Posts Tagged ‘Alive’

Hollis Brown: Ride on the Train

Saturday, March 30th, 2013


The sophomore release from this Queens quartet continues to mine the intersection of angsty guitar pop, twangy Americana and Stonesish rock they debuted in 2009. Vocalist (and songwriter) Mike Montali also continues to charm with a voice that takes in the quivering vulnerability of Robin Wilson, the keening alto of Neil Young and the bluesy tint of Chris Robinson. Four years from their first album, the band has been road-honed into a tight, powerful outfit, but the arrangements have the extemporaneous feel of musicians are reacting to their singer’s story telling. The title track takes listeners on a thematic ride that starts slowly with the push of a hollow bass drum, gains speed with growling electric guitar chords, breaks down in contemplative depression and finally regains its locomotive traction.

Montali’s songs of second chances are accompanied by guitars that are tentative with their force, backing lyrics perched between asking, suggesting and telling. The music turns hopeful with the expectant possibilities of “Faith & Love” and melancholy for the introspective “If It Ain’t Me.” Lead guitarist Jon Bonilla shows off his chops with solos on the workingman’s lament “Doghouse Blues” and the driving blues-rocker “Walk on Water.” Tracks 1, 4, 6 and 8 are drawn from a 2012 EP that added Michael Hesslein’s keyboards, but given that set’s limited circulation, it’s great to have these tunes available again. Hollis Brown seemed fully formed back in 2009, but the extra years of playing out and writing has more deeply assimilated their influences and tightened the resonance between lyrics, vocals and instruments. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

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Swamp Dogg: Rat On!

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

SwampDogg_RatOnSecond helping of outspoken, deep Southern soul

Swamp Dogg’s newly penned liner notes tell the story of this album’s original sessions (under the title of “Right On”) at Florida’s TK Studios, with a backing band that included Betty Wright, Lonnie Mack, Al Kooper and a label worker (and future disco star) named Harry Wayne “KC” Casey. Apparently the results sounded awesome to the alcohol- and herb-fueled participants, but were not so easy on the ears of anyone else. The resulting tapes were shelved (though a single of the original “Straight From My Heart” was released with a B-side cover of Joe South’s “Don’t Throw Your Love to the Wind”), and a second run at the album was made at Quinvy Studios in Muscle Shoals. The latter sessions were released on Elektra in 1971 as Rat On! The Quinvy crew featured several legendary musicians, including bassist Robert Lee “Pops” Popwell and guitarist Jesse Willard “Pete” Carr, and Swamp Dogg’s soul sound, much like that on his debut, gave the players solid grooves to explore. His songs continued to mix outspoken views on race, sex, religion, war, relationships and social issues, couched in melodies whose sweetness sometimes obscures the deep twists and turns of his lyrics. Listened to in passing, Rat On! offers top-flight ‘70s southern soul, with deep bass and punchy horns. But listened to more carefully, the album reveals a daring songwriter who wasn’t afraid to tell it as he saw it, challenging society’s icons of freedom with “God Bless America For What?” and landing himself on Nixon’s enemies list. The album features soulful reworkings of the Bee Gees’ “Got to Get a Message to You” and Mickey Newbury’s “She Even Woke Me Up to Say Goodbye,” and though the original tunes aren’t nearly as absurd those on Total Destruction to Your Mind, their messages are just as powerful, and their grooves are just as deep. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

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Swamp Dogg: Total Destruction to Your Mind

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

SwampDogg_TotalDestructionToYourMindLost soul classic lost no more

Industry veteran Jerry Williams, Jr. unleashed his alter ego on this 1970 masterpiece, spelling out his unconventional views in groove-heavy soul music. He makes good on the title’s brag with catchy, original songs that touch on environmental decay, social isolation, dystopian visions, racism and questions of paternity. Williams’ lyrics are often Zappa-like in their surface absurdity, but there’s a gripping observation or lament at each song’s heart. His voice has the pinched, keening sound of the Showmen’s General Norman Johnson, but with a rounded richness that suggests Jackie Wilson. Recorded at Capricorn Studios in Macon, GA, his band is soaked in the horns, low bass and guitar riffs of Southern soul, and touched by the propulsion of West Coast funk. It’s hard to imagine how this record (as well as the follow-up, Rat On!, an album better known for its cover than its content) has remained so obscure and hard to find. A two-fer on Swamp Dogg’s S.D.E.G label has been available off-and-on since 2000, but Alive’s digipack remaster should give this five-star gem the broader circulation it deserves. It’s a shame new liner notes weren’t included to provide the album’s history and context; the booklet does reproduce the song list, personnel credits, a few “relevant quotes,” and a short, typically absurd, autobiography. Analog fans will be happy to find both this and Rat On! are also being reissued on vinyl [1 2]. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

Swamp Dogg’s Home Page
A 1997 Interview with Swamp Dogg

Various Artists: Alive at the Deep Blues Fest

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

A selection of live two- and three-man blues

The Deep Blues Festival is a Minnesota celebration of alternative blues music, originally run from 2007 to 2010. After spin-offs in Cleveland and Ortin, WA, festival organizer (and BBQ restaurateur) Chris Johnson brought the original festival back to life at Bayport BBQ for a long weekend of shows leading into 2012’s fourth of July. Threaded through the festival were the seven acts collected here, all of whom record for the Alive label. The majority of these bands hail from the Midwest –Iowa,Indiana,Ohio and Pennsylvania – with fellow travelers Lee Bains arriving from Alabama, and Henry’s Funeral Shoe hopping over the pond from the UK. It’s a testament to Alive’s A&R department that they’ve fostered a stable of bands with similar roots but individual flavors.

At the blunter end of the spectrum are Radio Moscow, with Parker Griggs opening “Hold on Me” with stinging psychedlic wah wah atop a percussion section that takes no prisoners. Henry’s Funeral Shoe has often echoed the British blues-rock giants of the 1970s, but here they are more rough-and-ready, like the Live at Leeds-era Who. Philadelphia’s John the Conqueror is the sort of power trio you’d expect to hear in the run-down ballrooms of Almost Famous, forceful and melodic. Left Lane Cruiser sticks most closely to the classic blues progressions on “24 Hour Blues,” with Freddy J IV’s guitar a ragged, driving machine and Brenn Beck a one-man rhythm section on drums and cymbals. Mark Holder adds his harp to the band’s cover of Robert Johnson’s “Rambling on My Mind.”

More nuanced is Lee Bains III’s mix of sanctified soul and the aggressive electric aesthetic that is Alive’s hallmark. Similarly, Brian Olive’s take has the same core energy, but filled out less abrasively with keyboard, drums and bass lines that glide, roll and rumble in a powerful wall of sound. The Buffalo Killers, who often suggest James Gang-era Joe Walsh, expand on a nine-minute jam of “It’s a Shame” with harmonica player Mark Holder sitting in. It’s great to hear these bands together (even if only through the magic of editing), offering the numerous shades of two- and three-man blues that is their label’s stock-in-trade. [©2012 Hyperbolium]

Alive Records’ Home Page

Radio Moscow: 3 and 3 Quarters

Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

The embryonic Radio Moscow

Recorded in Parker Griggs’ basement in 2003, these twelve tracks prove to be parts that would be more smoothly assembled on the band’s official 2007 debut. The ‘60s punk vocals, blues riffs, fuzz guitars and psychedelic overlays are all here, but they feel disjointed – like ingredients that have yet to jell into a final dish. On the other hand, the ferocious first press of a musician’s discovery is something special, and even the lack of longer jams (nothing over 3’30) or actual band interplay (Griggs plays everything here, though quite convincingly) can’t take away from the burst of energy that is the raw capture of a small town punk-rock teenager’s world. This was released in very limited and local quantities in 2004, and finds its first national distribution with this reissue. Fans will enjoy this peek at the group’s embryonic start, but those looking for the heart of their catalog are recommended to Brain Cycles and later releases. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

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Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires: There’s a Bomb in Gilead

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Muscle Shoals meets Capricorn Records

Alabaman Lee Bains III debuts with an album that deftly blends blues, soul, country and rock. Bains’ bio mentions the conflicting inspirations of church music and punk rock, but he draws most directly from the southern rock and soul of Capricorn Records and Muscle Shoals. Though there’s some aggression in the electric guitars (and Jim Diamond’s Detroit mix), there isn’t the unbridled fury of modern punk. The upbeat tunes suggest a mix between Mitch Ryder, Iggy Pop and pre-punk garage rock. Bains’ church roots surface in spiritual vocabulary, a few testimonial vocals and the mondegreenian album title (drawn from the traditional “There is a Balm in Gilead”). Even the band’s name is homophonic, drawn from a mishearing of “glorifiers.” Bains wears his Southern roots proudly, singing of the summers and cities that made up his childhood, and reveling in the land and literature. The Glory Fires play with the confidence, tight grooves and practiced looseness of a band that’s piled up more miles than they’ve yet to roll onto an odometer. Though he’s lived in New York and commuted to Los Angeles, his music could only be rooted in the complex, conflicted, Saturday-night-to-Sunday-morning South that fuels incendiaries with its conservatism. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

Lee Bains & The Glory Fires’ Home Page

The Plimsouls: Beach Town Confidential – Live at the Golden Bear 1983

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

The Plimsouls touring “Everywhere at Once” live in 1983

Fan’s of Peter Case’s early work with the Nerves and Plimsouls have been richly rewarded over the past few years. The Nerves’ original EP was issued in enhanced CD form as One Way Ticket, a rare 1977 Nerves live set was released as Live at the Pirate’s Cove, a transitional project with Paul Collins as The Breakaways was released as Walking Out on Love, and a blistering 1981 Plimsouls live set was released as Live! Beg, Borrow & Steal. The latter fleshed out the Plimsouls early ‘80s live set that was first essayed in 1988 on One Night in America. The group’s posthumous release catalog is now further expanded with this punchy stereo mix (from the original 24-track recording) of a 1983 show at the Golden Bear in Huntington Beach, California.

By ‘83, the Plimsouls were a band with a catalog that included an EP and two full albums, all of which are drawn upon for a set list that reaches back to the EP’s “Zero Hour” and “How Long Will it Take?,” and “Now” and “In This Town” from their self-titled debut album. The core of the set draws from their then-current 1983 release for Geffen, Everywhere at Once, including the only released live recordings of “Hobo,” “Oldest Story in the World” and “Magic Touch.” Even more intriguing is the only known Plimsouls recording of the Peter Case original “Who’s Gonna Break the Ice,” a tune that was likely to have been the band’s next single. The set is filled out with a delectable selection of covers that includes The Creation’s “Making Time,” Moby Grape’s “Fall on You,” Thee Midniters “Jump, Jive and Harmonize” the Flamin’ Groovies’ “Jumpin’ in the Night,” Bo Diddley’s “You Can’t Judge a Book by Its Cover” and the Everly Brothers’ “Price of Love,” the latter with the Williams Brothers on lead vocals.

Case was in great voice and seems particularly enthused about the cover songs. But who wouldn’t be jazzed by the opportunity to sing favorite songs in front of this band? The Plimsouls had long since honed themselves into a superb live unit, transcending the major label gloss of their then-current album with hard-charging rhythms equally powered by David Pahoa’s bass lines, Lou Ramirez’s hard-pounded drums and cymbals, and the buzz of dual electric guitars. This set hasn’t the unbridled enthusiasm of their earlier live albums, but it more than makes up for it in energy and craft. Alive delivers the CD in a digipack with a six-panel booklet that includes vintage pictures, credits and an historical quote from Greg Shaw. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

Radio Moscow: The Great Escape of Leslie Magnafuzz

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

‘70s-styled power-trio monster riffage

Parker Griggs and his band take it to the next level of power-trio psychedelic blues-rock with their third album. Griggs is possessed by the metal, blues-rock, boogie and prog-rock greats of the early ‘70s as he unleashes monster guitar riffage astride the slugfest of his rhythm section. One can only dream that Radio Moscow could be sent back in time to tread the stage of Winterland on a bill with Hendrix, Sabbath, Crimson, Ten Years After or Humble Pie. The album opens in full hypersonic stride, with the bass and drums threatening to run away from the ear-clearing wails of Parker’s fuzzed guitar, and the bombast doesn’t let up until disc’s end. There are a few production touches – stereo pans, phase effects and feedback – but the bulk of the album is straightforward, take-no-prisoners hard rock. Drop the needle on your Thorens turntable, turn up the volume on your Marantz receiver and let your Advent loudspeakers sing. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | Little Eyes
Radio Moscow’s Home Page

Henry’s Funeral Shoe: Donkey Jacket

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Welsh power duo cranks up blues-rock riffs

Going the reductionist power trio format one better, this Welsh duo features brothers Aled and Brennig Clifford on guitar/vocals and drums, respectively. With cues from the White Stripes, Black Keys, Two Gallants and others, The Cliffords buzz through heavy blues-rock originals that offer room for Aled to display his guitar playing prowess. Unlike the sonic pounding of labelmates Radio Moscow, Henry’s Funeral Shoe takes a more nuanced, and less psych-influenced, approach to their jamming. Aled’s playing follows more in the vein of British blues-rock giants like Peter Green and Rory Gallagher than metal or prog-rock players, and though he can pierce your eardrums with high, loud notes, he also plays slide and strums an acoustic on “Bottom is Top.” The songs bear the influence of everything from Robert Johnson to The Who, amplified by the volume of metal and the ferocity of punk rock. The hammering power chords of “Dog Scratched Ear” give way to the dobro-styled intro of “Mission & Maintenance,” which ramps itself into a howl stoked by Brennig’s drums and John Edwards’ harmonica. The band neatly ties together acoustic roots, early-60s electrification, late-60s jamming, early-70s excess and the late-70s punk-rock rebuttal; it’s a heavy trip. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | Dog Scratched Ear
Henry’s Funeral Shoe’s Home Page

The Bloody Hollies: Yours Until the Bitter End

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

Rock ‘em sock ‘em rock ‘n’ roll

Nearly a decade after their 2002 debut, this Buffalo-born quartet continues to combine the menace of metal, the feral energy of punk rock, the panache of surf guitar (courtesy, perhaps, of their relocation from Buffalo to San Diego several years ago), the non-stop drive of southern boogie and the rough-edges of the garage. Their music is fast and loud and tight, and though the rhythm guitars, pulsating bass and full-kit drumming will assault your body (thanks, in large part to Jim Diamond’s ferocious mix), it’s Wesley Doyle’s manic vocals that will pin your ears back. Joey Horgen’s dobro provides a momentary respite from the full sonic assault of “Dirty Sex,” but the intensity never really lets up. The band’s customary darkness is found in lyrics of childhood nightmares, evil shadows, fatal attractions, and not one, but two letters to deceased lovers. The album closes with a relatively sedate acoustic talking blues, with the godly mountain preacher “John Wayne Brown” winning his final battle. Fans of the Gun Club, Black Crowes and the two-man blues-axis surrounding the Black Keys will all find something here to enjoy. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | Dead Letter
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