Tag Archives: Comeback

T.G.I.F. – Ten Wishes for 2010 Comebacks

 

Happy New Year! Many of us look upon January 1st as a fresh start, a chance to wipe the slate clean and start a new plan. For others, it’s an opportunity and a challenge to make a mark in life, to have a sense of purpose and accomplish a goal. And for pop culture freaks, it’s a chance to wonder what the year ahead has in store, as every year brings us some wonderful surprises, whether a great album or a new TV show. Who will occupy our thoughts in 2010? Certainly there will be some new breakout artists, but as always, some blasts from the past will knock us for a loop as well. 

All too often we take our cultural heroes for granted, expecting them to continually churn out yet another book or album or screenplay at the same pinnacle of quality. If they hibernate or quit, we pine that they walked away too early. Yet if they start to slip, we pounce upon them for overstaying their welcome and selling out. But our culture seems preoccupied with success and redemption, so we seem to be especially cognizant of those who recapture some past glory, especially if the road since then was paved with difficulty. 

I used to be among the camp that wanted to leave well enough alone – don’t tarnish a reputation with a comeback, but walk off on top and disappear into legend. With very few exceptions, no one does that voluntarily; it’s usually an untimely death that cements a legend. James Dean might have made as many horrible film choices as Robert DeNiro had he lived into his sixties. Had Elvis died while in the service, he’d still be larger than life, only not literally. But instead we usually witness a fall from grace – Willie Mays playing center for the Mets, Dick Clark still counting down New Year’s Eve. 

But after seeing Mott The Hoople reform in 2009, after watching Jim McCarty and Johnny Badanjek rocking like they were teenagers again, after having Dana Gould and Steven Wright release hilarious new albums years after I thought they were done with it all, I’ve jumped ship. Life is short – give me all I can handle. Not everyone will succeed, but I can swallow the moments of ineptitude for a calculated risk that there will be moments of pure magic that otherwise never would have happened. 

So with that caveat in mind, here are ten reunions, revivals and/or comebacks I’d like to see this year…a few of which might actually happen! 

Risk and Reward

The Faces – A test run happened late this year where Ian McLagan, Ronnie Wood and Kenney Jones finally gave up on Rod Stewart‘s false promises and played a gig without him. If only they would have done this while Ronnie Lane was still alive, but throw in Glen Matlock on bass and someone like Sulo of The Diamond Dogs on vocals and this could be magic. 

Arrested Development – Maybe line-for-line the funniest television comedy ever, and it’s a crime that something that great couldn’t find a strong audience let alone a network exec with a spine who would have kept it on the air for the sake of art. (Yeah, right) Rumors about a movie continue to swirl – please get it done before it’s too late! 

RockpileBilly Bremner is playing music in Europe, Nick Lowe is still great but sedate, and…well, where the hell is Dave Edmunds, anyway? Technically they only made one album although all those Lowe and Edmunds records were really Rockpile albums in disguise. Seconds of Pleasure turns thirty this year – how about a sequel? 

Eric RobertsMickey Rourke was right – if someone would just give Eric Roberts a chance, I think he’d knock the ball out of the park. After all these years tolerating his sister’s horrible movies, I think Hollywood owes me a film where Roberts has a great role to sink his teeth into. Tarantino, you listening? 

The Kinks – Come on, guys, even The Zombies have managed to get back together. Dave is recovering but back out on the stage, and Ray’s work over the past couple of years has been among his best. There’s an entire generation who hasn’t seen the band live on stage. Please guys…one for the road

Mel Brooks – I know he’s having great success reviving old hits on Broadway, and I know he’s in his eighties. But he’s still one of the quickest, sharpest wits around and perhaps five years after losing the great Anne Bancroft he will dig deep for one more devastating comedy film. 

The J. Geils Band – Peter Wolf still has the chops, and lord knows we need a band that doesn’t take itself so seriously. A kickass band with a guy who knew what being a front man was all about, their party atmosphere the antithesis to indie shoegazing. 

David Simon – The man gave us two of the finest television shows in history – Homicide and The Wire. Both scripted dramas were far more real than any of that reality TV crap that we drown in today. Save us, David. 

Tonio K. – I think I wish this every year. Not sure if he’s flying well under my radar or just involved in other projects (like assembling a blues compilation) but it’s been over a decade since Gadfly Records released his reissues and almost twenty since an album of new material. America needs all the cynics it can get.

Robert KleinGeorge Carlin might have been the one to make the most of the opportunity, but it was Robert Klein who helped put HBO on the map with his comedy specials. Whip-smart and multi-talented, I can’t believe that the events of the past several years haven’t inspired him to create a new hour of material. We need you, sir. 

"You start something this time, we all get a half-life, go figure it out on your own..."

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Blast From The Past: Rod Stewart

Not Forever Young

Not Forever Young

 

When I realized that The Faces finally really broke up, I was devastated. The Kinks and The Faces were (are) my favorite bands, and during Ray Davies’ Preservation rock opera era in the early 1970s, the boozy raucous songs from Rod Stewart, Ronnie Wood and Ronnie Lane clearly took the lead. Even more amazing was that every year, The Faces would release and album and so would Rod Stewart, and in those days the material on both was largely interchangeable. But soon enough, the lure of solo fame and the huge dollars waiting in the American market led Rod in a different direction. Where before he might have been saving his better songs for the solo projects, it was all a moot point now. First Lane quit in disgust after watching the band he started being referred to as Rod’s backup group once too often, then Wood succumbed to the umpteenth invitation to join the Rolling Stones, and it all ended with a whimper, not a bang. It just…dissolved. Ironically, although Stewart had the most critical success, Wood, Lane and Ian McLagan all released solo albums that were probably better records overall; had they been able to continue to pool that talent one can only imagine the heights they might have reached.

Then one night in February 1993, Stewart performed a set recorded for MTV Unplugged and brought along his partner in crime, Ronnie Wood. The show and the subsequent album were a hit (hitting #2 on Billboard and spawning four singles) and seemed to re-energize the perception of Stewart as a serious singer, songwriter and interpreter. Unplugged and Seated drew heavily on his early years (a logical choice when Woody was sharing the stage) and although lesser solo hits like “Hot Legs” and “Tonight’s The Night” were included, the arrangements were stripped down and improved. Stewart had always chosen cover material well, and the performances of Van Morrison‘s “Have I Told You Lately” and Tom Waits‘ “Tom Traubert’s Blues (Waltzing Matilda)” are especially strong here. In the coming years Stewart would write less and less and record sets of rock covers (When We Were The New Boys and Still The Same) as well as a career-changing move with the Great American Songbook series.

I guess technically I could have also listed this under the New Album header, since it is a newly released CD/DVD combination, and the audio version of the show does include two songs (“Gasoline Alley” and “Forever Young”) not included in the original album release. The audio sounds great, of course – a warm but full core band of multiple guitars, mandolins, banjos and keyboards propelled by solid rhythm from drummer David Palmer and bass player Carmine Rojas. Several songs benefit from the addition of three soulful background singers and/or a small orchestra, the presence of whom keep Stewart comically pinned to a three foot radius on stage. There are times when he looks like he’s about to launch out of his chair, while the more pensive songs allowed him to simply sit and get caught up in the moment. The space limitation brought the focus squarely upon his personality and his voice instead of the flamboyance that he had gotten used to as an arena rock act, and it must have felt like the old days in more ways than one.

I’m thrilled to finally have a DVD version of this brilliant performance to enjoy again and again, the warmth and camaraderie between Wood and Stewart is palpable, a genuine bond we haven’t reaped the rewards of for so many years. Besides being excellent songwriting, collaborators, they simply bring the best out in each other; Wood is fine as a Rolling Stone, but he was majestic in The Faces. When he’s onstage, the camera wisely focuses in on the two-shot, and it’s obvious we are watching two friends who have probably run the gamut of emotions with each other but are truly savoring the moment. Wood doesn’t always flash – Jeff Golub frequently plays the lead lines while Woody plays rhythm – but it’s a real treat to watch him energize the room during “Maggie May”, “Mandolin Wind” and especially “Stay With Me”. When they leave the set, arm in arm, headed for the pub (and no, they weren’t kidding) how I would have loved to tag along for when the real fun probably started…

The show itself appears to be the original broadcast performance, complete with fade-outs at what would have been the commercial breaks. This also means that it’s still an edit from the actual show, so in addition to missing “The First Cut Is The Deepest” and “Highgate Shuffle” (included on the CD) we don’t see “It’s All Over Now”, “The Killing of Georgie”, “I Was Only Joking” and “Sweet Little Rock’n’Roller”, which never aired. Rhino‘s package, as usual, is attractive and contains solid liner notes from one of my favorite writers, Bud Scoppa, a man who was there the first time around. Video is decent quality and probably as good as can be expected from a sixteen year old taping, but there are no extras – no commentary, no retrospective interviews, no rehearsal footage. Perhaps none exists, or perhaps this Collector’s Edition will someday be eclipsed by the Expanded Collector’s Director’s Cut. (I kid.)

 

Had Them a Real Good Time

Had Them a Real Good Time

I don’t know how I feel about the long-rumored Faces reunion. Not having Ronnie Lane there to celebrate would be hard to swallow, and if the guys got together and play “Debris” and “Glad and Sorry” and “Ooh La La” without him it would be bittersweet. Ian McLagan has been keeping Ronnie alive from the stage at his every gig by featuring several of his songs, and Kenney Jones has quietly continued to make certain that the legacy of both The Small Faces and The Faces is rescued from legal and managerial madness. No matter what kind of arrangements would have to be made between the four surviving members (read: what Stewart’s manager would insist upon), I can’t see Wood or Jones or Mac participating unless Ronnie’s legacy got its due. But one can’t help wonder how things might have been different had The Faces been able to pull it off in 1993, when Ronnie would have been able to benefit spiritually and financially, let alone a few years earlier, when he might have been able to participate even in limited fashion. Rod Stewart might have surrounded himself with more technically proficient musicians over the years, but the results never exuded that pure soulful joy since he made his Atlantic Crossing. But more on The Faces another time, and at greater length, which they deserve.

Although I would have liked a complete, full-featured release of the show, Unplugged and Seated is a set to be treasured as is, a wonderful reminder of just how good Rod Stewart can be when he puts his heart and soul into it. On that night in February 1993, he definitely did.

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Under The Radar: Mary Weiss

 I was thinking about how much I miss The Compulsive Gamblers, which of course made me realize that The Reigning Sound are way overdue for a new album. It also reminded me of the genius of Greg Cartwright and how much fun I had watching him (with The Reigning Sound) open for and then back up Mary Weiss a couple of years ago at the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland, Ohio. Weiss, of course, scored multiple hits forty (!) years ago as the leader of The Shangri-Las, and while “(Remember) Walking in the Sand” and “Leader of the Pack” were intregal parts of this set (and thoroughly appreciated by the audience, natch!) the new songs were flat-out killer. My favorite, “Stop and Think It Over”, is a classic Compulsive Gamblers tune that many bands cover; The Hives light it up pretty well and Sarah Borges even had a hit of sorts. And speaking of huge Shangri-La fans, this song has David Johansen written all over it – maybe a cover on the upcoming New York Dolls album, please?

But all this daydreaming only made me realize that despite all that magic, most people probably missed the tour and album. So true to the column header, I thought it would be a good time to shine a light on a well-deserved target.

Aren’t segues great?

Still the Leader of the Pack.

Still the Leader of the Pack.

Mary Weiss
Dangerous Game (Norton)

So many bands have been stitched back together for money-making stints at the local casino that it’s hard to remember what the word “comeback” really means. How about changing the sonic landscape in your teens, then aside from some oldies gigs, all but disappearing from the public eye for almost forty years…then launching a vital, contemporary sounding statement? Former Shangri-La Mary Weiss has done just that, thanks in large part to The Reigning Sound as her band and Greg Cartwright as chief songwriter and co-producer (along with Norton’s Billy Miller). Of course, when you can sink your teeth into Cartwright gems like “Don’t Come Back”, “Stitch In Time” and “Stop and Think It Over”, how can you not sound great? Who else could give Weiss the wiser-than-thou single “Cry About The Radio”, which opens with the immortal couplet “Kids / Kids don’t know shit”?

Miller and Cartwright create a wonderful sonic platform for Weiss, aided by some ace songwriting from John Felice, Barry-Greenwich and The Dictator’s Andy Shernoff. The latter’s “You’re Never Gonna See Me Cry” (a co-write with Miller) defies time, bridging the gap between the heyday of Spector and Shadow Morton (complete with short spoken word bridge) and twenty-first century neo-garage pop. Her old fans will certainly be thrilled by “the voice” along with enough angst and doom in the lyrics (though not as melodramatic). New fans will marvel that a sixty year old looks forty and sounds thirty.

If Mary Weiss spiked the ball with Dangerous Game and walked away, this would be great closure; a glorious and worthy cap on her career. But I hope she’s got a couple more in her.

***

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Reunion Fever Strikes Again

Thanks to my buddy Siege for this tip…Looks like one of the hardest working bands in rock’n’roll is getting back together again for at least one night; although depending upon the results, who knows what happens next? If it’s anything like the 1999 reunion (which the article below omits, but trust me, it rocked), it might snap the earbuds out of the wandering masses and show them what they missed out on with all those years of shoegazing.

I saw the J. Geils Band so often in the 70s that I thought there was a law stating they had to be the middle act at any concert held in the War Memorial. They never disappointed, and Peter Wolf (one of the greatest front men, ever) made it his personal mission to get the last person in the last row as involved as the maniacs being crushed into the front of the stage. Mosh pit? How about dance floor? If they’re opening a new venue you know it’s wired, so hopefully there will be a live CD/DVD to slot alongside Full HouseBlow Your Face Out and Showtime.

Long before they were MTV’s (temporary) darlings, they earned their stripes on stage.  Hell, they could even rock you in the morning!

First they looked at the purse...

First they looked at the purse...

(The Boston Globe, January 29, 2009) It’s safe to say that tickets to see the J. Geils Band on stage at the House of Blues Feb. 19 will be hard to come by. The show, which has been rumored for a while but was only nailed down yesterday, should be a suitable spectacle to open Live Nation’s new Lansdowne Street concert venue. Since breaking up in 1985, J. Geils has not made a habit of re-forming. In 2006, Peter Wolf, Seth Justman, Jay Geils, Magic Dick, Danny Klein, and Stephen Jo Bladd jammed at Klein’s 60th birthday party at Scullers, playing a short set that included “Homework,” “Looking for a Love,” and “Give It to Me.” The band, minus Bladd, also killed at an ’05 fund-raiser for the Cam Neely Foundation, playing revved-up versions of “Ain’t Nothin’ but a House Party,” “Must of Got Lost,” “Centerfold,” and “Love Stinks.” But the band’s been silent since, with Wolf concentrating on his solo career. (The singer’s latest CD is done and due out this year.) Promoter Don Law says he wasn’t sure how the enigmatic frontman would respond, but figured it was worth asking. “We made them an offer, sure, but it’s more than money,” said Law, reached yesterday in LA. “These guys love this kind of venue and are tied into the history of the blues. This just makes perfect sense.” The show will be officially announced in a few days, and then tickets – all 2,400 of them – will go on sale. “We’re thrilled Peter took this seriously,” said Law. “We’ve tried before without success.”

***************

Mott The Hoople update:

Due to exceptional public demand, Mott The Hoople has added a third night at London’s Hammersmith Apollo on Thursday, October 1st. Tickets will not go on sale to the general public on the Ticketmaster site until Monday February 2nd.

But you Mott fans are not the “general public”, are you? Hint…get to www.mottthehoople.com ASAP.

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If Pete Rose Had A Weekend Like Me, He’d Quit Gambling

Hopefully you didn’t put your money where my mouth was this weekend, because I lost three of the four NFL playoff games and only the late Heath Ledger’s posthumous win for Best Supporting Actor prevented me from having a clean sweep in the major film categories at the Golden Globes. That would be a sweep in reverse

My one ace in the hole was The Joker

My one ace in the hole was The Joker

What I did know…

  • Either Slumdog Millionaire or Benjamin Button would grab three majors: Best Drama, Best Screenplay and Best Director.
  • An actress would win two major awards
  • 30 Rock and John Adams would sweep their nominations
  • Pre-written “presenter speeches” would still suck the life out of the room

What I didn’t expect…

  • Those Foreign Press people really love their Irishmen (Byrne, Farrell upset victors)
  • They were as apathetic about Mamma Mia as I was
  • Neither Bardem nor Cruz won for Vicki Cristina Barcelona despite being early favorites
  • In a category where long time press darlings Brad Pitt and Sean Penn were available, the HFPA showed Mickey Rourke the love.

My favorite moments of the evening:

  • Springsteen winning the Globe for “The Wrestler” and cracking on Clint Eastwood. I was glad he won because I hoped it would draw more attention to the film; little did I know what lied ahead.
  • Colin Farrell’s heartfelt speech about how art is really love in action
  • Tina Fey and Tracy Morgan rocking the mike with material they scribbled on napkins at the awards table
  • Ricky Gervais. The line about “no gag reel” in Schindler’s List was killer, but the one he wasn’t allowed to say (the ad for the DVD said to “have a box of tissues ready”, and I thought “well that’s sick…”) was even better. Plus the crack to Winslet about how he advised her to “do a Holocaust movie if you want to win an award”, referring to her hilarious guest performance on his show Extras. Gervais is flat out brilliant in both the US and UK interpretation of the word.
  • The genuine warmth and excitement for Mickey Rourke, and his humble but funny acceptance speech. This was the win I wanted more than any other, but even I didn’t think he’s have enough votes. I guess I’ll have to update the comeback story.
  • Dennis Leary telling a post-show interviewer that he’s audtioning to play one of Mickey Rourke’s dogs in an upcoming movie because he can’t seem to win as an actor playing people.

Even though he didn’t win, I can’t say enough about Sean Penn’s powerhouse performance in Milk, a film almost totally overlooked in last night’s nominations. The entire cast is phenomenal; the out reel shows each actor’s photo in character followed by photos of the real people they were playing, and even the physical resemblances are astonishing. I was deeply moved by the film, recalling the horror and astonishment I felt at the time of the actual events, and Gus van Sant deserves major praise for the way he structured the story using flashbacks, actual footage and voice-over; three techniques that can usually sink a film. Also kudos to Josh Brolin, whose Dan White slowly disintegrates before your eyes. Nice roll he’s on with Milk, No Country For Old Men and Wplus he gets to go home to Diane Lane? That’s a long way from being in The Goonies, my friends.

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Predictions? We Don’t Need No Stinking Predictions!

Well, I was 0-2 for football today, even watching my beloved Titans give their game away (with a little help from a 32 second long 30 second clock, but I digress…). So far that’s a pitiful 2-4 for the NFL postseason. Guess my “pick ’em” informercial is going to die like an orchid in a glove compartment. Not that that ever happened to me.

So I guess I’ll try my hand at the Golden Globes. well, I’m really picking what I think that small group of easily wavered, gossip rag reading, red carpet ass kissers will do. Hell, half the categories don’t even have my picks among the nominations. But I’ll deal with that tomorrow. So on with the beret or fez or whatever these sycophants wear, and here goes

Globe nominees and my picks here

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Comebacks!

Everybody loves ’em. Josh Hamilton goes from phenom to crackhead to Home Run Derby winner in front of a packed and screaming Yankee Stadium and a global TV audience . Mickey Rourke goes from great actor to…something, and back to the actor that just might have turned in the performance of his life in The Wrestler. The 2004 Red Sox, down 3 games to none to the Yankees in the AL Championship series, get off the mat and sweep them on their way to their first World Series in 86 years and the start of their recent dynasty. Yeah, Flannery O’Connor was right: whatever rises must converge. (Huh?)

Some Yankees took it very hard.

Some Yankees took it very hard.

They don’t call me Captain Segue for nothing. Let’s talk about some musical comebacks in 2008.

Elvis Costello:  OK, you say he hasn’t really been anywhere. I counter and say he’s been all over the place, dabbling in blues, jazz, country and with whatever and whomever would have him. (You know, like that other Elvis guy who made all those movies?) But more importantly, every time he puts out a record I’m being told that it’s the one early Elvis fans – that’s me! – will see as the return to form. Except they’re not. To be fair, expectations are high for one of the best of his generation, and albums like The Delivery Man and When I Was Cruel have several solid moments. But with Momofuku(look it up, I did) he sounds like he’s really having fun for the first time in years (apparently sleeping with Diana Krall isn’t enough to make him happy). His songs have always boasted lyrics to die for, but these are also approachable enough to tempt new fans to take a plunge.

Rick Springfield:  Noah Drake lives! This Dr. Bristol look-alike (back in the day) has been making records fairly steadily through the years but he hasn’t been chart fodder in the States in a very long time. Most fans assume he stopped in the late 80s with Rock Of Life, but after a ten year break he has put out decent but ultimately underwhelming albums like Karma and The Day After Yesterday. Then he drops Venus in Overdrive on us in 2008, and it’s like a lost album from the prime years. He’ll probably never eclipse the 1-2 punch of Working Class Dog and Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me Yet, but who would have thought he could rekindle the flames and sound so rejuvenated?

 Paul Collins: Like Mr. Costello, many thought his best work was long behind him and the sheer exuberance of his early albums was something he was no longer capable of nor interested in. And while true fans know that The Nerves and The Beat were two of the most important powerpop bands bands in history, neither made the commercial splash that Springfield or Costello did at their peak. After getting sidetracked first by the same-named UK ska band, then watching The Knack take their thunder, Collins and company all but disappeared from the populist radar. He recorded a more adult-sounding album with yet another version of Paul Collins’ Beat, followed by a couple of countryish solo efforts. Revered in Spain and other overseas markets, he wasn’t starving. But somehow he took a deep breath and gave us Ribbon of Gold, an album that is close enough to classic Beat without sounding too retro. There’s half a dozen great tracks here and “Falling In Love With Her” is roll-down-your-windows, quit-you-job pop nirvana.

 Glen Campbell: Talk about being blindsided! A career so far removed frpm present day that the tounge-in-cheek title Meet Glen Campbell will probably sail over many heads. It’s a covers album;  you might say “so what – James Taylor did one this year too!”…but did Sweet Baby James cover The Replacements, and Green Day? When Rod The Mod covered rock tunes from the 90s (When We Were The New Boys) and 70s (Still The Same) it was nice but not unexpected. This ia a career leap. I don’t know if this album will bring Campbell to the attention of a new generation (like Johnny Cash’s “Rick Rubin quartet”), but it’s a solid album that doesn’t have to apologize to anyone for anything. And if it gets young listeners to realize the amazing journey that is Glen Campbell’s career, that’s a bonus.

 Any Trouble: Never a first-tier band, they were too smooth for skinny tie pop and too quirkly for commercial radio. Ther loss, because Clive Gregson’s songwriting chops are first rate. “Girls Are Always Right”, “Trouble With Love”, the brilliant “Open Fire”…the list goes on. Making even Abba covers sound great, the band issued one smart record after another until commercial apathy drove them to split up two decades ago. Gregson next forged a nice career teamed with Christine Collister, and both were eventually drafted into Richard Thompson’s band in a low-key Buckingham/Nicks maneuver. Life In Reverse came out of nowhere in 2007; so obscurely promoted that it took this fan over a year to know about it. Original producer (John Wood), original label (Stiff Records) and original sound add up to a record fans must get and others must at least listen to.

And that’s just five artists off the top of my head; I have others. I’m sure you have yours. I’m equally sure at least one person will try to convince me that Brian Wilson reallycame back this year. Just like last year, and the year before that, and the year before, and…hey, get in line behind the McCartney fan pitching the same story, willya?

(I thought about loading a track clip for each, but come on…go to the artist site or MySpace or Amazon or wherever and take at least a quick spin through the album. Maybe if I get inspired I’ll at least insert the links for you, but I don’t know you well,anonymous reader, and how hard do you want a guy to work on a Friday night?)

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