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.

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

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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

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

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

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)

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

NRBQ: All Hopped Up

December 10th, 2018

1977 debut of the classic NRBQ lineup, with bonus tracks

Originally released in 1977, NRBQ’s fifth album marked the first appearance of drummer Tom Ardolino, and the debut of the band’s Red Rooster label. Having spent time on Columbia and Kama Sutra, the responsibility of producing and recording for their own imprint seems to have brought both freedom and focus to their music. To be sure, all the NRBQ trademarks are here, including oddball originals like Terry Adams “Call Him Off, Rogers,” lovingly selected covers of “Cecillia,” “I Got a Rocket in My Pocket” and “Honey Hush,” a ragged, minor key send-up of the theme to Bonanza, and generous helpings of the Whole Wheat Horns.

As usual, the band mashed up a wide array of pop, rock, soul, blues and jazz influences, but the original material from Adams, Al Anderson and Joey Spampinato includes some especially fine pop songs. Anderson’s nostalgic lead-off, “Ridin’ in My Car” has a double-tracked vocal and sunshine backing harmonies, and Terry Adams’ “It Feels Good” mixes ‘50s romanticism with, in true NRBQ fashion, a Japanese koto solo. Adams also offers an echo of Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys with “Things to You,” and Joey Spampinato’s “Still in School” and “That’s Alright” have harmonies that sound like Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe channeling the Everlys.

This reissue adds four bonus tracks recorded during the album’s two years worth of sessions. A cover of Bill Justis’ “Chicken Hearted” offers a heavier dose of chicken-pickin’ than Roy Orbison’s original, while the originals include the jazz-country hybrid “She’s Got to Know,” rockabilly “Start It Over,” and low-key New Orleans funk “Do the Bump.” The latter was originally issued as a B-side, while the other three were woven into Rounder’s Ridin’ in My Car sort-of reissue of All Hopped Up. Omnivore’s tri-fold slipcase augments one of NRBQ’s best albums with new liners by John DeAngelis and vintage photos. [©2018 Hyperbolium]

NRBQ’s Home Page

Willie Nile: Children of Paradise

December 10th, 2018

Fine set of rock ‘n’ roll originals drawn from a seemingly bottomless well

Anyone who’s been listening to or writing about Willie Nile over the past decade is likely running out of things to say. Nile’s twelfth studio album continues a string of incredibly consistent releases that dates back to 2006’s Streets of New York, and his enduring belief in rock ‘n’ roll’s redemptive powers is a welcome tonic amid social and political turbulence. Recording with his longtime road band, Nile offers up straight-ahead rock music with no apologies for the guitars, bass and drums, and topical songs that offer both concern and salvation. The title track’s recognition of those on the fringe is echoed by Cristina Arrigoni’s striking album cover portraits, and “Gettin’ Ugly Out There” seeks to hold on to a strand of human goodness amid the torrent of deceit that is our current political climate. Though mostly written in singalongs and anthems, Nile turns down the volume for the intimate ballad “Have I Ever Told You” and the solemn closer “All God’s Children.” If you like Nile’s last half-dozen albums, you’ll find more to like here; and if you haven’t yet listened to Willie Nile, this is a great place to dive in. [©2018 Hyperbolium]

Willie Nile’s Home Page

Various Artists – The Complete Christmas on the Ponderosa

December 7th, 2018

A warm and inviting Christmas with the Cartwright clan

Originally released in 1963 just as television’s Bonanza was climbing to #1 in the Nielsen’s, Christmas on the Ponderosa was one of several commercial tie-ins that accompanied the show’s success. Released by RCA, the thirteen tracks feature the golden throats of Bonanza’s four stars – Dan Blocker, Lorne Greene, Michael Landon and Pernell Roberts – performing in character, along with the backing vocals of the Ken Darby Singers. The album is structured as a story, with the Cartwright clan’s caroling neighbors invited into the Ponderosa’s ranch house for a Christmas party. The music includes both traditional and new Christmas songs, and they’re held together by continuity that includes toasts, elegies, dramatic conversations and humorous dialog.

Pernell Roberts proved himself the family’s standout singer on his lone track,“The Newborn King.” His solo album, Come All Ye Fair And Tender Ladies, was also released by RCA the same year, and here he sings in a similar folk style. Michael Landon is appealing on “Oh Fir Tree Dear” and the novelty “Santa Got Lost in Texas,” and though Dan Blocker gives it a go on “Deck the Halls,” his gifts are better applied to the recitation of “The First Christmas Tree.” Lorne Greene uses his sonorous voice to conjure both gravitas and humor in his performances, as he would later employ on the chart-topping single, “Ringo.” In addition to the Christmas album’s thirteen tracks, this reissue adds the first-ever CD release of Lorne Greene’s 1965 seasonal album, Have a Happy Holiday, and both sides of his 1966 single “Must Be Santa” b/w “One Solitary Life.”

The Bonanza characters provided a surprisingly sturdy platform for acting, singing and merchandising. The Christmas album followed the cast’s initial 1962 foray into recording, Ponderosa Party Time, and was in turn followed by Lorne Greene’s 1964 album Welcome to the Ponderosa (both of which are included in Bear Family’s Bonanza box set). This Christmas collection includes remastered audio by Mike Piacentini at Sony’s Battery Studios, liner notes by The Second Disc’s Joe Marchese, and rare cast photos. Christmas on the Ponderosa’s sing-along party theme will add a celebratory spark to your own holiday gathering, and the addition of Lorne Greene’s follow-up album and single adds another gift under the tree. [©2018 Hyperbolium]

Lefty Frizzell: An Article From Life – The Complete Recordings

December 6th, 2018

The exquisite, final word on a country legend

Born in Texas, and raised in Arkansas, William Orville “Lefty” Frizzell took in the seminal influences of Jimmie Rodgers, Ernest Tubb and others, and forged an original vocal style that impacted an entire generation of singers. His next-generation disciples included Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, George Jones and Roy Orbison, and his influence continues to reverberate today through the works of Brennen Leigh and many others. His 1950 debut topped the charts with both “If You’ve Got the Money (I’ve Got the Time)” and its flip, “I Love You a Thousand Ways,” and the hits that followed stretched into early 1953. But Frizzell was a mercurial artist, firing his manager and band in 1952, joining and quitting the Grand Ole Opry, and moving to Los Angeles, where he joined the Town Hall Party. His 1954 single “I Love You Mostly” would be his last Top 20 hit for four years, and though he’d move to Nashville and regain the top slot with 1964’s “Saginaw Michigan,” his health and success steadily declined until his death at the age of 47 in 1975.

Bear Family has pulled out all the stops to honor Frizzell’s legendary career, gathering 361 tracks on 20 CDs, including all of his singles (45s and 78s) and albums, demos and session material, and a wealth of newly discovered material. The discs are packaged in double digipaks, which are themselves housed in a 12-½” x 12-½” x 3” box that includes a massive 264-page hardcover book. This box set represents the third iteration of Bear Family’s archival work on Frizzell, having previously issued the 14-LP set His Life, His Music in 1984, and the updated 12-CD set Life’s Like Poetry in 1992. This is a superset of both earlier releases, and though a few scraps might still be hiding in a dusty vault, this is likely to be the definitive statement on Frizzell’s recording career. In addition to complete coverage of his 25-years of commercial releases, the demos, private recordings, radio airchecks and U.S. military program transcriptions stretch back into the 1940s. The set’s final eight discs feature Frizzell’s younger brother David reading his biography I Love You a Thousand Ways.

Discs 1 through 9 repeat the same commercial material as was originally offered on Life’s Like Poetry. Discs 10-12 include demos, radio airchecks and transcriptions that provide a rich picture of the artist in development. These latter recordings vary in quality, and some of the earliest material is rough in spots, but Frizzell’s voice always manages to emerge from the surface noise of acetates and metal parts. New to this box are two dozen full and partial demos and non-session recordings, including late-40s covers of Ernest Tubb (“I’ll Always Be Glad to Take You Back” and “I’ll Always Be Glad to Take You Back”), Jimmie Rodgers (“My Old Pal of Yesterday,” “Jimmie the Kid” and “California Blues”), Ernest Tubb (“Mean Mama Blues”), Hank Williams (“I’m a Long Gone Daddy,” “Last Night I Heard You Crying in Your Sleep” and “There’ll Be No Teardrops Tonight”), and 1950 band recordings of Frizzell originals “If You’re Ever Lonely Darling,” “I Love You A Thousand Ways” and “Lost Love Blues.” Of particular interest among the new tracks are three solo acoustic takes of “I Won’t Be Good For Nothin’” that show how Frizzell developed his approach to the song.

The transfers and mastering of the studio material highlight the microphone’s love for Frizzell’s voice. His presence is palpable sixty years after he first stood and sang these numbers, and his feel for a song’s tempo remains unerring, never rushing a lyric, but never dragging the beat. As described by Merle Haggard, Frizzell would “hold on to each word until he finally decided to drop it and pick up the next one.” Charles Wolfe’s biographical essay, updated and revised by Daniel Cooper and Kevin Coffey, pieces together Frizzell’s personal and recording history from a variety of sources. Frizzell was apparently not fond of being interviewed, and the authors augment the artist’s own memories with those of his family, friends, supporting musicians and colleagues. The book (weighing in at a somewhat unwieldy five pounds) is laced with archival photos, and supplemented by Richard Weize and Kevin Coffey’s detailed discography. This collection is the epitome of the Bear Family box set, overwhelming in its completeness, attention to detail and love for the artist. [©2018 Hyperbolium]