Robin Lane & The Chartbusters: Many Years Ago

March 18th, 2019

Boston band gets its due, with electrifying bonus live tracks

The Los Angeles-born, Laurel Canyon-bred Robin Lane developed her musicality as a Golden State folky, but broke through as an east coast rock ‘n’ roller. Lane migrated from California to New York and then north to Boston, where she formed a band that quickly established itself in the late ‘70s as a regular at The Rat. Club and college dates led to a record deal with the soon-to-be-bankrupt Private Stock label, and then a more fruitful signing with Warner Brothers. The group’s self-titled 1980 debut spun off the singles “When Things Go Wrong” and “Why Do You Tell Lies?,” with the former turning up as the eleventh video played on MTV’s first day on the air. Lane’s original material was emotionally moving and melodically catchy, and her voice had the heft to lead a talented band made up of former Modern Lovers Asa Brebner and Leroy Radcliffe, Reddy Teddy bassist Scott Baerenwald and Sidewinders drummer Tim Jackson.

Formed in the middle of punk rock’s golden age, the Chartbusters managed to deploy their seasoned talent with enough passion to fit in among the less instrumentally gifted. Live and on record, the band was incredibly tight, but never seemed out of place among their punk rock colleagues. The album gained regional and college radio airplay, despite the band’s sense that it didn’t capture the essence of their guitar-centered sound, but failed to break nationally. A live EP, 5 Live and a sophomore LP, Imitation Life, failed to break the band beyond Boston, and they were dropped by their label. Lane’s pregnancy and the birth of her daughter combined with the band’s disappointing commercial results to seal the group’s fate. One more independently released 1984 EP, Heart Connection, was produced before Lane went into hiatus that eventually produced new career directions.

The Chartbusters original recording history is catalogued here in full, with all three Warner releases complemented by a pre-Warner indie single, the post-Warner EP, and a wealth of previously unreleased demos, session tracks, and live material; all that’s missing is the 2003 reunion, Piece of Mind. The debut album, despite the band’s reservations, still resounds with a great deal of rock ‘n’ roll charm. Those who first heard the band live may have been disappointed by Joe Wissert’s bright production, but the guitars aren’t exactly buried, and the drums add a lot of punch to the mix. Lane is commanding as she opens the album with a triple-shot of emotional counsel, and sings of longing that’s personal (“Be Mine Tonight”) and spiritual (“Without You”). She captured her in-the-moment reaction to Nancy Spungen’s death on the rocker “I Don’t Want to Know,” and the guitars offer Byrdsian-chime and McCartney-seque bass on “Kathy Lee.”

But even with Lane’s intense vocals, the band’s impassioned playing, and an album full of memorable lyrics and melodic hooks, the label couldn’t find a way to break the band beyond New England. Whether it was the production, the New Wave album cover, or just the random breaks of the music business, neither the singles nor the album charted nationally. The subsequent live EP, recorded at Boston’s Orpheum Theater, includes three songs not otherwise recorded by the band (“Lost My Mind,” “When You Compromise” and “8.3”), along with a scorching cover of Johnny Kidd & The Pirates’ “Shakin’ All Over.” The recording captures the band’s strength as a stage act, as well as the crowd’s enduring love for their hometown band. But again, the spark of regional enthusiasm couldn’t be grown into a national fire.

The band’s sophomore album was released the following year, and though it’s a solid effort, it didn’t have the obvious singles of the debut. The band’s continuing intensity is heard on “No Control” and the title track, and the poppier “Pretty Mala” and closing ballad “For You” are easily liked, but nothing here reaches out and really grabs the listener’s by the ears like the debut. The band’s tenure on Warner Brothers closed with a good album that wasn’t good enough to hurdle past the failed launch of the superior debut. The 1984 EP Heart Connection opens strongly with “Hard Cover,” and includes three tracks whose keyboards and handclaps date the recordings in a way that don’t affect the previous releases. The EP sessions produced seven additional tracks that are included here as bonuses. The quality of this material could certainly have merited the release of a full album, but was consigned to the vault until now.

Additional demo material includes a pair of pre-Chartbusters recordings, “Rose for Sharon” and “Never Enough” that show off Lane’s California country-folk roots. They also explain the surprise with which Lane’s earliest fans greeted the rock ‘n’ roll sound of the Chartbusters. “Never Enough” was recorded by the Pousette-Dart Band as the title song of their fourth album before Lane rewrote it as “When Things Go Wrong.” The band’s pre-Warner Brother single includes the original versions of “When Things Go Wrong” and “Why Do You Tell Lies,” along with a moving folk-pop original titled “The Letter.” This early material’s connections to Lane’s musical influences is both a treat and a revelation. Disc two is filled out with a 1980 demo of the singer-songwriter styled “The Longest Thinnest Thread,” and the fragile, violin-lined “Little Bird,” taken from the band’s 2002 reunion album.

Disc 3 is dedicated to live material, including the 5 Live EP and seventeen previously unreleased tracks recorded in clubs (Paradise Rock Club and Jonathan Swift’s) and studios (RCA and Normandy Sound) between 1979 and 1981. The Normandy tracks, apparently recorded before an intimate audience, are particularly electrifying. The band is tight and powerful, and Lane’s punk-inspired energy is mesmerizing at the mic; it’s here that the band’s reservations about the sound of their debut album become clear. These tracks also show off the wealth of original material the band had early on, with many of these songs never having made it past live performance. Additional in-concert highlights include a terrifically urgent cover of Del Shannon’s “Keep Searchin’ (We’ll Follow the Sun)” and a stomping rock ‘n’ roll treatment of Willie Dixon’s “Violent Love”

As pleasing as it is to finally have the second album and both EPs in the digital domain, it’s the generous helping of the band in prime live form that will get you on your feet. The three discs are delivered in a four-panel slipcase, with photos, cover art, and new liner notes by Brett Milano; as noted earlier, all that’s missing is the readily available reunion album. Listening to this set, it’s clear that the vagaries of fame often have more to do with circumstance and luck than raw talent, the latter of which the band had in abundance. As Lane opined in Tim Jackson’s 2014 documentary, “Maybe it’s easy to get stuck in Boston, be a big thing in Boston, and then the rest of the world doesn’t even know about you.” Perhaps with some of the luck that didn’t find the band in 1980, this set will help renew and expand the band’s much deserved acclaim. [©2019 Hyperbolium]

Robin Lane’s Songbird Sings Organization

Luther Russell: Medium Cool

March 6th, 2019

New rock ‘n’ roll sounds of the late ‘70s

For someone born in 1970, Luther Russell sure managed to soak up the feel of late ‘70s rock ‘n’ roll. If you were there, this album will transport you back to a time when Jimmy Carter was in the White House, and your copy of Twilley Don’t Mind (not to mention the cutout copy of Radio City you managed to score) hadn’t been worn flat. It turns out that rock ‘n’ roll didn’t die with Tom Petty, even if there are few guitars to be heard on Spotify’s Top 100. Medium Cool not only conjures the sound – the instruments, melodies, rhythms and production – of late ‘70s rock, but the mood. It’s almost as if Joe Walsh continued on from the James Gang instead of eventually joining the Eagles.

Russell’s fealty to the late-70s is on-the-nose with the Roger Christian/Alex Chilton mashup, “Corvette Summer,” a tune that, in an alternate 1978, would have been the title theme to the like-named Mark Hamill film. “Have You Heard” turns a mythical comeback of rock ‘n’ roll into a clarion call, and all of the album’s elements are pulled together as “The Sound of Rock ‘n’ Roll” frees broken hearts to find one another in a misery-eliding drug haze. The acoustic “At Your Feet” suggests an emotionally prostrate version of Big Star’s “Thirteen” (which Russell has previously performed with Jody Stephens), but here the protagonist literally throws himself at the feet of his objet d’affection.

There’s a hint of Joe Jackson in the chorus of “Can’t Be Sad,” but the verses, powered by rock ‘n’ roll guitar, bass and drums that reach back past any hint of a new wave. The ringing guitars of “Talkin to Myself” bring to mind the Seattle pop moment just before grunge, and the introspective closer, “Can’t Turn Away,” doubles down on Russell’s unshakeable loyalty. Over the years Russell’s shifted from Replacements-styled rock with the Bootheels, to Joe Cocker-inspired sounds with the Freewheelers, to folk-pop with Big Star’s Jody Stephens in Those Pretty Wrongs. Elements of each can be heard here, but the trio’s playing is an especially pleasing tonic for ears that came of age in the late ‘70s. [©2019 Hyperbolium]

Luther Russell’s Home Page

Dennis Coffey: Live at Baker’s

March 4th, 2019

Legendary Motown guitarist gigging in 2006

Detroit guitarist Dennis Coffey had a brief run of solo fame with his 1971 instrumental hit “Scorpio,” and its 1972 Top-20 follow-up “Taurus.” But his guitar has been much more widely heard on a string of iconic Motown hits that includes the Temptations’ “Cloud Nine, “Ball of Confusion” and “Psychedelic Shack,” Edwin Star’s “War” and Diana Ross & The Supremes’ “Someday We’ll Be Together.” Those who’ve spent time in the Motor City may have been lucky enough to hear Coffey playing live, including a residency with organist Lyman Woodard’s heavy swinging trio at Morey Baker’s Showplace Lounge. Those who didn’t have the pleasure can check out some of the trio’s live dates on the previously released Hot Coffey in the D – Burnin’ at Morey Baker’s Showplace Lounge and One Night at Morey’s: 1968.

Coffey has continued to gig steadily, and Omnivore now offers up a more recent live date, recorded in 2006 with a quartet that features keyboardist Demetrius Nabors, bassist Damon Warmack and drummer Gaelynn McKinney. The quartet has a different sound than Lyman’s organ-based trio, but Coffey’s guitar is still as fiery and free as ever. The track list is comprised mainly of finely selected jazz covers, including titles by Freddie Hubbard, Jimmy Smith, Miles Davis and Jack McDuff, but also includes a hot, extended jam on “Scorpio,” and a lengthy take on the Temptations “Just My Imagination.” The latter is highlighted by Coffey’s soulful, phase shifted guitar (taking the vocal’s spotlight) and an electric piano solo from Nabors.

The signature saxophone and piano vamp of Miles Davis’ “All Blues” is given here to Warmack’s warm bass playing, with Coffey’s chorused guitar, string bends and rapid-fire bursts suggesting Coltrane’s sax more than Davis’ trumpet. The Crusaders’ “Way Back Home” is given a bounce by McKinney’s drumming and Nabors’ swinging solo, as Coffey’s improvisations really blast off. The album closes with an uptempo cover of Jack McDuff’s “Dink’s Blues,” featuring solos from Coffey, Nabors and Warmack. The set’s generous 74-minute running time, new liners from Bill Kopp and an interview with Coffey make this a welcome complement to the two earlier live discs. And if you’re in Detroit, catch Coffey on Tuesday Nights at the Northern Lights Lounge. [©2019 Hyperbolium]

Dennis Coffey’s Home Page

Shawn Mullins: Soul’s Core Revival

February 16th, 2019

A flash of inspiration turned into an essay of experience

Shawn Mullins was six years and four albums into his recording career when he waxed the 1998 breakthrough album Soul’s Core. He was at the point in a musician’s career when they start to wonder if they’ll ever break out of the artistically-rich but commercially-lean orbit in which they’ve been traveling. The pace of recording often turns studio sessions into snapshots of inspiration, with a long tail of discovery ahead as the album is toured. The initial writing and recording are coated in layers of experience as songs are contextualized in the flow of a live set, developed by a road band’s chemistry, reflected by audience reaction, and interpreted through the changing circumstances of the performer. Material with artistic depth is in a sense never finished.

Given the pivotal role that Soul’s Core played in Mullins’ career, it’s no surprise that many of the album’s songs have remained central to his live set, and that over time, his relationship to the material, and his perspective on its meaning has deepened. For this self-released double-CD, Mullins has re-recorded the album twice: once with his road band, and once in an acoustic solo setting. The former’s live-in-the-studio setting captures the band’s decades-long development of the songs as stage material, while the latter more deeply introspects the songwriter’s changes in personal relationship to his younger self. The band disc perfectly blends the tight playing of oft-played material with the stretching and exploration of songs whose core theses have become second nature; the solo disc gives Mullins an opportunity to look back twenty years on his own.

Mullins has doubled down on the soulfulness of these songs with both his singing and touches of organ and horns. His feel for the entirety of each song allows him to hang back at key points so as to emphasize others, exchanging the glow of the adolescent incarnations for versions steeped in the added details of nightly retellings. The spoken word intros to the acoustic renditions nominaly return the material to its songwriter roots, but as with the band versions, Mullins long-term relationship with his material yields a deeper connection than could have been captured at its genesis. This is a terrific gift to longtime fans of the original album, and an interesting entry point for new fans to capture both Mullins’ early years and his current state. [©2018 Hyperbolium]

Shawn Mullins’ Home Page

Van Duren: Waiting – The Van Duren Story

February 15th, 2019

A 1970s Memphis pop act even more obscure than Big Star

Obscured by the success of soul music emanating from Stax, Hi and American, the 1970s Memphis rock scene was as potent as it was little heard. Decades after their commercial failure, Big Star actually became big stars, and others Memphians making pop and rock music at the time – Icewater, Rock City, the Hot Dogs, Cargoe, Zuider Zee – eventually caught varying amounts of reflected spotlight. But even among all the retrospective appreciation, singer, guitarist and songwriter (and Memphis native) Van Duren remained obscure; his 1977 debut Are You Serious? was reissued in limited quantities by the Airmail and Water labels, his 1979 follow-up Idiot Optimism got stuck in the vault for twenty years, and his later albums went undiscovered by many of those who would appreciate them.

That lack of renown is now set to be corrected by this soundtrack and a like-named documentary. Pulling together material from his two late-70s studio albums, a 1978 live show, previously unreleased sessions at Ardent, and the 1986 album Thin Disguise, the collection easily makes the case for Duren having been the artistic peer of his better-known Memphis colleagues. Duren’s public renaissance was stirred by two Australian fans, Wade Jackson and Greg Carey, whose latter-day discovery of Are You Serious? turned into a two-year documentary project that sought to understand why the albums didn’t hit, and why Duren didn’t achieve the fame that his music deserved.

No one is guaranteed fame, not even the talented, and as noted, Memphis wasn’t exactly a springboard for rock band success, yet Duren’s connections with Ardent, Chris Bell, Jody Stephens, Andrew Loog Oldham and Jon Tiven might have tilted the odds in his favor. From his debut, recorded with Tiven on electric guitar and Hilly Michaels on drums, the set’s opening “Grow Yourself Up” has the chugging beat of Badfinger and a vocal melody that favorably suggests the early-70s work of Todd Rundgren. “Chemical Fire” offers a touch of southern funk in its bassline, and the ballad “Waiting” is filled with the yearning its title implies. A pair of live-on-the-radio tracks show how well Duren’s material translated to performance, and how easily he could summon the same level of vocal emotion on stage as in the studio.

The earliest track on this collection, the 1975 demo “Andy, Please,” was cut at Ardent with Jody Stephens on drums and vocal harmonies. It’s as assured as the album cut two years later and features a hint of Eric Carmen in the vocal and a terrific guitar outro from Jack Holder. The second album’s cover of Chris Bell’s “Make a Scene” offers a slice of power pop, and two tracks from Duren’s latter-day band Good Question (including the local hit “Jane”) remain consistent with the quality of his earlier work. Listening to Duren’s music, your head will know that his lack of recognition wasn’t unusual in the breaks-based world of commercial success; but your ears and heart will continue to wonder how he could have fallen so thoroughly through the cracks. Here’s hoping the new interest in his career leads to full reissues of his original albums, and more widespread recognition of his more recent material! [©2019 Hyperbolium]

Various Artist: 3×4

February 9th, 2019

The Paisley Underground revisits itself

For those who weren’t around to enjoy the 1980s revival of 1960s sounds, “The Paisley Underground” was the name given to a collection of like-minded Los Angeles bands that shared a fondness for retro sounds. Initially finding one another as fans, they quickly became friends and colleagues, and released a varied catalog of records that touched on a number of different pop, psych and punk echoes of the ‘60s. Three decades years later, four of the scene’s pillars reconvened for a pair of reunion shows in 2013, and six years after that they’ve joined together to celebrate their musical and personal affections via this album of covers. Cleverly, each band – The Bangles, Dream Syndicate, Rain Parade and Three O’Clock – tackles one each of the other three band’s songs, drawing out their web of stylistic connections.

The Three O’Clock kicks off the set with the A-side of the Bangles first single, “Getting Out of Hand.” The cover has a bass-heavy go-go beat that sits well with the organ and guitar, and the band takes the tune at a more relaxed tempo than Michael Quercio’s impromptu 1983 rendition with the Bangles. The Dream Syndicate’s signature “Tell Me When It’s Over” (from The Days of Wine and Roses) finds Quercio dipping into an unusually low (for him) vocal register that’s dreamier than Steve Wynn’s Lou Reed-inflected original, and the Rain Parade’s debut single, “What She’s Done to Your Mind,” retains its original melancholy even as it’s turned poppier. The original lineup of bassist/vocalist Quercio, drummer Danny Benair, and guitarist Louis Guiterrez is joined by keyboard player Adam Merrin, and with Earle Mankey in the producer’s chair, the tracks conjure the flowery buzz of the band’s early days.

The Bangles cover the Dream Syndicate’s “That’s What You Always Say,” with the harmony vocals paired with a guitar solo that pays tribute to Karl Precoda’s screeching feedback without seeking to imitate it. The Rain Parade’s “Talking in My Sleep” (from their debut LP Emergency Third Rail Power Trip) is lead by Susanna Hoffs’ distinctive voice, and backed by Beatle-esque harmonies and instrumental hooks drawn from original. Completing their triptych, the band draws from the Three O’Clock’s Sixteen Tambourines for the joyous “Jet Fighter Man.” Susanna Hoffs, Debbi Peterson and Vicki Peterson are rejoined on these sessions by original bassist Annette Zillinskas, who exited the quartet between the release of their self-titled 1982 EP and their debut on Columbia.

Steve Wynn’s moving vocal and strong guitar work lead the Dream Syndicate’s cover of the Rain Parade’s “You Are My Friend” (from 1984’s Explosions in the Glass Palace), and give the song an Americana flavor that suggests the Long Ryders. Their cover of the Bangles “Hero Takes a Fall,” the lead single from All Over the Place, offers an interesting backstory, as the song is revealed in the liner notes to have been written about none other than… Steve Wynn. The Dream Syndicate’s third contribution reaches back to the Three O’Clock antecedent Salvation Army for “She Turns to Flowers,” a record that proved to be an early inspiration to then record store employee Steve Wynn. Wynn is joined by drummer Dennis Duck, and supplemented by longtime bassist Mark Walton and more recently added guitarist guitarist James Victor.

That Rain Parade’s covers of the Three O’Clock’s “As Real as Real” (from their debut EP Baroque Hoedown) and the Dream Syndicate’s “When You Smile” show off both the psychedelic threads that connected these bands, but also the differences that distinguished their sounds. “As Real as Real” is shorn of the vocal effects of the original, but retains the slow-motion “Tomorrow Never Knows” rhythm that gave the record its languorous grace. “When You Smile” expands upon the original with acoustic choruses and backing harmonies that contrast with the song’s underlying menace, and The Bangles “The Real World” is given an understated treatment that deepens the song’s innocence. Matt Piucci and Steven Roback lead a revised Rain Parade that includes guitarists John Thoman and Derek See, keyboard player Mark Hanley, and drummer Stephan Junea.

The album makes explicit the musical intersections and personal camaraderie that bound these bands together. The liner notes, penned by Steve Wynn, Matt Piucci, Danny Benair, Michael Quercio, Vicki Peterson and Susanna Hoffs, show how the bands became fans of one another, how their fanship turned into friendship, and eventually into professional relationships that found them gigging on shared bills. Within a couple of years the bands split off in different directions, including major labels, chart success, new projects, reunions and reformations; yet through the decades, the base interests that created the original artistic gravity seem to have survived. This return to the roots of a short-lived scene built on artistic sensibilities is a fine tribute to the scene’s collective musical consciousness. [©2018 Hyperbolium]

Big Star: Live on WLIR

February 7th, 2019

Reissue of seminal 1974 live recording

With so much Big Star material having been issued and reissued over the past thirty years, it may be difficult to remember what a blinding light from the cosmos this live set was upon its original Rykodisc release in 1992. Fans had memorized every detail of the band’s slim album catalog and adjunct singles, and in those very early internet years, there was little else to know about the band. Even Alex Chilton’s reemergence in the late ‘70s had failed to shed much retroactive light on a band that had come and gone before most fans had even heard of them. Robert Gordon brilliantly described the sensation of hearing this live set for the first time in the liner notes of the original Rykodisc release:

“You find an old picture of your lover. It dates from before you’d met, and though you’d heard about this period in his or her life, seeing it adds a whole new dimension to the person who sits across from you at the breakfast table. You study the photograph and its wrinkles, looking for clues that might tell you more about this friend you know so well–can you see anything in the pockets of that jacket, can you read any book titles on the shelf in the background. You think about an archaeologist’s work. When you next see your lover, you’re struck by things you’d never noticed. The skin tone, the facial radiance–though the lamps in your house are all the same and the sun does not appear to be undergoing a supernova, he or she carries a different light. As strikingly similar as the way your lover has always appeared, he or she is also that different. You shrug and smile. Whatever has happened, you like it. That’s what this recording is about.”

It’s hard to imagine this album having the same sort of revelatory impact in a world now populated by multiple live sets, demos, rehearsals, alternate takes and mixes, a reformed band, new material and posthumous tributes; yet, it remains one of the preeminent artifacts of Big Star’s first run, and an essential element of the canon. Recorded at Hemstead, New York’s Ultrasonic Studios for broadcast on Long Island’s WLIR, the band shows off a three-piece lineup of Chilton, Jody Stephens, and Andy Hummel’s replacement on bass, John Lightman. The material is drawn from both #1 Record and the then-recently released Radio City, with the lion’s share from the latter. The performances are loose, with Chilton energized in both his singing and guitar playing – perhaps not yet realizing that Big Star’s commercial fortunes were about to flatline for a second time.

Chilton’s vocal on “You Get What You Deserve” and the extended jam of “She’s a Mover” free the songs from the amber of the studio albums, and a solo acoustic mini-set includes “The Ballad of El Goodo,” “Thirteen,” “I’m in Love With a Girl,” along with a cover of Loudon Wainwright’s “Motel Blues.” When first released, the disc stood on its own as a document of the band in action; it’s now complemented by an earlier live set captured on Live At Lafayette’s Music Room – Memphis, TN, and the rehearsals and live material found on Nobody Can Dance. Combined with the studio albums, the live performances fill out an arc that eventually extended to the reformed band’s coming out on Columbia: Live at Missouri University and Live in Memphis, as well as their latter-day studio album, In Space. Omnivore’s reissue includes new liners from Robert Gordon and a new interview with John Lightman. It also includes stage patter not found on Ryko’s original, and a louder remaster. [©2019 Hyperbolium]

In Memoriam: 2018

December 24th, 2018

Lorrie Collins, 1942-2018

Some of the musicians, songwriters, producers, engineers, managers, agents, broadcasters, journalists, industry executives, and studio and club owners who passed away in 2018.

Listen to a selection of these artists on Spotify.

January
Robert Mann, violinist and member of the Juilliard String Quartet
Betty Willis, soul singer
Tony Calder, record promoter (“Love Me Do”) and label executive
Rick Hall, record producer, songwriter and studio owner (FAME)
Ray Thomas, singer, songwriter and flutist (Moody Blues)
Jerry Van Dyke, comedian, actor, banjo player and singer
France Gall, French singer and Eurovision winner
Chris Tsangarides, British engineer and producer (Judas Priest)
Denise LaSalle, blues singer and songwriter
Moriss Taylor, country musician, radio and television entertainer
Eddie Clarke, British rock guitarist (Motörhead, Fastway)
Doreen Tracey, actress and singer (The Mickey Mouse Club)
Barbara Cope, rock ‘n’ roll groupie
Bill Hughes, jazz trombonist (Count Basie)
Marlene VerPlanck, jazz singer
Edwin Hawkins, gospel singer, choir master, composer and arranger
Dolores O’Riordan, Irish rock singer and songwriter (The Cranberries)
Dave Holland, English rock drummer (Trapeze, Judas Priest)
Christian Burchard, German multi-instrumentalist (Hof, Embryo)
Steve Nisbett, British reggae drummer (Steel Pulse)
Jim Rodford, English rock bassist (Argent, The Kinks)
Robert Arthur, composer and conductor (The Ed Sullivan Show)
Hugh Masekela, South African jazz trumpeter (“Grazing in the Grass“)
Lari White, country singer (“Now I Know”) and actress (Cast Away)
Mark E. Smith, English singer and songwriter (The Fall)
John Morris, film composer (The Elephant Man, Young Frankenstein)
Cliff White, Grammy-winning British music journalist (NME)
Buzz Clifford, singer and songwriter (“Baby Sittin’ Boogie“)
Floyd Miles, blues musician and singer
Neil Harris, British punk rock guitarist (Sham 69),
Coco Schumann, German jazz guitarist and Holocaust survivor
Eddie Shaw, blue saxophonist (Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf)
Mark Salling, actor (Glee) and musician

February
Dennis Edwards, soul and R&B singer (The Contours, The Temptations)
Leon “Ndugu” Chancler, pop, funk and jazz drummer (“Billie Jean”)
John Perry Barlow, lyricist (Grateful Dead) and co-founder of the EFF
Mickey Jones, drummer (Trini Lopez, Kenny Rogers) and actor
Pat Torpey, rock drummer (Mr. Big)
Algia Mae Hinton, blues singer and guitarist
Lovebug Starski, rapper and disc jockey
Craig MacGregor, rock bass guitarist (Foghat)
“Sunshine” Sonny Payne, blues radio DJ (KFFA’s King Biscuit Time)
Troy Blakely, talent manager (Iggy Pop, MC5, Fleetwood Mac)
Vic Damone, pop singer and songwriter
Jan Maxwell, actress and singer (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Follies)
Tom Rapp, singer and songwriter (Pearls Before Swine)
Daryle Singletary, country singer (“I Let Her Lie”)
Scott Boyer, songwriter and musician (Cowboy, Duane Allman)
Klaasje van der Wal, Dutch bassist (Shocking Blue)
Barbara Alston, pop singer (The Crystals)
Little Sammy Davis, blues singer-songwriter and harmonicist
Boyd Jarvis, house producer and remixer (“The Music Got Me”)
Didier Lockwood, French jazz violinist (Magma)
Heiner Stadler, German jazz musician, producer and label owner
Norm Rogers, Americana drummer (The Jayhawks)
Harriet Fier, magazine editor (Rolling Stone) and newspaper editor
Nanette Fabray, actress, singer, Tony and Emmy winner
Eddy Amoo, British soul singer (The Real Thing)
Bruce Nelson Stratton, hall of fame country radio broadcaster
Harvey Schmidt, musical theatre producer and writer (The Fantasticks)

March
Jay B. Ross, entertainment lawyer (James Brown, Muddy Waters)
Brandon Jenkins, red dirt singer-songwriter
Ronnie Prophet, Canadian country singer
Russ Solomon, retail executive and founder of Tower Records
Frank X. Feller, radio broadcaster (WIBG, WYSP)
Jeff St John, Australian pop and rock musician (“Big Time Operator”)
Gary Burden, Grammy-winning album cover artist (Neil Young, CSN&Y)
Nokie Edwards, Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame guitarist (The Ventures)
Craig Mack, rapper (“Flava in Ya Ear“)
Matt Dike, hip hop producer, mixer (Paul’s Boutique) and executive
Claudia Fontaine, English singer and backing vocalist (Pink Floyd)
Charlie Quintana, drummer (Social Distortion, The Plugz, Cracker)
Olly Wilson, composer, musicologist and jazz musician
Jimmy Wisner, pianist, producer and songwriter (“Asia Minor”)
Leroy Anderson, British radio broadcaster
Alfred Lynn, vocalist (Wu-Tang Clan)
Liam O’Flynn, Irish uilleann piper (Planxty)
Buell Neidlinger, cellist and jazz bassist
Greg Sill, television music supervisor (Falcon Crest, Justified)
Frank “Killjoy” Pucci, singer (Necrophagia)
Hazel Smith, country music journalist, publicist and songwriter
Peter “Mars” Cowling, British bassist (Pat Travers Band)
K. Mann, Ghanaian highlife musician
Shawn Elliott, hardcore rock singer (Capitalist Casualties)
Robert McAllister, mobile recording engineer (Rolling Stones, The Who)
Lys Assia, Swiss singer and winner of the first Eurovision Song Contest
Mike Harrison, British singer (Spooky Tooth)
Seo Min-woo, K-pop singer (100%)
Jerry Williams, Swedish singer (“Darling Nelly Grey”)
Kenny O’Dell, country singer-songwriter (“Behind Closed Doors”)
Caleb Scofield, rock bassist and singer (Cave In)
Alias, rapper and record label founder (Anticon)
John Mack Flanagan, radio broadcaster (KFRC)

April
Ron Dunbar, producer and Grammy-winning songwriter (“Patches”)
Cecil Taylor, jazz pianist and poet
Jacques Higelin, French rock singer and songwriter
Nathan Davis, jazz saxophonist and educator
Liam Devally, Irish singer, television host and lawyer
Yvonne Staples, soul singer (The Staple Singers)
Viliam Karmažin, Slovak Guinness World Records-holder conductor
Timmy Matley, Irish singer (The Overtones)
Maurice “Sax Man” Reedus Jr., saxophonist
John Amirante, U.S. anthem singer (New York Rangers)
Big Tom McBride, Irish country music singer
Randy Scruggs, guitarist, producer and songwriter
Stuart Colman, English musician, record producer and broadcaster
Avicii, Swedish electronic dance DJ and producer
Brian Henry Hooper, Australian bassist (Beasts of Bourbon)
Don Bustany, radio and television broadcaster (American Top 40)
Bob Dorough, pianist and composer (Schoolhouse Rock!)
Arthur B. Rubinstein, television and film composer (WarGames)
Paul Gray, Australian singer and songwriter (Wa Wa Nee)
Alain Milhaud, Swiss producer and manager (Los Bravos)
Kato Khandwala, record producer (The Pretty Reckless)
Charles Neville, New Orleans saxophonist (The Neville Brothers)
Roy Young, British singer and pianist
Rose Laurens, French singer and songwriter (“I Dreamed a Dream”)
Tim Calvert, rock guitarist (Nevermore, Forbidden)

May
Stu Boy King, rock drummer (The Dictators)
John “Jabo” Starks, funk drummer (James Brown)
Steve Coy, British drummer (Dead or Alive)
Takayuki Inoue, Japanese rock guitarist and singer (The Spiders)
Tony Kinman, rock singer and bass guitarist (Rank and File, The Dils)
Abi Ofarim, German-Israeli singer (“Cinderella Rockefella”)
Dick Williams, singer (The Williams Brothers)
Big T, rapper (“Wanna Be a Baller”)
Søren Hyldgaard, Danish film, television and new Age composer
Maurane, Belgian singer and actress
Gayle Shepherd, singer (Shepherd Sisters)
Ben Graves, rock drummer (Murderdolls)
Carl Perkins, New Zealand musician (Herbs, House of Shem)
Scott Hutchison, Scottish singer, songwriter and guitarist
Glenn Branca, composer and guitarist
Hideki Saijō, Japanese singer
Reggie Lucas, songwriter, jazz guitarist and record producer (Madonna)
Glenn Snoddy, recording engineer and inventor of the fuzz pedal
Phil Emmanuel, Australian guitarist (The Tralblazers)
Andy MacQueen, Australian bass guitarist (Exploding White Mice)
Russ Regan, music business executive (Uni, 20th Century, Polygram)
Stewart Lupton, rock singer (Jonathan Fire*Eater)
Josh Martin, grindcore guitarist (A.C.)
María Dolores Pradera, Spanish singer and actress
Jürgen Marcus, German Schlager singer
Demba Nabé, German reggae singer (Seeed)

June
Eddy Clearwater, blues singer and guitarist
Clarence Fountain, gospel singer (The Blind Boys of Alabama)
Norman Edge, American jazz musician
Jalal Mansur Nuriddin, singer-songwriter (The Last Poets)
Brian Browne, Canadian jazz pianist
Jimmy Gonzalez, Grammy winning Tejano singer (Mazz)
Teddy Johnson, English singer and UK Eurovision representative
Ralph Santolla, metal guitarist (Deicide, Death, Iced Earth)
Peter Stringfellow, 77, English nightclub impresario
Danny Kirwan, British guitarist (Fleetwood Mac, Tramp),
Leo Sarkisian, musicologist and radio broadcaster
Lorraine Gordon, jazz club owner (Village Vanguard)
Ras Kimono, Nigerian reggae musician
Yvette Horner, French accordionist
Jon Hiseman, English drummer (Colosseum)
D.J. Fontana, rock drummer (Elvis Presley)
Nick Knox, drummer (The Cramps)
Matt Murphy, blues guitarist (Howlin’ Wolf, The Blues Brothers)
Rebecca Parris, jazz singer
Lowrell Simon, soul singer and songwriter (The Lost Generation)
David Bianco, record producer, engineer and mixer (Tom Petty)
Vinnie Paul, rock drummer (Pantera)
George Cameron, drummer and vocalist (The Left Banke)
Dan Ingram, national radio hall of fame broadcaster (WABC)
Big Bill Bissonnette, jazz trombonist, drummer, producer and label owner
Joe Jackson, band manager (Jackson 5), patriarch of the Jackson family
Steve Soto, punk rock bassist (Agent Orange, The Adolescents)
Eugene Pitt, doo-wop singer (The Jive Five)

July
Roy Carr, British music journalist (NME, Vox)
Henry Butler, jazz pianist
Alan Longmuir, Scottish bassist (Bay City Rollers)
Bill Watrous, jazz trombonist
Richard Swift, singer, songwriter, producer and musician (The Shins)
Jim Malloy, Grammy-winning recording engineer (Elvis Presley)
Vince Martin, folk singer (“Cindy, Oh Cindy”)
Bret Hoffmann, death metal singer (Malevolent Creation)
Garry Lowe, Jamaican bassist (Big Sugar)
Tab Hunter, actor and singer
Ponty Bone, accordionist (The Squeezetones)
Nancy Barbato Sinatra, mother of Nancy, Frank Jr. and Tina Sinatra
Theryl DeClouet, funk singer (Galactic)
Stan Lewis, record store and  label owner (Jewel Records)
Adrian Cronauer, disc jockey, inspiration for “Good Morning, Vietnam”
Archie Marr, British keyboardist (Bay City Rollers)
Shelly Cohen, musical director (Johnny Carson, Dick Cavett)
Mark Shelton, heavy metal guitarist (Manilla Road)
Sam Mehran, singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer (Test Icicles)
Eddie Baker, jazz pianist, composer, arranger and educator
Irvin Jarrett, Jamaican reggae percussionist (Third World)

August
Neil Argo, film and television composer (Wild America, Dynasty)
Lorrie Collins, rockabilly singer and songwriter
Jill Janus, rock singer (Huntress)
Randy Rampage, Canadian metal singer and bassist (D.O.A., Annihilator)
Aretha Franklin, singer, pianist and songwriter
Count Prince Miller, Jamaican-born British singer and actor
Danny Pearson, R&B singer
Jack Costanzo, percussionist (“Mr. Bongo”)
Eddie Willis, studio guitarist (The Funk Brothers)
Ed King, guitarist & songwriter (Strawberry Alarm Clock, Lynyrd Skynyrd)
Lazy Lester, blues singer, harmonica player and guitarist
DJ Ready Red, hip hop producer (Geto Boys) and DJ
Kyle Pavone, rock vocalist (We Came as Romans)
Tony Hiller, British songwriter (“United We Stand”) and producer
Tony Camillo, record producer, orchestrator and arranger

September
Randy Weston, jazz pianist and composer
Conway Savage, Australian keyboardist (Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds)
Don Gardner, R&B singer (“I Need Your Lovin'”) and club owner
Siegfried Linkwitz, audio engineer
Frank Serafine, film sound designer and editor
Max Bennett, jazz bassist and session musician
Maartin Allcock, English multi-instrumentalist and producer
Big Jay McNeely, R&B saxophonist
Joseph Hoo Kim, Jamaican record producer (Channel One Studios)
Marty Balin, rock singer and musician (Jefferson Airplane/Starship)
Otis Rush, blues guitarist and singer

October
Charles Aznavour, French-Armenian singer, lyricist and actor
Jerry González, Latin jazz bandleader and trumpeter
Geoff Emerick, English recording engineer (The Beatles)
Hamiet Bluiett, jazz saxophonist
John Wicks, British singer and songwriter (The Records)
Andie Airfix, British album cover artist (Def Leppard, Metallica)
Carol Hall, composer and lyricist (The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas)
Melvin “Wah Wah Watson” Ragin, studio guitarist (The Funk Brothers)
Tony Joe White, singer-songwriter (“Polk Salad Annie”)
Sonny Fortune, jazz saxophonist
Freddie Hart, country singer, songwriter and musician
Todd Youth, punk and metal guitarist (Warzone, Murphy’s Law, Danzig)
Roy Wunsch, record industry executive

November
Josh Fauver, rock bassist (Deerhunter)
Roy Hargrove, Grammy-winning jazz trumpeter
Glenn Schwartz, guitarist (Pacific Gas & Electric)
Francis Lai, Oscar-winning French film composer (Love Story)
Roy Clark, country singer, musician and television host (Hee Haw)
Scott English, songwriter (“Brandy”) and record producer
Al James, British bassist (Showaddywaddy)
Norris Weir, Jamaican singer (The Jamaicans)
Cyril Pahinui, slack-key guitarist and singer
Eddie Reeves, songwriter (“All I Ever Need Is You”) and label executive
Bill Caddick, English folk singer and guitarist
Roy Bailey, English folk singer
Eddie C. Campbell, blues singer, songwriter and guitarist
Trevor McNaughton, Jamaican reggae singer (The Melodians)
Angelica Cob-Baehler, music industry executive, cancer
Devin Limasinger, pop and hip-hop singer (LFO)
Casey Anderson, songwriter, TV host, father of Lynn Anderson
Johnny Maddox, pianist and historian
Erik Lindmark, death metal vocalist and guitarist (Deeds of Flesh)
Robert Plotnik, record store owner (Bleecker Bob’s)

December
Calvin Newborn, jazz guitarist
Jody Williams, blues guitarist
Paul Trouble Anderson, British DJ
Perry Robinson, jazz clarinetist
Ace Cannon, saxophonist (“Tuff”)
Floyd Parton, songwriter (“Rockin’ Years”) and brother of Dolly Parton
Pete Shelley, English musician and songwriter (Buzzcocks)
Victor Hayden, artist and musician (Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band)
Lucas Starr, rock bassist (Oh, Sleeper, Terminal)
Fred Wieland, Australian guitarist (The Strangers, The Mixtures)
Nancy Wilson, Grammy-winning jazz singer
Joe Osborn, bassist (The Wrecking Crew)
Jerry Chesnut, songwriter (“Good Year for the Roses”, “T-R-O-U-B-L-E”)
Galt MacDermot, Canadian-American composer (Hair) and pianist
Jimmy Work, country singer and songwriter (“Making Believe”)
Honey Lantree, British pop drummer (The Honeycombs)
Jerry Riopelle, musician, songwriter and producer (The Parade)
James Calvin Wilsey, rock guitarist (Avengers, Chris Isaak)
Malani Bilyeum, vocalist and founding member of Kalapana

Fastball: All the Pain Money Can Buy

December 12th, 2018

Twentieth anniversary edition of Austin band’s commercial high point

Twenty years on from the success of their 1998 single “The Way,” the album from which it sprang still sounds fresh. The band’s sophomore release for the Hollywood label produced two more hits (“Fire Escape” and “Out of My Head”), and sold more than a million copies in its first six months of release. The album drew inspiration from pop, soul and psych, but expressed them through a then-modern-rock aesthetic. The effortless melodies and instrumental focus on guitar, bass and drums has aged well, giving away its ‘90s origin without feeling boat-anchored to the decade’s trends. This anniversary edition augments the original thirteen tracks with compilation tracks, two excellent B-sides, and of particular interest to fans, four previously unreleased demos highlighted by the original 4-track cassette recording of “The Way.” The collection closes with bonus covers of the Replacements “Androgynous,” Bacharach & David’s “This Guy’s in Love With You,” and an acoustic take on “The Way.” Scott Shindler’s liner notes include newly sourced interviews with the band, and the booklet includes numerous period photos. This is a nice upgrade for those who’ve long loved this album, and the perfect entry point into Fastball’s catalog for newbies. [©2018 Hyperbolium]

Fastball’s Home Page

Marianne Faithfull: Come and Stay With Me – The UK 45s 1964-1969

December 11th, 2018

English songbird in a gilded cage

Although she had four Top-40 Billboard hits in 1964 and 1965, Marianne Faithfull’s early years as a singer are largely remembered in the U.S. for her original version of “As Tears Go By.” She gained worldwide fame with her 1979 comeback, Broken English, but her early years as a UK hitmaker have remained relatively unknown in the States. More surprisingly, Faithfull herself doesn’t reflect with great fondness on these early records, suggesting at the time of her late-70s re-emergence, “I’ve never had to try very hard. I’ve never really been expected to try at all. I’ve always been treated as somebody who not only can’t even sing but doesn’t really write or anything, just something you can make into something.” She continued, “I was just cheesecake really, terribly depressing. It wasn’t depressing when I was 18, but it got depressing when I got older because you’re a person just like anyone else, even if you are a woman.”

The truth of her early works lays somewhere between her own negative reaction and the positive commercial success bestowed upon her. After debuting with “As Time Goes By,” Faithfull tackled Dylan’s well-covered “Blowin’ in the Wind,” and B-sides – “Greensleeves” and “House of the Rising Sun” – drawn from the trad catalog. Her fragile tremolo seems overmatched by the ornate arrangements, but her shy delivery is bolstered by a sense of determination. It’s that balance between introversion and steadfastness that makes these singles so intriguing. Her third single, Jackie DeShannon’s “Come and Stay With Me,” demonstrates Faithfull’s growing confidence, as does the anguished questioning of “What Have I Done Wrong.” The harp and strings of her next single, John D. Loudermilk’s “Little Bird,” leave more room for her voice, and she takes flight with the Tennessee Williams-inspired lyrics.

Faithfull’s catalog includes titles by Goffin & King (“Is This What I Get For Loving You?”) and Donovan (“The Most of What is Least”), and a sprinkle of original material (“Oh Look Around You” and “I’d Like to Dial Your Number”). Her final single for Decca was 1969’s “Something Better,” written by Gerry Goffin and Barry Mann, and performed by Faithfull in the Rolling Stones’ Rock and Roll Circus. The B-side featured the rare, original recording of “Sister Morphine,” released two years before the Stones included it on Sticky Fingers. Her transformation from English songbird to ravaged chanteuse is foreshadowed in the desperate lyrics and vocal, and despite Jagger’s dramatic performance on the album, it’s Faithfull’s original that resounds with the personal truth that reclaimed her songwriting credit for the lyrics.

These early sides don’t reflect the lived life of Broken English, but you can hear Faithfull gaining experience at light speed. Her 1965 cover of “Yesterday” and the following year’s “Tomorrow’s Calling” are filled with melancholy, and her 1967 cover of the Ronettes’ “Is This What I Get For Loving You?” might not have been an expression of doubt about Mick Jagger’s fidelity, but seems to bely a fundamental insecurity. The collection pulls together the mono A’s and B’s of her eleven singles and a three-song EP, as released by Decca between 1964 and 1969. The 24-page booklet includes liner notes from journalist and longtime Marianne Faithfull fan Kris Needs, as well as numerous period photos, sheet music, label reproductions, and song credits. With the concurrent release of Faithfull’s new album Negative Capability, and its newly struck version of “As Time Goes By,” this is a timely spin for fans who’ve never taken the opportunity to enjoy Faithfull’s early work. [©2018 Hyperbolium]

Marianne Faithfull’s Home Page