Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The Worst Cover Versions of All Time (An Occasional Series): Special Train Wreck Edition

From 2017 and a shall we say ill-advised Dan Fogelberg tribute album, here's Train committing the most hideous version of "Same Old Lang Syne" ever heard by sentient mammalian ears.

Seriously, if I were the type of guy who made New Year's resolutions, mine would be to hunt down and kill the A&R guy responsible for this.

More on the song tomorrow, but in the meantime, have fun tonight, everybody!!!

[h/t Matt Mitchell]

Monday, December 30, 2019

Real Estate Notes From All Over

Friend of PowerPop (and Pulitzer Prize-winning music critic for the New York Times) Tim Page took this picture in the Los Angeles area in 1984.

And no, it's not the house where Bela Lugosi lived in Plan 9 From Outer Space.

However, a coveted PowerPop No-Prize© will be awarded to the first reader who correctly identifies its significance to the history of rock-and-roll.

Friday, December 27, 2019

You Learn Something New Every Day

So earlier this week, as a Christmas present to myself, I splurged on some Desert Rose Band CDs (I'm going through a sort of Chris Hillman phase at the moment) and I rediscovered their 1989 hit version of one of my favorite songs -- John Hiatt's "She Don't Love Nobody."

Which I had originally heard in Nick Lowe's quite different version four years earlier.

In any event, it occurred to me that I'd never heard it done by its composer, so I did a little research and guess what?

There is no extant version of it that I can find. Apparently, it was just a songwriting demo that Lowe and DRB came across. Or something.

No larger point to the story, but I must admit it surprised me.

Have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Last Christmas Song Until Next Year -- I Promise!!!

From 1991, and the fantastic Xmas compilation album A Lump of Coal, please enjoy The Odds and their gloriously Crazy Horse-esque version of "Kings of Orient."

In retrospect, still my favorite holiday record ever. Incidentally, these guys, who may be best known for serving as Warren Zevon's touring band for a while, are still plying their trade up in Canada, and good for them.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

It's Christmas Time

[I've posted a slightly different version of this on several previous Christmases; consider it one of those internet traditions you've heard so much about. -- S.S.]

Ahem. So. Way back in December of 2007 -- when the world, myself and this here blog were young -- I found myself, quite improbably, falling in love. And the Christmas song I kept hearing in at least two TV commercials at the time was the ineffably touching "All That I Want" by The Weepies.

Which, as it turned out, was, improbably, about the improbability of somehow finding the right person to fall in love with.

Above the rooftops
The full moon dips its golden spoon
I wait on clip clops
Deer might fly. Why not? I met you

All these years later, I still can't hear the thing without getting a little misty, sentimental old fluff that I am. So I thought I'd share it again as sort of a Christmas card to you all.

And to a certain Shady Dame let me just say, and for the record -- I love you.

Anyway, Happy Holidays -- and here's hoping that what the new year brings you makes you as happy I've been since I first heard that song. However improbably.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

My Son the Christmas Singer

The great Allan Sherman does to a beloved holiday classic what should always have been done to it.

Proving, once again, that Kinky Friedman was right -- they ain't making Jews like Jesus any more.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Porky Sings Elvis

My favorite Christmas record of all time. And certainly the best non-Kosher one.

Man -- can you imagine if these guys had taken on "My Generation"?

Friday, December 20, 2019

Pre-Christmas Weekend Listomania: Special "Why Didn't I Get the Memo?" Edition

[The original version of this went up back in 2008, which totally floors me for any number of reasons. However, I have mostly rewritten it, and changed a couple of the entries, to keep you guys from thinking I'm the lazy old coot I obviously am. Please enjoy. -- S.S.]
Okay, kids -- it's Weekend Listomania Time. Today's theme:

Post-Elvis Album/Album Track/Song/Single You Discovered Long After the Fact and Immediately Wondered How You had Lived Without It!!!

No arbitrary rules of any kind, you're welcome very much.

And my totally top of my head Top Nine is...

9. The Replacements -- Temptation Eyes

The Grass Roots song, obviously, and an outtake from an album that changed my life. A tip of the Simels chapeau to hep bartender Tommy Perkins, who knows from this stuff and turned me on to it last summer.

8. Little Isidore and the Inquisitors -- Christmas of Love

This was from the soundtrack to the Grinch movie, which I have never seen, and it is not a genuine oldie; rather it's an r&b/50s pastiche by THIS GUY, who may be some kind of genius. In any case, I heard it for the first time earlier this week at my local watering hole, and it blew me away.

7. Bunker Hill -- The Girl Can't Dance

There's not a lot of biographical info available on Hill, except that his real name was David Walker and that he was an on again/off again member of the great gospel group The Mighty Clouds of Joy when he wasn't singing the Devil's music under a pseudonym. He apparently died, way too young, in Houston in the early 80s, and hadn't been involved in the music business for quite some time.

In any case, the record features Link Wray on guitar (it was recorded at Link's home studio) and as somebody said in the YouTube comments, it makes Little Richard sound like Pat Boone. Had it been a hit, history might well have been changed in unfathomable ways. I mean seriously -- I think it's pretty obvious this is the missing link between the wilder strain of 50s r&b and proto-punk like The Sonics.

I should add that I also heard this one for the first time at my local watering hole. Another one I owe Tommy Perkins for.

6. The Grateful Dead -- Box of Rain

It's no secret that I'm not remotely a Deadhead; they were my least favorite San Francisco band back in the day, and I have never much liked any of their albums with the exception of Working Man's Dead and American Beauty, neither of which I ever owned. (Caveat: I love Garcia's bluegrass stuff; if you haven't seen Grateful Dawg you're really missing something.) That said, a year or so ago, for whatever reason, I sat down under the headphones with this song and pretty much lost it. How fricking gorgeous.

5. Sonic's Rendezvous Band -- City Slang

SRB, of course, being a sort of Detroit supergroup featuring ex-MC5 guitarist Fred Smith and several other worthies. I'd heard of the single, which came out in 1978, for years, but didn't get around to listening to it until when I first wrote this post. Needless to say, the damn thing is pretty much hard rock at its most intense, and god only knows what I was waiting for.

4. Los Shakers -- Always You

The Beatles of Uruguay, and every bit as good as anything by their role models, IMHO. I got hipped to this one courtesy of a long time reader, and I have to say -- of all the great songs I've discovered since NYMary gave me the spare set of keys to this place, this is the one that means the most to me.

3. You Am I -- Mr. Milk

First heard this one (which dates from 1996) sometime around 2003, over the sound system at NYCD, the late lamented (and still the coolest in history) indie record store on Manhattan's upper West Side run by our pal Sal Nunziato. How the best Australian band since The Easybeats had previously gotten by me remains a mystery that may never be solved.

2. Sam Cooke -- Lost and Lookin'

From Cooke's Night Beat album. It sounds, deliberately, like a late night blues/soul/gospel jam session at a small smoke-filled club, and it's probably the greatest pop music album of the last sixty years that most people still don't know about. Cooke cut it for his own label in 1963 and it went out of print pretty much immediately; the American CD reissue from 2001 (which is when I first heard it) got pulled due to legal wrangling (love that Allen Klein) almost as quickly. But you can still find copies on Amazon; thank you Jeff Bezos.

And the Number One great song I can't live without that I hadn't heard until some time shortly before I originally wrote this piece -- it's not even remotely a contest -- absolutely has to be...

1. The Weepies -- Gotta Have You

So approximately twelve years ago, I found myself falling in love with a certain Shady Dame, and it was happening to the soundtrack of a Weepies song, which was running in a TV commercial at the time, called "All That I Want." I was later hipped to another Weepies song that I dearly love, called "Nobody Knows Me at All." But for some reason, I was never moved to research more of their stuff. And then somebody sent me a link to "Gotta Have You," which is about the most gorgeous and ineffably touching thing I've ever heard in my life. Seriously -- these guys are now The Beatles, as far as I'm concerned. And Deb Talan is the single greatest girl singer in the history of pop music.

Alrighty, then -- what would your choices be?

And have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Better Late Than Never. Mea Culpa. Sorry for the Delay. I Could Go On, But You Get the Idea.

Attentive readers will recall my raving, recently, about a California band -- the charmingly monikered Picnic Tool -- and their song (and hilarious video) in praise of noted punk rocker Albert Einstein.

Since then, they were kind enough to send me their new EP, which happens to have my all-time favorite photo of Al on the cover...

...and I thought I would share the second video derived from it with you. Another very cool song, beautifully visualized.

And in case you missed it last time, here's "Einstein" again. Still completely cracks me up.

You can learn more about these guys -- plus find links to buy more of their music -- over HERE

POSTSCRIPT: Also recently I had a very nice phone conversation with Picnic Tool auteur Bodie Plecas -- a charming and funny guy who had previously won my heart by allowing how he had read my old SR stuff, including the legendary review of the first Tonio K. album -- and he let it drop that he was also a filmmaker. Here's his very first effort in that regard, which he advised me not to judge too harshly.

Don't worry pal -- it's very cool, albeit deliberately disturbing. An impressive debut.

Meanwhile, have I mentioned that you should get over to their website and buy something? Sheesh, do I have to do everything for you?

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Closed Due to Monkey Business

Still under the weather.

New posting resumes on the morrow, even if on the proverbial deathbed.

POSTSCRIPT: Note to my incredibly patient friends in PICNIC TOOL -- the plugola I promised you is 95% complete; It goes up rain or shine on Wednesday.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Under the Weather

Closed due to a really nasty stomach bug...

...which is really kicking my ass.

Regular posting resumes tomorrow, the good lord willing etc.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Reason Number 1 Why Incels Are Not a Thing

From 1992, and his classic album Relentless, please enjoy the late Bill Hicks and "Chicks Dig Jerks."

Yeah, I know, I promised that I was only going to feature living contemporary artists this week, but I had forgotten how great this is.

Have a terrific weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Your Thursday Moment of "And Speaking of Gorgeous"

From October of this year, and his new album Too Old to Be a Rock Star, please enjoy friend of PowerPop (and moi) Joe Benoit and the drop-dead beautiful "Can You Hear the Song."

Seriously, I get chills just thinking about that track, especially at the end where Joe goes all Beach Boys/CSN harmonies and Brian May guitar. But oh hell -- the whole album is fantastic.

You can find out more about Joe (although attentive readers know I've been bending your ears about him for a couple of years now) over at his official website HERE. And you can (and obviously should) stream the new album (or buy it on vinyl, 'natch) over there as well.

Excuse me -- what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Oh To Be In Los Angeles When the Heather is in Bloom

Well, if I ever needed an excuse for a cross-country trip, this is it.

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Benefit-concert producers the Wild Honey Foundation will present the music of the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame members the Lovin’ Spoonful as a fundraiser for the Autism Think Tank. The event will take place Saturday, February 29, 2020 at 8 p.m., at the historic Alex Theatre, 216 N. Brand Blvd., in downtown Glendale, Calif.

Led by acclaimed musical director Rob Laufer (whose credits include George Martin’s Hollywood Bowl tribute to Sgt. Pepper), Wild Honey Orchestra and Friends (guest singers TBA) will explore the groundbreaking catalog of one of the 1960s’ most influential if underrated bands in the folk-rock-country (Americana) world. In the tradition of Wild Honey’s benefit events (which have saluted the Kinks, Buffalo Springfield, the Band, Beach Boys ’67-’77, Big Star, and the Beatles, among others), the musicians will passionately celebrate every nuance of more than 30 of the Lovin’ Spoonful brilliant songs: “Do You Believe in Magic,” “Summer in the City,” “Six O’clock,” “Coconut Grove,” “You Didn't Have to Be So Nice,” “Darling Be Home Soon,” “She's Still a Mystery,” “Full Measure,” and so many more. Beloved by their peers — Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ray and Dave Davies of the Kinks, and many others — the Spoonful created a rich and varied catalog of hits and hidden treasures that’s a perfect fit for the Wild Honey Orchestra and their merry band of guest performers.

Current members of the Orchestra include a who’s who of respected L.A. recording artists: Laufer, guitar, vocals; Elliot Easton of the Cars, Dennis Diken (Smithereens), guitar; Jim Laspesa (Brian Wilson/Dave Davies), drums; Derrick Anderson (the Bangles); David Goodstein, drums, vocals; Chris Price (Emitt Rhodes); Willie Aron, keyboards, vocals; Jordan Summers (Jakob Dylan) and Danny McGough (Tom Waits and more), keyboards; Kaitlin Wolfberg and Lyn Bertles, strings; Nick Vincent (vocals, drums); and Tara Austin and Nick Guzman (vocals).

As in previous years, the concert will benefit the Autism Think Tank, a non-profit that brings together a team of top autism specialists, via an Internet medical conference, to tackle the medical/psychological issues faced by kids like Wild Honey co-founder Paul Rock’s 15-year-old son Jake, a non-verbal autistic boy with extreme digestive distress and self-injury issues. Thanks to medical advice from a member of the Think Tank medical team, Jake’s often debilitating self-injury has been reduced by 95%. By giving families access to cutting-edge treatments, the Autism Think Tank provides welcome relief from the suffering that comes with severe autism. Since 2013, the Wild Honey Foundation has raised over $100,000 for the organization, which now operates under the wing of the newly formed Autism Healthcare Collaborative. Here’s a wonderful short video on how the Autism Think Tank works: https://youtu.be/cDszQ9BpKw8

Dating back to 1994, the 501(3)(c), non-profit Wild Honey’s numerous grassroots benefit events have featured appearances by Brian Wilson, Dave Davies (the Kinks), Richie Furay, Garth Hudson, Jackson Browne, Carlene Carter, Alex Chilton, the Bangles, Beach Boy Al Jardine, Micky Dolenz, Mike Mills (R.E.M.), Al Stewart, Denny Laine, Tony Asher, Dave Gregory of XTC, Danny Hutton, Terry Reid, Chuck Negron, Matthew Sweet, Colin Hay, Dan Wilson, Jody Stephens (Big Star), the Continental Drifters, P.F. Sloan, Jon Brion, Peter Case, the Plimsouls, Victoria Williams, the Williams Brothers, Dave Alvin, the Blue Shadows, Aimee Mann, Michael Penn, Scott Miller (the Loud Family), Ann Magnuson, and many others. The shows have been produced at the Alex and various other Los Angeles-area locations including the Morgan-Wixson Theater, the Roxy, the Knitting Factory (Hollywood), and the El Rey Theatre.

I should add that tickets go on sale for this sure to be transplendent event this Friday at the theatre box office.

Incidentally, if you don't know from the Wild Honey Orchestra and musical director Rob Laufer -- who I wrote about most recently in August here -- here's a sample of their work.

Words fail me.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Your Tuesday Moment of Words Completely Fail me

In celebration of the 30th anniversary of Tom Petty's Full Moon Fever, please enjoy Chris Hillman and friends and the ultimate remake of The Byrds' "Feel A Whole Lot Better."

Chris Hillman was an automatic choice since Tom was a huge Byrds fan and produced Hillman’s solo album Bidin’ My Time in 2017. Herb Pedersen was in the Desert Rose Band with Hillman and toured with Petty and Mudcrutch in 2016. As for The Shelters, Tom Petty got involved with the band very early on, and he ended up co-producing their debut album in 2016. But it was producer/engineer Ryan Ulyate (TPHB’s/Mudcrutch/Chris Hillman/The Shelters) who suggested to Hillman and Pedersen that they do a new version of “Feel A Whole Lot Better” (Hillman played on The Byrds original, and it was the last song recorded for Full Moon Fever) with The Shelters.

In all seriousness, that's about the most gorgeous thing I've ever heard in my life.

[h/t Glenn E. Most]

Monday, December 09, 2019

Show Biz Notes From All Over (An Occasional Series)

So ace singer/songwriter/guitarist/rocker and friend of PowerPop David Achelis...

...is part of an absolutely killer double bill tonight at one of the coolest clubs in New York City. I think the phrase is -- for me, anyway -- be there or be square.

Here's a track from Dave's latest CD that should give you an idea what's in store for you if you attend.

You can -- and should -- find out more about all things Achelis (including a link to stream more of his music) over at his website HERE.

I should also add that Dave is opening for Binky Phillips, one of the genuine legends of the early NYC punk scene, and a guy who channels his inner Pete Townshend better than anybody alive.

So -- what are you waiting for? Get down to Arlene's this very minute, grab a seat, and get ready to rock!

POSTSCRIPT: One of the greatest experiences of my adult life was participating in a jam session with David in which he sang the complete four and a half minute version of Marty Robbins' "El Paso," a feat few who walk upright can duplicate. I can't guarantee that Dave will do the song tonight, but it certainly wouldn't hurt you to request it.

Friday, December 06, 2019

To Paraphrase R. Crumb -- If You Don't Know What Doo Wah Diddy Means By Now, Don't Mess With It

From 1945, and the movie I Love a Bandleader, please enjoy original rapper Phil Harris and his signature -- and frighteningly proto-rock-and-roll -- song "That's What I Like About the South."

I bring this up because, as I mentioned yesterday, I've been listening to a lot of old Jack Benny radio shows of late, and Harris -- who was a regular on the show for years -- happened to do this on an episode I heard last night.

I should add that while these days, Harris is mostly remembered as the voice of Baloo in Disney's Jungle Book...

...to me he will always be the guy who had the greatest novelty hit single of all time.

In any case, I hereby solemnly promise that every post next week will feature new music by currently living people. You're welcome.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Go East, Young Man!

As attentive readers will recall, I have been falling asleep of late to old episodes of the great Jack Benny's radio show, which among other things are about as interesting a pop-cultural time capsule as you can imagine.

In any case, listening to a Benny show from the '40s the other night, I had sort of a lightbulb-over-my-head moment. To wit: This long running gag (it was featured in countless episodes over the years), with the great Mel Blanc announcing a train leaving on track five (from L.A.'s Union station) for Anaheim, Azuza and Cucamonga...

...was clearly the inspiration for the greatest masterpiece of the surf-rock genre of the '60s.

Take it away, Jan and Dean!!!

I'm not kidding about that being a masterpiece, BTW; in fact, the classical and baroque touches in the song's arrangement (from 1964, I should add) pretty much show-up all later prog-rock as the pretentious swill it is.

I should also add that the first time I heard that song in stereo (rather than in mono, on the jukebox at my college cafeteria) was the closest thing I've had to a religious experience in my entire life.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

I Lost It at the Theatre

So I'm taking a certain Shady Dame of my acquaintance to see Hamilton on Broadway today. As a birthday present.

We've seen the show before, on our trip to London last year, but we are reliably informed that the Broadway version is superior. We shall see.

A little backstory:

I was skeptical about the whole Hamilton hype, despite the fact that I had been impressed with the show's auteur Lin-Manuel Miranda (after seeing the documentary on the making of his In the Heights)...

...for the obvious reason that hip-hop isn't particularly my thing.

In any event, when we saw the show in London, I sat through the first act with an open mind, and at intermission said Shady Dame asked me what I thought. I allowed how it was undeniably impressive, if a little monochromatic musically, but that I hadn't decided what I thought.

And then act II started, and immediately the music was a lot more stylistically varied and I was digging it. And then this song happened...

...and I turned to the Shady Dame with tears streaming down my face and said "They got me."

Seriously, if you don't find that moving, you really need to have it looked at.

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

The Maltese Mallard

From 1966, please enjoy -- if possible -- the late great Phil Austin (of Firesign Theatre fame), doing business with The Buddies, and the not as hilarious as intended "Duckman Parts 1 and 2."

Back in the early 90s, I wrote the liner notes for Sony's Firesign Theatre box set, and I got to interview all four Firesign guys, which was a genuine thrill, as you can imagine. Talking about his pre-Firesign work, Austin mentioned "Duckman" in passing --

Originally monikered the Oz Firesign Theatre (by Bergman) the group later had to shorten the name when lawyers for Disney and MGM - who owned the Oz copyright - threatened legal action. Whatever they were called, however, the group and their freewheeling, sounded-stoned-but-wasn't brand of improvisational comedy were an immediate hit with the nascent underground audience. And as the Summer of Love loomed, they inevitably came to the attention of a record company, in the person of Gary Usher, trend-savvy producer for CBS and veteran of the L.A. surf music scene who had earlier done a comedy single - "Duckman, Parts I and II" - with Austin ["Because I could do this duck voice," Austin says. "It was just stupid."].

-- which is the only reason I knew of its existence.

YouTube being the equivalent of the Library at Alexandria, it did not surprise me to finally run across it a few weeks ago.

Nor did it surprise me to find myself in complete agreement with Austin's assessment.

Monday, December 02, 2019

Singles Going Steady

So as unlikely as it may seem, I have just released the metaphorical equivalent of one of those old seven inch vinyl records with the big hole in it. Under my own name, no less.

Because the masses have been clamoring for solo work by Steve Simels, comrades!

Here's the a-side, which is a remake of The Byrds' anti-war classic from Fifth Dimension.

And here's the b-side, which is a cover of a great song by friend of PowerPop Peter Spencer, done as a cross between the early Byrds and "Street Fighting Man."

I should add that both of those are now available for streaming/purchase at Spotify, iTunes, Amazon Music and various other digital platforms to be announced.

I should also add that the picture sleeve photo was taken by friend of PowerPop Capt. Al, and the art direction is by a certain Shady Dame (who's working too cheap, I'll tell you that for free.)

Oh, and in case you're wondering, the musical credits are:

Track 1:
Me -- lead vocals and bass
Joe Benoit -- harmony vocals and all other instruments

Track 2:
Me -- lead vocals, guitars, keyboards
Joe Benoit -- guitars
Allan Weissman -- bass
David Hawxwell -- harmony vocals, 12-string guitar, Nashville guitar
Glenn Leeds -- outro keyboards
Glen Robert Allen -- drums

And a big tip of the Simels chapeau to one and all who supported me in this folly.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Only the Smug Die Young

From 2019 and their just released album Serve a Thirsty Moon...

...please enjoy the pride of Dayton, Ohio, the Smug Brothers, and their too cool for school new single "Every One is Really Five."

These guys have been around for a while -- since 2008, actually, albeit unbeknownst to me until last week. In any case, I loved their new album -- which has, as you can hear from the above, a terrific pop-punky edge -- and I was particularly intrigued by this little news tidbit in the press release they sent me.

Serve A Thirsty Moon by Smug Brothers is being released on CD by Gas Daddy Go! Records in conjunction with the first Local Music Day in Dayton, Ohio on Saturday, Nov. 9.

Local Music Day in Dayton? Obviously, I had to dispatch Dayton native/ace reporter/friend of PowerPop Phil Cheesebrough to check it out.

Here's his report -- take it away, Phil.

I definitely enjoyed the Smug Brothers 50 minute concert, and as they raced through a tight indie-rock set of songs lasting mostly two to three minutes each, I was thinking to myself: "Why didn't I get the memo on these guys?" I mean, they are from my town! Guess I have been too narrowly focused on the singer/songwriter genre, and the home concert experience, for the past 10 years.

So my only disappointment from Saturday night was only one set could be served up from the Smug Brothers before they had to depart for the next band on the bill. Definitely left me wanting more!

With three full length releases in 2019 alone, they have a wealth of current, original songs to select from for live shows. "My Future In Bones," with its snarling guitar riff, is now my favorite 90 second song in the world! And of course, I was already a fan of "We Are All Five" after watching the video link you sent me. And totally cool that they used this song for their opener to grab and shake the audience right from the start.

The band has two new additions to their line-up--Scott Tribble on lead guitar, and Kyle Sowash on bass--and both appear on the new disc. Tribble and front-man/principal songwriter Kyle Melton had some excellent guitar inter-play throughout the set. Solid drummer Don Thrasher is a Dayton institution, well known for his freelance writing about the Dayton rock scene for decades now. And Don even has a four year stint (in the early 1990s) under his belt drumming for Dayton hero Robert Pollard and his band Guided By Voices.

I talked to the band at the merch table after their set, and they were absolutely lovely guys. They gave me a free copy of "Serve The Thirsty Moon," and I also bought their other two 2019 releases "All Blur And Spark" and "Attic Harvest" (on vinyl). And I definitely plan to check out their extensive back catalog too.

BTW, I gave Kyle an autographed copies of Floor Your Love and Letter From Liverpool. He laughed at the title, getting the Yardbirds reference!

Thanks again for the heads-up on the SBs! Kyle and Don were amazed when I told them the first tips I got from you started way back in early 1975 when I subscribed to Stereo Review at age 15. And 44 years later, well, the tips are still coming.

Thanks, Phil -- wish I'd been there. I should add that the Guided By Voices connection alone makes these guys a must-listen. That being the case, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that you can stream the album over at Amazon HERE. I can't find a link for the physical CD, but I'm sure if I yell at the guys they'll provide it for us.

POSTSCRIPT: As promised, here's the link where you can -- and should -- buy a CD of the new album. HI FANS!!!.

You can order the rest of their catalogue there, too!

Have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, November 28, 2019

It's Turkey Day (An Annual Series)

From 1969, here's the original classic lineup of Procol Harum...

...and their utterly gorgeous "Pilgrim's Progress."

Pilgrim -- get it? It's not rocket science, kids.

As long-time readers may recall, this song is something of a Thanksgiving tradition around here by now. Although I'll grant you that given we're now in the era of President Mediocre Columbo Villain, it's not quite the same anymore.

In any case, enjoy the cranberry sauce and stuffing, everybody.

Also -- Matthew Fisher is God©.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

On the Beach

From his just released album Some of Us Are Free, Some of Us Are Lost...

..please enjoy splendid singer/songwriter Bob Hillman and the album's haunting title song.

Hillman's been around for a while -- one of his previous albums was produced by no less a worthy than the great Peter Case, which should be recommendation enough for anybody. (Reading Hillman's bio, it occurred to me that I may actually have met him back in Greenwich Village in the 90s, but that's another story). Anyway, I love the new album, and if "Cocaine Ruins Everything"...

...which reminds me of Lily Tomlin's remark "I worry that drugs have made us more creative than we really are," isn't an instant classic then I'm not the judge of horseflesh that I fancy myself.

In any case, you can find out more about Hillman over at his website HERE.

And you can -- and should -- order the new album over at Amazon HERE.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Miracle of Commerce

One of my favorite albums is coming back, better than ever.

But I'll let the artist explain.

NEW YORK, N.Y. — “I love it that phonograph records are popular again,” enthuses Marshall Crenshaw. “They were consigned to oblivion by the music business back when I was recording for Razor & Tie, but now they’re back!”

The artist recently regained ownership of the five acclaimed albums he released on the Razor & Tie label between 1994 and 2003, and plans to issue revised editions of those efforts, on vinyl and on all digital platforms, beginning with his 1996 release Miracle of Science, due on January 17, 2020 on Crenshaw's own Shiny-Tone label (distributed through Megaforce).

Ultimately, the new reissue series will encompass three much-loved studio albums — Miracle of Science, 1999's #447 and 2003's What's in the Bag? — plus 1994's live My Truck Is My Home and 1998's early demos collection The 9 Volt Years. Each album will include two newly recorded, previously unreleased tracks, which will appear on a bonus 7" single on the vinyl editions and as bonus tracks on the CD and digital versions.

"Miracle of Science was a turning point for me," Crenshaw recalls. "I had voluntarily taken myself out of the major-label world. ADAT machines had just come out, so I bought a couple of those and a few other pieces of gear, and now suddenly I could make records at home if I felt like it. That took me back to my roots, you might say; I did about half the album at home by myself. And the other people that played on the record, I still get such a huge kick out of hearing what they did, particularly on the tracks that I recorded at Alex the Great studios in Nashville. There’s a lot of spirit in the music, a lot of fire. The playing is loose and wild — a much different approach from what you hear on my major-label records, and a real breakthrough, for my money.

“Overall, I’d say that there’s a lot of great music on this album, a lot of great noisetoo, and some cool sounds,” he continues. “I’ve seen the songs on the album described as ‘cinematic’ and ‘atmospheric’; that works for me. One of my favorites is ‘What Do You Dream Of.’ I was trying to write a rockabilly song when I started it — you might not guess that. It’s most definitely a love song, but it’s also about how no matter how close you think you are to a loved one, they’ve still got their own personal internal life.”

The new edition of Miracle of Science includes a pair of bonus tracks, “Misty Dreamer” by Scottish indie-pop artist Daniel Wylie, and “What the Hell I Got,” a 1974 number by Canadian artist Michel Pagliaro, which was a monster smash in Pagliaro’s native country, and a regional hit on Crenshaw's hometown radio station CKLW-FM.

"Of all the Razor & Tie albums,” Crenshaw explains, "Miracle of Science was the only one that never had an analog master tape, and I knew that I wanted to create one for this vinyl release. All audio formats have their quirks and idiosyncrasies, and with analog you can pick and choose with tape speed, tape width, tape saturation etc. These are artistic choices because they affect the sound and feel of the thing. Once I knew that I was going down that road, I decided to go further and re-address a couple of the songs on the album. If Francis Coppola can fool around with Apocalypse Now, I can fool around with Miracle of Science, right?

“I got pretty aggressive with ‘Only an Hour Ago.’ Listening in 2019, it seemed that the original production and arrangement were burying the song. So I changed it, mostly using the original elements. And I did a similar thing on ‘There and Back Again.’ There’s a track called ‘Rouh Na Selim Neves,’ which is ‘Seven Miles an Hour’ backwards. As I was reviewing this album a few months ago, I heard ‘Seven Miles an Hour,’ and thought, ‘Hmmm, I bet this track would sound a lot better backwards.’ So I did it and nobody tried to stop me. The original not-backwards version is still on the album too.”

And there’s more.

Crenshaw notes, “As much as I love the artwork on the original CD — which was Grammy-nominated — we couldn’t use it for an LP. There was no way. So art director Paul Grosso came to the rescue and did a beautiful job. And I couldn’t resist paying tribute to the circa-1958 Roulette Records label design. I hope nobody comes after me about that, but we checked and there’s no copyright. It’s a bit of an inside joke for fans of a certain ilk of record-business folklore. Roulette was a great label.

“The result of all this tinkering,” Crenshaw assesses, “is that Miracle of Science is all shiny and new to me now, and I love it even more now than before.”

Well, it certainly looks like 2020 will be a better year than 2019, I'll tell you that for free.

Friday, November 22, 2019

The Incomparable Eddie© is Under the Weather

Spent several hours last night with this beautiful boy at our local emergency vet.

I won't bore you with the details -- and thank the FSM he's taking his medicine -- but I'm too stressed and worried to post today.

With luck, I'll return Monday with a post about a fabulous singer/songwriter who has a great new album out.

Have a great weekend, everybody.

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.


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!

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

In honor of Halloween, please enjoy the criminally underrated Gwil Owen...

...and his fabulous ode to the proverbial "Haunted House."

I first encountered Owen when he was the lead singer (circa 1988) of alt-rockers The Thieves, who made an absolutely sensational album -- Seduced by Money -- that was produced by none other than Marshall Crenshaw. If you can find a copy, grab it immediately; it's a classic. The song above, if I recall, was from the follow up album Phoenix, which I believe Gwil self-released.

In any case, I lost track of the guy over the years, but I rediscovered him in 2017, and he's done really well for himself since the Thieves, including an Oscar nomination for a song he wrote for the soundtrack of The Horse Whisperer.

You can find out more about him over HERE.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Ever Since the World Ended

Mose Allison -- the greatest hepster songwriter/piano player of all time -- is finally getting a tribute album.

Hey world -- what took you so long?

Here are two cuts from the CD, which drops, as the kids say, on Nov. 29 on Fat Possum Records.

And here's the complete track listing.

1. Taj Mahal - Your Mind Is On Vacation

2. Robbie Fulks - My Brain

3. Jackson Browne - If You Live

4. The Tippo Allstars featuring Fiona Apple - Your Molecular Structure

5. Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite - Nightclub

6. Chrissie Hynde - Stop This World

7. Iggy Pop - If You're Going to the City

8. Bonnie Raitt - Everybody's Crying Mercy

9. Loudon Wainwright III - Ever Since the World Ended

10. Richard Thompson - Parchman Farm

11. Peter Case - I Don't Worry About A Thing

12. Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin - Wild Man On the Loose

13. Anything Mose! - The Way of the World

14. Frank Black - Numbers On Paper

15. Amy Allison with Elvis Costello - Monsters of the Id

I was lucky enough to see Mose, who passed away in 2016 at the ripe old age of 89, at some hole in the wall jazz club in Greenwich Village sometime in the early 80s; the word that most comes to mind to describe the man and the music he made that night is "droll."

In any event, I am planning to enjoy the hell out of this CD when it arrives.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Your Tuesday Moment of Words Fail Me

From their 2011 album Kids Sing Bob Dylan, please enjoy The Starbugs and the damndest version of "Mr. Tambourine Man" you'll ever hear.

Spoiler alert: The girl in the middle behind the microphone is standing on a wooden box.

Seriously, that brought tears to my eyes. And it occurred to me that those children were only slightly younger than I was the first time I heard The Byrds do the song, an event which literally changed my life forever.

In any case, I think the great Lothar and the Hand People said it best. Kids ARE little people.

Monday, October 28, 2019

The Folk Process at Work

[I first posted the following in 2010, when this blog and the world were young; I had forgotten two of the three versions of the song featured since then, so for a variety of reasons -- including the fact that I've recently gotten interested in the live tapes of the Grateful Dead recorded before they got their record deal -- I thought it might be worth revisiting. In any case, enjoy if possible. -- S.S.]

From 1966 (but unreleased until 1989) here's The Byrds (at the height of their powers) and a very cool studio version of the venerable "I Know You Rider."

And from a year later, here's land-locked Boulder, Colorado surf band The Astronauts with another perspective on the song.

[Audio Note: This is one of those really weird early stereo mixes -- it sounds horrible on headphones, but just fine on real speakers. Act accordingly.]

And finally, from the Avalon Ballroom in late September 1966, here's the Dead with their take.

The song itself is as old as the proverbial hills, although its first modern appearance dates back to a 1934 John and Alan Lomax folklore anthology; by the 60s, it was pretty much a blues and folkie standard. The Byrds opened their live shows with it for much of 1966-67, but that version was in majestic open-D tuning; the studio track above is in G, the better to emulate (as Roger McGuinn has noted on several occasions) The Beatles then current "Paperback Rider." The Dead also used to play it a lot back in the day; it's no secret I'm not particularly a fan, but I must admit that discovering this version was a bit of an eye-opener. It noodles a little too much for my taste (so what else is new?) but it works up a pretty effective head of steam by the time it sort of collides to a halt.

Actually, on balance I think I kind of prefer the Astronauts' cover. The whole surf thing was of course pretty much passé at this point, and their albums found them trying on whatever current rock styles they thought they could credibly get away with, with often cringeworthy results. But this one has a genuinely authentic folk-rock vibe and the rhythm section really kicks; if the San Francisco hippies in the psychedelic ballrooms the year this was released had actually heard it, I suspect they might even have approved.

Friday, October 25, 2019

It's About Time. Now Lets Get Them Into the One in Cleveland.

TRENTION, NJ -- Governor Phil Murphy has announced that The Smithereens will be inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame in the Performing Arts Category in the fall.

The Smithereens -- Jim Babjak, Dennis Diken, Mike Mesaros, and the late Scotch Plains native Pat DiNizio -- will be inducted at the 11th annual ceremony to be held on Sunday, October 27, 2019, at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park. The band had a string of hits in the 1980s, including Only a Memory, Blood and Roses, and A Girl Like You.

DiNizio, who was proud of his Scotch Plains roots, has been celebrated locally as an inductee into the Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School Hall of Fame. In 2018, shortly after his death, the Township honored him by naming a street after him. Mayor Al Smith and Township Manager Al Mirabella unveiled the sign marking Pat DiNizio Way at the intersection of Montague Avenue and Westfield Avenue in front of the musician's family home across from St. Bartholomew's Church.

"This is terrific news for The Smithereens, Pat DiNizio, and his beloved hometown of Scotch Plains," Al Mirabella said. "Pat was a true personal friend of mine and I always enjoyed his stories and the way he shared his love of New Jersey."

"Wherever in the world he was performing, he always talked about New Jersey," Mirabella added. "I miss him, but I’m happy to know that he’ll be inducted into the NJ Hall of Fame. I’m sure his mother, Antoinette Dinizio will be very proud of this prestigious honor."

Apparently, Jon Bon Jovi is going to actually induct them. Fellow Jersey native (and one of my personal heroes) Southside Johnny Lyon will also be honored at the ceremony.

Have a great weekend, everybody.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Hairway to Steven

For some odd reason, this resonated with me.

And yeah, it wasn't a hit, but god bless Ben Folds for writing this and spelling my name with a "v".

[h/t NYMary]