The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time

Welcome to another Sunday morning/afternoon/evening, wherever you are when reading this. It’s time to resume some music time travel. Today’s six-stop journey starts in the ’60s with stop-overs in the ’90s, ’70s, ’10s and ’80s before coming to an end in the ’00s. Fasten your seatbelts and off we go!

Sonny Rollins/Where Are You?

I’d like to ease us into today’s musical trip with some relaxing jazz by Sonny Rollins. Jazz connoisseurs need no introduction to the American tenor saxophone great. For more casual jazz listeners like me, Rollins is widely recognized as one of the most important and influential jazz musicians who over an incredible 70-year-plus career has recorded more than 60 albums as a leader and appeared on many additional records as a sideman. Rollins has played with the likes of Charlie ParkerMiles DavisDizzy GillespieThelonious MonkMax Roach and Modern Jazz QuartetWhere Are You? appeared on his 1962 studio album The Bridge, which Wikipedia notes was Rollins’ first release after a three-year sabbatical. Composed by Jimmy McHugh with lyrics by Harold Adamson, the track was written for the 1937 American comedy film Top of the Town and originally performed by Gertrude Niesen. On his rendition, Rollins was joined by Jim Hall (guitar), Bob Cranshaw (double bass) and Ben Riley (drums). I don’t have to be a jazz expert to love this track and neither do you. Just listen to that smooth saxophone sound! Rollins who celebrated his 91st birthday last September is still alive – bless the man!

Blue Rodeo/5 Days in May

Our next stop is the ’90s and beautiful music by Blue Rodeo, which is right up my alley. I’ve featured the Canadian country rock band on the blog before. They were formed in 1984 in Toronto by high school friends Jim Cuddy (vocals, guitar) and Greg Keelor (vocals, guitar), who had played together in various bands before, along with Bob Wiseman (keyboards).  Cleave Anderson (drums) and Bazil Donovan (bass) completed the band’s initial lineup. After gaining a local following in Toronto and signing with Canadian independent record label Risque Disque, the group released their debut album Outskirts in March 1987. 5 Days in May is the opener of the band’s fifth studio album Five Days in July, which appeared in October 1993 in Canada and September 1994 in the U.S. With 6X Platinum certification in Canada, it remains their best-selling album to date. Like most other tunes on the record, 5 Days in May was co-written by Cuddy and Keelor. The harmonica and guitar action are very reminiscent of Neil Young. I also love that keyboard sound. It’s just a great song all around!

The Jaggerz/The Rapper

When I came across The Rapper by The Jaggerz the other day, I earmarked it immediately for an upcoming Sunday Six. The American rock band from Pittsburgh, Pa. was initially active from 1964 until 1977. During that period, they only released three albums. After the third, Come Again from 1975, they broke up in 1977. By that time, frontman and co-founder Dominic Ierace had already left the group and joined American funk rock band Wild Cherry, best known for Play That Funky Music, their only major single success. In 1989, The Jaggerz reunited sans Ierace with three other original founders and three new members. They have since released three additional albums, the most recent of which came out in 2014 – not an exactly overwhelming catalog! The group’s current formation, a six-piece, includes founding members Jimmie Ross (lead vocals, bass) and Benny Faiella (guitar). The Rapper became the band’s breakthrough single and only hit in January 1970, surging to no. 2 in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100. Written by Ierace, it was included on their sophomore studio album We Went to Different Schools Together, released that same year.

Alison Krauss & Union Station/Miles to Go

For this next pick, let’s go to the current century. Miles To Go is a song from Paper Airplane, released in April 2011 by Alison Krauss & Union Station. The bluegrass and country artist, who is also a talented fiddle player, has been active since 1984. She made her recording debut in 1986 with Different Strokes, a collaboration with Jim Hoiles & Friends and Swamp Weiss. To date, Krauss has released 14 albums, most frequently together with bluegrass and country band Union Station. I’m mostly aware of Krauss because of her two collaboration records with Robert Plant. Miles to Go was co-written by Union Station bassist Barry Bales and Chris Stapleton. Krauss is a great vocalist and I also dig the band’s sound. Yesterday, in addition to further checking out Paper Airplane, I sampled Lonely Runs Both Ways, her preceding album with Union Station from November 2004. Lots of great music only between these two records!

John Hiatt/Memphis in the Meantime

Memphis, Tenn. and its amazing music history are on my bucket list. Graceland, Sun Studio and the Stax Museum surely sound like worthy sites to visit. In the meantime, I’m picking a tune about the city by John Hiatt, a great artist I’ve started to explore in greater detail over the past few years. The singer-songwriter who has been active for 50 years is best known for tunes that have been covered by the likes of B.B. KingBob DylanBonnie RaittEmmylou HarrisEric ClaptonJoe CockerLinda RonstadtRy Cooder and Nick Lowe. While Hiatt’s albums received positive reviews from critics, it took eight records and more than 10 years until he finally had an album that made the Billboard 200Bring the Family, from May 1987, which reached no. 107. Memphis in the Meantime is the opener of that great record. It also includes two tunes popularized by two of the aforementioned artists: Thing Called Love, by Bonnie Raitt; and Have a Little Faith in Me, by Joe Cocker.

The Chesterfield Kings/The Rise and Fall

Once again it’s time to wrap things up. For the final stop of our musical mini-excursion, let’s get a dose of psychedelic garage rock by The Chesterfield Kings. Founded in the late ’70s by Greg Prevost (lead vocals, multiple instruments), the band from Rochester, N.Y. was instrumental in sparking the 1980s garage band revival, according to Wikipedia. A partial discography there lists 11 albums by the group that was active until 2009. Rise and Fall, co-written by Provost and bandmate Andy Babiuk (bass and multiple other instruments), is a tune from a 2007 album titled Psychedelic Sunrise. The group’s line-up at that time also included Paul Morabito (guitars, mandolin, organ) and Mike Boise (drums, percussion). BTW, the album was produced by garage rock fan Steven Van Zandt. I could picture this tune played by The Rolling Stones during their psychedelic period.

Last but not least, here’s a Spotify playlist featuring all of the above goodies!

Sources: Wikipedia; Discogs; YouTube; Spotify

The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time

Little darling, it’s been a long, cold lonely winter – well, it actually wasn’t that bad, at least here in lovely Central New Jersey, but the line from George Harrison’s Here Comes the Sun was the first thing that came to mind in connection with spring, which officially started today! With that being said, let’s get to the first spring edition of The Sunday Six.

Tangerine Dream/Underwater Twilight

Today’s trip starts with a soothing instrumental by German electronic music stalwarts Tangerine Dream. This track was part of a “chill mix” playlist my streaming music provider served up the other day. Founded as a five-piece in 1967 by Edgar Froese, the group has seen numerous line-up changes over its long and still ongoing history. Wikipedia notes their best-known line-up was a trio, which in addition to Froese (keyboards, guitars) included Christopher Franke (keyboards, drums) and Peter Baumann (keyboards). Spanning the years 1971-1975, that line-up’s albums included Alpha Centauri (March 1971), Zeit (August 1972), Atem (March 1973), Phaedra (November 1973) and Rubycon (March 1975). To get to Underwater Twilight, a track from Tangerine Dream’s 16th studio album Underwater Sunlight, we need to jump forward 11 years to August 1986. By that time, Froese and Franke were joined by Paul Haslinger (synthesizer, grand piano, guitar). Froese remained with Tangerine Dream until his death in January 2015. The group’s current line-up has no original members. The only connection to the past remains Froese’s widow Bianca Froese-Acquaye who acts as the group’s manager.

Grant Lee Buffalo/Rock of Ages

Our next stop takes us to the ’90s and Grant Lee Buffalo, a rock band from Los Angeles, who initially were active between 1991 and 1999. Their members included Grant-Lee Phillips (vocals, guitar), Paul Kimble (bass) and Joey Peters (drums). All of the group’s four studio albums came out during that period. After they disbanded in early 1999, Phillips launched a solo career. In late 2010 and early 2011, Grant Lee Buffalo briefly came back together for a reunion tour. Rock of Ages, penned by Phillips, is a great track from the group’s sophomore album Mighty Joe Moon, released in September 1994. Its vibe reminds me a bit of Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door. I’m completely new to this group and dig what I’ve heard so far. I’d welcome listening tips any of you may have.

Joe Jackson/Friday

For this tune, we’re gonna step on the gas and go back to October 1979 and the sophomore album by Joe Jackson, aptly titled I’m the Man. The record, which I received as a present for my 14th birthday in 1980, was my introduction to the British artist. Initially, he gained popularity with post-punk and new wave before embracing a jazz-oriented pop sound. With Joe Jackson’s Jumpin’ Jive from June 1981, he also did an all-out jump blues and swing record. His most recent album Fool, which I reviewed here, appeared in January 2019. It’s quite compelling! Back to I’m the Man and Friday, which was penned by Jackson. One of his ingredients is excellent bassist Graham Maby, who continues to play with Jackson to this day. Check out Maby’s pulsating bassline – so good! I should also acknowledge Gary Sanford (guitar) and David Houghton (drums, vocals), which rounded out Jackson’s band at the time – the best backing group he has had, in my view.

The Association/Never My Love

After three tunes into our journey, it’s high time to visit my favorite decade the ’60s. And, boy, do I have a sunshine pop goodie that has California written all over it. The Association have been active since 1965, except for a short one-year break-up from 1978 to 1979. Their heyday was in the ’60s where they had a series of top 10 hits. The group also opened the Monterey International Pop Festival that took place June 16-18, 1967. Never My Love, co-written by American siblings Don Addrisi and Dick Addrisi, is among The Association’s biggest hits, climbing to no. 2 in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100 and topping the Canadian charts. The tune first appeared on the band’s third album Insight Out from June 1967, before being released as a single in August that year. The Association are still around. As one can imagine, they have had numerous line-up changes, and if I see this correctly, only guitarist and vocalist Jules Alexander remains as an original member. Check out that beautiful harmony singing – gives me goosebumps!

Mindi Abair and The Boneshakers/Vinyl

A few days ago, I featured The Boneshakers in a post dedicated to blues and blues rock. This cool group was formed in the early 1990s by Was (Not Was) guitarist Randy Jacobs and Hillard “Sweet Pea” Atkinson, one of the group’s vocalists, after Was (Not Was) had gone on hiatus. Since 2015, The Boneshakers have repeatedly worked with American saxophonist and vocalist Mindi Abair. This lady is one firecracker. Check out Vinyl, the opener of an album titled The EastWest Sessions that came out in September 2017. Love the funky groove and the soulfulness of this tune!

The Flaming Lips/Can’t Stop the Spring

As we’re once again reaching the final destination of our six-tune music time travel, I thought it would make sense to end this post where it started – spring! I give you Can’t Stop the Spring by psychedelic rock band The Flaming Lips, which I found through a search of my streaming provider’s music library. Somehow that title sounded familiar, so I searched my own blog, which sadly I’ve done more than once to see whether I already covered an artist or song. And, full disclosure, I previously included the tune in a post from March 2021 titled Here Comes the Spring. There’s nothing wrong to repeat a song, even if it’s what I like to call weirdly catchy. As I noted at the time, Can’t Stop the Spring, credited to the entire band, is from their sophomore album Oh My Gawd!!!…, released in January 1987. Formed in Oklahoma City in 1983, The Flaming Lips are still around. 

Sources: Wikipedia; 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

With highs in the low ’60s and high ’50s yesterday and today, respectively, dare I say it, it does feel a bit like spring. Or perhaps global warming, since having spring in mid-February really sounds way too early? In any case, looks like it’s short-lived: In typical New York-New Jersey-Connecticut tri-state area fashion, tomorrow, the forecast high is 35.

What the heck does any of this have to do with music? Nothing, so why don’t we get to some new releases! All my picks this week appear on albums that came out yesterday. Once again, it’s a mix of artists who are entirely new to me and two names I’ve known for a long time, though I can’t claim deep familiarity with their music either.

Spoon/The Devil & Mr. Jones

Kicking it off today are Spoon, a rock band from Austin, Texas, formed as a trio in 1993. They named themselves after a song by German avant-garde group Can. Only Britt Daniel (lead vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, percussion) and Jim Eno (drums, percussion, programming) remain as original members in the band’s current line-up, which also includes Alex Fischel (keyboards, guitar, backing vocals), Gerardo Larios (guitar, keyboards, backing vocals) and Ben Trokan (bass, keyboards). Spoon, whose music Apple Music characterizes as being inspired by new wave, power pop and soul-influenced rock, released their debut album Telephono in April 1996. The Devil & Mr. Jones, penned by Daniel and fellow Austin songwriter Andrew Cashen, is a track from Spoon’s 10th and new album Lucifer on the Sofa. Good tune!

alt-j/Bane

alt-j are an English alternative rock band. According to their Apple Music profile, they wear their geeky math side with pride, right down to their name, a reference to the keyboard shortcut for a delta (triangle) sign. But it was their proclivity for the liberal arts that brought them together in 2007 at Leeds University, where lead singer/guitarist Joe Newman, guitarist/bassist Gwil Sainsbury, and drummer Thom Green studied fine art and keyboardist Gus Unger-Hamilton read English literature. The quartet first started tinkering with minimal equipment in their dorm rooms, but soon after graduation their sound had evolved into multilayered melodies that mixed, mashed, and manipulated elements of indie pop, trip-hop, folk, dubstep, psychedelia, and a capella harmonies. It all came together beautifully on tracks like “Breezeblocks” and “Tessellate” from their 2012 debut album, An Awesome Wave, which garnered them the coveted Mercury Prize. Fast-forward 20 years to The Dream, the latest album by alt-j who since Sainsbury’s departure in 2014 have been a trio. Here’s Bane, credited to all three members. Admittedly, it’s outside my core wheelhouse but there’s something about it!

Eddie Vedder/Try

Eddie Vedder is a name I first and foremost associate with Pearl Jam, the Seattle rock band he co-founded in 1990 and whose lead vocalist and guitarist he remains to this day. In addition to his work with Pearl Jam, Vedder has also released three solo albums starting in 2007 with Into the Wild, which was based on his contributions to the soundtrack of a biographical adventure drama picture of the same name. Vedder’s latest effort, Earthling, is his first solo record in nearly 11 years since Ukulele Songs, a folk-oriented album released in May 2011. Here’s Try featuring Stevie Wonder on harmonica, one of three prominent guests on Earthling. The other two are Elton John and Ringo Starr. Mrs. Mills, the tune with Ringo on drums, is included in the Spotify playlist at the end of the post. Try was co-written by Vedder, former Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist and drummer Josh Klinghoffer and Chad Smith, respectively, and producer Andrew Votman, aka Andrew Watt. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard Stevie Wonder play on a rock song, but he proves he’s definitely up to the task!

Slash feat. Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators/The River is Rising

Closing out today’s Best of What’s New is Guns N’ Roses lead guitarist Slash (born Saul Hudson). In addition to the band he’s best known for and joined shortly after they were formed in 1985, Slash has been involved in various other music projects. Primarily, that was the case following his departure from Guns N’ Roses in 1996 until his return in 2016. One of these projects has been billed to Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators. The first album Slash recorded with that backing band was Apocalyptic Love, released in May 2012. The fourth and latest is appropriately titled 4. Here’s the opener The River is Rising, which first had appeared as the lead single in October 2021. Co-written by Hudson and Kennedy, the tune has some of that Guns N’ Roses swagger in it, minus Axl Rose whose voice I find a bit difficult to take after a few songs.

Last but not least here’s the above noted Spotify playlist. Hope there’s something for you.

Sources: Wikipedia; Apple Music; YouTube; Spotify

What I’ve Been Listening to: The Nude Party/The Nude Party

This has happened to me before and I love it! Until about a week ago, I had never heard of The Nude Party. Then my streaming music provider served up a playlist that included one of the American band’s tunes off their eponymous debut album from July 2018. I immediately dug the ’60s vibe of their sound blending garage and psychedelic rock, The Rolling Stones and Lou Reed/The Velvet Underground. When I checked out the album, I realized the song from that playlist wasn’t a one-off.

The Nude Party were formed in 2012 when freshman students at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C. decided to start a band. Their members are Patton Magee (lead vocals, guitar, harmonica), Shaun Couture (guitar, vocals), Don Merrill (piano, vocals), Alexander Castillo (bass, vocals), Austin Brose (percussion, vocals) and Connor Mikita (drums). At the end of their freshman year, they all moved together to a house outside of town and learned how to play their instruments. It almost sounds a bit like a fairytale!

nudeparty_midnightmanor0395_smaller.jpg

The group quickly gained a following in Boone where they oftentimes performed in the nude at a local party venue. You can’t make this stuff up! They became known as “the naked party band,” which in turn inspired their name The Nude Party. Before moving on to playing other venues in the area, they put on some clothes. After their members had graduated, the band started touring nationally.

In 2014, they met Oakley Munson, the drummer of garage rock band Black Lips. Munson recorded The Nude Party’s debut EP Hot Tub EP, which was released in early 2016. The band continued to build their reputation through heavy touring and supporting higher profile groups like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, Cold War Kids and The Murlocs. By early 2018, they had secured a deal with New West Records and went into the studio to record their eponymous debut album. This finally brings me to some music!

Here’s the opener Water on Mars. Like all other tracks on the album, it’s credited to all members of the group. The song is pretty representative of their cool sound.

Chevrolet Van, which also became the record’s lead single, is the tune that caught my attention and made me listen to the album. Following the brilliant suggestion by Munson, it features Jon “Catfish” DeLorme on pedal steel, who subsequently became a touring member. This sounds like a ’70s country tune by the Stones. Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Tuner and the band’s drummer Matt Helders included the song in their top 5 during a 2018 interview with Matt Wilkinson for Beats 1 Radio, as reported by NME. This further boosted their visibility.

War is Coming has a nice psychedelic flavor. In particular, I dig the keyboard that could be my beloved Vox Continental. I just don’t get tired of that sound!

Live Like Me has more of that seductive keyboard sound and a cool guitar riff. This is quite catchy!

Let’s do one more: Gringo Che. This could be a song by The Animals. It also reminds me a bit of Them. I just love it!

According to Wikipedia, the band’s debut album was well received. Rolling Stone called it “equal parts ‘I’m Waiting for the Man’ Velvet Underground and Exile on Main Street Stones” – clever! American Songwriter opined The Nude Partyblow the roof off but do it with style and class, nodding to the past without slavishly imitating it.”

Like Hot Tub EP, the album was produced by Oakley Munson. The Nude Party have since released their second full-length album Midnight Manor, which appeared in October 2020.

Sources: Wikipedia; NME; YouTube; Spotify

On This Day in Rock & Roll History: January 21

Dare I say it, it looks like my irregularly recurring music history feature is becoming more frequent. But with nearly 300 dates left to cover, I still have a long way to go, so it’s safe to assume this series won’t end anytime soon. With that said, let’s take a look at some of the events in music that happened on January 21 over the past six decades or so. I would also like to briefly acknowledge the untimely death of operatic rock artist Meat Loaf, which was reported overnight. He was believed to have been 74 years old. The cause of death has not been revealed.

1963: Since nearly everything in my little music world starts or finishes with The Beatles, let’s get this bloody item out of the way. According to The Beatles Bible, the ultimate source of truth about the band, On this day The Beatles appeared on the EMI plug show The Friday Spectacular, at EMI House, 20 Manchester Square, London. They chatted to hosts Shaw Taylor and Muriel Young, and studio recordings of ‘Please Please Me’ and ‘Ask Me Why’ were played. The show was recorded before an audience of around 100 teenagers, and was broadcast live on Radio Luxembourg. The overwhelming crowd size tells you this was still pre-Beatlemania. Though their press officer Tony Barrow said that during the recording, “I was finally convinced that The Beatles were about to enjoy the type of top-flight national fame which I had always believed that they deserved.” Side note: Three years later on that same date, George Harrison married his first wife Pattie Boyd, with Paul McCartney serving as best man.

1966: The Trips Festival, a three-day landmark event in the development of psychedelic music, kicked off at Longshoreman’s Hall in San Francisco. According to Songfacts Music History Calendar, Produced by Ken Kesey, Ramon Sender, and Stewart Brand, the event is largely recognized as the first to bring together what would be called the “hippie” movement. The sold-out festival, which drew 10,000 people, featured the Grateful Dead, Big Brother and the Holding Company and Jefferson Airplane, among others. And some 6,000 people drinking punch spiked with LSD, who witnessed one of the first fully developed light shows of the era. I also found this trippy clip!

1978: Saturday Night Fever, the soundtrack album of the 1977 motion picture starring John Travolta, stood at no. 1 on the Billboard 200, the first of 24 weeks on top of the U.S. mainstream chart. It also reached no. 1 in Canada, the UK, Australia and many other countries. Saturday Night Fever became one of the best-selling albums in music history. With more than 40 million copies sold worldwide, it remains the second-biggest selling soundtrack of all time after The Bodyguard. But, as oftentimes is the case, what goes up must come down. Not even three years later, the Bee Gees, the group most associated with the soundtrack and disco, called it quits, finding themselves caught in the furious backlash toward disco including bomb threats – something you could sadly picture nowadays as well! I said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t care whether you call Bee Gees music disco, R&B, disco-influenced or anything else – I dig it!

1984: British progressive rock stalwarts Yes hit no. 1 in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100 with Owner of a Lonely Heart. Co-written by band members Trevor Rabin (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Jon Anderson (lead vocals) and Chris Squire (bass vocals), together with co-producer Trevor Horn, the catchy pop rocker was first released in October 1983 as the lead single for the group’s 11th studio album 90125, which came out the following month. Owner of the Lonely Heart became Yes’s first and only no. 1 on the U.S. mainstream chart. It also did well in Europe, especially in The Netherlands where it peaked at no. 2. While earlier singles like Yours Is No Disgrace, Roundabout and And You and I are great songs as well, they simply weren’t radio-friendly. Yes, Owner of a Lonely Heart has a commercial ’80s sound, but it’s a hell of a catchy tune!

1987: Aretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul”, was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame by Keith Richards during the Rock Hall’s second annual induction ceremony. Here’s what the Rock Hall posted on their website: Lady Soul. The first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Aretha Franklin was an artist of passion, sophistication and command, whose recordings remain anthems that defined soul music. Long live the Queen. And here are The Rolling Stones guitarist’s live remarks from that night – let’s just say it was a classic Keith Richards speech!

Sources: Wikipedia; The Beatles Bible; Songfacts Music History Calendar; Rock & Roll Hall of Fame website; YouTube

The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time

Another Sunday is upon us, and the show must go on with a new explorative trip to celebrate great music of the past and present, six tunes at a time. This installment of The Sunday Six strikes out broadly, touching the ’40s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and 2017. Let’s do it!

Ry Cooder/I Think It’s Going to Work Out Fine

I’d like to start today’s journey with some beautiful instrumental music by Ry Cooder. I believe the first time I heard of him was in connection with the great 1984 Wim Wenders motion picture Paris, Texas, for which Cooder wrote the score. This is some of the best acoustic slide guitar-playing I’ve heard to date – if you don’t know the movie’s score, check it out! In addition to 17 film scores, the versatile Cooder has released the same amount of solo albums since his 1970 eponymous debut. Not surprisingly, Cooder has also collaborated with the likes of John Lee Hooker, The Rolling Stones, Randy Newman, Linda Ronstadt, David Lindley and numerous other artists. This brings me to Bop Till You Drop, Cooder’s eighth solo album from July 1979, which I received as a gift in the late ’80s from my longtime German music buddy and former bandmate. Here’s Cooder’s great instrumental rendition of It’s Gonna Work Out Fine. Written by Rose Marie McCoy and Joe Seneca, the tune first appeared as a single by Ike & Tina Turner in June 1961.

The Animals/It’s My Life

After a gentle start, I’d like to step on the gas a bit with one of my favorite ’60s blues rock and R&B bands: The Animals. Not surprisingly, I’ve covered the British group’s music on various previous occasions, which among others include this Sunday Six installment and this post dedicated to their original lead vocalist Eric Burdon, one of the best British blues vocalists I can think of! It’s My Life first came out as a single in October 1965. Notably, it was penned by Roger Atkins and Carl D’Errico. This was not the only time Brill Building songwriters wrote a tune for the group. In May 1966, The Animals released another single, Don’t Bring Me Down, co-written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King. It’s My Life was also included on the band’s first compilation The Best of The Animals, which appeared in the U.S. only in February 1966. I’ve always loved this great psychedelic-flavored tune.

Steve Winwood/Roll With It

When it comes to Steve Winwood, I generally prefer his early years with The Spencer Davis Group, Traffic and Blind Faith over his oftentimes more pop-oriented solo period. Perhaps the biggest exception is Windwood’s fifth solo album Roll With It from June 1988. While undoubtedly influenced by ’80s pop, this record is also quite soulful. It became his most successful album, topping the Billboard 200 in the U.S. and reaching no. 4 in the UK, with more than three million copies having been sold. Here’s the excellent opener and title track, a co-write by Winwood and Will Jennings. Subsequently, Motown songwriters Holland-Dozier-Holland received a co-credit due to the tune’s similarities publishing rights organization BMI saw to (I’m a) Roadrunner, which had been a hit in 1966 for Junior Walker & the Allstars.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe/Strange Things Happening Every Day

Next let’s turn to a trailblazer and true rock & roll pioneer, the amazing Sister Rosetta Tharpe. While John Lennon famously said, “If you were to try to give rock & roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry,” one of the genre’s early pioneers we must not forget was Tharpe. The prominent gospel singer started playing the guitar as a four-year-old and began her recording career at age 23 in 1938. She was one of the first popular recording artists using electric guitar distortion. Her technique had a major influence on British guitarists like Eric ClaptonJeff Beck and Keith Richards. She also influenced many artists in the U.S., including Elvis PresleyLittle Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry, to name a few. Tharpe has been called “the original soul sister” and “the godmother of rock & roll.” Unfortunately, her health declined prematurely and she passed away from a stroke in 1973 at the untimely age of 58. In May 2018, Tharpe was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as an Early Influence. Here’s Strange Things Happening Everyday, originally a traditional African American spiritual that became a hit for Tharpe in 1945. This recording is historic, as it’s considered to be one of the very first rock & roll songs. Tharpe’s remarkable guitar-playing, including her solos, distorted sound and bending of strings, is more pronounced on later tunes, but you can already hear some of it here. Check out this clip and tell me this amazing lady didn’t rock!

Prince/Cream

For this next pick, I’m jumping 46 years forward to 1991. Prince is an artist I’ve always respected for his remarkable versatility and amazing guitar skills, though I can’t say I’m an all-out fan. But I really like some of his songs. I must also add I’ve not explored his catalog in greater detail. It was largely my aforementioned German music buddy who introduced me to Prince. I recall listening together to his ninth studio Sign o’ the Times from March 1987. Cream, off Diamonds and Pearls that appeared in October 1991, is a tune I well remember hearing on the radio back in Germany. Based on Wikipedia’s singles chart, it looks like the song was Prince’s first big hit in the ’90s. Among others, it topped the U.S. charts, climbed to no. 2 in Canada and Australia, and reached the top 5 in France, Switzerland and Sweden. Here’s the official video. The actual tune starts at about 2:05 minutes into the clip. Sadly, we lost Prince way too early in April 2016 at age 57.

Greta Van Fleet/Safari Song

Last but not least, I’d like to turn to Greta Van Fleet, one of the contemporary bands that give me hope classic rock isn’t entirely dead yet. L.A. rockers Dirty Honey are another great example in this context. Greta Van Fleet were formed in Frankenmuth, Mich. in 2012 by brothers Josh Kiszka (lead vocals), Jake Kiszka (guitars, backing vocals) and Sam Kiszka (bass, keyboards, backing vocals), along with Kyle Hauck (drums). Other than Hauck who was replaced by Danny Wagner in 2013, the band’s line-up hasn’t changed. The group has been criticized by some as a Led Zeppelin knock-off, and the tune I’m featuring here probably is part of the reason. Selfishly, I don’t care since in my book, Zep are one of the greatest rock bands of all time. I would also add Greta Van Fleet’s sound has evolved since their early days. To me, their most recent album The Battle at Garden’s Gate from April 2021 bears very little if any resemblance to Zep. Here’s Safari Song, Greta’s second single released in October 2017. Credited to all members of the band, it was also included on their debut EP Black Smoke Rising that had come out in April of the same year. This just rocks and I could care less about the critics!

Here’s a playlist featuring all of the above tracks.

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube; Spotify

The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time

Welcome to the final Sunday Six of 2021 – can’t believe I’m writing this! To those celebrating, I hope you had a nice Christmas and are still enjoying the holiday season. To everybody else, hope you’ve been having a great time anyway! Today, this weekly recurring feature is hitting a milestone with its 50th installment. It’s another eclectic set of music touching the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and 2021. Ready for the last mini music excursion of the year? Let’s do it!

Frank Zappa/Pink Napkins

I’d like to start today’s music time travel with an artist I never thought I’d feature. While I recognize Frank Zappa was widely acclaimed, except for the weirdly catchy Bobby Brown Goes Down, I always found it difficult to listen to his music and never warmed to him. That being said, I’ve always known he was a pretty talented musician. When my streaming music provider served up Pink Napkins the other day, I was immediately intrigued by this guitar-driven instrumental. And, yes, I was quite surprised to learn I had just listened to Frank Zappa! Pink Napkins is from Son of Shut Up ‘n Play Yer Guitar, the second in a series of three all-instrumental albums released in May 1981, which subsequently appeared as a box set in 1982. It’s a very improvisational collection of what essentially are guitar solos. While hey there, people, you may wonder, wonder, why Zappa released a massive collection of guitar solos, dare I say it, I actually dig Pink Napkins!

Pink Floyd/Stay

Next is what I would call a deep track from Pink Floyd’s catalog. Stay, co-written by the band’s keyboarder Richard Wright and guitarist David Gilmour, was included on the group’s seventh studio album Obscured by Clouds that came out in June 1972. It was the soundtrack for a French motion picture titled La Vallée and directed by Iranian-born Swiss film director and producer Barbet Schroeder. Among others, he’s known for directing Hollywood films Barfly (1987) and Single White Female (1992). While Obscured by Clouds didn’t match the chart performance of the group’s two preceding records Meddle and Atom Heart Mother, it still reached a respectable no. 6 in the UK. By comparison, it remained, well, a bit more obscure in the U.S. where it stalled at no. 46. This was in marked contrast to Pink Floyd’s next album The Dark Side of the Moon.

Little Richard/Good Golly, Miss Molly

Okay, boys and girls, it’s time to get movin’ and groovin’ with some killer classic rock & roll by the great Little Richard: Good golly, Miss Molly, sure like to ball, whoo/Good golly, Miss Molly, sure like to ball/When you’re rockin’ and a rollin’/Can’t hear your momma call…Even though I’ve listened to Good Golly, Miss Molly countless times since I first heard it 40-plus years ago, I’m still amazed by Richard’s energy. This man was a force of nature and an incredible performer. Good Golly, Miss Molly was co-written by John Marascalco and producer Robert “Bumps” Blackwell. It was first recorded by Richard and appeared as a single in January 1958. It was also included on Richard’s eponymous sophomore album released in July of the same year.

The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band/Ways and Means

Let’s keep rockin’ and jump to 2021 and The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band. If you happened to read part 1 of my recent year-in-review feature, you may recall the name of this unusual country blues trio, which has been around since 2003. Ways and Means is the opener of Dance Songs for Hard Times, the trio’s energetic 10th studio album that came out back in April. Check out the official video, which is fun to watch. These guys are just amazing! Peyton is a really talented guitarist, and his singing ain’t too shabby either – my kind of reverend!

The Mamas & The Papas/Monday Monday

After two high-energy tunes, I’d like to slow it down a little with some beautiful sunshine pop from the ’60s. For the purposes of this feature, the tune really should have been titled “Sunday Sunday”, but I’ll gladly go with Monday Monday. The third single by The Mamas & The Papas, released in March 1966, became the L.A. vocal group’s only no. 1 in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100. Written by the group’s leader John Philipps, aka Papa John Phillips, the tune was a big hit outside the U.S. as well, reaching no. 2 in Austria, Belgium, Germany and The Netherlands; no. 3 in the UK; and no. 4 in Australia, among others. Monday Monday was also included on The Mamas & The Papas’ debut album If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears from February of the same year. I’ve always loved their beautiful harmony singing.

Bonnie Raitt/You

I’d like to wrap up this installment with one of my all-time favorite artists: Bonnie Raitt. Since I was introduced to her with Nick of Time in 1989, I’ve come to love her music and amazing slide guitar-playing. I also finally had a chance to see her in August 2016 in New Jersey. If you’re curious you can read more about the show here and watch a clip of the entire gig, which is still up! For this post, I’ve picked You, a beautiful tune from Raitt’s 12th studio album Longing in Their Hearts that appeared in March 1994. The song was co-written by John Shanks, Bob Thiele and Tonio K. (born Steven M. Krikorian). Bonnie Raitt will tour in 2022. Man, would I love to catch her again – we’ll see whether conditions are going to responsibly allow it!

Last but not least, here’s a playlist with the above tunes!

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube

The Year That Was – Part 1 of 2

My six favorite albums of 2021

After feeling a bit lukewarm initially about the thought of looking back at 2021, a year I’d rather forget in many regards, I’m glad I decided to proceed. After all, there was lots of great new music – music that undoubtedly helped me cope with challenges this tiresome pandemic presented.

This review is split into two parts. Part 1 revisits my favorite 2021 albums I covered during the past year. Part 2 presents highlights from Best of What’s New, my weekly recurring feature looking at newly released songs. While it would have been easy to feature some of the same artists in both parts, I deliberately avoided overlap.

Altogether, I reviewed more than 20 albums over the past 12 months. After excluding archives releases, such as Neil Young’s Carnegie Hall 1970 and Young Shakespeare, and reissues like Tom Petty’s Angel Dream (Songs and Music from the Motion Picture “She’s the One”), I narrowed the list to 17 albums. Following are six I like in particular.

Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band/Dance Songs for Hard Times

Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band is an unusual country blues trio, and it’s not only because of their funny name. The group, which has been around since 2003, consists of Josh “The Reverend” Peyton (guitar, lead vocals), his wife  “Washboard” Breezy Peyton (washboard) and Max Senteney (drums). Notably, they don’t have a bassist. Peyton, a great guitarist, compensates with skillful fingerstyle playing that includes the prominent use of his thumb to play bass lines. Dance Songs for Hard Times, the trio’s 10th full-length album, was released on April 9. You can read more about it here. To get an idea, check out the amazing Too Cool to Dance and tell me this doesn’t rock!

John Hiatt with The Jerry Douglas Band/Leftover Feelings

One of my big “discoveries” this year is John Hiatt, an artist whose name I’ve known for 30-plus years but had not started to explore until earlier this year – well, better late than never! On May 21, Hiatt released a great collaboration album with Dobro resonator guitar master Jerry Douglas. They were backed by Jerry Douglas Band members Mike Seal (acoustic and electric guitar), Daniel Kimbro (bass, string arrangements) and Christian Sedelmyer (fiddle). You can read more about Leftover Feelings here, which was recorded at Nashville’s historic RCA Studio B during the Covid shutdown. Here’s a little sample: Mississippi Phone Booth, written by Hiatt.

Southern Avenue/Be the Love You Want

Southern Avenue, a five-piece from Memphis, Tenn., are one of my favorite contemporary groups, blending blues and soul with contemporary R&B. Founded in 2015, this great band features Ori Naftaly (guitar), Tierinii Jackson (lead vocals), her sister Tikyra Jackson (drums, backing vocals), Jeremy Powell (keyboards) and Evan Sarver (bass). On August 27, their third album Be the Love You Want came out. While it feels like a bigger and more contemporary production compared to the band’s first two records and there’s a guest appearance by pop artist Jason Mraz, at its core, this still sounds very much like Southern Avenue’s music I’ve come to love: A tasty blend of blues, soul, funk and gospel, combined with elements of modern R&B. You can read more about it here. And here’s Push Now.

The Wild Feathers/Alvarado

The Wild Feathers, formed in Nashville, Tenn. in 2010, combine elements of country rock, southern rock, classic rock, blues and folk with multi-part harmony singing – a quite attractive combination! The group’s current lineup includes founding members Taylor Burns (guitar, vocals), Ricky Young (guitar, vocals), Brett Moore (guitar, mandolin) and Joel King (bass, vocals), together with Ben Dumas (drums). On October 8, they released their fifth studio album Alvarado. According to an exclusive preview by American SongwriterThe Wild Feathers wrote and recorded the album in a small cabin located an hour northwest of Nashville, the same place in which they conceived predecessor Medium Rarities. You can read more about Alvarado here. To get an idea, I give you Side Street Shakedown, a great rocker co-written by King, Young and Burns.

The Brandy Alexanders/The Brandy Alexanders

The Brandy Alexanders are a psychedelic pop-rock band from Canada, which was formed in 2016. The members include brothers Alex Dick (lead vocals, guitar) and Daniel Dick (keyboards), along with Sean Shepherd (lead guitar), Zack Vivier (bass) and Robbie Cervi (drums). They were discovered in 2019 by Renan Yildizdogan, the founder of independent label Gypsy Soul Records, who saw the group at a local performance venue in Toronto and subsequently signed them. On December 10, The Brandy Alexanders released their eponymous debut album. For more on that, click here. And here’s the great-sounding opener Ceiling Fan, Man

Neil Young & Crazy Horse/Barn

Neil Young has been on a roll this year. In addition to the aforementioned solo releases from his archives, he put out Way Down in the Rust Bucket, another excellent archives release of a 1990 live concert with Crazy Horse. Speaking of Young’s longtime backing band, there was a record with new songs, Barn, his 41st studio release and 14th album with Crazy Horse. It appeared on December 10 as well. Recorded in a converted barn high in the Rocky Mountains, Barn sounds charmingly ragged, relaxed and spontaneous – like classic Crazy Horse! Click here for my album review and check out Heading West!

Additional 2021 albums I’d like to at least briefly acknowledge include Exit Wounds (The Wallflowers), Many a Mile (Blue Rodeo), Long Lost (Lord Huron), Dirty Honey (Dirty Honey) and The Battle at Garden’s Gate (Greta Van Fleet). Stay tuned for Part 2 of this year-in-review feature, which will include songs from these artists.

Sources: Wikipedia; American Songwriter; YouTube

The Brandy Alexanders Debut with Intoxicating Melodic Psych Rock

A Brandy Alexander is a brandy-based dessert cocktail, which according to Wikipedia was John Lennon’s favorite drink. It wasted him and Harry Nilsson at the Troubador in March 1974, and eventually, they were kicked out of the prominent Los Angeles nightclub after they had heckled the performing act and Lennon reportedly had hit a waitress. The potent drink also inspired the name of Canadian psychedelic rock band The Brandy Alexanders who released their eponymous debut album last Friday (December 10). The sound is quite melodic and, yes, intoxicating.

The Brandy Alexanders were formed by brothers Alex Dick (lead vocals, guitar) and Daniel Dick (keyboards) in 2016, notes the band’s biography. The brothers, who write the group’s lyrics and music, had started their musical journey in high school where they formed two now-defunct bands. Sean Shepherd (lead guitar), Zack Vivier (bass) and Robbie Cervi (drums) complete the group’s line-up.

The Brandy Alexanders describe their music as follows: Somewhere in the expanse between the Dark Side of The Moon and Abbey Road – Psychedelic Rock band, The Brandy Alexanders, take you to a parallel universe. Introspective, and almost existential lyrics are expressed via dream like vocals that weave themselves into a wall of propulsive guitar riffs, textured synths and a bold rhythm section. Jeez, couldn’t have said it any better! 🙂

In 2019, Renan Yildizdogan, the founder of Gypsy Soul Records, saw The Brandy Alexanders at a local performance venue in Toronto. He subsequently signed them, and their debut appears on the independent label. During an interview with Canadian Beats, the band said the album’s album origin was a 2016 EP, which eventually developed into the nine tracks that are out now. Time for some music. Unless noted otherwise, all tracks are credited to Alexander Dick and Shawn Dawson.

Here’s the opener Ceiling Fan, Man. The tune first appeared as the album’s lead single on August 27. It’s got a cool riff and a big sound that drew me in. Here’s the official video – quite trippy!

Shiram is a nice rocker. In addition to the fuzzy guitar, I like the keyboard work on this track.

Hey, Why’d You Do It is another song with a great riff and a cool sound. It’s just catchy.

Next up: Live by the Light, a tune solely written by Alex Dick, and the band’s new single. “This song evolved over the course of two years, eventually adding the chorus and the unison guitar part after Alex and Dan did multiple demos,” the band told Canadian Beats. I dig the groove. And once again, the sound is great!

The last track I’d like to highlight is the closer Spaceopus, a co-write by the two brothers. And, yes, it’s spacey and has an epic feel to it!

I came across The Brandy Alexanders by coincidence. For some reason, I didn’t see their new album when I checked iTunes for new releases last Friday. While it does get a bit repetitive after some time, the sound of this band is pretty compelling. I look forward to more of their music in the future.

Sources: The Brandy Alexanders website; Canadian Beats; YouTube