Monthly Archives: July 2011

Finally, Barney Miller.

Finally, the entire classic series is available.

Barney Miller ranks right up there with Soap, Cheers, Taxi and the other great sitcoms of the 70s and 8os, although up until now it has gotten sold short in the home video market. Thanks to Shout Factory, yet another great blast from the past gets the proper treatment with a box set complete with extras.

I must admit I’m a little PO’d that they didn’t release the other seasons individually, but the reason is that Sony didn’t sell enough of the first three seasons to warrant releasing the remainder. But at the price – certain to dip a bit over time – I can buy the whole shebang cheaper than if I picked up the remainder of the shows year by year. Eight seasons and one hundred sixty-eight episodes plus commentaries, booklets and even the first series of Vigoda’s spin-off, Fish. That’s a great deal, even at list price.

Video: some early highlights

I won’t go overboard trying to sell you on the show; like most long-running programs there is enough video and commentary to let you make up your own mind. But it does give me a chance to tip my cap to a great ensemble who provided me with years of laughter over eight seasons: Hal Linden, Barbara Barrie, Abe Vigoda, Jack Soo, Ron Glass, Max Gail, Greg Sierra, James Gregory, Ron Carey, and my favorite, the late great Steve Landesberg. The parade of oddball guest stars in the precinct house also featured a bevy of now-recognizable actors.

So I guess my Dad (who loved the show) will be the beneficiary of my three seasonal box sets. Come October, I’m all in on Barney Miller.

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The 27 Club Gets Another One

Amy Winehouse, dead at 27.

Not exactly a surprise, considering her lifestyle. Even the Vegas books took her off the board in “Dead Pools” more than once. But it’s yet another tragic end to what could have been a dynamic career, and unlike most of her 27 Club predecessors, the culture of the times says she should have known better.

But she didn’t want to go to rehab.

(Hey, I wouldn’t want to room with Lindsay Lohan, either.)

From my perspective, as talented as she was, her legacy is too slim to rate alongside club peers like Joplin, Morrison, Hendrix and Jones. But she had friends, and she had family, and she had a boatload of fans. And for them it’s as difficult a day as it was for a young Stones fan when that body was found floating in Winnie The Pooh’s pool.

Who’ll be the next in line?

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T.G.I.F. – Ten For Matthew Sweet

To follow up on the announcement about Matthew Sweet’s new album Modern Art, I thought today’s TGIF would be a great time to give the under-appreciated popster a tip of the cap. It can’t be easy putting your heart and soul into being a pop craftsman and finding that despite some massive airplay early in your career, there aren’t any groundswell radio formats to celebrate the joyous jangle of a big hook and chorus. I’d like to think that had Matthew been around in the early 70s, he’d have had his singles on the charts alongside The Raspberries. But that didn’t work for Big Star, now did it?

But I’m glad he hasn’t given up the ghost, because we need all the Matthew Sweets we can get, larger than life. So this week’s TGIF is Ten For Matthew Sweet…and by the way, if you’ve never heard “Thunderstorm” from In Reverse, you are in for a real treat…

(01) – “We’re The Same

(02) – “Thunderstorm”

(03) – “You Don’t Love Me”

(04) – “Someone To Pull The Trigger”

(05) – “I’ve Been Waiting”

(06) – “Come To California”

(07) – “Girlfriend”

(08) – “Divine Intervention”

(09) – “Sick Of Myself”

(10) – “Evangeline”

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Civil War Buff

Today marks 150 years since the start of the Civil War.

Pop maestro Richard X Heyman is a real-life Civil War buff; on his early album Hey Man! he recorded a killer pop tune about his fascination. Now in 2011, he’s recut an acoustic version to commemorate the sesquicentennial. A brilliant video interspersing historical images and Heyman’s performance is now online (the video is credited to Nick DiFabbio).

Video: “Civil War Buff

I was never a good history student myself, too many dates to memorize when my head was filled with lyrics. I could never understand the fanaticism, even when my nephew immersed himself in it and eventually became a reinactor. But now as an adult, I get it. It’s a fascinating period of history with so many “what if” moments, and even one hundred fifty years later, there’s still a palpable north/south thing in certain areas.

Heyman has never gotten the credit he deserves, and the fact that you can pick up the aforementioned album for a penny on Amazon is a crime (as is the presence of only one review). But dammit, if you don’t know the man and won’t invest a single penny (okay, three dollars with shipping charges) to dip your toe in the pool of Heyman, you should be shot. And with a musket, just to make it appropriate. This is a solid dozen pop chestnuts featuring the multi-instrumentalist at the top of his game.

Where he still resides, by the way. Heyman’s latest album is a double called Tiers/And Other Stories (his album titles are usually puns) and his other band The Doughboys are already working on their third studio album while their upcoming live CD/DVD Rock’n’Raw is on its way to the stores.

So enjoy this song (available on iTunes soon) and all of his work. And as for the war, choose your side carefully – those embers still glow.

Richard X. Heyman website.

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New Album! Matthew Sweet

The new album from Matthew Sweet is streaming at Soundcloud!

I must admit I’m not immediately blown away by Modern Art, although I can hear equal parts of his early pop and latter-day garage covers. Some songs are just not connecting at all. But tracks like “Sleeping” and “When Love Lets Go I’m Falling” hit the spot with me. Sweet has been hit or miss the last couple of releases, but he’s had a hell of a career run, and I would never count him out.

I can’t believe it’s been twenty years since Girlfriend, an album I can pull out at any time; I smell a Blast From The Past column on that one sometime soon. But that was then and this is now, and I will give this album an honest chance.

So check it out for yourself, end to end, for free.

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Under The Radar: The Decadent Royals

There’s a reason that cover looks familiar.

The Decadent Royals sound like a mash-up of  The Rolling Stones (cusp of the 70s) and The Black Crowes, two bands who knew how to weave country blues into rock to create an infectious blend. Add in dashes of The Jayhawks, Bob Dylan, and any number of southern rock bands from The Allman Brothers on down, and you have an intriguing album that is well worth checking out. (Icing on the cake for the skeptical…the label is Maggie Mae.)

I love the Crowes and Stones because they are unafraid to slather their songs with gospel vocals, slide guitars, pedal steel, horns and wah-wah solos as needed. So are these guys. Swing On, Sinners rocks hard throughout, but the closing track “Wave Goodbye” proves they can be equally impressive turning it down.

How under the radar were these guys in my world? They’re from Albany, a three-hour car ride away, but I only came across them three months ago for the first time. The frightening part is this album is six years old; the predecessor is almost fifteen. It appears the band is likely finished; singer and songwriter OP Callaghan has another project called My Angel Crush (who sound like a logical extension of these guys).

I don’t pretend that this album is as good as Beggars Banquet or even Amorica. But damned if this isn’t a band that’s turning its back on the easy paycheck in favor of creating some dynamic sounds. Lord knows the Stones haven’t done that in years, and the Crowes need as much help as they can get from bands who know how to put the rock back into rock’n’roll.

Hope I can find more music from them, but at least I have this. Now so can you.

The Decadent Royals on MySpace

Buy Swing On, Sinners at Amazon or CD Baby

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Yep Roc Sale!

Yep Roc is one of my favorite labels – an eclectic bland of Americana, folk and pop artists who get promoted with care. It’s not your typical stable, and those who toil behind the scenes must love working there.

So when Yep Roc throws down a sale like this one, I pay attention. Now through August 1st, you can get over 80 CD’s for just $5 each and more than 20 LP’s for only $10 while supplies last.

Artists include Nick Lowe, Marah, John Doe, The Sadies, Todd Snider, The Baseball Project, Ian Hunter, Loudon Wainwright III, Paul Weller, Robbie Fulks, The Apples In Stereo, The Fleshtones…come on, do I really have to list everyone?

Click here and load up!

Yes, they come with covers...

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