Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Band - Christmas Must Be Tonight (1977)

In 2006 Hall and Oates released Home For Christmas, their one and only holiday album, an extremely good set of music that immediately became one of my favorite seasonal listens.

I wrote then that I was stunned at how many overtly religious songs the famous duo put on the the disc considering the very politically correct climate of the new millennium. One of them was a cover version of a song that alluded me for almost thirty years, "Christmas Must Be Tonight." I liked the new, upbeat track sung by Daryl Hall and it made me go out and search for Robbie Robertson's never-to-be classic. Sung by Rick Danko, it appears on the great American band's last album, Islands (1977).

It's a surprise that a group whose members were not known to have any specific or powerfully strong religious beliefs would release a song that tackled the subject of Jesus's birth as blatantly as the our most loved Christmas carols. It's not about a reckless reindeer killing grandma. Could this be why it's seldom recorded or heard?

"Christmas Must Be Tonight" is the only song by The Band that Robertson re-recorded after the group ended and it can be found on the soundtrack of Bill Murray's Scrooged.

Both versions of Robertson's holiday tune deserves a permanent place among the songs we play every December.


Friday, December 01, 2017

D. B. Rielly - Live From Long Island City (2017)

One of the benefits of running a music blog is that I've been exposed to artists that I would not normally get to hear otherwise and New York City's D. B. Rielly is one of them. The praise given here previously to Rielly's first two studio CDs was genuine which is why I was more than pleased at his invitation to listen to D. B. Rielly Live From Long Island City.

All three of the singer-songwriter's discs are uniquely packaged. They come in unusual shapes, sizes, and construction materials. The earlier ones were tin and wood and Long Island City comes in the shape of a large, cardboard postcard. Unfortunately, none of them are able to be filed with the rest of my CDs. Perhaps Rielly wanted to make sure his work had its own special place in my collection. Well D. B., if you're reading this, it worked. I've got your stuff stored in my stereo cabinet where I see it more often than my other discs so, guess what, they actually get played.

Both of Rielly's studio albums were full length discs using a band which makes this one, a solo, acoustic, live performance a big surprise. It's very brief and clocks in at just over twenty-four minutes and that includes three tracks of between song storytelling with his tuned in audience.

Of the seven actual songs there is only one Rielly recorded before, "Don't Give Up On Me" from his debut CD Love Potions and Snake Oil. The rest are heard here for the first time and for that he is to be congratulated. Too many live albums are just rehash and serve as nothing more than a contractual obligation from an artist to his record company.

Rielly chose this format because he wanted to emphasize the songwriting and I don't blame him. His craft has matured to the point where these songs don't need anything else but his voice and a guitar and on one track, "I Believe, Angeline" he plays banjo. He shows off his fantastic and slightly bent sense of humor as well as a sad and ultra-serious side.

Highlights include "Nothing Like You" a tune that lists dozens of things the singer has witnessed during his lifetime but he tells the song's subject that he or she is the most unbelievable person he has ever witnessed. Rielly sings, "I thought I've seen everything there was to see but I never seen nothin' like you."

Rielly has a thing about addictive, non-stop, cellphone usage and is hurt that every time he wants to say those three little words to his girlfriend she answers her phone as soon as it rings. So, on "Let It Ring," he pontificates, "It ain't nothin' but a thing. Let the voice mail get it just this once honey, won't you let it ring." He's a man after my own heart.

On "Prenup" he tells his soon to be wife, "I trust you with my heart but not my stuff."

Rielly closes out the show with "I'll Remind You Everyday." In an email discussion with Bloggerhythms he talks about this very sad but beautiful song. He describes it as an Alzheimer's love song. The protagonist "goes through his & his wife's life together - reminding her and hoping to spark her memory - for any and every reason... to bring back to her some of the joys in her life, to entertain the woman he loves with her own stories, and maybe to snap her back into the present and be with him for a moment to rescue him from his own loneliness (since her mind is so infrequently present)."

"The verses go from the beginning of their lives to the end so the last verse brings us to present day. He talks to his wife like she has come out of her Alzheimer's for a moment (as the disease progresses, the memory fades out more frequently and for longer periods but can still come back momentarily) and explains to his long life partner what is happening to her, and to them and most likely, even when her mind doesn't come back, he says this to her anyway, because of his complete love for her - and to remind himself why he's there for her every day."

Both Rielly's voice and songwriting should remind the listener of John Prine and that is always a good thing. "I'll Remind You Everyday" conjures up many of the same images and feelings about the fate and loneliness of old folks as well as Prine's great "Hello In There" does so easily.

Rielly deserves fame and fortune. It's a very sad state of affairs that in today's music world that there is almost no chance of that happening.

You can sample every song on the album on the artist's website.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Gospel Whiskey Runners - Hold On (2011)

It's time to belatedly introduce The Gospel Whiskey Runners (TGWR), from Visalia, California to music freaks everywhere.

The quintet has been compared to Ryan Adams but to these ears a more valid comparison would be The Lumineers. The Runners' Jerrod Turner is a better lead singer than The Lumineers' Wesley Schulz and while they have not released anything as catchy as "Ho Hey" or "Ophelia" that is not a reason to ignore them. TGWR also have a fine female vocalist, just like Schulz's group, in Colette Boley who enhances their sound and is another reason for comparisons between the two bands.

Please don't believe that TGWR are merely mimicking The Lumineers and that is because their nine song, debut album, Hold On, hit the streets in 2011, ahead of the better known group's debut. The latter may have had more commercial success but that does not make them a better outfit.

The Gospel Whiskey Runners act is mostly acoustic but Ryan Stillwater is a loud, rock drummer who provides an edge that kick starts many of their folk sounding songs.

They chose their name because Turner's family bootlegged moonshine back in Kentucky.

The band's music has appeared on several popular television programs: American Idol, Criminal Minds, and Homefront and they have been played over eleven million times on Pandora.

You can listen to Hold On in it's entirety here as well as all of their follow up record Know Your Enemy.

Be sure to check out The Gospel Whiskey Runners website.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Dan Auerbach - Waiting On A Song (2017)

The Black Keys are on "extended hiatus," a state of being that is always regarded as an ominous sign regarding a band's future. However, it's good to know that Dan Auerbach has put his free time to good use by working on a side project for rock fans who appreciate the tuneful, pop side of the genre.

Auerbach's retro-rocking album, Waiting On A Song, offers ten tracks that conjure up pleasant aural images of The Traveling Wilburys that are most obvious on the radio friendly "Shine On Me."

Auerbach's sense of humor on the mostly upbeat set also contains a dose of vintage Nick Lowe. On "Stand By My Girl" he sings, "I'm gonna stand by my girl, Don't think I won't, I'm gonna stand by my girl, Because she'll kill me if I don't, I said she'll kill me if I don't." While not the album's strongest track it's fun stuff.

Midway through the record things quiet down with the Sunday morning mellowness of "King Of A One Horse Town" and the pleasingly soft, but tuneful "Never In My Wildest Dreams." The bouncy "Show Me," closes out the album and has a nice, early 70s ring to it reminiscent of Paul McCartney's earliest Wings releases, and the title track is a fantastic way to open the album.

Waiting On A Song is pure pop using real instruments (way to go, Dan) and while it's quieter and less adventuress than a typical Black Keys outing this fine set may have appeal outside the duo's usual fan base. There is never anything wrong with growing your audience as long as you're not selling out and on this, his second solo release, Auerbach certainly has not.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Glen Campbell - The William Tell Overture (1974)

I'm mostly familiar with Glen Campbell's big hits so I wasn't going to write anything about his passing because I never followed his career. However, in the end I decided something needed to be said and the 1974 video below proves why.

Campbell was popular at a time when most deep music fans were into rock, jazz, or folk, and country was viewed as the music of rural, uneducated, red-necks. That statement wasn't entirely true but at that time, within my sphere of influence, perception was definitely reality.

As it turns out Campbell was much more than a country singer. I learned this a long time ago but only after his initial popularity had faded. As part of the famous 1960's Wrecking Crew he was a highly sought after studio musician. On records he accompanied The Mamas & Papas, Jan & Dean, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, The Monkees, and many more.

Campbell also played on The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds and he was the first person Brian Wilson hired to replace himself on the road. However, he didn't stay long because of his desire to pursue a solo career and the band replaced him with Bruce Johnston.

The Arkansas native was considered a virtuoso on his instrument. Nothing proves that more than this video of Campbell performing "The William Tell Overture" on an acoustic guitar live with an orchestra. I have no idea if this is the version that impressed me so much when I first saw it on TV all those years ago. However, thanks to the digital age you can see it now. If you need proof that this dude was a really fine axeman you'll find it here.