Category Archives: Music

Review of music: CDs, performance DVDs and/or live concerts

Hall Of Fame for Faces and Small Faces

Well, it’s about fucking time.

The tragedy is that two people who really needed to be there last night missed it. I love both The Small Faces and The Faces and would have given anything to be at their induction, but the stars just didn’t align. As for Rod Stewart, well…hopefully he really had the flu. I’d hate to think his unwillingness to share the spotlight with his former mates had extended beyond reunion tours and all the way to the podium.

Especially because there were two other people who sadly couldn’t be there, because they’ve left this mortal coil. Small Faces founders Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane are no longer with us, but their music and influence lives on, hopefully more so after this induction brings attention to their incredible body of work. I know for a fact that Ian McLagan pays tribute to both every night, at every show, and I am sure he did so again last night from the stage.

Ron Wood and Mac remember the Small Faces

Typical of the lack of respect both bands received in their prime, they had to share an induction rather than be considered individually. That’s a bit daft considering the impact both bands had in their time, and how different they were musically despite sharing three members.

The Small Faces were the mod movement, running off a string of pop and psychedelic singles that set the tone for the late 60s. Steve Marriott’s dynamic voice and presence was ethereal, and he and Lane wrote great songs. They never toured the States – their crook of a manager couldn’t skim if they did – but in England they slot alongside The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks and The Who.

The Small Faces:Tin Soldier

The Faces, on the other hand, were brash and boozy rockers that turned arenas into parties where the audience was not only entertained but often dragged back to the hotels for a nightcap. Each packed about as much wallop into a few short years as anyone ever has, and when you realize that half of the output of The Faces between 1971 and 1975 wound up under Rod Stewart’s name alone, you realize what a gross oversight this has been.

The Faces: “I’m Losing You”

But those that really matter – the fans, the bands they influenced – had both bands in their own personal Hall decades ago.

Of course, going any further would just stir up old feelings and make me mock the Hall for ignoring so many other artists; odds are that Lady Gaga will get in before Deep Purple or Cheap Trick. At least they did the right thing and moved the ceremony back to Cleveland.

So I will take the high road instead and simply revel in their greatness, like I always have and always will. Pint in hand, of course.

Happy boys...happy.

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New Kinks Movie!

AP (LONDON) – After months of terse negotiations, former Oasis members and famous battling brothers Liam and Noel Gallagher have signed on to portray Ray and Dave Davies, respectively, in the upcoming film The Great Lost Kinks Movie. Initially slated for the project, the pair’s long history of bizarre behavior led producers to look elsewhere in the hope of finding other real-life brothers who could convincingly portray the love-hate relationship between the Kinks siblings.

A source close to the project stated that Chris and Rich Robinson of The Black Crowes had the right attitude but the wrong look, while two of The Isley Brothers were deemed “too old” and “not pasty enough”. Michael Caine showed up at the audition offering to play both parts, stunning the casting director with an official OBE document that requires him to “be cast in every film production scheduled during his lifetime”.

Other suggestions (The Righteous Brothers, The Krays) were dismissed because the subjects were either dead or not really brothers (or both), and long-shot hopefuls Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko disappointed producers by refusing to fight one another.

With the state of their old band in doubt, and new projects Beady Eye and High Flying Birds no more than third tier bands, the Gallaghers were wooed back to the project and signed on. “I think we’ll be bloody perfect“, offered Noel, “because like Dave, I have suffered second banana status in my own band thanks to an arse of a front-man“. And while Noel is not certain that brother Liam will capture the panache and depth of tortured genius Ray, “there’s a long line of people who would love to shoot that cunt in the leg“.

Filming starts next week in Muswell Hill.

Why stop at the leg?

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On The Artist…and artists

I squirrelled out of the house last night to see The Artist in a theatre. Unusual move for me; besides the limitations of my schedule, I just find it frustrating to hit the multiplex anymore. Sure, I miss the camaraderie of enjoying a film in a crowd and sharing the experience – horror and comedy benefit greatly, of course – but the tradeoff of rude talkers, thin walls and the cattle-like process that it has become is just not worth it. I have a large screen TV, a great sound system, and frankly I’d rather watch what I want on my schedule knowing that clean bathrooms and superior food and beverage are just a pause button away.

But I digress.

Back in the day Cia and I would make a point to see all of the nominated films prior to the Oscar telecast so that we could make an informed wager on who might take home the gold. As we reminisced about that while enduring twenty-plus minutes of trivia and advertisements on the multiplex screen, we laughed remembering how often the votes went the other way, and more often that not, how performances that moved us failed to even draw a nomination. I could write a long list from this year, of course, but I’ll save that for the recap tomorrow. It’s Oscar time.

Don’t forget to Tweetroast!

I felt that I had to see The Artist; it looked to be an incredible story and paid homage to an era I have much respect for. And Jean Dujardin seems to be as charming in person as his George Valentin character…at least as charming as George was when things were going well. I was totally swept away – the leads were incredible; the supporting characters as over the top as they would have been if they were in the film within a film (a wise choice by the director) and the score was exquisite. Not only did I wind up streaming the soundtrack when I got home, but I looked up some old Gene Krupa footage on You Tube and then dug out the biopic where Sal Mineo gave his masterful performance of the swinging drummer. Now that’s a tangent.

I guess what I felt during the artist was a smorgasboard of emotions – it was funny, romantic, dramatic and moving. When it was over I wished there was another reel; not because it was unfinished, but because I did not want those characters to leave me. And as I spent the better part of this morning spinning some music by old favorites like Ian Hunter, Herman Brood and The Kinks, I realized that I was feeling the same core emotion – the connection – that artists can bring to your soul if you’re open to it.

And tangents be damned, it made me realize that immersing myself in music and film and comedy isn’t a hobby, but it’s part of who I am, and I need to make more time to indulge myself. I saw my friend Ray Paul performing some Beatle covers earlier in the week and when the opening line of Norwegian Wood rolled off his lips, I immediately thought “that’s one of the best lines anyone ever wrote”. Synapses are firing. They might not all be Grade-A, but I need to get into fighting shape again.

So I find myself typing as the red carpet bullshit is droning in my ear. It’s time to throw out some predictions – and yes, I’m really pulling for The Artist – but I’ll circle back tomorrow with my thoughts on the Brit Awards (classy and funny), The Independent Spirit Awards (under-attended and surprisingly tame) and of course the Academy Awards. Let’s see how I do:

Best Picture: The Artist

Best Actor: Jean Dujardin, The Artist

Best Actress: Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady

Best Supporting Actor:  Christopher Plummer, Beginnings

Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer, The Help

Best Director: Michael Hazanivicius, The Artist

Best Screenplay: Margin Call (Chandor)

Best Adapted Screenplay: The Descendants (Payne/Faxon/Rash)

Best Score: The Artist

Best Documentary: Undefeated

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The Ballad Of Mott The Hoople

Times like this it pays to be British – or at least have a region-free DVD player!

The long-awaited DVD release of The Ballad Of Mott The Hoople is finally upon us – October in the UK (followed by a November US release). Much like with the Bill Hicks documentary, I’m not waiting.

Video: Trailer for the film

The feature-length documentary also features Mick Jones of The Clash (who cites Mott as a huge influence) and Roger Taylor of Queen (Queen opened for Mott during their famous Broadway residency). It tells the story of the band from beginning up to the original implosion, plus includes the bittersweet coda of the 2009 Hammersmith Apollo reunion gigs.

Amazon UK has it here.

The official film website.

Official Mott website

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Mixtape! Pop’s Out In The Garage Again!

I guess I must have been playing my Sparks albums a lot at the time, given the pun-laden titles for the cassette sides. Oh the folly of innocent youth



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Blast From The Past: Everclear

A little over two years ago I regurgitated an old review about the first volume of Everclear’s Songs From An American Movie twin pack, Learning How To Smile. After hearing “When It All Goes Wrong Again” the other day, I decided it was time to unearth the other, which originally ran in Amplifier Magazine eleven years ago.

So without further ado

Aw, anyone could have a bad year…” (“Here We Go Again”)

Double albums used to be a fairly commonplace treat in The Age Of Vinyl, but now they’re as scarce as the green-bearded turtle. How many significant double CDs have been out recently? Wilco’s Being There, and uh…. Hell, these days “prolific” means releasing an album every two years. Record companies – when they do promote your record – will drop your last project like the plague if you issue a follow-up.

Art Alexakis cares passionately about a lot of things, but following the rules isn’t one of them. He planned the two-pronged attack last year with the hope that it would garner some attention, though ironically the success of the first record may get truncated by the emergence of the second. But with his songs all over the radio and his videos the toast of television, Art has a problem most artists would kill for. And with twenty-four new Everclear tracks dropped in our laps, we’re not doing so bad either. The two releases, like Wilco’s two discs, could co-exist as one package or survive independently. Not every track is a keeper, but the percentage is damned high.

Video: “Wonderful

Volume One’s clever homage to youth and the loss of innocence is one of the best releases of 2000, with songs recreated (“Brown Eyed Girl”) and borrowed (“AM Radio” is a tree from the seed of “Mr. Big Stuff”) among a bagful of …gulp….pop songs? Even the crunching riffs of “Wonderful” are offset by the “na-na-na-na-na-na” chorus that’s too infectious to resist, and the string-soaked “Annabella’s Song” (Art’s ode to his daughter) sounds like it was lifted from a classic Hollywood movie. The kitsch of “Unemployed Boyfriend” is a matter of taste, but the acoustic waltz of “The Honeymoon Song” is as delightful as it is surprising. Ditto “Thrift Store Chair”, a sleeper Americana cut with a John Prine (!) reference.

The hardest sounding song on the record might be “Now That It’s Over”, which is really a fat pop hook covered with echoes and John Bonham drum sound. But one look at the imaginative video for “AM Radio” will tell you all you need to know about a man whose life was much closer to Chico And The Man than The Brady Bunch. Alexakis’ heroin-addicted past and intolerance of deadbeat dads are well-known plot lines; perhaps now he can finally find solace in the charms of what should have been a normal childhood.

Video: “When It All Goes Wrong Again

Volume Two’s edge is harder, louder and closer to the classic “Santa Monica” era. The blatant “Rock Star” (“I just want to be a rock star/I just want to get laid”) is probably as true as it is self-mocking. Maybe “Short Blond Hair” is even more telling, where Art claims that “no one really understands just how simple and plain and predictable I am”. Not necessarily true, Art – many critics claim that you’ve been beating the same riff to death for years. The truth actually lies more in the middle – “just when I think I have driven my life to where I wanted it to be/it takes me to a place where I do not want to go”. Everclear was arguably the Band of 2000…so where do you go when you’re “first class living in a goldfish bowl”?

When It All Goes Wrong Again” and “Misery Whip” boast a guitar sound straight outta Jimmy Page (so maybe there should have been a song called “FM Radio”?), and “Slide” and “Babytalk” are as raucous as anything the band has ever recorded. But check out the old softie on “The Good Witch Of The North” and the title track (where he gives closure to the opening track on Volume One), and you see the sentiment from Volume One slipping right back in. Yeah, Art might bitch about asshole ex-wives and loser friends and tripping over his mistakes, but all that pose pales against “the sound of my little girl laughing/through the window of a summer night”.

Everclear survived because they once had nothing to lose, and their anthems for the disaffected rang true with a substantial body of listeners. And even now, with his career a success, Art can still draw inspiration for his songs from a life full of imperfections and missed opportunities. But underneath the bluster of being a rock star, there are a pair of young eyes who will always need him on a different level, and Art knows that he will be “sitting on top when it all goes wrong again“.

Listen to clips and buy at Amazon

Everclear website

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TGIF – Ten Returning Rockers

Rock and Roll will never die…

Yep, it’s that time of year – the pools aren’t even closed yet but the stores have Halloween decorations in the aisles and the ballsy ones even have a few Santa items prepped for display. And in the music industry, where old habits die hard, labels jockey to get product in position for Christmas. If they can market it in September, break it in October and take credit for it in November, history shows that you’ll be wrapping it up in pretty paper in December.

So while the theatres were filled with aliens and vampires and dinosaurs all summer, so too will the virtual record shelves in the fall. So this week’s TGIF announces Ten Returning Rockers who have product – their word for music, not mine – ready to roll.

Roll. They got it half right, anyway.

(01) – WilcoThe Whole Love

(02) – BlondiePanic of Girls

(03) – Ryan AdamsAshes & Fire

(04) – Tom WaitsBad As Me

(05) – Sly StoneI’m Back

(06) – The JayhawksMockingbird Time

(07) – Daryl HallLaughing Down Crying

(08) – The BanglesSweetheart of The Sun

(09) – Lindsey BuckinghamSeeds We Sow

(10) – Nick LoweThe Old Magic

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