Posts Tagged ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’

The Refreshments: Ridin’ Along with the Refreshments

Friday, May 11th, 2012

Sweden’s answer to Rockpile and the Blasters

It’s no accident that Sweden’s Refreshments have crossed paths with both Billy Bremner (for Both Rock ‘n’ Roll and Trouble Boys) and Dave Edmunds (providing backup for Back on Track and the live A Pile of Rock), as they are the Swedish heirs to the same roots as Bremner’s and Edmunds’ Rockpile. Starting as a ‘50s cover band in 1990, the Refreshments still feature plenty of classic rock ‘n’ roll riffs, fat sax by Micke Finell and terrific New Orleans rhythms, but they also add some country twists in the guitars and the superb piano playing of Johan Blohm. Their thirteenth studio album includes songs that echo both Edmunds and the Brinsley Schwarz-era work of his former mate Nick Lowe, and a big helping of the American music that fueled the Blasters and NRBQ.

The band’s original songs, mostly penned by bassist Joakim Arnell, include Jerry Lee-styled rave-ups, R&B rockers, stomping country two-steps, and the terrific Everly-inspired ballad “By Your Side.” Arnell writes clever songs in the Chuck Berry vein, essaying cars, women and the qualities of good women best described as features of high-end cars. They even take Berry’s “It’s My Own Business” out for a rollicking second-line spin. Much like Rockpile at their peak, the Refreshments are simultaneously nostalgic and vital. Their music is infused with the echoes of rock’s seminal years, but the rhythms, melodies, harmonies and themes remain timeless and alive in their highly competent hands. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

The Refreshments’ Home Page

Chelle Rose: Ghost of Browder Holler

Monday, May 7th, 2012

Appalachian rock ‘n’ roll, country, blues and soul

More than a decade after her 2000 debut, Nanahally River, singer-songwriter Chelle Rose delivers a sophomore set of gritty country blues and rock. The raw power of her voice brings to mind the early recordings of Lissie, but with a swampy backwoods feel that brings to mind Lucinda Williams, Bobbie Gentry and Holly Golightly. Rose is a child of Appalachia and the Smoky Mountains, but her music is touched more by blues than bluegrass. Her songs are rooted in the rural experience of mountain men, snakes in the road (both literal and figurative), impending doom and haunting memories of untimely death. She adds husk to the addictive desire of Julie Miller’s “I Need You” and tears her ex- a new one as she reestablishes her music career in “Alimony.” Of the latter she’s said “I tried to quit music, but it just wouldn’t quit me.” The album closes with Elizabeth Cook adding a harmony vocal an acoustic song of a mother’s loss and faith, “Wild Violets Pretty.” The last really shows how deeply Rose is willing (and able) to dig into herself for a lyric. Producer Ray Wylie Hubbard provides support with dripping gothic blues, rowdy country rock, atmospheric folk and Memphis soul, a mélange that Rose calls “Appalachian rock ‘n’ roll.” After hearing her out, you’re not likely to argue. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | Alimony
Chelle Rose’s Reverb Nation Page

Little Richard: Here’s Little Richard

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

A founding text of rock ‘n’ roll

Fifty-five years after its initial release, Little Richard’s debut LP resounds with the primordial fire of rhythm ‘n’ blues’ jump to rock ‘n’ roll. Richard took everything up a notch – the tempos, the innuendo and above all, the volume and energy of his vocals. Recorded primarily at New Orleans’ legendary J&M studios, Richard was backed by the cream of the Crescent City’s musicians, including Lee Allen, Alvin Taylor, Frank Fields and Earl Palmer. Though the same crew could be heard on other artists’ records, with Richard in the lead, they heated up their New Orleans boogie-woogie as on few other sessions. There’s a level of fervor, abandon and outrageousness in both Richard’s singing and piano playing that none of his fellow founders could match.

The original dozen tracks clock in at just over 28 minutes, but it’s 28 minutes of killer rock ‘n’ roll, with zero filler. The first hits were “Tutti Frutti,” “Long Tall Sally,” “Slippin’ and Slidin’,” “Rip it Up,” “Ready Teddy” and “She’s Got It.” Three more – “Jenny Jenny,” “Miss Ann” and “True Fine Mama” – charted in ’57 and ’58. That leaves only three that didn’t chart – “Can’t Believe You Wanna Leave,” “Baby” and “Oh Why?” – each of which has the same incendiary spark of the better known singles. The CD reissue adds three audio tracks and two videos. The audio includes Richard’s two original audition tracks and a previously unreleased interview with Specialty Records founder Art Rupe. Rupe talks about the audition tape, Richard’s persistence at getting signed, the New Orleans sessions, the impact of “Tutti Frutti” and the on-again, off-again career it created.

The audition tracks – Little Richard originals “Baby” and “All Night Long” – are surprising for their lack of indication of what was to come. Richard sang straight blues, with the band subdued behind him, not even hinting at the rock ‘n’ roll mayhem he’d bring to his Specialty sessions. Rupe, looking for a B.B. King-type singer, heard something he liked, but had no idea what he was really getting. The videos are color screen tests (for The Girl Can’t Help It) of Richard lip-synching “Tutti Frutti” and “Long Tall Sally,” highlighted visually by his swanky suits, awesome pompadour, pencil-thin moustache and his uninhibited dancing in the instrumental breaks. The set’s 24-page booklet includes photos, the album’s original liner notes, new notes by Lee Hildebrand and a poster of the album cover. Rock ‘n’ roll stars simply didn’t shine any brighter than this. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

Paul Anka and Buddy Holly!

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Buddy Holly, Paul Anka and Jerry Lee Lewis

The recent PBS tribute to Buddy Holly, Listen to Me, revealed this interesting tidbit: Holly’s hit song “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” was written for him by Paul Anka! Perhaps not as surprising when you consider that Anka also wrote the theme song for the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, Tom Jones’ “She’s a Lady,” and the English-language lyrics for Sinatra’s signature “My Way.” On top of all that, he donated his composer’s royalty for the song to Holly’s widow, Maria Elena.

Willie Nile: The Innocent Ones

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

Willie Nile continues his rock ‘n’ roll hot streak

Willie Nile is clearly possessed by the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll. Three albums into a renaissance that began with 2006’s Streets of New York, the sixty-three-year-old singer-songwriter continues to turn out arrestingly good music. At an age that most rockers have retired, resigned themselves to oldies shows or simply turned into lesser versions of their younger selves, Nile is enriching his work with age and experience. His voice remains charged with idealistic belief, and he propels his tight band forward as he unleashes anthems, pop songs and powerful ballads.

His latest album opens at full throttle with “Singin’ Bell,” the drums racing, the rhythm guitars building a wall of energy and Nile singing out like a twenty-first century Woody Guthrie. His populist mission is clear when he sings “I’m a soldier marchin’ in an army / Got no gun to shoot / But what I got is one guitar.” It’s a theme he develops through lyrics that gather the tribe and speak for unempowered. He lauds the decency of the commoner and shows pity for the insulated rich, he sings moaning Dylan-esque folk on “Sideways Beautiful,” tips his hat to Buddy Holly for “My Little Girl” and rouses the spirits of 1977 punk with “Can’t Stay Home.”

The album’s last song, a mid-tempo tune that suggests early Tom Petty, opens with the lyric “If memory were money, I would spend every penny thinking of her.” It’s a clever turn of phrase (as is the follow-up “If fire was her daughter, I would drink a pail of water just to kiss her”), but like most of Nile’s lyrics, it’s something more – it’s a memorable expression of a deeply felt emotion that’s turned into a shared with the listener. Shared experience is a hallmark of Nile’s songwriting, and the reason his fans remain so passionate thirty years after he debuted. This album was originally released in the UK in 2010, but is just now getting the stateside push it deserves. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | One Guitar
Willie Nile’s Home Page

Southern Culture on the Skids: Zombified

Sunday, November 6th, 2011

Southern-fried rock ‘n’ roll Halloween

Just in time for Halloween, this thirteen-track set expands upon a rare, like-titled eight-song Australian EP from 1998. The band mixes originals and covers, including a killer instrumental take on Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Sinister Purpose,” a psychotically-tinged version of Kris Jensen’s “Torture,” and a Las Vegas grind arrangement of Kip Tyler’s rockabilly classic, “She’s My Witch.”  Tales of demons, zombies, undertakers, witches and swamp monsters reanimate the exploitive nighttime feel of 1960s drive-ins, and musical nods to the Cramps, Lonnie Mack and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins make this disc a must-have for your next fright night party. The newly added tracks (#9-13) fill out the album with tales of the supernatural, nighttime shadows, and the Link Wray-styled instrumental, “The Creeper.” It’s a shame that American International isn’t in business, as SCOTS would surely be the studio’s house band. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | Zombified
Southern Culture on the Skids’ Home Page

Elvis Presley: Young Man With the Big Beat

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Elvis tears up the music world in ‘56

Eighteen months after bursting into the music world with “That’s All Right,” Elvis moved from the indie Sun label to the major leagues of RCA. A month-and-a-half later, in January 1956, he entered the a Nashville studio and began a year that included two chart-topping albums (Elvis Presley and Elvis), three chart-topping singles (five, if you include the Country chart), several more top-fives and fifteen total chart entries among two dozen singles. That’s in addition to live and television performances that made him the most famous person in the world. Five decades later, according to RCA, he remains the best-selling artist of all time, with over a billion records sold. He’s certainly among the most reissued, but with a catalog as lengthy and rich as Elvis Presley’s, it’s rewarding to view it from multiple angles.

RCA/Legacy’s 5-CD set focuses solely on the transformative year of 1956, collecting its the first two discs the thirty-nine master recordings Elvis issued that year. The original track lists of Elvis Presley (which combines seven sides cut expressly for RCA and five previously cut for Sun) and Elvis (cut in three September days in Hollywood) start discs one and two, respectively. Each of these discs is filled out with non-LP singles, B-sides and EP tracks. Elvis minted a lot of gold in ‘56, including the chart-topping hits “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” and “Love Me Tender,” the iconic “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Hound Dog,” and “Love Me,” lower-charting treats “Money Honey” and “Paralyzed,” and non-charting sides that include a stellar rockabilly cover of Ray Charles’ “I Got a Woman” and the gospel-styled “We’re Gonna Move.” The music just poured out of Elvis and his combo, their roots still intact and raw, and Elvis’ magic in full-bloom on the ballads.

The set’s third disc combines live material from the last night of Elvis’ two-week run at the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas, a May performance in Little Rock, Arkansas, and ten previously unreleased tracks from a December concert in Shreveport, Louisiana. Elvis gave it his best in Las Vegas, but by closing night his funny, witty, sarcastic and self-deprecating stage patter (“we got a few little songs we’d like to do for you, we have on record, in our style of singing, if you wanna call it singing”) reflected the lukewarm reception he’d received from the middle-aged audience. The May and December dates find Elvis greeted by screaming fans, and he returns the favor with fevered rock ‘n’ roll. The tapes are all quite listenable, though the Little Rock show is a bit rough in spots, and the Shreveport show a bit muffled. Shreveport had been instrumental in launching Elvis with his appearances on the Louisiana Hayride, and his bond with the city and its fans is evident.

Disc four opens with outtakes of “I Got a Woman,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” “I’m Counting on You” and “I Was the One,” from his first Nashville session. In addition to alternate versions of four great Elvis tracks, listeners get to hear how fresh Presley and his band remained from take to take. The remainder of the disc becomes the province of collectors and completists as it unspools the February 3rd sessions for “Lawdy, Miss Clawdy” and “Shake, Rattle and Roll.” In addition to multiple takes of each tune, you get bits of studio chatter, moments of vocal rehearsal and instrumental noodling. The disc concludes with a half-hour interview conducted by Robert Brown at New York City’s Warwick Hotel. Brown introduces fans to Elvis by discussing his career, hobbies, favorite singers (Sonny James, Frank Sinatra, Mario Lanza), current films (“Helen of Troy,” “The Man with the Golden Arm,” and “Picnic”), foods and clothes. Elvis comes across as thoughtful, humble and exceedingly thankful for his success.

The fifth disc closes the set with an additional hour of spoken material, including an interview session with TV Guide, an interview of Colonel Tom Parker, the spoken-word “The Truth About Me” (which was originally included in Teen Parade magazine, and appears to explain Elvis to both his growing teenage audience and their parents), an interview recorded on the film set of Love Me Tender, and a pair of ads for RCA record players. Elvis handles tough questions that recount critical press accounts of his talent and performances, politely showing confidence in himself and his fans. He doesn’t seek to explain or excuse his music or dancing, but notes that he and his audience share an understanding and appreciation of what’s passing between them.

The 12”-square box set includes an 80-page book stuffed with photos and ephemera (ticket stubs, record company memos, fan letters, record charts, magazine covers, etc.), a thorough discography and sessionography of 1956, and is highlighted by a day-by-day chronology of Elvis’ recording dates, concerts, television appearances and personal events throughout the year. The box also includes reproduction 8 x 10 photos, posters and a concert ticket stub. For those only interested in the core master recordings, the first two discs of this set (minus three tracks from the Love Me Tender EP: “Let Me,” “Poor Boy” and “We’re Gonna Move”) are being released separately as the Elvis Presley: The Legacy Edition. This two CD set includes Elvis’ first two albums, and nearly all the non-LP A’s, B’s and EP tracks included here. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

Big Star Tribute to Alex Chilton – Digital Release!

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

A few months after Alex Chilton’s passing in May 2011, the remaining members of  Big Star (Jody Stephens, Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow) played a tribute show in Memphis at the Levitt Shell. The entire show was recorded, and may eventually see release, but for now, a terrific three-song EP featuring John Davis has made the leap from its initial vinyl release to the digital domain. You can hear it below, and buy it as part of a Big Star bundle at Ardent’s on-line store.

Mike & the Ravens: From Pillar to Post

Saturday, July 16th, 2011

Third and final comeback album from early-60s Northeast rockers

Mike and the Ravens, local heroes of the early-60s Northfield/Plattsburgh rock scene (see Heart So Cold: The North Country ‘60s Scene and Nevermore: Plattsburgh 62 and Beyond), made the unlikeliest of comebacks with 2008’s Noisy Boys and 2009’s No Place for Pretty. Forty-five years after their stomping frat-rock singles made them a Saturday night draw at Rollerland, the band reassembled to revisit and extend their legacy. Amazingly, they still carried the fire and adolescent abandon that made their earliest records so exciting, and even more impressively, they had something new to say with their music. This third, and apparently final, comeback album isn’t as frenetic or savage as their original singles or initial comeback, but lead vocalist Mike Brassard still sings with plenty of wild-eyed grit, the percussion section lays down heavy, dark beats, the guitars add plenty of buzzing riffage, and the rock vibes are extended with strains of blues and psych. The band’s covers of traditional folk tunes, “Jack of Diamonds” and “Pretty Polly,” are a lot more threatening than the versions you’d hear on the summer bluegrass circuit, and guitarist Steve Blodgett’s originals rock hard. The bluesy desire of “Helen Jones” is emotionally flip-sided by the abandoned wreck of “A Real Sad Story,” and a cover of the Dad’s early ‘80s pub-pop classic “Trailer Park Girls” rolls like a freight train. Hopefully the end of the group’s recording renaissance doesn’t spell the end of their reunions for live shows, as these guys are clearly still carrying a lit torch. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

Mike and the Ravens’ MySpace Page

The Sunny Boys: Beach Sounds

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Italy’s #1 Beach Boys tribute band

The Sunny Boys are Italy’s leading Beach Boys tribute band, and given the quality of their playing and singing, they could easily compete with their stateside brethren. Their televised appearances, covering Beach Boys songs alongside voluptuous Italian dancers, can be found on YouTube, and now their debut album has received a U.S. digital download release. The production sound is more modern and clean than you’d expect on a classic Beach Boys record, and though the harmonies are heavily influenced by the Wilson brothers (and in turn by the Four Freshmen), the melodies are often more bubblegum and power pop (check out the great intro to “Fun Fun Fun”) than classic ‘60s beach rock. The lead vocals have a nasal tone that variously suggests Mike Love, Gary Lewis and Kasnetz-Katz mainstay, Joey Levine. This is a finely crafted album, and the exuberance of the group’s live performances transfers well to the studio, particularly in the spot-on falsettos. Group leader Gianluca Leone has added ten original songs to the Sunny Boys’ repertoire, including the “Kokomo” homage, “Mahalo.” You can hear the influences of their native Italy interwoven with the harmonies of Jan and Dean in “Full Throttle,” and the thrill of racing down the Italian Alps substitutes perfectly for the roar of a drag strip in the clever “Freerider.” The band’s originals don’t quite stand up to the Brian Wilson classics they cover on stage, but they’re infused with enough of the original group’s magic to bring a smile to your face. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

The Sunny Boys’ Home Page (Original Italian | Google English)
The Sunny Boys’ MySpace Page