Tag Archives: New Album

TGIF – Ten Returning Rockers

Rock and Roll will never die…

Yep, it’s that time of year – the pools aren’t even closed yet but the stores have Halloween decorations in the aisles and the ballsy ones even have a few Santa items prepped for display. And in the music industry, where old habits die hard, labels jockey to get product in position for Christmas. If they can market it in September, break it in October and take credit for it in November, history shows that you’ll be wrapping it up in pretty paper in December.

So while the theatres were filled with aliens and vampires and dinosaurs all summer, so too will the virtual record shelves in the fall. So this week’s TGIF announces Ten Returning Rockers who have product – their word for music, not mine – ready to roll.

Roll. They got it half right, anyway.

(01) – WilcoThe Whole Love

(02) – BlondiePanic of Girls

(03) – Ryan AdamsAshes & Fire

(04) – Tom WaitsBad As Me

(05) – Sly StoneI’m Back

(06) – The JayhawksMockingbird Time

(07) – Daryl HallLaughing Down Crying

(08) – The BanglesSweetheart of The Sun

(09) – Lindsey BuckinghamSeeds We Sow

(10) – Nick LoweThe Old Magic

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Under The Radar: The Modulators

The Modulators were a Jersey pop band that created some buzz in the 80’s; fortunate fans might have seen them ripping up the Tri-State clubs or even appearing on Uncle Floyd. Jangling guitars, big pop hooks and solid harmonies must have wowed the fans who likely wondered why they never launched into the major leagues. It sure wasn’t lack of talent…

Video: “Spin Me Around

Definitely some Shoes DNA in that one, although with more energy; I was immediately reminded of The Producers. There’s a little of The Jam in “Own Little World” and  “If You Let Her Go” is a mashup of The Grass Roots and The Turtles. Many of the tracks are matted under that thin 80’s production, but for a 1984 album and a handful of outtakes it sounds very clean. Some of the production choices sound a little dated and  there’s a synth clouding a solid cover of “My Back Pages“, but when songs are as infectiously hummable as “Rainy Day Girl” or lyrically clever as “Lies” (Buddy Holly fans, take note), so what?

Like many powerpop bands who never got past the regional stage in their heyday, the Internet and pop festivals like IPO are helping to get them more exposure. And when you can still sound great a quarter century later…

Listen to some clips on Amazon

Buy Tomorrow’s Coming at Kool Kat Musik

The Modulators website and MySpace site.

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New Album! Steve Cropper

Guitar legend Steve Cropper has followed the recent trend of revisiting old chestnuts with the aid of other musical stars, but his effort is also a tip of the cap to one of his first and biggest musical influences, Lowman “Pete” Pauling of The 5 Royales. For all his contributions to music over the past half century, Cropper is not a household name, nor is the band he honors here. But let’s hope that for those without a proper frame of reference, his decision to include artists like Steve Winwood, B.B. King and Brian May will bring listeners like moths to a flame.

Of course, Cropper needs no help; his tone and feel are seminal and he shines throughout. Never overtly flashy, he’s not all over the songs but inside them like a heartbeat. Soulful, pensive, exciting – he breathes these songs to new life with inspired licks and a palpable sense of joy. And with Jon Tiven at the helm, the entire project shines.

The band is amazing, featuring David Hood and Spooner Oldham, and I was particularly thrilled with the inclusion of Dan Penn. Winwood fits like hand in glove, and I was pleasantly surprised by John Popper’s performance (I can count my favorite Popper songs on no fingers). But if there are star performances on Dedicated – A Salute To The 5 Royales, they belong to the dynamic Sharon Jones, the emotive Lucinda Williams and the electrifying Bettye LaVette.

This album is both fresh and a time trip; it will play with every emotion you own. Get your wallet out now.

Listen to clips at Amazon.

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New Album! The Refreshments

It’s gotta be both rock and roll…

The Refreshments have released another gem. Led by Joakim Arnell and piano master Johan Blohm, the Swedish rockers are in fine form – as usual – with another platter of boogie-woogie rock and roll destined for heavy airplay at my house. While American radio continues to shun the natural descendants of Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis, Sweden is among the many other lands who honor one our lands greatest exports – rock’n’roll. Sure, these unassuming middle-aged guys don’t look like rockers, but looks deceive. Check this out…

Video: A 40-minute set from Antone’s!

Of course, the band that will immediately spring to mind is Rockpile, and it was Billy Bremner who first sought out the band and even joined in for a couple of albums. Albert Lee also took a turn, and there was even a great tour with Bremner and Dave Edmunds (released as the latter’s A Pile Of Rock) immortalized on this DVD, which I just have to get my hands on. Like Rockpile, the music is infections and relentless, the sound of blues/pub/boogie performed with love…and incredible skill.

Video: JB Boogie

On this new one, the band delivers piano-pumping, horn-drenched rock in droves, but covers all the bases – rockabilly (“Go Baby Bird“), Everly Brothers pop (“By Your Side“), country roadhouse (“Old Hopes Brand New“) and Tex-Mex (“Negative Nancy“). It doesn’t matter what they tackle, they do it well, and it’s astounding that a melting pot of American roots music has been percolating for a quarter century halfway across the world without making a ripple in the States. Then again…why would that surprise me?

One could say that the band has never grown in their career; I say they’ve never regressed. Yes, you could probably buy the albums in any order and enjoy them just as much; they’re all fruit from the same tree. If you have the cash, you could catch up in one fell swoop with this 8-CD collection. I hope you have had the pleasure of enjoying this band, but when I can turn someone on to a great group like this, I must admit a selfish feeling of great satisfaction.

The Refreshments official website

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T.G.I.F. – Ten For IPO!

From the ashes of the Poptopia festival in the late 90s came International Pop Overthrow, a multi-night multi-band powerpop showcase named in honor of the Material Issue album. David Bash has brought that festival into a global limelight on the years since, from coast-to-coast in America and in the hallowed halls of The Cavern in Liverpool England. And every year there is a multi-disc souvenir featuring many of the bands who take the stage, a tradition that Not Lame Recordings was (ahem) instrumental in perpetuating.

David is still out there bashing, and while Not Lame is no more, Bruce Brodeen is still involved with the CDs. The latest – Volume 14is now on sale at the Pop Geek Heaven site that Bruce now manages.

So this week’s TGIF is Ten For IPO – ten artists who can be found on this latest version of pop nirvana. Get your powerpop on!

(01) – Dave Rave, “Ann Marie

(02) – Lannie Flowers, “Looking For You

(03) – The Dirty Royals, “CIA

(04) – Bastards of Melody, “Dead Soldiers

(05) – The Dahlmanns, “I Love You Baby But I Hate Your Friends

(06) – Longplayer, “I Won’t Let You Down

(07) – Jeremy Morris, “Hurry Up And Wait

(08) – The Pondhawks, “Midnight Howl

(09) – All Day Sucker, “The Picture That Took Me

(10) – Cosmo Topper, “For The Time Being

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T.G.I.F. – Ten For Matthew Sweet

To follow up on the announcement about Matthew Sweet’s new album Modern Art, I thought today’s TGIF would be a great time to give the under-appreciated popster a tip of the cap. It can’t be easy putting your heart and soul into being a pop craftsman and finding that despite some massive airplay early in your career, there aren’t any groundswell radio formats to celebrate the joyous jangle of a big hook and chorus. I’d like to think that had Matthew been around in the early 70s, he’d have had his singles on the charts alongside The Raspberries. But that didn’t work for Big Star, now did it?

But I’m glad he hasn’t given up the ghost, because we need all the Matthew Sweets we can get, larger than life. So this week’s TGIF is Ten For Matthew Sweet…and by the way, if you’ve never heard “Thunderstorm” from In Reverse, you are in for a real treat…

(01) – “We’re The Same

(02) – “Thunderstorm”

(03) – “You Don’t Love Me”

(04) – “Someone To Pull The Trigger”

(05) – “I’ve Been Waiting”

(06) – “Come To California”

(07) – “Girlfriend”

(08) – “Divine Intervention”

(09) – “Sick Of Myself”

(10) – “Evangeline”

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Civil War Buff

Today marks 150 years since the start of the Civil War.

Pop maestro Richard X Heyman is a real-life Civil War buff; on his early album Hey Man! he recorded a killer pop tune about his fascination. Now in 2011, he’s recut an acoustic version to commemorate the sesquicentennial. A brilliant video interspersing historical images and Heyman’s performance is now online (the video is credited to Nick DiFabbio).

Video: “Civil War Buff

I was never a good history student myself, too many dates to memorize when my head was filled with lyrics. I could never understand the fanaticism, even when my nephew immersed himself in it and eventually became a reinactor. But now as an adult, I get it. It’s a fascinating period of history with so many “what if” moments, and even one hundred fifty years later, there’s still a palpable north/south thing in certain areas.

Heyman has never gotten the credit he deserves, and the fact that you can pick up the aforementioned album for a penny on Amazon is a crime (as is the presence of only one review). But dammit, if you don’t know the man and won’t invest a single penny (okay, three dollars with shipping charges) to dip your toe in the pool of Heyman, you should be shot. And with a musket, just to make it appropriate. This is a solid dozen pop chestnuts featuring the multi-instrumentalist at the top of his game.

Where he still resides, by the way. Heyman’s latest album is a double called Tiers/And Other Stories (his album titles are usually puns) and his other band The Doughboys are already working on their third studio album while their upcoming live CD/DVD Rock’n’Raw is on its way to the stores.

So enjoy this song (available on iTunes soon) and all of his work. And as for the war, choose your side carefully – those embers still glow.

Richard X. Heyman website.

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