Tag Archives: r&b

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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R.I.P. Solomon Burke

We lost Solomon Burke yesterday.

Although he had been making records since the 60s, he never reached that huge level of fame that many of his gospel-to-pop contemporaries like Aretha Franklin and Sam Cooke did, perhaps because he never had a crossover Top 20 hit to spread the word. But he ruled the R&B charts when recording for Atlantic Records in the 60s, and his music has been covered by everyone from The Rolling Stones to The Blues Brothers . No wonder producer Jerry Wexler called him “the best soul singer of all time”.

Eight years ago, several of those major names who were influenced by his music collaborated and submitted songs for a comeback album with Joe Henry producing.  With Burke singing his own songs as well as tracks from Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, Nick Lowe, Brian Wilson, Van Morrison and Elvis CostelloDon’t Give Up On Me took home the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album. Besides spreading the word to a whole new generation, it also woke up a lot of people who didn’t realize he had simply been cruising under their radar.

Burke was still actively touring the globe at seventy. He will be missed.

A message from his family from the website:

Early this morning, Sunday, October 10, 2010, the legendary King of Rock & Soul, Solomon Burke, our father, passed away due to natural causes. Solomon had just arrived at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, the Netherlands for a sold out show at Paradiso with Dutch band, De Dijk.  He was on his way to spread his message of love as he loved to do.

This is a time of great sorrow for our entire family.  We truly appreciate all of the support and well wishes from his friends and fans.  Although our hearts and lives will never be the same, his love, life and music will continue to live within us forever.  As our family grieves during this time of mourning, thank you for respecting our privacy.

Video: “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love”

Solomon Burke website

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Powerful Pub Rockers

Seems like everybody was sick of the radio as the mid-70s approached. Some went underground. Others got back to their roots, whether it was nihilistic and chaotic (punk) or traditional (roots rock). Some literally hit the UK corner bars for an evening of well-played r&b/country blues and rock’n’roll; hence pub rock.

Strip away the nomenclature and you’re back to upbeat, rhythmic, toe-tapping, air-guitar slinging music that will put a smile on your face whenever you slap it on. If there is such a thing as Friday music, this is it.

Perhaps a slight bit of liberty on my part if a few of these tracks are from outside the immortal era; if so, at least the musicians performing the material have validated roots.

So here are ten powerful pub rockers to start your weekend off!

01. Graham Parker and the Rumor:   “Empty Lives

02. Dr. Feelgood:   “Roxette

03. Mickey Jupp:   “Georgia George

04. Eddie and the Hot Rods:   “Quit This Town

05. The Inmates:   “I Thought  I Heard a Heartbeat

06. Ducks Deluxe:   “Coast To Coast

07. The Motors:   “Dancing The Night Away

08. Brinsley Schwarz:   “Surrender to the Rhythm

09. Bram Tchaikovsky:   “Girl of My Dreams

10. Rockpile:   “If Sugar Was as Sweet

Yeah, I know that last band is only one-quarter Brit (two Welsh and a Scot), and for all their related efforts only have one proper album. But pub rock is about the music, not birthplace, and Rockpile was a pub rock supergroup.

Besides, if it was about being in pubs, these would all be Faces tunes, yes?

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Trippy Tributes

I bow in your honor

I love, love, love tribute albums. Some are so inventive they occasionally exceed the original. Some are so poorly regimented that they’re fun like an Ed Wood movie is fun. You just have to admire a group of artists taking the plunge, whether it’s a label trying to promote their artist roster or a heartfely bow to some grand master.

I think the pinnacle for me is still eggBert’s Sing Hollies In Reverse, which featured a stunning asssemblage of pop stars, great song selections and some unbelieveable takes on the Hollies canon. Then they wrapped it up in a beautiful package with a well-written and informative booklet. Handled with care. The late great Greg Dwinell is no longer with us, but that album is one of his shining legacies.

Still the champion

But I know most people aren’t like me – tribute albums make as much sense as ducking an artist’s concert to see a cover band. And the funny thing is, I abhor most cover bands. Maybe I like tributes more because of the one-song-per-artist rule, or maybe it’s that I don’t have to watch them…I can just listen. And when the collection creatively juggles so many styles – folk, rock, dixieland, punk, r&b, glam, powerpop – so much the better.

Here are ten tribute albums that might have slipped by you. Click on the links below to listen to sound clips – you’ll be surprised how great some of the cuts are, not to mention some of the famous artists participating on even the tiniest label efforts!

Resurrection of The Warlock  (T. Rex)

Lowe Profile  (Nick Lowe)

Turban Renewal  (Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs)

Uncovered  (Bob Dylan)

We Will Fall  (Iggy Pop)

Brace Yourself  (Otis Blackwell)

Caroline Now  (Brian Wilson/Beach Boys)

Chooglin’  (John Fogerty/ Credence Clearwater Revival)

Blastered  (The Blasters)

Frankly a Capella  (Frank Zappa / The Mothers of Invention)

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Under The Radar – Howling Diablos

Gonna do me some howlin'...

Gonna do me some howlin'...

If you have heard of The Howling Diablos and have been enjoying their stew of soul, funk, rock and blues, I have one question to ask of you. Why didn’t you tell me sooner?

Al Kooper defined them as a cross between Howlin’ Wolf, Captain Beefheart and Canned Heat, and that’s a damned accurate description, although I’d add a healthy dash of Sly Stone and P-Funk to the mix. Tino Gross’ guttural growls spearhead their powerful sound, with the whipcrack rhythm of Mo Hollis on bass and the legendary Johnny “Bee” Badanjek on drums acting as a thundering pulse. The flavor is peppered by guitarist Erik Gustafson and harp/sax player Johnny Evans. It’s a gritty, urban street sound, tangents of Delta blues, hip-hop and even classic jazz brass bubbling up and popping for a sensual mix.

But yeah, baby, they do rock. How about “Gloria“?

The Howling Diablos have a handful of releases available (I can’t find their early release Beatnick Mambo): Car Wash, Live, Green Bottle, Christmas In Jail and this latest gumbo crockpot, Divine Trash Highway. Featuring guest spots from  Calvin Cooke (sweet sacred steel highlights the opener “If You Love Someone”), Vinnie Dombrowski, keyboardist Jimmy Bones and a host of Detroit luminaries (Bobby East!), this is an album that just oozes groove. “Check It Out” is a perfect example of soul/funk hybrid that makes it impossible to sit still, although it’s the kickin’ cut “Josephine” that really has me bobbing my head like a park pigeon

“Dodge Main” rocks as does the blues blower “Leaving In The Morning”, and even a fairly reverent cover of Randy Newman’s “Mama Told Me Not To Come” succeeds. I’m not as high on “Mom” and “Hobo Jungle”, but I will admit that the latter sounds like mid-period Jeff Beck crossed swords with Sun Ra. “Junkyard Jesus” sounds like the missing sibling of Marah’s brilliant track “Catfisherman” (really – play the two songs back to back – that’s a compliment to both tunes). And if you’re not skanking to the title track…well, there’s something wrong with you.

In addition, they’re included on the Sun Records tribute Good Rockin Tonight (the Diablos cut “Wine Spo Dee O Dee” with a guest appearance from Kid Rock) which led to a film for the American Masters series on PBS that includes a performance by the band. (Reportedly Kid Rock – then Robert Ritchie – was a band member in the embryonic days when the nucleus of the band got together to jam and back up other artists).

Tino Gross also produces records for Fat Possumis that enough cred for you? But as much as their albums are rump-quaking, ass-shaking, rocking good times, like most bands they turn it up several notches when they hit the stage. They’ve toured with and opened for a ton of bands, and although I have yet to sweat in the same room with these guys – and I will – there are visual testaments out there thanks to Al Gore’s invention. All it will take is one song to convince you…check out this video for the song Car Wash. Folks, this is greasy.

Start howlin’!

Howling Diablos on MySpace.

Howling Diablos website.

Criminal Mind” video, from 2009 gig opening for J Geils.

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