Clips & Pix: Neil Young/Rockin’ In The Free World

With Neil Young very much being on my mind after listening to his music last night and writing a related post earlier today, I thought why not throw in a truly epic live performance of one of his rock anthems. Rockin’ In The Free World, which he wrote together with long-time collaborator and Crazy Horse rhythm guitarist Frank “Poncho” Sampedro, appeared on Freedom.

Released in October 1989, Young’s 18th studio album marked a triumphant comeback after a largely unsuccessful decade. The record was well received by music critics and climbed to no. 35 on the Billboard 200. Rockin’ In The Free World also appeared separately as a single in November that year. It peaked at no. 2 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Songs chart and is at no. 216 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time from 2011.

Sources: Wikipedia, Rolling Stone, YouTube


Decade Blows Stone Pony Away With Music Of Neil Young

Tribute band’s recreation of Young rock and acoustic classics is labor of love

Decade impressed me right away when I saw them for the first time at Rock the Farm Festival in Seaside Heights, N.J. in September (see related post here). I also caught them again just one week later at the Colts Neck Rockfest 2017 in Colts Neck, N.J. On both occasions, these guys did an incredible job in recreating the music of Neil Young. With tight sets, they focused on some of Young’s best known rock songs. Last night, the band was also able to include a great acoustic set as the headliner at The Stone Pony, the storied live music venue in Asbury Park, N.J.

At Colts Neck Rockfest, I had a chance chat with the band’s lead vocalist John Hathaway, who has been playing Young’s music for the last 30 years. He truly knows the ins and outs of Young’s guitar work, has a very similar voice, and even somewhat resembles his idol. Hathaway told me about the scheduled Stone Pony gig and was clearly excited. Frankly, being the headliner at a venue where the likes of Southside Johnny, Little Steven and Bruce Springsteen played in their early days is pretty cool! Oh, and according to its website, The Stone Pony has also attracted many other famous artists over its 40-plus-year history, such as Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Ramones, Blue Öyster Cult and Gregg Allman.

Decade at Stone Pony Poster

Back to Decade. In addition to Hathaway (middle), the band’s current line-up includes Joey Herr (lead and rhythm guitar, backing vocals; far left), Lou Perillo (bass, backing vocals; second from left), Steve Cunniff (keyboards, backing vocals; second from right) and Johnny Burke (drums, percussion; far right). All of these guys are clearly veteran musicians and do an outstanding job backing Hathaway. Having played myself in a band many moons ago, I believe I can confidently say that!

In addition to performing many of Young’s best known songs, Decade played some deep cuts most of which I didn’t know myself. Among the rockers were Like A Hurricane, The Loner, Cinnamon Girl, as well as the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young classics Woodstock and Ohio. Some of acoustic gems included Sugar Mountain, After The Gold Rush, The Needle And The Damage Done and Harvest Moon. I have to say I’ve always loved the acoustic side of Young, oftentimes even more than his rock anthems. Decade also threw in a great tribute to Tom Petty, Listen To Her Heart. I’m still somewhat in disbelief he’s gone!

Since smartphone videos oftentimes come out with mediocre quality, I didn’t try to capture any live footage. Luckily, I found a few clips from Decade on YouTube. I hope there will be more soon, including some of their excellent acoustic renditions.

Cowgirl In The Sand

Written by Young, Cowgirl In The Sand first appeared on his second studio album Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, released in May 1969. The tune is also featured on Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s first live album 4 Way Street, which appeared in April 1971.

Cortez The Killer

Cortez The Killer, which was written by Young, initially appeared on Zuma, his 1975 album with Crazy Horse. The tune is also included on Young’s 1977 compilation album Decade, which presumably inspired the band’s name. Last night, Hathaway told the audience it was Burke who came up with it before he actually became the band’s drummer.


A Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young classic, Ohio initially was released as a single in June 1970. Written by Young, the tune was also included on the band’s 4 Way Street live album as well as on the Decade compilation record. BTW, the clip was recorded at the above mentioned Rock the Farm festival.


Woodstock was the lead single from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s iconic second studio album Déjà Vu from March 1970. The song was written by Joni Mitchell, who included it on her third studio record Ladies Of The Canyon, which appeared around the same time as Déjà Vu. Apparently, the clip was captured during a previous performance of Decade at The Stone Pony earlier this year.

According to Decade’s website, they can next be seen at the Walt Street Pub Bar and Restaurant in Red Bank, N.J. on November 4, December 9 and January 19.

I’d like to finish this post with a couple of quotes from Hathaway, which are on the band’s Facebook page. Commenting on Young, he notes, “He’s the reason I learned to play…It’s what I was born to do [laughs].” Having seen him three times now, I believe it!

“The guitar work and vocals have to be dead on or we will be dismissed as just another bunch of hacks…We’re re-creating album recordings. We’re not kidding around here. Anything less would be a disservice to the fans coming to see us. I want people to leave thinking they just saw the best thing next to Neil Young in person.” It’s a high standard, but Decade truly lives up to it.

Sources: Wikipedia, Decade Facebook page and website, The Stony Pony website, YouTube


Clips & Pix: Sam & Dave/Hold On, I’m Comin’

As I previously noted, the storied Stax label is celebrating its 60th birthday this year. Among others, they are issuing compilations with music from some of their biggest stars like Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Albert King, Booker T. & The M.G.s and, of course, the unforgettable Sam & Dave. I was reminded of the anniversary this morning, when I saw some of the celebratory compilations in Apple Music, which leads me to the above clip. Check out this extended killer performance of Hold On, I’m Comin’ – damn! If this doesn’t get you up and moving, you’re probably dead!

Written by songwriter team Isaac Hayes and David Porter, the tune was released as a single in March 1966 and became the title track to Sam & Dave’s debut album, which appeared in April that year. Like for pretty much all Stax recordings at the time, Sam & Dave were backed by Booker T. & The M.G.’s, and what a kick-ass band they were! It’s very how cool how they are called out during the above performance, which apparently was captured in 1966: The singing, the groove, the craftsmanship – I don’t think music can get better than this!

Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube

On This Day In Rock & Roll History: October 22

1966: The Supremes A’ Go-Go, the ninth studio album by The Supremes hit no. 1 on the U.S. Billboard 200, marking the first time an all-female band reached the top of the records charts. It remained for 60 weeks on the chart and eventually sold approximately one million copies in the U.S. and 3.5 million worldwide. The record included the no. 1 hit single You Can’t Hurry Love.

1966: Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys entered the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. Written by Brian Wilson with lyrics by Mike Love, the complex tune was recorded in Los Angeles at various studios over a two-month period, relying on top session musicians, according to Songfacts. At an approximate cost of $50,000, it became the most expensive pop song ever recorded at the time. Good Vibrations peaked at no. 1 in December that year, becoming one of four no. 1 singles The Beach Boys scored in the U.S. The song is widely recognized as one of the most important compositions and recordings of its time. It was ranked no. 6 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time in 2011 and included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.

1969: Led Zeppelin released their second studio album Led Zeppelin II on Atlantic Records in the U.K. Produced by Jimmy Page, the album was recorded between January and August that year at various locations in the U.K. and North America between four European and three American tours. The record includes various of the band’s early classics, such as Heartbreaker, Ramble On, Moby Dick and the epic Whole Lotta Love, which also appeared separately as a single in the U.S. and became the band’s first hit there. The album was a huge international success, reaching no. 1 in the U.K., U.S., Canada and various other countries.

1976: Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band release Night Moves, Seger’s ninth studio album. On four of the nine songs Seger was backed by the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, including Mainstreet. The record also includes the classics Night Moves and Rock And Roll Never Forgets. All three tunes were also released separately as singles. Night Moves peaked at no. 4 on Billboard Hot 100, giving Seger his first big hit since Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man from 1969. The album became Seger’s second Gold record in the U.S. and his first to receive Platinum certification. It ultimately achieved sextuple Platinum.

Sources: This Day In Music, Songfacts Music History Calendar, Songfacts, Wikipedia, Rolling Stone, YouTube

What I’ve Been Listening To: Counting Crows/August And Everything After

The California rock band’s debut album is a timeless gem

I suppose like most folks, the first time I heard of Counting Crows was in late 1993/early 1994 when seemingly out of nowhere they burst on the music scene with Mr. Jones. I instantly loved that tune and still do. It’s yet another example illustrating the formula for many great rock songs: A few chords, a good groove and a catchy melody.

According to a Rolling Stone feature from June 1994, the band from Berkeley, Calif. was generally well received by music critics, though many couldn’t resist the temptation to compare their music to other artists. The long list included The Band, R.E.M., Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Bruce Springsteen, to name a few. The “sha-la-la” passage in the beginning of Mr. Jones was also compared to Van Morrison’s Brown-Eyed Girl.

Counting Crows

It is simply amazing to me how meticulously new recording artists are oftentimes analyzed. In this context, I also recall initial criticism of Lenny Kravitz sounding too much like his ’60s influences. To that I say so what! The last time I checked, the ’60s was one of the greatest decades in rock if not the best! Plus, frankly, in how many different ways can you play songs that consist of three to four chords. So let’s stop this silly quest to over-analyze everything and remember what it’s ultimately about – enjoying great music, which brings me back to August And Everything After.

Released in September 1993 on Geffen Records and produced by none other than T-Bone Burnett, Counting Crows’ debut album marked an impressive start for the band. Like so many other music artists, they had struggled only a few years prior to the record’s appearance.

The album kicks off with Round Here, a terrific opener. Duritz wrote the song when he was still with his previous band The Himalayans, together with other members of that rock band Dan Jewett, Chris Roldan and Dave Janusko. The tune has great ups and downs in dynamic. It also became the album’s second single.

Mr. Jones captures the experience of so many struggling music artists and their dreams of making it big someday. In this particular case, it’s about Adam Duritz, the band’s lead vocalist and main songwriter, and Marty Jones, bassist of the above noted The Himalayans. Co-written by Duritz and Counting Crows’ guitarist and vocalist David BrysonMr. Jones was also released separately as the album’s lead single in December 1993. It became a major international hit for Counting Crows, peaking at no. 2 on the Billboard Mainstream Top 40 on April 16, 1994, and hitting no. 1 on the Canada Top Singles chart. The tune also charted in Australia, New Zealand and various European countries.

Perfect New Buildings is another strong tune on the album. Written by Duritz, the song is about the emptiness that being on the road and sleeping in impersonal hotel rooms can bring, according to Songfacts.

Rain King is another co-write by Duritz and Bryson. The song was inspired by Henderson the Rain King, a book Duritz read during his studies at the University of California. According to Songfacts, he explained its meaning on Counting Crows VH1 Storytellers special as follows: “The book became a totem for how I felt about creativity and writing: it was this thing where you took everything you felt inside you and just sprayed it all over everything. It’s a song about everything that goes into writing, all the feelings, everything that makes you want to write and pick up a guitar and express yourself. It’s full of all the doubts and the fears about how I felt about my life at the time.” Rain King also appeared separately as the record’s third single and charted in the U.S., Canada and the U.K.

The last tune I’d like to highlight is the record’s closer, A Murder Of One, which includes the band’s namesake in the lyrics. It also became the album’s fourth and final single. The song was co-written by Duritz and Matt Malley, the band’s bassist and vocalist at the time. In explaining the meaning, Wikipedia quotes Duritz as saying, “I can remember being eight years old and having infinite possibilities. But life ends up being so much less than we thought it would be when we were kids, with relationships that are so empty and stupid and brutal. If you don’t find a way to break the chain and change in some way, then you wind up, as the rhyme goes: a murder of one, for sorrow.”

Songfacts further explains, “the rhyme is a reference to a Mother Goose rhyme which came from an old superstition. It was said that your fortune was dependent upon how many blackbirds you see on your path. This practice was eventually looked upon as silly, as there is another common saying that an action can be “As useless as counting crows.”

In addition to Duritz, Bryson and Malley, the band’s line-up at the time also included Steve Bowman (drums, vocals) and Charlie Gillingham (keyboards, accordion, vocals). Among the additional musicians on the record was multi-instrumentalist David Immerglück, of friend of Duritz, who did not become an official member of the band until 1999. He remains with Counting Crows to this day, along with Duritz, Bryson, Gillingham. The current formation also includes Jim Bogios (drums, percussion) and Dan Vickrey (lead guitar).

Since August And Everything After, Counting Crows have released six additional studio albums, six live records and two compilations. About three weeks ago, the band wrapped up an extensive summer tour with Matchbox Twenty. The double-headliner included close to 50 gigs in the U.S. and Canada between July 12 and October 1. I haven’t seen any reports about plans for a new album. In the past, the band has released a new record every three to four years. The last, Somewhere Under Wonderland, appeared in September 2014, so maybe we’ll see something new next year.

Sources: Wikipedia, Rolling Stone, Billboard chars, Songfacts, JamBase, YouTube

Bringing to Life the Magic of Steely Dan

An evening with The Royal Scam at Trumpets Jazz Club in Montclair, N.J.

To people who know me and readers of the blog, it won’t come as a big surprise that Steely Dan is one of my all-time favorite bands. The amazing writing and craftsmanship of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker created timeless music that is simply in a league of its own. While unfortunately I never got a chance to catch one of their shows, I probably came as close to it as possible last night at the Trumpets Jazz Club in Montclair, N.J. with The Royal Scam. It was actually the second time I saw this outstanding Steely Dan tribute band.

Named after Steely Dan’s fifth studio album from 1976, The Royal Scam have been faithfully playing the music of Fagen and Becker for 25 years. Lead vocalist Michael Caputo, who does a beautiful job of capturing Fagen’s smooth voice, told the audience they spent the first year with rehearsals before going on the road. This careful prep and the band’s long-time live experience clearly showed. Their attention to the details of the music was incredible, a true labor of love. Another Steely Dan fan who was sitting close to me and has actually seen them put it this way: “They are spot on.” I couldn’t have said it better!

The Royal Scam

The intimate setting of the Trumpets Jazz Club was a perfect venue to enjoy the music of Steely Dan up close, and there was plenty of it. Between two sets, each lasting more than 90 minutes, The Royal Scam played a great mix of Steely Dan classics like Rikki Don’t Lose That Number, Reelin’ In the Years, Hey Nineteen and Deacon Blues, as well as some deeper cuts I wasn’t as familiar with.

Since smartphone videos oftentimes have mediocre sound quality, I didn’t try to take any footage last night. Fortunately, there are some nice clips of the band on YouTube. Following is a selection.

First Up: Hey Nineteen, from 1978’s Gaucho album. It appears this clip was captured during a gig a few months ago in Linden, N.J., where I saw The Royal Scam for the first time.

Here’s another tune from the same concert: Rikki Don’t Lose That Number from Pretzel Logic (1974), which became Steely Dan’s biggest hit climbing all the way to no. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the summer of 1974.

The Aja album clearly is The Royal Scam’s favorite Steely Dan record, and who can blame them! They usually perform all or most of the tracks from this 1977 gem during their shows. Here is a very cool clip of the band playing side 1 of the album in its entirety: Black Cow, Aja and Deacon Blues!

Next up: Dirty Work from Steely Dan’s 1972 debut Can’t Buy A Thrill – a stellar rendition of one of my favorite early tunes from Becker and Fagen.

And what could be a nicer last clip then more songs from Aja. In fact, how about all of side 2? Here it is, also taken from the band’s website: Peg, Home At Last, I Got The News and Josie.

In addition to Caputo, the band’s current line-up consists of Gino Amato (keyboards and synth programming), Don Regan (guitar), Keith Droz (drums), Larry Chavana (bass), Joe Montini (saxophone) and vocalists Carla Culkin and Wendi Gordy. The Royal Scam will be back at Trumpets on March 10, 2018. Their schedule of upcoming shows is here on the band’s website, along with news and other info.

After they had played their final song of the night, Do It Again from Can’t Buy A Thrill, Caputo thanked folks for coming out and supporting live music. He rightly pointed out that nowadays there are fewer and fewer places like Trumpets where people can enjoy great music up close. While I’ve been to many music events, typically, they haven’t been in an intimate setting. Last night was a great reminder that the music club experience is something that should be cherished.

Sources: Wikipedia, The Royal Scam website, YouTube

Note: This post was updated on November 19, 2017 with some new YouTube videos of the band to replace previous clips that are no longer available.

Clips & Pix: Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers/The Final Show

The above clip captures the final show of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles on September 25. It was the third of three nights at the legendary venue. This gig was also the last concert of the band’s 40th anniversary tour. It’s still hard to believe that exactly one week thereafter, Petty passed away at only 66 years of age. Not sure how long this clip is going to stay on YouTube, so enjoy while it lasts!

Following is the set list for that final show, along with the album on which each song first appeared. Notably, half of the tracks are from Petty’s first two solo albums. But there is a connection to The Heartbreakers, since both of these records included members of the band.

Rockin’ Around (With You) [Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers, 1976]

Mary Jane’s Last Dance [Greatest Hits, 1993]

Don’t You Know How It Feels [Wildflowers, 1994; second Tom Petty solo album]

Forgotten Man [Hypnotic Eye, 2014]

I Won’t Back Down [Full Moon Fever, 1989; first Tom Petty solo album]

Free Fallin’ [Full Moon Fever, 1989; first Tom Petty solo album]

Breakdown [Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers, 1976]

Don’t Come Around Here No More [Southern Accents, 1985]

It’s Good To Be King [Wildflowers, 1994; second Tom Petty solo album]

Crawling Back To You [Wildflowers, 1994; second Tom Petty solo album]

Wildflowers [Wildflowers, 1994; second Tom Petty solo album]

Learning To Fly [Into The Great Wide Open, 1991]

Yer So Bad [Full Moon Fever, 1989; first Tom Petty solo album]

I Should Have Known About It [Mojo, 2010]

Refugee [Damn The Torpedoes, 1979]

Runnin’ Down A Dream [Full Moon Fever, 1989; first Tom Petty solo album]


You Wreck Me [Wildflowers, 1994; second Tom Petty solo album]

American Girl [Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers, 1976]

The final word goes to the kick-ass musicians of The Heartbreakers. The line-up included Mike Campbell (guitar), Scott Thurston (guitar, harmonica), Benmont Tench (keyboards), Ron Blair (bass) and Steve Ferrone (drums). The backing singers were Charlie Webb and Hattie Webb from England, who are known as The Webb Sisters.

How fond Petty was of his musicians becomes very clear when he introduces them, which starts at approximately 52 minutes and 10 seconds into the clip. His comments also reflect a great sense of humor. If you don’t feel like watching the entire 2 hours and 4 minutes, make sure you catch Petty’s introduction of the musicians.

Sources: Wikipedia, Setlist, YouTube