Tag Archives: rock

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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Happy Birthday, Fred “Sonic” Smith

Fred (Sonic) Smith would have been 61 years young today.

Fred Smith departed far too soon – six years ago this November – but he left behind some seminal rock moments, from founding the MC5 to Sonic’s Rendesvous Band (which until recently only existed in my tactile world through the classic single  “City Slang“).

Sadly, he is only known in some other circles for marrying Patti Smith. I guess when your name is Smith it isn’t a shock when you marry a girl with the same surname; it saves a bunch on monogrammed towels.

Video: “City Slang

The other members of the MC5,  Scott Morgan, The Hellacopters and many other bands are keeping Fred’s legacy alive through their (and his) music, and more and more recordings of the SRB are surfacing as well as a treasure chest of sides from The Rationals and other classic Detroit bands. Man, was that place cooking. Still is!

I met him once; we sat down at the same table at the Bottom Line in NYC. He was saying hello to a friend, who was a friend of my friend (Kevin Bacon explodes about this time) and the four of us enjoyed whomever we had driven in to see that night. Seemed like a really down to earth, regular guy. Wish I got to know him.

Fred Smith Wiki page

Fred Smith at Allmusic.com

***

And Happy 25th Birthday to Mario!

Click the picture for the secret message…

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Marah Rah Rah

These are interesting times.

I’m off soon to see the 2010 version of Marah, a band that’s changed rhythm sections, labels and musical direction so often that you’d swear they were trying to shake a tail. It will be the second time seeing Dave Bielanko without brother Serge, his musical co-conspirator, a role seemingly now played by multi-instrumentalist Christine Smith.

When they blew through town last year they were just getting started in their new incarnation and suffering through the shakes and rumbles that a new unit can often do when they’re windblown. Of the musician’s honing Dave’s vision, only bass player Johnny Pisano seemed focused and energized…but now he’s gone. Smith was hampered and drummer Martin Lynds looked lost, which he probably was given the nature of rambling set lists and malfunctioning equipment.

But now a full year more of woodshedding is in the books and the new release Life Is A Problem is due to be released in a couple of weeks. It’s a loose, muddled, dissonant and atmospheric record that might first bring a puzzled expression to your face, but let it worm its way in during a second and third listen. (I’ll post a link to my review as soon as the magazine posts it online).

Marah has always made great records and usually exceeded expectations live. It will be interesting to see how they bring some of these songs to life from the stage. I wrote last year that I didn’t know where they were headed, but I was ready to follow along and check it out when they did.

I guess now is the time.

Visit the Marah website and hear MP3s here.

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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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