Lewis Taylor Re-ducks

Those of you with only short-term memory faculties working will note my last blog was about a genius psychedelic neo-soul one-man-band type by the name of Lewis Taylor.

Well, that blog immediately started some things in motion as far as gathering info on this eccentric artist. Within one day after publishing the blog here I heard from the owners of Hacktone Records concerning what I had written regarding them and their artist.

First off, it seems the kind but obviously jealous folks at Shout! Factory had lied to me regarding the status of the Hacktone label. It is, in fact, NOT defunct but has simply changed distributors and has chosen not to work with the fine, fibbing folks at Shout! Factory any more.

Secondly, they report Lewis Taylor has recovered from the nodes on his vocal cords and continues to work on new music for eventual release. While it is too late to promote the US release of the album Stoned (which is four years old anyway), it does mean new material will be released eventually from Taylor.

The label also informed me that, in the meantime, another Lewis Taylor album will be released in early 2007. Titled The Lost Album, it is about a decade old, and was recorded between Taylor’s first and second albums on Island but has never been released.

Seems that Taylor’s disgust at Island Records for not knowing how to promote him lead Taylor to go into the studio and record an album totally removed from the rich, swirling soul music of his first Island record. Instead of sweet soul, Taylor recorded some bristling rock music modeled more after Fleetwood Mac than Al Green. After laying the tracks down and working all of the anger out of his system, Taylor decided to shelve the tracks and instead went back to preparing for another Island album full of his trademark psychedelic soul music.

Now that he is long removed from his Island experience, Taylor has been slowly releasing these tracks. First as a freebie passed out at his gigs and then for sale strictly at his website. Now, the fellas at Hacktone are releasing the record to the world. Again, it seems to be a one-man-band affair and promises a new look at a Taylor so few have heard regardless.

Though newer music would be better than another old album, I am happy to be getting anything at all from this reclusive artist. Hacktone reports that Lewis just hates to tour so whatever albums we get are all we are going to get from Taylor so if we want to experience his genius, we have to take what he and his label give us.

So I will. And I will be happy about it.

Getting to hear the genius will be enough.

When the album comes out, expect a review here. Please pick it up regardless, as it will no doubt blow your mind like Stoned did to me.

The Music Nerd knows………..

Lewis Taylor, Soldier, Spy

So, just this past Sunday after Thanksgiving, I was running around Charlotte killing time, running errands and checking out the local CD shops along the way and I decided to check out a little shop I usually don’t go into too often.

Truth is, I don’t go into this shop too often because they don’t really get anything cool too often. It is the weakest location of a local 3 store chain and I go to the other two stores in the chain much more because the locations are better and the results are usually better; in other words, at the other stores I can find stuff I actually want.

But, I am nearby this bastard third location and I suck it up and decide to go in, totally realizing I probably won’t find anything worth buying. I search for a little while, thinking I am going to prove myself a visionary by totally striking out so far. I then wander towards the R&B section knowing if I don’t find anything there, I will be buying nada from this joint. Upon perusal of this section, I notice a little oddity: an album called “Stoned” by Lewis Taylor.

Not recognizing the guy’s name, I pick it up to check out the liner notes to see if I can recognize some of the players’ and producers’ names. Well, the liner notes are really brief and I only recognize some obscure record industry names in the Thank You’s but I am intrigued because it seems the guy is a one-man band in that he plays everything himself and produced the CD.

Well, I love that kind of shit. Good or bad, I am always curious to hear what a person can do with his musical talent when he tries to do it all himself. So, I wander over to the listening station and pop this CD in and I am floored! Soul in the best of the old (Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Prince) and new (D’Angelo) traditions with plenty of psychedelic rock touches as well to spice it up.

Needless to say, I am THRILLED with my find and before I listen to too much and ruin it for myself, I take it out of the listening station, rush to the register, pay for the shiny disc and commence to take it home.
As soon as I get home, I pop that thing in the CD player and start to do some research on the album while Lewis Taylor’s sweet psychedelic soul music washes over my ears and melts my brain.

Seems the album came out on the Hacktone label in 2005 and was distributed by Shout! Factory. A check of the Shout! Factory website leads to nothing so I next go to my favorite music research portal, Allmusic.com!

Soon I learn Lewis Taylor is an English musician who first found some measure of fame in the mid ’80’s as a member of the re-united Edgar Broughton Band, playing guitar with the group. After leaving, he started a psychedelic combo called Captain Jack and released two albums with them. He then vanished for almost a decade before landing a deal with Island Records in ’96 on the strength of a demo by Taylor that made the Island suits think they had found the second-coming of Al Green, only with multi-instrumental-playing capabilities. He made two psychedelic neo-soul records for Island and was dropped as both flopped. Seems the suits loved him but didn’t have the brains to market him correctly. I guess white Englishmen aren’t allowed to make modern, yet classic-sounding soul records.

Discouraged, Taylor decided to release albums on his own label and has put out about four or five depending on whether you think homemade CDs given out at gigs count as releases.

The album I found, Stoned, is actually the second record he released on his own (it came out originally in 2002) but the first record of Taylor’s to be released in the US. Seems the owners of Hacktone felt the record had sank unjustly and wanted to give it a chance in the States. Sadly, it sank in the States without a trace as well. Seems the album was getting a good push in late 2005 but shortly after Taylor appeared on Conan he developed nodules on his throat and couldn’t tour the US, so it was Conan and out.

Now, in late 2006, the label Hacktone is defunct and Taylor is still obscure, the album now languishing in bargain bins everywhere. This is an artist who has been trumpeted by D’Angelo, Paul Weller, Elton John, Mary J. Blige and a bunch of others but still remains in the shadows.

If you are into soul, neo-soul, R&B or whatever the fuck they are calling it these days, you need to check this album out. A swirling mass of future funk that channels Johnny Guitar Watson, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix at the same time and with vocals as sweet as Prince’s falsetto, Taylor sings some of the most soulful, sensual psychedelic R&B music I have heard in a long time. I can’t truly label it derivative or new but it does combine both the past, present and future in a way that will make your ass shake, your knees buckle and your heart melt. Most adept at guitar, the man shows a facility for any instrument he touches and shows an affinity for crafting elegant tapestries of music while still finding the funk and psyche-swirling it up.

Needless to say I am going to spend a lot of time over the next week or so tracking down everything else this guy’s ever done. To be as old as he is (mid ’40’s) with over twenty years of music biz experience and have that talent vocally and instrumentally and still be unknown is a fucking injustice. Please search this album out if you can and check it out. I know you won’t be sorry.

The Music Nerd knows…..that Lewis Taylor should be more fucking famous than Justin Timberbitch….

Keep Givin’ Me Mo’, Tony Joe

Sure, I come back after a little sabbatical and there’s no fanfare, no cake, no party, and, worst of all, no friggin’ BALLOONS for chrissakes. What the #$%^?

Anyway, been gone for too long, drinking shit that’s too strong, learning some songs and singin’ ’em wrong, removing some groupies’ thongs and hitting some bongs, listening to T-Rex and banging some gongs – fuck it…it’s time to slow down a little and who best to slow down to than some Snakey?

And by “Snakey” I mean some Tony Joe White, the coolest Southern mutha since James Brown.

If’n ya don’t know the name, ya still know White’s game as he has written some of the coolest soul hits around. Some of them, like Polk Salad Annie (his only big hit as an artist), Rainy Night In Georgia and Groupie Girl, have become rock and roll evergreens, covered by many, many artists and allowing White to earn a living as a songwriter even as his under-the-radar albums stay unknown to the public but worshipped by true music fans who love his foot-stomping boogie beats, masterful guitar work and swampy rock/country songs.

And before ya say something like, ‘sure, he wrote a couple of hit songs, so what’ consider he’s made a career out of using his thick Southern drawl, his womper-stomper (a wooden board he stomps on to create a beat while he plays guitar – yeah, that’s right, a fucking wooden BOARD – how’s that for primal?) and a guitar to create songs many people consider legendary. As a plus, the French love him and treat him like a hero when he tours there!

Believe me, Tony Joe White could take those White Stripes off of Jack White, tie Jack’s ass up with them, shove some Black Keys up Jack’s ass and still have time to sing a cool little ditty about some trolls who love rock and roll, dig? I mean, twenty albums (all of them cooler than shit) and 40 years of singing swamp pop ain’t nothin’ to sneeze at.

But, like all true artists, Tony Joe has had his down times. Pretty much labelless from 1983 to 1999, White survived off of songwriting royalties, selling homemade albums out of his car, and touring Europe. While not a bad life, surely not fitting a songwriter and personality such as him.

Thankfully, at the dawn of the millenium, things started turning around. People gave him deals, good ones, and since 2000 White has released about six albums and had a bunch of others reissued on labels large and small. Just this year he has two releases: one on New West Records featuring an Austin City Limits TV appearance from 1982 and a new studio album featuring duets with male rockers Mark Knopfler, J.J. Cale, and Eric Clapton among others. The new studio set is a companion piece to his last studio record in 2004 on which he duetted with female artists like Shelby Lynne and Lucinda Williams.

As his nickname suggests, Tony Joe White keeps shedding old personas like a snake sheds skin and comes back new and improved every few years or so. Right now, he is on the tear of his career and if you have a chance to see him live I would pay whatever he is asking (and double it!) and see a legend in action. Until you have the good fortune to do that though, please pick up his records. Every one of them is a gem and any blues or rock fan will get a supreme delight out of hearing him do his stuff.

He is a true original. Please check him out, buy yourself a wooden board and maybe write your own best sellers like Tony Joe does.

Who knows about wooden boards?

The Music Nerd knows…..????!!!!????

Thanks, Watson!

I saw the recent blog about Johnny Guitar Watson and wanted to add my two cents about this brilliant guitarist by reviewing a different compilation from a year ago. Regardless of when you discover “Guitar” – it will always be a scintillating funktastic experience.

Johnny Guitar Watson – The Funk Anthology
Shout Factory
Right off the bat I have to say these are the funkiest two CDs I have heard in a long time. CDs so funky I will put up a dare to you: I will wager my unassailable credentials as a hipper-than-hip music journalist, my various lifetime achievement awards for snarky critique-writing, my curmudgeon’s license, and my title as Funk Overlord (yes, Funk Overlord – I won it fair and square from the guys in Black Merda in a card game!) if you can find two CDs funkier then this. Now, James Brown doesn’t count, but anyone else is fair game.

Though Watson originally started his career and gained his first fame as a bluesman, Watson was a master at continually re-inventing himself throughout his career and by the end of his life was known more for being a George Clinton-esque funkmeister than for his blues. He first started in the ’50’s as a piano player and then switched to guitar, which is where he first began getting noticed. In this way he was a lot like Ike Turner, who also first strarted working as a piano player before picking up the guitar. Like Turner, Watson was an inventive bandleader who came up with many innovative arrangements and skillful gimmicks to set himself apart from the pack. While not pursuing the business angles Turner did to get noticed, Watson was able to market himself as a viable solo artist due to his excellent singing voice, which led to many opportunities never open to Turner. Where Turner had to either find his Tina or record instrumentals, Watson was able to take advantage of many styles, though paradoxically, it took Watson many more years to become a household name than it did Turner.

He eventually did get his due, though. Starting with his signing to the Dick James Music Group in the early ’70’s, Watson was set to take his road-tested funk persona to a new level. He had long since went through his early blues phase, a soul phase in the ’60’s, and several other R&B-based experiments which kept him on the verge of breaking through in a big way but had not quite clicked with the public. Luckily for Watson, he was always ahead of the curve in terms of his ability to judge what would be popular next, what the public was looking for. His problem was he had just not been in the right place or situation to capitalize on it. His extraordinary musicianship kept him in the game as well. Capable of playing many instruments, Watson was always an innovator with sound just as much as with vision. One of the first to experiment with synthesizers, Watson was dreaming up funky applications for them years before most of the artists people readily assume as being the leaders of the new technology. For example, Watson was using the talkbox years before Peter Frampton and funkateer Roger made their names with the device.

This 2 CD set covers the best of Watson’s time with the Dick James Music Group and also includes cuts from his last recording, Bow Wow, which was released in 1994. Of course, most of the set leans towards Watson’s work from the mid-70’s to about 1982 – which was the last time he recorded before his comeback Bow Wow so the set pretty much covers his latter and most fertile period right up until his death. There are a healthy four cuts each from the six albums he released – and one can definitely hear the progression as Watson’s funk style became more and more assured and confident with each subsequent release. While Bow Wow is nothing more than a desperate, lackluster attept by Watson to show he could still funk with the best of them, the album does have a few moments on it that a Watson fan (or any stone funk fan for that matter) would like and most of those are included on this CD set.

For those of you who think Sly Stone and George Clinton’s various projects were the only funky things going on in the ’70’s, this set is going to shock the hell out of you. Music just can’t get any funkier than this. Pick this up now!

So that’s it. Get you some Johnny Guitar Watson as soon as you can ’cause you don’t want to live without the funk for very long!

The Music Nerd knows…..about Da Fonk!

Nerdly Natterings

Several people have asked me why I haven’t put any of my review work on this site so I decided to throw a couple at you. Most are reviews of the latest discs of artists I like, and at least one is regarding an artist I’ve raved about in this blog previously. I hope you enjoy….

Sal Valentino – Come Out Tonight
Fat Pete Records

Though musical career resurrections happen all of the time, rarely are they anything more than a desperate last grasp at the brass ring, and, probably more importantly, a last chance to grab some often-much-deserved cash to live on. Only rarely, as in the examples of the recent comebacks of Solomon Burke, Howard Tate, and Kate Bush, is the resultant music actually transcendent and comparable to the past highpoints of their respective careers. To those artists above add another name: Sal Valentino.

Don’t know who that is, you say? Well, though his name could be used for a character on the Sopranos and I am confident Silvio Dante (that’s Mr. Little Steven to you) would welcome him with open arms, Valentino is actually a certified rock and roll legend with an established hit resume. As the lead singer for The Beau Brummels, Valentino racked up a few ’60’s hits like “Laugh, Laugh” and “Just A Little” as well as becoming a pop culture icon, lending his voice to an episode of the Flintstones and starring with the band in a few cheesy movies. More notably, he and the rest of the Brummels created two of the ’60’s most influential records: Triangle and Bradley’s Barn. Though overlooked at the time, these albums were later rightfully acknowledged as influential to the country rock movement which included The Byrds, Gram Parsons, Buffalo Springfield and others. In fact, Triangle and Bradley’s Barn just about out-Byrds the Byrds, giving McGuinn and crew the inspiration and competition needed to spur them to greatness. While lost and forgotten to the public, musicians and music-heads then as well as now have held these two records in the highest esteem.

After the Brummels split, Valentino continued his career for awhile, fronting bands such as the R&B flavored Stoneground and the rockier Valentino, but eventually left the business entirely. Eventually lured out of retirement for some reunion shows and oldies fests, Valentino expressed a desire to record again and up stepped Texas legend-in-his-own-right Freddie Steady Krc to help produce. Multi-talented as can be, Krc not only played guitar and wrote a couple of songs for this effort, but also helped Valentino bring it to the attention of his record label.

Though Krc does play a major role in the creation of this CD, rest assured it is the marvelous vocal talents of Valentino that make it such a resounding success.Talk about an artist not missing a beat! While Valentino’s voice has obviously aged, it has aged extremely well and only a few years of additional wear and tear can be found on his wonderful instrument. It’s almost as if staying away from singing for roughly two decades has given his marvelous voice a chance to rest and avoid the wear and tear it would have received if continually used. Valentino also uses his return to the recording arena to remind us how good of a songwriter he is, contributing three numbers including the tender “Catherine I Do” to the proceedings. His interpretive powers and taste in song choices are also at their peak, as he manages to choose both classic (Jimmy Webb’s The Highwaymen and Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues) and modern (Bill Lloyd and Peter Case’s For The Longest Time) songs and make them his own. I mean, his version of Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues almost makes you forget Cash’s own version, which is no easy task.

I fell in love with this CD as soon as I heard it, as it’s blend of folk and country rock are the same engaging mix Valentino brough to the world when he was with the Brummels. If you are a fan of country rock with the emphasis on rock and want to hear a master who brings all his years of living to his performances, check out this CD and bear witness to the re-birth of a legend. As far as I am concerned, this CD marks the comeback of the year, end of story.

Roman Candle – The Wee Hours Review

For those who have followed the band since its’ formation in Chapel Hill in 1997 or thereabouts, this release on V2 is another version of the album Says Pop, which was independently released by the band in 2002. While there are plenty of similarities between the original album and this one, there are significant differences as well and this CD is well worth investigating whether you have or have not heard the first version.

From the first blast of the album, the song Something Left To Say, you know you are in for a hell of a ride. Sounding a bit like an Oasis song the Gallagher brothers should have written but couldn’t, the song encapsulates the best qualities of the band into a four-and-a-half-minute slice of pop beauty. While power poppy as hell, the band also shows off a rustic side, adding another dimension to their sound. I guess you could call it soulful Southern pop with a slight Brit feel but I just call it captivating.

The band itself has had an interesting pathway to their major label debut. Brothers Skip (guitars, vocals) and Logan Matheny (drums) grew up in Wilkesboro, NC, with a family that was real big into country music and eventually formed a band when they attended the same college. A loose aggregation at first, the lineup began to solidify within a few years but eventually broke up when Skip and his wife Timshel (who plays organ and electric piano with the band) moved to Oregon. A chance meeting with Denver Broncos defensive end Treyor Pryce (credited as executive producer on this CD) led to Pryce offering a contract to Skip to be an artist on Pryce’s new label. The band reunited to take advantage of the deal, recorded Says Pop, and released it in 2002. Major label Hollywood Records heard about the record and showed a lot of interest in the band, but Roman Candle was never signed. Eventaully returning to North Carolina, the band eventually met pop wunderkind Chris Stamey, hired him to produce and rework the songs from Says Pop and signed with V2 for this album.

While the band has always had a very accessible sound, Stamey has heightened the “radio” factor here, not that this is geared specifically to take-over the radio. Stamey has just managed to take what is best about the band, remove any of the dodgy parts and polish them up a little bit. The result is a debut album that sounds really mature – that the songs have been allowed to “age” may have helped as well. There is nothing at all tentative about the CD. This is a CD from a band that knows what they want to sound like and are confident with what they are putting out.

In all, this is a great CD full of great songs with an interesting and refreshing rock/country hybrid distinguishing the band from just about everything out there. If The Band started out today, they could have very well sounded just like this. Pick it up now.

Yayhoos – Put The Hammer Down
Lakeside Lounge Records

Who said alt.country records have to be serious and make big statements? Eric Ambel and the rest of his star-studded Yayhoos are determined to remind bands like Wilco that they don’t have to disappear up their own ass to make a great record. In fact, the Yayhoos are only reminding us what bands like the Faces were trying to teach people years ago –
music should be about fun whether it’s country or rock or whatever the hell genre it is or what you want to call it. Once music sounds like “work” or smacks of effort, I am outta there. Gotta have heart, soul and that’s pretty much it as far as I am concerned. Thank God the Yayhoos have realized this and add a generous dollop of drunken irreverence to the proceedings. Now, if we could only get Tweedy and Farrar to pay attention…..

Anyway, whoever enjoyed the Yayhoos previous effort Fear Not The Obvious will find plenty to like on this CD. The band is intact – Eric Ambel on guitar and vocals, Dan Baird on guitar and vocals, Keith Ferguson on bass and vocals and Terry Anderson on drums and vocals – and that’s a good thing as all of them are very comfortable with each other and the proceedings here are real loose because of it. If anything, this CD is even more of a team effort than their first with all of the band swapping vocals and writing songs, though the best compositions seem to come from the pens of Baird and Anderson. While hardly anyone can compare with Ambel on guitar and Ferguson is a monster on the bass, their turns at songwriting leave a bit to be desired. But, that said, none of the songs here seem to be throwaway, even the wacky covers. Yes, as you’ve come to expect from this crew, the band has thrown in some unexpected song choices to expound upon and “Yayhoo” up. The choices for this CD are the O’Jays’ classic groover Love Train and the B-52’s late ’80’s hit Roam. Each song gets the full Yayhoo, with Love Train coming out the winner as Roam sounds a little tentative, as if all of the band weren’t totally convinced about the song.

Those looking for a big statement about the current political climate will no doubt wind up disappointed but those just looking for a fun album and a good time will find a lot here to love. It gets down to the Yayhoos doing what they do best and chugging bar rock IS what they do best. Why change the formula and get all serious when you could enjoy some seriously great RAWK? Now, take what’s left of your tax money and buy this CD!

Rory Block – The Lady and Mr. Johnson

While another gimmick-based blues album is the last thing the world and the blues genre itself needs right now, it is hard to quibble when someone with Block’s background decides to cover legendary bluesman Robert Johnson’s music. Although tributes to Johnson certainly number in the hundreds by now (and that’s just counting Eric Clapton’s stuff) Block has the distinction of being one of the first artists to showcase Johnson’s music on a regular basis for over 40 years. Yes, way back in 1964 when Block was first starting her career on the folk circuit she had already discovered the deep blues of the charismatic Johnson and had begun falling in love with it. Later on, she was mentored by Robert Lockwood Jr., one of the last blues artists to have worked with Johnson. Thanks to Lockwood’s generosity of time and spirit, Block became adept at Johnson’s style of playing as well as becoming well versed with other practitioners of the delta blues form, such as Son House.

Lockwood’s teachings have served Block well as she has been able to sustain a career through two blues booms and countless fallow periods when hardly anyone cared to know about the blues. And thanks to today’s musical climate, just about everything of historical importance gets reissued sooner or later, meaning as new audiences learn to appreciate the primal sound of Johnson and his compatriots, more acclaim will come Block’s way as she is slowly but surely recognized for her boundless talent by the public at large. Through preserving the bedrock style of Johnson, Lockwood and their peers, she has managed to connect with an audience generally more interested in electric blues and still flourish.

The only negative I see in Block’s music, and not something really related to this album specifically, is that her sound never really changes much from album to album. It is one thing to say an artist has their own sound, which Block certainly does. The other side of the coin is when the sound becomes boring, as in the case of someone like George Thorogood. The blues as a genre suffers from this problem the most. While the great number of purists don’t want the sound of the blues to change, the younger generations seeking new sounds feel the music is passe. I bring this up because although I think Block does a great job here preserving and playing Johnson’s music, I could also see people not liking it because many of her albums (which I own quite a few of) sound pretty much the same. Though I believe she is enough of a talent to define her sound and not let her sound define her, I ultimately think a lot of these blues tributes and concepts detract from the appreciation we should have of the authentic sound itself. These “special” tributes sabotage the next album.

But, I digress. And rant. Too much. The most important thing here is Block’s artistry, which is beyond reproach. She does a great job here acquitting herself on these songs and reminding the world at large why we should contiue listening to them and not lose them to the mists of time. Thanks to artists like Block, we have access to a musical heritage before hacks like Justin Timberlake destroyed music. If you like blues done well, you’ll love this CD.

Katherine Whalen – Dirty Little Secret
MC Records

After a lengthy hiatus, the chanteuse from the Jazz Squad and even better known act, The Squirrel Nut Zippers, once again emerges with an eclectic album which melds classic pop sounds with a current sensibility. But that’s not to say it has a sound like you would hear on your local pop station. Vocally, Whalen stays pretty true to the classic pop sound of the ’40’s and thereabouts, but instrumentally, the songs show off a way more modern influence, almost a lounge-y vibe which is semi-current and in vogue wherever the trendy and Euro-trash hang out. Imagine Billie Holiday or even Peggy Lee singing in this style and you’ll get an idea of what Whalen and her producer David Sale are trying to pull off.

For those who don’t remember, her band The Squirrel Nut Zippers (yeah, they were named after that classic candy from when we were kids) had a sound most music scholars would have regarded as resembling “jass” – a jazz form which was a precursor to the jazz music we now know and was very popular in the 1920’s and 1930’s. In other words, this hot jazz had a swing to it and was close to the music one would have heard during Prohibition. After a few years plying their trade in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the members of the band were able to score a deal with Mammoth Records and had a very big hit in the early days of alternative radio with a song called “Hell”. After selling millions of copies of the album which featured the hit, the band went on to record a follow-up album called Perennial Favorites. Their big follow-up single was called “Suits Are Picking Up The Bill” and, unfortunately, the suits ended up picking up the bill in reality because the fad wore off and the sales dipped way down. Eventually, one last album trickled out, band members started leaving and the Zippers were left with no zip.

With the Zippers broken up, Whalen eventually resurfaced with her Jazz Squad, which plied pretty much the same terrain as the Zippers – meaning older jazz styles. Whalen did vary up her style a little, adding a couple decades to her source material, making a change from hot jazz baby to smoky ’40’s chanteuse to good effect. Despite sales not being gangbusters, the album was an artistic triumph and just a damn good record.

Now, with producer/songwriter/instrumentalist (he plays just about every note on this CD) Sale helping her out, she has created an avant-pop hybrid which showcases her trademark retro vocal style in yet another new format. I guess by 2015 or so she will be up to disco and new wave in her seeming step-by-step assault on musical genres. Either way, this is the most interesting set yet from Whalen and one can only marvel at what this talented artist will attept next. Thankfully, we have this CD to listen to in the meantime.

In one Stec, we can Usher in a new Millenium

Not too long ago, maybe a few months ago, I stumbled upon a record reissue label called Sonic Past(www.sonicpastmusic.com) which is quickly releasing some of the most incredible vintage pop and rock music.

I first noticed the label while perusing the Brian Wilson section of my local record hut. There sat a CD entitled “Smile For Me” which is a symphonic tribute to Brian Wilson which was produced, arranged and conducted by noted producer Gary Usher. While you may or may not know the name, Usher has been involved with many ’60’s pop hits and had done a lot of work with the Beach Boys when they were scoring hits right and left.

Interested in everything Wilson, I immediately picked it up and when I got home, put it in the CD player immediately. What I encountered next was a glorious tribute to Brian Wilson’s genius featuring many of the same musicians Wilson himself had used when creating the Beach Boys’ most glorious recordings. Since it was recorded in 1970 and not released until 2004, the musicians were still at the peak of their powers and the presence of Wilson himself (though not on the recording) and his spirit is very palpable.

This is but one of the great Sonci Past reissues I’ve been grooving to lately. It seems label head Joey Stec (who some may remember as guitarist for the Millenium) has somehow got a hold of a ton (and I mean lots) of classic ’60’s pop and other cool recordings you just won’t find anywhere else.

Besides the Brain Wilson symphonic tribute are tons of unreleased tracks by Millenium members Sandy Salisbury (vocalist for the band), Lee Mallory, Joey Stec and even full albums of unreleased stuff from the Millenium. Familiar musicians like Randy Meisner from the Eagles and Millenium producer/solo artist Curt Boettcher also have several of their early tracks reissued in album form on this label. There is even a CD from Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora before he joined Bon Jovi and Davey Johnstone’s (from the original Elton John Band in the ’70’s) only solo CD.

In other words, Sonic Past has somehow opened a vault somewhere which has enabled them to present some great pop albums, including tracks of which many have never seen the light of day.
The ones I have been grooving to the most have featured the Millenium and its’ members. For those unfamiliar, the Millenium were a soft pop group who unfortunately did not catch on with the legions of rock fans caught up in the noisier sounds of acid-rock. Now, that is a much more simplified description than the band deserves as the band had some of the best production, arranging, orchestration and songwriting elements as any band at that time but you will have to hear them and decide for that for yourself. Sadly, the band disintegrated after their first CD Begin but, thanks to Sonic Past’s reissues, many heretofore unreleased and unknown tracks have been unearthed and released which have greatly embellished the band’s reputation as being one of the greatest.

Soon, I will review these CD’s one by one on this blog and give you the lowdown on some of the leading lights of this ear including Boettcher, Salisbury and Joey Stec. In the meantime, feel free to check out this label and get immersed in these rich, plush orchestrated pop sounds from the past. If you like bands like Sagittarius (who also were helmed by Boettcher) and The Association you will flip over the Millenium and many of the other great releases on this label. Please go to Sonic Past’s site and check them out.

The Music Nerd Knows…..

Brimming with Bremner or Let’s Hop on the Honeybus

While listening to my Honeybus greatest hits collection and battling writer’s block for the umpteenth time my memory sparked on something interesting: the little-known and heretofore ignored connection between Rockpile and the should-have-been legendary Honeybus.

Being the music freaks I know you are I have no doubt you know about Rockpile and it’s members Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds, Billy Bremner and Terry Williams and are fans of both the band and the individual careers of the members. Now, if you need refreshing on all that, just peruse earlier editions of this blog and you will find a few tidbits of info included therein.

The Honeybus, on the other hand, I have never written about before even though I have become a big fan since picking up an obscure comp a few years ago.

The ‘Bus never really got the fame they deserved, having only one hit in England in 1968 called ‘I Can’t Let Maggie Go’ (which was a brilliant albeit radical slice of Brit-pop) and then breaking up soon afterward. Both the group and its’ fans knew the band was ahead of its’ time and the main cogs of the band, vocalist Colin Hare and guitarist Pete Dello, toyed with the idea of starting it up again a few years after the band split. Their solo careers not really taking off probably played a huge part. Dello actually had left music to become a music teacher not long after their hit petered out. Groups had quick life spans in those days. One hit and out? Jeezus.

After securing money from an interested party the two creative iconoclasts decided to create two solo albums instead of a Honeybus group album. Both Hare and Dello played on each other’s albums with various members of the defunct Honeybus helping out including a guitarist who had filled in for a missing guitar player on a couple of Honeybus last few gigs: Billy Bremner, who plays on Hare’s album.
While I am going to devote seperate blogs to each of these albums because they are each brilliant in their own way and deserve to be analyzed and appreciated, in brief I would describe Hare’s album as a rootsy Band-like gem with flashes of power pop brilliance (no doubt somewhat inspired by Bremner’s economical but tasty guitar licks) and Dello’s album to be a wacky psychedelic masterpiece with titles like Harry The Earwig and Uptight Basil (to give you an idea of how “out there” it is). Though okay as a vocalist, Dello’s tenuous vocal style adds just a little more weirdness to the proceedings as you are never quite sure if he will be able to hold on to the melody or not.

Both of these albums have recently been reissued on CD by Hanky Panky Records (www.hankypankyrecords.com) with a whack of bonus tracks added to each. While I am partial to Hare’s because of Hare’s excellent vocals and Bremner’s excitingly brilliant guitar playing, Dello’s is quite a treat as well and both are worth picking up if you are into a fanciful look at 60’s psychedelic pop and country. Or, if you are interested in checking out a member of Rockpile long before he started playing for the best roots rock/pub rock band ever.

Your choice. I’ve made mine. Got them both and you should too.

Who’s Harry the Earwig?

The Music Nerd Knows……..

McStakes In McLagan

As a fallible person, I want to correct a mistake in my Mac with No Cheese blog about great ex-Faces keyboardist Ian McLagan.

I have mis-identified the record label that recently reissued his two obscure late ’70’s albums on CD. The correct name of the label is Gott Discs, not Gott Records as I mistakenly listed and you can check out the label’s releases (and maybe order the McLagan CD and a few others) at Gottdiscs.com.

Sorry about the error.

The Music Nerd….doesn’t always know…..

De Brick and De Mortar

I know I may have said this before but I am in love with the record store. Not just one, but the whole concept of having a place to go to and buy records, CDs, whatever format music is being sold on these days. It is the only way I buy music.

Not that I don’t trust the internet, mind you. I don’t worry all day someone is out there at the other end of my computer waiting for me to slip up so they can steal my identity and all the perceived groovy things that go along with it. Actually, if anyone actually thinks my sorry life is better for them than their own, come and get it as far as I am concerned. All that tells me about the person who would do that is how little taste they must have ’cause my life just ain’t roses and pickled herring my dears.

But, I digress.


For example, I am motoring around the town of Charlotte in what I call my car (what you’d call it is another matter) and I pass a relatively new record shop and decide to go in and check out the used section. Since I haven’t been in the shop for about a month I am already salivating at the thought of what cool used CDs have come in since the last time I was in there. As soon as I enter, the owner (who knows me from when he managed another record shop in town) immediately greets me by name and informs me he had just recently made a big jazz buy from someone selling their entire collection. Since he knows I love organ jazz (Jimmy Smith, McGriff, McDuff, etc) he had scoured the buy and had put a bunch of stuff away for me, awaiting the next time I would enter his store.

He immediately runs behind his counter and produces a giant stack of organ jazz CDs! The best thing about it is there were only a few out of the thirty or so CDs he had saved that I already owned and most of the CDs were rare and extremely hard to find. Seems the person selling them was a keyboardist.

Now, maybe I could have found all of this very cool stuff on the internet. In fact, I am sure I could have. I could have searched for title after title, one at a time, and made a very mechanical and worklike thing out of it all.

But it wouldn’t have been near the amount of fun and it’s hard to get service as good as that no matter who you’re dealing with. The owner knows me, knows what I like and he often saves or recommends things to me when I walk in the store. The best part about that is I know he is not trying to trick me because he knows I know about music and he knows I will call him on it if he does something messed up like that.
Why am I writing about all of this? Well, in the past year or so quite a few used shops have closed in Charlotte and many, many have closed all around the US and it’s a damn shame. Though the internet gives us the comfort of shopping from home it seems we have forgotten the visceral experince of going to a shop and picking up CDs because the covers look cool, or because we recognize a producer or player. It seems (after talking with a bunch of like-minded friends) that we are, for the most part, going after what is safe and refusing to discover great new music whether it be vintage or totally new.

Sure, we can search names on the internet but what about the names we don’t know. How do we learn about those? Magazines, radio, sure. But I have always thrived on recommendations and I usually only get those from the workers or another customer or two at my favorite record shops.

Let’s try to patronize these things once in a while so they stick around. I don’t want to mechanically search for stuff. I want to stumble upon stuff I have never known or maybe forgotten about only to see it finally there in front of me, turned in for money because some idiot didn’t like it. I have found so much cool stuff this way. My God. I won’t let you internet shoppers take them away from me. Don’t make me kill you……

The Music Nerd knows……where YOU ARE…

Buy from your local used store.

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 gottrecords.com) 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 ianmclagan.com

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………..