Posts Tagged ‘Blues’

Cowbell: Haunted Heart

Friday, July 14th, 2017

Wicked mix of late-60s and early-70s soul, blues and garage

This London duo’s third album is chock-full of garage-soul built on guitar, drums and splashes of organ that take things into darker places. The title track suggests the voodoobilly of the Cramps, while the rolling “Doom Train” melds sparse blues and tack piano with backing vocals that suggest Dan Hicks’ Hot Licks. There are echoes of the Kinks and Cream, but also the early-60s folk of Richard & Mimi Farina and the 1970s sounds of Laurel Canyon. Guitarist Jack Sandham sings most of the leads, but drummer Wednesday Lyle steps to the mic for the punk-fired “Downlow” and the cool-as-ice “New Kinda Love.” The album is tasteful, but even when taken downtempo, it remains sultry rather than sedate, with horns adding texture to several tracks. This is a sophisticated set that wanders through blues, soul and roots rock, like a shuffle through a music-lover’s record collection. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

Cowbell’s Home Page

Tom Armstrong: The Sky is an Empty Eye

Tuesday, July 4th, 2017

Superb private press album of guitar instrumentals

When you can make a record with a USB microphone and cloud-based recording, it’s hard to remember the revolution that was home recording. TEAC’s 4-track reel-to-reel recorders (and TASCAM’s later cassette-based Portastudio) for the semi-pro market allowed home recordists to multi-track and overdub without the overbearing expense (and ticking clock) of studio time. Some of these sessions ended up in the commercial market, but many were unspooled only for friends and family, or circulated in local vinyl pressings. Tompkins Square sampled several of these small batch recordings on Imaginational Anthem, Vol. 8: The Private Press, and now expands on the theme with this first of several planned full album reissues.

Tom Armstrong had hung around the edges of the music business, playing bars and open mics, but when his engineering career took off, dreams of a professional music career were put aside. But a 4-track gifted to him by his wife kept his guitar playing alive, and provided a creative outlet into which he poured this original music. Though he kept recording for more than a decade, this is the one collection of songs he had mastered and pressed to vinyl, handing out copies mostly to friends and business associates. He favors meditative acoustic tracks, such as the harmonic-filled opener and the somnambulistic “Dream Waltz,” but he adds dripping neo-psych notes to “Keller,” picks electric slide on “The Thing,” and sings the title track.

The album’s variety might have driven a market-seeking record label crazy, but it’s exactly that free-spiritedness that gives the album its charm. The segue from the finger-picked electric “Mama’s Baby” to the echoed, nearly discordant “Bebop” suggests the evolution of blues into jazz, and the album continues to evolve as it closes with the driving spaciness of “Thunder Clouds.” Most of the arrangements appear to be two or maybe three guitars, sometimes rhythm and lead, often interleaving in original ways. Armstrong’s technique is good, but it’s his musical imagination and the freedom to follow his muse without commercial pressure that really gives these recordings their power. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

Tompkins Square’s Home Page

Blackfoot Gypsies: To the Top

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

East Nashville blues-soaked rock ‘n’ roll

Oh rock ‘n’ roll, where have you been? Where have your pounding bass lines, screaming saxophones, scorching guitars and wild-eyed vocals been hiding? The Blackfoot Gypsies make the case for East Nashville, as their third album marries together the roots-rock swagger of the Black Crowes, the grit of the early-70s Stones, the West Coast country of the Byrds and Burritos, and the wildness of 1960s garage rock. In addition to reminding you of the Crowes’ Chris Robinson, Matthew Paige might remind you of Steve Marriott, Ian Hunter or Willie Nile, and the band draws on each of these singers’ groups without landing squarely on any one.

The guitars that open the album echo the Kinks “I Need You,” accompanied in the front seat by the rhythm section, Paige’s howling vocal and Ollie Dogg’s wailing harmonica. There’s barely a breath before Dylan Whitlow’s driving bass and Paul Thacker’s urgent sax push “Everybody’s Watching” into the red. Paige and drummer Zack Murphy lock into their shared roots as the founding two piece Murphy describes as “everything in the extreme.” Even when dialed down, the folk-country “Potatoes and Whiskey” and country-blues “Velvet Low Down Blues” are still edgy.

There’s a twist of soul on “Everybody’s Watching,” second-line roll on “Back to New Orleans,” Jan & Dean-styled backing vocals on “Promise to Keep” and a Bo Diddley beat on “Gypsy Queen.” The rootsy “Woman Woman” suggests the Band, and the hard blues of “I’ve Got the Blues” echoes Led Zeppelin in acoustic mode. There’s longing, loneliness, drinking and mean, mistreating women, but more in a blues vein than country, and “I Wanna Be Famous” thrashes out a swipe at those famous for being famous. At 62 minutes, the album’s intensity can get a bit exhausting, but there’s no doubting the band’s talent and groove. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

Blackfoot Gypsies’ Home Page

Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen: Live From Ebbets Field

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

Live from the Denver ozone in 1973

For many rock listeners, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen’s 1971 debut, Lost in the Ozone, was a taste-expanding experience. The group’s catalog of country, western swing, boogie-woogie, jump blues and rockabilly was broader than the country excursions of 1960s rock bands like the Byrds, and though others – notably NRBQ – blended multiple genres, the Airmen’s cover of “Hot Rod Lincoln” turned commercial attention into a following. The band hit the road in 1973 in support of their third album, Country Casanova, with a new-used tour bus and ace steel player Bobby Black in tow. The tour schedule was apparently quite grueling, but produced superb shows, including this stop in Denver, Colorado.

The group’s core lineup – George “Commander Cody” Frayne, Billy C. Farlow, Bill Kirchen, John Tichy, Lance Dickerson, Andy Stein and Bruce Barlow – had been steady since their debut, and the chemistry they’d developed in San Francisco Bay Area clubs is evident in this set. They weave together a handful of originals with a wealth of brilliantly selected covers, including sad truckin’ songs, rockin’ rave-ups, Cajun and swing dance numbers, novelty tunes and a cowboy closer. The stereo recording is well preserved, though there are major dropouts on “All I Have to Offer You (Is Me)” and “Diggy Liggy Lo,” and the live mix lets some of the instruments and vocals peak in the red.

The set features three tracks from Country Casanova, including the original “Rock That Boogie,” but skips the earlier hit “Hot Rod Lincoln.” The Commander gets a spotlight on Merle Travis’ “Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette),” and the crowd seems quite pleased with the set and six song encore. The 1973 tour has now produced several albums, including the classic Live From Deep In The Heart Of Texas and the more recent Tour From Hell. There are a few overlaps in the set lists, but the group’s huge repertoire provides eleven songs here that don’t appear on the other two. There’s a bit of stage banter to give you a feel for the 68-minute show; all that’s missing is the evening’s second set! [©2017 Hyperbolium]

Commander Cody’s Home Page

Otis Taylor: Fantasizing About Being Black

Saturday, February 25th, 2017

Timely observations of the African-American experience

Otis Taylor continues to create a very individual sound. The heart of his music is in the blues, but he sings in short phrases and plays in circular grooves that invoke a trance-like mood; and with Ron Miles’ cornet and guest string players Jerry Douglas and Brandon Niederauer, he adds jazz, Americana and Latin flavors. It’s a powerful musical base for his latest album of original material, essaying the African American experience from slavery to heroism, and documenting racism, hatred, violence and fear as constant, unwanted companions. The opening “Twelve String Mile” echoes Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, but the album quickly turns to the ways in which unsolicited notice unilaterally distorts African-American lives.

Though its timing with the divisional ascent of Donald Trump is apparently coincidental, Taylor’s songs foretell the renewal of dynamics that have haunted African Americans since their forced arrival on U.S. shores. In the world Taylor describes, freedom is often found only in the mind, and every day trials – break-ups, affairs, adoption, protests – gain an extra dimension of complexity with race factored in. Taylor is backed by bass and drums as he moves between electric and acoustic guitars, and adds touches of banjo. He sings the first-hand experiences you expect from the blues, but with an historical reach that makes the album even more potent. The timing may be coincidental, but the current political context heightens the work’s power. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

Otis Taylor’s Home Page

The Masonics: Obermann Rides Again

Saturday, February 25th, 2017

Ferocious Medway rock ‘n’ roll

Fans of Thee Headcoats, Mighty Casears and Prisoners will rejoice at the ninth album from this all-star Medway band. Fronted by ex-Milkshake Mickey Hampshire on guitar, and backed by drummer Bruce Brand (Pop Rivets, Milkshakes) and bassist John Gibbs (Kaisers), the Masonics offer the perfect combination of unpolished garage rock and blues-based melodies – something you might call rough ‘n’ roll. Even the ballad “I Don’t Understand Her Any More” isn’t exactly tender, with Hampshire pleading his case as more of a complaint than a concern, and the Animals-like “What Do You Do” providing a sobering, after-the-fact look in the mirror. The trio channels Bo Diddley’s rhythmic stomp in “You Don’t Have to Travel” and “The Unsignposted Road,” crank up the tempo to amphetamine punk for “You’re a Stranger,” and nail the combustible tension of the early Who with “You Won’t See Me Again.” The band’s energy is relentless as Hampshire picks guitar solos and Brand rides his cymbals, creating music that’s perfect for a sweaty, overcrowded beer-stained venue near you. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

The Masonics’ Facebook Page

In Memoriam: 2016

Monday, December 26th, 2016

Merle Haggard, 1937-2016

Listen to a selection of these artists on Spotify

January
Tony Lane, art director (Rolling Stone) and album cover designer
Brad Fuller, composer and music director (Atari)
Paul Bley, jazz pianist
Jason Mackenroth, rock drummer (Mother Superior, Rollins Band)
Long John Hunter, blues guitarist, vocalist and songwriter
Georgette Twain Seiff, hall-of-fame banjo player
Robert Stigwood, manager and film producer
Nicholas Caldwell, R&B vocalist (The Whispers) and songwriter (“Lady”)
Elizabeth Swados, writer, composer and theater director (“Runaways”)
Alfredo “Chocolate” Armenteros, jazz and salsa trumpeter
Pat Harrington Jr., actor and comedy recording artist (Some Like it Hip!)
Kitty Kallen, vocalist (“It’s Been a Long, Long Time”)
Troy Shondell, pop vocalist (“This Time (We’re Really Breaking Up)”)
Otis Clay, soul vocalist (“Trying to Live My Life Without You”)
Red Simpson, country vocalist and songwriter
Brett Smiley, glam rock vocalist (“Va Va Va Voom”)
Ed Stewart, radio broadcaster and television presenter (Top of the Pops)
David Bowie, vocalist and songwriter
Joe Moscheo, gospel vocalist (The Imperials) and industry executive
Giorgio Gomelsky, club owner, manager, producer and label owner
Hoyt Scoggins, country and rockabilly vocalist and songwriter
René Angélil, impresario and manager (Celine Dion)
Noreen Corcoran, actress (Bachelor Father) and vocalist (“Love Kitten”)
Pete Huttlinger, guitar virtuoso
Gary Loizzo, pop vocalist and guitarist (The American Breed)
Clarence “Blowfly” Reid, musician, songwriter and producer
Mic Gillette, brass player (Tower of Power)
Dale Griffin, rock drummer (Mott the Hoople)
Ramblin’ Lou Schriver, radio broadcaster, musician and concert promoter
Glenn Frey, vocalist, songwriter and guitarist (The Eagles)
Andrew Johnson, album cover artist (The The)
Jimmy Bain, rock bassist (Dio, Rainbow)
Joe Esposito, road manager (Elvis Presley) and Memphis Mafia member
Colin “Black” Vearncombe, vocalist and songwriter (“Wonderful Life”)
William E. Martin, songwriter (Monkees), screenwriter and voice actor
Signe Toly Anderson, vocalist (Jefferson Airplane)
Paul Kantner, vocalist, songwriter and guitarist (Jefferson Airplane)
Billy Faier, banjo player

February
Maurice White, vocalist, songwriter and producer (Earth, Wind & Fire)
Leslie Bassett, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer
Bobby Caldwell, keyboardist (Terry Knight and the Pack)
Joe Dowell, pop vocalist (“Wooden Heart”)
Jimmy Haskell, arranger, composer, producer and bandleader
Ray Colcord, film and television composer, producer and musician
Dan Hicks, vocalist and songwriter
Sam Spence, composer (NFL Films)
Obrey Wilson, soul vocalist (“Hey There Mountain”)
Rick Wright, country guitarist (Connie Smith)
Roy Harris, British folk vocalist
Kim Williams, country songwriter (“Three Wooden Crosses”)
L.C. Ulmer, blues musician
Denise “Vanity” Matthews, vocalist (Vanity 6), actress and evangelist
Joyce Paul, country vocalist (“Phone Call to Mama”)
Ray West, Emmy and Oscar-winning sound engineer (Star Wars)
Paul Gordon, keyboardist and composer
Brendan Healy, actor and musician (Goldie, Lindesfarne)
Vi Subversa, vocalist and guitarist (Poison Girls)
Charlie Tuna, radio broadcaster (KHJ, KROQ, KIIS, KBIG)
Buck Rambo, gospel vocalist
Sonny James, country vocalist and songwriter
Lennie Baker, vocalist and saxophonist (Danny & The Juniors, Sha Na Na)
John Chilton, jazz trumpeter and music historian
Craig Windham, radio broadcaster (NPR)

March
Gayle McCormick, vocalist (Smith ”Baby It’s You”)
Martha Wright, vocalist and actress (South Pacific, The Sound of Music)
Gavin Christopher, R&B vocalist and songwriter
Joey Feek, country vocalist (Joey + Rory)
Chip Hooper, agent (Phish, Dave Matthews Band)
Ireng Maulana, jazz guitarist
Joe Cabot, jazz trumpeter
Bruce Geduldig, synthesist and filmmaker (Tuxedomoon)
Timothy Makaya, jazz guitarist
Ross Hannaford, rock guitarist (Daddy Cool)
Ron Jacobs, radio broadcaster (Boss Radio KHJ, American Top 40)
Sir George Martin, producer
Jon English, musician and actor
Ray Griff, country vocalist
John Morthland, music journalist
Naná Vasconcelos, Latin jazz percussionist
Ernestine Anderson, jazz vocalist
Keith Emerson, progressive rock keyboardist
Gogi Grant, pop vocalist
Ben Bagdikian, educator, journalist and media critic
Ben Edmonds, music journalist
Louis Meyers, promoter (co-founder of SXSW) and manager
Tommy Brown, R&B vocalist (The Griffin Brothers)
Lee Andrews, doo-wop vocalist and father of Questlove
Frank Sinatra Jr., vocalist and actor, son of Frank Sinatra
Steve Young, country vocalist and songwriter (“Seven Bridges Road”)
David Egan, songwriter and pianist
Ned Miller, country vocalist and songwriter
Terry James Johnson, drummer (Bar-Kays) and clinical psychologist
Phife Dawg, rapper (A Tribe Called Quest)
James Jamerson Jr., R&B bassist (Chanson)
Jimmy Riley, reggae musician (The Sensations and the Uniques)
David Baker, symphonic jazz composer, musician and educator
Wally Crouter, Canadian radio legend (CFRB)
Patty Duke, actress and vocalist
Andy Newman, pianist (Thunderclap Newman)
Larry Payton, drummer (Brass Construction)

April
Gato Barbieri, jazz saxophonist
Don Francks, jazz musician and actor
Bill Henderson, jazz vocalist and actor
Carlo Mastrangelo, doo-wop and progressive rock vocalist
Dorothy Schwartz, pop vocalist (The Chordettes)
Leon Haywood, soul and funk vocalist
Dennis Davis, rock drummer (David Bowie)
Merle Haggard, country vocalist, guitarist and songwriter
Jimmie Van Zant, southern rock musician, cousin of Ronnie Van Zant
Earl Solomon Burroughs, musician and songwriter (“Great Balls of Fire”)
Jim Ridley, editor, critic and journalist (Nashville Scene)
Tony Conrad, experimental musician
Doug Banks, radio broadcaster (KDAY, KFI, KDIA)
Emile Ford, pop musician and sound engineer
David Gest, producer and former husband of Liza Minnelli
Gib Guilbeau, country-rock musician (Nashville West)
Filthy McNasty, nightclub owner
Mariano Mores, Argentine tango composer, pianist and conductor
Phil Sayer, British voice artist (“Mind the Gap”)
Vandy Anderson, radio broadcaster (KULF, KGBC)
Elliot Spitzer, radio executive (WLIR-FM)
Lord Tanamo, ska and mento musician
Richard Lyons, culture jammer (Negativland)
Pete Zorn, multi-instrumentalist (Richard Thompson Band)
Victoria Wood, actress, vocalist and songwriter
Lonnie Mack, guitarist, vocalist and songwriter (“Wham”)
Prince, vocalist, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist
Billy Paul, R&B vocalist (“Me & Mrs. Jones”)
Remo Belli, jazz drummer and inventor of the synthetic drumhead
Harrison Calloway, musician and bandleader (Muscle Shoals Horns)

May
Candye Kane, blues and swing vocalist and songwriter
John Stabb, punk rock vocalist (Government Issue)
Peter Behrens, drummer (Trio)
Tony Gable, percussionist and graphic designer
Julius La Rosa, pop vocalist
Buster Cooper, jazz trombonist
Bill Backer, jingle writer (“I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”)
Tony Barrow, press officer (The Beatles)
Johnny Sea, country vocalist (“Day For Decision”)
Emilio Navaira, tejano and country vocalist, guitarist and songwriter
Guy Clark, singer and songwriter
John Berry, punk rock guitarist (Beastie Boys)
James King, bluegrass musician
Nick Menza, rock drummer (Megadeth)
Marshall Jones, bassist (Ohio Players)
Floyd Robinson, country vocalist and songwriter (“Makin’ Love”)
Rick Vanaugh, country drummer (The Time Jumpers)

June
Alan Wise, promoter and manager (Factory Records)
Muhammed Ali, boxer and spoken word artist (“I Am the Greatest”)
Mac Cocker, radio broadcaster (Australia’s Double J)
Mark Parenteau, radio broadcaster (WBCN)
Dave Swarbrick, violinist, vocalist and songwriter (Fairport Convention)
Bobby Curtola, Canadian teen idol (“Hand in Hand With You”)
Dan Sorkin, radio broadcaster (WCFL, KFRC, KSFO)
Brian Rading, rock bassist (Five Man Electrical Band)
Christina Grimmie, vocalist and songwriter (The Voice)
Chips Moman, songwriter and producer
Henry McCullough, rock guitarist (Grease Band, Spooky Tooth, Wings)
Charles Thompson, jazz pianist and organist
Attrell Cordes, hip-hop, soul and R&B artist (P.M. Dawn)
Tenor Fly, rapper and ragga vocliast
Bill Ham, manager, producer and songwriter (ZZ Top)
”Dandy” Dan Daniel, radio broadcaster (WMCA, WYNY, WCBS)
Wayne Jackson, R&B trumpeter (Mar-Keys, Memphis Horns)
Freddy Powers, country songwriter and producer
Leo Brennan, Irish musical patriarch
Harry Rabinowitz, conductor (Chariots of Fire) and composer (I, Claudius)
Dr. Ralph Stanley, mountain music banjoist, vocalist and songwriter
Bernie Worrell, keyboardist and composer (Parliament-Funkadelic)
Mack Rice, songwriter (“Mustang Sally” “Respect Yourself”)
Scotty Moore, rock ‘n’ roll guitarist
Rob Wasserman, bassist
Don Friedman, jazz pianist

July
Teddy Rooney, actor, musician and son of Mickey Rooney
Bob Goldstone, music industry executive (Thirty Tigers)
William Hawkins, poet and songwriter
Danny Smythe, rock drummer (The Box Tops)
Vaughn Harper, radio broadcaster (WBLS “The Quiet Storm”)
Carole Switala, vocalist and puppeteer (Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood)
Steve Young, musician (Colourbox, MARRS) and songwriter
Johnny Craviotto, rock drummer and drum maker
Charles Davis, jazz saxophonist
Bonnie Brown, country vocalist (The Browns)
Alan Vega, vocalist, songwriter (Suicide) and visual artist
Claude Williamson, jazz pianist
Gary S. Paxton, vocalist, songwriter and producer
Fred Tomlinson, vocalist and songwriter (“The Lumberjack Song”)
John Pidgeon, rock music writer and BBC radio executive
Lewie Steinberg, R&B bassist (Booker T. & the M.G.’s)
George Reznik, jazz pianist
Marni Nixon, playback vocalist (West Side Story, My Fair Lady) and actress
Roye Albrighton, vocalist and guitarist (Nektar)
Allan Barnes, jazz saxophonist (The Blackbyrds)
Sandy Pearlman, writer, producer and manager (Blue Oyster Cult)
Lucille Dumont, vocalist, songwriter and television star
Nigel Gray, record producer (The Police, Siouxsie and the Banshees)
Penny Lang, folk musician

August
Ricci Martin, musician, entertainer and son of Dean Martin
Patrice Munsel, coloratura soprano
Richard Fagan, songwriter (“Sold (The Grundy County Auction Incident)”)
Pete Fountain, jazz clarinetist
B.E. Taylor, pop vocalist and songwriter (“Vitamin L”)
Ruby Winters, soul vocalist (“Make Love to Me” “I Don’t Want to Cry”)
Padraig Duggan, folk musician (Clannad, The Duggans)
Glenn Yarbrough, vocalist and songwriter
David Enthoven, manager and record label executive
Ruby Wilson, blues vocalist
Connie Crothers, jazz pianist
Bobby Hutcherson, jazz vibraphonist
Preston Hubbard, bassist (Roomful of Blues, Fabulous Thunderbirds)
Lou Pearlman, producer and manager (Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC)
Irving Fields, pianist, composer and bandleader (Bagles and Bongos)
Matt Roberts, rock guitarist (3 Doors Down)
Tom Searle, guitarist (The Architects)
Louis Stewart, jazz guitarist
Headley Bennett, reggae saxophonist
Derek Smith, jazz pianist
Gilli Smythe, vocalist (Gong)
Toots Thielemans, harmonica player, guitarist and whistler
Rudy Van Gelder, recording engineer (Bluenote)
Monty Lee Wilkes, sound engineer (The Replacements, Nirvana)
Hubert Dwane “Hoot” Hester, country and bluegrass fiddler

September
Fred Hellerman, folk singer, songwriter and guitarist (The Weavers)
Kacey Jones, singer, songwriter and humorist
Jerry Heller, agent, promoter and manager (N.W.A.)
Bud Isaacs, steel guitarist
Lewis Merenstein, producer (Van Morrison, Gladys Knight, John Cale)
Clifford Curry, R&B vocalist (“She Shot a Hole in My Soul”)
Prince Buster, ska singer-songwriter and producer (“One Step Beyond”)
”Crazy” Eddie Antar, electronics retailer
Chris Stone, studio owner (The Record Plant)
Leonard Haze, rock drummer (Y&T)
Don Buchla, pioneering synthesizer designer
Jerry Corbetta, vocalist, keyboardist and songwriter (Sugarloaf)
Trisco Pearson, R&B vocalist (Force M.D.’s)
Charmian Carr, actress and vocalist (The Sound of Music)
Micki Marlo, vocalist (“What You’ve Done To Me” “Little By Little”)
John D. Loudermilk, songwriter and vocalist (“Tobacco Road”)
Richard D. Trentlage, jingle writer (Oscar Mayer, McDonald’s)
Rob Meurer, vocalist and songwriter (Christopher Cross)
Stanley “Buckwheat Zydeco” Dural Jr, zydeco accordionist
Kashif, R&B vocalist, instrumentalist, producer and songwriter
Jean Shepard, country vocalist and songwriter
Joe Clay, rockabilly vocalist and guitarist
Royal Torrence, soul vocalist (Little Royal and the Swingmasters)
Nora Dean, reggae and gospel vocalist (“Barbwire”)
Oscar Brand, folk vocalist and songwriter, radio host (WNYC)
Michael Casswell, session guitarist (Brian May)

October
Joan Marie Johnson, pop vocalist (The Dixie Cups)
Caroline Crawley, vocalist (Shelleyan Orphan, This Mortal Coil)
Rod Temperton, keyboardist and songwriter (“Thriller” “Off the Wall”)
Peter Allen, radio broadcaster (Metropolitan Opera)
Don Ciccone, pop vocalist (The Critters) and songwriter
Leo Beranek, acoustic engineer and co-founder of BB&N
Robert Bateman, songwriter (“Please Mr. Postman”), vocalist (Satintones)
Sonny Sanders, songwriter, arranger and vocalist (Satintones)
Robert Edwards, R&B vocalist (The Intruders)
Ted V. Mikels, filmmaker and record label owner
Phil Chess, producer and record company executive
Chris Porter, americana vocalist, songwriter and guitarist
Mitchell Vandenburg, americana bassist and songwriter
Dave Cash, radio broadcaster (Radio London, BBC Radio 1)
Herb “The Cool Gent” Kent, radio broadcaster (WVON, WJJD and V103)
Pete Burns, vocalist and songwriter (Dead or Alive)
Bobby Vee, pop vocalist
Hazel Shermet, actress and singer (New Zoo Revue’s Henrietta Hippo)
John Zacherle, TV host, recording artist and radio broadcaster
Ron Grant, film and television composer (Knot’s Landing)
Tammy Grimes, actress and vocalist (The Unsinkable Molly Brown)
Curly Putman, country songwriter (“Green, Green Grass of Home”)

November
Bap Kennedy, vocalist and songwriter
Bob Cranshaw, jazz bassist
Kay Starr, pop and jazz vocalist
Jean-Jacques Perrey, electronic music producer
Laurent Pardo, bassist (Elliott Murphy’s Normandy All-Stars)
Sir Jimmy Young, radio host (BBC Radio 1 and 2) and vocalist
Al Caiola, guitarist, composer and arranger
Leonard Cohen, vocalist, songwriter, poet and novelist
Raynoma Gordy Singleton, songwriter and second wife of Barry Gordy Jr.
Billy Miller, magazine publisher (Kicks) and record label owner (Norton)
Leon Russell, vocalist, pianist and songwriter
Holly Dunn, country vocalist and songwriter
David Mancuso, disc jockey and private party host (The Loft)
Mose Allison, jazz pianist, vocalist and songwriter
Cliff Barrows, musical director (Billy Graham Evangelistic Association)
Milt Okun, producer, arranger, conductor and publisher
Don Waller, music journalist and vocalist
Mentor Williams, songwriter (“Drift Away”), producer and engineer
Sharon Jones, soul vocalist (The Dap Kings)
Al Batten, bluegrass banjo player and band leader
Hod O’Brien, jazz pianist
Craig Gill, rock drummer (Inspiral Carpets)
Al Broadax, television and film producer (The Beatles, Yellow Submarine)
Florence Henderson, actress and vocalist
Pauline Oliveros, composer, educator and accordionist
Tony Martell, record industry executive (CBS Records) and philanthropist
Ray Columbus, vocalist, songwriter, manager and television host
Carlton Kitto, jazz guitarist

December
Mickey Fitz, punk rock vocalist (The Business)
Mark Gray, country vocalist and songwriter (“Take Me Down”)
Herbert Hardesty, saxophonist (Fats Domino, Dave Bartholomew)
Wayne Duncan, bassist and vocalist (Daddy Cool)
Mohamed Tahar Fergani, Algerian vocalist, violinist and composer
Greg Lake, vocalist, bassist and songwriter (King Crimson, EL&P)
Palani Vaughan, Hawaiian vocalist and songwriter
George Mantalis, pop vocalist (The Four Coins)
Valerie Gell, rock ‘n’ roll vocalist and guitarist (The Liverbirds)
Bob Krasnow, record executive and co-founder of the R’n’R Hall of Fame
Joe Ligon, gospel vocalist (Mighty Clouds of Joy)
Barrelhouse Chuck, blues vocalist, songwriter and pianist
Jim Lowe, songwriter (“The Green Door”) and radio broadcaster
Ahuva Ozeri, Israeli singer-songwriter
Betsy Pecanins, blues singer and songwriter
Päivi Paunu, vocalist and Eurovision contestant (“Muistathan”)
Bunny Walters, Maori pop vocalist (“Brandy” “Take the Money and Run”)
Fran Jeffries, vocalist, dancer and actress (The Pink Panther)
John Chelew, producer and concert promoter (McCabe’s Guitar Shop)
Bob Coburn, radio broadcaster (“Rockline,” KLOS)
Léo Marjane, French vocalist (“Seule ce soir”)
Gustavo Quintero, Columbian singer-songwriter
Gordie Tapp, radio broadcaster and television performer (Hee Haw)
Andrew Dorff, country songwriter (“My Eyes” “Somebody’s Heartbreak”)
Dick Latessa, actor and Tony winner (Hairspray)
Sam Leach, concert promoter (The Beatles)
Betty Loo Taylor, jazz pianist
Frank Murray, manager (The Pogues) and tour manager
Mick Zane, rock guitarist (Malice)
Rick Parfitt, vocalist, songwriter and guitarist (Status Quo)
George Michael, pop vocalist and songwriter
George S. Irving, musical theater and voice actor
Alphonse Mouzan, jazz drummer
Pierre Barouh, lyricist (A Man and a Woman), composer and actor
Debbie Reynolds, actress and vocalist
Billie Joe Burnette, country vocalist and songwriter (“Teddy Bear”)
Rich Conaty, radio broadcaster (WFUV’s The Big Broadcast)
Allan Williams, booking agent and manager (The Beatles)
Johnny Canton, radio broadcaster (WDGY, WCCO)
David Meltzer, poet and jazz guitarist

Various Artist: Big City Christmas

Friday, December 23rd, 2016

various_bigcitychristmasBear Family’s Christmas present to the label’s fans

There are few reissue labels with Bear Family’s long, consistent history of knowledge, taste and quality, and all three are part of the package for this 2016 Christmas collection. The 30 tracks, totalling more than 70 minutes of music, mostly sidestep the oldies chestnuts, though Chuck Berry’s “Run Rudolph Run” and Dean Martin’s “Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!” will be very familiar to American holiday shoppers. More surprising are the lesser-known recordings from well-known artists, including Frankie Valli and the Four Lovers’ hopped up “White Christmas” (an alternate take to the commercial single, no less!), Brenda Lee’s Cajun-influenced B-side “Papa Noel” and Dean Martin’s 1953 single “The Christmas Blues.”

Chestnuts are also spruced up, as Bobby Helms’ “Jingle Bell Rock” is sung by a very jolly Teresa Brewer, and “Jingle Bells” is given a jazzy read by Ricky Nelson and turned jivey by Pat Boone. The former also provides a warm version of “The Christmas Song” and the latter returns to MOR form with “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” The Cadillacs lay some R&B on “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” Eartha Kitt gives a year-later update to “Santa Baby,” and Irving Berlin’s “Snow,” featured as a group number in 1954’s White Christmas, is sung solo by Rosemary Clooney. Chuck Berry’s B-side cover of “Merry Christmas Baby” is backed by Johnnie Johnson’s inimitable piano stylings and Berry’s riff on “White Christmas.”

But what really animates Bear Family releases, aside from the encyclopedic length of their box sets and booklets, are the obscure singles and unreleased vault finds they bring back to life. By digging through the label’s catalog of compilations and box sets, the producers have assembled a wealth of Christmas-themed pop, rock, rockabilly, blues and R&B rarities. Highlights include Charlie Starr’s homage to Chubby Checker, “Christmas Twist,” Cathy Sharpe’s rockabilly “North Pole Rock,” the Moods’ original B-side “Rockin’ Santa Claus,” and novelties from the Holly Twins (“I Want Elvis for Christmas”), Patty Surbey (“I Want a Beatle for Christmas”) and Sheb Wooley (“Santa Claus Meets the Purple Eater”).

Doris Day is delightful as she sings “Ol’ Saint Nicholas,” Frankie Lymon’s beautiful soprano is both bold and solemn on “Silent Night,” and the collection closes with Jo-Ann Campbell’s year-end “Happy New Year, Baby.” Reissue producers Nico Feuerbach and Marc Mittelacher (the latter of whom also provides short song notes) have beautifully sequenced recordings from the ‘40, ‘50s and ‘60s into an incredibly compelling program, and Tom Meyer’s mastering blends it together aurally. All mono, except 4, 15, 16 and 23, but you’ll hardly notice, as the fidelity is crisp throughout. In the annual avalanche of recycled holiday oldies, Bear Family’s terrific collection tops the tree. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

Bear Family’s Home Page

The Blind Boys of Alabama: Atom Bomb

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

blindboysofalabama_atombombReissue of post-Grammy album of gospel and faithful pop

After a four album Grammy run from Spirit of the Century through the Ben Harper-produced There Will Be a Light, the group re-teamed with producer John Chelew for this 2005 release. As on the preceding albums, the material was selected from a wide range of sources, the group’s gospel singing was combined with pop, rap, R&B and blues, and the studio welcomed guests that included harmonica legend Charlie Musselwhite, keyboard player Billy Preston and guitarist David Hidalgo. Unlike the star-fronted Go Tell It on the Mountain, the guests here support the Blind Boys’ lead vocals. If you liked the reach of the Grammy run, you’ll enjoy how the rich gospel harmonies are spent on both standards and pop songs of faith, including Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky” and Blind Faith’s “Presence of the Lord.” Omnivore’s 2016 reissue adds instrumental versions of seven album tracks and new liner notes by David Seay, providing a nice upgrade to those who already have the original release. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

The Blind Boys of Alabama’s Home Page

Cat-Iron: Sings the Blues and Hymns

Monday, November 28th, 2016

catiron_singsbluesandhymnsObscure 1958 Folkways blues album returned to vinyl

If Christopher Guest were to make a mockumentary about the blues, it might open with a crate digger’s breathless recitation of time-worn details such as, “Louisiana native Cat-Iron was born William Carradine in 1896 and mis-nicknamed by the folklorist Frederic Ramsey, Jr.. Having converted to Christianity, Carradine was initially hesitant to lay down secular songs, but relented with a mix of blues and sacred hymns on a borrowed guitar, recorded in the front room of his house. The resulting 1958 Folkways LP included an eight-page booklet, was pressed on yellow wax, and quickly fell into obscurity.” What would make this absurd is its absolute truth in demonstrating how scholarly producers refashioned themselves into musical anthropologists who used hunches and recorders in place of maps and shovels.

Recorded in 1957 and released the following year, it was to be Cat-Iron’s only album, as he passed away in November 1958. Since then, two tracks appeared on anthologies [1 2], the album was reissued in the UK as a vinyl album in 1969, and domestically as a digital download and custom CD in 2004. Exit Stencil now returns the album to print as a limited distribution vinyl LP, struck on yellow wax, just like the original, with blues on side one and hymns on side two. Also included is a reproduction of the original eight-page booklet, including lyrics and Ramsey’s original liner notes. The latter sketch Cat-Iron’s background, the circumstances of the recording session, and provide Ramsey’s view of the blues as organic, communal literature.

As Ramsey noted, Cat-Iron sang everything with the combined fervor of the gospel and the blues, lending the former the grit of the latter, and the latter the eternal gravity of the former. The session began with the hymns placed on side two, with Cat-Iron accompanying himself on fingerpicked guitar that’s fretted with a glass medicine bottle and supplemented by the faintest, rhythmic thump of what was likely to be his foot. He’s carried away by the messages of “When I Lay My Burden Down” and “Fix Me Right,” and surprisingly melancholy on the first song he played that day, “When the Saints Go Marching Home.”

Of the blues numbers on side one, the most well-known (and regularly covered) is “Jimmy Bell.” It’s here that Cat-Iron’s regionalism is heard in the cultural themes he wrote and sang. As with most folk artists, Cat-Iron’s catalog is derived from lyrics he’d heard, borrowed, rearranged and augmented. The opening “Poor Boy a Long, Long Way From Home” is rooted in the oft-recorded “Poor Boy, Long Ways From Home,” with Cat-Iron changing the lyric from “Natchez,” where he resided and recorded, to “New Orleans.” He deftly weaves together lines from “Rambler Blues” and “Corinna, Corinna” for “Don’t Your House Look Lonely,” and sings “I’m Gonna Walk Your Log” with its similarity to “Baby Please Don’t Go” intact.

It’s something of a miracle that primitive field recordings, transcribed from analog to digital and back again, can transport the experience of a 1950s Mississippi living room into the twenty-first century. Cat-Iron’s voice is clear and strong, and balanced well against his guitar playing. There are hints of “studio” (that is, room) chatter around the edges of a few tracks, giving listeners a feel for the informality of the session; but once Cat-Iron gets going, his performances are authentic expressions of a hard life lived in a segregated nation that largely relegated its rural African-American population to clapboard shacks. For vinyl lovers who never crossed paths with the original artifact, this reissue will be a real boon. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

Exit Stencil Recordings