Thursday, November 21, 2019

Closed for Monkey Business


Long, but productive night in the studio yesterday.

Regular posting resumes on the morrow.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Your Wednesday Blast From the Past

From the Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review, January 1992.

A review I don't remember having written, of an album I don't remember listening to.


Sounds like I should check it out, actually.

BTW, if you click on the graphic it gets bigger. Heh.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

As Jack Nicholson Said About Bob Dylan -- This Burton Cummings Guy Is a Riot

From 1976, please enjoy Burton Cummings and his, er, insouciant cover of Bachman-Turner-Overweight's Overdrive's "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet."



Or as I like to call it, the greatest "fuck you" to an estranged bandmate ever committed to vinyl.

Seriously -- compared to this, John Lennon's "How Do You Sleep" is a schoolyard nyah-nyah-nyah.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Confessions of a Guess Who Fan

From 2012, please enjoy Guess Who frontman Burton Cummings as he asks the musical question -- what if Gordon Lightfoot's favorite singer was Rod Stewart?



Priceless, obviously, but I should add that if you are, like me, a long-time Guess Who fan you already know that Burton has a wicked sense of humor.

Here's one of my favorite examples, from the band's 1971 So Long, Bannatyne album.



As you'll hear, the song's succinct hard rock chorus -- "One man army...have you shot somebody down?" -- alternates with lounge jazz (sort of) nonsense verses sung by Cummings in the cheesiest Frito Bandito accent you can possibly imagine. And don't miss the spoken word interlude, in which Cummings and co-author/guitarist Kurt Winter play two Chicanos in a mens room dissing the crappy band onstage while peeing.

God, I love those guys.

Friday, November 15, 2019

"I Loved It! It Was Better Than CATS!!!"

So a certain Shady Dame took me to see David Byrne's American Utopia show on Broadway last night (which was a very nice birthday present, obviously -- thanks doll!). Byrne himself has barely aged that you can tell, was charming and funny, and the whole thing was very imaginatively staged in a sort of minimalist way.

In other words, basically, it was like every Talking Heads show I've ever seen, going back to the CBGBs days when they were still a trio. Which is to say a lot of it was really good and a lot of it was really pretentious in pretty much equal measure. No surprise there, right?

But what did take me aback somewhat was this blurb from the NME that was prominently displayed outside the Hudson Theater as we were waiting on line.


"It may just be the best live show of all time."

I mean -- WTF?

I looked it up, and that was written by some freelance scribbler named Tom Connick -- you can read the review it's excerpted from over here. Make sure you scroll down to the end for the money quote.

I could make merciless fun of it, but the poor guy is probably too young to know how utterly ridiculous it is, so I won't.

However, to put it all in context I thought I'd recycle one of my own finest moments.

A review of mine from Stereo Review back in 1979.

TONIO K.: MINDFOOD

Ladies and gentlemen -- I give you....the greatest album ever recorded!

I can hear you already -- nitpickers, musicologists, the small-minded, owners of Book of Lists toilet paper. What, you cry, of Dennis Brain playing the Mozart horn concertos? What of Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain, B. B. King's Live at the Regal, Bruno Walter's Mahler Fourth, Sgt. Pepper and John Coltrane's A Love Supreme? Not to mention Nervous Norvus' "Transfusion," John Wayne's "America: Why I Love Her," and the Singing Dogs' "Jingle Bells."

Oh, all right. So I lied. But, honestly, it's the kind of lie that Life in the Foodchain inspires even in as responsible a critic as me. Its creator, Tonio K., is easily twice as angry as Elvis Costello and about six times funnier, and though he spent this decade's middle years in a Southern California booby hatch, rest assured that his songs sound nothing like James Taylor's. What they sound like, actually, is Loudon Wainwright if he'd O.D.'d on the absurdity of American life and then been drafted as the lead singer for Led Zeppelin. Beyond that, it's hard to describe the songs because to do so, or to quote the lyrics, would be like giving away the one-liners in a Woody Allen film.

Let me simply say, then, that Tonio K. thinks that humor is a serious business and that the next big dance craze will be "The Funky Western Civilization." Let me also say that he is the only rocker in memory whose album contains a cameo vocal appearance by Joan of Arc, that his music is bone-crushing rock-and-roll as manic as any punk band's but infinitely more sophisticated, and that his lyrics are so absurdly literate and corrosively cynical that they have reduced me to rolling on the floor from the mere reading of them. To hear them declaimed by Tonio in his marvelously twisted voice while the band conducts an aural demolition derby behind him is the most exciting experience I expect to have in my living room for the remainder of this year.

The bottom line? Tonio K., if not the future, is certainly at least the George Metesky of rock-and-roll. As a matter of fact, I think I'll have to take back my earlier disclaimer: this IS the greatest album ever recorded. -- Steve Simels

And the response it engendered from the artist himself, which we actually ran in the letters section.

Has Simels gone mad? Life in the Foodchain, while certainly a good, great, maybe even swell album, can't possibly be the greatest album ever recorded. James Brown Live at the Apollo is. This can be substantiated with actual documentation. so don't argue with me. And what about the Seeds' first album? And is the cat still in the freezer?

Tonio K., Calabasas, Calif.

Just in case I'm not making the point clear -- I was obviously kidding. Unlike that kid in England.

Have a great weekend, everybody!











Thursday, November 14, 2019

Your Thursday Moment of Why Didn't I Get the Memo?

From 2005, please enjoy Mano Negra and their infectious and genre bending "Out of Time Man."



Heard that for the first time on some oddball Latin Pandora channel that was blaring at my local watering hole on Wednesday. It would be something of an understatement to say that my ears perked up when it came on (probably due to the wonderfully cheesy Farfisa organ sound).

In any case, I am informed that the band are a bunch of French gypsies, who normally sing in Spanish (the proprietor of said watering hole informed me that French gypsies mostly speak Spanish among themselves, which is something else I hadn't previously been aware of).

In any case, a very cool song, and in the future I may post some of the other oddities I heard over a lovely glass of elitist chardonnay yesterday.

[h/t Oleg Sakhno]

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Your Wednesday Moment of Words Utterly Fail Me (An Occasional Series)

From 2017, please enjoy Picnic Tool and their jaw-droppingly astounding "Einstein."



I will have much more to say about this later in the week (including an interview with the artistes), but I will leave you with this until then.

This is a) possibly the greatest thing in the history of things and b) well, basically that. :-)

Oh, and you can find out more about these guys over at their official website HERE.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Who Listens to the Radio? (An Occasional Series)

So I'm gonna be on friend of PowerPop Capt. Al's intertube show Lost at Sea today at Area 24 Radio...


...starting at 12pm EST.

And you can listen to it by clicking on the link HERE and then clicking on the Tune In button.

I should add that -- depending on how shy he is -- we may or may not be joined by another friend of PowerPop, constant reader Mark...


...and in any case, it's going to be a sort of theme show.

And here's the musical clue to the theme. (Capt. Al is in the dark as well). See if you can guess what it is!



Anyway, it could be a hot one -- join us, won't you?

P.S.: I'll be watching my e-mail -- ssimels@gmail.com -- during the show, so if you want to make comments/requests/death threats we'll acknowledge them on air.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Electrical Banana

From 1967, and the wonderful (but not released until 1969) Elephant Mountain album by The Youngbloods, please enjoy the fabulous (and surprisingly classically influenced instrumental) "On Sir Francis Drake."



I bring this up because a) I was a huge fan of the original incarnation of those guys, but more specifically because b) as attentive readers will recall, I attended a show by Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul last week and you could have knocked me over with a feather to learn that the white-haired second keyboardist in the the band was none other than the above song's composer/performer, the wonderful Lowell Levinger. AKA Banana.

Who's the guy in the loud jacket center in this vintage photo of the Youngbloods.


BTW, Levinger, who turns out to be a really nice cool guy (I'll spare you that story) has a terrific new website which you can and should access over HERE.

And let me just say, and for the record, that Little Steven obviously has really good taste in sidemen.

Friday, November 08, 2019

It's a Helluva Town

From 1987, please enjoy the irrepressible Peter Wolf as he hops his way into your heart with "Come as You Are."



I bring this up because a certain Shady Dame and I were in Manhattan Wednesday night to see Little Steven and the current incarnation of his Disciples of Soul at the Beacon Theater, and Wolf opened, which was an unexpected and delightful surprise. Let's just say he's as skinny, energetic and funny as ever, and by comparison Little Steven was a a tad pedestrian.

In any case, it was a memorable evening for other reasons. To begin with, during the intermission, the guy sitting across the aisle from us came over to say hello. Turned out he's a long time reader, and he had introduced himself to me at the Sweethearts of the Rodeo/Mcguinn/Hillman/Marty Stuart show earlier this year. Small world, and all that.

Hi, Roger!!!

Anyway, after about five Little Steven songs, the Shady Dame and I decided we'd seen enough, and we went outside and hailed a cab. At which point a wiry guy who looked familiar also hailed the same cab. And it was none other than all around great musician/friend of this here blog Willie Nile, who I've been a fan of since forever. We said hello and, naturally, told him to take the cab.

But the best was yet to come. The cab we finally got took us through Central Park and then turned down Fifth Avenue. We were stopped at a light in front of The Pierre Hotel, and we saw a stooped old man with a shock of white hair, leaning on two canes, being helped into a limo.

Who was this aged little troll?

Henry Fucking Kissinger.

In the immortal words of Cindy Adams -- only in NY, kids, only in NY.

P.S. And speaking of Willie Nile, I would be seriously remiss if I didn't take notice of this milestone.

River House Record is very proud to announce Beautiful Wreck Of The World 20th Anniversary Edition to be released November 22nd. Pre-Order: https://lnk.to/zx0jj8ID. It will be remastered and include a never before heard demo called "Help Me Say I Love You". The album holds a pivotal place in the Nile canon for a number of reasons. It was the first studio album released on his own label River House Records. It kicked off his second comeback and he has never looked back. Since “going indie” and taking the reigns to release albums to the public on his own terms it has allowed Nile to amass an unparalleled body of work one masterpiece after another and he shows no signs of slowing down. As No Depression said years later “Willie Nile's artistic renaissance continues unabated.” At the end of the day it’s about the songs and Beautiful Wreck has them in spades! You Gotta Be A Buddha (In A Place Like This), Black Magic And White Lies, Bread Alone, Every Time The World Turns Around, History 101, The Man Who Used To Be, Beautiful Wreck Of The World, Brain Damage, The Black Parade, Oatmeal Box, Somewhere It's Raining, On The Road To Calvary (for Jeff Buckley), Tiorunda Surprise. It was chosen as one of the Top Ten Albums of the Year by numerous publications including Billboard Magazine and The Village Voice! Lucinda Williams called "On the Road to Calvary," Nile's song for Jeff Buckley, "One of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard." Beautiful Wreck Of The World is back fully in all its remastered sonic glory on November 22nd. Pre-Order Today!




Damn, I love that song (which is the leadoff track, BTW). And yes -- pre-order the album at the link. Like immediately.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Lifestyles of the Vapid and Creepy

[I originally posted this back in 2008 at the website of Box Office Magazine, where I happily toiled for two years. I'm posting it here, despite the fact that it has absolutely nothing to do with the music that is the raison d'etre of this here blog, because the Box Office archive site is kind of a pain in the ass to access, and I just love this enough to want it more readily accessible. Regular posting resumes on the morrow. -- S.S.]

My final thoughts on the Sex and the City movie: It's longer than Parsifal and with fewer laughs.

Okay, not really, but in all seriousness, about halfway through the thing it finally dawned on me exactly what has always bothered me about the whole SATC phenomenon. The movie itself, of course, is just a garden variety shoddily made romantic comedy. I mean, forget the fact that Sara Jessica Parker looks like she was lit by Stevie Wonder, or that the men are all unlikeable weenies, or that the funniest joke in the whole interminable two hours twenty two minutes is about diarrhea, or that what little sex is actually on screen is utterly joyless. What you're left with is still no better or no worse than another recent by the numbers flick like, say, What Happens in Vegas.

No, the real problem is that the film (and, looking back, the show) is, essentially an obnoxious 80s Reagan Era yuppie consumerist glitz fantasy run amok, and then dropped down, inappropriately, into the 21st century, where it pretends (against reason) to be hep and now and cutting edge.

In other words, Carrie and her designer shoe and Cosmo obsessed pals are essentially the pathetic, slightly over the hill trendoids of Absolutely Fabulous. Only without that show's knowing irony.

Or to put it somewhat unkindly, the fact is that these women....


...want to be these people...


...whereas they're actually...

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Vocals By a Nasal Lead Singer Say So Much

From 1982, please enjoy Little Steven and (the original incarnation) of The Disciples of Soul and a killer live version of (the greatest song in open G-tuning that has never been played by Keith Richards) "Under the Gun."



And yes, in case you were wondering that's the great Dino Danelli of Rascals fame on the weird drum kit.

I bring all this up because I'm going to see the current version of these guys tonight at the Beacon, which is sort of a bucket list thing for me.

In the immortal words of SCTV's Edith Prickley -- could be a hot one!

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Common My Ass. These Guys Are Totally UNCommon!

So as some of you may recall, back in 2018, I was at the Keuka Kafe, my local watering hole down the street (Queens Boulevard, or what the locals call Le Boulevard de la Mort) from a certain Shady Dame's home in Forest Hills. BTW, if you're ever in the neighborhood stop by, say hi, and order something refreshing from their spectacular wine list.


In any event, here's the short version of the story as I posted it at the time.

So the other week there was a sort of youngish hipster guy at the bar. I engage in this perhaps unfair cultural stereotyping because there were few such folks in the neighborhood when we moved in four years ago, but their numbers are increasing, and this usually presages the opening of better restaurants, which would be a good thing. I gleaned from his overheard conversation that he was in Forest Hills killing time because a connecting flight (from La Guardia to Bumfuck Somewhere) had been cancelled and a Google search turned up the fact that the Keuka Kafe might be an agreeable place to wile away several hours while waiting for the next plane out.

We got to talking; I asked him whether he was traveling for business or pleasure, and he let it drop that he was a rock musician in the midst of a brief tour. I allowed how isn't stardom wonderful, and eventually, after I got over my surprise at the encounter I asked him if I had heard of his band.

I hadn't, but I have now. Ladies and germs, let's give it up for my new pal Clinton Clegg, lead singer of the fabulous Pittsburgh-based neo-soul revival band The Commonheart.

And to facilitate that giving it up, here are three performances they did over the weekend on the CBS morning show.







Jeebus, those guys are good. More important, can somebody please explain to me why with non-major label music this memorable available on your teevee, why is it that whoever books the acts on Saturday Night Live continues to foist the worst crap imaginable on us?

Oh well. Meanwhile you can find out more about Clinton and the band over at their website HERE, including a way to order their fabulous new CD Pressure.

Monday, November 04, 2019

Time is Money, Dave!

Circa 1978-9, the great Dave Edmunds tries to nail the vocal to the Rockpile recording of "Born Fighter" with a certain amusing lack of success.



And then when Nick Lowe and the rest of the band show up, it gets even cooler.

Seriously — this is one of the best rock promo documentaries ever, and I had no idea it existed until last week.

[h/t Matt Mitchell]

Friday, November 01, 2019

I Lost It At the Movies

Okay, this is pretty much the coolest thing ever.

The guest programmer on my favorite historic film channel tomorrow is...get ready...Bruce Springsteen.

Via Rolling Stone:

Bruce Springsteen will appear on Turner Classic Movies November 2nd to “guest program” the network by picking two of his favorite movies and discussing them with host Ben Mankiewicz. First up is the 1956 John Ford/John Wayne classic Western The Searchers. It will air at 3:30 pm EST. It will be followed by Elia Kazan’s 1957’s masterpiece A Face in the Crowd at 5:45 pm EST.

The interview segments were shot at Springsteen’s home studio in New Jersey... In the first one, Springsteen talks about how his songs are similar to movies. “I write in character,” he says. “And to write like that you need to gather so much cinematic detail, constantly filling the songs with images, images, images, geography, little character traits, things very similar to script writing, really.”

In the second one, he explains how the 1973 Terrence Malick movie Badlands and the 1955 thriller The Night of the Hunter influenced his songwriting on Nebraska. “The thing they have in common is they’re both twisted fairytales,” he says. “Even the score in Badlands had, I believe, glockenspiel — was very fairytale-ish. I took that sound picture and made a record to of it.”



And, needless to say, picking A Face in the Crowd is totally relevant to our current historical moment. I mean, wouldn't it be fabulous if President Mediocre Columbo Villain had his own personal Lonesome Rhodes moment before Bruce's TCM segment?



Hey -- a boy can dream.

Have a great weekend, everybody!