Some Mac With No Cheese

The Nerd is back, the Nerd is back! Sorry about my extended absence but writer’s block is one hell of a problem! After a little boat trip down in Virginia, I feel refreshed and ready to write about more cool, obscure sounds so let’s get to it.

When I got back from my little boat ride, I was excited to find in my mailbox a package from the fine folks at Gott Records (look them up at featuring a great reissue CD of Faces keyboardist and all around great guy Ian McLagan’s two solo albums from the late ’70’s and early ’80’s.

Originally a member of the Small Faces when they were a psychedelic rock act fronted by Steve Marriot and turning out masterpieces like Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake, McLagan remained with the band when they metamorphised (did I just make up a word?) into simply Faces after Marriot quit and Rod Stewart and Ron Wood joined.
As the band turned their psychedelic leanings into more of a good-time boogie-rock band, McLagan’s fine organ and piano work came even further into the fore as a perfect complement to Wood’s slide guitar skronk and bassist Ronnie Lane’s genius bass playing.

All good things must come to an end, though, and when Stewart and Wood each found their side careers going in different directions (Stewart’s as a solo star and Wood as a member of The Rolling Stones) the Faces broke up, leaving several great albums in their wake, the best of which is undoubtedly A Nod Is As Good As A Wink, though Ohh La La is great as well.

It didn’t take McLagan long after the Faces split in 1975 to get his own solo career going. With help from Ron Wood, Keith Richards, Ringo Starr and a host of other British rock vets, the ex-Face recorded the aptly named Troublemaker album in 1977. Though no hit singles were forthcoming, the album should not be penalized for that and is actually one of the best pseudo-pub rock/party rock records ever produced. If only more rockers would drop the airs and just let loose in the studio the world would be a better place. It’s like no one would start rocking if there was any gin left in the building. Fabulous.

McLagan followed up Troublemaker with Bump In The Night in 1981. Again, Wood was on board for some hellacious slide guitar playing but this time McLagan ditched some of his guest stars in favor of his touring band. While not as bombastic as his first solo album, Bump In The Night is far more cohesive with more emphasis placed on the songs instead of the atmosphere. Again, no hit singles resulted and McLagan eventually turned his career into that of a well-known and much-respected session player and touring sideman.

He has played with the best because he is one of the best, leaving a ton of fine recordings both solo and with the Faces incarnations in his wake. Fortunately, the new millenium brought a return to solo recording for McLagan, who has put out the fine album Best Of British on the Gadfly label as well as a few other discs including a new live one available at his website

Sadly, a few weeks ago his wife (the former Kim Moon) passed away in a car wreck. I only have best wishes for him as he and his music have brought a ton of joy into my life, I hope he is able to overcome this adversity and continue to make great music.

Please pick up any of McLagan’s solo work or his work with Small Faces and regular Faces. Even his session work will make you smile. Anyone who wants to take the piss out of rock and rool and just have one hell of a rocking time is sure to love anything he has done.
Would you like some Mac?

The Music Nerd knows………..

A-Covay Part 1

Old school soul has always been one of The Nerd’s favorite kinds of music. The love began as I started to analyze music as a player. As a burgeoning drummer, I immediately fell in love with drummers who could make a groove swing and make people dance. The pyrotechnics of many rock drummers like Keith Moon and John Bonham, although impressive, didn’t really move me much – I was more into Al Jackson, Bernard Purdie and whoever played on the soul records I heard as a child. Their grooves were enormous and sucked me into the soul world.

I remember one of my favorite songs being Chain of Fools by Aretha Franklin. When I finally got the album it was on many years down the line, I saw in the writer’s credits it was written by Don Covay. Although I searched pretty hard for info and albums (this was prte-Internet after all) I could never find anything by him in the “C” section and just assumed he was a studio songwriter and had never put out any albums on his own.

Boy, was I wrong! He has actually put out quite a few discs, all of them decent and some of them great.

Now, when people think of Don Covay….I started that sentence just to see what it would sound like because you and I both know people don’t ever think of Don Covay. You know why? Because radio never plays his songs and labels really haven’t re-issued his output properly despite his being the writer of over 15 gold records.

To be honest, Covay had always had more success as a songwriter than as an artist. His classic ’60’s song “See Saw” has always been his biggest hit and that came relatively early on in his singing and songwriting career. He never stopped trying to hit it big, though, releasing albums and singles with regularity right up until the ’80’s.

His songwriting, on the other hand, made big waves and continues to do so. Everyone from Aretha to Wilson Pickett to The Rolling Stones have covered his songs, making him a go-to guy when soul stars and rock bands were looking for something soulful to cover. You can still find plenty of albums with Covay songs on them, his songs being evergreens that could drive a star up the charts at any time. Though it’s been a while since a Covay song went high up the charts, his songs are so solid the potential is always there to see one of his songs in the top 10.

Still, he always wrote new songs and continued to perform and show up on albums every once in a while. Not many people know it, but Don Covay filled in for Mick Jagger on the Stones’ Dirty Work CD. You see, Mick and Keith Richards had been feuding over Mick’s then upcoming solo album She’s The Boss and neither one of them wanted to see the other in the studio. Covay (and also Bobby Womack) would sing the guide vocals on the Stones songs so Mick could go in to the studio at a later date and lay down his vocals. On certain parts of the CD, especially Harlem Shuffle, you can still hear Covay and Womack in the background, singing their brains out.

I have given you a little background info on Covay because everything I write about this week is going to involve him. I hope to tell you about two little known blues rock albums he put mout in the early ’70’s that show his versatility in the rock arena and also tell you a little about a series of tribute albums done by Jon Tiven on Shanachie Records – one of which is dedicated to Don Covay.

If you can, find some of Covay’s music. It is soulful as hell and immensely heart-felt – each song containing nothing but the truth and a big fat beat to go along with it.

Do you know about Don Covay?

The Music Nerd Knows….and you will too, starting with the next blog.

You Wood If You Could

I was digging around one of my closets where I keep my Stones and Stones-affiliated CDs yesterday (now there’s an idea for a blog – CD/music organization!) and ran across a few Ron Wood solo CDs I hadn’t played in a while. Being a huge Wood fan (insert appropriate joke here)I figured I would use this space to extoll the virtues of the Stones’ longest-running second guitarist (31 years membership!).

When thinking about Ron Wood, one must start at the British beat group Birds, move through The Creation and Jeff Beck Group (where Beck relegated Wood to bass so the mercurial Beck wouldn’t have to compete axe-wise) and start honing in on one of the best and most-underappreciated boogie bands of all time, The Faces. Wood joined the Faces (originally the Small Faces – check out Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake for a pre-Wood psychedelic masterpiece) after forming an alliance with Rod Stewart who was in the Jeff Beck Group with Wood at the time.

Wood and Stewart both joined Faces to shore up the band when guitarist/singer Steve Marriot left to start Humble Pie. Wood then began a long and proud association with the best of sleazy rock and roll that, for all intents and purposes, out-Stoned the Stones.

In the last phase of the Faces’ lifespan, Wood started putting out solo albums, great ones like I’ve Got My Own Album To Do and Now Look. Both these albums were all-star love-fests that also featured fellow Brit rockers like Stewart, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger among others. Wood was already drifting into the Stones orbit and joined after The Great Guitarist Hunt the Stones had in 1975 during the making of Black and Blue.

Throughout Wood’s tenure in the Stones he has continued to put out solo albums, the strongest being 19078’s Gimme Some Neck. The CD is filled with Stones-like raunch and Woody’s Dylan-like gin-soaked vocals. It is very hard to find but still in print.

Wood fans would also beinterested in tracking down 1982’s 1234, which is out of print in the US but contains Wood jamming with several members of Devo and a few other obscure bands. Woody has always done it for rock and roll, and not just to get on the radio, and that always speaks volumes to me about a musician’s motivation and heart.

I could tell you about Wood’s artwork, which is genius, but that’s for another blog. Track down some of his solo work and tell me if some of it isn’t better than most of the schlock the Stones have passed off for music in the past twenty years or so.

Wood you if you could?

The Music Nerd knows………