Tag Archives: tribute album

Paying Tribute! The Kinks

Another in a series of Kinks tribute albums, Unkovered features a mostly lesser-known roster of artists who produce mixed results. About half the songs are from the classic late 60s period, but I was glad to see the usual targets like “You Really Got Me” skipped over and tracks like “Dandy” and “Who’ll Be The Next In Line” get covered.

Some of the artists offer little more than straight cover versions. Ghosts of Electricity handles “Sunny Afternoon” about as well as you’d expect a bar band to play it, and James O’Malley’s odd pauses in “Celluloid Heroes” gives it an odd Harry Chapin flavor but neither track sticks in your head.  On the other hand, while Maura Kennedy’s cover of “Autumn Almanac” doesn’t vary much from the original arrangement, her lilting voice perfectly suits the song, and she inhabits it with spirit and heart.

A couple of my favorite tracks have been given a country flavor, and why not? Muswell Hillbillies, Percy and Village Green Preservation Society did nothing if not celebrate family, hearth and home from the English perspective. The Corduroy Sky’s take on “Holloway Jail” morphs from simple acoustic riffs to a lightweight version of Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Caroline Doctorow’s beautiful “Oklahoma USA” (with Maura and Pete Kennedy backing up) is the standout cut on the album along with The Blaggards’ “Last of the Steam Powered Trains”.

Other artists took chances; Smile Pretty Misery treats “Set Me Free” like a dark confessional, while The Lone Sharks threw “Willesden Green” through an Elvis Presley filter. Johnny Cuomo’s ragged voice makes Rod Stewart sound silky, but at least he infuses some emotion into “Dead End Street”, much like Patrick Costello’s wailing guitars save “Give The People What They Want”. There are disappointments – I found Tara Eberle’s “Do It Again” and Claudia Jacobs’ “Loony Balloon” pretty tepid – but for a regional label (Long Island, NY) it’s a pretty decent tribute disc.

Die-hard Kinks fans collect everything related to their heroes; hopefully they will find a few favorites on Unkovered to listen to alongside This is Where I Belong, Shangri-La, Give The People What We Want and the other loving tips of the cap.

Listen to clips from Unkovered at Amazon.

Unkovered is released on Paradiddle Records.

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Brian Wilson, Almost

We continue this weekend’s tribute to the yeoman work done by Angelo and crew at Power Pop Criminals with a tip of the cap to Pocket Symphonies To God, the Brian Wilsonesque collection of tunes that feature a whiff of Pet Sounds and/or Smile in their sound.

Once again we’re talking about the influence of Brian Wilson’s music in original songs from artists who obviously have a little sand in their music. One of the best examples of this concept I have ever heard is Pet Soul by Splitsville, a perfect marriage of Brian Wilson and Paul McCartney. In real life those two giants were trying to one-up each other, and the Beatles and Beach Boys albums of that period served and volleyed. As you can tell by the name, Splitsville’s hybrid musical opus blended Pet Sounds and Rubber Soul; their brilliant “The Love Song of B. Douglas Wilson” is one of the tracks included here.

(Note: Pet Soul was a free four-track EP first distributed at Poptopia in the late 90’s; you can purchase The Complete Pet Soul and I highly recommend that you do!)

Your Wilsonesque journey will feature appearances by such wonderful artists as Dave Edmunds, Ken Stringfellow, The Wondermints, Jeffrey Foskett, The Paley Brothers, The Nines, Pugwash and The Squires of The Subterrain, household names to most powerpop fans. The music, like the artists, is eclectic and wonderful, and hopefully you will find a new favorite artist or two and support them by buying their music.

So just click here and you’re on your way to Wilsonesque magic!

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Blast From The Past: Iggy Tribute

And I do mean blast – play this one loud!

Happened to pull this album off the shelves the other day, and sure enough, way back in 1998 I scribbled some words about it for TransAction Magazine. Funny how things change; although I liked their cut here I swatted Nada Surf with a backhanded compliment. Over the next decade they blossomed into a great band whose albums made my year-end lists more than once.

I still love tribute albums when they’re made from the heart; bands and project coordinator fully on track with the artist being feted. Even a small label trying to promote their artists can sometimes expose a great unknown band. It’s the major label projects that often leave me cold. (Jennifer Lopez fans aren’t going to want to hear her sing Bruce Springsteen, and I’m pretty sure fans of The Boss don’t want to have to scrape their ears clean with a fork, either.)

But enough about that – heeeeere’s Iggy!

Royalty Records has assembled a twenty-track, seventy-three minute tour through Iggy Pop’s career, the third such collection I’ve seen but easily the most high-profile. Reading the artists and track listing on the back cover would be enough inspiration for even a fringe fan to grab the disc, but the contents may surprise you. While some big names turn in respectable takes, a couple of the brightest moments come from the most unlikely artists.

Nada Surf always struck me as a one-hit MTV band, but their great version of “Sick Of You” is reminiscent of Love It To Death era Alice Cooper! Sugar Ray, another band-of-the-moment, torches “Cold Metal” so thoroughly that not even the insipid turntable scratching during the solo can take it down. Pansy Division shows that they have balls after all with a great rip on “Loose”.

The Lunachicks make “Passenger” an aural treat all over again, and Extra Fancy’s shuffle version of “Sell Your Love” is one of the two or three best cuts on the record. The Red Hot Chili Peppers do a credible version of “Search And Destroy”, but it’s licensed from seven years ago, not newly recorded. If they were going to rob the vaults, I would have much preferred the Dictators’ classic flame-thrower interpretation.

Not everyone shines, however. An almost-unrecognizable Superdrag drones their way through “1970” and Blondie (here reformed as a four piece under the pseudonym Adolph’s Dog) schmooze their way through “Ordinary Bummer” (what a waste of a Clem Burke sighting!). With tribute projects you take your chances, and the couple of clinkers aside the percentages are very good on this one.

Listen to clips from this album.

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Emitt Rhodes Documentary – it’s here!

Finally!

After having a premiere at the Rome International Film Festival in Italy last October, the Emitt Rhodes documentary,  The One Man Beatles, is going to make its US debut Thursday July 8 at the Don’t Knock The Rock film festival in Hollywood. The film features interviews with The Bangles, Keith Olsen, Ray Paul, Michael Penn, Allison Anders, and of course, Emitt Rhodes.

Trailer

From the Italian film festival publicity blurb: “A young director crosses the ocean to find Emitt Rhodes, the mysterious forgotten American pop star from the 1960s/70s, once dubbed as the secret alter ego of Paul McCartney. But these theories are refuted by Emitt himself, flushed out and placed in front of a video camera after many years spent holed up in his house full of old guitars and vintage amplifiers. His words reveal a past filled with regrets. His voice and his music proving his pure talent.”

In conjunction with the release of the film, Permanent Press is releasing a single by Ray Paul that was intended to be on the Emitt Rhodes tribute album Rhodes Of Perfection (currently put on hold by Brewery Records). Ray’s cover version of the Emitt Rhodes composition ‘Til The Day After” has just been sent to radio and will appear on the August 2010 radio industry trade CD Sampler A Taste Of Triple-A.

Rhodes and Paul have a long history; they performed together in concert in February 1997 in Santa Monica, California and some footage of that show is included in the film. A collaborative single, “Some Sing, Some Dance“, released in May 2000, received airplay on 55 Hot A/C  and A/C stations.

Listen to “Til The Day After

Listen to clips from Emitt’s discography

Emitt Rhodes website

Ray Paul website

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Under The Radar: Sounds Like…?

My buddy Angelo over at Power Pop Criminals has done it again.

Angelo loves well done cover tunes as much as I do, and we probably share the same disappointment that record labels don’t often do a good job assembling tribute albums. PPC’s Beatle album recreations, for example, are works of art (literally – the cover art on their home-crafted mixes is always first-rate!). So like many of us do, Angelo makes mix tapes to compensate. Thankfully, he also offers them as a free download.

Last month also marked PPC’s fifth anniversarycongratulations!

Head on over to PPC. You’ll find a wealth of magic in the archives and hopefully discover a new favorite artist or two; hopefully your interest will turn into support via album purchases and concert tickets. I’ll bet you find a couple of new (to you) bands that will floor you in this collection.

Here are his words on the subject:

“I guess you all remember Dave Edmunds recreating the Phil Spector’s Wall Of Sound, or how many bands have contributed to the Beatlesque history of Power Pop and some other artists searching for the perfect harmonies of Brian Wilson, even The Fab Four did this with “Paperback Writer”. All those bands have something in common, the love and respect for these forerunners. So instead of covering some classic tunes, they wrote original songs, mixed and produced them in the spirit of the bands we all love.

This new 2CD PPC collection is my humble try at compiling the homages recorded by the bands featured here. Of course, some of you won’t hear what i’ve heard, but you won’t deny the L.E.O.’s song might be one of the best songs Jeff L. has never written, or that Marc B., Bob D., Elvis C. can be heard without being really featured. Some other acts have included partial references to their heroes – this is how Roy Wood’s Wizzard can be heard with some glitter stomp in the same song, i could write and on and on, but where would be the fun of discovering the  tributes hidden in the songs. Enjoy.”

Some Soundalikes is available at the PPC website.

 
 

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Semi-Semisonic

The law firm of Wilson-Munson-Wilson is back!

Doesn’t seem like that long ago that Semisonic was a staple of our radio diet. “Closing Time” – both song and video – seemed to spool in an incessant loop for about a two year period. Fortunately the band had both chops and songs. Like the Gin Blossoms, they seemed like they’d pump out pleasing melodic pop rock for a long time, and then – like the Gin Blossoms – they were yesterday’s hot band.

Before there was Semisonic there was Trip Shakespeare, where the Wilson-Munson-Wilson axis was firmly in place. Now those three are involved in related projects as artists and producers (damn, Minneapolis is a fertile ground!). And Jacob Slichter? Well, he only wrote one of the best books I’ve ever read about being a musician and getting tossed into the star-making machinery. I heartily recommend you go read So You Wanna be A Rock And Roll Star as soon as possible – it’s literate, funny and poignant.

But on to these two records; a semiSemisonic, if you will.

One of the things I liked about Semisonic was that even when they weren’t really rocking (“FYT”, “Brand New Baby”, “Across The Great Divide”, “If I Run”, etc.) they had a punch to their songs. Sure, much of it was powered by piano and acoustic guitar; maybe it was the way Dan Wilson’s vocals soared above it all that hooked me. The slower paced songs (“Secret Smile”) seemed more fragile by comparison. I could listen to something like “Falling” all day long.

Well, if you like great vocals, those of John Munson and Matt Wilson as The Twilight Hours are stellar. Stereo Night kicks off with the ambitious “Dreams”, weaving hook and melody between foreground and background like a delicious hypnotic dance. But after ten tracks I was in serious need of something more uptempo, although the closing track “Never Mine To Lose” is a solid exit.

“My Return”  and “Queen of Tomorrow” are probably the standouts as far as the more energetic tracks go, while “Forgot Me Now” reminds me of Semisonic’s finest slower moments. (It actually reminds me more of a song called “Fall” by The Tender Idols, but that’s really stretching a reference!). And “Winter Blue” is a pretty stunning exercise in twee-pop, with some nice arrangements that will remind you of another guy named Wilson.

It’s pretty, well-crafted and consistent. For me, it’s just lacking that intangible oomph to force its way to the top of the pile. Give a listen and decide for yourself.

The Twilight Hours on MySpace

***

I’m rabid for tribute albums, and by a similar nature, always game when established musicians do cover songs because they want to. That’s a long way from the days when you had to cover the du jour pop tunes in your corner bar to put food on your table, so if you’re going there now, I’ll go there with you.

Thanks to Chan Poling’s piano and Steve Roehm’s natty vibes, the album does swing. I won’t say that their version of “Androgynous” will make me forget Paul Westerberg or Joan Jett, but it’s clever and catchy and retains all of the original playfulness. And there are some loopy jazz moments within “Watching The Detectives” that remind you that Steve Nieve would totally do that if Elvis only let him.

But the bottom line for me  is too many albums, not enough time. The New Standards are great musicians, offer some class arrangements, and John Munson (with Poling) are solid vocalists. There will be moments when this album will be a joy to encounter. But there’s no way I’ll ever play it as loud or as often as The Hot Rats, who were just as inventive but (1) selected better songs and (2) rocked the snot out of them.  (Caveat: I didn’t realize they had a prior album out, and some of those songs look killer, so I’m headed there to check them out myself).

But this album is well worth a listen as your mileage may vary.

The New Standards website and MySpace

***

And let’s not forget Dan Wilson, who has been pretty busy himself.

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Under The Radar: Sex Pistols Tribute

Rip it. Rip it good.

 

Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated? 

That classic Johnny Rotten line could potentially come to mind every time you give a tribute album a shot, although I am probably more tolerant than most. The problems usually range from labels using the concept as an exercise to produce a roster sampler (certainly makes accounting easier!), so you’re at the mercy of their acumen in selecting not only the artist to fete but the bands they sign. Others are major label attempts saddled by the ridiculous need to have name artists as participants. Not to slag the more successful bands, but sometimes they are more clueless than the label’s Executive Producer – you know, the nutjob who thought it as a good idea to match artist and song in the first place. 

More often than not, the greater successes spring from a smaller label; one that either has or collaborates with a visionary who sees the project as a labor of love and respect. Having the connections to rope in some worthy artists never hurts, of course, especially since these things do not sell well. Which also explains why ninety-five percent of them will sail under your radar

While I was refiling some albums this weekend I came across a doozie from a decade ago – hard to miss with an electric cover like that. Certainly not a perfect one, but if you’re going to blast the rust off an old year and start fresh, what better torch to blaze than The Sex Pistols? This review originally ran in PopMatters

 

Seventeen (no pun) songs in 50 minutes—that’s about three minutes per and that’s just about perfect. Which is what this concept is, too; from the drop-dead look and feel of the cover art to the selection of some of the more raucous punk bands to participate. Besides paying props to the classic Never Mind the Bollocks album, additional cuts include cuts from singles and The Great Rock and Roll Swindle. Some of the tracks nail the energy and spirit on the head while others…oh hell, it’s a tribute record, you know the drill. 

Kicking off the disc is The Booked’s version of “Holidays in the Sun”, absolutely relentless and everything you would hope to get from each interpretation. Ditto “No Feelings” from The Generators; The Boils’ amped up version (really!) of “Submission” and especially Road Rage with “EMI.” Road Rage’s drummer Victicious (you’ve gotta love that!) sounds like he’s shooting off cannon blasts, while guitarist Gav shreds on guitar. “Friggin’ in the Riggin,” the Sex Pistols’ John Valby-ish performance from Swindle, is actually a worthy inclusion thanks to Showcase Showdown’s spirited take. The two biggest Sex Pistols tracks (“God Save the Queen” and “Pretty Vacant”) get decent bar band treatment, but aren’t as strong as they could be. I mean, it’s only three chords…oh, never mind, I’m just a lazy sod. 

When the bands do swing and miss—like L.E.S. Stitches’ disappointingly over-the-top try on “Bodies”—it’s for much the same reason so many hard rock bands suck. They take themselves too seriously! When it’s all bombast and no sense of humor, it’s just (as Johnny Rotten would say) booorrrinngggg! Actually, this record makes you realize just what an emotive vocalist Rotten was, especially when inferior vocalists (Blanks 77) trip over themselves. But everyone does rip it up, even when the drummer in Submachine sounds like he’s broken everything but his snare. 

Overall though, this is a long overdue CD—kudos to Radical for a solid effort! And labels, take note—tasks like spending some time on clever artwork, listing all the tracks with credits and providing information (names, contact numbers, addresses) for all the bands involved should be mandatory. 

LISTEN 

One and done

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