The new iMac has a fun bit of flummery–Photo Booth. Everyone decided to get into the act:
Must make an emergency return to my Home and Native Land
where I’ll be off line, and temporarily off Groove duty even,
for several long weeks.
Blog amongst yourselves, won’t you,
until my inevitable return…..
Somehow, something change in the config on the ISP side and my mt-config settings weren’t right. Fixed them, and hey, presto!, comments should work again.
The songs from Blue Ash’s "Around Again" (a 2004 two cd retrospective) will soon be available for collective and individual downloads. Also, over 170 Blue Ash songs that were found in the vaults a few years ago will also be available for the first time anywhere. Some of the titles are "Walls", "I’ll Be Standing By", "Dinner At Mr. Billy’s", "Make It Easy","It’s All In Your Mind", "Look Out Your Window Baby I’m On Your Porch", "Baby Doll", "It’s Alright By Me", "Dangerous! Dynamite!", "You Know My Number", "Freeloader","When I Get You", " If I Were Ever Minus You","Movin’ Right Along","You Really Get To Me",…and dozens of other tunes that have never before been heard by anyone outside of the band members themselves. All of it was written by the Blue Ash songwriting team of Bill "Cupid" Bartolin and Frank Secich. The songs were recorded in Youngstown, Ohio at Peppermint studios between 1972 and 1976. More details will be forthcoming here at "Lost In The Grooves" in the next few weeks.
I now interrupt your regularly scheduled blog reading to update you on someone very cool I am listening to – Sal Valentino.
For those unfamiliar, let me say right off that the name has nothing to do with any member of the cast of the Sopranos, though being Italian and quite dashing at his general age of late ’50’s/early ’60’s, might be enough reason to call the producers and maybe ask for a part. I am sure of one thing: Little Steven, alias Silvio Dante, no doubt knows who he is and would welcome him with open arms.
So who is this mystery man?
Sal Valentino was the lead singer for the San Franciscan garage-poppers turned country rockers The Beau Brummels. Remember their hits “Laugh, Laugh” or “Just A Little”? You should. If you don’t, go to your local CD shop and get you some Brummel. Keep your eyes peeled for Bradley’s Barn and Triangle as well. Those are the titles of two of the most groundbreaking records the ’60’s had to offer. It would be enough to say the band out-Byrdsed the Byrds but that would be leaving a lot of the greatness out. Needless to say, these records belong in any serious music-lover’s collection.
Right now, I am checking out Sal’s return to musical form, Come Out Tonight, released on Fat Pete Records (fatpeterecords.com), and produced, aided and abetted by Texas’ own Freddie Steady Krc. Krc is a legend in his own right and deserves a blog of his own (which I may do someday) but I must mention one of my favorite bands of his, The Shakin’ Apostles. When ESD was a cool label, it released a few Apostles discs that blew my mind. Great Texas roots rock that I encourage you to check out.
Anyway, back to Sal and his new disc. His voice or songwriting has not lost anything over the years, I must say, and this disc runs the gamut from garage to folk-rock and all of it is just excellent. It is great to see a man with so much history, experience and talent re-enter the music world with such a strong CD. His interpretive skills are at their peak as well, as he runs through Folsom Prison Blues and makes you forget Johnny Cash’s version. Fans of his work with the Brummels or with his later bands like Stoneground (great funk – search them out too) and Valentino need to get this right away and just anyone who wants to hear music on a par with Nick Lowe, Johnny Cash and any truly great songwriter will love this music.
Thanks for coming back Sal….don’t ever leave again.
And you: get this disc now.
Who is your Valentino? The Music Nerd Knows….
Got dragged to see Chuck Berry at BB Kings by my friend, Dave. Never been there before. He handed me a ticket as we walked in. I looked at the price: $90. I asked him if he was completely insane as we went down the stairs. He was going to take one of his girlfriends, but her back was giving her pain.
The place is about as rock and roll as a shot glass filled with Kaopectate. It’s a dinner theater setup, like if they ran the Bottom Line through the dryer three times too many. Japanese, Fins, Brits, Des Moinees – a tourist trap set in the middle of Times Square Land. We stood at the bar and watched fat people eat chicken and spill beer on their tiny cameras. Two big screens flank the small stage and they kept scrolling upcoming shows in a loop: Rick Wakeman (of Yes), Keith Emerson (of ELP), Paul Barerre (of Little Feat), Jan Hammer (of nothing), Southside Johnny (& the Asbury Jukes), Seven Seagal (does he just do karate moves?). Very strange how this seemingly random group of musicians end up at this final frontier.
I bought us 2 beers for $15 and waited for Chuck. What was I expecting? He’s 80. Hasn’t made a record since ‘Rockit’ back in 1980. That one was pretty damn good. I half-expected them to wheel out some wizened old critter in a wheelchair with a dribble cup snapped to his collar. The lights dimmed and a band came out. Chuck is legendary for just using pickup guys, playing indifferent shows, and getting off the stage at the one hour mark. This band was some Papa Chubby New Orleans funk outfit that were popular on the dreaded jam band circuit. They were going on themselves after Chuck. They assembled onstage at 8:10 and started playing a Chuck Berry-esqe rhythm. Pretty faceless except for the keyboard player who sounded like the ghost of recently departed Johnny Johnson, Chuck’s old mainstay.
They kept playing their shuffle, looking fidgety toward the wings for Chuck. Suddenly, this guitar came blaring out of nowhere. It sounded like some avant-garde deconstruction of an old rock & roll style. That, or Keith Richard’s right after he fell out of the tree and cracked his cocoanut. It was LOUD. They were playing in A Major, but the disembodied sound kept drifting to A Flat, then B Flat. My friend said, “He must be drunk”. Then a roar came from the front as Chuck strutted from the wings in a red sequined shirt and a pair on slacks. The people seemed to have no idea that he wasn’t playing anything near what the band was playing. They were screaming and hollaring, and Chuck kept on with his Sonic Youth impersonation. Not only wasn’t he drunk, he was lean, muscular, and smiling. The bass player called something over to him and he smiled and slid into A major.
They played all the hits over the next hour. Chuck was playing a BB King Gibson ES 335 through a Fender Twin and he sounded fantastic and raw. I started to appreciate the tonal lapses that would grace all these songs. Everytime he hit a really atonal lick I screamed out, “Go, Man, Go”. The beer flowed and the Danes, Dutchmen, and Somoans cheered. He played two of my non-hit faves, “Let It Rock” and “Reelin’ & Rockin’ (which is not ‘Around & Around’ – he played that, too). One thing that was interesting was that he really used a lot of dynamics. When all the bands of yore played their obligatory CB number, it was always an excuse to go balls-to-the-wall. But Chuck would start certain songs real quiet and reach crescendos, then pull back, over & over. It was very enlightening.
The only real drag was the second guitarist. He was playing a Fender Squire that sounded like thin shit. He was terrible, too. After the first solo Chuck gave him, he smiled broadly and said, “Here’s something you don’t know – that’s my son!!” A loud roar went up. “Here’s something else you don’t know: I’m still married to his mother!” Louder cheer. The guy really sucked. Nepotism at its worst. Chuck, thanfully, took the lion’s share of the solos. During ‘Roll Over Beethoven’ he went onto the drum riser and started egging the drummer accent his phrases. He turned his guitar even louder and the ensuing raunch (which stayed in key) was the highlight of the night. 80 years old? I shook my head. He had a great line when the keyboard player missed a change on ‘Memphis’. He looked his way, smiled, and said “Son, we’ll make a hillbilly outta you yet”. After one song, he was talking about New York, how he likes it because it’s all about making money and everyone here is rich and he happy to see that. “You all know what I’m talking about, right?” That met with big applause.
During ‘Johnny B Goode’ Chuck invited ‘all the ladies’ on stage. A bunch of young good looking Swiss, Tawainese, Belgian, and Inuit babes rushed the stage and were dancing like they were on Hullabaloo. One woman with a fat ass was dancing provacatively at Chuck’s side and he turned and aimed the neck of his guitar right at her crotch and launched into his most atonal barrage yet. It was vulgar and the crowd ate it up. Then he walked off the stage, still playing, as the girls shimmied and his son said, “Let’s hear it for my father, Mr. Chuck Berry”!! I looked at my watch – it was exactly 9:10.
“The recording of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band spanned 129 days; perhaps the most creative 129 days in the history of rock music.”
(author and “Beatle Brain of Britain” Mark Lewisohn)
Whilst those “Fugs of the West Coast,” The Mothers of Invention, were spending month upon month held over in New York City’s Garrick Theatre performing their 1967 Pigs and Repugnant Revue, Frank Zappa was spending his every waking hour off stage holed up in the city’s pioneering 12-track (!!) Apostolic recording studio over on East 10th. The ultra-productive time spent there, which resulted in not only the epic We’re Only In It For The Money but several other stellar FZ / MOI LP’s (not to mention reams of archival material which continues to dribble out posthumously via the Zappa Family Trust), constitutes what I firmly believe to be THE most fitfully fruitful time ever spent by man or beast committing rock ‘n’ roll to magnetic tape …and yes, that includes those pious Pepper sessions as well.
Right alongside Apostolic’s utterly brilliant recording engineer Richard “Dick Dynamite” Kunc and his latest audio toys (variable speed oscillators, the grand new “Apostolic Vlorch Injector,” plus assorted policemen and breakfast rolls), Zappa and band stitched together, for starters, "most of the music from the Mothers’ movie of the same name which we haven’t got enough money to finish yet" as well as the first, and I’m sure you must agree, BEST of all those late-Sixties so-called R ‘n’ R Revival elpees Cruising With Ruben and the Jets.
Now, while the Uncle Meat soundtrack still sounds as magnificently minced and phonically fully-flavored today as it did upon its ’69 release, the digitized Ruben most unfortunately suffers from a typically fool-headed remix and re-record which obliterates the Mother/Jets’ original greasy, bottom-heavy finger-snatting and replaces them all with synthesized bass sloops and Eighties-anemic drums-that-go-“pooh” (instead of poot), I’m so sorry to report. “When I sat down and listened to the CD I got sick in the pit of my stomach, man,” so go the wizened words of Mother woodwinder Bunk Gardner (as reported in our ant bee Billy James’ indispensable Necessity Is… The Early Years of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention book). “The music was from one era and you could tell the rhythm section was from the 1980s; it didn’t make sense at all to me. And the thing that blew my mind was, didn’t Frank hear that?”
Apparently not. Still, for those who naturally prefer jelly roll gum drops and Chevy ‘39’s over tangerine trees and newspaper taxis…..