Tag Archives: Black Crowes

Blast From The Past: The Faces

Although I much prefer to promote the original albums and the full box set, as well as just about all of the non-Rod solo efforts (McLagan’s work, in particular, is stellar and underpublicized), when this best-of came out it was a step in the right direction. (Not a First Step, mind you.). Later, the box set I pined for finally came out under the title Five Guys Walk Into a Bar…

So as I’m ramping up to full warp party speed for Thursday, I need to blast some music. And if you think rock, party and alcohol, you think of one band – The Faces. Now allow me to send you back in time – twelve years for the review in Consumable Online, and four decades for the music itself.

Long before Rod The Mod became a balladeer (and I mean that in a bad way) and Ronnie Wood traded anorexic guitar poses with his evil twin Keith Richards, they were two-fifths of The Faces, a group that was either the best band in the world or the drunkest band…or maybe both (it depends upon whether The Kinks were playing that night). First formed as a group of jilted musical lovers, three Steve Marriott-less Small Faces absorbed two Jeff Beck Group castoffs and caroused their way to rock and roll history.

I tell you this because I was there. If you had to rely on the printed word, or the record racks, or (gulp!) the airwaves, you’d never know. Rhino Records bellied-up to the bar on your behalf with a single disc “best of” collection, and they’ve even thrown in a previously unreleased song to sweeten the pot. Dave Marsh, God bless him, scribed the reverential liner notes and throws his hat in the ring on their behalf. But for me, it’s bittersweet — a dynamic, earth-shattering, genuine slice of rock and roll’s foundation gets another breath of life…but it’s a nineteen track CD, not a three or four disc box set.

That said, this collection is a credible addition even if you have some or all of the Faces titles, and if you have not dipped your toe in these beer-soaked waters yet, it’s a good place to start. With any collection, you’re going to get the obvious must-have’s and agonize over the why-couldn’t-they-fit-that-in-too’s, but it’s hard to argue with the selection Good Boys offers. Rightfully grabbing the lion’s share from A Nod Is As Good As A Wink To A Blind Horse, the midsection of this chronologically organized platter gives us the band at their rollicking best. The 1-2-3 punch of “Miss Judy’s Farm,” “You’re So Rude” and “Too Bad” is as balls to the wall powerful now as then, as is the classic “Stay With Me”, the definitive Wood/Stewart romp.

The three cuts from the embryonic First Step are solid (and one is an alternate version), and only “Memphis” from Long Player or “My Fault” from Ooh La La are missed in these circumstances. Including the final two singles “Pool Hall Richard” and “You Can Make Me Dance, Sing Or Anything,” is a no-brainer, and the sweet and pretty “Open To Ideas” is a perfect coda to this too-short journey.

Who knows if the rumors of Rod hoarding his “better material” were really true, but it’s interesting to think how much longer The Faces would have stuck it out if they got more credit and had more hits. (One thing for certain — if Rod tried to stick “D’ya Think I’m Sexy” on a Faces album he’d have gotten his ass…er, arse…kicked!) Even though they were staples of the Faces repertoire, many recognizable songs like “I Know I’m Losing You” and “True Blue” could not be included here because they were from Rod’s “solo” career. But what about the outtakes, the live cuts, the BBC sessions?

Ahh….there I go again talking about box sets instead of thanking Rhino for letting all the Replacements and Black Crowes fans see where the roots of their trees lie. And I’ll admit it: when I think of all the old bands getting together for the bucks after years away from the limelight (do we really need more Journey and Styx songs?), a small but hopeful flame burns in my heart that one day these lads will rise again as well.

Unfortunately, Ronnie Lane’s recent tragic death from MS rules out reuniting the original lineup; the closest thing we’ve gotten to that was Stewart’s Unplugged performance. But if the other four were ever up for it, hell – I’ll scour every corner bar looking for Tetsu Yamauchi. And if I can’t find him, I’ll get a rooster haircut, some velvet pants and a glass of bourbon and play the damn bass myself.

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20 Years Of Tall Tales

No, not mine. Hell, I’ve been telling tall tales a lot longer than that.

20 Years of Tall Tales is the title of the web series The Black Crowes will roll out starting Tuesday August 3rd, which also happens to be the street date for their double album Croweology. I’m stoked to hear this collection of all-acoustic material; new arrangements of some of their best-loved classics as well as some choice deep cuts.

The Crowes have been around long enough to generate their own legacy of misdeeds, misunderstandings and folklore, and when you factor in a pair of (sometimes) battling brothers and a fiery independent spirit, the epic legacy is a bit daunting. So as a treat to fans and a middle finger to the naysayers, a series of webisodes were filmed at Chris Robinson’s home and will be released one per day at their website.

The press release says it all:

It’s all here: the highs, the lows, controversies, arrests, feuds and more.  20 Years of Tall Tales was directed and produced by John Vanover and filmed earlier this month at Robinson’s Los Angeles home.

• Did The Black Crowes – a band that has never played it musically or commercially safe and at times been crucified for it – really spend $1,000,000 recording an album (Tall) that went unreleased for more than a decade? 
• What really happened in that Denver convenience store that led to Chris’ arrest?  
• Why was the band really fired from the Aerosmith tour before being reinstated? 
• What really went on in the studio the night the band held a bacchanalia for the amorica album? 
• What really drives the relationship between Chris and his brother, guitarist
Rich Robinson?   
• How did the union of The Black Crowes and Oasis on the “Tour of Brotherly Love” actually cancel out the feuds of both bands’ brothers? 
• And what about the band’s recently announced lengthy hiatus that will begin when their upcoming “SAY GOODNIGHT TO THE BAD GUYS 2010” tour ends this year with an epic six-night stand in San Francisco at The Fillmore December 12-19?

Fasten your seat belts as The Black CrowesChris Robinson (vocals/guitar), Rich Robinson (guitar), Steve Gorman (drums), Sven Pipien (bass), Luther Dickinson (guitar) and Adam McDougall (keyboards)–share the ride in 20 Years of Tall Tales.

Megaforce Records

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Blast From The Past: Page/Crowes

Black Crowley Magic

Hard to believe that this collaboration between the Led Zeppelin guitarist and the Black Crowes was almost a decade ago, isn’t it? Maybe it was the similarity between “Crowes” and “Crowley” that confused the reclusive axeman enough to get him back onto the stage, but who cares? The combination of great rock band and legendary guitarist was magical…having that rich Zeppelin catalogue to draw upon wasn’t too shabby, either. 

Fourteen Zep covers, six blues tracks and two CDs that still snap today. Originally a digital-only release (as referenced in the review below), physical media soon followed for the Luddites among us. The Black Crowes have recently resurfaced with a vengeance and this set could slide right in, especially since their current incarnation features another guitar slinger, Luther Dickinson. Play this one loud! 

Here are my words from 2000 as they ran in PopMatters… 

 

The recording and distribution of live music is undergoing massive changes right along with the rest of the record industry. This 19 track, two-CD release may go down in history as the one that convinced everyone that the revolution was not going to be televised, it was going to be made available in digital format. MusicMaker is signing artists and labels up left and right, and a recent deal with AOL guarantees the kind of visibility that will turn conventional business, and even the infant digital download industry, on its ear. But you can read all about that on their website and the various news sources that are available to you. I came here to rock. 

The liner notes on my review copy are nonexistent, and I imagine that anything less than the full release will get the same treatment (a typed track listing on the back cover), although buyers should at least get the neat looking cover art. And sure, there are dumb nits to pick—“Shapes Of Things” is listed as “Shapes Of Things To Come”, and all the songs fade out and in (how else could you sequence your own record). But what counts is what is inside the jewel case, and for the most part that’s legendary Jimmy Page sounding genuinely inspired thanks to the prodding of the young turks backing him up. Likewise, The Black Crowes sound like they are having a blast going toe-to-toe with Page rather than treating him like an unapproachable icon. The result is some exciting rock and roll, Zep songs and blues covers that will thrill fans of both artists. 

The Robert Plant comparisons will naturally arise, and while Chris Robinson is more of a Steve Marriott man than a Plant guy, he usually hits the mark. Sure, he holds that note in “Whole Lotta Love” for only eight beats, but Plant can’t do that anymore either. And yes, on “Celebration Day” he does run out of steam at the end and sounds more like Bette Davis. But “Your Time Is Gonna Come” faithfully recreates one of Zep’s best moments, and “The Lemon Song,” “Hey Hey What Can I Do” and “Heartbreaker” are all major league keepers. And even though it’s jarring to hear “Heartbreaker” without “Livin’ Lovin’ Maid” racing in a half-beat afterwards, it’s one of the highlights of the record. The keyboards add a great fullness to the three guitar lineup; songs like “Sloppy Drunk” and “Shake Your Money Maker” just plain rock. 

The minimum purchase is any five songs for five dollars, with additional songs one dollar each. “Oh Well” and “What Is And What Never Should Be” have even popped up as promotional freebies. But considering that the price of this collection is far less than any of your Crowes or Zep bootlegs, the sound quality is immensely superior, you can check out samples beforehand, you can order it piecemeal and (most importantly) the artists are not being screwed out of money in the process, what are you waiting for? Go get Live at the Greek now

Check out some clips at Amazon. 

In My Time of Dying

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Under The Radar: Sulo / Diamond Dogs

Diamond dogs

Up The Rock

Prescription readers know that I am a huge Faces fan, and I rue the day that the team of Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood went their separate ways. Although each has stayed at the forefront of the music scene, I’m hard pressed to find work by either man that can stand alongside the output from their partnership. When The Faces went away, they left a hole in my rock’n’roll heart.

Many bands like the Quireboys and early Black Crowes did their best to fill the void, but each had their own path to pursue. But ten years ago, I accidentally stumbled across the Diamond Dogs, a killer rock band from Sweden, and that’s been the closest I’ve seen anyone come to capturing the music and the spirit of my barroom boys. Of course albums were hard to come by – even some I was able to grab have gone out of print – but thankfully some of the material is out there for grabs.

Here’s a review of That’s The Juice I’m On from 2003, back in their Feedback Boogie label days:

Diamond Dogs juice

The Faces will never reunite – hell, the box set has been dragging its ass for four years plus – but if you still miss the rhythm and booze swagger of Rod and Ronnie I have the band for you. Sweden, of all places, has spent the last few years exporting great bands that land here well under the radar. Diamond Dogs is the cream of the crop, slipping into the shoes of the masters and continuing to champion soulful, energetic, pint-in-the-air rock and roll.

Juice is the sixth, seventh or eight album depending whom you ask, and figuring out whether the current band has five, seven or nine members is also an exercise in futility. But just listen as “Passing Through My Heart” perfectly blends the best parts of “You Wear It Well” and “Ooh La La”. Smile when “Throw It All Away” and “Get The Monkey Off” make you run to the shelf to grab A Nod Is As Good As A Wink To A Blind Horse.

Chris Robinson gave it a good shot with the Black Crowes, but this is the real deal, from Sulo’s whiskey voice down to Henrik Widen’s fat organ and rollicking piano homage to the great Ian McLagan. Juice is a collection of alternate versions and unreleased tracks from the past couple of years but stands up as an album, even featuring the requisite killer cover song (a smoldering version of “Pills”) the band is noted for. If you hear one record by the Dogs you’ll want them all, so you might as well start here.

They’ve made more great records since then, and while some of the musicians continued to perform with their other bands (Hellacopters, Dogs D’Amour, etc.) lead singer Sulo cut two excellent solo albums. Reminiscent of the glory days when Rod and The Faces each made a record a year, but without the drama or imbalance. Last year the Diamond Dogs played some tour dates with Jason and the Scorchers, Dan Baird and The Quireboys and released yet another album, and supposedly there’s a live one in the pipeline. 

And Sulo has been a busy guy as well. Besides the Diamond Dogs, the Bitter Twins and other one-off projects, he’s released two more albums! I’m in the process of getting copies and will have links to full reviews soon, but in the meantime, check out the links below and enjoy some of the best music not being played on the radio in America.

Sulo’s Hear Me Out on Amazon.

Sulo’s collaboration with Ernst Brunner.

Diamond Dogs on Smilodon Records

Diamond Dogs on MySpace

Sulo on MySpace

Bitter Twins on MySpace.

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New Album! Black Crowes

 black crowes warpaint

I’ll put my cards on the table and tell you that I did not slip this DVD in the player with an open mind. Since I thought Warpaint was the best album of 2008, I had high expectations for this show where the band played the album – in sequence – live. Show me, boyos.

But the Black Crowes did not falter, they delivered, and the performance left me pondering where Luther Dickinson belongs on the list of great guitar players. He is amazing.

The 2008/2009 configuration of the band might be the best ever. Chris Robinson is in great voice, and brother Rich doesn’t have to shoulder the pyrotechnics on guitar. The rhythm section is top notch, Sven Pipien and Scott Gorman are formidable and keyboard player Adam MacDougall is a secret weapon. A Black Crowes show is as much about atmosphere as it is about performance, and as they have shown us before, seeing is believing.

This is a rejuvenated band catching a second wind and maximizing the opportunity. I cannot wait to hear the new album that’s dropping today. But until it arrives? Yeah, this puppy will hold me over bigtime. Warpaint Live is a blast.

Read all about it in my review in Blurt.

Read my thoughts about the studio album Warpaint here.

black crowes peace

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Under The Radar: Lions In The Street

Old souls in young musicians

Old souls in young musicians

I’ve been sitting on this one for a short time and was going to hold off on writing about them until their debut album came out (in the can and hopefully out very soon). But I listened to these songs again this weekend and I can’t keep this secret any longer. (Credit where credit is due…kudos to my fellow scribe Michael Toland and his blurb in The Big Takeover for turning me on to this one – thanks buddy, I owe you!)

You need to get on this bandwagon and do it right now.

These guys breathe the masters, old and new. Their southern gospel/blues and swamp rock fever features slide guitar, swirling organ and the heartbeat of a steam train. There are many young bands reaching back to the past for inspiration, like Rose Hill Drive and Wolfmother with Led Zeppelin and Cream, and The Darkness with Queen. But this band ranks among the best, and I’m as excited about them as I was when I stumbled upon Shuggie ten years ago (and yes, grab that before it disappears forever!). The Pacific Northwest strikes again; Shuggie was from Seattle, Lions In The Street are from Vancouver. But their sound defies locale and time.

It took me about four beats of “Shangri-La” to conjure up an image of Steve Marriott fronting The Black Crowes, and when the song changed tempo, Derek and the Dominoes. These are not compliments given lightly, folks – I revere those bands. “Ruthless Baby” is pure sweet soul; and just how do Canadians nail that sound of the American South filtered through a British Band’s ears? “Already Gone” recalls The Faces in their Nod era, as does “Mine Ain’t Yours”, which blatantly swipes the riff from “Stay With Me”. And “You’re Gonna Lose” is that irresistible greasy guitar blues that the Stones spat out with abandon when blessed with Mick Taylor as their lead player.

“Feels Like A Long Time” has a pretty standard chord structure (think “Can’t You See” by The Marshall Tucker Band), lifted by a yearning vocal – not unlike Jagger circa Flowers – and a brilliantly emotional guitar solo.  Not to mention anytime you have a Hammond adding flavor to the stew, the stew tastes much, much better. The slow burn and build of “Still The Same” has Adam Duritz written all over it.

But listen to the jewel in this collection, “Oh Carolina”, and tell me you’re not channeling the first Rod Stewart albums with Ron Wood and Martin Quittenton trading leads above Mickey Waller‘s pulse. I can play that song ten times in a row and get goosebumps every time – it’s among my favorite tracks of the year.

I cannot wait for this album to drop; if the rest of it is as good as these tracks we’re talking “best of” list for certain. Keep your eyes open, folks.

little lions

Clips of new songs and downloads of the ep Mixtape on the website are available for free (or you can donate if you want to). The details on that free EP – and the band’s perseverance – are here.

If you need Cat Got Your Tongue, try here, but hurry.

More sounds and info on their MySpace site.

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NEW ALBUM! Steepwater Band: Grace And Melody (2009)

Dill waters run steep.

Dill waters run steep.

The Steepwater Band met ex-Black Crowes guitarist Marc Ford while sharing a bill at a festival in Spain in the summer of 2007. They invited Ford to sit in on Neil Young’s “Cortez the Killer,” a song banned in Spain for years. A friendship was forged and Ford expressed interest in collaborating with the band.

Grace and Melody was recorded in just nine days at the organic and inspiring Compound Studios in Long Beach, California. With Ford’s direction, the band dug deeper into the swamp and grit of their past records while exploring new influences that give the new record a fresh sound.

Read my review of Grace and Melody in Blurt Online.

Learn more about the band and their other fine albums at the Steepwater website.

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