Tag Archives: Elvis Presley

Life’ll Kill Ya

It was on another long car trip this week that I slipped some Warren Zevon into the player, this time Genius, the collection issued in 2002. I knew every song, of course, and sang along loudly as I navigated the car through The Berkshires at night, my warble interrupted only by the occasional smack of a huge bug against the windshield and fenders. (I don’t know what flies around there at night, but I’m sure glad I wasn’t driving a convertible.)

Of course, no single disc could contain Zevon’s genius, and is the case with most veteran artists, seeing a show or listening to a collection always leaves you wanting more. So when I got home, I made a beeline for this one.

I really, really miss Warren Zevon. I can only imagine what he’d be writing about these days.

From Consumable Online, February 2000…

Some see the glass as half-empty, while others see the glass as half-full. Warren Zevon sees the glass as broken – some of the contents spilled all over his pants, and the rest rolling around on the floor.

With superb backing from longtime ace Jorge Calderon and drummer Winston Watson, Zevon continues to avoid the “big sound” for a more stripped down folk’n’roll approach. Naturally, focus then shifts to voice and words, where Zevon is king. “I can saw a woman in two/ but you won’t want to look in the box when I do,” he says in the Springsteen-ish “For My Next Trick I’ll Need A Volunteer,” which features Chuck Prophet on guitar. Taking the theme of “life sucks, then you die” to a new level, he explores the frailty of human existence and the quest for some sort of spiritual affirmation…which of course he’s skeptical about. And, just for good measure, some songs about S&M and the self-inflicted demise of Elvis Presley.

Having suffered the slings and arrows of a professional musician, Zevon’s weather-beaten attitude could be self-righteous or pastoral. Instead, underneath the surface of the crusty observer, you know he’s got it figured out; life’s too short to let the posturing and bullshit cramp our style.

You know I hate it when you put your hand inside my head/ and switch all my priorities around,” he says in “I’ll Slow You Down,” a tale as applicable to religious uncertainty as it is to relationship angst. Maybe we can settle for a simple “don’t let us get sick/don’t let us get old/don’t let us get stupid, alright?” Even the record’s lone cover, Steve Winwood’s “Back In The High Life Again” at first seems an odd choice, but in the context of these takes on the inevitable, it’s an ironic inclusion.

You can dream the American Dream,” Zevon says, “but you sleep with the lights on/and wake up with a scream.” Acerbic and clever as ever, Warren Zevon remains a unique treasure among American songwriters.

Listen to clips and purchase here.

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And Maybe Rock’n’Roll Began When…

Jackie Brenston recorded “Rocket 88“?

Sixty years  ago todayaccording to Al Gore’s Internet – the first rock’n’roll single was recorded. Cars? Yep. Girls? Yep. Booze? Yep. Hmmm…maybe so.

I dunno, I can’t help but point back at people like Chuck Berry and Little Richard as the true architects, but there are some who will point at this song as the genesis of rock’n’roll. Sam Phillips was able to tout it to such an extent that it financed the beginning of Sun Records, and we know where that went.

Of course, sixty years turns a lot of fable into truth, but I’m more concerned about the survival of the art form that it’s zygote moment. Brenston was dead by age forty-nine, and for a guy serving a tenure with Ike Turner, that’s probably a long life. Maybe he was the guy. Maybe not.

But considering the historic occasion, why not give a listen?

And if you want to start an argument in a bar, research this page first!

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Top Ten Albums of 2010 – #3

You’ve heard the phrase actions speak louder than words? Well, before I say any more I implore you to watch this video clip and tell me it isn’t the most ass-shaking, head-knocking rock and roll track of 2010…

Video: “High Horse

The Jim Jones Revue can lay claim to being the fiercest rock’n’roll band on tha planet right now, and while that might not prove absolute, I guarantee you  they’d be in the final rounds. Slam some Little Richard, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis down your throat and follow it with a chaser of Ziggy-era David Bowie and The Stooges and you’re only scratching the surface.

Video: “Shoot First

The band exploded (probably literally) on the English scene in 2008 and issued a hastily recorded self-titled album; last year a compilation of singles and b-sides called Here To Save Your Soul followed. Jones (formerly of Thee Hypnotics) fronts a powerhouse band featuring guitarist Rupert Orton, bassist Gavin Jay,  drummer Nick Jones and keyboard player Elliot Mortimer. Everyone is great – obviously – but it’s piano man Mortimer whose raucous boogie-woogie attack gives the band its hybrid punk/rockabilly energy. It’s scary how good this band has gotten in less than two years; I cannot wait to see them live.

Video: Live at the Dirty Water Club

Burning Your House Down is not only one of 2010’s most aptly named albums, it’s one of the loudest records you will ever own.

And it is absolutely one of the best.

Melt your ears at Amazon

Jim Jones website

Jim Jones Revue on MySpace

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Paying Tribute! The Kinks

Another in a series of Kinks tribute albums, Unkovered features a mostly lesser-known roster of artists who produce mixed results. About half the songs are from the classic late 60s period, but I was glad to see the usual targets like “You Really Got Me” skipped over and tracks like “Dandy” and “Who’ll Be The Next In Line” get covered.

Some of the artists offer little more than straight cover versions. Ghosts of Electricity handles “Sunny Afternoon” about as well as you’d expect a bar band to play it, and James O’Malley’s odd pauses in “Celluloid Heroes” gives it an odd Harry Chapin flavor but neither track sticks in your head.  On the other hand, while Maura Kennedy’s cover of “Autumn Almanac” doesn’t vary much from the original arrangement, her lilting voice perfectly suits the song, and she inhabits it with spirit and heart.

A couple of my favorite tracks have been given a country flavor, and why not? Muswell Hillbillies, Percy and Village Green Preservation Society did nothing if not celebrate family, hearth and home from the English perspective. The Corduroy Sky’s take on “Holloway Jail” morphs from simple acoustic riffs to a lightweight version of Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Caroline Doctorow’s beautiful “Oklahoma USA” (with Maura and Pete Kennedy backing up) is the standout cut on the album along with The Blaggards’ “Last of the Steam Powered Trains”.

Other artists took chances; Smile Pretty Misery treats “Set Me Free” like a dark confessional, while The Lone Sharks threw “Willesden Green” through an Elvis Presley filter. Johnny Cuomo’s ragged voice makes Rod Stewart sound silky, but at least he infuses some emotion into “Dead End Street”, much like Patrick Costello’s wailing guitars save “Give The People What They Want”. There are disappointments – I found Tara Eberle’s “Do It Again” and Claudia Jacobs’ “Loony Balloon” pretty tepid – but for a regional label (Long Island, NY) it’s a pretty decent tribute disc.

Die-hard Kinks fans collect everything related to their heroes; hopefully they will find a few favorites on Unkovered to listen to alongside This is Where I Belong, Shangri-La, Give The People What We Want and the other loving tips of the cap.

Listen to clips from Unkovered at Amazon.

Unkovered is released on Paradiddle Records.

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Happy Halloween!

Unlike Frank Zappa’s famous record label, this is not a Barking Pumpkin.

Nor is this Elvis pumpkin called “Nearer My Gourd To Thee“.

Happy Halloween!

Stay scary, San Diego.

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New Album! Rory Gallagher

After Elvis Presley died, there was such a flood of posthumous album releases and collections that even loyal devotees who cried at Graceland that weekend began to wonder if he wasn’t cranking them out from a studio behind that Dunkin Donuts in Minneapolis. The Who aren’t literally dead (although their career might be), but their catalog over the past couple of decades has consisted mostly of repackaging similar groups of hits, a trick The Rolling Stones only exceeded by actually recording them live.

Maybe it takes the artist’s family to intervene and bring sanity. Although the Jimi Hendrix releases aren’t culling a bottomless well of new material, at least love and care are shaping some definitive packages for posterity. And while Gail Zappa might have a wee bit too much stranglehold control on her husband’s name and likeness, every year there’s an intriguing new Frank Zappa release that meets the highest standards; an album that Frank himself would be proud to stand behind.

Donal Gallagher has taken a similar approach when it comes to the legacy of his brother. Rory Gallagher was one of the best guitarists ever to walk this planet (I’ll save you the fawning here as I’ve done it enough over the years). Those who knew him were mesmerized by his performances, but despite a history of heavy touring he still slid under the radar of too many listeners. Recent DVD releases have made great strides to right that wrong, especially Live At Cork and the unbelievably rich Rockpalast Collection (a three DVD set featuring hours of amazing footage). Sure, there have been a couple of “best of” titles over the last twenty years, but gems like the acoustic Wheels Upon Wheels album have been the focus.

The latest releases feature Rory’s live work for Radio Bremen that were broadcast on the German music show Beat Club. Featuring what I feel was his strongest band – the trio with Gerry McAvoy on bass and Wilger Campbell on drums – The Beat Club Sessions is another sizzling testimony to his genius. The CD features many of his best tracks (“Laundromat”, “In Your Town”, “Messin’ With The Kid”) and demonstrates why people are still buzzing about his talent fifteen years after his death. Gallagher was able to play ferociously or delicately with equal skill; a premiere blues soloist and slide guitar player, he also made the mandolin a weapon of choice.

Video: “Goin’ To My Hometown

The twelve cuts (culled from sixteen on the Ghost Blues DVD) feature stomping rockers (“Sinnerboy”), blues workouts (“I Could Have Had Religion“) and acoustic treats (“Just The Smile“). As a  contemporary of Cream and asked to replace Clapton in that lineup after his departure – one wonders why his songs  “Used To Be” never found the acclaim that “I’m So Glad” did, let alone his great interpretations. (His is the definitive version of “Messin’ With The Kid“, and “Toredown” is simply amazing)

I’m expecting my copy of the Ghost Blues documentary any day now and will be certain to have more on that in the near future. And Donal and family are working to secure the full BBC archives as well as work from Rory’s prior band Taste. Eagle Vision is now the official distributor of Rory Gallagher’s work, and if this is any indication of what’s to come, I am thrilled. This is magic stuff.

The Official Rory Gallagher Website

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Happy Birthday, Edward Hopper!

I’m sure you’ve seen this iconic painting, “Nighthawks

I love this painting. A great quote about Edward Hopper’s work says it  “depicts loneliness and beauty in a uniquely stark yet pleasing fashion“…man, that’s just perfect.  Happy Birthday, Edward Hopper!

I even love the famous takeoff on it featuring Elvis Presley, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe and Humphrey Bogart as the four characters; it’s called Boulevard of Broken Dreams“. The obvious explanation for the title is that these are four icons of music and film sadly gone too soon.

I was given a coffee cup with both images on it as a gift; I can’t bear to use it for fear the images will fade from washing. Another gift, the two versions on crisp 6×9 postcards, framed and matted, hangs proudly over my right shoulder as I type this. (I guess when it comes to gift hints I’m as subtle as a cabbage fart.)

There are many other takeoffs on this famous painting, several are listed at this great site called Nighthawks Forever.

My favorite is the one featuring The Simpsons.

But enough about me! Today’s post celebrates the birthday of Edward Hopper, the man who painted that famous image I fell in love with the first time I saw it. Hopper’s style was very unique; if you enjoy noir films and period programs like Mad Men, you really should check out his work.

Did you know that Steve Martin is a Hopper collector? Check out this DVD.

Looking at these again today also made me pull out my old copy of Rock Dreams, the book by Guy Peellaert and Nik Cohn that is loaded with great caricatures of rock stars. Peellaert did the covers of Diamond Dogs and It’s Only Rock And Roll (by David Bowie and The Rolling Stones, respectively). Grab a copy if you can find one.

Hell, he knew Keith was a pirate thirty years before Johnny Depp did!

Who said art had to be stuffy, anyway?

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