Tag Archives: Lowell George

New Album!Jetpack On!

Jetpack On! (their punctuation – although I would imagine that anytime a jetpack is involved, there is some sense of urgency) is a three-piece band from Michigan that nicely straddles indie, powerpop and straight-ahead rock and roll. Guitars rock, vocals are solid, and there’s a conscious effort to avoid padding in the arrangements – a welcome change from a lot of young bands seeking to set themselves apart from the pack.

Leadoff cut “Best I Can” is punchy with an infectious chorus, sounding like Snow Patrol asked The Edge to sit in on guitar – and it’s even better than that sounds. There are a myriad of “sounds like” moments here, from the above referenced U2 in “Come On Stack It Up” to such polar opposites as a poppier Buckcherry (“Tease Tease Tease”) and a far more skilled Maroon 5 (“I Know, You Know”, “Here Again”). One could even imagine a mature Billy Idol helming “Another Surpise” and having an FM hit with it; guitarist Ryan Hoger even sounds like he’s getting his Steve Stevens on during the solo.

Hoger and Nick and Vince D’Agostino (bass and drums, respectively) have a clear, crisp sound and songs that for the most part hold up very well with repeat plays. The ten tracks hover between the four and five-minute mark, which is a minute longer than people expect from pop songs, but Jetpack On pulls it off; I never felt like the songs should have ended sooner.

In fact, my two favorite tracks might be the longest. The hypnotic single “Where Do We Go From Here?” gradually builds from a pulse to a fist-pumping rocker, and the closing track “Bring Her Back Home” is just dripping with attitude. I suggest that you check them out and get your Jetpack On!

Jetpack On! at MySpace

Although he sat in on a gig in July, he hadn’t been playing drums with them since 2009, but you can’t think of Little Feat without thinking of its backbone, and one of its founders, Richie Hayward. Diagnosed with liver cancer last year, and sadly (like so many musicians) without sufficient health insurance, he finally succumbed Thursday night.

Beyond the storied and wonderful Feat catalogue, Hayward also played with a laundry list of musicians over the years and will be sorely missed. I hope he and Lowell George are jamming right now in that club on the other side. R.I.P. my friend.

Richie Hayward

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Blast From The Past: Frank Zappa

I’m an unabashed Frank Zappa fan; I probably own more albums of his than of any other artist, a fact that owes as much to his prolific artistry as it does to my love of his music. And I certainly don’t suggest that anyone should skip over the majesty of his catalogue to settle for a greatest hits collection.

But I have to remind myself that it’s been over fifteen years since his passing and there’s a generation of listeners who probably have no first-hand observation of the man’s genius. Where does one start? Of course, I always will recommend that one start at the beginning and work forward to be richly rewarded by one great album after another.

But times are tough and money is tight. So if you’re looking to get a mere snapshot, one suggestion is a collection of songs that finds Frank flipping the audio bird at some not-so-sacred cows, entitled Have I Offended Someone. Rykodisc’s fifteen track CD was released posthumously in 1997. Here’s my review, originally published in May of that year…

Thankfully...yes, you have!

Thankfully...yes, you have!

To say that Zappa pushed the envelope would be an understatement. Before it was in vogue to do so, Frank thrilled audiences with theatrical rock shows in residence and issued concept albums. His perfectionist nature led him to discover, nurture, and support talented musicians like Lowell George, Steve Vai and Terry Bozzio. His music encompassed orchestral movements, rock, jazz, and featured everything from classical strings to funky horn sections. When label support would be unavailable (as it usually was from Warner Brothers) Zappa would finance his own tours, usually at a loss, to present his music in a form he felt it deserved. And politically he suffered no fools, as evidenced by his long time campaign against the PMRC and their proposed rating system – again, at his own expense and for the issue, not the glory.

During his 1988 tour – a phenomenal series of performances that has still not been fully documented – he made arrangements with the League Of Women Voters in each city to set up a booth to register voters. For all his idiosyncrasies (and truth be known, they were mostly perceived), Zappa was a brilliant and prolific musician and orator with a biting wit and a generous heart. He never told people what to think – he merely asked them to think for themselves.

Yet to many, Zappa was a man feeding toilet humor to the masses in place of music, a crass and disgusting artist who made fun of gays, blacks, Jews, Catholics…oh hell, everybody. Crass? Well…maybe. Zappa used his satire to pop the balloons of many targets, but never with hatred. What Frank did so well was to take matters like homophobia, racism, sexual prohibition and especially intellectual repression, and let them bask in their own hypocritical bright light.

Have I Offended Someone brings together most of the songs that got under the skin of the politically correct set, those who unfortunately missed the humor and sarcasm. Of course, you also have the closet hypocrites, too. (You can spot them in a second – they’re the ones who laughed at “Jewish Princess” but got pissed when “Catholic Girls” came out a couple of years later.) Zappa was offended too, but by phony televangelists, slimy record executives, two-faced politicians, drug-addled air heads, and especially apathetic whiners. But rather than sit back and complain – or worse, do nothing – Zappa stood up for what he believed in, in song, and in deed.

These witticisms were only a small fragment of a recording career which comprises hundreds of hours of music that spanned the full spectrum of music. But for those new to the Zappa world looking to get a clue to his satirical side, this is as good a place to start as any. Although each of the fifteen pieces on Offended is available in some form on previous releases, eight are remixed or reconstructed and two are previously unavailable live versions – “Tinsel Town Rebellion” and “Dumb All Over”, the latter featuring some stunning guitar work. Other highlights include the driving “Disco Boy” and the hilarious “We’re Turning Again”, Frank’s dead on shot at aging hippies: ‘Now I see ’em tightnin’ up their headbands / On the weekend and they get loaded when they came to town / They walk around in Greenwich Village buying posters they can hang up / In those smelly little secret black light bedrooms on Long Island / Singing JIMI COME BACK!…’

There are enough extras here to please even the Zappa completists, and Rykodisc has done their usual stellar job with sound quality and packaging. Fittingly, the cover art is from outlaw artist Ralph Steadman and the liner notes from ex-Fug honcho Ed Sanders, both of whom know something about artistic repression. Frank Zappa was the Curt Flood of rock and roll, the man who took one for the team and said out loud what many others did not have the courage to voice. When he took on the Senate Committee and the PMRC equipped with only wit, intellect and the Bill Of Rights, it was a slaughter. The suits never stood a chance.

Have I Offended Someone? God, I hope so.

And since Robert Novak has left this mortal coil…here’s Frank on Crossfire.

zappa moustache

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