Archive for June, 2010

Review: Rockin’ the Fourth!

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , on June 30, 2010 by 30daysout

Swingin’ into the Fourth of July weekend, we have a hurricane swirling off the Texas coast and a big black glob of goo lurking off Louisiana.  Meanwhile, in my own backyard, I’m grillin’ weenies!  What about you?  Here are a handful of new releases that will help you rock the Fourth no matter where you are or how you celebrate.

It borders on the criminal that Alejandro Escovedo isn’t a big star outside of Texas.  Here, he’s the hero of the Lone Star state – and his new Street Songs Of Love is a good example why.  Al follows his masterpiece Real Animal (from 2008) with a relaxed set of rockin’ ruminations on love and life that may just be among the best things he’s ever done.  The ringing anthem “Anchor” kicks off the proceedings, and the crunching guitars and big choruses that follow in song after song show that Escovedo isn’t afraid to stand toe to toe with the greatest classic rockers.  In fact, he does just that – trading verses with Mott the Hoople’s Ian Hunter on the tender “Down In the Bowery” and rocking out with Bruce Springsteen on “Faith,” Alejandro Escovedo shows why he is the king of Austin.  Street Songs Of Love is brilliantly produced by Tony Visconti, who worked with David Bowie and T. Rex back in the day.  Escovedo and his great band (including stellar guitarist David Pulkingham) sharpened these songs during a residency at Austin’s Continental Club, so they probably sound even better live.  Hands down, Street Songs Of Love is one of the best albums of the year.

MP3: “Street Songs” by Alejandro Escovedo

Last week we talked about all the artists with the blues all of a sudden, and now Austin guitar slinger Jimmie Vaughan drops Plays Blues, Ballads and Favorites, an album that sounds for all the world like a roadhouse Saturday night.  Vaughan has stocked his album with 14 wild covers (and one original) that jump right out of the speakers: “The Pleasure’s All Mine,” shuffles into your consciousness with Vaughan’s rough singing and stinging guitar, then Lou Ann Barton lends harmony to Jimmy Reed’s “Come Love.”  Barton duets again with Jimmie on the old Dale and Grace swamp rocker “I’m Leaving It Up To You,” then she takes a lead vocal on the LaVerne Baker chestnut “Wheel Of Fortune.”  I don’t know how he does it, but Vaughan gives all of his albums this production that sounds like he’s playing right in your cramped living room – I love it.  Man, this is another great barbecue party record and one that I know I’ll be playing long after the summer’s over.

MP3: “I’m Leaving It Up To You” by Jimmie Vaughan (with Lou Ann Barton)

Upon listening to The Gaslight Anthem‘s new American Slang, most people (especially music critic types) will evoke the influences of Springsteen and Van Morrison.  They’re not incorrect in doing so, but Gaslight’s true heart beats to the rhythm and romance of old Sam Cooke and Drifters records, supercharged into brilliantly original rock by frontman and songwriter Brian Fallon.  In fact, Fallon has a way with a story that recalls the Bard of the Boardwalk but his songs add a street-soul tough-tenderness that evokes the best of Tom Waits.  It’s hard to single out one or two highlights on American Slang; it’s just a very consistent rock record that never fails to deliver.

MP3: “Stay Lucky” by The Gaslight Anthem

Go out and pick up any one, two or three of these albums and celebrate the Fourth with a rock and roll blast.  Who needs fireworks?

Bonus Video of the Week: Ray Davies

Posted in News with tags , , on June 29, 2010 by 30daysout

Former Kinks frontman Ray Davies played the Glastonbury festival in England a few days ago, and during his set he dedicated two songs to Pete Quaife, the original Kinks bassist and band co-founder who died June 23.  He played “Waterloo Sunset” and (at about the 3:45 mark) Davies is visibly moved when he goes into “Days.”  It’s a powerful performance from a legendary artist.

Ray Davies official website

Video of the Week: Harper Simon

Posted in News with tags on June 28, 2010 by 30daysout

Singer/songwriter Harper Simon released his self-titled album a while back, but this little song, “Wishes and Stars,” just got a video.  Simon also sounds a lot like his famous singing/songwriting dad (do we have to tell you?) and it’s a nice video.

Harper Simon official website

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Chase

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , , on June 27, 2010 by 30daysout

Back in the 1960s rock artists weren’t afraid to show their influences and their roots; that’s why even the big artists and bands of the era performed cover versions of songs by their contemporaries, as well as “oldies” (from the 1950s), blues and sometimes jazz and country.

Led by Al Kooper’s swaggering Blood, Sweat and Tears experiment, a number of bands in the late 60s-early 70s lathered on the horn sections and “soulful” white-boy vocals to create a new kind of rock music.  Is it really “jazz rock fusion,” as some people call the music by BST, Chicago and others?  No – but it is a form of pop-rock that was pretty popular at the time.

So today let’s spin Ennea, the second album from the rock-horn band Chase that appeared in 1972.  This band was created and led by Bill Chase, a jazz artist who played lead trumpet with Maynard Ferguson, Stan Kenton and later, in Woody Herman’s Thundering Herd.  Inspired by Kooper’s work with BST, and perhaps encouraged by Columbia/CBS/Epic records president Clive Davis, Chase assembled his pop-rock unit by combining veteran jazz horn players with talented rock players.  The self-titled debut album from 1971 was a success, and the single “Get It On” cracked the Top 40.

Then we get to Ennea, recorded the next year as a followup.  Chase (the band) was growing both artistically and physically (they started with six members, by the time the second album’s sessions were finished there were nine).  Bill Chase wanted to push the boundaries farther than Chicago and BST had, and as a result much of Ennea is pretty much over the top, beginning with the title (Greek for “nine,” the number of dudes in the band).  “Swanee River,” the album opener,  is Chase’s brash and brassy rewrite of the Stephen Foster classic and perhaps the only song on the entire album that doesn’t come off as completely silly.

“So Many People” was the single from the album, designed to capture attention when it was played on the radio.  Written by Paul Williams (“Old Fashioned Love Song” for Three Dog Night, “Rainy Days and Mondays” for the Carpenters, etc.) the song was one of those scattershot social commentaries that managed to mention greedy socialites, racists, warmongers and the Martin Luther King assassination in less than three minutes!  Needless to say, this one wasn’t a hit.

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Video of the Week: Michael Des Barres

Posted in News with tags , , on June 25, 2010 by 30daysout

Michael Des Barres is a British rocker and actor – he’s been in a number of bands but is perhaps most famous for replacing Robert Palmer in Power Station in 1985.  As an actor, he’s been in shows like “Miami Vice” and “MacGyver.”  Des Barres is making a new album in Austin, and it’s being produced by Texas boy Jesse Dayton.  No Past, No Future, No Problem is described as a “soul” album and nobody seems to know when it’s coming out, but here’s one of the songs from the album as performed by Des Barres sitting on an Austin porch.

Michael Des Barres official website

Review: Everybody’s got the blues … even Ozzy!

Posted in Review with tags , , , on June 21, 2010 by 30daysout

A whole truckload of new releases are out just in time for summer, and it seems like everybody’s got the blues.  Last week we took a listen to the newsy bluesy Mojo by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, this week a number of veteran artists seem to be following his lead into the blues.

It’s taken Steve Miller about 17 years to release a new album, and here we have Bingo!, a collection of blues and R&B covers.  It seems kind of weird that Miller would stage a comeback with an album of covers, but maybe he’s burned out as a songwriter.  Bingo! is a party record, full of hot guitar playing and feel-good blues rock.  Joe Satriani shows up for a guitar duel on the B.B. King warhorse “Rock Me Baby” and a handful of songs are highlighted by the harmonica work of the late Norton Buffalo, who died shortly after this album was recorded.  Another highlight is “Hey Yeah,” one of three songs penned by Austin’s Jimmie Vaughan.  Singer Sonny Charles, apparently now a permanent part of the Steve Miller Band, lends some raw soul that Miller’s own white-boy singing can’t provide.  Bingo! reminds me of that sanitized blues stuff Eric Clapton produced in the 1990s (From The Cradle, etc.) – not bad, not great but nowhere near the original stuff.  So I guess Bingo! works for most everyone except the old-timers.

MP3: “Hey Yeah” by the Steve Miller Band

True to its title, Memphis Blues provides the setting for former pop princess Cyndi Lauper‘s excursion into the blues.  Happily, Cyndi’s remarkable voice provides enough grit and character and variety to make Memphis Blues a worthwhile listen.  Guest performers like B.B. King, Allen Toussaint, Ann Peebles and Charlie Musselwhite lend some muscle to the proceedings, and for the most part Lauper chooses more obscure songs which can help give a fresher feel to a project like this.  Lauper’s voice cracks and gets a little shrill in places, but overall she manages to convey a genuine feeling for the music.  The highlights include her duet with Ann Peebles on Muddy Waters’ “Rollin’ and Tumblin’,” and “Early In The Mornin’,” with Allen Toussaint giving it a Crescent City swagger.  I approached Cyndi’s cover of the Robert Johnson classic “Crossroads” (with guitarist Jonny Lang) with a little apprehension, but they manage to do something interesting instead of turning it into a joke.  Not bad, Cyndi.

MP3: “Rollin’ and Tumblin’ ” by Cyndi Lauper w/Ann Peebles

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Springsteen hypes “London Calling” in new interview

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on June 18, 2010 by 30daysout

Check out Bruce Springsteen talking about the upcoming DVD release of “London Calling: Live in Hyde Park.” It’s set to be released in the U.S. on Tuesday.