The good Doc knows the A-B-Cs of pop music; this was one of the first tape swap mixes I made for Son Of Tape Tree (a/k/a/ SOTT), a tradition which is in its thirteenth or fourteenth year. We’re down from one every two months to once a year despite the ability to dub CDs much faster and cheaper than C-90s! Title obviously stolen from a great Graham Parker song.
Video: Graham Parker, Back To Schooldays
Unlike Frank Zappa’s famous record label, this is not a Barking Pumpkin.
Nor is this Elvis pumpkin called “Nearer My Gourd To Thee“.
Stay scary, San Diego.
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
The acorn rolls back towards the tree…
Hard to believe Dweezil Zappa celebrates his forty-first birthday today, but if Return Of The Son Of is any indication, he’s just getting warmed up. This two-disc collection of majestic live music runs the table – rock, blues, jazz, swing and comedy. This could have easily fit into the Zappa Plays Zappa catalogue, but considering that unit was based on…well…Zappa playing Zappa, let’s forgive the nomenclature. It’s the music that matters.
The tracks were recorded over the past two years with most culling from a three-night stand in Chicago. Having seen the band three times during this period, I can attest to the flawless sound, dynamic arrangements and precision instrumentation that Frank Zappa fans always expected. When Dweezil started working on the ZPZ project a few years back he woodshedded for over a year to hone the style of playing that would do his Dad proud. Considering that Dweezil was already an established shredder of an axe man, that speaks volumes.
The title of the record harks back to and pays homage to Frank’s Shut Up And Play Yer Guitar series; in the liner notes Dweezil admits that his favorite moments are the lengthy solos where connects most with Frank’s music. “Each time I play a solo I try to imbue my own playing with some of my Dad’s idiosyncracies, both technically and sonically. At the same time I try to react to the moment and spontaneously create something melodic and musical. It’s not easy to do but I enjoy the process.”
Listen to samples here.
The track listing is fabulous, from esoteric workouts like “King Kong” and “Inca Roads” to popular favorites from “Dirty Love” to “Broken Hearts Are For Assholes”. Probably most impressive are the tempo-shifting “Bamboozled By Love” and the incredible suite of “Billy The Mountain” (first done on Just Another Band From LA with Flo and Eddie handling the vocals).
The musicianship is phenomenal and the vocals are top-notch; there’s not a disappointing moment on either disc. It’s great to hear a band so in tune with each other that they are borderline telepathic (although Dweezil claims there are some mistakes). Everyone is solid but for me the unsung hero here – and at the live shows I saw – is Zappa archivist and drummer extraordinaire Joe Travers.
Live, no overdubs, and in all its pristine glory, this is one of the year’s best.
Happy Birthday, Dweezil, and thanks for the gift!
Zappa Family Trust
Dweezil Wiki page
Mothers of Invention medley from 1968 in Paris
Mothers bio at United Mutations and Wiki page
Call Any Vegetable
Zappa Family Trust
Still ahead of their time.
I bow in your honor
I love, love, love tribute albums. Some are so inventive they occasionally exceed the original. Some are so poorly regimented that they’re fun like an Ed Wood movie is fun. You just have to admire a group of artists taking the plunge, whether it’s a label trying to promote their artist roster or a heartfely bow to some grand master.
I think the pinnacle for me is still eggBert’s Sing Hollies In Reverse, which featured a stunning asssemblage of pop stars, great song selections and some unbelieveable takes on the Hollies canon. Then they wrapped it up in a beautiful package with a well-written and informative booklet. Handled with care. The late great Greg Dwinell is no longer with us, but that album is one of his shining legacies.
Still the champion
But I know most people aren’t like me – tribute albums make as much sense as ducking an artist’s concert to see a cover band. And the funny thing is, I abhor most cover bands. Maybe I like tributes more because of the one-song-per-artist rule, or maybe it’s that I don’t have to watch them…I can just listen. And when the collection creatively juggles so many styles – folk, rock, dixieland, punk, r&b, glam, powerpop – so much the better.
Here are ten tribute albums that might have slipped by you. Click on the links below to listen to sound clips – you’ll be surprised how great some of the cuts are, not to mention some of the famous artists participating on even the tiniest label efforts!
Resurrection of The Warlock (T. Rex)
Lowe Profile (Nick Lowe)
Turban Renewal (Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs)
Uncovered (Bob Dylan)
We Will Fall (Iggy Pop)
Brace Yourself (Otis Blackwell)
Caroline Now (Brian Wilson/Beach Boys)
Chooglin’ (John Fogerty/ Credence Clearwater Revival)
Blastered (The Blasters)
Frankly a Capella (Frank Zappa / The Mothers of Invention)
So...what are the other two Supergrassians doing?
I love tribute albums more than I should, and when a band tosses a well placed cover into their set or onto their own album it can often be a real treat. And while playing the song straight can be reverential, adding your own flavor to the stew can often be far more rewarding. On Turn Ons we get both from The Hot Rats. While that latter name may call to mind one of Frank Zappa‘s greatest albums, it is also what two famous UK pop stars call their fun side project.
Gaz Coombes and Danny Goffey of Supergrass have teamed up with producer Nigel Godrich (Radiohead, Beck, Travis) for an album of well-chosen covers of some of their favorite artists including The Kinks, Squeeze, The Doors, Gang of Four, Elvis Costello and David Bowie among others. While some of the songs (i.e. the Lou Reed stomper “I Can’t Stand It”) are made for the stripped down thumping, you will be amazed at how they approached songs by The Sex Pistols and The Beastie Boys.
Despite the limited instrumentation, the versatility on the album separates The Hot Rats from the pack of bands flailing to surf the wake of The White Stripes. Simplicity merely repeated gets monotonous, but The Hot Rats wisely employed Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich to add his brush to their canvas, and the result is an exciting and surprising collaboration. At its core it’s brimming with the exuberance and fearlessness of a garage band, and with twelve tracks in just over half an hour, one is left wanting more.
Read my full review in Blurt Online.
And yes - grab this too!
Filed under Music, Reviews