Tag Archives: The Refreshments

New Album! The Refreshments

It’s gotta be both rock and roll…

The Refreshments have released another gem. Led by Joakim Arnell and piano master Johan Blohm, the Swedish rockers are in fine form – as usual – with another platter of boogie-woogie rock and roll destined for heavy airplay at my house. While American radio continues to shun the natural descendants of Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis, Sweden is among the many other lands who honor one our lands greatest exports – rock’n’roll. Sure, these unassuming middle-aged guys don’t look like rockers, but looks deceive. Check this out…

Video: A 40-minute set from Antone’s!

Of course, the band that will immediately spring to mind is Rockpile, and it was Billy Bremner who first sought out the band and even joined in for a couple of albums. Albert Lee also took a turn, and there was even a great tour with Bremner and Dave Edmunds (released as the latter’s A Pile Of Rock) immortalized on this DVD, which I just have to get my hands on. Like Rockpile, the music is infections and relentless, the sound of blues/pub/boogie performed with love…and incredible skill.

Video: JB Boogie

On this new one, the band delivers piano-pumping, horn-drenched rock in droves, but covers all the bases – rockabilly (“Go Baby Bird“), Everly Brothers pop (“By Your Side“), country roadhouse (“Old Hopes Brand New“) and Tex-Mex (“Negative Nancy“). It doesn’t matter what they tackle, they do it well, and it’s astounding that a melting pot of American roots music has been percolating for a quarter century halfway across the world without making a ripple in the States. Then again…why would that surprise me?

One could say that the band has never grown in their career; I say they’ve never regressed. Yes, you could probably buy the albums in any order and enjoy them just as much; they’re all fruit from the same tree. If you have the cash, you could catch up in one fell swoop with this 8-CD collection. I hope you have had the pleasure of enjoying this band, but when I can turn someone on to a great group like this, I must admit a selfish feeling of great satisfaction.

The Refreshments official website

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Under The Radar: The Brandos

They weren’t under the radar in the 1980s…

But like many great bands, The Brandos are now and have been for some time. I can’t explain why so much quality music can’t grab the attention of large segments of the American public, but my suggestion would be that not getting airplay might have something to do with it. Sure, “Gettysburg” was an FM radio staple for a bit and even made some waves on eMpTV, but that was a quarter-century ago.

Video: “Gettysburg

Like other ex-pats, they realized that Europe could appreciate a great band, so rather than chase major labels like Columbia Records or Warner Brothers, these bands signed with Blue Rose and SPV and Line. Only fans would realize that they were still recording, touring, creating…others would figure them as one-hit wonders and close the books. Of course, that was before everyone had the technology to not only search them out, but to download and order music from halfway across the globe.

Video: “The Keeper” (unplugged)

Of course, I do have a disease. I’ve been scouting music since I was old enough to walk into a department store record department and flip through the singles and read any magazine I could get my hands on. Can’t tell you how many catalogues I set away for , nor how many checks I mailed to odd remote addresses. But today it’s as simple as bouncing an artist’s name off Google, MySpace and You Tube…but you have to make the effort to look for great music, it won’t be handed to you. Those who don’t miss out on bands like The Diamond Dogs and The Refreshments and the great Herman Brood.

And yes, they miss out on The Brandos.

On first listen I immediately loved singer David Kincaid’s slightly sandpapered vocals; they had the comfort and familiarity one would expect from hours of listening exposure. And when I finally heard The Brandos cover “Lodi” I realized why – there’s a lot of John Fogerty DNA in there. Like Fogerty, Kincaid sings with unbridled passion.

Video: “Walk On The Water

In 1994, Kincaid and longtime partner-in-crime Ernie Mendillo were on the road with two other New York legends, Scott Kempner and Frank Funaro, names any Dictators or Del Lords fans should know. Recording two shows in Amsterdam and Utrecht, the appropriately named In Exile Live was released. A brilliant cross-sampling of their recorded career, it featured rousing rock anthems, Irish folk tunes and a couple of pitch-perfect primal rock covers of The Sonics’ classics “Strychnine” and “Psycho” (a tip of the cap to Kincaid’s roots in the Seattle club scene).

Video: “Strychnine

I’ve been blasting this CD over the last couple of days and heartily recommend that anyone who hasn’t heard it drop what they’re doing and resolve this gap in their collection. If you’ve never heard The Brandos, you will be treated to one of the great unsung American bands. And if they did indeed drop under the radar for you after “Gettysburg“, well…you have a lot of catching up to do, most of it glorious. Excellent musicianship consistently goes hand in hand with premium songwriting.

Lots of MP3 samples at Haunted Field Music

Buy some Brandos albums on Amazon

The Brandos on MySpace

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Happy Birthday, Dave Edmunds

I *still* hear you rockin'...

I *still* hear you rockin'...

How can one be famous and critically underrated at the same time? Although Dave Edmunds has had hits with his band Love Sculpture, as a member of super-group (to the smart ones among us, anyway) Rockpile and as a solo artist, he rarely gets mentioned on lists of the greatest guitar players ever to sling an axe over their shoulder. If you doubt me, may I suggest a run through his catalogue?

I was first floored by his manic playing on “Sabre Dance” and the template for drunken sing-alongs, “I Hear You Knockin“, but the magic ran much deeper on his albums. Always a great cover artist (his take on “Girls Talk” trumps Elvis Costello,  hands down), he breathed new life into songs from both influences and contemporaries. A skilled writer, producer and multi-instrumentalist, Edmunds combined his love of Phil Spector’s production techniques, classic pop song structure, doo-wop harmonies, rockabilly and country twang to forge infectious and irresistible music. His version of “Let It Be Me” was so heartfelt and beautiful that I asked a pair of Flashcubes to perform it at my wedding (thanks Gary and Artie), their equally powerful version had people openly weeping. (At least I think that’s why the attendees were crying…). Check out “Baby I Love You” and “Born To Be With You” , two tracks that recall the positive side of the Phil Spector story.

Axe Murderer

Axe Murderer

Later in the 70s, he and Nick Lowe eventually formed Rockpile with Billy Bremner and Terry Williams, but before, during and after they alternated backing each other on solo albums. Although Seconds of Pleasure is the only official Rockpile release, there’s really an entire catalogue of albums featuring most of the same musicians. Nick and Dave brought the best out in each other, and although they supposedly fought like cats and dogs, the sum of the parts was as good as the individual pieces. If you’re not familiar with that era, correct that mistake soon.

Rockpile plays “Sweet Little Lisa“.

Dave’s solo records were strong and featured the occasional hit, but he still wasn’t on that A-list in sales of popularity (although critically, he was doing just fine). When he signed a management contract with a powerful East Coast promoter in the mid-80s, I thought he would finally get the huge push he needed to become the household name he deserved to be. Instead, it was as if he went on a sabbatical, as his live appearances and recorded output slowed to a crawl. Thankfully he shared his talents with others behind the scenes.

Edmunds found a kindred spirit in Brian Setzer and produced The Stray Cats, who instantly became a phenomenon. Once again he leaned upon his early organic influences and was able to showcase the band in their best light – crisp and clear. A similar effort led to great success for The Fabulous Thunderbirds. It still mystifies me why he later leaned upon Jeff Lynne to produce his own work (well, not completely mystified – I’m sure the label told him they needed a hit record) since tracks from that era sound as dated as…well…as Jeff Lynne. (If Lynne really wanted to do Edmunds a favor, he would have declined the spot in the Traveling Wilburys and let Dave play like James Burton and Scotty Moore.)

Almost invisibly, Edmunds released a couple of great albums late in his career. In the mid-90s, Plugged In returned him to his all-by-myself early days and proved he had lost nothing, even showcasing one of the best Beach Boy homages ever recorded. Then in 2001, he hooked up with The Refreshments – the Swedish band, not the Arizona guys who want to “divvy up there“) – and released A Pile of Rock Live. Word to the curious –  The Refreshments are the closest thing you will find to vintage Rockpile and in this incarnation featured Billy Bremner and Geraint Watkins. The album is stunning, and any Edmunds/Bremner/Rockpile fan should check out their entire catalogue. (And pick up those Billy Bremner albums while you’re at it…speaking of underrated artists!).

Lately Dave has only been making spot appearances, and his newest album is another collection rather than new material. Hopefully he will get the itch again soon and grace us with more magic. But even if he never recorded another note, his musical legacy is firmly established as one of the greats.

Dave and The Refreshments play “I Knew The Bride“.

Dave and Graham Parker go “Crawling Through The Wreckage

Visit the official Dave Edmunds website.

Happy Birthday, Dave!!!

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