Archive for May, 2011

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: The Isley Brothers

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , , , on May 30, 2011 by 30daysout

So much has gone under the bridge that we’ve all but forgotten that era when racial lines were not obliterated but smudged in such a way that it was a little tough to find the line between black and white. By the early 1970s we had been through the civil rights upheaval and the backlash that made martyrs out of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others. It was like that refreshing period following a good hard rain … we were all open to checking out each other’s culture a bit.

The Isley Brothers were a huge act throughout the 1960s – their first million seller came in 1959 with “Shout.” They served a stint at Motown and in 1969 the Isleys created their own record label, T-Neck Records. In 1971 the Isleys put out the album we’re going to spin today, Givin’ It Back, on T-Neck. For more than a decade, white/mainstream pop artists scored their own successes with versions of Isley Brothers’ songs (Joey Dee & the Starlighters hit with their own version of “Shout;” and there’s that version of “Twist and Shout” by some guys from Liverpool) so the Isleys decided to “give it back” by cutting their own versions of songs by then-current rock and pop artists.

The LP starts off with a sizzling version of Neil Young’s “Ohio” fused with Jimi Hendrix’s “Machine Gun.” The song speaks not only to the Kent State campus killings of 1970 but the less publicized incident 10 days later at Jackson State University in Mississippi, where two black students were killed and a dozen more were injured by police trying to stop a demonstration. The song was a reminder that the times were still angry and deep divisions still remained in this country. The Isleys’ prayer in the middle of these two angry songs suggests that cooler heads were out there, begging to be listened to. This is a powerful way to start off the album, and it’s easily the best cut.

Next up the Isleys give a new setting to James Taylor’s singer/songwriter warhorse, “Fire and Rain.” The Isleys charge it up with a tangible urgency, as they do with Eric Burdon and War’s “Spill The Wine.” Even better is the Isleys’ soulful reading of Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay,” giving it a sexual tension and soul that its writer could never hope to pull off.

“Cold Bologna” is a funky blues that even features its writer, Bill Withers, on guitar. The Isleys were good for giving young writers a showcase, and here’s a good example with Withers, who would soon come into his own with songs like “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Lean On Me.” Stephen Stills also gets the Isley cover treatment on two songs, “Nothin’ To Do But Today” and “Love The One You’re With.” The former is the weakest song on the album but the latter is a highlight, as the Isleys inject a little soul and extra rhythm into the proceedings. Consider this a worthy companion to Marvin Gaye’s better-known masterpiece from 1971, What’s Going On.

MP3: “Ohio/Machine Gun”

MP3: “Lay Lady Lay”

MP3: “Spill The Wine”

MP3: “Love The One You’re With”

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Rare Earth

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , , , on May 24, 2011 by 30daysout

There’s nothing like early 1970s rock – at the time it was classified as “hard rock”  and its membership included Grand Funk Railroad, Humble Pie, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and on. Today we want to fondly remember the group Rare Earth, a hit-making bunch that recorded for Motown Records. Let’s spin a couple of their albums, Ecology, from 1970, and One World, from 1971.

The main personnel in the group included Gil Bridges on sax, flute and vocals;  Pete Rivera on lead vocals and drums; John Parrish on bass, trombone and vocals; Rod Richards on guitar; and Kenny James on keyboards. Rare Earth came out of Detroit in 1968 and were signed by Motown to be on a label imprint dedicated to white rock acts. Members of the band jokingly suggested they call the label “Rare Earth” and much to their surprise Berry Gordy OK’d that idea. The group’s first recording for Motown was a rocked-up cover of Smokey Robinson’s “Get Ready,” sprawling over 21 minutes as each band members takes a solo turn. “Get Ready” became Rare Earth’s first Top 10 hit in 1971 after Motown trimmed it down to three minutes and issued it as a single.

Ecology was born in 1969 when Rare Earth cut some songs for a movie, Generation, which starred David Janssen. They had a bunch of songs in hand ready for a soundtrack LP, but that was cancelled when the movie bombed. So Rare Earth took their songs and created Ecology. Leading off is “Born To Wander,” which I wore out as a 45 back in the day. While a flute lilts above the heavy rock foundation, the song is one of those gotta-keep-movin’ kissoffs with lyrics like “The wind is my mother/The highway is my brother/I was born to wander.” Written by producer Tom Baird, “Born To Wander” was also a hit, one of two from Ecology.

Baird penned four of the seven songs on the album, including the Chicago-like “Long Time Leavin’,” which also gave the Earth a chance to show off their instrumental chops. Next up was “(I Know) I’m Losing You,” an 11-minute cover of the Temptations’ 1965 hit. And guess what – Motown chopped down this one too and it also became a hit, peaking at No. 7 on the pop charts, one slot higher than the Temps’ original. I like the keyboard and guitar solos in this long cut – little did I know of the extended delights back then as I played the single so much that the grooves wore out.

Side Two of Ecology has two more Baird originals and “Nice Place To Visit,” written by Parrish, which is one of the heavier tracks on the album. “No. 1 Man,” with its frequent guitar breaks and keyboard interplay, is a coulda-been single. From that peak, however, Ecology bumps to a close with a somewhat ill-advised cover of the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” that mimics the Moody Blues – poorly.

MP3: “Born To Wander”

MP3: “Nice Place To Visit”

MP3: “No. 1 Man”

Nevertheless, Rare Earth became a hot touring item after Ecology. The next album, One World, would find the band writing more of its own songs. However, this one picks up with a cover, a heavy version of Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say.” Nice – this is one my favorite cuts on the album, because it has a guitar underpinning that doesn’t quit. I remember this one got some FM radio play back in the day.

After that auspicious beginning, drummer/lead singer Rivera contributes the next two, “If I Die” and “Seed.” “If I Die” has nice vocal harmonies and a lilting sax solo which belie its bummer lyrics and “Seed” sounds like it could have been covered by the Temptations. Then, with its dramatic countoff, “I Just Want To Celebrate” detonates the next Rare Earth hit. This one also entered the Top 10, peaking at No. 7 – it was one of the most popular hits of the decade and is justifiably Rare Earth’s most famous song.

Side Two of the album offers first “Someone To Love,” written and sung by Gil Bridges, the flute player. “Any Man Can Be A Fool” is written by the bassist John Parrish (a.k.a. John Persh) and is another throwaway. “The Road,” written by producer Baird, is probably the best on this side of the album and the whole affair closes with the rocker “Under God’s Light,” which is written by two new members, Ray Monette and Mark Olson. One World would go on to become a platinum album (one million units sold).

Before the next Rare Earth album (1972’s multi-platinum Rare Earth In Concert) the band would slip in another single, “Hey Big Brother,” written by the same team who penned “I Just Want To Celebrate.” Rare Earth would have one more album triumph – Ma, which came out in 1973 and produced by Motown legend Norman Whitfield, is usually considered the group’s best. Rare Earth would then have a revolving door of personnel changes through the rest of the 1970s. You can still catch Rare Earth on the oldies circuit today – it’s a great show and a fine way to remember 1970s hard rock.

MP3: “What’d I Say”

MP3: “The Road”

MP3: “Hey Big Brother” (studio version)

Rare Earth official website

A Mess O’ Monday Blues

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , , , , , on May 23, 2011 by 30daysout

The apocalypse has come and gone, we’re still here. Gasoline prices are still high, the bills are still unpaid and we have to go to work. What better reason to have the blues on a Monday …

MP3: “Snatch It Back and Hold It” by Junior Wells

MP3: “Fixin’ To Die Blues” by Bukka White

MP3: “Liberation Conversation” by Marlena Shaw

MP3: “Key To The Highway” by Big Bill Broonzy

MP3: “Fattening Frogs For Snakes” by Sonny Boy Williamson

MP3: “Gun Slinger” by Bo Diddley

MP3: “Tom Cat” by Muddy Waters

MP3: “Whiskey and Wimmen” by John Lee Hooker

MP3: “Tears, Tears, Tears” by Gregg Allman

MP3: “You’re My Best Poker Hand” by T-Bone Walker

MP3: “Bright Lights Big City” by Jimmy Reed

MP3: “I Got What It Takes” by Koko Taylor

70 Years Out: Bob Dylan

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , , , , , on May 21, 2011 by 30daysout

This week (May 24) Bob Dylan will celebrate his 70th birthday. Probably the most important figure in popular music, Dylan has built a body of work that is breathtaking in its scope. On top of that, it would be quite fair to say that when Dylan was at his peak in the 1960s his music helped change the world. Love him or hate him, you cannot deny his powerful influence on rock music. Thanks, Bob.

MP3: “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” (live) by Bob Dylan & the Band

MP3: “Like A Rolling Stone” (live) by Jimi Hendrix

MP3: “Watching The River Flow” by Leon Russell

MP3: “One More Cup of Coffee” by Roger McGuinn & Calexico

MP3: “To Ramona” by the Flying Burrito Brothers

MP3: “Thunder On The Mountain” by Wanda Jackson

MP3: “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” by the Grateful Dead

MP3: “Girl From The North Country” by Johnny Cash & Joni Mitchell

MP3: “Si Tu Dois Partir” by Fairport Convention

MP3: “Groom’s Still Waiting At The Altar” by Bob Dylan

MP3: “My Back Pages” by the Hollies

MP3: “Masters of War” by Pearl Jam

MP3: “If Not For You” by Olivia Newton John

MP3: “Come Una Pietra Scalciata (Like A Rolling Stone)” by Articolo 31

MP3: “Chimes Of Freedom” (live) by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band

MP3: “Wicked Messenger” by the Faces

MP3: “Everything Is Broken” by R. L. Burnside

MP3: “This Wheel’s On Fire” by the Byrds

MP3: “Gotta Serve Somebody” by Mavis Staples

MP3: “Highway 61 Revisited” by Johnny Winter

MP3: “Tweeter and the Monkey Man” by the Traveling Wilburys

MP3: “The Times They Are A-Changin’ ” by the Beach Boys

MP3: “All Along The Watchtower” (live) by Neil Young

MP3:  “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” (live) by Bob Dylan (w/George Harrison, Leon Russell & Ringo Starr)

MP3:  “Forever Young” by Bob Dylan & the Band

“Watching The River Flow” by Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts and Ben Waters

End of The World, Part 2

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2011 by 30daysout

Everybody’s having a good laugh about the prediction that Saturday will be the End of the World. And yes, we’ve snickered about it right here. But look around – there’ve been tornadoes, tsunamis, wildfires and floods, maybe that’s a sign of the End Times.

All of our heroes – Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, Newt Gingrich, Arnold Schwarzenegger – are crumbling before our very eyes. Justin Timberlake and Lady Gaga are on “Saturday Night Live” this weekend – another sign?

You can’t ignore these signs. You definitely cannot laugh them away. I’m getting a case of beer on Saturday morning, just in case, and hoping I don’t have a hangover the morning after.

More signs of the coming apocalypse

MP3: “Earth Died Screaming” by Tom Waits

MP3: “In The Year 2525” by Zager & Evans

MP3: “Southern Comfort” by Terry Allen

MP3: “Jesus Is Coming Soon” by the Dixie Hummingbirds

MP3: “Are You Afraid To Die” by the Louvin Brothers

MP3: “The End of The World” by the Carpenters

MP3: “Soylent Green” by Carbon Silicon

MP3: “Until The End of the World” (live) by U2

MP3: “My Apocalypse” by Metallica

MP3: “Gimme Shelter” by the Rolling Stones

MP3: “The End” by the Doors

MP3: “Party At Ground Zero” by Fishbone

Ready for the weekend?

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , , , , , on May 18, 2011 by 30daysout

In case you haven’t heard, Saturday is the End of the World. Well of course it would happen before I receive my income tax refund. And I was kinda hoping to see that new Transformers movie … oh well.

MP3: “Waiting For The End of the World” by Elvis Costello

MP3: “The Man Comes Around” by Johnny Cash

MP3: “It’s The End of the World (As We Know It)” by R.E.M.

MP3: “Wooden Ships” (live) by Crosby & Nash

MP3: “The End Of The World” by Skeeter Davis

MP3: “Let The World End Tomorrow” by Henry Moore

MP3: “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” by Bob Dylan

MP3: “Working For The Weekend” by Loverboy

Austin City Limits Festival lineup announced, griping begins

Posted in Rock Rant with tags , , , , on May 17, 2011 by 30daysout

Performers have been announced for the 10th annual Austin City Limits music festival, scheduled for Sept. 16-18 in Austin’s Zilker Park. Headliners include Stevie Wonder, Kanye West, Coldplay, My Morning Jacket, Arcade Fire, Alison Krauss & Union Station and Fleet Foxes. You can see the whole lineup here.

Before the announcement fans speculated on artists that included Radiohead, the Foo Fighters, Pearl Jam, Paul Simon and maybe even the reformed Buffalo Springfield. All of those acts are booked at other festivals this summer and at first glance the ACL lineup seems in line with the other three major U.S. festivals – Bonnaroo, Coachella and Lollapalooza. But truth to be told, the Austin lineup also feels a little off, when you consider it’s the 10th anniversary of the festival and all. You would expect something a little more spectacular, you know?

The middle part of the roster includes diverse acts like Randy Newman, Iron & Wine, Chromeo, TV On The Radio (didn’t one of its members just die?), Airborne Toxic Event, Big Boi, etc. which may be fine to see for free at SXSW but a little harder to get enthused about when you’re paying $185 for a three-day entry. The middle part of the lineup seems light on hometown heroes this year, even though it includes staples Asleep at the Wheel, Jack Ingram, Ryan Bingham, Hayes Carll and Courtyard Hounds (two-thirds of the Dixie Chicks). And Fleet Foxes just played Austin a few weeks ago, Bright Eyes had a free full show during SXSW – you can nitpick this one to death.

Stevie Wonder set for ACL Fest.

But on the other hand: Arcade Fire is the biggest band in the world after its Grammy Award for Best Album, Kanye West may be a dick but he’s also backing an acclaimed current album, and Stevie Wonder is a stone legend. So if any of these interest you, go to the ACL festival website sooner than later and purchase a one-day ticket for $90. Three-day passes sold out a long time ago, but they are easy to find (particularly a few days before the event) on StubHub and Craigslist.

The fest, with a capacity of 75,000 a day, grossed just over $15 million in ticket sales last year but it’s the cheapest ticket of the four major U.S. festivals. Three-day passes to Lollapalooza are $215, Coachella and Bonnaroo multidays also top $200. But one weird thing about ACL is that it’s the only one that puts three-day passes on sale before it announces headliners or any part of its lineup.

This year, the limited amount of three-day passes sold out within a few hours and now all that’s left are one-day tickets at 90 bucks apiece – if you want to go all three days, do the math … it’s more expensive than any other festival. So it’s no wonder ACL has so many complainers. Maybe they should use a more conventional ticketing system and not let fans’ expectations run wild.

Well, if you’re in Texas and want to do some outdoor music before September, by all means check out the Free Press Summerfest, slated for June 4-5 in Houston’s Eleanor Tinsley Park. This one has as headliners Weezer, Cut Copy, Ween, Big Boi, Beirut, Yeasayer and many others. General admission weekend passes are $45 and are still on sale!

Austin City Limits festival website

Free Press Summerfest website