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.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

J. Geils (1946 - 2017)

J. Geils 4th studio LP was released in very cool red vinyl
Sadly, there is more unmelodic news from the music world and that is because it has now enshrined John Warren Geils Jr. (J. Geils) into Rock 'n Roll Heaven.

Geils was the guitarist in The J. Geils Band, a really fun, blues-rock, sextet from Boston who never took themselves too seriously because they understood what they were: a very good party band.

The band had several huge hits and, unusually for a veteran outfit, their bigger ones came later in their career, after the group shifted to a more polished sound to fit into the synthesized 80s. While it was true that Geils and the gang lost some of their earthiness during the "Freeze Frame"/"Centerfold"/"Love Stinks" era they never totally abandoned their rabble rousing sense of humor and therein lied their success.

Despite their big hits in the late innings the band was at their best in the early 70s when they scored with "Lookin' For A Love," and "Must Of Got Lost" along with one of my favorite live albums, Full House (1972).

A large part of the band's party hardy atmosphere centered around one of rock's best frontmen, the speed talking Peter Wolf, and the man with the wild, white man afro, Richard "Magic Dick" Salwitz. The harmonica player was often the featured instrumentalist on many of the group's tracks.

After the band broke up Wolf went on to have a successful solo career while Geils turned to automobile racing before making a blues album with Salwitz. Later he recorded two fine, straight-ahead jazz CDs. Jazz, as it turned out, was the guitarist's first love but he never believed he was good enough to play it. Both of those albums proved him wrong.

The band has been nominated several times for the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame but they have yet to be elected. It would be just like those Cleveland manipulators to vote the Boston boys in now. It wouldn't be the first time the hall waited until a prominent band member left us before their groups were voted in a couple of years too late. Just ask Mike Smith of The Dave Clark Five and Chris Squire of Yes if you can discover a way to contact them.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Raul Malo, Pat Flynn, Rob Ickes, Dave Pomeroy - The Nashville Acoustic Sessions (2004)

Except for Raul Malo's name appearing first on the cover of The Nashville Acoustic Sessions this excellent, twelve song set tries to convince us Pat Flynn, Rob Ickes, and Dave Pomeroy are his equals. However, as always, whether he's on stage or in the studio, Malo dominates any sessions he participates in.

This is the most bare-boned music Malo has ever released either with The Mavericks or as a solo artist. It is pure unadulterated country with no bombast anywhere. The only thing that prevents this album from sounding as if it was not recorded in the hills of Kentucky is the star's pop-operatic vocals.

Flynn and Ickes, who play mandolin, guitar and dobro, along with bassist Pomeroy, are perfect sidemen for Malo on this almost percussion free affair. All three are masters at what they do.

The material is wide ranging but Malo and friends tailor the songs, almost all from celebrated artists, to fit their needs. The songs are from way back when country was rural. Featured are Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams ("Weary Blues from Waitin'") and two selections from the Louvin Brothers. Also included are tunes from 60s and 70s stalwarts such as Gordon Lightfoot ("Early Morning Rain") Gram Parsons ("Hot Burrito #1"), Bob Dylan ("You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go") and a nice version of Van Morrison's "Bright Side Of The Road." These last two songs show you how good they can be when supported by an excellent vocalist.

The album opens with "Blue Bayou," a perfect choice for Malo because of the many Roy Orbison comparisons that have followed him around for what seems like a century.

An almost schmaltzy version of Henry Mancini's "Moon River" is here too but Malo's good taste stops it from going too far.

The highlight is the Louvin's "Great Atomic Power," a foot-stomping, gospel, protest song that plays off the fears of a possible nuclear holocaust. Originally released in 1962, it's the same year John F. Kennedy stared down Fidel Castro and the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

There is no original music anywhere but it doesn't matter. It's one of Malo's finer efforts.

You can buy it here.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Sooner Or Later It Was Bound To Happen

According to data accumulated in 2015 on mostly American Spotify users people stop listening to new music at age thirty-three. Two factors account for the researcher's findings. The most obvious one is that people continue to prefer the music they grew up with and, secondly, they discover new genres that were unfamiliar to them when they were in high school or college.

Further results show that couples with children stop listening to new stuff earlier than those who have not yet procreated and men drop out of the mainstream sooner than women do.

Without trying to brag I always looked for new music and was happy to hear it so I'm not your average music lover. While my Top Forty listening habits pretty much ended in college I continued to search out the latest tunes elsewhere. I never really settled on one particular genre but I leaned heavily towards rock, especially the Southern California sound. If some jazz, country, or folk tickled my fancy that was fine with me too because I believed it proved my musical openness and diversity (There's that word again).

In the last two or three years I've found very few new works that interest me and I've become more comfortable reacquainting myself with older music and the artists who created it. While I love the art form just as much as I always have it's no longer important to me to find the latest singer or band. It's not that I'm avoiding new releases, they just don’t move me like they used to. Sooner or later it was bound to happen.

If I do stumble across something new that excites me I'll still have the urge to get the word out and you'll read all about it here. This is why I recently posted a review of The Rolling Stones' album of blues covers. Yes, it's new music, but by a dinosaur rock band doing very old songs. (BTW folks, Keith Richards isn't dead yet).

So, if you're interested in reading about great pop music, both classic and obscure, you're still in the right place. Just don't look for as many newer artists around here as there used to be.