’t Talk To Strangers.”

All of the songs are concise and have a tightness and have little wasted effort.

The original artwork by Cyril Jordan is a tribute to Mad Magazine writer Jack Davis. I wish I could see it on a regular vinyl side album as it is a wonderful nostalgic trip back to another era.

The Flaming Groovies have always deserved better commercially. Fantastic Plastic picks up where they left off as it presents high quality rock and roll.

Rating: ****

Pop Art Live (CD) By The Raspberries

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Pop Art Live

The Raspberries

Omnivore 2017

Review by David Bowling

 

The Raspberries were formed in 1970 and for five years and four albums produced an early form of power pop based on perfect harmonies and melodies. In some ways there sound was almost to perfect for the era as they never received the  complete respect of the rock audience of the day.

On November 26, 2004, the lights were turned back on the the Raspberries. The four original members, guitarist/vocalist Eric Carmen, lead guitarist Wally Bryson, bassist David Smalley, and drummer Jim Bonfanti reunited for the opening of the the Cleveland branch of the House Of Blues. That performance has now been released as a two disc set titled Pop Art Live.

For a band that had not performed together in three decades, the Raspberries are in fine form. Hit songs such as “Go All The Way,” “Let’s Pretend,” and “I Wanna Be With You,” are still examples of pure melodic pop.

In addition to their well-known material, they did a little deeper into their catalog plus present covers of songs by the Beatles and the Who. The Beatles “Baby’s In Black,” “Ticket To Ride,” and “No Reply” are transformed into American pop songs. Likewise the Who’s “I Can’t Explain” is filled out with tight harmonies.

My only criticism, there appears to have been a bit of overdubbing after the fact, which takes away from the purity of the live performances.

The Raspberries are one of those artists that are more appreciated after the fact. Pop Art Live is a nice modern day presentation of what you have missed for the last 40 years or so.

 

Rating: ***

Texas Rhody Blues (CD) By The Knickerbocker All-Stars

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Texas Rhody Blues

Knickerbocker All-Stars

CD Baby

Review by David Bowling

 

There are Texas blues. There are Rhode Island blues. And now there are Texas Rhody Island blues.

Rhode Islanders Duke Robillard, Monster Mike Welch meet Texans Jimmie Vaughan, Sugar Rayford, and Willie Laws, along with drummer Mark Teixeira and a full brass section in a modern eclectic blues summit.

Listening to such tracks as “Respirator Blues,” “Texas Cadillac,” and “Ain’t That Dandy” makes you quickly realize how good a blues guitarist Mike Welch is. But two great guitarists are better than one, so when Duke Robillard and Jimmie Vaughan come together on “Going To The Country,” “I Have News For You,” and “Blood Stains On The Wall” you have a true blues guitarists delight.

In many ways you have a collection of excellent blues musicians just having a good time together creating good music.

In addition to some mighty fine blues there is an added incentive for purchasing the album; all proceeds are donated to the Knickerbocker Music Center, a non-profit school located in Westerly, Rhode Island, which provides instructional training in blues and jazz.

Rating: ***1/2

Trouble No More: The Bootleg Series/1979-1981 (4-LP Set) By Bob Dylan

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Trouble No More: The Bootleg Series/1979-1981 (4-LP Set)

Bob Dylan

Legacy 2017

Review by David Bowling

 

Bob Dylan’s Volume 13 of his Bootleg Series has been released in a number of formats including a four LP set.

Trouble No More: The Bootleg Series Volume 13/1979-1981 covers one of the more controversial periods of Bob Dylan’s career. Slow Train Coming (1979), Saved (1980), and Shot Of Love (1981) found Dylan exploring his developing religious beliefs. The re-action to these gospel flavored releases was mixed but they have settled into an accepted stop in his career journey.

His new four LP set has gathered 30 unreleased live tracks from his 1979-1981 tours. They include three previously unreleased songs. Tracks such as “Slow Train,” “Gotta Serve Somebody,” “Precious Angel.” “Solid Rock.” and “Saved” have more power and conviction when performed live, which make the studio versions pale in comparison.

The three songs making their debut, “Ain’t Gonna Go To Hell For Anybody,” “Ain’t No Man Righteous, No Not One,” and “Blessed Is The Name” explore the fundamentalist side of his theology. These songs are quite a departure from his protest songs of the 1960’s.

The sound is crystal clear, especially for liver performances that have been in the vaults for almost four decades. The tracks are not presented in any chronological order but given the cohesive nature of the material, this is not a big issue. One can’t help but wonder what other material was presented in the concerts other than the religious material.

Bob Dylan seems to have an endless supply of material in the vaults and if the quality of the live material is similar to this release; there are some good times ahead for his fan base.

Trouble No More: The Bootleg Series 1979/1981 is one of the better releases in Dylan’s Bootleg Series. It bring to life a very specific phase of his career that is often overlooked. The vinyl component is a nostalgic bonus.

 

Rating: ****

Wild Wild Love By Flat Duo Jets

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Wild Wild Love (Expanded CD Reissue)

Flat Duo Jets

Daniel 13 Label 2017

Review by David Bowling

 

The Flat Duo Jets originated in North Carolina as a two man band; guitarist/vocalist Dexter Romweber and drummer Chris “Crow” Smith. They later added bassist Tony Mayer. They produced a hard core modern rockabilly sound with elements of surf and straight rock added to the mix.

While they released nine studio albums during their existence, it is their first album, Wild Wild Love, that remains their best and most elemental. It is one of the ultimate self-produced garage albums as it was actually recorded in a garage on a direct two-track to tape system. Originally released in 1990, it now returns in an expanded version.

The original album is a live blast of twisted rockabilly built on Romweber’s pulsing guitar runs and Smith’s thumping drums.  The jazzy “Man With The Golden Arm” is transformed into a driving rock classic. “Strut My Stuff” is a guitar lover’s delight.

The band got even more basic with the release of the cassette-only In Stereo. Only 2000 copies were printed but now the six songs have been added to the expanded release. The Leiber/Stoller rock staple “Riot In Cell Block #9” and Buddy Holly’s “Think It Over” are twisted all out of shape and then re-assembled. Even Elvis’ gentle “Love Me” is turned into a vehicle for Ronweber’s guitar fantasies.

The second disc contains 13 outtakes. Songs such as “”Stephane Grapppelli’s “Minor Swing,” Huey Lewis’s “You Made Me Cry,” and staples ranging from “Harlem Nocturne” to “Bumble Bee Boogie” make for a varied above average group of extras.

The Flat Duo Jets created rock and roll at ground level. They were similar to thousands of high school bands, but just more talented. Their music is raw, gritty, and ultimately what rock and roll should be about.

Rating: ****

Never Mind The Bollocks (40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition 3 CD Set) By The Sex Pistols

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Never Mind The Bullocks (40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition 3 CD Set)

Sex Pistols

UMC 2017

Review by David Bowling

 

They couldn’t play very well, their songs were basic, and their stage act was chaotic. Yet, during the three years of their initial existence they changed the course of popular music and to an extent, pop culture as well.

The Sex Pistols may not have invented punk music but singer Johnny Rotten, guitarist Steve Jones, drummer Phil Cook, and bassist Glen Matlock (replaced by Sid Vicious), made it a artl form by shoving it down the throat of the music world.

The Sex Pistols have influenced thousands of bands and artists yet during their brief career only issued one studio album and four singles. Now to celebrate the 40th anniversary of their only studio album Never Mind The Bollocks, an expanded 3-CD version has been released.

Disc one is Never Mind The Bollocks is all its hash, screaming glory. “Anarchy In The UK,” “God Save The Queen,” Problems,” and “Submission” may have lost a little since their release but they are still a powerful yell from the past.

Disc two is a compilation of odds and ends. There are a number of different mixes, demos, and alternative vocals. The four B sides of their single releases are the heart of the disc. “Satellite,” “No Feeling,” “Did You No Wrong,” and “No Fun” are fully realized songs, three of which did not appear on their album.  The disc is basically for the person who wants everything by the band.

Disc three contains two concerts recorded in Norway and Sweden. While many of the tracks are the same, they present the Pistols basic approach.

Never Mind The Bollocks (40th Anniversary Edition) is a raw rock and roll experience. The Sex Pistols are still for the brave.

Rating: ****

Two Dogs (CD) By Poppa Chubby

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Two Dogs

Poppa Chubby

Poppa Chubby Productions 2017

Review by David Bowling

 

What’s in a name? For Theodore Joseph Ted Horowitz it’s about character with a little sexual innuendo thrown in for good measure.

Poppa Chubby is a no nonsense blues artists who takes no prisoners. He has returned with a new album titled Two Dogs. 

His voice is gritty and many of his lyrics have an edge. The title track, “Sam Lay’s Pistol,” “We Won’t Back Down,” and “Preexisting Conditions” examine the world through Chubby’s eyes within a blues framework.

There are two live bonus tracks, which close the album. Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and the Rolling Stones “Sympathy For The Devil” are a raw listening experience but good examples of the power of his live show.

Two Dogs is a blast of basic modern-day blues. If you are looking for something a little different, then this may be an album for you.

Rating: ***