Tag Archives: Little Steven

Groovin’…

…on a Sunday afternoon.

One year ago today, against the steepest of odds, The (Young) Rascals reunited in New York City. The show, a benefit concert, was a rousing success and by all indications the band sounded great and were having serious talks about burying the hatchet (and not in each others’ backs, for once) and recording some new tracks.

I haven’t heard much since, but hope springs eternal.

Video: Groovin’

I guess if you hunt around long enough you might find some bootleg audio. There are clips from the reunion, although You Tube is devoid of any full length videos. Since Little Steven was instrumental in getting them to play together, I’m hoping he will help get a DVD of the show released including a documentary about the history of the band. It is a major injustice that they are not revered today; mentioned in the same breath with the biggest American bands of the era.

Video: People Got To Be Free

If you weren’t around when they were in their prime, it’s hard to comprehend what a massive impact they had on the burgeoning pop music scene, especially on the East Coast. Lots of sixties bands have greatest hits albums, but theirs are loaded with bona fide smash singles. They dominated AM radio, but they weren’t afraid to experiment musically or philosophically.

Video: Mickey’s Monkey / Turn On Your Lovelight

So while I wait, I’m blasting a copy of The Ultimate Rascals in honor of the event of a year ago. Hope the four of them are in a studio right now, jamming…

"Everyone learn to live together..."

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Village Voice Pazz & Jop

One of my favorite things every year is contributing my “best of” list to the prestigious Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll, a compilation of the opinions of seven hundred music critics. I consider it an honor as well, and I’m happy that the albums I vote for at least get a little bit more attention. I don’t keep track of favorite songs closely enough to always do the singles; last year I figured that Ce Lo Green’s “Fuck You” was so dominant that any of my other nominations would concede defeat, so that’s exactly what I wrote down when I submitted my ballot. And the song, as expected, took the top prize.

What did surprise me was how much of my ballot placed me on a deserted island. While I thought these artists released incredible efforts, in most cases I was the sole person to nominate them. I’m well aware that my preference for powerpop, glam, rock and blues doesn’t endear me to a world of rap, shoegazing indie pop and ludicrous Autotune warriors. But where are my brothers and sisters who celebrate this music, despite its low profile?

Each year a brilliant data analyst named Glenn McDonald produces some amazing metrics regarding voter centricity – whose ballots were the most consistent with the results, and whose were in the stratosphere. According to the 2010 report, I’ll need an oxygen mask and a very long cord.

 Here is my top ten, in order, along with the number of votes each album received in the poll. If that number is one, that means I am the only Pazz&Jop critic who voted for it.

Len Price 3 – Pictures (one)

Christine Ohlman and Rebel Montez – The Deep End (one)

The Jim Jones Revue – Burning Your House Down (two)

The 88 – The 88 (two)

The Grip Weeds – Strange Change Machine (two)

The Mother Truckers – Van Tour (one)

The Sights – Most of What Follows Is True (four)

Edward O’Connell – Our Little Secret (one)

The Greenhornes – Four Stars (one)

Farrah – Farrah (one)

Now some of these I can understand. Farrah is all but unknown in the USA; O’Connell is a DC musician making a debut album that’s self-promoted and self-distributed. But Ohlman and The Greenhornes have history and a strong legacy; Len Price 3  and The Grip Weeds were getting a massive push from Little Steven and The 88 are well-known from their film and TV work.

WTF, people?

Click here for a trove of comments and essays along with the final results.

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New Music from The Breakers

A couple of years ago I stumbled across an album from a band called The Breakers. Why a band from Denmark was on a small label (Funzalo Records) from Arizona was beyond me, but what came out of the speakers was not. Not looking a gift horse in the mouth, I played the snot out of Here For A Laugh and counted my blessings. Motown meets Memphis meets Mersey; why can’t more bands get it? It wound up as my #3 record in 2007.

Prescriptioneers know that I love The Faces – just below The Kinks on my list of best bands ever. Certainly any band that carries that proud flag gets my attention, be it a household word like The Black Crowes or an unknown (on these shores, anyway) group like The Diamond Dogs. Like the latter band, The Breakers combine that bluesy Stones/Faces swagger with a rock and soul edge and a classic Britpop dance band’s fun mentality. And like Rod, Chris and Sulo, The Breakers have a great raspy voiced singer in Toke Nisted.

Video: Here For A Laugh

Just when I was beginning to fear they were one and done, I heard that Little Steven signed them to his Wicked Cool label with a new release planned for 2011. Last Fall a label sampler slipped the track “Riot Act” past most of our collective radar, and then today’s mailbox contained a link to another single, “The Jerry Lee Symptoms“. (Actually, it’s a Bo Diddley beat more than a Killer refrain, but it’s smokin‘ either way.) And that wasn’t all – I found that Here For A Laugh wasn’t their debut album, there’s an older one called What I Want. You can stream both albums here  (along with the new singles).

When the new album comes out I’ll have a full review, but I couldn’t keep this good news to myself. Now you have two month’s notice as well!

Video:Riot Act

The Breakers on MySpace.

Online vendor for What I Want here.

Unplugged? Sure, why not?

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Top Ten Albums of 2010 – #1

(No TGIF today as we conclude the 2010 countdown…)

When all is said and done, rock’n’roll is supposed to be a release, whether that’s from the pulsating rhythm of the music, the depth of the lyrical message or the sheer enjoyment of playing the damned thing loud. It’s hard enough to compare the apples and oranges of music, but when I was finalizing the list I asked myself… which album brought me the most pleasure? Which did I play the most often? Which did I look forward to playing, even if I had heard it thirty times?

And so I give you Pictures from The Len Price 3.

Video: “Mr. Grey

Recalling the great kinetic music of  The Kinks, The Creation, The Small Faces and the early Who, the trio blends in irresistible pop vocals (think Sire-era Searchers or The Records) and punk energy (The Jam and The Clash being obvious influences). The result is a baker’s dozen of explosive three-minute singles; kudos to the production of Graham Day (The Prisoners, Graham Day and the Gaolers).

The album launches itself with the title track (led by Keith Moon drum fills) and follows that jab with the right cross of the celebretard anthem “Keep Your Eyes On Me“, one of 2010’s absolute classics.

Free Download (while it lasts!): “Keep Your Eyes On Me

By the time I got to the third track, “I Don’t Believe You” I already knew I was gobsmacked…and then it just got better. Music like this is the epitome of what the Underground Garage is going for, so it’s no wonder that Little Steven signed these guys onto his Wicked Cool label. I really liked their first two albums Rentacrowd and Chinese Burn, but Pictures is a leap forward even from those. I had it pegged as a best-of contender when it came out in January, and sure enough,  it held off all comers to finish as the best album of 2010.

Listen to clips at Amazon

Video: “I Don’t Believe You

Len Price 3 on MySpace

The Prisoners heritage is clear

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Sex Pistol Radio

Never Mind the Bollocks, here’s Jonesy’s Jukebox!

Steve Jones, Sex Pistols guitarist, launches a new radio show on the legendary KROQ this Sunday, October 10th, and terrestrial radio just got cooler. One of my big gripes with radio today is tightly formatted playlists and national programming at the expense of regional breakouts.

There was a time when radio jocks really had to know their music, and their love of it bled through the radio speakers. Over time that seemed to die, giving way to morning zoo shows and formulaic he/she pairings; the real rock lovers were either banished to night and weekend slots or settled for weekly themed shows…or left the dial altogether.

Radio has had its share of rockers-turned jocks over the years; probably the most successful has been Little Steven with his Underground Garage empire. And while some have imploded rather quickly (David Lee Roth) others have proven to be quite entertaining. Nights With Alice Cooper showed that while Vince isn’t golfing, he’s got a wealth of anecdotes and great taste in music. And who would have imagined that Bob Dylan would not only sit down at a microphone, but prove to be so subtly hilarious?

Of course with the podcast explosion, all this might go the way of the dinosaur. But as long as rock dinosaurs roam the earth, we need someone on the other side of the dial who is in it for the right reasons. I have no doubt that Steve Jones will play some raucous, ass-kicking rock and roll, but the thing that excites me the most is the open call for bands to submit music directly to the show for airplay consideration. Jonesy’s Jukebox will feature an irreverent mix of new music from iconic artists, developing talent, and eclectic cuts from his personal music collection.

“Sunday nights on KROQ has historically been the home to groundbreaking programming beginning with the legendary Rodney Bingenheimer over 30 years ago. In fact, Rodney was one of the first DJ’s in America to play the Sex Pistols” said Kevin Weatherly,Senior Vice President, Programming, CBS RADIO and Program Director for 106.7 KROQ FM. “Steve is punk rock royalty and a proven tastemaker. I’m thrilled that Jonesy’s Jukebox can now be heardalongside KROQ Locals Only, Loveline and Rodney on the Roq.”

To submit music to be considered for inclusion on Jonesy’s Jukebox, please send band CD/Bio to:

Steve Jones
c/o Jonesy’s Jukebox
PO Box 790
Hollywood, CA 90027

God Save The Queen!

 

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Blast From The Past – The BoDeans

The BoDeans released Mr. Sad Clown this year, and for all I know it fell on deaf ears like most of their work. But the fact that they’re still out there plugging and making great music after thirty years is a welcome piece of news.

I remember seeing them play a local club just after the crest of an early hit, and I thought we must have just missed a fire drill. Surely a band who even got plaudits from Rolling Stone and MTV could draw a decent crowd, but this one was so tiny that my friends and I barely outnumbered the band. No matter – they played a great set. Great bands always do.

As you can tell from this thirteen year old review of Blend, they were getting the same underwhelming response then that they are now. I’m not pretending they’re the second coming, but they are a good band that is well worth delving into if you’re looking for music that is atmospheric, straightforward, rocking, laid back, lyrical and guttural.

Yep, those are contradictions. Life is contradictions. Enjoy.

They’re still here, ten years later, creating solid, soulful records that should be making AAA radio programmers do cartwheels. So why is it that their only glimpse of the “big time” has come from the use of their song “Closer To Free” as the anthem from the television show Party Of Five? And unlike The Rembrandts, they can’t even maximize their opportunity – after all, the show is on FOX, not NBC.

No matter – despite lackluster sales, club tours and sporadic praise, Sammy Llanas and Kurt Neumann have forged ahead, mining the vein they know best. Somehow two vocalists who individually would be unspectacular twist their voices into a well-oiled and irresistible harmony; Llanas’ rasp smoothed out by Neuman’s silk. Think Everly Brothers with a Jason And The Scorchers edge, or a Springsteen lead with a Little Steven who can hang with him all the way through.

Blend incorporates New Orleans rhythms and instrumentation to fill out its sound. “Heart Of A Miracle” could have been plucked off a Willy DeVille record (speaking of under-appreciated artists), and “Red Roses” is that slow dance with a lover on a second floor balcony. When they rock, like “Count On Me”, it’s more akin to the sound of the Long Ryders or Mellencamp than 1-4-5 rock (again thanks to brushes and toms for a backbeat instead of the Big Drum Sound). Other standouts include “Hurt By Love” and “Hey Pretty Girl”, a song that Springsteen would have killed to record for The River.

Someone must like them – they still have a record deal in an age where record execs are preaching corporate liposuction. And they’re still making very good music, despite the fact that there doesn’t seem to be a radio format ready to embrace them. Fans will be pleased to have another release that stays true to the course. Those new to the BoDeans will find yet another quality band toiling in the shadows. Looks like a win-win situation.

The BoDeans website

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New Albums From Old Friends

Al Jardine – A Postcard From California

Sure, a lot of this is older Beach Boys material, and yes, Alec Baldwin’s narration within “A California Saga” is a little off-putting, but the important things here are (1) Al Jardine released an album and (2) damn, he sounds really good! Guests on the album – in addition to most of the Beach Boys – include Glen Campbell, Flea, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Steve Miller.

And Beach Boy fans will plotz when they hear the harmonies (including Carl!) on “Don’t Fight The Sea”. Obviously this album has been years in the making, and in keeping with Jardine’s personality it’s a tribute to the natural beauty of California rather than the cars/girls/surfing themes. Fans might have had demos and boots of some of these songs over the years but the sound here is first-rate.

Micky Dolenz – King For A Day

Despite the enormous success of The Monkees, Micky Dolenz still doesn’t get his due as one of the best vocalists of the rock era. I’ve heard it all – the fallacy of The Prefab Four and the lunacy of a fake band cast for television becoming a real one; even Dolenz discounts his own legacy (“it’s like thinking Leonard Nimoy was really a Vulcan”). But they’re wrong.

The Monkees had the cream of Brill Building songwriters at their disposal, and as unlikable a guy as Don Kirschner was, he knew what he was doing when it came to picking hit records. Now Dolenz takes a page from the past by recording an album of Carole King songs (hence the album title). Like most good ideas, there’s probably not a radio station format to match it up with, but I wouldn’t sell him short.

Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin

I guess a punster would call this album Adult Symphonies To God. After years of wondering whether an overweight and practically comatose genius would simply curl up and die in his sandbox, Brian Wilson fans have to be happy that he’s been able to get on a stage and play, open up his musical legacy to people who could help him (read: The Wondermints) and even create new works in his latter days.

Rumors persist that the surviving Beach Boys are going to bury the hatchet (and not in each other’s skulls) and reform, but whether or not that ever happens it’s good to know that there is work done above and beyond Mike Love‘s traveling circus.

Add these to the plethora of new releases from stars of yesteryear – Peter Frampton, Peter Wolf, Foghat, Steve Miller, Burton Cummings – in addition to old reliables like Tom Petty who just keep on going. Maybe the arena gig is now a club show in a Hard Rock showroom, and perhaps the radio play is limited to rockers turned DJ like  Little Steven and Alice Cooper, but for those of us who want to look beyond the top of the charts, there are plenty of great efforts sailing under the radar.

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