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Administrator 12/02--7/07
36,839 Posts
Discussion Starter #41 (Edited)
Mike Watt -- Ball-Hog or Tugboat?

What do you do when your Little Black Book features private numbers of The Beastie Boys, Henry Rollins, the Meat Puppets, sonic youth, J. Mascis, Frank Black, Parlaiment-Funkadelic, Dave Grohl, Red Hot Chile Peppers, and more?

When you are Mike Watt, what you do is call them up, and record one heck of a solo album.

Mike Watt has indie cred to spare. Mike was the bassist of the very influential SST band The Minutemen in the 80's, until d. Boon died. Expect a review of Double Nickels on the Dime sometime in the futire.

The remaining Minutemen, along with a Minuteman fan, formed another great band, fIREHOSE, for a number of years. however, fIREHOSE never really caught on with their major label releases.

Ball-Hog is closer in sound and style to The Minutemen. with one major exception, the tracks are short (not Minutement short -- that band took their name from their song lengths) -- but short and stripped of frills. 16 songs in 68 minutes -- not every one is a gem. but the album definitely hits more than it misses.

Big Train
Against the '70s
Drove up from Pedro
Piss-Bottle Man
Chinese Firedrill
Intense Song for Madonna to Sing
Tuff Gnarl
Sexual Military Dynamics
Max and Wells
E-Ticket Ride
Forever - One Brother's Opinion
Song for Igor
Tell 'Em, Boy!
Sidemouse Advice
Maggot Brain
Coincidence Is Either Hit or Miss

Some highlights:

Big Train opens the album, showing what the project has to offer. An alt-rock masterpiece, with a rare Mike Watt vocal.

Against the 70’s features some passionate vocals by Eddy Vedder. I wonder if this song is what Pearl Jam sounded like when they were playing in Seattle bars.

Piss-Bottle Man is pure power pop, featuring Evan Dando, who was apparently sober for the session, because he sounds great.

Intense Song for Madonna to Sing is a tribute to the jazzy side of The Minutemen.

Sexual Military Dynamics features an artsy instrumental track and a typical over the top rant and explosion of rage from Henry Rollins.

Forever – One Reporter’s Opinion is a remake of a Minutemen song (from double Nickels), done quite well.

Tell ‘em Boy! is a funky cut with Dave Pirner, who sounds like he's having the time of his life.

Sidemouse Advice is worth the price of the CD alone, since it is a jazz piece featuring Flea on trumpet. How could you not want to hear that?

Heartbeat -- essential, since it features a long answering machine message left to Mike by Kathleen Hanna, of Bikini Kill. In the message, she rants and raves about how she's too cool to participate in his little solo album.

Maggot Brain is the exception to the short song rule. Like most versions of the song it jams out into 12 minute territory. This is a Funkadelic classic and features P-Funk All-Star Bernie Worell on keys and J.Mascis on blazing guitar over Mike's tripped out fuzz bass.

Mike Watt is one of the luminaries of punk rock. The fact that he is not on MTV and is not a household name just goes to show that he never strayed from his Everyman roots. Which makes him a true punk in a way that Green Day will never understand.

Administrator 12/02--7/07
36,839 Posts
Discussion Starter #42
Hot Tuna -- Live at Sweetwater

Both Volume 1 and 2 from this series is worth getting (volume 2 especially for the addition of some Electric cuts) but I am going to focus on Volume 1.

Hot Tuna, in its acoustic rendition, is primarily comprised of Jefferson Airplane founding members Jorma Kaukonan (guitar) and Jack Cassidy (bass). On this album, Michael Falzarano, a guitarist, mandolinist, harmonica player and vocalist also fills in. Their electric rendition adds a rotating cast of charqacters to fill out a full rock band.

Hot Tuna (acoustic) sounds very trad acoustic blues. Jorma is a very underrated guitar player -- a terrific acoustic fingerpicker well versed in the blues.

This set finds the dynamic duo playing Stweetwater, a bar in Marin County, just north of San Francisco. I've been to Sweetwater, and it is a very fun bar, indeed.

The set focuses on traditional blues, such as the opening Whining Boy Blues. Reverand Gary Davis is represented on two cuts, Great Change and I Belong to the Band. Jimmy cox' Down and Out gets a strong work out as does the traditional Trouble in Mind.

Hot Tuna originals pepper the CD, such as Pass the Snakes, I See the Light, Genesis and I'll Be There for You.

Jorma's signature work, the Jefferson Airplane acoustic showcase Embryonic Journey is always majestic, and it does not disappoint here.

The rock covers here are a lot of fun as well. Bob Weir of The Grateful Dead sits in on Bob Dylan's Maggie's Farm (which the Dead frequently covered). There is a fun version of The Clash's Bankrobber as well.

This is a live album with no overdubs. If a set of music by a couple of Haight-Ashbury alumns turned blues purists might appeal to you, Live at Sweetwater is a CD to check out. If you like Volume 1, get Volume 2 as well. You'll love it.

Administrator 12/02--7/07
36,839 Posts
Discussion Starter #43
Bob Marley -- Talkin' Blues

This is a fun collection of Bob Marley live tracks, from 1973-1975, interspersed with interview segments with Bob. What you can understand of the interview material is interesting enough, but so much of it is indecipherable to a non-native it becomes humorous. What in the heck is he saying? I've had this CD for years and there are some segments I still have no clue.

One of the great things about the album is that the focus isn't necessarily on the biggest hits. Yes, there are versions of I Shot the Sheriff and a (very good) Get Up, Stand Up, but most of the album delves a little deeper, focusing on material that will be new to anyone who has never ventured beyond Legend: The Best of Bob Marley.

One of the interesting points that made The Wailers a great band was the ying and yang of Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. Bob tended to write songs that were upbeat and spiritual, even where the message was political and even angry. Peter was gruff and angry even when his message was upbeat. But mostly, he was not upbeat. Peter was the political wailer and sent messages of anti-imperialism and individual freedom with an unwavering focus.

By the time of these recordings, Bob was clearly the star of the show. He always had been, to some extent, but it is not too long after the last of these recordings that Peter had enough and went his own way, starting with the terrific Legalize It album, followed up by another masterpiece, Equal Rights.

But I digress.

As I was saying, Bob was the focus. But ironically, it is 2 non-Bob cuts that really stand out, both in terms of performance and in terms of rarity -- it is hard to find versions of these songs elsewhere. The first of these songs is Bunny Wailer's Walk the Proud Land.

The other is one of my all-time favorite Peter Tosh songs -- You Can't Blame the Youth

Your teacher used to learn in school
How a cow flies over the moon
You teacher used to learn in school
How a dish runs away with a spoon, so

You can't blame the youth
You can't fool the youth
You can't blame the youth of today

You teacher used teach about Christopher Colombus
And you said he was a very great man
You used to teach about Marco Polo
And you said he was a very great man, so

You can't blame the youth
You can't fool the youth
You can't blame the youth, not at all

When every Christmas comes around
You buy the youth a fancy toy gun
When every Christmas comes around
You buy the youth a fancy toy gun, so

You can't blame the youth
You can't fool the youth
You can't blame the youth, not at all

Your teacher teach about the Pirate Hawkins
And you said he was a very great man
Your teacher teach about the Pirate Morgan
And you said he was a very great man

You can't blame the youth
You can't fool the youth
You can't blame the youth of today, not at all

The opening track, Talkin' Blues is a prime example of Bob's magic, a song about troubles in the world that leaves you feeling uplifted.

Burnin' and Lootin' isn't uplifting though. It is haunting and brilliant. And you'll notice that Eric Clapton lifted a line from the song for his mid-80's hit, Forever Man.

This morning I woke up in a curfew;
O God, I was a prisoner, too - yeah!
Could not recognize the faces standing over me;
They were all dressed in uniforms of brutality. Eh!

How many rivers do we have to cross,
Before we can talk to the boss? Eh!
All that we got, it seems we have lost;
We must have really paid the cost.

That's why we gonna be
Burnin' and a-lootin' tonight...

Kinky Reggae flows into an outstanding Get Up, Stand Up. After another interview segment, a strong version of Slave Driver follows. The track from which the Catch a Fire album title is derived, this is another song whose lyrics raise the hairs on your arms.

Slave driver the table is turned
Catch a fire so you can get burned
Slave driver the table is turned
Catch a fire you're gonna get burned

Ev'ry time I hear the crack of the whip
My blood runs cold
I remember on the slave ship
How they brutalised our very souls
Today they say that we are free
Only to be chained in poverty
Good god, I think it's all illiteracy
It's only a machine that make money

After some more Talkin', the back to back Other Wailer contributions follow. bob takes command again with the ever popular Rastaman chant.

Am-A-Do is a lesser known earlt Wailers song, and its inclusion is
welcome here.

Before closing with I Shot the sheriff, there is one more real gem on this album. A fantastic take on the Wailer classic Bend Down Low.

Bend down low, let me tell you what I know now;
Bend down low, let me tell you what I know.
Oh! Fisherman row to reap what you sow now;
Oh, tell you all I know (Oo-oh!),
you've got to let me go now (Oo-oh!),
And all you've got to do:
(Bend down low) Oh yeah! Let me tell you what I know;
Bend down low, let me tell you what I know. Oh yeah!

You keep on knockin', but you can't come in.
I get to understand you been livin' in sin,
But if you love me, woman, walk right in.
I've got a notch for your safety-pin,
But bend down low.

The Wailers whole catalog deserves to be heard. If you are stuck hearing nothing but One Love and little else, this is a nice introduction to the breadth of Bob and Peter's work.

If you know Bob's work and want to hear some deep tracks played live and played well, this is also a great CD for you.

Administrator 12/02--7/07
36,839 Posts
Discussion Starter #44
Sun Ra -- Visits Planet Earth/Interstellar Low-Ways

Sun Ra was a very odd man, who made some very odd (but brilliant and influential) music.

He was born Herman "Sonny" Blount of Alabama, but in adulthood, dlat out denied his past and claimed he was an an angel sent to Earth from Saturn. He wore ancient Egyptian garb onstage and he supplemented his musical performances with carnival acts.

He formed his own record label, Saturn, and pressed his own music. Many of the earliest releases had sleeves hand secorated by the band. He released well over 100 albums, but often the releases were limited to 75 copies or so, and were only sold at his performances. His body of work is very important to the jazz world, but the nature of these releases has had jazz scholars scrambling for years to put his catalog in some sort of reasonable order.

After cutting his teeth as a sideman to Fletcher Henderson, Sun Ra formed a big band in Chicago (later moving to the East Coast). The band, which he dubbed his Arkestra, started out playing hard bop, but quickly grew progressively more experimental, focusing on sheets of sound and disonnance, as they worked their way toward what became known as Free Jazz. However, the Arkestra was playing free years before John Coltrane or Ornette Coleman.

The pairing of two releases on one CD show the Arkestra in its initial transitory period. As is fitting for Sun Ra's work, I will describe it in broad terms, rather than a track by track breakdown.

Visits Planet Earth was recorded in two sessions, in 1956 and 1958. Comparing the first half to the second, it is easy to see that the band starts playing big band bop and ends stretching the bounderies and starting to veer away from convention and into abstraction.

By the time the Arkestra recorded Interstellar Low Ways in 1960, they were already sounding like Coltrane 5 years before Coltrane sounded like Coltrane. In fact, in sections, it sounds almost like Bitch's Brew era Miles Davis -- without the electric guitar, of course. And to paraphrase the famous SNL Don't Fear the Reaper sketch, instead of "More Cowbell" Sun Ra must have been exorting "More Timpani!" This is an eccentric man having a conversation with his audience, andthe further out the subject of the conversation becomes, the more fascinating it is. By the Time Rocket Number Nine blasts, you really believe the man is an angel from Saturn.

Reflections in Blue
Two Tones Listen
Planet Earth
Overtones of China
Somewhere in Space
Interplanetary Music
Interstellar Low Ways
Space Loneliness
Space Aura

It can't be said enough just how far ahead of his time Sun Ra realy was. It is truly a good thing that his catalog is finally getting the attention and love it deserves. And Visits Planet Earth/Interstellar Low-Ways is a great place to start.
Rocket Number Nine Take Off for the Planet Venus

Administrator 12/02--7/07
36,839 Posts
Discussion Starter #45 (Edited)
Liquid Soul -- Liquid Soul

The debut album from Chicago's Liquid Soul was a revelation. It was not a revelation to those of us who used to go see the band play at The Elbo Room, but it was a revelation to the world of hip dance music, "acid jazz," funk and rock.

This is a band that crosses an early 70's horn section (think Tower of Power, Parlaiment or even the jb's) with hi hop beats, DJs and on some tracks, a rotating cast of MCs rhyming with a live band backing. Check the freestyles on Afroloop, Java Junkie and, most impressively, Blue Groove Freestyle.

In a word: HOT!

The first track, Preview>World on a Leash, is a great introduction to the band. Like the majority of the tracks, it is an instrumental, with a melody and horn chart straight out of a 70's cop show or a blaxploitation film theme song, mixed with a danceable hip hop groove and plenty of dj scratching.

But the band plays tribute to the masters in its own funky way as well. The band includes songs by John Coltrane (Equinox) Wayne Shorter (Footprints) and Miles Davis (Freddie the Freeloader) and they do each of the songs justice, although purists might object to the funkifying of some of the classics.

Liquid Soul has released several albums by now, and they are all worth checking out. They don't play small northside Chicago bars anymore, but the distribution of their music to the masses makes the world a better place.


Administrator 12/02--7/07
36,839 Posts
Discussion Starter #46 (Edited)
Led Zeppelin: The Studio Albums

Led Zeppelin. Is there a band ever that has evoked the vivid imagery of rock excess defined more than Led Zep? Probably not.

From the band name, famously the punch line of Keith Moon’s joke about how Jimmy Page’s new band would go over, there has been no band that has so fully encapsulated the myth of rock and roll. Want myth? Ask anyone in the know and mention Led Zep, roadies, groupies and mud shark. You’ll be sure to get a knowing snicker, if not an all-out laugh.

Page was the third and last guitar stud to front The Yardbirds, following Eric Clapton and, in their most commercially successful period, Jeff Beck.

Page got rights to the Yardbirds name, and formed a new band. Page, a studio ace, recruited fellow pro John Paul Jones to play bass (Jones later proved a multi-instrumentalist) and blonde frocked singer Robert Plant and hard hitting drummer John Bonham from an obscure English rural band called Band of Joy.

They toured shortly as The New Yardbirds, before re-christening themselves Led Zeppelin.

Whenever you heard Led Zeppelin I for the foist time, you had to have had a revelatory experience. Imagine hearing it for the first time in January, 1969, when it was released. You had Cream and Hendrix to prepare you for the experience, but precious little else. And Zep I clearly kicked it up a notch, putting aside any pretense of hippy sensibility for all out balls to the wall rock.

Even on the first album, however, Page showed the versatility that was the hallmark of Zeppelin.

The opening Good Times, Bad Times is riff rock at its finest, while the following Babe. I’m Gonna Leave You is a fingerpicking masterpiece, that melts into sections of pure intensity.

You Shook Me is a heavy-handed blues cover, while Dazed and Confused showed first signs of the experimental side of Zep.

Your Time is Gonna Come is an early anthem, but is not one of the more memorable songs on the album. Black Mountain Side, the acoustic guitar workout, however, is a highlight.

Communication Breakdown is an early Zep hit and is typical of the brain melting power that established Zep as a pioneer of hard rock.

I Can’t Quit You Baby and How Many More Times launched a thousand white Blooze bands that dominated the 1970’s.

Zeppelin II upped the anty. This is probably the hardest rocking Zep album in the catalog.
Whole Lotta Love. Brain bending riff. Violin bows. Insanity.

What is and What Should Never Be. John Paul Jones’ bass lines propel this song, a slow cooking rocker that demands repeated listening.

The Lemon Song. Robert Plant and **** rock. Squeeze it till da juice run down his leg. Credited to the band members, but actually ripped off from classic bluesmen, this song highlights the ugly underside of Led Zep the business.

Heartbreaker>Living Loving Maid is a staple of classic rock radio. Is the guitar solo genius or careless slop? The debate will go on forever.

Ramble On is another song driven home by an outstanding Jones bassline. The alternating acoustic and electric Page guitar parts are painfully beautiful I personally believe this song is Zeppelin’s first moment of greatness.

This is followed by Moby Dick, which is Bonham’s drum solo. In live versions, it goes on for a painfully long time (I’m not a big fan of drum solos – live they are difficult to sit through. On record, they are impossible). Here, at 4 minutes, and of that 4 minutes, the solo is encapsulated between the infectious Moby Dick guitar riff, the song is just perfect.

The Bluesy Bring it On Home does just that. Not bad for October, 1969.

The not so imaginatively titled Led Zeppelin III was, in fact, a significant departure for the band.

The Immigrant Song starts things off. Although a blow your face off rocker, I have to admit it was never my favorite. I bought the single for the B-Side, Hey Hey What Can I Do, but never cared much for the A side. That is, until the recent How the West as Won live CDs. The Immigrant Song on there is majesty.

Friends introduces a kinder, gentler Led Zep. I’m sure at the time it puzzled a lot of early fans, but in the grand scheme, it is this willingness to experiment and expand horizons that made Zeppelin great.

Celebration Day is a return to hard rock, but it is a more sophisticated hard rock. In a way, I’ve always thought this song forshadowed the work of heavy prog-rockers like Rush. Same with Out on the Tiles.

Between those songs was another slow blues, Since I’ve Been Lovng You. A typically great Page solo, but Plant and Jones are the stars of that show.

Zep goes all out folk on what was originally side 2 of Zep III, starting with Gallows Pole, the ode to the hangman. A wicked, funny lyric from a band often accused of taking itself too seriously.

Tangerine is one of my favorite Zep songs, and favorite guitar bits. Page takes the familiar D/Dsus2/Dsus4 interchange and builds on it to create a masterpiece.

That’s the Way Bron-Y-Aur-Stomp and Hats Off to Roy Harper complete this rock/country/folk amalgam, and oddity in the Zep catalog.

It is hard to place Zep 4 (Zoso, untitled, runes – what do YOU call it?) in perspective. It is one of the most influential albums of all time. One of the most overplayed albums of all time. I remember the first time I heard it. I was so blon away, I listened to it over and over, at least 5 times in a row.

Odd, melting guitar riff. Page, a cappela: HEY HEY MAMA SAID THE WAY YOU MOVE GONNA MAKE YOU SWEAT GONNA MAKE YOU GROOVE.” What a start! A riff that shook the world.

Then the Drum intro to end all drum intro’s: Bonham’s explosion into Rock and Roll. Been a long lonely lonely lonely lonely lonely time. Yes it has. Another sloppy guitar riff that happens to work just right.

This leads into the baroque sounding Battle of Evermore, with Page’s guitars and Jones’ mandolin weaving acoustic magic.

Stairway. ‘nuff said.

Misty Mountain Hop is an ode to hippy free love sensibility, without straying from the center of hard rock.

Four Sticks shows off Zep’s chops, with a foreign sounding melody played off an odd time signature.

Going to California is more hippy sentimentality, but this time in a pleasing, acoustic setting. Plant’s sound of inhaling a joint at the beginning of the song sets the mood.

The album closes with the room shaking drums and honking harmonica riffs of When the Levee Breaks. Exhausted yet? You should be.

Zep IV is probably the most famous Led Zeppelin album, but Houses of the Holy is my personal favorite (even though the title track doesn’t appear on the album).

The album starts with the sp=ophisticated chords of The Song Remains the Same, followed by the jazzy Rain Song. (Boy do I remember how proud I was when I learned how to play The Rain Song).

I was equally proud to learn Over The Hills and Far Away – a benchmark for every intermediate guitar player.

The Crunge further expands the diversity of Led Zeppelin int something approaching funk.

Dancing Days is another sophisticated arrangement that sounds as fresh today as it did in 1973.

D’Yer Mak’er (which is an approximation of an English Pronunciation of Jamaica) has that reggae beat, and was clearly ahead of the curve in relation to the reggaew sensation that swept America in the mid-70’s.

No Quarter and The Ocean are Zep classics and hard rockers that can’t be beat. And they aren’t as overplayed as, say, Stairway, so you can listen without cringing.

Physical Graffiti was a double album that bucked the trend of the times. By 1975, Zep was at the top of their game, but the backlash against pretense and bombast was beginning to take root. Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Genesis, Yes and similar prog bands had sapped the energy from roots rock and replaced it with technical showboating.

But Zeppelin rocked on and did it quite well. Custard Pie and The Rover are speaker melters and In My Time of Dying is 11 minutes of stoner glory. Houses of the Holy has a terrific riff. Trampled Under Foot leads into Kashmir – a song that sounds like no other in rock. Rocking and numbing at the same time, Kashmir is aural hashish.

Disk 2 again shows off the diversity of Led Zep, from reverby beach music (Down by the Seaside) to majestic rock (Ten Years Gone). From solo guitar workouts (Bron YrAur) to piano driven Boogie Woogie (Boogie With Stu) Physical Graffiti is a eal roller coaster ride.

By Presence, the punk movement was in full force and Zep was one of the chief criminals, derided as dinosaurs. Accordingly, the music on Presence is among the least overplayed in the Zep catalog. But it is sophisticated music and stands up to repeated listening.

Achilles Last Stand is 10+ minutes of vintage Zep, and Page justs blows out the speakers. All of the songs are worthwhile, but the stuttering Nobody’s Fault but Mine is another standout track. I’d say more about Presnece, but frankly, I’m getting tired of typing. Listen to it and you’ll be drawn to it like the people on the cover are drawn to the obelisk.

Zep’s last studio album, In Through The Out Door was a comeback, of sorts. Setting the stage for Zep’s entrance into the 80’s (which never happened due to the death of Bonham) Out Door was Zep at its most professional.

The mideastern drone of In the Evening showed that the Persian flair started with Kashmir was more than a mere fluke or flirtation. South Bound Sauree is a slight track, but is a fun little party in and of itself.

Fool in the Rain is a ballad, but has one of Page’s most memorable guitar solos.

Hot Dog has some country chicken Pickin’, while Carolesambra is a synth experiment that shows where, perhaps, Led Zep was headed.

All My Love is also a ballad and was Zep’s last hit. A truly memorable track, Robert Plant would spend a decade in solo work trying to recapture its vibe.

I’m Gonna Crawl ends the saga of Led Zep where it began. With an ear-melting rock rendition of a classic blues sound.

Yes, it is true that Led Zeppelin is a cliché. But Zep is the embodiment of classic rock. IT is a cliché band because it created the template, and is the band by which all other rock bands are measured.

Zeppelin. Rock on.

Administrator 12/02--7/07
36,839 Posts
Discussion Starter #47 (Edited)
Various Artists -- Tangled Up In Blues: Songs of Bob Dylan

I started to do this review a while ago, but dropped it because of difficulties in finding the image for an album cover shot. Now I have the image, so, as Jackie Gleason would say..."And awaaaaaay we gooooo"...

Collections of Bob Dylan covers come and go -- he is a songwriting icon, it is to be expected.

This comes off as a special one.

Bob Dylan is described as a folkie and a rocker, but he never really strayed far from the Blues. He sang from the heart. He went for the simple over the fancy, the gut wrenching emotion over technical "correctness."

Listeners used to pop radio complained about his nasally voice, but listen to the historic songs of America -- old Smithsonian recordings of rural acoustic blues singers and southern field hollers. Listen to old Folkways recordings of Woodie Guthrie and Leadbelly. You will hear that Bob tapped into the quintessential essence of genuine American music.

This CD is part of the House of Blues "This Ain't No Tribute" series, and in my opinion, is the finest selection. There have been other selections in the series -- dedicated to The Stones, Janis Joplin, etc. Nice releases? Yeah. Essential? Not lke this DYLAN ONE! This one is, as the kids would say, the "Shiznit."

The CD kicks off with blues legend Taj Mahal's emotional take on the oft covered "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry."
Embracing another Americona song tradition, this Highway 61 Revisited song is a classic song about trains and life, and drawing parallels betwixt and between the two.

Well, I ride on a mailtrain, baby,
Can't buy a thrill.
Well, I've been up all night, baby,
Leanin' on the window sill.
Well, if I die
On top of the hill
And if I don't make it,
You know my baby will.

Taj belts it out like its a dusty Robert Johnson tune, and squeezes every ounce of passion from the tune.

Next up is my absolute favorite track on the CD:

Mavis Staples' version of Gotta Serve Somebody

A lesser known tune from Dylan's born again days, Mavis (of the Staples Singers -- Respect Yourself,etc) puts a churchgoing touch on the song that makes it majestic. She moans into her mike until a gospel choir joins her singing:

You're gonna have to ServeServeServeSOMEBODY

Raises the hair on my freaking arms.

Isaac Hayes transforms the C&W of Lay Lady Lay into deep, deep soul. Pass the Courvoissier and light a candle.

R.L.Burnside, well known for his performance of the Theme to The Sopranos, does a terrific upbeat take on another lesser known track, Everything is Broken. Derrick Trucks (Allman Brothers, Frogwings, Derrick Trucks Band) adds some fierce guitar.

The deceptively simple lyrics fit the song so well, and R.L. males them his own:

Broken lines, broken strings,
Broken threads, broken springs,
Broken idols, broken heads,
People sleeping in broken beds.
Ain't no use jiving
Ain't no use joking
Everything is broken.

Broken bottles, broken plates,
Broken switches, broken gates,
Broken dishes, broken parts,
Streets are filled with broken hearts.
Broken words never meant to be spoken,
Everything is broken.

Pledging My Time is another obscure classic, performed by the legendary Luthor "Guitar JR" Johnson, backed by the even MORE legendary James Cotton on harmonica. If you didn't know it was Dylan, you'd swear it was some undiscovered Stax/Volt classic.

I'll Be Your Baby Tonight is performed as a trad blues, by blues archivist and performer John Hammond, doing his thing on a National steel guitar. I can only imagine the glaring reflections off the stainless instrument as he recorded this. (flashback: Paul Simon's Graceland -- The Mississippi delta is shining like a National guitar...).

I don't know much about James Solberg, who recorded the next track, a cover of Ballad of a Thin Man. I only know that he did a fine job of covering one of me favorite Dylan songs. Bob at his most antisocial and paranoid.

You walk into the room
With your pencil in your hand
You see somebody naked
And you say, "Who is that man?"
You try so hard
But you don't understand
Just what you'll say
When you get home

Because something is happening here
But you don't know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

You raise up your head
And you ask, "Is this where it is?"
And somebody points to you and says
"It's his"
And you say, "What's mine?"
And somebody else says, "Where what is?"
And you say, "Oh my God
Am I here all alone?"

Because something is happening here
But you don't know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

You hand in your ticket
And you go watch the geek
Who immediately walks up to you
When he hears you speak
And says, "How does it feel
To be such a freak?"
And you say, "Impossible"
As he hands you a bone

Because something is happening here
But you don't know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

Counting Crows has admitted at least more than a passing coincidence to the synchronicity of this song's title character and their hit Mr. Jones.

Million Miles by Alvin "Youngblood" Hat is a treat because Youngblood is one of the hottest blues guitar slingers in a generation. There are some tasty Hammond B-3 fills, but this is a guitar track through and through.

It is amazing the extent to which Leon Russell has been ignored by modern audiences. Easily one of the brightest lights shining in the early 70's, he deserves better. A sessions man legend, playng with everyone from Ike & Tina Turner to The Rolling Stones. Solo hits like Tightrope. Writing Superstar. Writeing Masquerade Again for George Benson -- the only to hit number 1 on the Jaxx, pop and R&B charts.

And most impressively, upstaging Joe Cocker, at the hight of his popularity, on the infamous Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour.

Here he performs a suitably laid back take on Watching the River Flow. The track simply oozes N'Awlins Gris-Gris.

The Holmes Brothers, another House of Blues house band, perform an otherwise unreleased track, Wallflower, that is famous for at least one other reason -- it it the inspiration for Bob's son Jacob's band. And as a waltz/blues, it is an intersting track to hear, indeed.

Bluesman Larry McCray turns out with a credibly rocking version of Watchtower -- more jamming than the Dylan original, and a pale comparison to the Hendrix standard by which all versions of this song are measured, it is a fun, but not essential inclusion.

The CD ends as it should. Other than The Byrds, Bob's longtime backing band The Band are the best interpreters of the master's owrk.

Even this pared down version of the essential original group puts out a heartfelt and touching rendition of One Too Many Mornings. It is a soulful and wistful way to end the collection. Kudos, House of Blues. An excellent release.

Administrator 12/02--7/07
36,839 Posts
Discussion Starter #48
Van Halen -- Van Halen I

Now when I started writing these reviews, I told myself that I had to try to stary away from the "No **** Sherlock" albums. I've failed in this goal in the past, but this is a glaring failure.

You should own VH I and listen to it until it breaks. Duh.

But I had this CD on today, and couldn't help marvelling at what a great album it is. And then I thought about it in a historical context and I was blown away all over again.

I mean we're talking about 1978 here. Styx and Foreigner owned the airwaves. Disco still ruled. The Sex Pistols and The Clash were rebelling against old school rock and roll and were gaining ground.

Then The Old School reinvented itself, and rock lived.

There was a new Sheriff in town, and its name was Van Halen.

Diamond Dave, Eddy, Alex and Anthony saved rock and roll with Van Halen I.

Now, much has been made in guitar geek circles of the fact that there are examples of two handed guitar tapping that predate VH I. Great. But Eddy Van Halen made the technique a part of his basic musical vocabulary and used it to blow away the world. give the man his props.

Hell, Hannibal wasn't the first ancient general to put calvery on elephants. But he was the one who marched the elephants through snow peaked mountains and went on to conquor the known world.

And David Lee Roth wasn't the first macho ****-rock frontman, wowing the boys with his macho, party man heroics, while melting the wills of the ladies with his oozing sexiness.

For most of the decade, Robert Plant reigned king in that regard. Buth Roth, with his incredible athleticism and karate moves made Plant look like a wilting English flower by comparison.

The Van Halen debut starts with one of the great metal party anthems of all time:

Runnin' With the Devil. Dave belts out his baritone howl and shrieking falsetto while Eddy slices though your skull with never-before-heard solo's, between completely original riffs and some very cool chord comping.

This is followed by The Guitar Solo That Changed The World:

Eruption. The track that every person who played guitar, and even those who didn't play guitar, but loved rock, heard for the first time, and said "what in the name of Jesus Tap Tancing Christ Was That!!??!!??"

Erupting may well be the most important 1:42 in music recorded in the past 26 years. And that is not mere puffery. It is fact.

As everyone knows, Eruption melds into the Kinks cover You Really Got Me, which every aspiring guitar player learns as an important lesson in simplifying chord progressions for power.

I am a HUGE Kinks fan, and the fact that VH did this song on the first album, another Kinks song, Where Have All the Good Times Gone and covered Dancing in the Streets, which the Kinks also coveredendeared me to the band, for sure.

Ain't Talkin; 'Bout Love, with the World's most Famous Arpeggio, is next. Great tapping, great song.

I'm The One is so uptempo, it is almost punk. The fact that Roth would kick any punk's *** is the only thing that truly separates the song from the punk genre. Freaking BRILLIANT tapped harmonics in the fills of this one.

Whoa, Whoa Whoa, Jamie's Cryin'...

Jamie's Cryin' just sounds HUGE! Huge vocals, huge bass, huge drums and huge, reverbed guitars. And a huge message:

You know that Jamie's been in love before
and she knows what love is for
It should mean a little more
Than one night stands

but the audience knows she's givin' it up for Dave.

Most of the original side B is lesser material: bang yer head rockers like Atomic Punk, Feel Your Love Tonight (check those harmony vocals), Little Dreamer, On Fire...

Ice Cream Man is the beginning and the end for this band. It is a totally fun track, played up for its campy humor as much as its guitar pyrotechnics.

This is the ying and Yang of Dave and Eddy. It is brilliant, but it is eventually this dichotomy that imploded this band.

Administrator 12/02--7/07
36,839 Posts
Discussion Starter #49
The Replacements -- Let it Be

This is the last indie release by The 'Mats before they signed with a major label.

This is also their masterwork. This is where all the elements that made The Replacements one of the two most important punk bands to come out of the Minneapolis scene (along with Husker Du). Some tracks thrash hard. Others are soft ballads. Some almost swing. There is excellent songwriting. Excellent singing by the raspy voiced Paul Westerberg. Ferocious bass by Tommy Stinson and really the last of the frenetic crazy playing of bob Stinson (who played on Tim, but was really reigned in. After Tim he was fired over his extreme drug abuse). And the audacity and chutzpah of coopting the name of a Beatles album.

The album starts with a college rock masterpiece, I Will Dare. Great bass line, pop-punk at its finest. The lesser hit Favorite Thing follows in the same vein. A great one two opener.

But just as you're settling in to a CS full of ear candy, the hardcore We're Coming Out blasts from the speakers. Hello, what's this? The 'Mats are still able to pull off young and Snotty? You bet. Want further proof?

Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out. A pretty weird song, but EZ listening its not.

Now to switch gears again. Paul croons over a piano in the tender Androgynous. Wow. Talk about a record that shows a band of diversity.

Like the next song. A faithful cover of Kiss' Black Diamond. Yeah. Punk and pop-punk bands cover Kiss all the time. Or not. This is a great choice -- an early Kiss classic. And the boys do a great job. All that's missing is the makeup, the pyro and the 12" platform boots.

Unsatisfied is another piece of great Westerberg writing. Simple words, but they match the melody so well and Paul sings with great feeling.

Look me in the eye
And tell me that I'm satisfied
Were you satisfied?
Look me in the eye
Then, tell me I'm satisfied
And now are you satisfied?

Everything goes
Well, anything goes all of the time
Everything you dream of
Is right in front of you
And everything is a lie
And liberty is a lie

The next two tracks -- not their best. Seen your Video is a sneering F You to the major label bands flocking to MTV. Its sort've lost its relevance by today. Gary's got a Boner is silly fun.

Sixteen Blue and Answering Machine are the final two songs, and are more great examples of what a fantastic songwriter Westerberg is.

1, 2, 3, 4

Try to breathe some life into a letter
Losing hope, never gonna be together
My courage is at it's peak
You know what I mean
How do say you're O.K. to
An answering machine?
How do you say good night to
An answering machine?

Most Replacement albums are worth checking out. but Let it Be, Tim and Pleased to Meet Me are the might triumvirite.
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