Archive for the ‘CD Review’ category

Rock Music I Listen To At 69 – July 28, 2020

July 28, 2020

Now that I’m retired, I play more music and actually listen to it.

We have a 5-CD player that shuffles the CDs and the tracks. I dig through my collection and find five albums that I think I’ll want to hear for awhile.

Then I sit back and listen to the random gifts from the player, and ruminate on why I like them.

This time we have:

1) “Fight the Good Fight” by The Interrupters
2) “Cross Talk — The Best of Moby Grape”
3) “Raceway” by The Cash Brothers
4) “Just Won’t Burn” by Susan Tedeschi
5) “Sinematic” by Robbie Robertson

1) Fight the Good Fight

The Interrupters, from Los Angeles, are a recent discovery for me although they are deservedly wildly popular.  This is their latest album, from 2018.

the-interrupters-fight-the-good-fightThey remind me so much of the English Beat, that British “two-tone” band, in particular their debut album “I Just Can’t Stop It,” from 1980.

And like that band of 40 years ago (what!? can it be?), The Interrupters’ ska or punk or ska-punk rock just makes you want to stand up and move around.

Comprised of the lead singer, who calls herself Aimee Interrupter, and three brothers, they are high-energy performers who really seem to have fun.  The beat, the guitars, the voices — they are what make me love rock as a genre of music.  For me, it’s gospel music without the God talk.

Some highlights are Title Holder, Kerosene, and Got Each Other, the latter with added great voices from the band Rancid.

2) Cross Talk — The Best of Moby Grape

A quiz — who has heard of Moby Grape? Especially those born from say 1970 on?  Just about no-one, I would guess.  Even if you had come of age, in the late 1960s, as I did, you might also find that band unfamiliar.  They weren’t well-known to me, although they were contemporaries, for instance, of Jefferson Airplane.  (Skip Spence was Jefferson Airplane’s drummer on their first album.  He switched to guitar for Moby Grape.)

FireShot Capture 157 - Moby Grape - can't be so bad - YouTube - course the whole San Francisco scene at that time was improbably rich with other bands like the Grateful Dead, Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis Joplin, Hot Tuna, Quicksilver Messenger Service, The New Riders of the Purple Sage, and Sly & The Family Stone, to mention only a very few.

The five members of the band came together in 1966 in San Francisco, and their three guitar attack (with bass and drums), along with good singing from all, got them noticed.

Unfortunately they suffered from poor, almost malicious management from the very start.  That must have been a big part why they didn’t make it as big as some of their contemporaries.  And also their record company just over-hyped them, at one point releasing five singles at once….

As another example of that, on the band’s second album, their song Just Like Gene Autry: A Foxtrot required that the listener rush to their record player, switch the speed to 78 rpm and be on hand afterward to switch it back to 33.

I love that name:  Moby Grape. Inspiration from the punch line of the question, “What’s big and purple and lives in the ocean?”

This compilation from 2003 has 24 tracks covering the band’s career.  Among the standouts for me are 8:05, Omaha, Can’t Be So Bad, I Am Not Willing, and Hoochie.

3) Raceway

I don’t know too much about the The Cash Brothers.  Getting this CD (1999), their debut, was probably a recommendation from a music magazine.  I’m glad I did.  There’s something genuine in the voices that’s rare.

a2459294770_5I would classify what they do on this album as country-rock, and the country feels more real than usual.  This Canadian “band” consists of two brothers, strangely enough, Peter and Andrew.

Wikipedia has some difficulty nailing down exactly the right genre for them, sliding around from “alternative country/folk rock” to “alt-country/alt-folk music.”  They are somewhere in there.

Their vocal harmonies raise the power of the songwriting, and the playing.

“Raceway” was re-issued in 2001 as “How Was Tomorrow.”

Tracks I especially like are Take A Little Time Out of Your Day, Nebraska, and Show Me The Reason.

4) Just Won’t Burn

This solo album from Susan Tedeschi dates from well before she formed the blues-rock Tedeschi Trucks Band with husband and master guitarist Derek Trucks.  (Trucks is the nephew of Butch Trucks, drummer for the Allman Bros. Band, and was officially a member of the Allman’s during the later part of that band’s long run.)

Susan_Tedeschi_-_Just_Won't_BurnOn this 1998 CD, Tedeschi brings an authentic blues tone to what she does.  Sometimes she even has that Janis Joplin, blues-belter voice, such as on the track, “It Hurt So Bad.”  She plays guitar well too.

It’s the rocking tracks that make me want to hop around with the beat though.  There’s “Rock Me Right,” “Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean,” and “Friar’s Point.”

She also does a soulful cover of John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery.”

This CD is a pleasure to return to.

5) Sinematic

I picked up this 2019 CD by Robbie Robertson after watching on TV the documentary about The Band he put together called Once Were Brothers.  I wrote here years ago about what The Band meant to me and especially The Last Waltz movie.

109cf567a1dff017fed6156eb363b2f8Robertson’s view of The Band has a decided perspective, which not all, including members of the band, might agree with.  Robertson is a generous man in many ways, but he also views what went on as revolving around himself, primarily.  This is complicated because his playing and songwriting did contribute so much to The Band’s success.

The eventual estrangement, especially, with Levon Helm is a touchy subject about two men who supported and cared for each other like brothers at the beginning.  Helm came to feel that he didn’t receive enough credit, including financial, for the songwriting and arranging, and they were never able to resolve the hard feelings.  But in the end Robertson did make it to Helm’s deathbed to say goodbye.

This CD includes the track “Once Were Brothers” which recapitulates Robertson’s sadness about what was once.  I find it moving.

There are other fine tracks.  “Hardwired” is about the human condition: “Marching for peace while they’re looking for a fight.”  “Hardwired for love — hardwired for war.”

His native heritage comes through in “Walk In Beauty Way.”  “Wandering Souls” is a shimmering guitar instrumental.  “Remembrance” is another instrumental song of deep feeling (from the soundtrack of the movie The Irishman).

This is not a hard-rocking album, but a meditative one by a renowned artist of his generation, now 77, trying to tell what it was like in the only way he can.


Notes:  This post follows upon a couple others in the same format about my love of rock music, at a slightly advanced age:

Rock Music I Listen To… Dec. 29, 2019
Rock Music I Listen To… Oct. 20, 2019

Rock Music I Listen To At 68 – Dec. 29, 2019

December 29, 2019

Now that I’m retired, I play more music and actually listen to it.

We have a 5-CD player that shuffles the CDs and the tracks. I dig through my collection and find five albums that I think I’ll want to hear for awhile.

Then I sit back and listen to the random gifts from the player, and ruminate on why I like them.

As a side note, I’m looking forward to the Linda Ronstadt documentary special scheduled for New Year’s Day on CNN.  Like many young men of my time, I had a long-distance crush on this beautiful, elfin, charismatic singer.  I still play her songs too.

This time we have:

1) “Garden Party” and “Windfall” by Rick Nelson & The Stone Canyon Band
2) “Ruins” by First Aid Kit
3) “Love is Here” by Starsailor
4) “Too Much Fun: The Best of Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen”
5) “Twelve” by Patti Smith

1) Garden Party and Windfall

This is a double album compilation on BGO Records, an English label, on one CD.  The original albums were recorded in 1972 and 1974.

51cbSDNs0PLI can remember as a kid seeing Ricky Nelson as the all-American teenager on the old (really old) TV show The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.  That slice of suburban Americana dates back to the 1950s, and I probably saw the black and white sitcom in re-runs.  It featured the real-life couple of Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, and their real-life sons, Ricky and David.

Ricky Nelson went on to stardom as a singing teenage heartthrob in the 1950s and 60s, in the style of Elvis Presley.  That phase of his musical career is of no interest to me.

But when his song Garden Party came out in 1972 on the radio, the rueful honesty of it made me listen.  By this time, he was performing as Rick Nelson and The Stone Canyon Band.  The song apparently chronicles a rock ‘n’ roll revival concert at Madison Square Garden in 1971 where he was booed after playing a country version of a Rolling Stones tune rather than another of his old pop songs.  (I imagined a smaller actual garden party when I first heard it, but the sentiment still came across.)

The song’s memorable lines he wrote are of course:

“But it’s all right now, I learned my lesson well
You see, you can’t please everyone, so you got to please yourself.”

The songs on these two albums could be best described as country rock, with often more rock than country.  They actually fit in well with Linda Ronstadt’s music, and bands like the Eagles.

On “Garden City”, both I’m Talking About You which even gets a little jazzy and A Flower Opens Gently By appeal to me a lot.  On “Windfall”, I like the rocking Someone to Love, Evil Woman Child, and Windfall.

Rick Nelson died in a plane crash on the very last day of 1985 along with many members of his band.  He had a rockabilly-tinged album almost finished, which has never been released.

2) Ruins

Speaking of female singers and crushes, the two Swedish sisters who lead First Aid Kit are the current apples of my eye… or I should say ear (and eye).   I found them on YouTube singing tributes to Emmylou Harris and doing Bob Dylan covers (and a daring, for a folk rock duo, version of the Black Sabbath song War Pigs).

71NvHs0u+5L._SL1200_“Ruins”, their most recent album from 2018, shows off their song-writing skills but I think I like their previous album “Stay Gold” a little better — more upbeat.  But this one has its moments, and their singing in harmony always verges on the moving.

Cuts I especially like from the album are Rebel Heart, It’s A Shame, and Distant Star, veering around folk rock, country rock, and that indeterminate category of singer-songwriter.

Performing and touring around the world has taken its toll, and they had to cancel their 2019 summer dates due to burnout.

3) Love Is Here

41BB01R7SZLStarsailor is an English band formed in 2000, about which I know little.  I’m not sure why this is in my CD collection — it must have been recommended somewhere — but I like it in limited doses.  This is the band’s first album, from 2001, which received a lot of critical acclaim.

What sort of music is it?  Wikipedia says Post-Britpop, which apparently is an “alternative rock subgenre,” following in the wake of Oasis and Blur with more American influences.

The lead singer, James Walsh, has this high, almost delicate voice, with a style, he has said, influenced by Jeff Buckley.

The song Alcoholic is strangely moving about an alcoholic father.  Good Souls is slightly more upbeat, about, well… good souls.

4) Too Much Fun

Alright, party time!

51JSPFWQXZLCommander Cody & His Lost Planet Airman came out of Michigan in 1967 but soon moved to San Francisco and got a record contract. They opened for Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead and the Doors.

Their raw-edged sound of western swing, jump blues and general barroom mayhem is reflected in album titles like “Sleazy Roadside Stories,” “Hot Licks, Cold Steel and Truckers Favorites” and “Country Casanova.”

George Frayne IV founded the group, which became known for its marathon live shows, and took on the persona of Commander Cody.

This compilation is a lively record.  Of course it has Hot Rod Lincoln from 1971, originally a more traditional country song from the 1950s.  Beat Me Daddy Eight to the Bar is a boogie woogie number off that same first album, “Lost in the Ozone.”  And the compilation’s got Everybody’s Doing It, a bawdy song about singing “hi de ho” … or something like that.

5) Twelve

81GplvHXmQL._SL1500_The more I listen to Patti Smith, the more her voice moves me.  There’s such genuineness there.

Patti Smith of course was in the forefront of the punk rock movement in New York with her first album “Horses” in 1975.  I remember being in NYC on my own odd journey when the album came out.

This album from 2007 of twelve covers includes a variety of moods from White Rabbit to Smells Like Teen Spirit.

The songs aren’t necessarily the best productions or ultimate versions, but Smith’s voice rides with its authenticity over all.  I really like Gimme Shelter, Bob Dylan’s Changing of the Guards, and Paul Simon’s The Boy in the Bubble.  Stevie Wonder’s Pastime Paradise she sings with great tenderness:

“They’ve been spending most their lives
Living in a future paradise.”


Rock Music I Listen To At 68 – Oct. 20, 2019

October 20, 2019

Now that I’m retired, I play more music and actually listen to it.

We have a 5-CD player that shuffles the CDs and the tracks.  I dig through my collection and find five that I think I’ll want to listen to for awhile.

Then I sit back and listen to the random gifts from the player, and think why I like them.

(This may be an occasional, if I feel like it, series of blog posts.)

This time we have:

1) “Southern Accents” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
2) “House of Ill Fame” by The Trews
3) “Action Pact” by Sloan
4) “The Singles Collection” by The Kinks
5) “The Very Best of the Electric Light Orchestra”

1) Southern Accents

This is a CD that I hadn’t heard much about, and just got recently.  Recorded 1985.

From the first track Rebels on through It Ain’t Nothing to Me to The Best of Everything, to me it’s the sound of a band creating and playing music for themselves, most of all.  That is, there is no second-guessing about what they’re playing.

Southern AccentsIn It Ain’t Nothing to Me I think we find Tom Petty’s operational philosophy.  It’s about “spare me the bullshit.”

He’s not impressed, dazzled, enthused, thrilled, chilled or chuffed by what you say.  “Might mean something to you. It ain’t nothing to me.”  It’s the sound of a necessary self-defence, making his way in the music business.

I like the Best of Everything, the last song of lost love, about a girl he knew so well and whatever happened to her:

“Yeah and it’s over before you know it / it all goes by so fast.”

The best known song on the album of course is Don’t Come Around Here No More.

2) House of Ill Fame

TrewsThis was the first album by the Trews, recorded in 2003.  They were so ambitious, so fired-up, this Canadian rock band.  Some might call them hard rock, I just hear them as an incredibly talented rock quartet.

Not Ready to Go is a favorite.  Nothing too deep in the lyrics, just going-for-it rock ‘n’ roll.  More often than not I’ll start boppin’ around when it comes on.

Likewise with When You Leave and Black Halo, catchy tunes with a lot of energy behind them make me glad the band is still around.  They’ve just released a new album, “Civilianaires.”  I’ve listened to some tracks on YouTube.  More sedate, and mature probably, after 15-16 years.

3) Action Pact

To me, Sloan is the Canadian rock band.  Based in eastern Canada, we don’t hear them as much on the west coast as we should.  They are as tuneful, hard-rocking, melodic and often thoughtful as the Beatles, the Kinks or even Cheap Trick.  One reviewer in 2004 wrote,  “Sloan has written better songs than anything The Rolling Stones have put out in 20 years.”

SloanThe band was only formed in 1991, and to date they’ve put out 12 albums.  With the same personnel!

According to Wikipedia, this 2003 album was a serious effort by the band to break into the US market, which apparently it didn’t do, although it was well-received in Canada.  The band is well-known for vowing to keep Canada as their home base.

Usually all four members share at least some of the writing. On this album the primary drummer’s input was lacking, and some reviewers claim this hurt it.  Others cite the album’s “incredibly tight vocals” and “arena-rocking songs.”

Not necessarily my favorite Sloan album, it’s a pleasure to listen to (as are all the other Sloan albums I’ve accumulated).  The tracks Gimme That, The Rest of My Life, and False Alarm stand out for me.

4) The Singles Collection

The Kinks have to be one of the most versatile sounding bands in rock history.  They moved from covering Little Richard classics and getting Motown influence from Earl Van Dyke’s band, to gritty singles like You Really Got Me to melodic pop songs like Set Me Free.

KinksMy favorites though tend to be the satirical songs like Dedicated Follower of Fashion and A Well Respected Man.  The songs in this collection date from 1964 to 1970.  They of course went on to more success after that period.

They had so many good songs, but my favorite, strangely enough, is Victoria.  When I first heard it, I was attending the University of Victoria, here in British Columbia.  The song is all about Queen Victoria, I guess, but the wonderful rhythm, singing and driving down tree-lined streets in my old red MGA convertible conflated it into the memorable tune it is for me.

The 1960s and 1970s really do seem like a different era and the Kinks exemplify that in many ways.

5) The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra

Jeff Lynne is an underrated (in some quarters) musical genius, and the Electric Light Orchestra has been his vehicle.  Formed in 1970, Lynne became the band leader in 1972, and he and ELO are still making music until the present day.  However, ELO did disband for a time in the eighties.

ELOUntil you listen to a collection like this (on Playlist from the Epic/Legacy label in 2008), you don’t fully realize how many hits ELO have had.  (And add to that Lynne’s participation in the Travelling Wilburys, his solo albums, and all his producing credits.)

Many of the songs on this CD are nostalgic reminders of the seventies and eighties.  There are often classically influenced strings present, and rock ‘n’ roll rings out in every song.  There is often a sense of elegance and musical creativity.  Some of my favorites are Do Ya, Can’t Get It Out of My Head, Mr. Blue Sky, Hold On Tight, and of course Roll Over Beethoven.

If I ever go to an elderly sock hop, this would be the music I’d like to hear….

I always feel better after listening to ELO.


McCartney’s Recovered His Beatles Heart

November 24, 2018

Review of Paul McCartney’s Egypt Station
CD Album

As a child of the sixties, I’m going to say that McCartney’s new album Egypt Station continues a renaissance for the aging Beatle that began with the album New.

It may have begun before but I don’t have, like, the whole collection, man….

I do have one of the little known (to most) Fireman albums, so I’m that much of a nerd.


What I hear in this set of 18 new songs is McCartney once more finding that sweet honesty combined with rocking musical intelligence that helped power the Beatles’ creative force, sweeping them to greatness so long ago.

(Of course back then if you add the “can’t give a shit what you think — aren’t you amazed anyway?” creativity of John Lennon, then things cascade upwards, if such a phenomenon exists.)

McCartney, Lennon, and really Harrison and Starr too had uncanny antennae tuned to the world.  They shared that in different ways, as did many who listened to them and who struggled, too, to find the right frequencies.  As their musical journey began to lift into the stratosphere, the four of them seemed to feel the mood behind the moods of the time. It sifted into their music.

Of course, like all of us, they bore, for one reason or another, screwed-up parts of their lives.  Yet they still pursued their dreams, and made art when they could of the old painful places.

Opening Station

The album begins serene and moody, prefaced by a few moments of muted Beatles-style street noise segueing into angels.  It starts the Section called “Opening Station.”

Then the voice comes in on the second track, I Don’t Know.  I’m struck by how much Paul’s life must be sheltered and private to evade spotlights. Yet the old Beatle returns to something of his original heart for songs formed now with maturity sampling the entire life of Paul McCartney.

The next song, Come On to Me, begins the rock out portion of our show.  McCartney is a master of rhythm, and I want to get up and start moving around.  Imagine the horror when Grandpa starts to dance!

The next one, I’m Happy With You, shows McCartney plumbing the ordinary, including our ordinary happiness now and again.  It is as good as that is….

With the introductions made, he starts the creative experimentalism in a rock wrapping with Who Cares.

Fuh You is about what you think, and yet or because, it is stirring.  “I just want to know how you feel.”

The following song Confidante could easily be called Long Lost Anthems, one of its lines.

People Want Peace is straightforward.  And rocks.

Hand in Hand is moving as we recognize those whom we are lucky enough to hold.

Dominos pulses with creative prompting:

“And all the telephones keep calling
Constantly imploring us to come out and play”

The song Back in Brazil combines latin rhythms, “ichiban, ichiban, ichiban,” and something faintly reminiscent of Ob La Dee Ob La Da.

Do It Now reminds me of The Long and Winding Road channeling Henry David Thoreau.

In Caesar Rock, you don’t recognize the voice for a moment before you do, it sounds like Roger Daltry, and the song heats up:

“She got loyalty
Like the royalty

She got symmetry

She shoot Coca-Cola….

Despite Repeated Warnings strikes a more ominous tone about human wilfulness and dire stupidity, with urgent political references to You Know Who, given such items as global warming.

In there he’s got a wonderful lilting thing right out of Band on the Run. The song is an extended piece much like on Ram or Abbey Road.

Station II

The section “Station II” starts off with the driving and then moody Hunt You Down/Naked/C-Link:

“I’ve been broken in so many places
Put together by a sea of faces
What to make of them
I don’t hardly know
I’ve been naked for so long, so long”

Get Started is a love song that for me hearkens back to the early Beatles with a voice leavened by experience yet still happy and enthusiastic.  And then it rocks out at the very end.

Nothing For Free is a whole different rhythm. It’s coming to be the high point of the album for me, the stern infectious nature of it, the refrain that goes

“I know you need something
You’re talking to me
But you don’t get nothing for free.”

As you can probably tell, I like this album.


Note: There seem to be two versions of this CD available, one with 16 tracks and one with 18.  I ended up with the 18 one, for which I am grateful…. That’s the one to get.