Tag Archives: Morrissey

Blast From The Past: Mick Ronson

God damn, he was great.

Always been a Ronno fan; loved his tone on all the Bowie albums and thought his collaboration with Ian Hunter was the perfect dynamic for both men. And while his first two solo albums (Slaughter On Tenth Avenue and Play Don’t Worry) didn’t hit those heights, they were enjoyable nevertheless. In later years I marvelled at how his magic touch would lend a spark to artists as diverse as Ellen Foley, John Mellencamp and Morrissey. I have plenty of great Ronson memories but thought of this one the other day when I came across an old review.

When I moved in June of 1981 I didn’t know a soul in my new town, but found out that Ronno’s band The New York Yanquis was playing a beach club about an hour from my apartment. I swear I was the only one in that club who was aware of the magician on stage, despite his more conventional appearance. Everyone else seemed to be getting hammered and ignoring the legend on stage, who simply went about his business blowing my mind.

It was the first gig of that tour, and the band had just gotten a cease and desist order from the Yankees baseball team, but even that introductory story didn’t make a ripple in this crowd of Budweiser swilling drunks. So he just played a myriad of rock and reggae and soul, backed by Shane Fontayne (guitar), Frank Cambell (bass), Tommy Gun (keyboards), and Wells Kelly (drums), with Ann Langte and Dede Washburn on vocals. I even got to talk to him for a while that night; he was exhausted and probably a little depressed but seemed relieved to know that at least someone recognized him and was excited about the band. It was the last time I’d see him.

His death hit me hard in 1993, and I assumed that there would never be another album since the others never sold that well and glam was the furthest thing from the current grunge on the radio. How delighted I was to come across Showtime in 2000, let alone the wonderful collections that followed.

Here is my review from Amplifier Magazine in 2000…

The first officially released live collection dedicated to Mick Ronson’s solo work is yet another stunning testament to the late guitarist’s versatility and passion. Showtime culls tracks from a 1976 performance of The Mick Ronson Band alongside excerpts from the 1990 Hunter/Ronson band tour. Lesser known tracks like “Takin’ A Train” and “I’d Give Anything To See You” shine while the cover of “White Light, White Heat” explodes with energetic fretwork. Extended versions of the instrumentals “Slaughter On Tenth Avenue” and “FBI” are highlights, but “Sweet Dreamer”, as always, is the emotional showstopping performance that will leave you with heart in mouth.

Limited editions of this release include a bonus disc featuring four tracks recorded in Sweden in 1991, later versions of which appeared n the posthumous release Heaven and Hull. The label is reportedly assembling more Ronson releases including a CD spotlighting his instrumental work. Keep it coming folks, this is magic!

Listen to clips here.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Glee Greats!

...and here are eight of them.

 

Unless you’re living under a rock – and maybe even that isn’t sequestered enough – you know that Glee has returned from hiatus to complete its run of episodes this Spring.  

This week’s show was a bit of a mixed bag, with the obligatory re-establishment of the key plot points, the introduction of new characters (including Idina Menzel from Rent and Wicked), and the trucking out of one of the most dreadful songs ever written, Lionel Ritchie’s “Hello”.  

I realize that the script occasionally needs to twist uncomfortably to work in the theme for the songs, and there’s enough about the show that’s enjoyable that I can roll with it. But even though “Hello” is a viable duet that fits the concept, a shitty song is a shitty song is a shitty song. Music is subjective. Your mileage may vary.  

And speaking of shitty songs, there’s “Vogue” by Madonna. Hate, hate, hate that song. But Jane Lynch knocked that bitch out of the park. Then again, Jane Lynch can do no wrong. Next week is a whole Madonna-themed episode, so I’ll have my sick bag at the ready.  

But that got me thinking…they’ve already tackled Queen, Journey, The Doors, AC/DC, The Pretenders, John Lennon…hell, even Generation X! They’s as unafraid to toss out a classic rock song as they are to pomp with fluff. So here are ten terrific tunes that I’d like to see Glee-ified…  

01: “Pushin Too Hard” (The Seeds) – perfect for Artie, I think. Especially since “Wheels” would be too Americana for Glee

02: “Can’t Hardly Wait” (The Replacements) – a back beat made for dancing, plus they get to use the horns and strings that always seem to be available. 

03: “Better Things” (The Kinks) – Any show about high school deals with overcoming adversity or at least hoping that things will turn around. And what better song for that than this? 

04: “One Way Ticket To Hell and Back” (The Darkness) – man, they missed the boat by leaving this one out this week. Perfect blend of AC/DC and falsetto would have provided great solos for many in the cast. 

05: “It Wouldn’t Have made Any Difference” (Todd Rundgren) – they do like their power ballads on the show, emotional vocal drama helps sustain the plot. Given the current relationship angst, is there a better choice than this classic? 

06: “We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful” (Morrissey) – because this sentiment is high school in a nutshell. Maybe even  “I Know It’s Going To Happen Someday”? But they’ll never do “You’re The One For Me, Fatty”. 

07: “Come On Eileen” (Dexy’s Midnight Runners) – actually, I can’t believe they haven’t done this one yet! Not certain who would sing it, but I want to see some of these people rocking the overalls. 

08: “Teacher Teacher” (Rockpile) – “Schools Out” would be too corny, and “Hot For Teacher” might be too risqué…but this little Rockpile ditty would be perfect

09: “Doll Hospital” (John Hiatt) – we need a song for the Cheerios girls, don’t we? Not to mention this could be the subplot for the one who’s preggers. (I’d use the studio version in the show, but any excuse I get to pimp Sonny Landreth is worth taking). 

10: “September Gurls” (Big Star). Because Alex Chilton deserves a wider audience for posterity. Because it’s one of the most perfect pop songs ever written. And because, like Alex, I can vouch that December Boys got it bad

You can already grab the first part of the season on DVD, not to mention the first and second albums collecting songs from the show.  

And here’s your Glee episode guide, courtesy TV.com.  

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Blast From The Past: The Smoking Popes

I used to have mixed emotions about bands getting back together after breaking up and going their separate ways. The optimist in me always thought that there might be some more gold in that mine, and perhaps great music would resume after the members had a chance to step away. The purist in me would dread a reputation being ruined, sweet voices now croaking, tight ensembles now a wee bit sloppy.

But really – who am I to be the arbiter of such things? So my new position is bring it on – if you have the guts to do it, I have the guts to listen –  and let the chips fall where they may. After all, it’s your reputation, not mine, at stake.

But the sheer numbers of bands doing this is staggering – it might be easier to count the ones who don’t! So while The Smoking Popes were certainly popular enough in their first incarnation, I’m not certain whether many outside of Chicago were aware of their second wind in the latter half of this decade. Somehow it eluded me until a month ago – I thought when they dissolved they were done forever. I’m going to take a dive in those waters soon.

But in the meantime, here’s a review of their live album from almost a decade ago, as it originally ran in PopMatters. It will be interesting to play their 2006 album At Metro and compare.

Smoke 'em if you got 'em.

Don’t it always seem to go / That you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.” You’re right, Joni. The Smoking Popes are no more, but this live recording proves that they packed a hell of a wallop when they were. Familiar to most for the radio hit “Need You Around” and Josh Caterer‘s Morrissey-like lead vocals, the Chicago quartet lit stages on fire for a decade. This set, from their final performance at the Metro, truly captures their power and energy as they rip through song after song with nary a breather.

Crooning like The Moz is one thing, but contrasting a raging punk-pop beat against it made the Popes truly unique. With brothers Matt and Eli (bass and guitar, respectively) and drummer Mike Fellumlee backing his voice and guitar, songs like “No More Smiles,” “Writing A Letter” and “Under The Blanket” kick ass, while the slower tempo songs (“Stars”) are just as powerful in their restraint. Short instrumentals “Ramblin’ Rose” and “Surf” are lethal, the latter segueing into a “You Really Got Me” riff before launching into “Before I’m Gone.” Josh’s lyrics bear listening to as well; he’s sometimes wordy but is painfully honest and open. “Pretty Pathetic” is amazing.

The band broke up after Josh, the main songwriter, felt his religious calling was incompatible with being in a band (especially one with a name like Smoking Popes, I imagine). The intro to the last track on Live (“I Know You Love Me”) not only makes his vision abundantly clear but adds another dimension to a song you may have been touched by in a completely different way.

Check out some clips on Amazon.

Smoking Popes website – new album in 2010!

*****

R.I.P. James Gurley

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