Tag Archives: Slim Chance

T.G.I.F. – Ten For Mac

Ooh La La

I saw Ian McLagan perform last night, and as always, it was magical.

Mac performed in a beautiful little theatre in Cazenovia, NY, to an appreciative throng of fans old and new. Pretty hard not to be converted by this genuine article, who shares stories and jokes in-between renditions of songs from his solo albums and those of two of the best bands in history, The Small Faces and The Faces. On this evening he focused more on solo material, especially his latest release Never Say Never and a couple of songs from his upcoming record. Accompanying Mac was Jon Notarthomas, who weaved on and off the set adding bass lines and harmony vocals; Jon is the bass player in The Bump Band and Mac’s trusted partner on his solo gigs.

Ian McLagan is a very talented songwriter and performer, an astute writer and an accomplished painter. But his greatest quality might be his friendship. Every night Mac makes music, he tells the audience about the late great Ronnie Lane and performs one or more of Lane’s songs. Ronnie Lane might be underappreciated, but as long as Mac walks the earth, he and his music will not be forgotten. (Slim Chance is now carrying the torch again as well).

Fame changes a lot of people, but it’s obvious that Mac’s love for his friend is genuine and pure. When I leave this mortal coil, I would be blessed to have someone speak for my legacy only half as well. Of course, Mac did more than speak – Spiritual Boy is a real gem.

Opening the show were Gary Frenay and Arty Lenin, longtime pop legends from their work in The Flashcubes and Screen Test. Their work as a duo – at one time under the moniker of The Neverly Brothers – is airtight and a songwriter’s showcase. Lenin excels on any style of guitar playing, but as Gary usually plays bass, I forgot how good a guitar player he is as well. Seeing them on a stage in a first-rate theatre with an excellent sound man was a reminder of how lucky I have been to see them so many times. 

Gary, Arty and Jon are all from the Syracuse area and have known each other for decades, and seeing Jon sing lead with them on a cover of “This Boy” was a real treat. And in the interest of editorial fairness, I’ve known them all for years and we’re friends…but that does not diminish the reality of how good they are.

So for this boy, Thursday night was an honor. I saw many old friends I hadn’t seen in years and listened to a couple of hours of great music by favorite performers. Mac is off shortly to play with a reunited Faces, then more overseas solo gigs and the release of another book. If you haven’t seen Ian McLagan, there’s a hole in your life.

So for this week’s TGIF, may I present Ten For Mac!

(01) – “Glad And Sorry

(02) – “Never Say Never

(03) – “Get Yourself Together

(04) – “Little Girl

(05) – “Kuschty Rye

(06) – “Debris

(07) – “All Or Nothing

(08) – “You’re So Rude

(09) – “Little Troublemaker

(10) – “Cindy Incidentally

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Remembering Ronnie Lane – The April Fool

IT’S NO JOKE Ronnie Lane, one of the original Small Faces, the heart and soul of The Faces and the pioneering troubadour of Slim Chance, was born on April 1st.  God bless ya, Ronnie…you are sorely missed.

My Mum, she likes you, she thinks you're swell...

My Mum, she likes you, she thinks you're swell...

 If you want to know how it all began, you have to start at the beginning, and why not hear it from the band in their own words? Check out this audio history of The Small Faces – a real treat. Room for Ravers also has a lengthy written history about their origins.  Of course I highly recommend All The Rage, Ian McLagan’s own book and one of the best rock bios ever written. It’s as close to sitting in the pub sharing a pint as you will ever get, an absolute must-read for any fan of the era.

If you’re not familiar with the Small Faces catalogue, you’ll be fascinated by (1) just how much great music they made in such a short time, and (2) how incredible it is that they did not dominate the American pop scene of the late 1960s. See what crooked management will get you? Please beware when looking for product – most of the seemingly endless greatest hits titles are pirated copies of their work (as in the band sees not a penny). Do the right thing and only purchase the album versions vouched for by the band. Kenney Jones and Mac have worked long and hard to rectify the situation after decades of being robbed blind.

The Faces years were wild and woolly and wonderful, and as much as I loved the drunken recklessness of “Borstal Boys” and “Stay With Me”, the three songs that reverberate above all others were Lane tunes. “Debris”is simply one of the most beautiful songs ever written, a winsome look back at his relationship with his Dad, but a poignant sadness that could apply to anybody’s broken relationship. And was there a better song about looking back, older but wiser, than “Ooh La La“? But for pure rowdy fun, none are better than “You’re So Rude”, about an aborted attempt to get a little while the folks are out. If you don’t own the Faces albums and/or the box set Five Guys Walk Into A Bar, you have a huge gap in your record library. (And yes, I will be posting a full length essay on The Faces in the near future)

My Pop Culture Press compadre Kent Benjamin has written some great features about Lane and McLagan over the years, and as a fellow Austinite, he is well-versed in their post-Faces lore. Back in 2000 he posted his liner notes to a Lane project on Perfect Sound Forever about how Ronnie moved to Austin, Texas in the hope that the weather would alleviate his suffering and permit him to continue to perform music at his self-imposed high standards. But the project that will stand tall above all others was the DVD of The Passing Show, a wonderful documentary about the life and music of Ronnie Lane that beautifully captures the heart and soul of the man.

This film will make you laugh and will break your heart

This film will make you laugh and will break your heart

In 2006, on what would have been Ronnie’s 60th birthday, his bandmate and lifelong friend Ian McLagan released Spiritual Boy, a collection of Lane songs lovingly performed by Ian and the Bump Band.  I just saw Mac and band play a month ago, and I can vouch for the fact that Ronnie Lane is there in spirit, every night, all night.

And as for me…Ronnie Lane’s music will be on my playlist until I ditch this mortal coil. Cheers, mate!

“Thank you kindly/for thinking of me/If I’m not smiling…I’m just thinking…”

april-fool

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NEW ALBUM! Felice Brothers: Yonder Is The Clock

 

Grab your shovel, let's get to it...

Grab your shovel, let's get to it...

You have to take press releases with a grain of salt. While some are effervescent hyperbole, others spin wild yarns about the origins of the band (are The Hives still staunchly defending their Svengali bullshit?) and then there are the ones that fall in-between. But whether or not you believe that The Felice Brothers adopted a wayward dice player and tossed him on bass, or that the newest album was recorded in a studio built from remnants of a chicken coop doesn’t matter. What does matter is that Yonder is the Clock is a big step towards bringing recognition to one of the more genuinely interesting bands to come down the pike in a while.

The album both begins and ends with somber, quiet songs shouldered by the off-kilter vocals of Ike Felice. I’ll be blunt – there’s a good chance that you will absolutely hate his vocals, a nasal hybrid of Bob Dylan, Tom Waits (“Sailor Song” would fool a Waits fan) and Townes van Zandt. But like those artists, there’s so much emotion, heart and feeling happening within those vocals that you would do yourself a disservice not to make the effort. I mean really – does anyone complain about Dylan’s voice anymore, or do they simply celebrate his music and accept it? I’m not trying to put Felice on that pedestal, he’s nowhere close to earning that kind of comparison, but don’t judge a book by its (aural) cover.

There is one line in the press release that does capture the album’s impact – “the record is teaming with tales of love, death, betrayal, baseball, train stations, phantoms, pandemics, jail cells, rolling rivers and frozen winter nights.” Part hoedown, part revival meeting, The Felice Brothersare a cacophony of stringed instruments, organs and pianos, accordions and fiddles, like a rough-and-tumble version of The Band. Sometimes the instruments sound like they are slightly out of tune, and I can’t guarantee that everyone hits the beat exactlyon the mark every time, but songs like “Chicken Wire”, “Penn Station” and “Run Chicken Run” could kick-start any room full of people into a throbbing mass of jello.

But they can also toss out something as pretty as “Katie Dear”, a song that could be slipped into the tracklist of any album by Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chancewithout raising suspicion. My favorite track might be “Cooperstown”, a song so visual that a screenplay could be written around it. “Rise and Shine”, the closing track, is anything but a wake-up call, rather it sounds like Shane MacGowan singing a prayer at last call . But as the gentle coda to the rest of the album, it’s a gentle roll to a stop. I’ll be playing this all year long.

The Felice Brothers recently rolled to a stop in my town along with opening act Taylor Hollingsworth – read my review of their concert at Blurt Online.

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