Tag Archives: Roger Daltrey

Blast From The Past – Jack Green!

Life is like a bowl of tangents.

No, Forrest Gump didn’t say that. But it’s true! After writing about the Pretty Things I saw that they were now playing dates with other musicians filling in around Taylor and May. That started me thinking about bands who eventually have other players come through their ranks  in later years, from Bad Company to Foghat to Steppenwolf, so I decided to look up everyone who had been a Pretty Thing. And although I knew that Jack Green was in the band for a bit, I had totally forgotten it.

I didn’t discover Green from his tenure in the Pretties (even though I played Silk Torpedo and Savage Eye a lot) or as a member of T.Rex, either. My first conscious exposure to him came on an album that came out thirty years ago called Humanesque. Released at the cusp of the post-punk, corporate rock days, this fell into a group of refreshing albums with catchy songs, great guitar and a bit of a New Wave edge that this new channel called MTV would soon try to jump all over. But Jack Green wasn’t about posing and synthesisers and bullshit – he had crafted an album equal parts powerpop and Ziggy Stardust.

At the time I was both managing a small club and writing for an arts weekly called The National Rag, so I was fortunate enough to get pitched on bands from both angles, but his label never mentioned Jack Green. I was struck by the album cover – any veteran bin-browser has discovered many a favorite this way – and I think I remember reading a small clip comparing his voice to Bowie’s. I saw, I bought, and was conquered.

Green was a great guitar player but didn’t flash out just to show off; his solos (“Babe” is a great example) were tasty without wanking. He sounded as comfortable with pop-reggae (“Life on The Line”, “So Much”) as with more raspy rocking (the Bryan Adams-ish “I Call, No Answer”, featuring some Ritchie Blackmore axe work). “Thought It Was Easy” is a very pretty slow-tempo rocker that showcases his knack for a hook and his very appealing voice; ditto “Valentina” which features some nice tempo changes. And  “Murder” should have been as big a hit as Foreigner’s “Hot Blooded”.

Video: “Babe

“Factory Girl” starts out is a pretty straightforward pop rocker – fat chords, short sharp chorus – but morphs into a nice guitar workout. And the hypnotic closer, “This is Japan”, cleverly integrated Oriental arpeggios with a churning rock beat. (When I moved to Rochester a local band making good named Duke Jupiter covered it on their album; I’m pretty sure someone else had a minor hit with it as well). Frankly, there’s really not a duff track to be found here.

My favorite was the three-minute killer “Bout That Girl”, which did indeed sound like a Ziggy outtake. Great vocal, punchy guitar and a chorus that I found myself humming immediately. I played that song over and over; I thought it might be the greatest hook I had heard in years. The cassette player in my old Pontiac got quite a workout in those days, and anytime I had anyone in the car I would play it for them and blast the chorus…and to a person I’d get that nod of agreement: indeed, this is a hit record!

That was until the day I was giving Ed Hamell (yep, Hamell on Trial) a ride home. The first time through he stared intently at the tape deck (why do people stare at radios and tape players?) before breaking into a wicked grin. When the chorus came around the second time he sang loudly, and in perfect rhythm…the first line of the chorus from The Byrds‘ “Chestnut Mare”. 

Damn. “Somebody should have told me about that girl“…”I’m gonna catch that horse if I can“…that was a perfect fit.

Reeling, I let buzzkill Ed out of the car, probably as amazed that he nailed the reference so easily as I was that I missed it in a hundred listens. No wonder that one line struck me so immediately – it had been in my brain for years! But lest you think I’m accusing Mr. Green of deliberately swiping a hook, I’m not. The rest of the chorus, let alone the rest of the entire songs, are as different as night and day. The Byrds never said anything, and I never heard anyone else but Ed make the connection. Just another happy accident in rock and roll.

But that anecdote is as fresh in my head as if it happened yesterday, and whenever I think of that song I think of Ed and that Pontiac and that time of my life. It’s just one more occasion where a song and a time and an experience are linked together and burned in my memory. And those are the things that will continue to put a smile on my face as long as I live.

Video: “This Is Japan

Copies of this album are going for ridiculous prices on Amazon; I have no idea what the situation is regarding ownership of the masters or whether anyone even cares enough to try to re-release them again. Lord knows there can’t be a ton of money in that. But I’ve got a rack full of albums from that 3-4 year period surrounding 1980, and it’s a gold mine of greatness. Gary Myrick, The Sinceros, Phil Seymour, The Photos, The Fabulous Poodles, Pearl Harbor and The Explosions…trust me, it’s a long list of people who mostly had two albums before having the plug pulled.

I own both Humanesque and Reverse Logic; I never saw the other two or I would have snapped them up in a heartbeat. His later efforts provided a hit for Roger Daltrey and an association with John Mellencamp, and he’s enjoyed a successful artistic career in and out of music.

Some of the CBS artists have been lucky enough to have their work re-issued as 2-fers, giving a new generation an opportunity to discover albums that didn’t get their due. It would be really great if whatever conglomerate owns these RCA albums would do the same for him to remind the world how special these Jack Green albums are.

The Jack Green Appreciation Society

Don’t confuse him with this guy.

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Under The Radar: UHF

A Winner!

Before it became easy to plop entire digital albums on your website, long before Facebook and MySpace were staples of every band’s toolbox, there were a few MP3 sites floating around that were less than organized. Few sites beyond CD Baby provided a local band the platform they needed to get their music heard.

As a lifelong tune troller, I thought it would be a good idea to write a column spotlighting five bands I came across on late night tangents. So with a thumbs up from the Editor at the late great Cosmik Debris magazine, The MP3 Files was born. One of the first groups I highlighted was a Portland Oregon band called UHF. Here’s my review of their second album Lottery from 2001…

Wow! Not only a band who obviously find their roots in classic British bands like The Pretty Things, Kinks and The Who, but a concept album to boot! That was a tough enough chore to attempt when they were in fashion, but to slip out a record like this in the days of preening teenybopper wedge dancers and pretentious wank rockers takes big balls.

The Everyman storyline in Lotterygrowing up in innocence and struggling as “money changes everything” – is right out of Ray Davies’ scrapbook. But UHF put in a lot of hard work to create something original in the spirit of the above-mentioned artists. (And if they just wanted to mimic the past, they could have – I’ve heard their cover of a Pretty Things track and it’s massive!)

And let’s not punish the quality of the individual songs by insinuating that they only work within the concept. Although Jeremy and Jordan Leff’s vocals on “Best Friends” sound eerily like Daltrey and Townshend melting together at the microphone during Tommy, it’s a great song regardless. Ditto the majestic “Whatever The Weather,” whose lyrics could fit in anywhere from Village Green Preservation Society to Soap Opera.

What impressed me most was the diverse instrumentation and song structure throughout the record; slap on the headphones and savor the sonic touches that embellish almost every track. With Jeff Nelson (guitars and bass) and drummer Matt Johnson, the Leff brothers have nailed a very ambitious target. I can’t wait to hear what they try next.

***

Well, it looks like I have some catching up to do.

Not only did I miss two later releases, but as fate would have it they have a brand new one coming out called Here Come The Ghosts. The clips sound great! Excerpt from their press release below:

It’s been four years since Portland, Oregon’s psychpop quartet UHF has released an album, but they’ve more than made up for it with Here Come The Ghosts, a genre-bending journey of 21 tracks on both double vinyl and double CD. From driving psychpop mood pieces to intimate and melancholy character sketches, it’s an album full of devious lyrical turns, subtle sonic shifts, and solid psychpop songcraft. Ghosts has UHF stretching themselves like never before.

Straying from the psychedelic soundscapes of their previous (and critically acclaimed) releases, Ghosts is more stark, more relaxed, more live (much of the album was recorded live in the studio) than any of UHF’s previous studio records. Thematically, the album is about relationships: past, present, living, dead… and undead. The journey is at times disturbing, uplifting, humorous, desperate, romantic, angry, confused, and reckless but always infused with an emotional honesty and musicality that evokes bands like Secret Machines, The The and Stone Roses, while venturing side trips into territory reminiscent of early 70’s AM radio.

UHF website  and MySpace site – now go check ’em out!

(Damn, I miss Cosmik Debris.  D.J., if you’re out there, send up a flare!)

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New Album! The Who Sell Out

If you fart in a tub of beans, does it smell?

If you fart in a tub of beans, does it smell?

Well, not new, really – but finally my favorite Who album gets the full remaster/reissue/rebirth process. I always felt that The Who Sell Out was the perfect intersection of their early powerpop singles and their later epic thematic recordings. “I Can See For Miles” got airplay and rightfully so, but wasn’t the monster it should have been. But even more amazing is the deep well of other great songs that never got their due. “Tattoo” remains one of my favorite Who sings of all time, and I still love the twist in “Odorono”, as silly as the subject matter is. But “Our Love Was”, “I Can’t Reach You”, “Relax”, “Sunrise”…these are brilliant tracks.

Who fans will relish the new edition, but casual or new fans who never explored this album will be blown away. With stereo and mono versions, boatloads of alternate mixes and bonus tracks and an informative booklet, it’s well worth grabbing. Some fans might complain that there could be more (all mixes of the singles, live cuts, etc.) but I think this is one of the better reissues I’ve seen come down the pike.

A few years back there was an tribute album slated for Futureman Records  called The New Sell Out that boasted an A-list of current powerpop bands (Splitsville, Myracle Brah, The Shazam, Young Fresh Fellows, etc.). The cuts I heard were fantastic, but ultimately the project was aborted. Some of the songs have shown up as bonus tracks on the individual band’s releases, while most sadly remain on the shelf. Hopefully someday this sees the light of day. (You’d think now would be the appropriate time, hmmm?)

And for a wildly original take on this classic, you must check out Petra Haden‘s acapella tribute. Unbelievably amazing… she recreates all the songs – and commercials – with just her voice.

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NEW ALBUM! Smithereens: Tommy

More than Only A Memory

More than Only A Memory

I must preface the comments about the latest Smithereens homage by telling you that no, they haven’t abandoned the concept of original music. Matter of fact, there’s a new studio album due out later this year and reportedly the band is rehearsing the twelve tracks as I type this. (Really – call them and ask!).

But it’s a fair question to ask about a group whose most recent recorded output is the pure musical homage of Meet The Smithereens and B-Sides The Beatles (a very clever title…come on, say it out loud…). If you discount the Christmas album, the last true Smithereens album was released ten years ago – and that was after a five year hiatus.

Count me among those who are thrilled to hear The Smithereens record anything, so the fact that there is both a Tommy album now and a new original album later is twice the good news.

Forty years afterwards, it still sounds great

Forty years afterwards, it still sounds great

Because The Smithereens are a bonafide powerpop band that grew from the seeds of The Beatles, The Kinks and The Who, tackling Tommy is as symbiotic a pairing as their takes on the Fab Four.  While Pat DiNizio can’t replicate the sheer brute force of Roger Daltrey, who can? The lead vocals are solid, as expected, and most of the selected tracks here feature great harmonies, where the trio of Pat, guitarist Jim Babjak and drummer Dennis Diken pull off the Daltrey and Townshend parts exceptionally well.

There are no musical interpretations here – the thirteen tracks are performed in a straightforward manner but with an obvious familiarity and respect. I’m not certain why a tribute to the classic rock opera isn’t a complete libretto, but then again “Tommy’s Holiday Camp” and “Cousin Kevin” don’t lend themselves to powerpop as much as the fat chords of “Amazing Journey”, “I’m Free” and “Sensation”. They did pick a solid set of tracks, although I miss “1921”.

No press release comes without a dose of hyperbole, and this one claims that after a few listens you might never listen to any of The Who’s versions of Tommy the same way again. Well…that might be stretching it a bit. Forty years later, I still get goosebumps when the coda of “See Me Feel Me” kicks in. But I can promise you that this is no watery attempt to swing a few familiar songs your way for the ease of being recognisable. One listen to Diken’s muscular workout during the second half of “Amazing Journey” should be proof enough of that – I guarantee you, Keith Moon is tipping his top hat from God’s bar. (Or from a car submerged in God’s pool…)

Kudos to fellow Jersey boy Kurt Reil (The Grip Weeds) for tasty engineering and production, along with his work on keyboards; bass chores are handled by Severo Jornacion (Cockeyed Ghost, among others). And although I don’t have the full booklet yet, I must also give a shout-out to William Stout for the excellent cover art.

The Smithereens Play Tommy will be available May 5th from E1 Entertainment (formerly Koch Records).

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