About ten years ago I came across an Italian band called Cheap Wine and wrote up their album A Better Place for Cosmik Debris. I still pull the damned thing out from time to time. The original MP3 site is long gone but the band is still out there kickin – they now have six albums out – so I thought I’d tip my cap again a decade later…
I don’t speak Italian, and I can’t read Italian, so whatever was in the press kit that I received from Cheap Wine is a mystery to me. What’s crystal clear, however, is that rock and roll knows no geographic boundaries. How a band from Italy comes out sounding like The Sidewinders and Green On Red crossed with classic-era Stones isn’t important, the fact that they do is what matters.
The Green On Red references are everywhere – the band’s name comes from a Dan Stuart song (covered on their CD A Better Place) and both guitar players have obviously listened to a lot of lyrical players like Chuck Prophet. “Walkin Away”, available on MP3, finds the quartet sailing out of the gate with a drum-propelled rocker that features harmonic guitar lines from Marco and Michele Diamantini; Rich Hopkins fans will do double-takes. “A Better Place” and “Dark Angels” explore the acoustically darker, Cowboy Junkies play “Sweet Jane” area of the aural soundscape.
The vocals are sung in English, and Marco does not have a strong or classic voice, but he conveys emotion that matches well with the material. As a testament to good taste, they list their favorite bands on the “thank you” page of the CD booklet, and if your record collection were limited to those artists, you’d be in good hands. Repeated plays only endear me further.
Visit the Cheap Wine website.
And Happy Birthday to Stan Laurel. Laurel and Hardy were an amazing comedy team; Stan Laurel was a great gag writer and a brilliant physical comedian with impeccable timing, and Oliver Hardy was a vastly underrated comic and straight man. Together they were magic. Pull out a film of theirs tonight, or if you don’t have time, read the eulogy that Dick Van Dyke gave at Stan’s funeral and smile at his memory.
Also on this day, the fifty-first anniversary of the still suspicious death of George Reeves, TV’s Superman. I grew up watching that series on television in New York City not realizing that the “Man of Steel” was already dead. I’ve heard every story – from a depressed suicide to a stoned attempt to really fly out a window to a vengeful murder. Perhaps one day the truth will surface.
Today is also the fortieth anniversary of the death of football player Brian Piccolo, whose story and relationship with teammate Gale Sayers was immortalized in the movie Brian’s Song. Excellent performances from (the always reliable) James Caan and Billy Dee Williams.