Tag Archives: Joe Walsh

The Eagle Has (Crash) Landed

Sure, “Heaven and Hell” came out in 2008, but as a guy who wouldn’t run out and grab a new Eagles album the day of release, I’m not jumping to read the stories behind the band, either. But I will admit that there is a damaged chromosome in my DNA that does surface on occasion; it causes me to scan the Enquirer cover in the check out line or occasionally tune in to an episode of Behind The Music. On this day when the fever peaked, I wanted to see if Don Felder thought Glenn Frey and Don Henley were the dicks that everyone else seems to think they are.

Yep.

Felder’s tenure in the band spanned the magical embryonic years with Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner and the arena rock days with Joe Walsh and Timmy Schmitt, so he was there when it all went down as well as when it all fell apart. It’s a pretty unflinching look at how money changes everything, and for all the indignities he suffered at the hands of “The Gods” (his nickname for Frey and Henley), he’s honest about the times he let himself be swayed into participating in the madness. Like most bands of the time, drugs and women flowed with wild abandon, and like many rockers, that cost him his family and (for a while) his sanity.

Felder seems like a decent man despite the madness, and his affection and respect for Leadon and Meisner is almost apologetic. Then again, watching your friends be excised in power struggles without taking a stand is not behavior to be proud of. Oddly enough, when Walsh and Schmitt basically do the same thing years later, Felder seems stunned that they wouldn’t stand up with him against the tyrants. Felder basically bailed on principle when his one-fifth share was reduced to one-seventh; manager Irving Azoff backed the power play of Frey and Henley doubling their take. Of course, having the same guy that represents you also represent the band is a big mistake, but no one ever accused 70s rockers of smarts. Azoff comes off like a weasel, but in fact he’s just another person who knows how to make money from other people’s labors; he’s not alone as a practitioner of the black arts.

As much as I enjoyed the tale, I didn’t feel like I got the insider’s view that I was expecting. Walsh and Schmitt don’t get much play, and even famous people whose paths he crossed (from Duane Allman to Tom Petty) seem to be underdeveloped relationships. Sometimes he namedrops someone who later became famous (i.e. Season Hubley) for almost no reason. Even Henley seems like an enigma; a man whose work Felder respects but who almost seems observed through an opaque screen. Felder saves most of his venom for Frey, who comes off classless, vapid and egomaniacal.

The Eagles went to great pains to protect their brand from tarnish by controlling every aspect of their career like micromanagers. Many feel the same way about their later albums; soulless slabs of precision recordings with all of the blemishes excised. I’m certain that any stain this book cast upon the band’s legacy was rinsed from their hard shell coating without a second thought…or at least comment.

Perhaps the title of the book should have been “I Wish I Took That One-Seventh Eagle Money Deal“, because despite regrets for infidelity and lost friendships, it’s being an Eagle that Felder seems to miss the most. I suppose those “Hotel California” royalty checks ease the pain, though.

Leave a comment

Filed under Music, Reviews

Under The Radar: Sugarbuzz

Most band names don’t communicate the sound of the band. Sugarbuzz does.

Sugarbuzz was a late 90s collaboration between Brian Leach and Brian Reed (they even had a third Brian – Brian Krumm – add some lead guitar parts). Leach has a solo album called The Sunrise Nearly Killed Me, which is among many powerpop fans’ favorites, but frankly after fifteen plus years I’m getting the Leach/Sugarbuzz timeline confused. But I like all his stuff – in his normal vocal range he has a sweet pop voice but slides into a sandy rasp in the upper register. Still don’t know much about Reed.

Submerged is a really solid effort that is heavy on the powerpop but winds in other elements for a nice mix. Occasionally they will recall other bands but Leach’s vocal adds a quality to the mix that gives them a unique sound. Not a lot of power in the powerpop…more of a perfect album for a Sunday morning drive.

“Overthrown” is one of my favorites, strongly recalling T.Rex, while the guitar and chord structure of “Lost Sensation” and “A World Away” recalls Jellyfish (especially the staccato strings and guitar solo). and I hate to use the word “beats” when talking about music, but “Born Again” sounds like the percussion was played by a guy on a street corner with an inverted plastic paint bucket. “The House That Never Sleeps” uses some subtle wah-wah and background string-bending to produce an infectious spacy sound; “Long Hot Summer” takes that ambling psychedelic approach to a point where you almost feel the exhaustion he’s singing about. I really like “On Some Other Day” where Leach (or Krumm?) goes all Joe Walsh for a couple of minutes.

I always lump Leach in with Matthew Sweet and artists from Champaign, Illinois (Velvet Crush, Adam Schmitt) probably because all this came out in the late 90s, although he and Reed really don’t sound that much like them. But if you are a fan of the aforementioned bands, I think you’ll like Sugarbuzz a lot. And like many pop albums that never made a big splash, an enterprising fan could get this for a song.

A few clips on MySpace

3 Comments

Filed under Music, Reviews

R.I.P. Don Kirshner

Don Kirshner, music impressario, died yesterday at 76.

Kirshner, who got his start (and a hell of a bankroll) through music publishing and plugging, was one of the true giants of the industry. He worked with everyone from Bobby Darin to Brill Building songwriters to rockers of three generations but was probably best known for his work with The Monkees and his iconic concert program.

The story of his tenure with The Monkees is well-known; Kirshner having been hired to provide the songs for the faux band to sing and delivering one chart-topping hit after another, thanks to the stable of songwriting legends like Neil Diamond, Goffin/King and Jeff Barry. But the band wanted to write and play their own material, fired Kirshner (even though he made them millionaires) and achieved their goal…albeit killing the cash cow in the process.

After working as a consultant for ABC’s In Concert, Kirshner broke off on his own to produce and syndicate Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert. The first episode featured The Rolling Stones  – quite a coup since they hadn’t been on television in four years – and a new format featuring real live music instead of lip-synched stagings. Kirshner’s stiff persona and bad haircut (he resembled a thinner and less blustery George Steinbrenner) became a running joke, and his mannerisms were fodder for impressionists for years.

Video: Check out Don introducing Joe Walsh, who then dazzles with songs from Barnstorm backed by an all-star band.

Kirshner was painted as a villain because of the Monkee debacle, and there were those who thought of him as simply a scheming capitalist who was the antithesis of the music he was featuring on his show. But there’s no denying that he almost single-handedly brought rock’n’roll into your living room every week when television was merely three networks and PBS. The show ended just as cable television – and this new concept called MTV – was born.

If there’s a rock’n’roll heaven…well, Don is probably running the damned thing by now. R.I.P. to a true pioneer.

Leave a comment

Filed under Editorials, Film/TV, Music, Reviews

Under The Radar: The Muggs

Rock didn't die. Not in Detroit, anyway.

Rock didn't die. Not in Detroit, anyway.

If you were wondering why no one seems to be carrying the torch for bands like Cactus and The James Gang and Humble Pie, you can stop. The Muggs play white-hot power trio blues rock like the aforementioned bands did; timeless riff-dominated, air-guitar, roll-down-the-window-and-blast-it glorious rock’n’roll…and they’re from Detroit, natch! But their brand of hard rock is an organic outgrowth from the classic origins, not an exhumation of days gone by. It’s somehow simultaneously fiery and tasty, subtle yet hammer headed. And my god, does it sound great when you play it loud.

(Hear some live Muggs from Can You Hear Me TV.)

The Muggs are a three-headed force of nature that share both musical and personal chemistry – the backstory to the band is as incredible as the music. Bass player Tony DiNardo suffered a severe stroke in 2001 that left him paralyzed on his right side and unable to speak. Unwilling to consider replacing him, his bandmates waited two years while he recovered and taught himself how to play the bass lines on a Fender Rhodes Mark 1 (and no, you can’t tell the difference). So now drummer Matt Rost locks down the groove with DiNardo once more, which frees up guitar monster Danny Methric (also the axeman for The Paybacks) so he can flat out wail. I could tell you their whole story, but why not  let the boys speak for themselves. 

They’ve won a slew of local awards, are getting great press and are building up a fanbase, but they probably have more fans in Europe than they do here in the States. Did we learn nothing from Jimi Hendrix? Apparently not…Mitch Ryder still lives and record in Germany because sometimes they just don’t get it over here. And no, they didn’t win The Next Great American Band contest – how could they? The Muggs play rock’n’roll music

The Muggs on MySpace.  Buy The Muggs and On With The Show.

The Muggs website is here. No, they are not the ugliest band in the world. Don’t make me name the band that is.

Muggly

Muggly

3 Comments

Filed under Features and Interviews, Music

Blast From The Past: Joe Walsh / Barnstorm

Some albums can instantly transport you from wherever you are and whatever you’re doing to a very specific event or period of time. Near the top of that list of albums is this amazing masterpiece from Joe Walsh, recorded after the James Gang days but before the huge solo success of The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get. I’ve treasured the carefully maintained vinyl for years, but now there’s a crisp remastered CD and I took the plunge.
The perfect album for that perfect summer.

The perfect album for that perfect summer.

 It was the perfect marriage of band, attitude and producer. Walsh, Kenny Passarelli and Joe Vitale – who made a couple of under-appreciated albums himself – recorded with Bill Szymczyk (whose parents must have been Scrabble fans, but I digress) in Colorado’s Caribou Ranch. Somewhere between a concept album and a suite, I remember being immediately floored by the opener “Here We Go”. Acoustic guitar seemed to echo from down the hall as Walsh sang about the sunrise, the bass and drums and tasteful electric guitar accents filling in around him in best Big Star fashion. Ebbing and flowing organically only to slide into…synthesizer? More piercing guitar, delicate solo piano, then a whistling wind. Wind? Okay…then a heartbeat as the segue to “Midnight Visitor”, picking up the Western theme with a slow musical gallop, which morphs into…calliope organ…then back again..wind, guitar and Walsh’s plaintive vocals. Wind yet again as a musical bridge gently bringing us into the minute-long “One And One” where you are surrounded by Beatle/Rundgren harmonies (what?) now seeping through the walls, sliding you into the gentle bass/piano/flute instrumental “Giant Behemoth”.

Then the centerpiece of it all; multiple movements of “Mother Says”, with guttural organ dueling Walsh’s whining guitar. The naked beauty of “Birdcall Morning”. The raw power of “Turn To Stone” (which would become a hit, eventually) and the surprisingly sensitive “I’ll Tell The World About You”, one of the most beautiful songs anyone ever wrote about anyone else…or is it? You listen to this album enough times and you can hear everything from The Band to Pink Floyd, but always as a small spice in the stew, never as the main ingredient. There’s a difference between songs and music composition yet this, somehow, is both at once. I’ve listened to this album on everything from speaker racks to headphones, loud and soft, wide awake in broad daylight and eyes closed in a dark room. How can something sound so majestic and so personal at the same time, no matter how you drink it up? I guess if music marks the important points in your life, that’s bound to happen on occasion.

Time won't bring back all the time gone by...

Time won't bring back all the time gone by...

One summer between college years I shared a house with a few friends, a large corner lot surrounded by wraparound porches, hedges framing a peaceful green lawn. It should have been the ideal place to enjoy the only three months of decent weather that Syracuse, New York, has to offer. Unfortunately, one of the upstairs housemates was the girl I was in love with, who just broke up with me…to be with one of my roommates I’d be living with all next year. And now I got to see her every day. Thanks, God.

Two blocks away, another group of friends had rented a Victorian house that was a little more communal. Where mine had multiple kitchens, bathrooms and entry doors on each floor – my bedroom had a private entrance and deck – the house on Concord Place was centered around a big living room with a fireplace, where something was burning 24/7 from June through August. I think only five people really lived there, but it seemed that there were always twenty. That wan’t counting one or two sprawled on the grasssy island in front, staring up at the sky, looking for the Aurora Borealis, sometimes in broad daylight. (Hey, it was a different time.) I probably spent more time there than at my own place, and I can’t count the nights I fell asleep on the couch, watching the fire, some classic album eminating from the huge speakers washing over me like a warm and friendly rain. On many of those nights, that album was Barnstorm.

We had plenty of parties, talked deep into the night about everything under the sun, invented games to play and pooled our meager funds for cookouts and kegs and whatever was needed. Lifelong friendships were formed and nurtured, secrets were shared, confessions were made. Those of us who didn’t sleep much usually wound up in that great room, conversation slowing until eventually we were just staring into the crackling fire in silence, the warmth of the flame juxtaposed with the warmth of the friendship. At the risk of sounding ancient, people listened to music differently then; a good album was something you would focus upon with complete attention. And many nights at Concord Place, I did.

Being young and finally living on my own, it was a time of great change and self-examination…and all the emotional angst that goes with it.  After all, I had just left home for good, and while I relished the break from that life, I did know I’d miss it too. I was thrilled to be spending the Summer hanging with some of my best friends and sharing great times, yet freshly wounded from what I was certain was the most devestating heartbreak in recorded history. I floated between the buzz of anticipation for life’s next challenge and the nervous realization that when the Summer ended I would be facing some important decisions that I still felt ill-prepared to make. I’d snap out of it and leave that Big Chill cocoon long enough to work the shift at the restaurant, then right back into that place that seemed light years removed from the bustle of the real world. It’s funny to look back after all these years and remember that no matter what else happened there was always a quiet time every day when I had the chance to just…think…and dream…and hope…and wonder. (Cue Daniel Stern voiceover, fade to black…) Like many people, I thought that life was so much more complicated then, when it was really just inexperience making the routine seem like the extraordinary. So I got through it, I got over her, and when the magical Summer came to an end, I got on with it.

But all it takes is a whiff of that sweet guitar at the start of  “Here We Go” and I am back to Concord Place in a heartbeat, nestled in that big couch, smiling and dreaming. Clarkie’s tending the fire, Siege is tending the garden, David and Kevin are tending the tunes. Mike’s on the porch and Cass is on the front lawn, keeping his eyes open in case those green lights dance across the sky tonight. Because you just never know when magic will tap you on the shoulder…

Barnstorm is dreamy, organic, massive, rocking, pensive, epic, mind-numbing, celebratory, cosmic, heartbreaking and at certain points in time as close to a religious experience as one can handle. And I guess for me, it’s a soundtrack to that favorite movie that took three months to make, one day at a time, many years ago.

4 Comments

Filed under Music, Reviews