Tag Archives: The Black Crowes

Under The Radar: The Decadent Royals

There’s a reason that cover looks familiar.

The Decadent Royals sound like a mash-up of  The Rolling Stones (cusp of the 70s) and The Black Crowes, two bands who knew how to weave country blues into rock to create an infectious blend. Add in dashes of The Jayhawks, Bob Dylan, and any number of southern rock bands from The Allman Brothers on down, and you have an intriguing album that is well worth checking out. (Icing on the cake for the skeptical…the label is Maggie Mae.)

I love the Crowes and Stones because they are unafraid to slather their songs with gospel vocals, slide guitars, pedal steel, horns and wah-wah solos as needed. So are these guys. Swing On, Sinners rocks hard throughout, but the closing track “Wave Goodbye” proves they can be equally impressive turning it down.

How under the radar were these guys in my world? They’re from Albany, a three-hour car ride away, but I only came across them three months ago for the first time. The frightening part is this album is six years old; the predecessor is almost fifteen. It appears the band is likely finished; singer and songwriter OP Callaghan has another project called My Angel Crush (who sound like a logical extension of these guys).

I don’t pretend that this album is as good as Beggars Banquet or even Amorica. But damned if this isn’t a band that’s turning its back on the easy paycheck in favor of creating some dynamic sounds. Lord knows the Stones haven’t done that in years, and the Crowes need as much help as they can get from bands who know how to put the rock back into rock’n’roll.

Hope I can find more music from them, but at least I have this. Now so can you.

The Decadent Royals on MySpace

Buy Swing On, Sinners at Amazon or CD Baby

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Blast From The Past: I Am Sam

Beatle Weekend, Part One.

Also known as How To Sell A Beatles Tribute Album With A Movie Tie-In. The premise of the relationship between this collection of Beatles covers (more specifically, Lennon-McCartney covers) and the Sean Penn film is Penn’s character’s affinity for Beatles music.

Fine by me. I imagine the reason that not too many of the artists strayed from the formula had more to do with “keeping it real” for the imagination of the Sam character (mentally challenged) than the participant’s unwillingness to experiment with established classics. Regardless, great songs are great songs, and several of the almost spot-on performances (Aimee Mann and Michael Penn on “Two Of Us” and Sheryl Crow’s “Mother Nature’s Son“) are enjoyable versions that could have been bonus tracks on those respective artists’ albums.

Video: “Two of Us“, “Blackbird“, “I’m Looking Through You

Some veer slightly off the path, like The Vines with “I’m Only Sleeping” (great finish), Stereophonics‘ soulful “Don’t Let Me Down” and Howie Day’s desperate reading of “Help“. I would have preferred that The Black Crowes tackle something raucous like “Birthday“, as their restrained performance of “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” is missing a spark. The original “Across The Universe” succeeded largely because of the vocal; Rufus Wainwright’s interpretation grows tired very quickly. Paul Westerberg disappoints with a dull “Nowhere Man” but Ben Harper surprised me with his solid take on “Strawberry Fields Forever“.

Oddest moments: Not hearing “The Weight” immediately after “Golden Slumbers” (Ben Folds, natty) and Eddie Vedder making “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” sound like a suicide note. Then again, most things Vedder sings could fit that description.

(This 2002 review originally ran in Yeah Yeah Yeah, Issue #21.)

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New Music from The Breakers

A couple of years ago I stumbled across an album from a band called The Breakers. Why a band from Denmark was on a small label (Funzalo Records) from Arizona was beyond me, but what came out of the speakers was not. Not looking a gift horse in the mouth, I played the snot out of Here For A Laugh and counted my blessings. Motown meets Memphis meets Mersey; why can’t more bands get it? It wound up as my #3 record in 2007.

Prescriptioneers know that I love The Faces – just below The Kinks on my list of best bands ever. Certainly any band that carries that proud flag gets my attention, be it a household word like The Black Crowes or an unknown (on these shores, anyway) group like The Diamond Dogs. Like the latter band, The Breakers combine that bluesy Stones/Faces swagger with a rock and soul edge and a classic Britpop dance band’s fun mentality. And like Rod, Chris and Sulo, The Breakers have a great raspy voiced singer in Toke Nisted.

Video: Here For A Laugh

Just when I was beginning to fear they were one and done, I heard that Little Steven signed them to his Wicked Cool label with a new release planned for 2011. Last Fall a label sampler slipped the track “Riot Act” past most of our collective radar, and then today’s mailbox contained a link to another single, “The Jerry Lee Symptoms“. (Actually, it’s a Bo Diddley beat more than a Killer refrain, but it’s smokin‘ either way.) And that wasn’t all – I found that Here For A Laugh wasn’t their debut album, there’s an older one called What I Want. You can stream both albums here  (along with the new singles).

When the new album comes out I’ll have a full review, but I couldn’t keep this good news to myself. Now you have two month’s notice as well!

Video:Riot Act

The Breakers on MySpace.

Online vendor for What I Want here.

Unplugged? Sure, why not?

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Under The Radar: Rod Stewart??

Yep.

In 2010, The Faces finally reunited after several aborted attempts, subbing Simply Red moptop Mick Hucknall in the Rod Stewart seat and grabbing original Sex Pistol bassist Glen Matlock to stand in for the late, great Ronnie Lane. (Somewhere, Tetsu raised a pint. And then probably a few more…)

In 2010, Rod Stewart released yet another collection of American croooner covers, his fifth, which once again endeared him to housewives, daytime television talk shows and background noise radio. Oh…and probably fattened his wallet by another few million pounds.

Most people who revile the MOR album collections remember Rod as the spiky haired carouser who juggled his own stellar solo career with his stint as lead beverage in The Faces. It was a phenomenal run, albeit a short one, but the influence from Gasoline Alley and Every Picture Tells A Story and A Nod Is As Good As A Wink To A Blind Horse continues to live on in bands from The Black Crowes to The Diamond Dogs. Add in The Small Faces and Paul Weller and you can pretty much trace the genealogy of every Britpop band since then.

While Stewart arguably hasn’t been a viable writer since the early 80s, there was a glimmer of hope eleven years ago, a road flare from the tour bus called When We Were The New Boys. Yes, it was a cover album (except for the title track, an American Pie take on his own career), but the covers were from the likes of Oasis and Primal Scream and Graham Parker…and they rocked! Of course he couldn’t sustain it, but the ballads (including covers of Nick Lowe and Ron Sexsmith) were done well. as a longtime fan I was excited that he rediscovered his muse. Now twelve years later, I’m still waiting for another sign.

I really have mixed emotions about his cover of “Ooh La La”. He sings it well, although that song will be forever owned by Ronnie Wood and Ronnie Lane. One could say that it’s a heartfelt nod to his old bandmate, except that…well, his timing sucks. Lane’s battle with MS was painful and long, and he was far from financially solvent thanks to the mountainous bills that illnesses like that generate. Sure would have been nice if Rod would have covered this when he was at the apex of his stadium dates…or if he had gone back on the road with his old mates. Huge royalties and tour money would have made a major impact upon Lane’s options. But no

I don’t hate Rod Stewart. Hell, I don’t even know Rod Stewart. And lord knows what I would do if someone rolled up to me and told me I could make millions of dollars by transforming myself into…well, the highest paid karaoke singer on the planet. I just feel like I’ve watched a guy with once-in-a-generation talent take the easy road rather than push the envelope.

So it’s quite possible that you did miss this blip on the radar, halfway between “Love Touch” and “Fly Me To The Moon”. I heartily recommend that you grab it – I’ll add in my original review if I can find the damned thing – because “Hotel Chambermaid” and “Rocks Off” and “Cigarettes and Alcohol” and “Ooh La La” are worth the price of admission and then some. And yes, I will hold out hope in my heart that the old rooster has one last hurrah left in him.

If you want to know what all the Rod Stewart fuss was about, try the excellent collection Sessions…or read this.  And if you want to hear a full length tribute to Ronnie Lane, go get Ian McLagan’s wonderful Spiritual Boy (as well as Plonk’s catalogue, of course).

When We Were The New Boys at Amazon.

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Under The Radar: The Sleepers

If I were going to start a rock band, I’d want the boozy swagger of The Faces and The Rolling Stones mixed with the glam punch of Bowie and The New York Dolls plus the bombast of AC/DC and the stoner buzz of The Black Crowes and Izzy Stradlin. Looks like The Sleepers beat me to the punch.

Featuring a twin guitar attack over a kinetic rhythm section and an emotive (yet not preening) lead vocalist in Tommy Richied, their album Comeback Special distills all those influences through a combination ’77 punk attitude and a Sunset Strip hair metal glitz. And although it’s hit and miss – largely hit – it has that indescribable sound that wants to make you roll down the car window and blast it so the guy next to you can offer a knowing nod and smile.

I’m not one to fall for hyperbole without a second look, but I must admit that “what would happen if Jerry Lee Lewis married Appetite For Destruction instead of his cousin” is a hell of a description.

If that doesn’t do it for you, how about song titles? Any band that titles their songs “She Is My Drinking Problem” (think Poison amping up a country weeper), “Dirty Cop” and “Jailbait” has a sense of humor, at least, but while song subjects might not call Dylan to mind, they’re vehicles to set the tone for some great back-beats and some guitar noodling.

Tony Manno and Kevin Bannon interplay well on guitars, while Chris Cormier on bass and (I am not making this up) Johnny Action on drums are rock-solid. Kudos also to Elisa Carlson who adds piano and organ on a few tracks; they might want to bring her on full time. (This album came out in 2008; according to their website, Richied is no longer in the band and Bannon has taken over lead vocals).

Sometimes you need to remember that rock’n’roll can be straightforward and simple. I never heard the Chicago based band’s one previous album (Push It Nationwide) but after blasting this one a few times I’ll be seeking it out.

Listen to The Sleepers on Amazon.

The Sleepers on MySpace

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Blast From The Past: Humble Pie

Road Warriors of Rock'n'Roll

Road Warriors of Rock'n'Roll

I remember playing cuts from Rock On and Rockin’ The Fillmore as a college radio DJ, and the several Humble Pie shows I was blessed to witness are seared into my brain. And witness is an operative verb here; while the early shows were piledriver blues/boogie rock’n’roll, in his later years Steve Marriott was part rocker, part white soul singer, part rock evangelist. At the time it was probably the closest thing to having a gospel preached at me and to me since the I stumbled into a Baptist church.

But back in the early Pie days, when Peter Frampton played and sang alongside Steve, they were a bit more straight-ahead. Determined to break and break big, they toured incessantly in the States and lit arena after arena on fire. For a couple of years in the early 70s, it was far more likely you’d hear Humble Pie blasting out of dorm windows than the latest Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin cut. America loves their meat and potatoes, and Humble Pie was meaty.

Looking back at BBC tracks from famous 70s bands is always fascinating and Humble Pie is no exception. While not a purely focused disc – leave it to Fuel 2000 to license rather than create – there is some great music within. Here’s what I wrote about Natural Born Boogie release for PopMatters back in 2000:

Steve Marriott Boy Howdy

Like the blues players he idolized, Steve Marriott may finally be getting his due after he’s no longer here to reap the rewards. Bands like The Black Crowes openly admit his influence, while a waft of inferior vocalists trying to emulate him prove that his talents are sorely missed. Marriott had the fortune to shine in two majestic bands early in his career, and both The Small Faces and Humble Pie are enjoying a new wave of popularity as classic radio vaults open wider.

Although Rockin’ The Fillmore will stand as their definitive concert recording, Humble Pie did cut several solid sessions for BBC One between 1969 and 1971. “Natural Born Boogie“, the band’s Chuck Berry-flavored hit, finds Marriott in great vocal tone, while “The Ballad Of Shakey Jake” boasts some guitar noodling that would bring a smile to the face of any Deadhead. Fluid and creative, Peter Frampton, still years away from his megastar status, is the perfect axe partner for Marriott’s more bar-blues approach. Ex-Spooky Tooth bassist Greg Ridley and (then) teenage drum whiz Jerry Shirley flow from folk to rock as easily as their more famous counterparts. Consider their take on the Buddy Holly chestnut “Heartbeat”; heavier and blusier than the original, but not so cool that they couldn’t slap some handclaps in there too. And in “Desperation” we see the worm turning as Mod Steve starts to establish his soul roots with the band.

The later sessions (1970-71) are probably closer to the Humble Pie most people are familiar with. “Big Black Dog” is as close to “Walkin’ The Dog” in structure as it is in name, and “Four Day Creep” (perhaps the highlight here) is close to the album cut. “Rolling Stone” is an abbreviated version of the one on Rockin’ The Fillmore (thankfully), while “The Light” lets Frampton get a parting shot in before leaving. The final two tracks are from the Old Gray Whistle Test, and while “Black Coffee” (complete with The Blackberries on vocals) sounds great, “I Don’t Need No Doctor” is horrible.

In fairness, the CD cover contains a disclaimer that the sound quality on the tenth cut is very poor, but even with those expectations it sounds like a fifteenth generation bootleg tape. Recorded underwater. Left on the dashboard in the summer with the windows rolled up tight. Chewed on by the dog. Am I making this clear enough? Sure, the band smokes the tune, but are you telling me there was no other version, or other cut — of ANYTHING — available? Considering that “Doctor” was the cornerstone of Rockin’ The Fillmore, there is no reason under the sun that this should have been included here. Did the songwriters really need the royalties that badly?

And sure, the liner notes could have been more expansive, and some proofreader should have known the difference between Brian Jones and Mick Jones, but you can’t have everything. Since Steve isn’t around to thrill us with new music, having treasures like these get cleaned up and sent our way is something we should be thankful about. Well, nine out of ten times, anyway.

Humble Pie old

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Under The Radar: Teenage Frames

Rock out Knockout

Rock out Knockout

I first discovered this Chicago band during a late night trolling session on CDBaby (a highly recommended exercise to discover many bands flying under everybody’s radar). I was intrigued by the name-dropping of the Dolls, Stones and Stooges, and plunked my money down. Well, the comparisons were accurate – More Songs, Less Music was reminiscent of  Cheap Trick and Mott The Hoople strained through a  Ramones filter (albeit with traces of Beach Boys and bubblegum glam). Twelve years later, I’m still playing their discs.

Now listed on MySpace as being from Hollywood, a December 2008 post teased a new recording in progress. But their last blog entry says “permanent vacation”, which wither means (1) they want you to know they’re not coming back to Chicago, (2) they really like that Aerosmith album, or (3) they’re toast.

The Teenage Frames have released six CDs to date. Give them a try – most of their releases are EPs you can pick up for five bucks! Unlike so many bands who think they have to fill out every nanosecond of the CD with sound, these guys know enough to get it, hit hard and get out. Here’s a review of 1% Faster, their second release, that will give you a good snapshot of their sound.

If you like the Stooges and the New York Dolls as much as I do, then you’re going to have a big smile on your face when you hear these guys. Now don’t get me wrong – glass won’t shatter and I don’t see a high heel shoe anywhere – but vocalist Frankie Delmane was spawned from the same muck. And hell, with song titles like “Drug Power,” “Teenage Letdown” and “Back To The Motor City,” what do you expect? The Teenage Frames kick ass, pal! “I’m Going Home” has more swagger than Jagger, and if that ain’t Keef ripping those rhythm chords it’s Dan Baird fronting the Quireboys.

When they slow it down, it’s Johnny Thunders sipping margaritas (“Living It Up”), but when it cranks I hear echoes of The Ramones (“I Want To Go Out Tonight”), The Boys (“Just Can’t Seem To Take It”), The Black Crowes and The Sex Pistols. Once in a while, Delmane’s rasp slides off the chart, but so what? With three seventies-named cats like Eric Vegas (who co- writes everything with Delmane), Jim Holiday and Ted (Don’t Call Me Johnny) Cougar as the power trio, I don’t care. The last record is called 1% Faster. I think they underestimate themselves.

Teenage Frames website

Teenage Frames CDs on CDBaby

TF live, too wild for The Jenny Jones Show
teenage frames

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