Tag Archives: Exile On Main Street

New Album! Hans Rotenberry and Brad Jones

New to you, anyway – it came out last Fall.

But what has hit the street is the new issue of Bucketful of Brains, the great UK pop mag that has defied the odds and the decline of print journalism. Still going strong, still published on schedule, and still a place I’m proud to hang my keyboard each issue. Click here to find out more.

That’s where you’ll find my review of Mountain Jack, the album from Hans Rotenberry and Brad Jones. Any powerpop fan hearing those two names would instantly get excited; Hans has led the great band Shazam for years and Brad Jones is one of the great pop producers of our time as well as a solid artist in his own right. And while the collaboration might sound different than you would expect, it hits many of the right buttons.

Here’s my review…

Video: “A Likely Lad

Having produced four of the Shazam albums, Brad Jones knows every feint and jab that Hans Rotenberry has in his repertoire. So the pairing of bandleader and producer sounds much like you’d expect, a collaboration that draws heavily upon chunky rhythms, clever (but sometimes obtuse) lyrics and tight harmonies – not to mention song structure that draws heavily upon The Move and early Todd Rundgren. It’s a welcome return for Brad Jones, the powerpop producer who dropped the brilliant Gilt Flake on us many years ago and then dropped back out of sight like a February groundhog.

Those expecting the amp-cranking sound that the Shazam is famous for might be taken aback by the predominantly acoustic format, let alone songs like “Froggie Mountain Shakedown”. But the Americana-cum-powerpop formula suits the pair well; it’s loose and fun, and there’s enough cowbell to balance out the mouth harp. With “Count On Me”, “Likely Lad” and “It Would Not Be Uncool” they have three hit singles at my house, and hell, “Greef” is an Exile on Main Street doppelgänger as much as “Back To Bristol” recalls Alex Chilton. Take the plunge.

Mountain Jack at 50ft Records

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Rock’s Darkest Day?

July 3rd is the anniversary of the deaths of both Brian Jones and Jim Morrison. Ask rockers about Morrison and you’ll get a highly divided camp; some revere his poetic lyrics and unique artistic expression with The Doors, while others see him as a bloated, self-indulgent hipster who yammered nonsense and called it art. 

I was a Doors fan and still enjoy their music – there are a series of great singles and many of the deeper tracks on the album were pretty fascinating. I thought L.A. Woman was a tremendous album and am saddened that they never got to continue that journey. But the drunken escapades, the supposed incidents of exposure, the pretentiousness of it all…yeah, I could understand someone resisting their work because they can’t get past that. 

But I’ll wrestle you to the mat about Jones

Brian Jones was The Rolling Stones. Without him, there wouldn’t be a band, let alone a Sticky Fingers or an Exile on Main Street or a Let It Bleed. Because it was Jones the blues purist who set the course, charted the direction and marketed the band in the earliest days when everyone else was ready to fold the tent and quit

Mick Jagger would have graduated from the London School of Economics and been a prissy accountant. Charlie Watts would probably have joined a jazz band and would be famous to a whole other audience. Bill Wyman might have lived the suburban life he seemed to be drifting towards, playing in r&b bands on the weekend and still pulling birds half his age. 

And Keith Richards? He probably would have done the same damned thing – overindulge in life’s pleasures and play some of the most timeless riffs man has ever wrangled from an electric guitar. 

I remember being crushed when Jones died. I was just a kid – other iconic deaths like Buddy Holly either predated my awareness or (like Sam Cooke and Otis Redding) involved people I liked but was not fully invested in. But The Rolling Stones were my lifeblood, and this was like losing a brother.

You have to realize that at the time, lines were drawn between Beatles fans and Stones fans; peer pressure said you had to be one or the other, and you’d better choose. All the cute girls chose The Beatles, of course…and that was reason enough for me to side with the Stones

He was the first rock star in my world; looked (at the time) like a golden god, played any instrument you put into his hands, added flavor to Stones singles that other bands would later copy and seemed like the coolest guy on the planet. When I saw the Stones on Ed Sullivan I looked right past Jagger and was mesmerized by him. And I wasn’t the only one…five hundred miles north of my New York City house, Andy and Greg of The Chesterfield Kings were watching the same program and getting their minds blown as well. 

And then he died – murdered, I still believe – and what had been this picture perfect vision of music and peace and utopia started to crumble. Soon it would be Jimi, and Janis and Jimoddly connected…and finally the nail in the coffin,  Altamont

Don’t get me wrong – I love the Mick Taylor era of the band, and although he’s been underutilized in his tenure, Ronnie Wood is one of my all time favorite guitar players. But the London singles the early Stones cut? Pure magic

Listen to the magic!

Had the Stones broken up after Exile, they would have that same unfinished legacy that Buddy Holly, The Beatles and James Dean have – a permanent snapshot of genius in its prime.  No chance to stumble and fall, or go ages between artistic releases, or climb on stage long past their prime and sing about want and boredom and being unsatisfied…right before pocketing millions per gig and taking a private plane home. 

What would Brian Jones have done after he got over the heartbreak of being squeezed out of his own band? I can only wonder. But I can also revel in what he left behind, which is a brilliant anthology of classic music that is as powerful to me now as it was as the impressionable boy with a transistor radio and a dream. 

What a drag...it is getting old.

And Happy Birthday to (among others) Kurtwood Smith, Fontella Bass, Franz Kafka, George Sanders, Dave Barry, and the late, great Ken Ober.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Top Titles From 2005

It’s Memorial Day Weekend – time for pints, people and pleasure!

But since I have to account for our society’s short-term memory and McNugget lifestyle, today I’m only dropping back five years! And this weekend I’ll stay on topic and plunge back into the past for a couple of items – one a forty-year old classic and the other a five-year-old failed (but interesting) experiment from two of the biggest pop artists of the 70s.

But for now, a visit to my ten top titles from 2005…and what the artists are up to in 2010. Have a safe and happy holiday weekend!

01  Marah –  If You Didn’t Laugh, You’d Cry…The no-brainer #1 record of the year. Marah finally captures some of the onstage magic that makes them the best rock and roll band on the planet on most nights. Screw the preparation, plug in, ciggies in the tuning pegs and let’s rock and roll, dammit! (2010: Marah has a new album about to drop called Life Is A Problem and just started their tour)

02  Nada Surf –  The Weight is a Gift…There can’t still be people not listening them because of the first album, are there? Their debut is like child scribbles compared to the majestic artwork over their last three albums. (2010: Nada Surf’s album of covers called If I Had A Hi-Fi is out this month!)

03  Graham ParkerSongs Of No Consequence…Of course, Captain Irony is wrong – Geep always writes about matters of consequence. I’d hate to see The Figgs give up their career, but they fit Parker as good or better than the Rumour. He’s having fun! (2010: Graham’s newest album Imaginary Television is one of my favorites so far this year. Missed his Boston show w/ The Figgs by two hours!)

04  The 88Over And Over…Criminally unknown band – well, okay, they could have picked a better name. But they’ve taken all those Jellyfish, Kinks, T rex and XTC references and put them to good use. Two albums so far, both great. (2010: The band continues to place music in film and TV – that’s them doing the theme from “Community” – and more new music is on the way!)

05  RedwallsDe Nova…Chicago pop band makes good. Maybe a little Beatle-heavy at times, but hey, if you’re going to emulate someone, why not? You’ve probably heard their tracks on the WB, and…oh…right…wrong crowd. (2010: Hmmm…not much that I can find since the follow-up album.)

06  Rolling StonesA Bigger Bang…Really – who would have expected this! Easily their best record in twenty years, although that’s a backhanded compliment. Lively, rocking and credible…if there’s a perfect time to quit, it’s now. (2010: Far from quitting; they’ve released anniversary editions of Exile on Main Street and have a documentary DVD out about the making of the record. Tour? If they’re breathing, probably!)

07  Terry Anderson – Olympic Ass Kicking Team…Why the White Chuck Berry has to toil in semi-obscurity is beyond me, but since he has no problem calling up Roscoe, Dan Baird and fellow rockers and cranks these puppies out, I’ll keep touting him. (2010: Terry and crew landed on my best of list last year with National Champions! Always recording more, so stay tuned!)

08  StereophonicsSex Violence Other…Oasis without the fistfights and the Beatles fixation. No, there’s still something left. Good inventive Britpop with enough snarl, sass and sonics to keep me interested album after album. (2010: What is it about this year? Yes, a new album from these guys too called Keep Calm and Carry On.)

09  The 22-20s –  The 22-20s…Another band that picked a bad name for success (see #4 above), these guys mix early Stones and Small Faces to alternately rock and groove. Great vocals and energy – keep an eye on them. (2010: Pumped!! I was about to write that they’ve been defunct since 2006 but found that they got back together in 2008 and Shake Shiver Moan will come out in June!)

10  FoxymoronsHesitation Eyes…Knocked my socks off. Two writers mailing song fragments back and forth and completing each other’s thoughts. Only a couple of tracks didn’t make the record, so the success ratio was impressive. (2010: Sadly, just the sound of crickets…)

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T.G.I.F. – Ten…Things

As you know, I’m usually thematic on Fridays with the TGIF feature. Ten comedy clips, ten classic bands, ten awesome artists…whatever. Mental alliteration. Synergy. Symbiosis.

But today my brain is a mess. I’m juggling three people’s worth of work, I’m already sinfully behind on a couple of projects for this site and my weekend is already overloaded so badly that only Red Bull and Deus ex Machina can save me. (That’s right – not one, but both.)

Remember that frog in the blender game? This week, I’m the frog.

So here are ten…things…that I’m excited about right now.

* Alternative Press Turns 25! It’s damn hard to keep a magazine afloat twenty-five weeks let alone twenty-five years, so this is a major milestone. Congratulations! (Full disclosure – never wrote for them, never was asked, never asked them if I could.)

* Rod Stewart: Sessions. I was supposed to get a copy of this last Fall for review and it never arrived. I waited and waited – didn’t want to drop $50+ if I didn’t have to – but it never arrived. Finally plunked the scratch to buy a copy and it is magnificent – how great he once was. (Please Rod, no more smooth rock!)

* Goodbye, Jack Bauer. What an incredible run 24 has had. Yes, Jack, I wanted to see Kim eaten by that mountain lion, and Tony had more lives than Patchy on Lost, but you can have my back anytime. Congratulations on a great saga – see you on the big screen!

* There’s a new Marah album! June 22 sees the release of Life Is A Problem, which should prove to be a highly unusual album from success-avoiding Marah, recorded in rustic settings with odd instruments and released on download, vinyl and cassette – no CD! The almost all new band lineup will hit the road in June. And how will they conspire to bollocks it up this time? We wait with baited breath.

* Thriller is coming to DVD! No, not that dance pop disc by Captain Plastic Surgery…the classic TV series hosted by Boris Karloff! Finally!! Boomers will plotz when they see this!

* Lost: The End. Yep, six seasons later, the saga of the plane crash survivors comes to an end in what will undoubtedly be one of the biggest television events of the decade. Don’t call me Sunday night.

* The World According To Sawyer. Okay, that’s two Lost references, but Sawyer’s many nicknames were a hilarious part of the show.

* The Exile On Main Street documentary is coming! “The wild nights, the orgies, the drug-taking. I remember it well,” reflects Mick Jagger. (Well, if you can remember it, how good could it have been?)

* Kevin Costner is going to save the world! Well, actually it’s his smarter brother who had the oil spill idea. (But how smart can he be if he let Kevin make Waterworld?)

* Mark Bacino has a new album! One of my favorite power-poppers; great singer, songwriter and performer. Check out Queen’s English at his website. Can’t wait for mine to arrive!

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No Stoned (Page) Unturned

EXILE ON MAIN ST. – A SEASON IN HELL WITH THE ROLLING STONES

Robert Greenfield, © 2006 DeCapo Press

 

Someday, someone will write the definitive book about The Rolling Stones – factual, insightful, revealing and objective. This is not that day. This is not that book.

Some of the central stories in Exile emanate from recent interviews with insiders like Marshall Chess, Andy Johns and Mick Taylor’s then wife Rose. Not exactly the every day inner circle, although each has perspective. Then again, two were hardcore smack addicts at the time and a dusty haze of thirty-five plus years stands in-between their current brain cells and the facts at hand. Of course, what they said about the sixties was also true in 1970 and 1971 – “if you can remember it, you weren’t there”. Greenfield also pulls tidbits of information from an extensive list of websites and print titles – in one case, even sourcing his own book – to construct a rambling, lazy, sordid tale about the famous, not-so-famous and hangers-on of the day. Not that you should be surprised by the lack of factual revelations, as Camp Stones closed that door a long time ago. Perhaps one of Greenfield’s quotes best tells the tale…”a great story always trumps the truth”. In other words, you’ll need an entire salt lick to get through this one, a grain just won’t do.

In Greenfield’s defense, he admits that he has no interest in scribing a track-by-track analysis of Exile, nor a detailed re-enactment of the recording sessions in journal format. Fair enough. But what at first appears to be an insider’s peek into the mental squalor and drug-addled debauchery of the recording sessions at the Nellcote mansion quickly dissolves into the same third-hand gossip we’ve read a thousand times before. The mansion was a former Nazi headquarters, the south of France has some pretty creepy people, cops can be bought, and drugs and money cause more problems than they solve. Keith was a mess, Mick was a jerk, and somehow the band was able to cobble together enough riffs (and borrow enough leftovers from previous sessions) to issue what is arguably one of the ten best rock records ever made. Keith is the centerpiece of the story, somehow heroic and pathetic at the same time, a description even Keef would probably own up to today with a wrinkled grin and a cackling laugh.

The major flaw in Greenfield’s book is the smarmy, know-it-all attitude taken by the author. Making the reader feel like an unwanted eavesdropper rather than an invited voyeur is counterproductive. Oddball references and bad puns are more frequent and annoying that rock lyrics in a Stephen King novel, but Greenfield’s bizarre metaphors pale in comparison to the maneuver he pulls while recalling an anecdote about a certain musician being ousted from the inner circle. Stopping the chapter’s progress on a dime, he mockingly calls out not one but two fellow Stones authors, claiming the first got a fact wrong and simply insulting the work of the second. Meow! I can’t recall ever seeing a more sophomoric, unprofessional move in a published book.

But hey, when all is said and done, it’s only rock’n’roll (journalism). If you’re a Stones fan and have an afternoon with nothing to do, keep your wallet in your pants and borrow it from the library. That way you know you’ll get your money’s worth.

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