Tag Archives: Graham Parker

Mixtape! Back To Schooldays

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

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Solo Saviors

I love to have my ass kicked by a great rock band as well as the next guy. But I can also appreciate that a true songwriter and performer can be just as incredible with just a piano or guitar in a solo show. Maybe it’s the economic necessity, maybe it’s the desire to retain total control, maybe both. But more and more artists are hitting the road acoustically, and usually in an intimate enough setting where the artist-audience connection is truly electric.

Some started out this way, of course, and the bands came later. But many of them discovered their innate ability to command the stage with stories and humor as well as the gift of their songwriting. I’ve been fortunate enough to see magic over the years.

And yes, it was seeing Todd Snider on Thursday night that prompted this week’s TGIF, so here are Ten Solo Saviors – artists playing in your small club – or maybe even your living room – who you should be making a pilgrimage to see. Have a safe and happy weekend…

(01) – Todd Snider

(02) – Graham Parker

(03) – Nick Lowe

(04) – Pat DiNizio

(05) – Peter Case

(06) – Elvis Costello

(07) – Ray Davies

(08) – Ian Hunter

(09) – Todd Rundgren

(10) – Ian McLagan

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New Album! Rob Skane

Well, new as of last September, anyway. I only have two ears.

Rob Skane, an upstate New York pop songwriter, has assembled a really nice acoustic based collection of three-minute pop songs. Weaving your way through you will probably draw the conclusion that Rob is a fan of Paul Westerberg (“Army of Individuality”), Elvis Costello (“You Preach Peace” – A/B that puppy with “Radio Radio”), Graham Parker (“Ballad of a Small Man”), Paul Collins (“I Waited”) and Nick Lowe (“In My Room”). The whole album has that loose, casual feel of  Marshall Crenshaw. Hell, that’s all from the good end of my record collection.

Ironically released on LoFi Records, Skane’s songs are primarily fueled by chunky acoustic guitar, simple but infectious melodies and choruses. His lead vocals, while not stellar, are well-suited to the songs; if you can appreciate Jesse Malin, Jonathan Richman, Eytan Mirsky, Michael Shelley or Ben Vaughn this is right up your alley. There are no explosive moments; guitar solos are brief, playing is tight without being flashy.

Video: “I Waited

While many of the songs are three chord wonders and can be a bit repetitive (especially the first two), most of them really grew on me.  (With one exception – I have no idea what’s going on with the hidden track, but if the purpose is to remind you to get up and take the CD out of the player, mission accomplished.) It would be almost impossible to hear “Girl Next Door” or  “I Waited” and not drum on the dashboard, and “You Preach Peace” deserves much wider airplay.

Give Phantom Power Trip a listen; I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Visit the Rob Skane website.

Buy at CD Baby or Amazon.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten 2010 Bridesmaids

Putting together a “best of” list is hard for me, because there’s so much out there to enjoy every year and many albums appeal to me in different ways. Lists are subjective, of course (despite what Rolling Stone may insist) and try as I might I can’t put six pounds of stuff into a five pound bag. So while I consider the Top Ten an honor, the near misses – Bridesmaids, as I’ve been calling them – are no slouches either.

To beat the tired drum again, anyone who is claiming that there is no great music being made simply isn’t trying hard enough to find it. I’m out there beating the bushes constantly and I can’t keep up with it; certainly even a cursory attempt to widen one’s horizons would be richly rewarded (there’s a bunch of links at right for starters). And as always I welcome the emails from readers that start “have you heard…” as they often open new doors for me as well.

So this week, in no particular order, let me present Ten 2010 Bridesmaids – albums that didn’t make the Top Ten but weren’t far off. When I post the full “best of” lists in January these will certainly be there, so give a listen and be rewarded! (Amazon links included – many on sale right now!)

And on this TGIF Friday I’m especially thankful.

01) Peter Wolf – Midnight Souveniers…Like fine wine, Wolf just gets better and better with age. A far cry from his kinetic J. Geils frontman image, Pete has quietly entered the small plateau of artists perpetuating organic, honest music for the ages. A musical archivist flexing his talents.

02) Smash Palace – 7…If the cover art’s nod to Revolver doesn’t tip you off, let me. Smash Palace is in the upper tier of powerpop bands with traces of Cheap Trick, The Beatles, Tom Petty and Badfinger in its mix but a fresh and original sound. Solid songwriting, incredible vocals, songs that are pure ear candy. Radio’s loss; your gain.

03) Paul Thorn – Pimps and Preachers…”If I could be a tear/rolling down your cheek/and died on your lips/my life would be complete”. Holy shit. I’m new to Thorn’s world, but this is a gritty brew of John Hiatt, Warren Zevon, Bob Seger and Alejandro Escovedo. I am on board now.

04) The Master Plan – Maximum Respect…You were so sure that you didn’t get a record from The Del Lords, The Fleshtones or The Dictators in 2010. Well, you were wrong! The collaborative side project is back for a second album and as you might expect, it kicks ass! If “BBQ” doesn’t get you hopping, you are a zombie.

05) Teenage Fanclub – Shadows…Back after a five-year break and sounding like it was a day. Fannies know what to expect, for the uninitiated, think a sophisticated pop blend of XTC, Big Star and some classic California sunny pop (Beach Boys, CSN). A little subdued for some, I prefer to call it atmospheric.

06) New Pornographers – Together…The phrase “greater than the sum of its parts” sets the bar very high when talking about this collaborative unit, but damned if I don’t find every one of their albums irresistible. Any band that can make whistling as cool as a snapping snare drum is okay by me.

07) Graham Parker – Imaginary Television…Another guy who just defies the calendar and continues to pump out great songs; he’s a better singer, songwriter and guitar player now than in his popular prime. Also be sure to pick up his live set with The Figgs.

08) Deadstring Brothers – Sao Paulo…Imagine the Gram Parsons / Keith Richards sessions in the Stones’ golden era were invaded by Ronnie Wood from The Faces. Wine flowed. Tape rolled. Absolute gospel – rock – country blues bliss.

09) The Hold Steady – Heaven Is Whenever…Just missed…I thought the personnel change would impair their urgency and their passion but they are as good as ever. The first five songs are absolutely perfect and the album would be worth it if it ended there.

10) Nick Curran – Reform School Girl…I wasn’t a follower of Curran but damned if he isn’t channeling Little Richard, Phil Spector, Fats Domino, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and The Sonics on this album. This is a party whittled down and stuffed in a jewel case; besides – how can you not buy an album with a title like this one?

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Under The Radar: Rod Stewart??

Yep.

In 2010, The Faces finally reunited after several aborted attempts, subbing Simply Red moptop Mick Hucknall in the Rod Stewart seat and grabbing original Sex Pistol bassist Glen Matlock to stand in for the late, great Ronnie Lane. (Somewhere, Tetsu raised a pint. And then probably a few more…)

In 2010, Rod Stewart released yet another collection of American croooner covers, his fifth, which once again endeared him to housewives, daytime television talk shows and background noise radio. Oh…and probably fattened his wallet by another few million pounds.

Most people who revile the MOR album collections remember Rod as the spiky haired carouser who juggled his own stellar solo career with his stint as lead beverage in The Faces. It was a phenomenal run, albeit a short one, but the influence from Gasoline Alley and Every Picture Tells A Story and A Nod Is As Good As A Wink To A Blind Horse continues to live on in bands from The Black Crowes to The Diamond Dogs. Add in The Small Faces and Paul Weller and you can pretty much trace the genealogy of every Britpop band since then.

While Stewart arguably hasn’t been a viable writer since the early 80s, there was a glimmer of hope eleven years ago, a road flare from the tour bus called When We Were The New Boys. Yes, it was a cover album (except for the title track, an American Pie take on his own career), but the covers were from the likes of Oasis and Primal Scream and Graham Parker…and they rocked! Of course he couldn’t sustain it, but the ballads (including covers of Nick Lowe and Ron Sexsmith) were done well. as a longtime fan I was excited that he rediscovered his muse. Now twelve years later, I’m still waiting for another sign.

I really have mixed emotions about his cover of “Ooh La La”. He sings it well, although that song will be forever owned by Ronnie Wood and Ronnie Lane. One could say that it’s a heartfelt nod to his old bandmate, except that…well, his timing sucks. Lane’s battle with MS was painful and long, and he was far from financially solvent thanks to the mountainous bills that illnesses like that generate. Sure would have been nice if Rod would have covered this when he was at the apex of his stadium dates…or if he had gone back on the road with his old mates. Huge royalties and tour money would have made a major impact upon Lane’s options. But no

I don’t hate Rod Stewart. Hell, I don’t even know Rod Stewart. And lord knows what I would do if someone rolled up to me and told me I could make millions of dollars by transforming myself into…well, the highest paid karaoke singer on the planet. I just feel like I’ve watched a guy with once-in-a-generation talent take the easy road rather than push the envelope.

So it’s quite possible that you did miss this blip on the radar, halfway between “Love Touch” and “Fly Me To The Moon”. I heartily recommend that you grab it – I’ll add in my original review if I can find the damned thing – because “Hotel Chambermaid” and “Rocks Off” and “Cigarettes and Alcohol” and “Ooh La La” are worth the price of admission and then some. And yes, I will hold out hope in my heart that the old rooster has one last hurrah left in him.

If you want to know what all the Rod Stewart fuss was about, try the excellent collection Sessions…or read this.  And if you want to hear a full length tribute to Ronnie Lane, go get Ian McLagan’s wonderful Spiritual Boy (as well as Plonk’s catalogue, of course).

When We Were The New Boys at Amazon.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Absent Artists

I hope they're not lost...

As I’m going back and revisiting the year, I’m reminded once again of those artists I hoped to hear from who didn’t pop up and release an album. Some of them might just be in the normal development cycle, but for others it’s an unusual gap between efforts. I know they won’t all go on forever, but there are many who are still creating at a high level and I selfishly want more from them. I am the customer, after all, and rumor has it that I’m always right.

It’s not too much to ask, is it? Jason and The Scorchers reformed and released an absolute gemDwight Twilley came out with a brand new album this year after a half-decade of vault outtakes. Robert Klein has a new comedy release scheduled for January. I’m not going all Tinkerbell on you here, but things can happen. (Clapping hands is optional.)

So here are Ten Absent Artists – I hope each of them read this and kick it into high gear. I promise to be appreciative of the effort, and I’m hopeful that my anticipation will be replaced by a huge smile.

01) Walter Clevenger – He’s been more centered on his production work than recording. Maybe he’s busy, maybe it’s the frustration of releasing wonderful albums that failed to launch him into the mainstream. But I wish he’d keep punching that wall until it falls. Stop breaking my Paper Heart.

02) Tonio K – A repeat submission, I’m sure, and I know he’s out there because his work shows up on other people’s albums. I wish he’d just saddle up and form a band – Nashville, LA, whatever – and record his own material again. Don’t that make you want to jump right up and start to dance?

03) Fountains of Wayne – There have been a few collaborations with others, from songwriting for Russell Brand to the apparently one-off Tinted Windows project. We need your pop genius, now. Don’t give up.

04) Joe Jackson – You came out in that same “angry man” wave as Graham Parker, Elvis Costello and John Hiatt. Guess who is the only one not releasing new material? Pretty soon now, you know you’re gonna make a comeback.

05) Richard Belzer – you might think this is an odd choice, but Belz was a great stand up comic long before he made a living playing Detective John Munch. Call me a rooster on acid, but i think since he’s been popping up on celebrity roasts, he might have an album in the can.

Waiting to be rocked.

06) The Montgomery Cliffs – Man, I miss this band so bad. Great songs, great presence, big sound and a killer sense of humor. That band, she was good! Hope they reunite or Joey Salvia will have to continue to play for Republicans.

07) Artful Dodger – A lot of pop bands have reunited in the past few years, some for the cash, some out of curiosity, some purely out of the respect for their music and their fans. Artful Dodger never got the credit they deserved the first time around, and their 2006 show in Cleveland proved they still had it. Will bands who copped their style be jealous? I say there’s honor among the thieves.

08) The Faces Rod is back to spewing out collections of pop standards, but Ron, Mac and Kenney hooked up with Glen Matlock and Mick Hucknall to play a series of shows and apparently not only have more dates in 2011 but some new material to record. Rod passed, so let him go!  Seize the day, mates! And this time stay with me.

09) Love NutAndy Bopp moved from Love Nut to Myracle Brah to solo and collaborative efforts, but the pure pop power of Baltimucho needs to be revived. You could just change anything that you want, ’cause that’s alright.

10) The Kinks – Yes, I know there’s another Ray Davies album on the way. Yes, I know he and Dave have sibling issues. I hoped Pete Quaife‘s passing would have woken them up to how tentative life is, since Ray’s bullet hole didn’t do it. Come on, boys…give the people what they want.

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Having A Wild Weekend

A very fab foursome

No, not the Dave Clark Five movie. But even more fun.

Jumped in the car with my friend Bill and drove through Pennsyltucky to the wild plains of Northern New Jersey to visit pop bands in their natural habitat. Enjoyed Pat DiNizio’s Fifth Annual Halloween Party and Smithereens Fan Fest, which this year featured a long day of great music and all the food and drink you could ingest (which is a good thing, since you can’t get a beer in Jersey after midnight if your life depended on it!).

“It’s my fervent wish and desire to help you feel better for a few hours,” DiNizio said. “All of us need to get away from the six-foot plasma television, shut off our phones and start talking to each other with our breaths, smiles and laughing, and enjoy some rock ‘n’ roll music.”

Mission accomplished, sir.

I’ll tag the full magazine feature I’m writing when it posts online. For now let’s just say that I had more than my moneys’ worth by the time The Scotch Plainsmen (DiNizio fronting a band of eight wonderful musicians) finished playing their Beatles set, which was Let It Be in its entirety –  including dialogue from the movie and cuts from the sessions. Two other bands had already performed, and a wonderful steak and pasta dinner accompanied by open bar was in full swing. Had that been it, I would have been satisfied that the drive and expense was well worth it.

But then The Grip Weeds blasted an explosive set featuring their new album (and Best of 2010 contender) Strange Change Machine.

And then the inimitable Graham Parker – voice, guitar playing and wit all in top form – played a career-spanning yet eclectic set that brought the packed house to its feet.

And then The Smithereens – sounding fresh and vital – played a selction of their hits, a medley from their Tommy tribute album and a brand new song from the upcoming record before inviting Parker back onstage to recreate one of my favorite collaborative musical moments – “Behind The Wall of Sleep“. The evening was capped by a jam session with various group members jumping in and out.

Eight hours of great fun. Met one of the DJs from KFOG in San Francisco who was headed home to get his station manager to add a couple of these artists to their playlist. Ran into Reigning Sound organist Dave Amels who tipped me to the new project he and Greg Cartwright worked on, The Parting Gifts. And then Bill and I laughed our asses off all the way home listening to great comedy albums, none funnier than Jim Jefferies.

Pete Townsend was wrong. I’m glad I’m still here.

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