Friday, September 29, 2023

La Fin de la Semaine Essay Question: Special "But First, Steve Gets Serious for a Moment" Edition

I really don't know what to say.

From Showbiz 411

Denny Laine, former member of the Moody Blues and Paul McCartney’s Wings, is apparently very ill.

His wife, Elizabeth, has set up a GO FUND ME PAGE to raise $100,000.

Elizabeth says:

"For the past two months, he’s been in and out of the hospital concerning an illness in his lungs that developed after his short bout with COVID last year. He’s had multiple tests, X-rays and scans that are ongoing, along with three surgeries, most recently for a collapsed lung, which includes an inserted chest tube that is temporarily needed until his lung heals. He recently contracted a bacterial infection in his blood, which he is still battling, but seems to be under control.”

Denny Laine started with the Moody Blues in the 60s and had a massive hit with them called “Go Now.” In 1972 he joined Paul and Linda McCartney in Wings. He was an essential part of the group all through the 70s, especially on “Band on the Run.” He co-wrote several songs with McCartney including the monster hit, “Mull of Kintyre.”

It’s unclear why Denny doesn’t have enough money from royalties or isn’t on Medicare. But apparently he doesn’t. I would hope MusiCares would step in from the Recording Academy. But no one puts up a GoFundMe page unless they are desperate.

Elizabeth adds:

“The doctors have explained once he’s medically well, he will need several weeks of physical and occupational rehabilitation. Denny does not have medical insurance. The hospital has been working with us regarding this problem, but a rehabilitation center, along with the multiple lab work and specialists, will not. I’m asking for financial help to get Denny the medical care and recovery time he requires. It’s important he concentrates on healing during this time. Our goal is to have Gypsy Den home in time for his birthday, October 29. He wants to be able to play his guitar again, presently, he’s too weak.”

I repeat -- I really don't know what to say. Except that you'd think Paul McCartney might give him a hand. In any event, if you can spare a little coin, hie thee to the Go Fund Me page at the above link.

Laine, of course, is one of my heroes. Longtime readers are aware that I am so enamored of this oh-so-sad-and-beautiful song -- "Boulevard de la Madeleine" -- that he wrote and sang with the Moodys (presented here in stereo for the first time, you're welcome very much)...

...that on our first trip to Paris, a certain Shady Dame and I actually made a pilgrimage to the street in question.

Okay, let's move on now to the happier business of a weekend essay question. To wit (and as you doubtless guessed from the subjects of the week's previous entries):

...and your favorite (or least favorite) post-Elvis pop/rock song title, or song lyric referencing a specific geograhic location or travel in general is...?


No arbitrary rules, but if anybody nominates the Boston Pops, I will come to their home and pummel them savagely.

I should add that I posted something similar to this back in 2009(!), when both this blog and the world were young, but hey -- I'm getting old. Cut me some slack, jack.

Also, and in case you're wondering, my vote goes to The Weasels' ode to the hippest street in Teaneck, New Jersey. Hell -- in all of Bergen County. "Oh! Cedar Lane."

Have a great weekend, everybody!!!

[h/t Steve Schwartz]

Thursday, September 28, 2023

it's Rocking All Over the World Week: Part IV -- Those Ukraine Girls Really Knock Me Out!

C;mon, you just knew we were gonna work Pussy Riot into this, right?

That's those crazy kids latest recorded effort, and I haven't the slightest idea what they're going on about there; if any of our Russian-speaking readers can illuminate us, I'd be profoundly grateful.

Meanwhile, here's head Pussy Rioter Nadya Tolokonnikova and her reflections on a pointed message she delivered to Vladimir Putin a while back. Think the Trumpster was listening?

Coming tomorrow: a brand new Weekend Essay question, but don't even think about getting a coveted No-Prize for guessing what it's about; the theme should have been blindingly obvious by now.

Oh, and BTW -- yeah, yeah, I knew that Pussy Riot weren't from the Ukraine.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

It's Rocking All Over the World Week: Part III -- Los Shakers Rule, Okay!!!

From 1968, please enjoy The Beatles del Rio de la Plata -- better known as Los Shakers -- and their becomingly Pepper-esque psych stunner "Una Forma De Arco Iris."

I've been a fan of these Uruguayan guys earlier stuff for ages, or at least since Kid Charlemagne turned me onto them in 2007(!), but I hadn't heard the above until friend of PowerPop Sal Nunziato posted it last Sunday at his invaluable Burning Wood blog over here. Apparently, it derives from an album -- La Conferencia Secreta Del Toto's Bar -- which Sal has described as a genre masterpiece; on the basis of the above, I'm obviously gonna have to track it down.

And in the meantime, from 1965 -- and what looks like an utterly charming period teen film en espanol -- here's the slightly younger Los Shakers at their most sublimely Merseybeat-y, with "Always You."

Damn, when that Harrison-esque electric 12-string comes in on the second verse, I'm a goner.

I've said it before and I'll say it again -- of all the songs I've discovered while doing this here blog, this is the one that means the most to me.

Coming tomorrow -- those Moscow girls make me scream and shout!

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Hey -- It's Turning Into Rockin’ All Over the World Week!

From 1986, please enjoy Spanish superstar band Hombres G and their kick ass hit single "El Ataque De Las Chicas Cocodrilo"...

...which translates -- as you, doubtless, have already concluded -- as "Attack of the Crocodile Girls."

And here they are with a wonderful live version (from 2018) with assistance from killer Argentinian guitar band Enanitos Verdes -- Little Green Men to you.

Faithful readers will no doubt recall that I'm a fan of the aforementioned Enanitos, who are responsible for "Tu Carcel," one of the most gorgeous rock songs written in this century, and who I have bent your ear about here previously.

By the way, those Hombres guys seem to have a real flair for titles generally. As witness this one for their 1986 album...

...which, depending on who you ask, translates either as "You screwed up..." or "You fucked up...Burt Lancaster."

Apparently it's a tribute.

Coming tomorrow -- the Beatles of Uruguay!!!

Monday, September 25, 2023

The French They Are a Funny Race. They Fight With Their Feet and...

..well, good taste and propriety forbids me from finishing THAT one.

In any case, from 1969 and somewhere on la Rive gauche, please enjoy gallic Yé-yé rocker Jacques Dutronc and his charmingly proto-garage pop hit single (in his homeland) "Le responsable."

Dutronc is apparently very well known in France and England, where he's had a number of hits in a variety of styles over the years, as well as being a highly regarded film actor.

I should add that he's been married for all those years to superstar French chanteuse/megababe Francoise Hardy...

...and thus deserves considerable respect from mere mortals like you and I.

In all seriousness, I think the song itself is just killer; I've got some left-over studio time booked, and I'm actually considering recording my own version, although I haven't decided whether the original French lyrics or an English translation is more appropriate to my limited, if charmante vocal stylings. I'll keep you posted as this develops, of course.

I should also add that I was totally unaware of both the song and its auteur until the other day when I heard it in this episode of the wonderfully droll Britcom The Cleaner...

...which I heartily recommend.

You're welcome.

Friday, September 22, 2023

La Fin de la Semaine Essay Question: Special "You Talkin' to Me?" Edition

From 1972, and their sole really good album The Night is Still Young -- featuring lotsa terrific originals and a killer cover of "In the Still of the Night" that shreds the hit oldie version -- please enjoy Sha Na Na and their hilarious and poignant ode to the invention of corrective lenses, the Jeff Barry-produced "Glasses."

Written, played and sung by nice Jewish boy Jon "Bowser" Bauman. A prince.

I bring this up for a reason that is both convoluted (it refers back to yesterday's post) and topical.

Basically, as you may have heard, Jann Wenner -- the former editor/publisher/groupie-in-chief of Rolling Stone magazine -- just got kicked off the board of the Rock Hall of Fame for compiling a book of his interviews with the people he considers the greatest of the great figures in rock history, all of whom are, a coincidence I'm sure, white guys. And then adding insult to injury by titling the thing -- wait for it -- The Masters. Which is not a reference to the golf tournament, obviously.

In any case, speaking of interviews, I was lucky enough to sit down with Bowser around the time the aforementioned Sha Na Na album came out, and although the word master did not immediately spring to mind at the time, it was nonerheless one of my favorite journalistic experiences ever. Dude showed up for our chat out of greaser drag, looking like a second year theology major at Yeshiva University, and proceeded to down a corned beef sandwich and a can of Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray while we talked. Needless to say, I was utterly charmed.

For some reason, I haven't been able to find a copy of the interview as it ran in The Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review, but one part of our conversation is etched in my memory. Specifically, I asked him what product his band used to slick back their hair into those '50s ducks-ass hairdos.

His answer? K-Y Jelly, which despite being designed (or so I've heard) for other purposes makes perfect sense, when you think of it, as it's completely water soluble. To this day, I can't figure why the band never did commercials for the stuff.

But enough of my encounters with greatness. We have an essay question to get to.

So now to business. To wit:

If you could interview any post-WWII rock/pop star, living or dead, who would it be -- and why?

Arbitrary rule: No groups need apply -- only solo performers, or one person from a larger ensemble.

Sorry -- you get to pick either Simon OR Garfunkel, not both of them.

And BTW, in case you're wondering, my choice would be any one of the real people impersonated in this classic SNL bit. I mean, shit -- who wouldn't want to talk to the auteur behind "Me So Horny"?

Okay -- and your choices would be?


And have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Songs I'd Forgotten Existed, Let Alone Loved (An Occasional Series): Special "An Early Clue to the New Direction" Edition

From 1980, please enjoy obscure and (for me, unclassifiable) Brit rockers Interview and their majestic and haunting ode to "Adventurers."

I knew -- and know -- next to nothing about these guys, except for the fact they made two albums, they were on Virgin, and I absolutely adored (and continue to adore) this song.

Still can't make out who they sounded like or what style this is supposed to be; closest I've ever come to being able to describe them is late-period Procol Harum with a sort of New Wave-y frontman, but who knows? I'd be curious to hear what you guys think. (And if anybody has any info about them beyond their Wiki entry, I'd be grateful.)

In any case, a coveted PowerPop No-Prize© will be awarded to the first reader who gleans the tune's relevance to the theme of tomorrow's Weekend Essay question.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

It Came From the Basement (Part the Infinity)

Okay, I first posted this back in 2011(!) but I'm re-upping it because a) I had forgotten how much I liked the song and b) the audio clip that accompanied the original antedeluvian posting has long since vanished (inexplicably) into the ether.

Hey, it was a long time ago. You know -- before digital streaming services put indie musicians out of business. (Just kidding.)

In any event, faithful readers will recall that I have, for more years than I care to think about, been toiling with some old high school garage band pals on various recorded musical follies. Specifically, making defiantly low-fi DIY albums in a dank Jersey basement, beginning about two decades before Guided By Voices honcho Robert Pollard did something similar in the late 80s/early 90s and thought he was so cool.

And we called ourselves The Weasels, which is a better fricking name, too.

Anyway, I (hopefully) haven't inflicted too many Weasels songs on you guys over the years because, if truth be told, most of them don't really fit into the powerpop template as such, but today I'm going to make an exception with this one because I think it does. In fact, when we were recording it -- which was somewhere around 1973-74 -- I definitely thought of it as our big Badfinger move.

So -- from that long ago vanished era -- please enjoy "Only You (Nobody)." Written by long-time Weasel Glenn Leeds and recorded on the four-track Teac reel-to-reel then recently acquired by fellow Weasel David "Jai Guru Dave" Hawxwell for an album aptly titled Crimes Against Nature.

For the sake of the historical record, the personnel here is me (the guitar solo), the aforementioned Dave on vocals and acoustic guitar, the aforementioned Glenn on the out-of-tune upright piano in Dave's living room, Allan Weissman on bass, and Mike "The Drummer" Sorrentino on one of those rare occasions when he graciously consented to keep the beat for us. I should add that the overdriven and highly compressed sound of my solo was achieved by plugging my 1957 Les Paul into a Pioneer cassette deck with a built-in limiter; where the interesting tape delay (or whatever the hell it is) came from has been lost in the mists of memory.

Oh, and the flutes at the end, in emulation of the Mellotron stuff from "Strawberry Fields," are in fact actual flutes also played by Glenn, talented multi-instrumentalist that he is.

You're welcome.

[h/t Steve Schwartz]

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Songs I'd Forgotten Existed, Let Alone Loved (An Occasional Series)

And I never saw the 1994 video until last week, either.

The above is, of course, D.C.-based Nineties alt-rock/power pop faves Velocity Girl and their indie hit "Sorry Again." Those guys were on Sub-Pop, which meant they were cool by definition back in the day, and I used to play the thing obsessively when it was new; how I lost track of it in recent years is beyond me. Probably just another symptom of old age.

In any event, the reason it impinged again on my decrepit consciousness is that VG will be performing the second of two reunion shows this coming September 30. If you're in the neighborhood of the Bowery Ballroom in Manhattan that evening, you might want to check 'em out.

I should add that "Sorry Again" figures prominently in a Great Lost Singles of the Nineties mixtape I put together in the 'aughts and recently rediscovered on my computer. It's a pretty fab compilation, if I do say so myself; ask me nicely and I could probably be persuaded to put it in a zip file and send it to you.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Man, I Can't Wait to Hear Micky's Version of "Radio Free Europe"

From 2023, and the about to be released (November 3) EP Dolenz Sings R.E.M., please enjoy Micky Dolenz, a/k/a the last surviving Monkee, and a version of the aforementioned sons of Athens' 1991 hit "Shiny Happy People"...

...that has lodged a near permanent smile on my kisser since the moment I first heard it a few days ago.

Not sure who's playing on it, but the album is produced by Christian Nesmith, son of Monkee Mike, who did such a (similarly) spectacular job on the 2021 Dolenz Sings Nesmith album.

In any case, the above is utterly fab. The song itself has never been my fave R.E.M. thing -- it always sounded a little self-consciously ironic/hipster for my taste -- but this version is pop heaven; it could pass for a late Monkees track, and higher praise than that I can not bestow.

Friday, September 15, 2023

La Fin de la Semaine Essay Question: Special "And the punchline is..." Edition

...practice, man, practice.

Hey, you'll get it in a minute.

From 1947, directed by the great Edgar G. Ulmer (one of my all-time heroes), please enjoy (complete, uncut, and in a very good print) the astoundingly star-studded celebration of the practioners of classical music in the 20th Centruy (and the building that hosted them) -- Carnegie Hall.

Yeah, yeah, I know, I know -- the above has pretty much dick to with the mission statement of this here blog. But I'm posting it for a couple of very good reasons. 1) It's pretty amazing and 2) I'd be very surprised if any of you guys had ever seen it or even knew it existed. I certainly hadn't and didn't.

And dig this cast list.

Walter Damrosch (conductor)

Olin Downes (music critic)

Jascha Heifetz (violinist)

Harry James (trumpeter)

Vaughn Monroe (band leader)

Jan Peerce (vocalist)

Gregor Piatigorsky (cellist)

Ezio Pinza (vocalist)

Lily Pons (vocalist)

Fritz Reiner (conductor)

Artur Rodziński (conductor)

Arthur Rubinstein (pianist)

Risë Stevens (vocalist)

Leopold Stokowski (conductor)

Bruno Walter (conductor)

I mean -- wow. And that doesn't even count a very young Cloris Leachman as a dancing nightclub patron.

Also, and most important, it's a perfect illustration of the theme of today's brain teaser.

So now to business. To wit:

...and your favorite (or least favorite) post-Elvis pop/rock/soul/country/jazz-themed movie is...?

Arbitrary rule: no straight concert films need apply. We're talking either fiction films, or bio-pics. Oh, and documentaries too.

BTW, in case you're wondering, I'm voting Performance.

Okay -- discuss.

And have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Andrew Pasternack 1955-2013

It was ten years ago today that I got the news of my friend and bandmate Andy Pasternack's passing.

Here's Andy at a NYC club in 1982, and one of my favorite songs of his, "What's Wrong With This Picture?"

And here's a studio track he wrote and played the Rick on. "Excuses Excuses." If there is a better ballad -- by anybody -- from the last four decades, I have yet to hear it.

I have joked in these precincts, on several occasions, that a Rickenbacker 12-string guitar, well played, is the most beautiful sound occurring in nature. Thanks to Andy's genius and generosity, I was lucky enough to stand stage left from that sound on more occasions than I can count.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Okay, It’s Not as Cool as the Jewish Space Lasers, But...

Found this by accident the other day, and I just couldn't resist sharing.

The definitive Red Sea Pedestrian version of "Old Man River."

Laugh, I thought I'd plotz.

But seriously, folks, come to think of it, there's a bunch of more recent songs I'd absolutely love to hear sung with a Jewish accent.

Starting with Train's "Hey Soul Sister."

I mean, c'mon -- the chorus alone would be the most awesome thing ever. I mean, it would give me such shpilkes.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Tuesday New Music: The JEEN Genie

From her forthcoming (February 2024) album Gold Control, please enjoy singer/songwriter/alt-rocker JEEN and the aforementioned platter's second single, the ominously titled "Making Me Mad."

The album in question first impinged on my consciousness back in July (I was not previously familiar with its young auteuress) when its first single, "Just Shadows," grabbed me right away, despite a certain chaotic over-production and a vocal that under normal circumstances might have struck me as mannered. But as I said back then, by the time the chorus came roaring out of my newly acquired Klipsch computer speakers, I was convinced; this was a record that really sounded like what it meant, which is what you want (and these days don't so often get) from your rock-and-roll.

Ms. J. describes the genesis of the new one thusly:

"There was so much bad shit in the news when I wrote this last spring. Everything kept grinding me down and making me mad. It was all pretty straight forward with this one."

To which I can only add that my description of "Just Shadows" is equally apt for "Mad." Seriously, that's like the hugest chorus I've heard in ages, and it just kills me.

In any case, you can (and should) find out more about JEEN (including where to get her previous releases) over at her official website here.

Monday, September 11, 2023

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words -- Especially the One in the Bottom Left Corner

Okay, sorry, I just couldn't resist.

Real music posting -- starting with an absolutely killer rock track (in a style you wouldn't necessarily think might be up my alley) by a new young artiste -- resumes on the morrow.

Trust me, it'll be worth the wait.

Friday, September 08, 2023

Weekend Listomania: Special "It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time" Edition

[I originally posted the following Listomania back in September of 2009, but let's not bring the whole burning of Atlanta thing up after all these years. In any event, I think it's still a kind of interesting topic to ponder; as is my wont with these vault plunderings, I've done some rewriting and substituted a new entry or two. Enjoy! -- S.S.]

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means.

Yes, my Asian quota-hire sex worker/martial arts consultant Fah Lo Suee and I are off to fabulous Black Rock City, Nevada, where we plan to go scavenging for high quality drugs in the left-behind muck at this year's Burning Man Festival.

Regular posting will therefore be somewhat fitful for the next couple of days.

But in the meantime, here's an interesting and alarming topic to help you wile away the hours in our absence while you consider it.

To wit:

Best or Worst Post-Elvis Rock, Pop, Soul or Country Concept Album!!!

Self-explanatory, I think, but for purposes of clarity, when I use the term "concept album" I simply mean a record in which some overarching theme, however tenuous, is discernible. As a result no arbitrary rules this time, although I should think you'd be ashamed to nominate a generic greatest hits package.

And my totally top of my head Top Seven is:

7. Sam Cooke -- Night Beat

A collection of Sam's personal favorite blues, soul and gospel songs, recorded for Cooke's own label with the cream of Los Angeles session guys as his backing band, this was designed to sound like the coolest live late night jam session in a smokey bar of all time, and boy does it ever. For reasons known only to the Lord, it went out of print amost immediately after it first appeared in 1963, and despite a CD reissue in the 90s, to this day it remains without question the greatest album by a major artist that most people don't know ever existed.

6. Marty Robbins -- Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs

From 1959, a genuine crossover classic; "El Paso" is the best known cut, but the whole album works. That's Robbins on the cover, BTW, and in case you didn't notice he's doing Richard Boone as Palladin from TVs Have Gun, Will Travel.

5. The Turtles -- Present the Battle of the Bands

The concept here is that the Turtles play each cut in a different style, from surf to country to hard rock, in post Sgt. Pepper guise as other bands. It's not really pursued all that rigorously, but since it features "Elenore" and the above gorgeous version of the early Byrds outtake "You Showed Me," I've always cut them a little slack.

4. Fucked Up -- David Comes to Life

A sort of post-modern rock opera set in England in the '70s and '80s.

You know, I rather like the idea (rather than the reality) of this band, and I once saw Damian Abraham, the lead singer, interviewed on my orthicon tube and found him surprisingly funny and politically very astute.

That said, I'd rather have my eyes gouged out with a melon-baller than watch the guy shirtless in a live gig.

3. Garth Brooks -- the Life of Chris Gaines

Brooks in his bizarre incarnation as a supposedly legendary 90s alt-rocker. I don't care if the damn thing sold two million copies -- it's a prime contender for biggest What the Fuck Was He Thinking? album in music history.

2. The Beatles -- Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Yeah, yeah, yeah -- I know it's over-exposed (so is Bach's B-Minor Mass) and some people think it's a period piece (those people are just being difficult.)

Sorry, it's the tits. Deal with it.

And the most memorable, for whatever reason, High Concept album of all time obviously is --

1. The Paragons and The Jesters -- The Paragons Meet the Jesters

The very first (after the fact) thematic rock compilation (1959), and thanks to the brilliantly art-directed leather bar juvenile delinquent cover photo -- let's face it, Lou Reed based an entire esthetic on it -- still one of the most iconic.

Alrighty then -- what would YOUR choices be?

And have a great weekend, everybody!!!

[h/t Joy Brodsky Thurston]

Thursday, September 07, 2023

Thursday Shameless Filler: The Fab Three — and Me!!!

Courtesy of a certain Shady Dame of my acquaintance, here I am at the Paul McCartney photo show at the National Portrait Gallery in London last week.

I am extraordinarily fond of that shot, as you may well imagine.

(Incidentally, in case you were wondering, the original b&w Beatles pic was taken by the Fabs' longtime roadie and pal Mal Evans, who was watching the show from the wings and using Paul's 35mm camera.)

Coming tomorrow: The triumphal return of Weekend Listomania!

And don't even try to guess the theme, 'cause there's no way you'll get it!!

So there!!!.

Wednesday, September 06, 2023

Why Didn't I Get the Memo? (An Occasional Feature): Special "I Don't Think This Relationship Can Be Saved" Edition

From his 2016 album Happy Accidents, please enjoy power pop Renaissance dude Ken Sharp and just the cutest damned cover of the Beach Boys' semi-obscure gem "Girl Don't Tell Me."

I must confess that I was totally unaware of Sharp until a couple of days ago, when the video above was featured over at the invaluable Digby's Hullabaloo, but apparently he's made several albums and written a couple of music books. In any case, the first time I played the thing, in the immortal words of Christina Applegate (on Married With Children) you could have knocked me over with the weather.

The Beach Boys original, of course (and as I'm sure you all are aware) first saw the light of the day on the group's classic 1965 Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!) LP, and apart from being just a great song, it's notable for being one of the few BBs tracks of the period where the only musicians on it are the actual guys in the band; Dennis is on drums, Brian is on bass and keyboards, and Carl is responsible for the vocals (fabulous) and guitar. Brian apparently wrote it as an homage to "Ticket to Ride," which you can plainly hear.

I should add that up until now, I thought The Smithereens version, from their 1980 debut indie EP, was the ne plus ultra cover of the thing...

...but I think now I prefer Sharp's version. In any case, I'm gonna have to check out some of his other stuff; I'll get back to you when I do.

[h/t Dennis Hartley]

Tuesday, September 05, 2023

Annals of the Normally Occurring

From 2023, and their drolly titled EP Decriminalized, please enjoy Jay Allen and the Archcriminals and their kick-ass garage punk remake of Sir Tom Jones' classic "It's Not Unusual."

These guys are highly regarded in their home base of Boston, where they're considered, rightly, to be on a stylistic continuum between the Nerves and the Replacements, and on the basis of the above I can see why; Allen has an endearingly snot-nosed wiseguy voice and the band as a whole takes no prisoners. I'm not 100-percent convinced by their adaptation of this particular song, which takes a smidge more liberties with the original chord changes and melody than I would have done personally but, as they used to say in Philadelphia, the overall results have a good beat and you can dance to it, so let's not carp about minor details.

In any case, you can -- and should -- download or stream the EP in question over at the Bandcamp site of their label Rum Bar Records HERE.

Coming tomorrow: One of the coolest Beach Boys covers ever heard by sentient mammalian ears.

Monday, September 04, 2023

Critical Heresies (or You'll Never Work in This Town Again): An Occasional Series

[I first posted this in 2011, but I'm reposting it (in honor of Labor Day, for reasons I won't bore you with) because the original video links have long since vanished into the ether. Thank you for your indulgence. -- S.S.]

Okay, I'm about to say something that I've never said to another living soul, and certainly not to another living rock critic, for what will be obvious reasons.


I do not now care, and have never particularly cared, for Van Morrison's Astral Weeks.

Okay, there I've said it.

Which, of course, given the album's status as pretty much the holiest bovine in the entire rock album canon, is more or less akin to confessing you were glad the Greek colonels overthrew King Constantine.

And lest you think I'm just being difficult, or trying to generate some sort of blog-hit controversy, I'm not. I don't dislike the album; it simply doesn't talk to me. Maybe it's genetic, I dunno, but I just find it a little dull. Sue me.

I bring all this up because the other day -- having some more than usual time on my hands -- I finally got around to listening to an album called Tax Free that I've been meaning to check out for ages. And therein lies a tale.

Longtime readers are aware of my fondness for a Dutch 60s beat group called The Outsiders (not to be confused with the American greaser outfit of the same name and era who hit it big with "Time Won't Let Me.")

The Dutch Outsiders never had any of their music released in this country, but they were pretty big in Europe and they've developed a cult following in recent years; some folks claim they're the best 60s band for whom English was not their first language, and while I won't go that far, they were pretty damn good. Maybe not world class, but definitely worth hearing in that sort of Stones/Pretty Things snarling r&b derived rock style that was all the rage back then.

In any case, Tax Free was the band Outsiders singer Wally Tax formed after the breakup of that bunch, and unlike the rest of his previous oeuvre, their eponymous elpee was actually released -- albeit to a largely uncaring public -- in the US of A.

What I didn't know until recently is that Tax Free's eponymous album has often been compared to Astral Weeks, presumably because it's produced by Lewis Merenstein (who produced AW), it features Richard Davis (who did similar duty on AW) on upright bass, it's in the same pastoral more or less acoustic quasi-jazz style as AW, and because it, like AW, makes me very, very sleepy.

Have I mentioned that John Cale plays viola on the album?

Anyhowever, all of this is a very roundabout way of setting up a Compare and Contrast that may prove edifying.

So...from 1965, it's the angry young Them (featuring Van Morrison) and "I Can Only Give You Everything"...

...and from 1968, it's the not so angry Van Morrison (from Astral Weeks) and "Cypress Avenue."

Meanwhile, from 1967, here are the savage young Outsiders (featuring Wally Tax) and "Story 16"...

...and from 1970, here are the far more genteel Tax Free (featuring Wally Tax) and "Along the Shadowed Quay."

And so the question is -- do either of those pairings strike you guys as some kind of musical evolution/progression? Or at least one worth writing home about?

Because what I hear in both cases -- and yes, obviously I'm exaggerating to make a point -- is more like a failure of nerve.

Not meant as a compliment, obviously.

Friday, September 01, 2023

La Fin de la Semaine Essay Question: Special "A Nightingale Sang in Forest Hills" Edition

So a certain Shady Dame and I are back from London town, safe and sound. We had a terrific time, seeing and doing a lot of nifty things, including the way cool show of Paul McCartney's 1963-64 Beatles photography at the National Portrait Gallery, and the equally way cool exhibition of art and poetry by everybody's favorite pre-Raphaelites The Rossettis at the Tate Britain.

Hell, we even slummed it a bit by taking in the London production of the Back to the Future musical which, apart from the onstage Delorean, was just okay, but how often do I get to say I'm seeing a show with music written by the drummer -- Alan Silvestri -- of my high school rock band?

I mean really? How excellent is that?

We did not, however and alas, get to visit this celebrated-in-song-and-story spot...

...which was actually in walking distance of our hotel, but hey -- you can't have everything. Maybe next time.

Anyway, given that we're back in our Queens digs, bonding anew with Mickey, the world's cutest six-toed pussycat, it's time to move on to musical business.

To wit:

...and your favorite (or least favorite, if you have one) post-Elvis pop/rock/soul/country/folk song referencing the idea of home, specifically, or just the larger concept of finding shelter, is...?


In case you were wondering, I'm voting for this one (just to reinforce the Brit theme of the week's previous posts).

I think "wow" is the word for that.

Anyway, have a great weekend, everybody!!!.

And I promise some actual new music, made recently, will loom large in next week's postings!!!