Tag Archives: Mitch Ryder

Camping…in Brooklyn?

If it’s Brooklyn, Michigan – damn straight!

The inaugural Michigan Music Fest is going to take place September 17th, and discounted tickets are on sale now. Featuring one of the few performances this year by Jack White (with The Racounteurs, no less), the lineup includes an amazing array of legendary Detroit talent as well as some hot up-and-comers.

And Sheryl Crow, who for some reason is getting all the lead press. Hey, she’s good-looking and very successful, and by all accounts a nice person. But when your festival boasts The Rockets, Mitch Ryder, The Howling Diablos, The Romantics, Alto Reed and Mark Farner, do you really need to lead with that? Unless she’s planning to bring Kid Rock with her, I think this is a bit ass-backwards.

Other bands announced to date include Whitey Morgan and The 78s, Jill Jack, The Juliets, Ty Stone and The Truth; Jack White is poised to bring more acts from his Third Man Records roster.

More than a concert, it’s a full-blown arts festival with food and beverage tents manned by Michigan vendors and an art gallery featuring the work of local artists including Johnny “Bee” Badanjek and the legendary Stanley Mouse, who is designing the events poster. Gates open at noon, the first band is on at 1pm, and the show is slated to end at 11pm. Ten hours of mind-blowing music and an opportunity to see some of the greatest musicians in Detroit history, even if you would rather camp in a hotel.

Big thanks to my Detroit buddy Sue for tipping me to this can’t-miss event.

Get more information here.

Buy Michigan Music Fest tickets.

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Still Alive And Well

Every so often I Google just to see if he’s still out there, rockin’.

He was in the 60s.

He was in the 70s.

He was in the 80s.

He was in the 90s.

He was in the 00’s.

And he was just in Germany doing it again.

Still alive and well.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Rockin’ Remakes

Hit Factory

Rock music has always drawn upon other influences; one could argue that it’s the perfect intersection between the influences of country, soul and r’n’b. And many of the biggest rock bands have repaid that influence by performing those influential songs on record and in concert. Sometimes those influences were from their peers.

When classic rock was starting to explode in the 60’s, Motown was right there with them on the charts. People often forget to list Smokey Robinson and Holland-Dozier-Holland in the same breath as Brian Wilson, Lennon-McCartney, Paul Simon, Ray Davies, Jagger-Richard and other dominant songwriters. What an amazing amount of creative genius sharing the spotlight in the same short period of time.

So today I’d like to offer Ten Rockin’ Remakes of soul classics from some of my favorite rock bands. Proof positive that great music knows no color.

The Faces:   “I’m Losing You” – even hotter live than on record.

Humble Pie:   “I Don’t Need No Doctor” – Steve Marriott is The Man.

The Rolling Stones:   “Just My Imagination” – from a 2007 live show.

Mitch Ryder:   “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?” – great Jimmy Ruffin tune.

Jeff Beck:   “People Get Ready” – when you say “Beck” I think of him first.

The J. Geils Band:   “Where Did Our Love Go?”  – from the 2009 reunion.

Herman Brood:   “My Girl” – Almost unrecognizable in this re-arrangement.

Credence Clearwater Revival:   “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” – I guess you’d classify this as swamp soul!

David Bowie:   “Knock On Wood” – from the underrated David Live album

The Band:   “Baby Don’t You Do It” – Marvin Gaye cover from The Last Waltz

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Detroit Rock City

Fewer places have been hit harder by the recession than Detroit in recent years. Maybe you’ve never been there and that statement doesn’t resonate much with you, but when one of America’s greatest cities is fighting to survive, the rest of us need to wake up.

Anyone involved in the music business knows how important Detroit has been to rock’n’roll. The list of giants is staggering, from Motown to Mitch Ryder, from Ted Nugent, Bob Seger and Alice Cooper to The Romantics, The Stooges and The MC5. I could list a hundred artists. Edumucate yerself.

America has turned from a nation of innovators and producers to a nation of consumers. Global conglomerates only exist to groom, maintain and satisfy shareholders, and we’re feeding the beast like never before. Hey, everyone wants a deal, whether it’s on their new car, their mortgage or a pair of pants. But even the most caustic critic of social issues must be aware of the toll that has been taken as corporations squeeze out labor through offshore flash farms and duck financial ethics using creative accounting loopholes.

First it was the farmers unable to sustain businesses that had weathered the toughest of storms – even The Great Depression – thanks to banking maneuvers that we now realize were less than ethical. And the auto industry – the backbone of American manufacturing – is now gasping for air.

So what is the Assembly Line Concert?

Live musical marathon from March 19th through April 1st, to raise awareness of the importance of the Auto Industry and the buying of domestic and locally made goods and services to the creation of jobs in our communities. It is also an attempt to break the Guinness Record we set last year for the longest concert by multiple artists.

This year’s effort is appropriately nicknamed the Second Shift. The Daily Tribune reported that “the concert record set last year brought attention to the cause. …About 200 bands have signed up to play one-hour sets at Assembly Line II. The Guinness Book of World Records clock starts ticking at 5 p.m. and if all goes well, musicians will play continuously for 13 days.”

So tune in and rock! And maybe the next time you’re going to plunk some money down, consider where it’s going before you make that final decision.

Detroit = Rock City

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New Album! Mitch Ryder

And Mitch Ryder ain't doing so bad himself...

I must start off with the disclaimer that I am a huge fan of Mitch Ryder‘s music. I’ve written enough pieces here and elsewhere touting the underappreciated master of gritty, soulful, Dee-troit rock’n’roll, mostly complaining that the general public is largely unaware that he didn’t hang ’em up after a few blazing years with the Detroit Wheels.  Ask most people about Mitch Ryder today and they’ll shrug their shoulders; most will only remember the 60’s, and a few might remember the comeback album John Mellencamp produced…in 1983.  Only the most devout of fans is even aware that there’s been a steady output of albums in Germany where he has been a superstar since establishing residency a generation ago. He remains an important, vital artist

I held off on publishing this review for months because I was hoping to release it when it would have done the most good; coinciding with whatever concerted effort was in play to promote the first American album in over a quarter-century from a bonafide legend. But it’s now months later, and…nothing. Apparently I’m too close to the flame and in the vast minority , but either this album was criminally underpromoted, or no one gives a shit about Mitch Ryder anymore. I sure hope it’s the former.  

Here’s my review from the current Bucketfull of Brains:  

 
Subtitled The Promise, Detroit Ain’t Dead Yet is the first American studio album for Mitch Ryder in over twenty-five years. It’s really, really good, and I sure hope you have the chance to hear it because like the tree that fell in that forest, when it fell there was no one around…and whatever sound it made wasn’t heard. This album has been out for months, and were I not a Mitch Ryder lifer, I wouldn’t have known about it.
  

With old Detroit buddy Don Was on hand to twirl knobs, Ryder’s newest finds him bringing the funk as well as singing the blues and rocking out. The greasy, kinetic and keyboard-churning “Junkie Love” not only channels vintage James Brown, but is among the finest tracks Mitch has ever recorded. “Everybody Looses” (sic) scores with the Eric Burdon blueprint, and like Burdon, Ryder has found a new depth to his soulful voice in his post-golden years. Listen to his pipes on “Get Real” as he bends and plies notes with as much power and rasp as he did in his youth. Most of his contemporaries are scaling down arrangements to hide their limitations while Ryder seems to be expanding his to new horizons.  

“My Heart Belongs to Me” might steal a riff from “I’ll Take You There” (the Staple Singers classic) but is the perfect vehicle for Ryder’s gruff soul; lyrically witty and timeless in its appeal. Ditto “If My Baby Don’t Stop Cryin'”, a funky urban ramble that could have easily been a roadhouse jukebox hit in his prime. And a live cover of the Jimmy Ruffin classic “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted” (oddly placed within the studio tracks) trumps anything Rod Stewart has attempted to do in his last five albums of interpretations. Less appealing are “Lets Keep Dancing” and the Dylan-esque “The Way We Were”, but two clunkers out of twelve is a batting average I’ll take any day.  

Oddly enough, for an artist who wants the American audience to realize that he is creating new and vital music, the packaging of the album signals apathy in that regard. The cover is a cut-and-paste of a photo of a twenty-ish Mitch, not the sixty-plus visage of his current self. The liner notes, preceded by a quick note  of “Hello England” (?) are merely a reprint of an old bio from 2003  focusing upon Mitch’s early days and how a great career got derailed. At the tail end of the essay there’s a quick note about the Mellencamp project happening after a couple of European solo albums. And lastly – ironically – a statement that “it would be a mistake to consign Mitch Ryder to the past“.  

Fair enough, Mitch. But if that’s the case, why is there no mention of all those albums you’ve made since 1983? How about the events that led to this new stab at an American career? Most of America has no idea that you’ve made any music at all since Never Kick a Sleeping Dog, so why would you issue an album of new music in packaging that screams repackaged oldies? Fire your publicist/manager – or hire one – but don’t blame your audience for ignoring your new music if you can’t even muster the energy to acknowledge it yourself. I’m not certain if this excellent album would fly or fail in such fickle times, but to have it die in the womb because of poor marketing is inexcusable.  

Still rocking at 65

I grew up in New York City, and when I first heard Mitch Ryderand most of the magical music of the 60’s – it was on a transistor radio whose dial constantly spun back and forth between WMCA and WABC. Long before the power of Al Gore’s Internet and the availability of magazines from Creem to Mojo, AM radio was it, unless you had the stones to buy a magazine aimed at teenage girls (“Win a date with Paul McCartney!”) to get your rock and roll fix. (I did – Gloria Stavers‘ trailblazing 16 Magazine was my guilty pleasure and my salvation). When I was growing up, those DJ’s were stars, and one of those legendary voices leading the charge was silenced by a heart attack today.  Ron Lundy, you took that musical journey with me…R.I.P., my friend. Seventy-seven, W-A-B-C!  

And R.I.P. Peter Graves, who would have been eighty-four this Thursday. Mission Impossible was cool as hell, but like Leslie Nielsen, you knew not to take yourself that seriously and are legend thanks to Airplane.  Now you’re really under, Ouver!  

Has it really been thirty years since Airplane??  

 

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T.G.I.F. – Ten More Anniversaries

 

It’s not that I wanted to repeat last week’s model of ten famous birthdays that fall on the same day, but damned if February 26th wasn’t a key date for a lot of entertainers and artists who made an impact upon me. Just more credence for the MDC Theory (Memorial Day Conceptions) I proposed last Friday. (I determined that my birth was the result of a St. Patrick’s Day party that got a little crazy.) 

And it’s not all birthdays either – February 26th is also the day we lost a couple of favorites, including one of the best and most influential comedians of all time. So here are ten anniversaries, in chronological order; celebrate their contributions today. 

Seven birthdays...

Tex Avery, 1908 – One of the top animators, voice actors and cartoon directors of all time. He could be a legend just for creating Daffy Duck but in fact was involved in hundreds of cartoons and characters for Walter Lantz studios and the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series, whose ribald humor I appreciate more as an adult than I did as a child. 

Jackie Gleason, 1916 – Maybe we just take some people for granted, especially when they make it look effortless. Gleason was a television pioneer; his eponymous variety show and The Honeymooners are seminal influences in the medium (the Honeymooners concept even spawning a more long-running animated version in The Flinstones). But his turns in The Hustler and Requiem For A Heavyweight show that he was no slouch as a dramatic actor either. 

Video: The Great One 

Fats Domino, 1928 – The congenial, portly piano player continues to inspire blues players and rockers alike with his trademark style. “Blueberry Hill”, “Ain’t That A Shame”, “I’m Walkin” – the list is endless. I’m ashamed to admit that it took me until the 80’s to realize that Fats was why Chubby Checker chose his stage name. We almost lost the legend in Hurricane Katrina but he’s 82 today. 

Godfrey Cambridge, 1933 – Cambridge was a very intelligent man; he earned a full scholarship to medical school but dropped out to pursue an entertainment career.  He was a staple on talk shows in the 60’s and 70’s with a smooth and smart style like fellow comic Bill Cosby (but talked about black and white issues with a more sarcastic edge). He died early; sadly his albums are out of print and he is known to many only for his acting in films such as Watermelon Man and Cotton Comes To Harlem

Johnny Cash, 1932 – Nothing much need be said about The Man In Black that you don’t already know, his recorded legacy is essential listening. But you might not have seen that the last album in the American series has just been released entitled Ain’t No Grave

Listen to sample clips from Ain’t No Grave 

Chuck Wepner, 1939 – The Bayonne Bleeder. Watching Muhammad Ali fight in his prime was like watching Mike Tyson; odds were the challenger wasn’t going to last long. Wepner was given no chance by the pundits but took everything Ali threw at him for fifteen rounds, even flattening the champ in the ninth round. This fight inspired Sylvester Stallone to create Rocky

Mitch Ryder, 1945 – I’ve certainly written plenty about my fondness for Mitch Ryder, and although the link shows you just how prolific he continues to be, it’s not the same as hearing the music. The newest album (misnamed on the AMG entry) is Detroit Ain’t Dead Yet, his first American release since 1983, and an autobiography is scheduled for release this Summer. 

...and three fond farewells.

We remember those lost on this day, including… 

Buddy Miles, 2008 – Most famous for his work with Jimi Hendrix in Band of Gypsys and his hit “Them Changes”, Miles was also a player with Wilson Pickett, a member of The Electric Flag, and leader of his own group The Buddy Miles Express, featuring a hot-shot guitarist named Jim McCarty

Video: Buddy Miles 

Lawrence Tierney, 2002 – Quintessential tough guy for whom it was no act; his real-life boozing and brawling cost him an A-list career. Quentin Tarantino, for all his quirks, has a knack for putting an actor past his prime in a plum role and Tierney will forever be remembered for his turn in Reservoir Dogs as the curmudgeonly caper mastermind Joe Cabot

Bill Hicks, 1994 – I’ve expounded upon Bill Hicks at great length; he’s one of the most important comics in the history of the art form. Although his death at 33 meant an abrupt end to his career, he left us an incredible body of work and continues to inspire comedians to hold a mirror up to society and tell the truth

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High Roads, Haiti and Grande Ballrooms

Class act, class exit.

Conan O’Brien proved last night that it is possible to walk away from an ugly situation by taking the high road. His last show was filled with fun, pranks, great music and a heartfelt message to his fans.  

Watch here.  

And in case NBC takes down the video, here’s a transcript of his comments, plus clips from his fellow talk-show hosts.  

I could write fifty pages on why people love Conan O’Brien and not touch that four minute speech.  

***  

If you’re the type of person who likes to contribute to worthwhile projects, here are a couple of opportunities on wildly different scales.  

  

I’ll Stand By You  

Hope For Haiti Now conducted a very successful telethon last night where millions of dollars were raised for the cause. I’m as skeptical as the next person about charity scams and how some organizations skim large percentages off the top for administration costs with little of the money actually going to the charity. But this project was set up with public transparency and a guarantee that one hundred percent of the donations will go to a handful of specific organizations who are on the ground in Haiti.  

Please beware of scam sites. This is the official one.  

Of course, you might be donating through work (with an employer match) or directly to an established organization you trust (i.e. The American Red Cross). Nothing wrong with that – charity comes from the heart, and whatever you do is greatly needed and surely appreciated. It could even be non-monetary, like volunteerism or prayer. But know that despite what some religious nutjobs and political wingnuts are saying, this is not reparation but a natural disaster that has flattened a helpless people.  

We take much for granted. There but for geography and fate go I.  

***  

Where rock'n'roll met its match in Detroit

On a whole different level, documentarian Tony D’Annunzio is completing a film project about the legendary Grande Ballroom in Detroit. The Grande was as critical to the development of the Detroit rock music scene as the Fillmore West was to San Francisco and the Fillmore East to New York. This is where every band from Detroit aspired to play, and where every band from out of town had to walk the gauntlet and prove themselves worthy.  

Check out this amazing trailer featuring several legendary musicians who fondly recall the place where magic happened.  

Here’s the official blurb from the project website:  

LOUDER THAN LOVE is the story of the Grande Ballroom in Detroit Michigan. The Grande Ballroom was the birthplace of the Detroit Rock Music Scene. Bands like MC5,Iggy & The Stooges,Ted Nugent & The Amboy Dukes,Alice Cooper and many more got their start here. The Grande not only influenced local Detroit musicians but inspired bands from all over the US & from Europe. Legendary acts like Led Zeppelin, Cream, BB King, Janis Joplin, Pink Floyd and The Who graced the stage at the Grande on a regular basis. While the west coast was groovin’ to the sounds of the “Summer of Love” in 1967, Detroit was pumping out a hard driving,gritty and raw sound that was LOUDER THAN LOVE.  

Sounds like a worthy project and a great tribute to a landmark. Contact Tony D’Annunizio through that webpage if you need more information.  

Just don’t accidentally contact this guy.

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