A solid playlist generated by my streaming music service provider
If you’ve followed my blog for a few years, occasionally, you may have seen me make fun of my streaming music provider over their listening suggestions or the way they classified music/put genre labels on artists. Perhaps you also noticed I haven’t done that in a while. In fact, over the past year or two, it’s obvious their algorithms have much improved, and they now really do know my music taste pretty well.
Of course, one could argue an external party’s increased knowledge about your personal taste may be a double-edged sword. However, unlike other preferences, I’m less concerned about this when it comes to music. In fact, I always welcome good listening suggestions. Case in point: The latest “Favorites Mix” my streaming provider served up earlier this week.
While I wouldn’t call it the best playlist I’ve ever seen, I certainly like their picks, so I decided to share them. Before doing that in the form of a Spotify playlist, I’m briefly highlighting six of the tunes.
The playlist kicks off with Spirit in the Night, a song by Bruce Springsteen I first knew because of the rendition by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band who released it as a single in July 1975 and also included it on their sixth studio album Nightingales & Bombers, which appeared in August of the same year. Springsteen recorded the original tune for his January 1973 debut album Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.
Poor Poor Pitiful Me is a song penned by Warren Zevon. It was included on his self-titled sophomore album, released in May 1976 and produced by Jackson Browne who is also featured in this playlist. Lindsey Buckingham provided backing vocals on this cut. The following year, Linda Ronstadt recorded a gender-altered version of the song for her eighth studio album Simple Dreams (September 1977).
In August 1969, English rock band Humble Pie released their debut studio album As Safe as Yesterday Is. One of the tracks it included is Buttermilk Boy, written by guitarist and vocalist Steve Marriott. Prior to forming Humble Pie with Peter Frampton in early 1969, Marriott had been with The Small Faces, a group he also had co-founded. Frampton left Humble Pie and launched his solo career in 1971, which climaxed in 1976 with Frampton Comes Alive!
Elenore is a tune by The Turtles. Written by their lead vocalist and keyboarder Howard Kaylan, yet credited to all five members of the group, Elenore first appeared as a single in September 1968. It was also included on their fourth studio album The Turtles Present the Battle of the Bands, which came out in November of the same year. While Elenore was a parody of happy-go-lucky pop songs like Happy Together, its strong chart performance in the U.S. and various other countries certainly was no joke.
At last, I get to write about English singer-songwriter Graham Parker, who is best known as the lead vocalist of Graham Parker & The Rumour. Parker (lead vocals, guitar) formed the band in the summer of 1975 together with Brinsley Schwarz (lead guitar), Martin Belmont (rhythm guitar), Bob Andrews (keyboards), Andrew Bodnar (bass) and Steve Goulding (drums). Gypsy Blood, written by Parker, is from the group’s debut studio album Howlin’ Wind, which came out in April 1976.
The final track I’d like to call out is Round the Bend by The Tubs, a British group who are entirely new to me. Their Bandcamppage notes they were formed in London in 2018 and “incorporate elements of post-punk, traditional British folk, and guitar jangle seasoned by nonchalant Cleaners From Venus-influenced pop hooks and contemporary antipodean indie bands (Twerps/Goon Sax, et al).” Round the Bend is off their first full-length studio album Dead Meat released in January this year.
Following is a link to the entire playlist:
Sources: Wikipedia; The Tubs Bandcamp page; YouTube; Spotify
Happy Wednesday and welcome to another installment of Music Musings where I take a closer look at a tune I’ve only mentioned in passing or not covered at all to date. The other day, I saw a Facebookpost including a short clip of a beaming Peter Frampton announcing his Never Say Never Tour, which is launching on June 21 in Huber Heights, Ohio. With the English-American rock guitarist and singer-songwriter on my mind, I thought it would be cool to feature one of his all-time classics, Do You Feel Like We Do.
Credited to Frampton and the members of his band Frampton’s Camel – Mick Gallagher (keyboards, vocals), Rick Wills (bass) and John Siomos (drums) – Do You Feel Like We Do first appeared on Frampton’s May 1973 sophomore album titled after his group at the time. In September 1976, a live version of the tune also became one of three singles from the epic double LP Frampton Comes Alive!
Interestingly, I don’t particularly recall Frampton’s huge popularity in the ’70s. The one song I remember is I Can’t Stand It No More, the hit single from his May 1979 sixth studio album Where I Should Be. It does seem implausible that I didn’t hear other tunes like Show Me the Way and Baby, I Love Your Way on the radio back in Germany – I probably did but simply cannot remember!
Peter Frampton first became interested in music as a 7-year-old when he found his grandmother’s banjolele in the attic and figured out by himself how to play it. Later on, he taught himself the guitar and piano, and began taking classical music lessons at the age of eight. After playing in two bands, in 1966, 16-year-old Frampton became the lead guitarist of The Herd, a rock band that scored three top-ten singles in the UK between August 1967 and March 1968. The following year, he co-founded Humble Pie, together with Steve Marriott following that guitarist’s and vocalist’s departure from Small Faces.
After four studio releases and one live album with Humble Pie, Frampton left in 1971 and launched his solo career. His debut solo album Wind of Change appeared in May and July 1972 in the UK and the U.S., respectively. It featured an impressive array of guests, including Ringo Starr, Mick Jones and Billy Preston, among others. In February 2019, some 43 years into his career, Frampton announced his retirement from touring and a farewell tour due to inclusion body myositis, a progressive muscle disorder characterized by muscle inflammation, weakness and muscle wasting.
Last August, Frampton came out of retirement for what was meant to be a one-time performance at an event to celebrate what would have been the 85th birthday of Buddy Holly at the Buddy Holly Hall of Performing Arts and Sciences in Lubbock, Texas. Evidently, this encouraged him and in September 2022, he toldGuitar World that while his legs would no longer allow him to stand with his guitar, he would perform the remaining European dates of his farewell tour while being seated. Coming back to Do You Feel Like We Do, here’s the great live version from Frampton Comes Alive!
This song is about a hangover. Frampton would often write from experience, and at the time he was experiencing the effects of a night of drinking.
When he woke up that morning there was a wine glass by his bed, and he wondered how it got there (“Whose wine? What wine? Where the hell did I dine?”).
Still hungover, Frampton went to rehearsal and somehow remembered some chords he was playing the night before on his acoustic guitar. The band hashed out the tune and told Frampton to come up with some lyrics, to which he replied, “I can’t, I have a really bad hangover.” His bandmates told him to just write about that, which he did…
…On the live version, Frampton used a talkbox, a device hooked up to his guitar amp that allowed him to make distorted vocal sounds through a tube in his mouth. Other groups had success with the device around that time (Aerosmith used it on “Sweet Emotion” the year before), but Frampton became most associated with it thanks to his talkbox solo on this song.
Frampton [took] it to a whole new level: every time he formed words, the crowd went nuts, especially when he sounded out “I want to thank you,” which came out sounding like “I want to f–k you.” Soon, teenagers were crafting homemade talkboxes to imitate Frampton, often learning lessons on the dangers of electricity along the way...
…The live version runs 14:15, and when Frampton toured to support the album, it would often extend to 20 minutes. Played as the last song before the encore, Frampton would leave the for a while during the instrumental passage, then return for the big finish. Disc jockeys often used it as a chance to grab a smoke or go to the bathroom.
This was the only song on the Frampton’s Camel album that was written by the entire band: keyboard player Mick Gallagher, bass player Rick Wills, and drummer John Siomos, who had recently replaced Mike Kellie. The other original songs on the album were written entirely by Frampton, except for “All Night Long,” which he wrote with Gallagher.
Frampton has always stressed the communal nature of this song: he sees it as a crowd participation number, with the audience as much a part of it as the band. After the first verse, the crowd would often take over on vocals and pick up on Frampton’s gestures as he would point to emphasize the “you” in the title.
The live version of this song was a godsend to disc jockeys, who could put it on and take a 14-minute cigarette break (to give the voice that nice raspy sound). There were lots of FM rock stations with a freeform or album-oriented format at the time who eagerly played the track, and in some cases the entire album.
This is one of many era-appropriate songs used in the 1993 movie Dazed and Confused, which is set in 1976. It also shows up in two episodes of That ’70s Show and in the “Homerpalooza” episode of The Simpsons, where Frampton appears in cartoon form.
There you have it, with all of the gory details. But, wait, there’s more! “I did say at the end of the finale shows ‘never say never’,” Frampton said in the above video announcement. “So I’m very excited to be on the road again this summer – yes!” Me too, and I got a reasonably priced ticket to see Frampton for the first time, in Bethlehem, Pa. on July 15th!
Sources: Wikipedia; Peter Frampton Facebook page; Guitar World, Songfacts; YouTube
New mini-documentary recalls tale of Peter Frampton’s “Frampton Comes Alive” lost and found Gibson Les Paul Custom
On November 4, 1980, a cargo plane carrying equipment of Peter Frampton and his band, who were touring South America, crashed during takeoff from Caracas International Airport. The accident killed all six crew members and destroyed most of the equipment. It was believed the latter included Frampton’s Gibson Les Paul he had played for the past decade. In a new documentary on YouTube, the British guitarist recalls the intriguing tale of how he got the guitar in the first place, thought it was lost in the above plane crash, and was reunited with his beloved instrument 31 years later in 2011.
The documentary starts with some footage showing how Frampton received his long-lost guitar and after brief inspection proclaimed, “yeah, it’s my guitar.” He then explains how his story with the modified 1954 Les Paul Custom began – a guitar he didn’t only use on one of the most widely recognized live records of the ’70s, Frampton Comes Alive!, but also on his final album with Humble Pie, Rock On, his first seven solo records, as well as different session work for artists like John Entwistle, Harry Nilsson and Doris Troy.
In 1970, Humble Pie were playing a series of shows at Fillmore West in San Francisco. Frampton had just replaced a Gibson SG for a hollow-body Gibson ES-335. Since the latter was prone to feedback when played at high volumes it wasn’t a happy experience for Frampton. Every time he turned up for a solo, he got feedback. Enter fellow guitarist and Frampton fan Marc Mariana who offered Frampton his guitar, the above-mentioned modified 1954 Les Paul Custom. When Frampton tried it out the next day, he fell in love with it immediately.
“I started playing it. It was just beautiful,” Frampton recalled. “I could see you were really enjoying it, more or less bonding to it,” added Mariana. “And I just made the decision that if it means me leaving with a handful of cash or empty-handed, I’ll leave empty-handed because I couldn’t take it back. It wasn’t gonna leave with me cause I knew it had found a new home.”
Frampton used the guitar the same night at Fillmore West and was a happy camper. When he got off stage he handed the instrument back to Mariana. He also told him it’s an amazing guitar, asking whether he would ever consider selling it. Mariana replied no, he would give the guitar to Frampton. “It was one of those things that you do,” he elaborated. “You know it’s the right thing to do when you do it, and 50 or 40 years later, you still know it’s the right thing to do.”
Quickly, it becomes crystal-clear this Gibson Les Paul Custom wasn’t just any guitar to Frampton. “It became the only guitar I could play,” he said. “It became so personal to me that when I lost it I had to learn how to play other instruments, which was very strange for me.” It may sound a bit weird that a sophisticated guitarist like Peter Frampton would be so challenged to play other guitars, especially to non-musicians. While I certainly don’t want to imply I’m an expert, as a hobby guitarist, I still think I can relate.
What exactly happened in the aftermath of the plane crash and how the guitar was removed from the wreckage remains a mystery. Not surprisingly, Frampton and his band assumed all guitars and other equipment were completely burned up in the fire that resulted from the accident. But when Frampton’s guitar technician went to Caracas a week after the crash to check what was left for insurance purposes, he found the tail of the plane had broken off and that there was some salvageable equipment in the tail. They also saw pictures of other equipment that was totally burned up. What was missing was any trace of the Gibson Les Paul Custom.
Fast-forward to 2009 when Frampton and his crew heard and saw pictures of the guitar. The documentary doesn’t go into the details of how the guitar was found. According to this 2016 story in Guitar Interactive Magazine, Donald Valentina, a customs agent in Curacao who also is a luthier on the side, spotted Frampton’s guitar. After trying for a few years to buy the instrument from an unnamed guitarist who had brought it to Valentina, the two finally came to an agreement in November 2011. Reportedly, the guitar changed hands for $5,000.
In the documentary, Frampton refers to the son of a Mr. “Palm” (phonetic spelling) as the local guitarist – I imagine as part of the above transaction, there’s some confidentiality agreement in place. Valentina, together with Ghatim Kabbara of the local tourist board (presumably his friend – CMM), subsequently flew to Memphis, Tenn. to return the long-lost guitar to Frampton.
The documentary then goes into the restoration process of the guitar. While I find it interesting, I’ll spare you the details since it gets pretty technical. What I would like to share is the philosophy that was behind the work. “We’re hardly doing anything to the guitar at all,” Frampton explained. “We’re just gonna make it playable. So, the electronics is all sort of gummed up, the pickups don’t work and stuff like that. So only what is absolutely necessary will be changed. It will always look a little bit burned up.”
How did Frampton feel when he held the restored guitar in his hands for the first time? “Happy is not the word,” he said. “Happy as a clam, whatever superlative you wanna say. Not ever thinking it would come back to me and to actually have it is amazing.” A picture is more than a thousand words!
Frampton named the guitar The Phenix. He used it during the Frampton Comes Alive! 35th-anniversary tour in 2012. “On the DVD, I play it [The Phenix] for just about the entire ‘Comes Alive’ material, the whole album, because nothing else sounds like it…Some of the newer stuff [essentially, any Frampton albums recorded between 1981 and 2012 – CMM], because I didn’t have it, it doesn’t sound right on. Because, hey, if it hadn’t gone anywhere, it would have been on those, too.”
For the remainder of the mini-documentary, Frampton reminisces about his career-defining Frampton Comes Alive! album. He also talks about the 35th-anniversary tour and how it felt playing these songs. It’s great to listen and I leave it up to you to watch for yourself. Following is a clip of the entire documentary. I truly loved it!
I’d like to leave you with two additional clips. First up is the iconic Do You Feel Like We Do, captured during a 1977 show in Oakland, Calif. The actual tune gets underway at about 3:05 minutes into the clip.
And here’s Baby I Love Your Way, from the 35th Frampton Comes Alive! anniversary tour. It has been captured on a DVD titled FCA!35 Tour: An Evening With Peter Frampton and released in November 2012.
In February 2019, Peter Frampton disclosed he had been diagnosed with inclusion body myositis (IBM), a progressive muscle disorder characterized by muscle inflammation, weakness, and atrophy (wasting) – obviously a grim perspective for a guitarist. At that time, he also announced his retirement from touring and a planned farewell tour. In April 2020, the UK/EU leg was canceled because of you know what!
It’s currently unclear whether Frampton will be able to reschedule the canceled farewell gigs. “I have a third clock, which is my IBM clock,” Frampton toldGuitar.com in March 2021. “Slowly but surely, unfortunately, I’m losing strength in my hands, my arms and my legs. It’s specific muscles it hits. It picks and chooses the muscles and there’s no rhyme or reason for it. They don’t know; there’s no cure. If it takes another year before we can reschedule any dates, I will have to be realistic to see if my hands work or my legs will keep me up.”
He added, “I think there’s a certain level of playing where I won’t perform anymore. If I can’t play certain things the way I want to – I don’t want to be that person to go out there and people feel bad for me because I don’t play as good but I am Peter Frampton. That’s not going to happen.” As sad as it is for Frampton fans, his stance makes total sense to me, and that’s a decision everybody should respect.
Today, 50 years ago, Pink Floyd released their sixth studio album Meddle, yet another gem in the treasure trove of 1971 to hit the big milestone. Coming just a little over a year after Atom Heart Mother, Meddle is considered a transitional album that foreshadowed what arguably were the band’s Mount Rushmore releases The Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here. While the two latter records were always among my favorite Floyd albums, Meddle is a record that grew on me over the years. Nowadays, if I could only pick one, I might actually go with Meddle.
According to Wikipedia, when Pink Floyd went into the studio in January 1971, they had no clear idea what kind of record they wanted to make. Apparently, the work started out with some novel experiments that inspired what would become my favorite Pink Floyd track these days, the mighty Echoes. Unlike the group’s later albums that increasingly were dominated by themes and lyrics devised by Roger Waters, Meddle featured lyrical contributions from each band member.
The recording sessions for Meddle stretched out over eight months from January through August 1970. That’s because Pink Floyd had concert commitments throughout that period, which forced starts and stops. During that same timeframe, the band was also working on Relics, a great compilation album of their early work with Syd Barrett. Considering all these distractions, it’s quite remarkable to me that Meddle turned out to be such a masterpiece.
There were also some technical challenges. At the time Pink Floyd started work on the album at Abbey Road Studios, the facility only had eight-track recording technology, something the band found insufficient for their needs. As such, they ended up working at other smaller studios in London, which already were equipped with 16-track recording technology.
Time for some music! Let’s start with the opening instrumental One of These Days, which is credited to all four members of the band. The dominant pumping bassline was double-tracked, with each Roger Waters and David Gilmour playing one track. The cheerful line, “One of these days I will cut you into little pieces,” was spoken by drummer Nick Mason. Songfactsnotes it was “digitally warped to give it an evil sound to it” – mission accomplished!
Fearless is an acoustic tune co-written by Gilmour and Waters. According to Wikipedia, Waters played it in a guitar tuning called open G, which Syd Barrett had taught him. In this tuning, the lower E and A strings and the high e string are each tuned down by one note to D, G and d, respectively, so a G major chord can be played without fretting a string. The crowd of people that can be heard near the beginning and at end of the song is a field recording of Liverpool soccer fans chanting their anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
The final track on side one is Seamus, a country blues style song credited to all members of the band. The tune was named after a dog that belonged to Steve Marriott, the frontman of Humble Pie at the time. Songfactsnotes the dog would bark and howl every time he heard music, or if someone played the guitar. In fact, the dog can be heard barking and howling throughout the entire track. Pink Floyd biographer Nicholas Schaffner dismissed the tune. Gilmour essentially admitted the song wasn’t meant to be taken seriously, saying, “I guess it wasn’t really as funny to everyone else [as] it was to us.”
This brings me to the only tune that makes up the entire side two of the album. While at 23 and a half minutes Echoes is a pretty long track, no post about Meddle would be complete without it. Once again, Echoes was credited to the entire band. The ambient sound effects and musical improvisation resemble what Pink Floyd would take to the next level a few years later on The Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here. I’ve really come to love this epic track!
Overall, Meddle was well received by music critics when it came out. It also enjoyed significant chart success, especially in Europe where it climbed to no. 3, no. 7, no. 11 and no. 2 in the UK, France, Germany and The Netherlands, respectively. The performance was more moderate in the U.S. and Canada where Meddle reached no. 70 and no. 51, respectively.
Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time
Welcome to another installment of The Sunday Six, my weekly zig-zag excursions celebrating music I dig from different genres, spanning the past 70 years or so. I think I put together another nice and eclectic set of six tracks, including jazz, heartland rock, ’60s British rock, ’80s pop, ’90s alternative rock and some kickass hard rock & roll from 2014. Let’s play ball!
Thelonius Monk/‘Round Midnight
Starting us off today is beautiful soothing jazz by Thelonious Monk. This pick was inspired by fellow blogger Lisa from Tao Talk, who not only impresses me with her poetry writing but her music picks she oftentimes uses to accompany her poems – like in this case, a great jazz piece by Charlie Haden and Chet Baker. When I checked out the corresponding album, I noticed another track called ‘Round Midnight. Instead of taking this rendition, I decided to go with the original composed by jazz pianist Thelonious Monk. The track has become a standard that has been recorded by many jazz musicians. Apparently, there is some debate when Monk wrote it. The earliest noted date is 1936 when he was just 19 years old. Other accounts put it to 1940 or 1941. Trumpeter Cootie Williams was the first artist who recorded the tune in August 1944. Monk’s earliest recording is on a compilation titled Genius of Modern Music Vol. 1 from 1951.
John Mellencamp/A Little Night Dancin’
While it’s safe to assume most readers have heard of John Mellencamp, I imagine this may not necessarily include his pre-1980s music. My entry to the heartland artist was his 1985 Scarecrow album. Only in the ’90s did I begin to explore Mellencamp’s earlier catalog including John Cougar, his third record from July 1979. Prior to the release of Mellencamp’s debut album Chestnut Street Incident in October 1976, his manager Tony Defries had changed his name to Johnny Cougar, convinced an artist with the last name Mellencamp wouldn’t generate much interest. Mellencamp who hated the name kept “Cougar” through Scarecrow before finally adopting his real name John Mellencamp for the follow-on release The Lonesome Jubilee from August 1987. Here’s A Little Night Dancin’, the opener of the John Cougar album. The tune was also released in 1980 as a single but didn’t match the U.S. chart performance of I Need a Lover. While the latter reached no. 28 on the Billboard Hot 100, A Little Night Dancin’ stalled at no. 105. Still, not only do I dig that tune, but I also think it’s much better than I Need a Lover. I can hear a bit of a Van Morrison vibe in this song. Fifteen years later, Mellencamp recorded an excellent cover of Morrison’s Wild Night for his 1994 studio album Dance Naked. Perhaps that’s for a future installment.
In last week’s Sunday Six, I did something I rarely do – skip the ’60s, my favorite decade in music apart from the ’70s. I vowed not to repeat it this time, so here’s a tune I’ve loved from the very first moment I heard it during my teenage years back in Germany: Sha-La-La-La-Lee by Small Faces. It’s from the English rock band’s eponymous debut album that came out in May 1966. The song was written by co-producer Kenny Lynch together with Mort Schuman. The band’s initial line-up included Steve Marriott (vocals, guitar, harmonica, keyboards), Ian McLagan (keyboards, vocals, guitar, bass), Ronnie Lane (bass guitar, vocals, guitar) and Kenney Jones (drums, percussion, vocals). In March 1968, the Small Faces disbanded and Marriott went on to form Humble Pie with Peter Frampton. McLagan, Lane and Jones teamed up with former Jeff Beck Group members Ronnie Wood (guitar) and Rod Stewart (vocals) and became Faces. Small Faces reemerged in 1975 after Faces had broken up. They recorded two more albums before disbanding for good in 1978.
Madonna/La Isla Bonita
Here’s a pick that might surprise some folks who visit my blog more frequently. While I’m not a fan of Madonna, there is no denying she’s one of the most influential pop artists of our time. And, yes, while I can’t necessarily say the same for other ’80s tunes I used to dig at the time, I still like some of her songs. This includes the catchy La Isla Bonita, which always puts me in a holiday mood. The track is from Madonna’s third studio album True Blue that came out in June 1986. She co-wrote and co-produced the entire record with Stephen Bray and Patrick Leonard who also collaborated with Madonna on some of her other albums. La Isla Bonita also became the record’s fifth and final single and yet another major hit in the U.S. , Canada, Australia and various European countries.
Next let’s jump to the ’90s and Irish alternative pop rock band The Cranberries. Initially, the group was formed as The Cranberry Saw Us in mid-1989 by brothers Noel Hogan (lead and rhythm guitar) and Mike Hogan (bass), together with Fergal Lawler (drums) and Niall Quinn (vocals). Following Quinn’s departure in early 1990, Dolores O’Riordan joined the band as lead vocalist, completing the line-up that in April 1991 became The Cranberries. In March 1993, they released their first full-length album Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? The record became a major success, topping the charts in Ireland and the UK, and placing in the top 20 in the U.S., Canada, New Zealand and some European countries. After four additional albums, The Cranberries went on hiatus in September 2003. They reunited in 2009 and recorded two more albums until the sudden death of O’Riordan in January 2018, who drowned in a London hotel bathtub due to sedation by alcohol poisoning. In April 2019, The Cranberries released their final album In the End, which featured O’Riordan’s vocals taken from demo tapes that had been recorded prior to her death. Here’s the beautiful Linger from the above mentioned debut album. It was also released as a single and became their first major hit, peaking at no. 3 in Ireland, and reaching no. 4, 8 and 14 in Canada, the U.S. and the UK, respectively.
Is it really time to wrap up things again? It is since I’d like to keep these installments to six tunes; otherwise, I could go on forever! But there’s always the next installment! I trust Australian rockers AC/DC need no further introduction. After much drama, including the death of co-founding member and rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young in November 2017 and vocalist Brian Johnson’s forced departure in April 2016 during the band’s tour that year due to hearing loss, against all odds, AC/DC officially reunited in September 2020 and released their 17th studio album Power Up in November that year. There are so many great AC/DC tunes to pick from. I haven’t even mentioned Bon Scott, their original lead vocalist! I decided to go with what I consider a true late career gem: Play Ball, off AC/DC’s 16th album Rock or Bust from November 2014. It was the first record without Malcolm Young who had been forced to retire in 2014 due to dementia and been replaced by his nephew Stevie Young. This is classic AC/DC – tight kickass rock & roll!
A selection of newly released music that caught my attention
It’s Saturday and the new music show must go on! This installment of Best of What’s New includes two familiar names and two artists who are completely new to me, featuring Celtic punk, instrumental rock, pop and country rock. Nuff said – let’s get to some music!
Dropkick Murphys/Turn Up That Dial
Dropkick Murphys are a Celtic punk rock band formed in the Boston area in 1996. They are named after former pro wrestler Dr. John “Dropkick” Murphy, who also operated an rehab facility for alcoholics in Action, Mass. The band gained first attention when fellow Bostonian ska punk group The Mighty Mighty Bosstones invited them as opening act for their 1997 tour. Later that year, Dropkick Murphys got a deal with Hellcat Records, which was followed by their debut studio album Do or Die in January 1998. Fast-forward 23 years. The band’s present line-up, which has been together since 2008, consists of original co-founder Ken Casey (bass, lead vocals), along with Al Barr (lead vocals), Tim Brennan (lead guitar, accordion, mandolin, bouzouki, keyboards, piano, tin whistle, backing vocals), James Lynch (rhythm guitar, backing vocals), Jeff DaRosa (banjo, mandolin, bouzouki, guitar, keyboards, piano, harmonica, tin whistle, backing vocals) and Matt Kelly (drums, bodhran, backing vocals). Dropkick Murphys first entered my radar screen in 2013 when they teamed up with Bruce Springsteen to record a new version of their song Rose Tattoo. The single appeared in May that year in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing – hard to believe it’s been eight years! Turn Up That Dial is the title track from Dropkick Murphys’ new album released yesterday (April 30).
Peter Frampton/Isn’t It a Pity
I trust Peter Frampton doesn’t need much of an introduction. The self-taught guitarist has been playing in bands since the age of 12. He first gained prominence in 1966 as a 16-year-old lead vocalist and guitarist in English rock band The Herd. In 1969, he co-founded Humble Pie together with Steve Marriott, frontman and guitarist of Small Faces. Frampton left Humble Pie in 1971 and launched a solo career. After four largely unnoticed studio albums, he got his big breakthrough with Frampton Comes Alive! The huge success led to an infamous shirtless photo on the cover of Rolling Stone, which turned Frampton into a teen idol and diminished his credibility as an artist. He continued to release albums but was unable to repeat the success of Frampton Comes Alive! In early 2019, Frampton announced his retirement from touring due to a progressive autoimmune disease causing muscle inflammation, weakness and atrophy, which eventually is going to impact his ability to play guitar. He launched a farewell tour in June that year. The UK leg, which had been slated for May 2020, was canceled because of you know what! Isn’t it a Pity is a track from Frampton’s new album of instrumental covers ingeniously titled Peter Frampton Forgets the Words and released on April 23. “This album is a collection of ten of my favorite pieces of music,” he stated on his website. My guitar is also a voice and I have always enjoyed playing my favorite vocal lines that we all know and love.” This is certainly a beautiful rendition of the George Harrison tune that originally appeared on his 1970 solo debut All Things Must Pass.
Parker Millsap/The Real Thing
Parker Millsap is an American singer-songwriter from Purcell, OK. According to his profile on Apple Music, As a youth, Millsap alternately spent time singing hymns at his local Pentecostal church and saturating himself in old blues albums, which influenced his unique style along with folk, country, and vintage Elvis-flavored rock & roll. While still in his late teens, Millsap recorded his mostly acoustic debut, Palisade, with childhood friend Michael Rose accompanying him on double bass. Two years later in 2014, his self-titled second LP introduced his signature sound, bringing him national acclaim and leading to support slots with heavy-hitting roots acts like Jason Isbell, Old Crow Medicine Show, and Lake Street Dive. Millsap’s new album Be Here Instead, which is his fifth, came out on April 9. As is the case for most artists I feature in Best of What’s New, I’m completely new to his music. The Real Thing grabbed me right away. To me, it’s got a bit of a Paul McCartney vibe!
The Pink Stones/Put Me On
The last tune I’d like to call out here is Put Me On, a song by The Pink Stones, a country rock band from Athens, Ga. According to their website, the group revolves around Hunter Pinkston, a former punk rocker who discovered country in 2015 when listening to the B-side of the The Lemonheads’ rendition of Brass Buttons, which featured the original by Gram Parsons. This led him not only to explore Parsons’ catalog but also listen to similar other artists. In 2016, Pinkston who is from Albany, Ga. transferred to the University of Georgia in Athens for their music business program. He immersed himself into the local music scene and eventually met what became the core of The Pink Stones: Will Anderson (organ, piano, vocals), Logan Brammer (guitar, vocals), Adam Wayton (guitar, vocals) and Jack Colclough (drums). John Neff (pedal steel guitar), a founding member of Drive-By Truckers, is also part of the band’s current line-up. Put Me On, written by Pinkston, is a track from their debut album Introducing… the Pink Stones released on April 9. Check out this beautiful warm sound!
Sources: Wikipedia; Peter Frampton website; Apple Music; The Pink Stones website; AllMusic; YouTube
The recent appearance of the previously unreleased Charming Mess by The Black Crowes, which I included in my latest Best of What’s Newinstallment, reminded me of this great band. While I wouldn’t call myself an outright fan, I’ve always enjoyed their songs, especially their ’70s style blues rockers. This triggered the idea to put together a career-spanning post about their music.
Chris Robinson (lead vocals, guitar) and his younger brother Rich Robinson (lead guitar) formed the band in Marietta, Ga. in 1984 while they were still in high school. Initially called Mr. Crowe’s Garden after the children’s book Johnny Crowe’s Garden by Leonard Leslie Brookes, they were influenced by R.E.M., classic southern rock and ’60s psychedelic pop before embracing ’70s style blues rock.
In 1987, the band recorded their first demos at A&M Records. Two years later, they met A&R executive George Drakoulias, who signed them at Def AmericanRecordings (now American Recordings), the label founded by Rick Rubin. Apparently, Drakoulias had an important influence, turning the band’s attention to The Faces and Humble Pie, and encouraging them to cover Rolling Stones tunes.
By the time the band released their debut album Shake Your Money Maker in February 1990, they had changed their name to The Black Crowes. In addition to the Robinson brothers, the group included Jeff Cease (guitar), Johnny Colt (bass) and Steve Gorman (drums). Their line-up would frequently change over the years, with the Robinson brothers as the only constant members.
After releasing five more studio and two live albums between 1992 and 2001, The Black Crowes went on hiatus, and the Robinson brothers recorded solo albums. In early 2005, the brothers reassembled the group with a new line-up. Two studio and several live and compilation albums followed, together with more line-up changes before The Black Crowes came to an end for the second time in January 2015. Apparently, it was due to differences between the brothers regarding ownership of the band – in other words, a typical rock & roll story!
The current chapter of The Black Crowes started in late 2019 when the Robinson brothers during an interview with Howard Stern revealed they had overcome their disagreements and were planning to revive the band for a 2020 tour to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Shake Your Money Maker album. The newly reformed group premiered on November 11, 2019 at The Bowery Ball Room New York City with a backing band comprised of Isiah Mitchell (guitar), Tim Lefebvre (bass), Joel Robinow (keyboards) and Raj Ojha (drums). The tour was stopped by COVID-19 and is now set to resume in Florida in late June.
Time for some music. Let’s kick it off with the excellent Jealous Again from the Shake Your Money Maker debut. Like all originals, the tune was co-written by the Robinson brothers.
Here’s another track from the same album I really dig: She Talks to Angels.
In May 1992, The Black Crowes released their sophomore record The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion. It topped the Billboard 200, fueled by four singles that each hit no. 1 on the Mainstream Rock chart. Here’s one of them: Remedy.
A Conspiracy, off the band’s third album Amorica from November 1994, features some cool wah-wah guitar action and is reminiscent of Led Zeppelin, especially in the beginning.
Three Snakes and One Charm, the fourth album by The Black Crowes, appeared in July 1996. Here’s Blackberry.
On By Your Side from January 1999, The Black Crowes returned to a more straightforward approach from their debut album. According to Wikipedia, it drew praise from many reviewers while some critics dismissed it as a knock off of Rod Stewart and The Rolling Stones – well, I suppose you can’t make everybody happy. Here’s the dynamic opener Go Faster.
May 2001 saw Lions, the band’s sixth studio release and the last prior to their hiatus. Apple Music calls the Don Was-produced work “the most unusual album in The Black Crowes’ catalog.” Soul Singing, which became the album’s second single, has a soul and gospel touch.
Warpaint, released in March 2008, was the first album by The Black Crowes after they had reemerged from hiatus and their seventh studio effort overall. It became their first top 10 album on the Billboard 200 since their 1992 sophomore release, peaking at no. 5. Here’s Wounded Bird, which also appeared separately as the second single in June of the same year.
This brings me to Before the Frost…Until the Freeze, the eighth and to date most recent studio album by The Black Crowes. It was recorded at The Barn, Levon Helm’s studio in Woodstock, N.Y., before a live audience. Here’s the tasty opener Good Morning Captain.
I’d like to wrap things up with a track from Croweology, a compilation of new acoustic-based recordings of songs from The Black Crowes’ first six studio albums. Hotel Illness initially appeared on their 1992 sophomore release The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion.