The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time

Another week is coming to an end, and I can’t believe we’re almost in March. Before we embark on another music journey, I feel compelled to express my shock and sadness about the tragic events and human suffering unfolding in Ukraine.

Usually, I don’t discuss politics or any other topics on this blog outside of music. I also strive to keep things positive. Both are deliberate choices since I feel we’re already bombarded with so much negativity every day in traditional and social media. I want CMM to be a destination where you can forget about all the everyday crap life can throw at you. Music is a great escape hatch that has helped me more than once to keep it together.

Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, an Eastern Orthodox Christian monastery in Kyiv, a city within the city initially founded as a cave monastery in 1051

Why break my own rules now? Ukraine is different. In some regards it’s personal. In my former professional career, I worked in the UN Office in Kyiv from January 1995 through March 1997. As such, not only do I know the Ukrainian capital – well, at least how it looked at the time – but I also had the opportunity to visit many different regions of the country, such as Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed in March 2014, and the so-called breakaway provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk, which they are now claiming to protect from neo Nazis – it’s like you’re watching an episode of the Twilight Zone!

Witnessing what looks like the re-emergence of a Russian czar who apparently wants to restore the old empire of the U.S.S.R. seems unreal in 21st Century Europe. I just hope these unprovoked and illegal actions by this warmonger can be stopped, and he eventually will have to pay a high personal price for his crimes. I’d like to dedicate this post to the people of Ukraine, including my former colleagues and their families many of whom still live there. My heart goes out to all Ukrainians, and I hope this madness will come to an end soon.

Брати Гадюкіни (Braty Hadiukiny)/Файне мiсто Тернопiль

In light of the above, I’d like to kick off this Sunday Six with some kickass rock by Брати Гадюкіни (Braty Hadiukiny), which according to Wikipedia is one of the most successful Ukrainian bands from Lviv. The largest city in Western Ukraine is located about 60 miles east of the border to Poland. Braty Hadiukiny, which means “Hadyukin Brothers”, were mainly active between 1988 and 1996. This was followed by what looks like a 10-year hiatus and a reunion in 2006. Wikipedia characterizes their music as a combination of different genres like rock & roll, blues, punk, reggae, funk and folk. Файне мiсто Тернопiль (translation: Fine city of Ternopil) is a great rock tune from the band’s 1994 album Було не любити (translation: It was not to love). Ternopil is another bigger city in Western Ukraine.

Paul McCartney/Drive My Car

In case you haven’t heard the news today about lucky me who made the grade, the news wasn’t sad and I just had to laugh. Yesterday, I got a ticket to ride for Paul McCartney on June 16 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.! While I fully anticipate there will be some differences between this show and the two previous gigs I saw, my words can’t express how excited I am. In case you’d like to check out dates for the Got Back Tour, which is scheduled to get underway in late April in Spokane, Wash. and wrap up on June 16 in Jersey, you can check on Macca’s website here. To get in the mood, here’s Paul’s opener Drive My Car, off his November 2009 live album Good Evening New York City. It captures songs performed during three nights in July 2009 to formally open New York’s Citi Field, a baseball park built to replace the legendary Shea Stadium, where The Beatles played one of their most famous shows in 1965. Primarily written by Macca with lyrical contributions from John Lennon, Drive My Car originally appeared on Rubber Soul, the second of two albums The Beatles released in 1965. Take it away!

John Miles/Music

After two uptempo rockers, it’s time to catch a breath coz, hey, I’m not exactly 16 years any longer. I’m already 26! 🙂 I literally just remembered what I feel is a great tune for the occasion by British artist John Miles. Born John Errington in April 1949, Miles was active for more than 50 years from 1970 until his death in December 2021 at the age of 72 after a short illness. His catalog includes 10 studio, two live and five compilation albums. Undoubtedly, he is best remembered for the song I picked, Music, off his debut solo album Rebel from March 1976. Solely penned by Miles, this beautiful tune was also released separately as a single that same year and became his biggest hit. It topped the charts in Switzerland, peaked at no. 3 in the UK and reached no. 4 in The Netherlands. Beyond Europe, the chart performance was more moderate, including no. 38 in Australia and no. 88 in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100. It may be lush and monumental, but it’s an incredibly powerful orchestral rock ballad, which btw was produced by Alan Parsons.

Joey DeFrancesco/Inner Being

Under different circumstances, an instrumental like this would have been my first pick. If you’ve seen some of the previous Sunday Six installments, you probably noticed that I tend to start nice and easy, and then sometimes turn to nice and rough. Anyway, this next track takes us to March 2019 and a studio album by jazz organist Joey DeFrancesco who also plays the trumpet and the saxophone. DeFrancesco, who signed his first record deal in 1987 at the age of 16, has played with the likes of David Sanborn, John McLaughlin and George Benson, and recorded with artists, such as Ray Charles, Bette Midler and Van Morrison before he went loonie. According to Wikipedia, DeFrancesco’s discography to date includes 31 studio, one live and one studio album – they had to count them all! Inner Being, composed by DeFrancesco, opens the above-noted album titled In the Key of the Universe. The record, which received a Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Instrumental Album, features American jazz saxophonist Pharoah Sanders.

Tina Turner/Nutbush City Limits

It’s funny how sometimes one thing leads to another. You may have noticed that in the description of my previous pick, I creatively borrowed from the lyrics of Ike & Tina Turner’s rendition of Proud Mary. From the moment I did this, I couldn’t get Tina out of my head. Nutbush City Limits, written by her, was first recorded as part of her duo with her ex-husband Ike Turner and became the title track of their studio album from November 1973. Nearly three years later, Tina managed to flee from Ike with 36 cents and a Mobil credit card. While Ike was a talented musician he also was a psychotic abuser. Beating and verbally abusing your wife or anyone else for that matter isn’t cool and will forever tarnish you! Anyway, here’s a life version of the song from Tina’s live record and video album Tina Live. Released in September 2009, it captures a gig Tina did in March that year in The Netherlands. This must have been right before her second and permanent retirement. She was 70 years at the time and still in incredible shape working that stage and dancing in high-heeled shoes – what an amazing performer!

Океан Ельзи (Okean Elzy)/З нею

I’d like to conclude this post with more rock from Ukraine. Океан Ельзи (Okean Elzy) are another group from Lviv. They were formed in 1994 and apparently have been active to this day. Their present lineup features original members Svyatoslav Vakarchuk (lead vocals) and Denys Hlinin (drums, percussion), along with Denys Dudko (bass, acoustic guitar, backing vocals), Miloš Jelić (piano, synthesizers, backing vocals) and Vladimir Opsenica (guitars, backing vocals). Wikipedia lists 10 studio albums released between 1998 and 2016. Here’s З нею (translation: With her), the opening track of a 2013 album titled Земля (translation: The land).

Following is a playlist of the above tracks, as usual.

Mr. Putin, stop your reckless assault on the Ukrainian people and from going down in the history books as a war criminal! Rock & roll will never die and outlive any psychopathic emperor!

Sources: Wikipedia; Paul McCartney website; YouTube; Spotify

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Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Welcome to another new music revue. All featured tracks are on albums that were released yesterday. Let’s get to it!

Scorpions/Knock ’em Dead

I trust pop metal stalwarts Scorpions need no introduction. The band was formed in 1965 in Hanover, Germany by guitarist Rudolf Schenker who remains as the original member. The current line-up also includes Klaus Meine (lead vocals, guitar), Matthias Jabs (lead and rhythm guitar, backing vocals), Paweł Mąciwoda (bass, backing vocals) and Mikkey Dee (2016), who have been members since 1969, 1978, 2003 and 2016, respectively. In 2010, the group’s 17th studio album Sting in the Tail appeared, which initially was called their farewell album and followed by their “final tour.” They subsequently changed their mind and have since released two additional records including their latest, Rock Believer. I featured the title track four weeks ago in this Best of What’s installment. Here’s Knock ’em Dead, a pretty typical Scorpions rocker co-written by Meine and Schenker. The band will support the album with a tour, starting in late March with a series of nine gigs in Las Vegas before continuing in Europe until early July. Other than the Vegas residency, oddly, there are currently no other scheduled U.S. dates.

Tears for Fears/Master Plan

This is starting to feel like a trip back to the ’80s. While Scorpions had been around for 16 years by the time British new wave band Tears for Fears were formed in 1981, the German rockers first entered my radar screen in 1984 with their immensely successful album Love at First Sting. At that time, Tears for Fears had released their debut The Hurting (March 1983) and scored their first hit Mad World. Their smash singles Shout and Everybody Wants to Rule the World would still be one year away. These days, Tears for Fears continue to be co-founders Roland Orzabal (guitars, keyboards, vocals) and Curt Smith (bass, keyboards, vocals). The other original members Manny Elias (drums, percussion) and Ian Stanley (keyboards, backing vocals) left long ago in 1986 and 1987, respectively, and were never replaced. Orzabal and Smith broke up in 1991 (though Orzabal kept the Tears for Fears name alive) and reunited in 2010. Fast-forward to the present and The Tipping Point, the duo’s first new album in nearly 18 years. Here’s Master Plan penned by Orzabal. Like most of the other tracks, it’s more on the mellow side. It may not be as instantly memorable as Everybody Wants to Rule the World or Sowing the Seeds of Love, but I still like it!

Dashboard Confessional/The Better of Me

Florida band Dashboard Confessional were initially started in 1999 as a solo acoustic side project by singer-songwriter Chris Carrabba who at the time was the lead vocalist of emo group Further Seems Forever. Following his departure from that band, Carrabba released his solo debut The Swiss Army Romance in March 2000 under the Dashboard Confessional name. By the time of sophomore album The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most came out, Dashboard Confessional had become a trio. Apart from Carrabba, the present line-up includes Scott Schoenbeck (bass, piano, keyboards), Armon Jay (lead guitar, backing vocals) and Chris Kamrada (drums, percussion). The Better of Me is a tune from the group’s ninth and latest album All the Truth That I Can Tell. According to Apple Music, In mid-2020, Chris Carrabba got into a motorcycle accident that nearly paralyzed him—the veteran singer-songwriter was forced to relearn his instrument, unable to play guitar for more than five minutes a day before the pain hit. You would never assume this had happened to him when listening to this tune and others I sampled.

Johnny Marr/Night and Day

My last pick for this week is music by Johnny Marr from his new album Fever Dreams Pts. 1-4. The English guitarist and singer-songwriter, who first gained prominence in the ’80s as a co-founder of English indie rock band The Smiths, had previously released eight of the 16 tracks on two EPs. In December, I featured a tune from the second EP. Following the break-up of The Smiths, Marr played in various other bands, including Pretenders, The The, ElectronicModest Mouse and The Cribs. His solo debut The Messenger appeared in February 2013. Fever Dreams Pts. 1-4 is Marr’s fourth solo record. Here’s one of the newly released tunes, Night and Day. Like all other tracks on the album, it was co-written by him and James Doviak, co-producer and guitarist in Marr’s band. Kind of catchy!

Last but not least, here’s a playlist of the above and some additional tunes.

Sources: Wikipedia; Scorpions website; Apple Music; YouTube; Spotify

Musings of the Past

The Hardware: The Hammond B-3

This is the second installment of my new feature introduced last week, where I essentially republish previous content and update where I feel it’s warranted. This post is about the Hammond B-3 and the first installment of an irregular feature titled The Hardware, which I started in June 2017. The idea is to look at prominent instruments and music technology. It’s not as geeky as it sounds! 🙂

The Hardware: The Hammond B-3

The introduction of the Hammond B-3 in 1954 revolutionized music

I’ve decided to introduce a new category on the blog I’m calling The Hardware, where I’m going to take a look at instruments and technology that have had an important impact on rock music. Admittedly, my general understanding of technology is limited, so these posts will definitely be a bit of a lift for me. While I anticipate things may become a bit technical at times, I’m certainly not planning to go overboard.

With that being said, I’d like to get started by taking a look at an instrument I’ve admired from the very first time I heard it, which is probably longer than I want to remember: The legendary Hammond B-3 organ.

The Hammond organ was designed and built by American engineers and inventors Laurens Hammond and John M. Hanert and was first manufactured in 1935 by the Hammond Organ Company in Chicago. Following the original, the Hammond A, numerous other models were introduced, including the legendary B-3 in 1954.

Tonewheels inside the console of a Hammond

The Hammond B-3 is a tonewheel organ. These types of organs generate sound by mechanical toothed wheels, that rotate in front of electromagnetic pickups. The B-3 has 91 tone wheels located inside the console. Together with the so-called drawbars, they give the instrument its incredible sound versatility. According to Glen E. Nelson, a “Hammond B-3 can all at once sound like a carnival, a big band, a horn section, a small jazz combo, a funk group, a percussion section, a flute, and/or countless other things.”

Hammond drawbars

The organ has nine drawbars that represent the nine most important harmonics. “Each drawbar has eight degrees to which it can be literally “drawn” or pulled, out of the console of the organ, the eighth being the loudest, and all the way in being silence,” explains Nelson. The drawbars and the way each can be adjusted individually allow to create an enormous amount of different sounds, such as flute, trumpet or violin-like sounds.

Leslie loudspeaker

In spite of its impressive size, the B-3 does not have a built-in speaker. As such, it needs to be run through a separate speaker, which typically is a Leslie, named after its inventor Donald Leslie. The speaker combines an amplifier and a two-way loudspeaker that does not only project the signal from an electronic instrument but also modifies the sound by rotating the loudspeakers. While the Leslie is most closely associated with the Hammond, it was later also used for electric guitars and other instruments.

Due to its versatility and sound, the B-3 became very popular and has been used in all types of music, whether it’s gospel, jazz, blues, funk or rock. One of the artists who helped popularize the instrument was jazz musician Jimmy Smith. Some of the famous rock and blues musicians who have played this amazing organ include Booker T. Jones, Billy Preston, Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman, Gregg Allman, Steve Winwood and Gregg Rolie.

Jazz organist Jimmy Smith

The last original Hammond B-3 organs were manufactured in 1973. The Hammond Organ Company started to struggle financially in the 1970s and went out of business in 1975. The Hammond brand and rights were acquired by Hammond Organ Australia. Eventually, Suzuki Musical Instrument Corporation signed a distribution agreement with the Australian company before purchasing the name outright in 1991 and rebranding it as Hammond-Suzuki.

In 2002, Hammond-Suzuki introduced the New B-3, a re-creation of the original instrument using contemporary electronics and a digital tonewheel simulator. The New B-3 is constructed to appear like the original B-3, and the designers attempted to retain the subtle nuances of the familiar B-3 sound. A review by Hugh Robjohns in the July 2003 issue of Sound on Sound concludes, “the New B3 really does emulate every aspect of the original in sounds, looks and feel.”

Following are a few examples of rock songs that prominently feature a Hammond B-3.

Gimme Some Lovin’/Spencer Davis Group (Steve Winwood)

Jingo/Santana (Gregg Rolie)

Just Another Rider/Gregg Allman

There is perhaps no better way to finish the post than with this amazing demonstration of the Hammond B-3 by Booker T. Jones. Watching his joy while playing the instrument and listening to the anecdotes in-between the songs is priceless.

-END-

This post was originally published on June 5, 2017. It has been slightly edited. The Spotify list is an addition.

Following is a Spotify playlist featuring the above and some additional prominent Hammond B-3 players.

Sources: Wikipedia; History of the Hammond B-3 Organ (Glen E. Nelson); Hammond USA website; Sound on Sound; YouTube; NPR

The Hump Day Picker-Upper

Cheering you up for a dreadful Wednesday, one song at a time

For those of us taking care of business during the regular workweek, I guess it’s safe to assume we’ve all felt that dreadful Wednesday blues. Sometimes, that middle point of the workweek can be a true drag. But help is on the way!

Today, the music doctor prescribes sunshine. A good dose of sun can do miracles. Of course, like with most things, the caveat here is everything in moderation – the doctor does not want to get you a sunburn!

So let’s embrace the sun, real or imagined, with Good Day Sunshine. The Beatles song was mostly written by Paul McCartney and credited to him and John Lennon. It appeared on the group’s 1966 studio album Revolver, a favorite among many fans of The Fab Four.

McCartney wrote Good Day Sunshine on John Lennon’s piano at Lennon’s house in Surrey, South East England. It was inspired by The Lovin’ Spoonful’s Daydream, which had become an international hit for the American band, topping the charts in Canada and New Zealand, and reaching no. 2 in the UK and U.S.

Here’s what Macca told Barry Miles for the 1997 McCartney biography Many Years From Now, per The Beatles Bible: “It was really very much a nod to The Lovin’ Spoonful’s ‘Daydream’, the same traditional, almost trad-jazz feel. That was our favourite record of theirs. ‘Good Day Sunshine’ was me trying to write something similar to ‘Daydream’. John and I wrote it together at Kenwood, but it was basically mine, and he helped me with it.”

McCartney re-recorded Good Day Sunshine for his 1984 film Give My Regards to Broad Street, a musical drama picture directed by Peter Webb about a fictional day in the life of McCartney starring the ex-Beatle, Linda McCartney and Ringo Starr as themselves. The song also appeared on the accompanying soundtrack album of the same name.

According to Wikipedia, McCartney has regularly performed Good Day Sunshine during live concerts. This made the nerd in me curious, so I just checked Setlist.fm for the two Macca shows I’ve seen to date. It turns out he played Good Day Sunshine during his October 17, 1989 gig at Westfalenhalle in Dortmund, Germany, but the tune wasn’t part of the setlist on July 19, 2016 at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey, Pa.

Good Day Sunshine has also been played in space. In November 2005, McCartney performed the song live for the crew of the International Space Station. The tune also served as the wake-up music during the final mission (STS-135) of the U.S. Space Shuttle program in July 2011.

Pretty much all Beatles songs have been covered by other music artists, and Good Day Sunshine is no exception. The first cover was by British beat group The Tremeloes in 1966. Scottish singer and actress Barbara Dickson performed the song in 1974 as part of the British stage musical John, Paul, George, Ringo … and Bert by Willy Russell. Good Day Sunshine was also featured during a 2016 episode of the same name of the animated children’s television series Beat Bugs, where it was performed by British artist Robbie Williams.

As announced yesterday, this installment of Hump Day Picker-Upper will be the last in the series. It’s been a pleasure serving as your doctor who hopefully helped chase some clouds away you may have experienced on a Wednesday over the past 20 weeks. To go out with a big bang, following is a Spotify playlist of all songs that were included in the feature. I hope they will cheer you up going forward, as needed.

Happy Hump Day, and always remember George Harrison’s wise words: All things must pass!

Sources: Wikipedia; The Beatles Bible; Setlist.fm; YouTube

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

Nothing strange and nothing to spit on

After a 62-day streak of publishing one post each day (my initial goal was 50 days, after I had reached 40 posts in a row), I’ve decided that starting from next week, I’m going to reduce the frequency of blogging back to what it used to be, which is about three to four posts a week. While I love writing about my favorite subject music, publishing seven days a week has taken a significant amount of time – time I obviously haven’t been able to spend otherwise.

Along with this reduction in posting frequency, I’m also planning a few other changes. This includes retiring Wednesday’s Hump Day Picker-Upper posts and replacing them with a new weekly feature I’m going to unveil next Wednesday. I’m also considering consolidating some of my current blog categories. The current number of 20 does seem to be a bit excessive. Obviously, any reduction in categories and reindexing of previous posts are more of behind-the-scenes changes.

Since this is a music blog, of course, this post wouldn’t be complete with at least one song. Perhaps not surprisingly, the first tune that came to mind in the current context is one of my favorite songs by David Bowie: Changes.

Written by Bowie, Changes first appeared on the British artist’s fourth studio album Hunky Dory from December 1971. The song was also released separately as the record’s first single in January 1972.

To my surprise, Changes didn’t chart in the UK at the time it came out. In the U.S., it initially climbed to no. 66 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1972. It re-entered that chart in 1974 and peaked at no. 41. In the UK, the song resurfaced as well and got to no. 49, but it wasn’t until 2016 following Bowie’s death. Wikipedia doesn’t list any other chart placements – strange!

Here’s some additional background on the great tune from Songfacts: This is a reflective song about defying your critics and stepping out on your own. It also touches on Bowie’s penchant for artistic reinvention. Bowie wrote this when he was going through a lot of personal change. Bowie’s wife, Angela, was pregnant with the couple’s first child, Duncan. Bowie got along very well with his father and was very excited to have a child of his own. This optimism shines through in “Changes.”

According to Bowie, this started out as a parody of a nightclub song – “kind of throwaway” – but people kept chanting for it at concerts and thus it became one of his most popular and enduring songs. Bowie had no idea it was going to become so successful, but the song connected with his young audience who could relate to lyrics like “These children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds, are immune to your consultations, they’re quite aware of what they’re going through.”

Bowie played the sax on this track, and his guitarist, Mick Ronson, arranged the strings. Rick Wakeman, who would later become a member of the prog rock band, Yes, played the piano parts at the beginning and end. Bowie gave Wakeman a lot of freedom, telling him to play the song like it was a piano piece. The piano Wakeman played was the famous 100-year old Bechstein at Trident Studios in London, where the album was recorded; the same piano used by Elton John, The Beatles and Genesis.

Sources: Wikipedia; Songfacts; YouTube

Goodbye June’s New Album Rocks, Classic Style

Goodbye June first entered my radar screen last December when I featured the title track of their then-forthcoming album See Where the Night Goes in a Best of What’s New installment. After listening to Breathe and Attack, which I included in my latest new music revue edition, it was an easy decision to dedicate an entire post to the group’s now-released fourth studio record, which came out on February 18.

See Where the Night Goes is the latest proof that while classic-style rock no longer is mainstream, it isn’t dead as is oftentimes claimed. Goodbye June, formed in Memphis, Tenn. in 2005, are part of what a July 2021 story in Guitar World called the New Wave of Classic Rock. Some of the other groups they noted in this context include Dirty Honey, Greta Van Fleet and Rival Sons. One band the story didn’t mention is Fortune Child, who were only founded in 2021 and may be the most recent in the pack. I featured one of their songs in yesterday’s Sunday Six installment.

Goodbye June are comprised of Landon Milbourn (lead vocals), Brandon Qualkenbush (rhythm guitar, bass, backing vocals) and Tyler Baker (lead guitar), who are all cousins. According to their AllMusic bio, they had first started making music together in their local church. The group was formed in honor of Baker’s brother who died in a car accident in June 2005. In 2009, they relocated to Nashville where they gained a reputation for their fiery live shows. Three years later, the band’s debut album Nor the Wild Music Flow came out.

Following extensive regional and some international touring, Goodbye June won first prize in 2014 in the Unsigned Music Competition. The band’s growing visibility led to a deal with Interscope Records. Their sophomore album Magic Valley appeared on that major label in May 2017. Let’s take a look at some music from See Where the Night Goes.

The album kicks off with Step Inside, credited to the three members of the band, as well as producer Paul Moak. The multi-instrumentalist from Nashville also contributed electric guitar, acoustic guitar, Clavinet, Mellotron, bass and percussion. Here’s the official video of the AC/DC-style rocker that pretty much sets the tone of the record.

Since I previously covered the title track and Breathe and Attack, I’m skipping these tunes here and go directly to Take a Ride. Like the opener, it was co-written by the band and Moak and is reminiscent of AC/DC as well. I could also see this tune on a Greta Van Fleet album.

Even high-energy rockers sometimes need to slow down. Here’s the rock ballad What I Need, credited to the band and Scott Stevens, another local Nashville artist. Call me crazy, I’m hearing some Lenny Kravitz here!

Let’s do two more: Here’s Baby, I’m Back, another Milbourn/Qualkenbush/ Baker/Moak co-write.

A tune titled Three Chords by a band like Goodbye June sounds promising, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint: Give ’em three chords/And the Holy Ghost/They’ll start a-moving/And shaking on the floor…Come on, boys, take us to rock & roll church!

Yes, Goodbye June aren’t exactly reinventing the classic rock wheel on See Where the Night Goes. And that’s precisely why I love it!

Sources: Wikipedia; Guitar World; AllMusic; Discogs; YouTube; Spotify

The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time

Is it really Sunday again? Yep, the calendar doesn’t lie. I hope everybody is spending a peaceful morning, afternoon, evening – wherever you are when reading this. The six picks in this installment of The Sunday Six include jazz fusion, classic style rock, psychedelic garage rock, folk, pop rock and pop, touching the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and the present. Hope you’ll find something you like.

Passport/Homunculus

Let’s start today’s music time travel to the year 1975 with music by German jazz fusion band Passport. I’d like to thank Bruce from Vinyl Connection for the inspiration. He included the group’s sophomore release Second Passport in a recent installment of his ongoing countdown of 1972 albums. Passport were formed by German saxophonist Klaus Doldinger in 1971. Doldinger who is also a known film music composer has had an amazing 70-year career and at age 85 doesn’t think of retirement. Passport, aka Klaus Doldinger’s Passport, are still active as well. Their most recent studio album of original music, Motherhood, appeared in 2020. Homunculus, composed by Doldinger, is a track from Cross Collateral, the second of two albums Passport released in 1975. In addition to Doldinger (saxophones, Moog synthesizer, electric piano, Mellotron), their line-up at the time included Wolfgang Schmid (bass, guitar), Kristian Schultze (keyboards) and Curt Cress (drums).

Fortune Child/Tie the Line

Let’s jump to the present and Tie the Line, the new single by Fortune Child, a cool-sounding classic rock style band founded last year in Jacksonville, Fla. From their website: …it is no secret that these lovers of good ol’ fashioned Rock were inspired by the likes of Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Alice in Chains, The Black Crowes and so many more. The four-piece band plans to take the Rock N’ Roll scene by storm, and to remind the people of what truly matters: the music itself. The band (Christian Powers/ vocals, Buddy Crump/ lead guitar, Melanie Jo/ drums, and Jon Ward/bass) has quickly garnered significant support from the Southeast US Rock N’ Roll scene opening for national touring acts such as Blacktop Mojo…It’s loud, it’s dirty, and it’s down-right badass…For 2022, the band has partnered with legendary rock producer Kevin Elson of Journey, Mr. Big, Europe, and Lynyrd Skynyrd to produce their full length debut album “Close to the Sun,” due out in early March. “Old-fashioned” kickass rock sounds like a great proposition to me in an era where rock often is called “dead.” Released on February 18, Tie the Line is the third single appearing ahead of Fortune Child’s above noted upcoming record.

Count Five/Psychotic Reaction

After some kickass rock from the present, how about jumping back 50-plus years for a dose of ’60s rock? Count Five were an American garage rock band formed in San Jose, Calif. in 1964. Initially known as The Squires, the group’s original formation included John Byrne (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), John “Mouse” Michalski (lead guitar), Kenn Ellner (backing and lead vocals, tambourine, harmonica), Roy Chaney (bass) and Craig “Butch” Atkinson (drums). The Count Five who during live performances were wearing Count Dracula-style capes only made one album, Psychotic Reaction, which appeared in October 1966. The title track, written by Byrne and subsequently refined by the band (hence credited to all members), was released as a single ahead of the record in June 1966. Climbing to no. 5 in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100 and no. 3 in Canada, the tune became the band’s only hit. It was included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll. Wikipedia notes the song was among the first successful psychedelic rock tunes, containing the characteristics that would come to define acid rock: the use of feedback and distortion replacing early rock music’s more melodic electric guitars. Neither the album nor any other songs by The Count Five came anywhere near to replicating the success of Psychotic Reaction, and the band broke up in 1969.

Gordon Lightfoot/Beautiful

More recently, a few of my fellow bloggers like Jim from Music Enthusiast and Lisa from Tao Talk have covered Gordon Lightfoot, which inspired my next pick. I best know the Canadian singer-songwriter and guitarist because of gems like If You Could Read My Mind, Sundown and The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, which were all chart-toppers in Canada during the first half of the ’70s. Now 83 years old, Lightfoot who has been called Canada’s greatest songwriter remains active. His impressive catalog to date includes 20 studio albums, a similar amount of compilations and three live records, among others. In May 2020, I included a song from Lightfoot’s most recent album Solo in a Best of What’s New installment. Beautiful, written by Lightfoot, is from his eighth studio record Don Quixote that came out in February 1972. The nice love song was also released as a single in May of the same year. It reached no. 13 and no. 58 on the Canadian and U.S. mainstream charts, respectively. The tune topped Canada’s adult alternative chart and climbed to no. 30 on the corresponding U.S. chart.

Eddie Money/Take Me Home Tonight

For this next pick, I’d like to go to the ’80s and American pop rock singer-songwriter Eddie Money. When Take Me Home Tonight popped up on the radio in Germany in 1986, I immediately loved the tune and decided to get the album, on which it appeared, Can’t Hold Back. Other than this record, Money’s sixth studio release from August 1986, and a few additional songs I don’t know his music. But I surely enjoy what I’ve heard. Take Me Home Tonight is credited to Mick Leeson and Peter Vale, along with Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry and Phil Spector who wrote The Ronettes’ Be My Baby, which was interpolated in the chorus of Money’s song. Apparently, this was the only charting track for him in Germany. Money clearly was much more successful in the U.S. and Canada where he had 12 and 9 top 40 hits, respectively during his 40-plus-year recording career. Sadly, Money died of complications from esophageal cancer at the age of 70 in September 2019.

Annie Lennox/Why

And once again we’ve reached the end of yet another musical mini-excursion. Today, the final stop takes us to the ’90s and a beautiful tune by Annie Lennox: Why off her solo debut album Diva from April 1992. Lennox recorded it after Eurythmics, her duo with Dave Stewart, had gone on hiatus, in 1990 and the subsequent birth of her first daughter Lola Lennox, who also became a music artist. To date, Lennox has released five additional solo records. In the late ’90s, Eurythmics came back together for another album, Peace, released in October 1999, and had occasional reunions thereafter. Diva became a huge chart and commercial success, topping the charts in the UK and reaching 4x Platinum certification there. In the U.S., it climbed to no. 23 on the Billboard 200 and reached 2X Platinum status. In March 1992, Why was released separately as the album’s lead single. The song also did well in the charts, reaching no. 5 in the UK and Ireland, no. 17 in Australia and no. 34 in the U.S.

And here is a Spotify playlist with the above tunes, as usual:

Sources: Wikipedia; Fortune Child website; YouTube; Spotify

Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Another Saturday is upon us. Today, Best of What’s New is hitting a milestone of sorts with its 100th installment. Since the publication of the weekly feature’s inaugural post on March 21, 2020, I’ve covered more than 400 newly released songs. Discovering tunes I sufficiently like can be a challenge, given I’m primarily into the ’60s and ’70s. But I continue to be encouraged it’s still possible to find decent new music, as long as you are willing to look for it. Let’s get to this week’s picks, which all are on albums that were released yesterday (February 18).

Gregor Barnett/Driving Through the Night

I’d like to kick things off with new music from the debut solo album by Gregor Barnett. He is best known as a co-founder of Philadelphia-based punk band The Menzingers, which has been around since 2006. Here’s an excerpt from Barnett’s bio on the website of his label Epitaph Records: “It was this perfect storm,” says Menzingers guitarist/co-vocalist Gregor Barnett. “The band couldn’t tour, I was going through a really difficult time, and I was stuck at home watching my family struggle with illness and death and hardship. The only thing I could do was write my way through it.”And yet, despite all the turbulence surrounding its creation, there’s something deeply hopeful and reassuring about Don’t Go Throwing Roses In My Grave, Barnett’s debut release under his own name. Written and recorded in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the collection is a sonic departure from Barnett’s more punk-leaning work with The Menzingers, drawing on the gritty, off-kilter Americana of Tom Waits or Warren Zevon as it faces down loss and doubt in search of relief and redemption. Here’s Driving Through the Night, which like all other tracks on the album was penned by Barnett. I like his sound!

The Heavy Hours/Wasting All Our Time

The Heavy Hours are an alternative rock band from Cincinnati, Ohio. Here’s more from their website: On the heels of releasing their acclaimed Wildfire EP (2021) in the midst of a global pandemic, The Heavy Hours now return with Gardens, a full-length album that further exemplifies their distinctive strain of warm-hearted, open-armed alternative rock. The Cincinnati, Ohio-based quartet recorded Gardens several years ago, long before the group had management, an agent or a record label in their corner. With money they had collectively saved up, each of the members took a week off of work and set out to record a pocket full of songs at Montrose Recording located on remote farmland in Richmond, Virginia with producer Adrian Olsen (Nate Smith, Foxygen, Futurebirds). Somehow these early studio recordings found their way into the hands of multi GRAMMY award-winning producer/songwriter and Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach who immediately took a shine to the band and in turn led to organizing a writing session in Nashville, TN, which crafted tracks released on the Wildfire EP. This brings me to Gardens, which according to this mini-documentary was recorded in 2018. Here’s Wasting All Our Time, credited to all four members of the band: Andrew Yorio, Michael Marcagi, Jonathan Todd Moon and Ian Malott. I’m glad The Heavy Hours were finally able to release this great music.

Sarah Shook & the Disarmers/Been Lovin’ You Too Long

Sarah Shook & the Disarmers are a band around country singer-songwriter Sarah Shook. According to her Apple Music profile, Shook was born in Rochester, New York in 1985. She was raised in a deeply religious household, home schooled, and only allowed to listen to classical or Christian praise music as she grew up. Despite these restrictions, Shook taught herself to play guitar in high school and began writing songs…In 2010, she put together her first band, Sarah Shook & the Devil, who issued an EP in 2013, Seven. By the end of 2013, that band had split, and Shook & the Devil guitarist Eric Peterson started over with the group Sarah Shook & the Dirty Hand, a stopgap project that played live around the Chapel Hill area. Meanwhile, Shook had found a fan in producer and engineer Ian Schreier, who was eager to make a record with her. In 2015, she and Peterson assembled a new band to record with Schreier, which also included Aaron Olivia on bass, Phil Sullivan on pedal steel, and John Howie, Jr. (who is also Shook’s partner) on drums. The new combo, dubbed the Disarmers, cut their debut album live in the studio with Schreier at the controls. Sidelong was self-released in late 2015. Fast-forward about six years and two months to Nightroamer, the third album by Sarah Shook & the Disarmers. All tunes on the record were written by Shook. Here’s Been Lovin’ You Too Long.

Goodbye June/Breathe and Attack

My last pick for this week is by Goodbye June, a rock band from Nashville, Tenn., formed in 2005. I first featured them in a Best of What’s New installment in December 2021. The group consists of Landon Milbourn (lead vocals), Brandon Qualkenbush (rhythm guitar, bass, backing vocals) and Tyler Baker (lead guitar), who are all cousins. Apple Music describes them as a hard rock band who blend a rootsy sound with big guitars and plenty of strutting style. Their debut album Nor the Wild Music Flow came out in 2012. Breathe and Attack is from their fourth and latest studio album See Where the Night Goes. I said it before, I’ll say it again: This band reminds me of AC/DC. Milbourn has some of that Bon Scott swagger, and their guitar-playing stylistically is pretty similar to the rock & roll band from down under. Check it out!

Before I wrap up, here’s a playlist of the above tunes. As usual, I threw in a few others by the featured bands.

Sources: Wikipedia; Epitaph Records website; The Heavy Hours website; Apple Music; YouTube; Spotify

My Playlist: Billy Joel

As previously noted, while I’ve listened to Billy Joel on and off for more than 40 years and occasionally included him or one of his songs in some previous pieces, I had not dedicated a post to him. After more than five years of writing this blog, it’s about time to change that. It was all seeded by this recent post from fellow blogger Graham at Aphoristic Album Reviews. In turn, this led me to include the piano man in that post, which then triggered the idea to do this profile and playlist.

Billy Joel was born William Martin Joel on May 9, 1949 in The Bronx, New York, and grew up on Long Island where he has one of his residences to this day. Ironically, Joel wasn’t into the piano initially and only took it up reluctantly after his mother insisted. To be fair, he was only four years old at the time. During his teenage years, Joel got into boxing but decided to stop after he had suffered a broken nose in his 24th boxing match.

While attending high school, Joel was playing piano at a bar to help support himself, as well as his mother and his sister. His parents had divorced when he was eight years old. When he found himself with an insufficient amount of credits to graduate, he decided to forgo his high school diploma. After he had seen The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, Joel knew he wasn’t going to Columbia University but to Columbia Records, according to the 2006 biography Billy Joel: The Life and Times of an Angry Young Man, by Hank Bordowitz.

Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden, New York, in 2014

In 1965, Joel joined British Invasion cover band The Echoes and played on some of their recordings. By the time he left the group in 1967, they had gone through a couple of name changes and were called Lost Souls. Joel’s new band, The Hassles, had a deal with United Artists Records, and over the next two years released two albums and a few singles, none of which were commercially successful.

In 1969, Joel and Lost Souls’ drummer Jon Small departed, formed the duo Attila and released an eponymous debut album in July 1970. Things unraveled after Joel had started an affair with Small’s wife Elizabeth Weber Small who eventually became Joel’s first wife in 1973 and manager. Making music and getting into relationships oftentimes don’t mix well!

Joel subsequently signed with Family Productions and launched his solo career with the album Cold Spring Harbor, which appeared in November 1971. It was the first of 12 pop albums Joel released between 1971 and 1993. In September 2001, Joel came out with a classical music album, Fantasies & Delusions, his last to date and I guess by now we can safely assume is his final release of original music.

This shall suffice for background. Let’s get to some music. Following, I’ll highlight six songs that are included in a Spotify playlist, together with some additional tunes. Here’s She’s Got a Way, a sweet love song that most likely is about Joel’s above-mentioned wife Elizabeth.

In October 1974, Joel released his third studio album Streetlife Serenade. In The Entertainer, he gets cynical about the music business and being subject to changing public taste where one day an artist is in only to find themselves out the next day.

After a series of only marginally successful records, Joel scored his breakthrough in September 1977 with the release of his fifth studio album The Stranger. It was the first of four records produced by Phil Ramone who worked with the likes of Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Paul McCartney and Paul Simon. Here’s Only the Good Die Young. Wikipedia notes the song’s lyrics about a young man’s determination to have premarital sex with a Catholic girl stirred controversy. Pressure from religious groups to have the tune banned from radio stations turned a relatively obscure single into a highly demanded tune overnight and a top 30 hit on the Billboard Hot 100.

Joel followed up his breakthrough album The Stranger with 52nd Street in October 1978, his first of four records to reach the top of the Billboard 200. It also earned him two Grammys. Here’s the catchy uptempo song My Life, which became the lead single. Reaching no. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, it also was one of Joel’s highest-charting songs at the time.

If you’d ask me to name my favorite Billy Joel album, I’d go with The Nylon Curtain from September 1982. Joel’s eighth studio album isn’t among the four previously mentioned no. 1 records, though it did pretty well, reaching no. 7 in the U.S. on the Billboard 200. The opener Allentown, about the plight of American steelworkers following Bethlehem Steel’s decline and eventual closure, is one of my favorite Joel songs.

The last tune I’d like to highlight is from Joel’s most recent and likely final pop album River of Dreams, released in August 1993. At that time, I was a grad student, on Long Island of all places, and frequently listened to the album’s title track on the radio. I also got the record on CD when it was released. The song became Joel’s biggest hit of the ’80s, reaching no. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, his last top 10 single. I’ve always loved the tune’s combination of pop and gospel elements.

Here’s the above-mentioned Spotify playlist, which includes the previously featured songs, as well as additional tunes from each of Joel’s 12 pop albums.

Billy Joel is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, with over 160 million records sold worldwide. During his 22-year pop recording career, he had 33 top 40 hits in the U.S., including three that topped the Billboard Hot 100. Joel was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame (1992), Rock and Rock Hall of Fame (1999) and the Long Island Music Hall of Fame (2006). Frankly, I had no idea the latter existed – always nice to learn something new when putting together posts.

While the above accomplishments are very impressive, what I find most amazing is that the piano man continues to sell out one show after the other as part of his monthly residency at New York’s Madison Square Garden. That’s about 20,000 tickets each time. And all of that despite not having released any new pop music in close to 30 years!

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube; Spotify