A selection of newly released music that caught my attention
Happy Saturday and, if you’re living in the U.S., Happy Memorial Day weekend, and hopefully a three-day stretch off work. It’s that time of the week again when I take a fresh look at newly released music. All featured tracks are on albums that dropped yesterday (May 26), except for the final pick (May 25).
Les Lullies/Mauvaise Foi
When I came across new music by French rock band Les Lullies, I was quite excited, since this may be my first time featuring a French language song. Then I thought their name somehow sounded familiar. Surely enough, fellow blogger Angie Moon from The Diversity of Classic Rock recently featured a Q&A with the group from Montpellier, who have been around since 2016. Their Bandcamppage notes those four cheese eating attack monkeys are here to kick your ass. Raw, simple, straight rock’n’roll music. How about some proof? Here’s Mauvaise Foi (bad faith), the title track of their second and latest album. There’s a nice punk rawness in their tunes.
AJJ/Candles of Love
AJJ are a folk punk band from Phoenix, AZ, formed in 2004 as Andrew Jackson Jihad by Sean Bonnette (lead vocals, rhythm guitar) and Ben Gallaty (bass, backing vocals) who remain their core members. Since their 2005 debut Candy Cigarettes & Cap Guns, AJJ, among others, have released seven additional studio albums including their latest Disposable Everything. Here’s the mellow-sounding Candles of Love, credited to all five members of the band and producer David Jerkovich
Joe Perry/Fortunate One (feat. Chris Robinson)
My next pick comes from the seventh studio album by Joe Perry, who of course is best known as a co-founder and the lead guitarist of longtime Boston rockers Aerosmith. Sweetzerland Manifesto MKII combines different versions of four tracks that first appeared on Perry’s previous solo effort Sweetzerland Manifesto with six all-new tracks, notedUltimate Classic Rock. Among the latter is the great opener Fortunate One featuring Chris Robinson of The Black Crowes on lead vocals and Stone Temple Pilots’ bassist Robert DeLeo. The Black Crowes will join Aerosmith on what is billed as the Boston band’s Peace Out farewell tour that kicks off in September.
Radiator Hospital/Sweet Punisher
Wrapping up this week’s new music review are Radiator Hospital, a Philly-based group around power pop and pop punk-oriented songwriter Sam Cook-Parrott (vocals, guitar). According to their AllMusicbio, Cook-Parrott started Radiator Hospital after his graduation from high school. To date, seven Radiator Hospital albums in different formats have been issued. From their latest, Can’t Make Any Promise, which came out on May 25, here’s Sweet Punisher, penned by Cook-Parrott.
Of course, this post wouldn’t be complete without a Spotify playlist featuring the above and a few additional tracks.
Jane Lee Hooker not only have one of the coolest blues rock band names I can think of, but the four ladies and the gent from New York City also deliver the goods. A couple of weeks ago, they came out with their latest single White Gold, a neat acoustic blues tune from their 2022 studio album Rollin’, along with a fun video. The release comes ahead of a five-week European tour that kicks off one week from today.
Credited to all members of the group, White Gold is Jane Lee Hooker’s first acoustic blues. Traditionally, they have focused on electric blues rock, blended with rock & roll, R&B and on their latest album also some soul. “I always knew we had a song like this in us,” said Tina Gorin who played resonator guitar on the tune. “It doesn’t even feel like a departure for us to me. We always had roots in our music and this shows our purer side of that.”
White Gold is the fifth single and video off Rollin’, Jane Lee Hooker’s third studio album released in late April 2022. I reviewed it here at the time. “I can’t remember the name of the studio in Woodstock [Dreamland Recording Studios – CMM], but it was an old church,” recalled Tracy Hightop, the band’s second guitarist. Matt [producer Matt Chiaravalle – CMM] and Ron [drummer Ron Salvo – CMM] had already gone to sleep and Dana [lead vocalist Dana Athens – CMM], T-Bone [Gorin’s nickname – CMM] and I snuck back into the old dark church to practice the song. Just two guitars and Dana’s massive voice filling the church.”
If you dig live music and energetic blues rock and can get to any of the above cities in Belgium, Germany, Slovakia, France and Spain, I can highly recommend Jane Lee Hooker. I’ve seen them twice and they were killing it!
Last but not least, a shoutout to Gregg Bell of Wanted Management, who kindly gave me a heads-up on the above!
While my music history series is an irregular feature, this time, I did not want to wait for another 10 weeks before putting together the next installment. Plus, May 4 turned out to be a date I had not covered yet. As always, this content reflects my music taste and is not meant to present a full accounting of events.
1956: Rockabilly and early rock & roll pioneer Gene Vincent recorded what would become his signature song at Owen Bradley’s studio in Memphis, Tenn.: Be-Bop-a-Lula. Vincent wrote the music in 1955 at US Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Va. while recuperating from a motorcycle accident. The song is also credited to his manager Bill “Sheriff Tex” Davis who claimed he wrote it together with Vincent. Another version is the lyrics were penned by Donald Graves who Vincent met at the hospital and Davis subsequently bought out his rights to the tune. To make things even more confusing, in yet another version, Vincent maintained he came up with the tune’s words, which were inspired by a comic strip called Little Lulu. What is undisputed is that once released in June 1956, Be-Bop-a-Lula became Vincent’s biggest hit in both the U.S. and the UK, peaking at no. 7 and no. 16, respectively.
1967: The Young Rascals (who later became known as just The Rascals) reached the top of the U.S. pop charts with Groovin’, the title track of their third studio album released in July of the same year. The tune was co-written by band members Felix Cavaliere (lead and backing vocals, keyboards) and Eddie Brigati (backing and lead vocals, percussion). Gene Cornish (guitar, harmonica, backing and lead vocals, bass) and Dino Danelli (drums) completed the group who were still in their original lineup. Groovin’, their second big hit after Good Lovin’ (February 1965), reflected Cavaliere’s newfound interest in Afro-Cuban music. The tune featured a conga and a Cuban-influenced bassline played by prominent session musician Chuck Rainey, one of the most recorded bass players who also worked with the likes of Aretha Franklin, Steely Dan and Quincy Jones. Groovin’ also became The Young Rascals’ highest-charting single in the UK (no. 8) and Australia (no. 3).
1970: A peace rally at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio against the U.S. incursion into Cambodia ended in what became known as the May 4 massacre or the Kent State massacre. After more than 300 students had gathered on campus to protest the expansion of the Vietnam war, 28 National Guard soldiers emerged and fired tear gas at the crowd, followed by about 67 rounds of bullets over 13 seconds, killing four students and wounding nine others. Unbeknownst to the protesters, Ohio Governor Jim Rhodes had stationed the National Guard on campus and declared martial law, superseding First Amendment rights and making any assembly illegal. Among the protesters was Jerry Casale who subsequently became a co-founder of the band Devo. Another student who was there that day decided to drop out of school, work as a waitress for a while and eventually head to England to form a rock band. Her name: Chrissie Hynde, of the Pretenders. But the most immediate outcome of the May 4 massacre was the song Ohio, written by Neil Young, and released as a single by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young in the wake of the shooting.
1987: Prominent blues harmonica player and vocalist Paul Butterfield, best known as the founder and leader of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, died from a drug overdose in his Los Angeles apartment at age 44. Butterfield formed the Paul Butterfield Blues Band in 1963. Between 1965 and 1971, they released a series of studio and live albums. After their breakup in 1971, Butterfield formed a new group, the short-lived Paul Butterfield’s Better Days, who put out two albums. Afterward, Butterfield launched a solo career. In 1986, he released his final studio album, The Legendary Paul Butterfield Rides Again, an unsuccessful comeback attempt with an updated rock sound. Butterfield’s physical and financial condition started to deteriorate in the early ’80s after he became addicted to heroin, a possible attempt to ease symptoms from serious and painful intestinal inflammation. Here’s Paul Butterfield Blues Band’s rendition of Robert Johnson’sWalkin’ Blues, off their sophomore album East-West, featuring guitarist Mike Bloomfield.
1991: Texas Governor Ann Richards declared ZZ Top day in the Lone Star State. According to an article in the Deseret News, which weirdly is a Utah paper, Richards led a Capitol ceremony honoring the Houston-based rock band, which ended its 120-city “Recycler” tour in Austin Friday.”You’ve heard me talk an awful lot about how proud Texas is of its music industry,” Richards said. “I can’t think of a group better than ZZ Top.” While setlist.fm doesn’t include ZZ Top’s above-noted May 3, 1991 Austin gig, it lists their show in Lubbock, Texas the night before – close enough! Here’s one of the tunes they played, Concrete and Steel, the opener of Recycler, their 10th studio album released in October 1990 – sounds like it was inspired by Sharp Dressed Man.
Sources: Wikipedia; Songfacts Music Calendar; This Day In Music; Deseret News; Setlist.fm; YouTube
L.A. blues and rock & roll band’s “Driving South” took global pandemic, near-fatal cancer episode and death of mentor to materialize
A band named Highway 61 was bound to get my attention. It also didn’t hurt the four-piece from Los Angeles deliver music they rightfully describe as mixing doses of The Rolling Stones and Tom Petty with dashes of The Black Crowes and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Last but not least, there’s a truly inspiring background story behind their excellent debut album Driving South, which officially will be released on April 7 and is already available digitally on streaming platforms as of last Friday (March 24).
Before getting to some great music, I like to touch on the group’s history, especially for readers who didn’t catch my most recent Best of What’s Newinstallment. Highway 61 originally were founded in the early ’90s. While they managed to establish themselves on the Southern California club circuit, they didn’t secure a record deal. “We were young and committed to constantly rehearsing, writing, promoting, and playing stellar shows,” recalls drummer Mike Knutson in the band’s official bio, which was kindly provided to me by their manager Gregg Bell of Wanted Management. “…but eventually we got burnt out, the scene changed, and we split up.”
That split happened in 1993. But while they went their separate ways (most notably, guitarist and vocalist Frank Meyer formed award-winning punk band The Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs), they remained friends and occasionally worked with each other. Fast-forward to 2020 when the world found itself in the throes of the global COVID pandemic and guitarist Andy Medway was confronted with a life-changing experience – a diagnosis with leukemia. After a year of chemotherapy, Medway ended up undergoing a bone marrow transplant. This required more than a year of recovery and resulted in a series of complications and setbacks.
“Frank was great about staying in touch with me during my recovery and encouraging me to play music even when I didn’t know if I would ever be able to play again,” says Medway in the band’s bio. “Music truly is the great healer.” Not only that it turned out. Here’s more from Highway 61’s bio: Inspired by the challenge, Medway started firing off ideas. Soon he and Meyer had written several songs, including the Driving South track “Black Magic,” which led to the reunion with Knutson and [bassist and vocalist Russell] Loeffler.
In summer 2022, the foursome reconvened for the first time in decades at Kitten Robot Studios in Los Angeles with producer Paul Roessler (The Screamers, 45 Grave, Nina Hagen) to make Driving South, which mixes doses of The Rolling Stones and Tom Petty with dashes of The Black Crowes and Stevie Ray Vaughan. The band ripped through the entire album over a few weeks, finally tracking fan favorites like “Baby, Where’s You Stay Last Night” and “Supernatural Monkey Child,” alongside brand new song “Black Magic.”
Driving South also salutes Highway 61 mentor Alan Mirikitani, a.k.a. blues guitar master BB Chung King, who sadly passed away in 2015. “Walk on Water” and “Breath Away” feature unreleased solos Mirikitani recorded with the band in 1992. In an incredibly emotional reunion, “Walk on Water” also features Mirikitani’s daughter Alana Mirikitani on backing vocals joining the two artists on an album for the first time.
Time to get some music! Let’s start at the very beginning with the aforementioned Walk on Water, the great opener that nicely sets the mood for the album and is a perfect illustration of what Highway 61 is all about – kickass rock & roll that makes me smile. Frank Meyer explains the song is “about evangelists, dirty politicians, and police brutality written around the time of the Rodney King verdict and the L.A. Riots. It’s nuts to me that we were writing about heady topics at such a young age.”
On Baby Where You’d Stay Last NightHighway 61 slightly slow down the tempo, but this tune still rocks as nicely as the previous opener.
Next is Black Magic. Unlike the other nine tunes the band wrote when they were still in their teens and early 20s, Black Magic is the only new song on the album.
Midnight Train has a cool funky sound. Check it out!
Let’s do one more: Supernatural Monkey Child, another neat funky rocker. It’s got a bit of a Jimi Hendrix vibe! I can also hear a dose of Stevie Ray Vaughan in here – damn!
“The crazy thing about this album is that with the exception of “Black Magic,” all of this material was written when we were still teenagers and in our early 20s,” observes Meyer. “Yet somehow these songs sound incredibly mature to me now.”
Adds Loeffler: “Thirty years is a long time, and during that time the music we created still resonated in me. While continuing to write and play music, I always wondered what the others were doing. We spent an enormous amount of time together, rehearsing, writing, traveling for shows, and becoming a family. When Frank called me about finishing what we started, I didn’t hesitate.”
Well, as they say, sometimes good things take time. Highway 61 have delivered what in my book is a fabulous debut. I also think I’m not alone in hoping that we won’t have to wait another 30 years for their next album. I’ll leave you with a Spotify link to Driving South, so you can check out the remaining tracks.
Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time
After skipping last Sunday due to a short hiatus, I’m thrilled to be back with The Sunday Six and hope you’ll join me for another trip with the music time machine. As always, our journey will include six stops in different decades. Let’s do it!
Weather Report/Cannon Ball
Easing us into today’s trip are jazz fusion dynamos Weather Report, a band I’ve really come to dig. Austrian keyboarder Joe Zawinul, who is regarded as one of the creators of jazz fusion, co-founded Weather Report in 1970 with saxophone maestro Wayne Shorter. Cannon Ball, a Zawinul composition, appeared on the group’s sixth studio album Black Market, released in March 1976. This was their first album to feature the amazing Jaco Pastorius who played electric fretless bass on two tracks, one of which was Cannon Ball. Other Weather Report members on this particular tune included Narada Michael Walden (drums) and Alex Acuña (congas, percussion). The group’s most successful album Heavy Weather was still one year away. They would record seven more records thereafter before disbanding in 1986.
Buddy Holly/Peggy Sue
Our next stop takes us back to February 1958 and one of my all-time favorite early rock & roll tunes: Peggy Sue by Buddy Holly. During his short seven-year career, this bespectacled young man from Lubbock, Tx. wrote and performed amazing songs, creating a legacy that lasts to this day. Holly also was one of the early adopters of the Fender Stratocaster. His 1957 appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show with his band The Crickets helped popularize the legendary electric guitar. Peggy Sue, co-written by Crickets drummer Jerry Allison and producer Norman Petty, appeared on what technically was Holly’s first eponymous solo album. For contractual reasons, his previous record, The “Chirping” Crickets, was credited to The Crickets, though the same band played on both releases. Holly may not have had Elvis Presley looks, but this man was a true rock & roll star!
Katrina and the Waves/Cry to Me
Time to slow things down by traveling to March 1985 and a great tune by Katrina and the Waves. Initially called The Waves, the British-American band is best known for their 1985 hit Walking On Sunshine, which interestingly went unnoticed when they first recorded it for their December 1983 debut. But things changed dramatically with a re-recorded version that became the lead single of the band’s eponymous third studio album from March 1985. That record also included Cry to Me. Like Walking On Sunshine, it was penned by Kimberley Rew, the group’s lead guitarist and backing vocalist. Katrina and the Waves would make, well, waves one more time in May 1997 when they won the Eurovision Song Contest with Love Shine a Light. But they were not able to follow up that success with another hit. Lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Katrina Leskanich left in 1998 after several disagreements with her bandmates, leading to the group’s dissolution in 1999.
Let’s return to the present and a furious rock & roll tune by Umbilicus – ‘who?’ you may wonder. I had the same reaction until I came across Hello Future the other day and was immediately hooked! According to this post and interview on Maximum Volume Music, Umbilicus came together in the summer of 2020. Drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz noted their love of rock and roll from the late 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s, citing Grand Funk, Bad Company and Steppenwolf among his influences, along with lesser-known bands like Sir Lord Baltimore and Lucifer’s Friend. Umbilicus also include Taylor Nordberg (guitar), Vernon Blake (bass) and Brian Stephenson (vocals). Hello Future, credited to all four members of the band, is from their debut album Path of 1000 Suns, which came out in September 2022. Damn!
The Band/The Weight
No Sunday Six can exclude the ’60s, so we shall set our time machine to July 1968 and a timeless classic by The Band: The Weight, off their debut studio album Music from Big Pink. Officially, the Canadian-American group was formed the previous year in Toronto, Canada, but its origins go back to 1957 when it was called The Hawks and backing Toronto-based rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins. From 1965 to 1967, the group was Bob Dylan’s touring band and also recorded various sessions with the maestro. By the time of Music from Big Pink, The Band featured Robbie Robertson (guitar, vocals), Garth Hudson (organ, piano, clavinet, saxophone), Richard Manuel (piano, organ, vocals), Rick Danko (bass, fiddle, vocals) and Levon Helm (drums, tambourine, vocals) – the line-up that would stay in place until they first broke up in 1978. The Weight, written by Robertson, also became a single in August 1968, backed by the 1967 Dylan song I Shall Be Released.
Delbert McClinton/Everytime I Roll the Dice
And once again another music trip is coming to an end. For our final stop, we go to April 1992 and Never Been Rocked Enough, a studio album by Delbert McClinton. Shout-out to Cincinnati Babyhead who digs and effectively introduced me to the roots artist from Texas. BTW, Clinton hails from the same town as Buddy Holly. Blending country, blues, soul and rock & roll, McClinton has been active since 1957. Long before recording as a singer, he became an accomplished harmonica player. McClinton was prominently featured on Hey! Baby, a 1962 no. 1 hit for fellow Texan Bruce Channel. It took him until the mid-’70s to establish himself as a solo artist. In 1980, his rendition of Jerry Lynn Williams’Giving It Up for Your Love reached no. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100, his only top 10 hit. Here’s Everytime I Roll the Dice, the excellent opener of the above-mentioned 1992 album, co-written by Max Barnes and Troy Seals.
Last but not least, here’s a Spotify playlist of the above tracks. Hope there’s something you like!
Sources: Wikipedia; Maximum Volume Music; YouTube; Spotify
A selection of newly released music that caught my attention
Welcome to another installment of my new music revue. Unless noted otherwise, the picks are from albums that appeared yesterday (March 24). As oftentimes is the case in this series, I’m completely new to all featured artists.
The Reds, Pinks and Purples/Life in the Void
The Reds, Pinks and Purples are an indie pop project launched in 2015 by San Francisco-based musician, singer-songwriter and producer Glenn Donaldson. According to an AllMusicbio, he is dedicated to the pristine melodies and unvarnished emotions of mid-period Sarah Records [a British independent record label that existed from 1987 to 1995 – CMM] and indie pop outsiders like East River Pipe. Working mostly alone, he released a string of singles and albums, like 2021’s exquisite Uncommon Weather, that showcase his laser-focused vision, intimate vocals, and unerring way with a hook. 2022’s Summer at Land’s End showed him expanding his musical reach to include the influence of the ethereal sounds of late-’80s 4AD bands like This Mortal Coil, while the next year’s The Town That Cursed Your Name [his fifth and latest album – CMM] drew from fuzzier, more earthbound college rock influences while the lyrics examined the turbulent lifestyle of trying to survive as a working musician. Before launching this project, Donaldson notably played in lo-fi psychedelic pop duo the Skygreen Leopards, the Television Personalities-loving Art Museums, and a host of other projects, like the heavy shoegaze duo Vacant Gardens and his lo-fi psych-folk project the Ivytree. Here’s Life in the Void, a melodic tune written by Donaldson, which instantly spoke to me!
Lankum are an Irish contemporary folk group from Dublin. Founded in 2000 by brothers Ian Lynch (vocals, uilleann pipes, concertina, tin whistle, percussion) and Daragh Lynch (vocals, guitar, percussion, piano), along with Cormac Mac Diarmada (vocals, fiddle, viola, banjo, double bass, vibraphone, piano, percussion) and Radie Peat (vocals, bayan, concertina, harmonium, organ, piano, electric organ, harp, mellotron), the band was initially known as Lynched. After changing their name in October 2016 to avoid associations with the practice of lynching, the group signed with Rough Trade Records in 2017 and released Between the Earth and Sky the same year, their first album as Lankum. That name comes from the folk ballad False Lankum by Irish traveler and folk singer John Reilly. False Lankum is also the title of the band’s new album, their third as Lankum. Here’s the beautiful Newcastle.
The New Death Cult/High + Low
Unlike their cheerful name may suggest, The New Death Cult aren’t some death metal outfit. Instead, the Norwegian group, according to their website, has been referred to as a brilliant mix between Queens of the Stone Age, Biffy Clyro and Muse, with their critically acclaimed self-titled debut album earning praise in The Guardian’s “50 New Artists for 2020” and single airplay on BBC1 Rock Show. The band has been touring with the likes of Wheel and Djerv while making several festival appearances, before heading to the studio to record their second album in Ocean Sound Recordings in May 2020. That new album, Super Natural, was released on March 17. High + Low is a nice melodic hard rock tune penned by vocalist and guitarist Jon Vegard Naess. Eirik Naess (lead guitar), Vegard Liverod (bass) and Anders Langset (drums) complete the band’s line-up. High + Low is a fantastic illustration that heavy-charging rock and great melodies can go in perfect harmony.
Sometimes good things take time. In the case of Los Angeles-based blues-rock & roll band Highway 61, it was 30 years between the group’s breakup in 1993 and the release of their debut album Driving South. From their bio, which was kindly provided by manager Gregg Bell of Wanted Management: Highway 61 began in the early ‘90s and tore it up on the Southern California club circuit alongside bands like B.B. Chung King & the Screaming Buddaheads, Marc Ford’s Burning Tree, and The Havalinas, yet they never managed to get that elusive major label record deal...After the band’s breakup, singer/guitarist Frank Meyer went on to form award-winning punk outfit The Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs…Despite Highway 61 calling it quits in 1993, the guys stayed friends and occasionally collaborated, but it took an unfortunate event to reunite the band. In 2020, as the pandemic hit, guitar player [Andy] Medway was diagnosed with Leukemia. After a year of chemotherapy, Medway had a bone marrow transplant, which required more than a year of recovery and isolation that was followed by a series of complications and setbacks... Inspired by the challenge, Medway started firing off ideas. Soon he and Meyer had written several songs, including the Driving South track “Black Magic,” which led to the reunion with [drummer and percussionist Mike] Knutson and [bassist and vocalist Russell] Loeffler. In summer 2022, the foursome reconvened for the first time in decades at Kitten Robot Studios in Los Angeles with producer Paul Roessler (The Screamers, 45 Grave, Nina Hagen) to make Driving South, which mixes doses of The Rolling Stones and Tom Petty with dashes of The Black Crowes and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Here’s the great-sounding lead single Stranger, which appeared on March 14. The album’s official release date is April 7, but it’s already available on streaming platforms as of yesterday.
Last but not least, following is a Spotify playlist of the above and some additional tunes by the featured artists.
Sources: Wikipedia; AllMusic; The New Death Cult website; YouTube; Spotify
The band from East L.A. shines at Pollak Theatre in New Jersey
Until a few years ago, I only had known Los Lobos because of their 1987 rendition of Ritchie Valens’La Bamba. The title track of the motion picture about the Mexican-American Chicano rock & roll star topped the charts in the U.S. and many other countries around the world. While they disappeared from the charts almost as quickly as they had conquered them, Los Lobos continued to record great music and perform live. This year, they are celebrating their 50th anniversary with an extended U.S. tour. I was fortunate to catch their gig last Friday at Pollak Theatre, a 700-seat performance venue on the campus of Monmouth Univesity in West Long Branch, N.J.
Before getting to the great concert, I’d like to provide a bit of background on the group. Los Lobos, who blend rock & roll, Tex-Mex, country, zydeco, folk, R&B, blues and soul with traditional Spanish music like cumbia, bolero and norteño, were founded by David Hidalgo (vocals, guitar) and Louie Pérez (drums) in East Los Angeles, Calif. in 1973. When Hidalgo and Pérez met in high school, they realized they liked the same artists, such as Fairport Convention, Randy Newman and Ry Cooder. Subsequently, they asked their fellow students Frank Gonzalez (vocals, mandolin, arpa jarocha), Cesar Rosas (vocals, guitar, bajo sexto) and Conrad Lozano (bass, guitarron, vocals) to join them, completing the band’s first line-up.
In early 1978, the group, then still known as Los Lobos del Este de Los Angeles, self-released their eponymous debut album in Spanish. By the time of their October 1984 sophomore album and first major label release, How Will the Wolf Survive?, they had shortened their name to Los Lobos and started to write songs in English. Then, the group featured Hidalgo, Pérez, Rosas, Lozano and Steve Berlin (keyboards, woodwinds) who had joined in 1982, the same members Los Lobos have to this day – how many other bands can you name who have had a constant line-up for 40 years?
To date, Los Lobos have released 17 studio albums, four live records, three compilations and a couple of EPs. Their most recent album, Native Sons from July 2021, is largely a covers collection, which I reviewed here. It won a Grammy Award for Best Americana album in April 2022, the group’s fourth Grammy so far. Time to turn to the concert!
In some regards, writing this review is a bit of a challenge, since I’m only familiar with some of Los Lobos’ music. Moreover, if you check setlist.fm, you quickly notice the band varies their setlists from gig to gig – one sign of their great musicianship. As of the writing of this post, no setlist for this specific gig has been posted on setlist.fm. Thanks to notes I took on my phone during the show and some research, I’ve been able to figure out 60 percent of the songs they played- not too shabby I suppose.
Based on my insights, Los Lobos’ setlist spanned their entire career. Apart from their own songs, they played a number of covers, drawing on the studio albums How Will the Wolf Survive? (1984), The Neighborhood (1990), Kiko (1992), Colossal Head (1996), The Ride (2004), The Town and the City (2006) and Native Sons (2021), among others. The band not only demonstrated great musicianship but also their stylistic versatility, including rock, blues, Tex Mex, cumbia, pop and jazz.
Los Lobos kicked off the show with Is This All There Is?, co-written by Hidalgo and Pérez. The mid-tempo rocker is from their 2004 studio album The Ride, which featured numerous guests. For this tune, it was Little Willie G. (Willie Garcia) of Thee Midniters, one of the first successful Chicano rock bands. Check out Steve Berlin’s massive saxophone and its crunchy sound – I love it!
Chuco’s Cumbia, penned by Rosas, is a great example of a groovy Latin tune by Los Lobos. Cumbia is a folkloric genre and dance from Columbia. Originally, the song appeared on their 12th studio album The Town and the City, released in September 2006.
Another great performance was Love Special Delivery, a garage rock tune originally recorded by Thee Midniters in 1966. Los Lobos included a nice cover on the aforementioned Native Sons album.
To me, a highlight of the night was Kiko and the Lavender Moon, an original I’ve come to dig. Another one was a fantastic cover of Cream’sPolitician, which I missed capturing. Co-written by Hidalgo and Pérez as well, Kiko and the Lavender Moon tune was included on Kiko, the sixth studio album by Los Lobos, released in May 1992. It’s an unusual song with traces of retro jazz and a Latin groove. I’ve heard nothing like it before.
Next, I’d like to highlight a one-two punch, starting with Don’t Worry Baby, one of my favorite Los Lobos tunes, off their above-mentioned October 1984 sophomore album How Will the Wolf Survive? The smoking blues-rocker was co-written by Rosas, Pérez and the album’s co-producer, T-Bone Burnett. Immediately following is Mas y Mas, another great rock song half sung in Spanish, half in English. This track is from their 1996 album Colossal Head. The wolves were fully unleashed!
And then the time had come for the encore: a nice medley of La Bamba, which I had not intended to record initially, but I started and then just kept going, especially when I noticed the combination with Good Lovin’. The latter was co-written by Rudy Clark and Arthur Resnick and became a no. 1 single for The Young Rascals in 1966.
Following is a partial setlist: • Is This All There Is? • Emily • Chuco’s Cumbia • Misery • A Matter of Time • Love Special Delivery (Thee Midniters cover) • Politician (Cream cover) • Kiko and the Lavender Moon • Don’t Worry Baby • Mas y Mas Encore: • Medley: La Bamba (Ritchie Valens cover) & Good Lovin’ (The Young Rascals cover)
Eight tracks are missing from the above setlist.
Getting a ticket for Los Lobos was a relatively spontaneous decision, which I’m glad I made since I had not seen them before, plus it was pretty affordable. Since the show, Los Lobos played The Gordon Center of the Performing Arts in Owings Mills, Md. and The Paramount Theatre in Charlottesville, Va. Tonight, they perform at The Ramkat in Winston-Salem, N.C. Then they are taking a short break before heading to Arizona where they play the Fox Tucson Theatre in Tucson (March 10) and the Chandler Center for the Arts in Chandler (March 11). The full tour schedule is here. If you like their music, I can recommend seeing them.
After having published this blog for more than six and a half years, a post on Little Richard’s debut album may seem to come out of left field, given my previously expressed longtime love of ’50s rock & roll. Moreover, it’s not the first time I’m writing about Richard and some of the songs on that album, Here’s Little Richard. In this case, the trigger was a cover of Long Tall Sally I heard yesterday by Delbert McClinton, who was on my radar screen thanks to fellow bloggers Max (PowerPop) and Cincinnati Babyhead, aka CB. As such, blame them if you don’t like it! 🙂
McClinton’s above rendition of Long Tall Sally appears on his most recent album Outdated Emotion from May 2022, a great covers collection of old blues, rock & roll and country songs. While he does a nice job with this rock & roll classic, it made me think of the incredible original and that nobody I know has done it better than Little Richard – not even my all-time favorite band The Beatles, though I dig their rendition as well. One thing led to another, and I found myself listening to Richard’s original, followed by the entire record – and, holy cow, what an album!
When Here’s Little Richard was released in March 1957, it was advertised as “six of Little Richard’s hits and six brand new songs of hit calibre.” ‘Okay,’ you might think, ‘so it’s more of an early greatest hits record combined with a few additional tunes.’ True, though putting previously released singles on a record was quite common back in the day. Plus, in any case, this doesn’t change the fact it’s a record packed with amazing music I’m thrilled to write about!
In September 1955, Richard signed with Specialty Records after he had sent a demo there and the label’s owner Art Rupe loaned him money to buy out his contract with his current label Peacock. Rupe also hooked up Richard with producer Robert “Bumps” Blackwell. Wikipedia notes that apart from overseeing Richard’s early hits, Blackwell is best known as grooming Ray Charles, Quincy Jones, Ernestine Anderson, Lloyd Price, Sam Cooke, Herb Alpert, Larry Williams and Sly and the Family Stone at the start of their music careers.
In October 1955, Tutti Frutti backed by I’m Just a Lonely Guy became Richard’s debut single for Specialty Records and his first-charting song in the U.S. Five more singles followed prior to the release of Here’s Little Richard, including three that were included on the album: Long Tall Sally/Slippin’ and Slidin’ (March 1956), Rip It Up/Reddy Teddy (June 1956) and Heeby-Jeebies/She’s Got It (October 1956). The album, which was recorded in New Orleans and Los Angeles, was Specialty’s first 12-inch LP. Let’s take a closer look at some of the goodies!
First is Tutti Frutti, a song I had first heard and come to love by Elvis Presley. Written by Richards in 1955 while working as a dishwasher at a Greyhound bus station in his hometown of Macon, Ga., the tune was credited to Richard Penniman (Richard’s birth name was Richard Wayne Penniman) and Dorothy LaBostrie who had been asked by Blackwell to revise some of Richard’s original lyrics, which Blackwell felt were too racy. “Awap bop a lup bop a wop bam boom” was kind of his catch phrase, something he would reply to folks who asked him how he was doing, according to Songfacts.
True, Fine Mama was one of the six “brand new tunes”. Solely penned by Richard, it didn’t become a hit, as far as I know. It also wasn’t released as a single. That said, the tune’s beginning sounds exactly like Good Golly, Miss Molly, which first appeared as a single in January 1958 and became another hit for Richard. Both tunes are great examples of his frenetic piano playing. You can literally picture him beating the crap out of the piano keyboard.
On Can’t Believe You Wanna Leave, written by Leo Price, Richard sounds like Fats Domino. It’s safe to assume this wasn’t a coincidence. Richard liked Domino’s sound and also thought of him highly otherwise. In October 2027 in the wake of Domino’s death, he toldBillboard that “He’s the greatest entertainer that I ever known. Black, white, red, brown or yellow, he’s a just good guy and I thank God for giving me the opportunity to know him. I love him.”
Next up is the song that inspired this post, which I simply couldn’t skip. Long Tall Sally, another tune Richard wrote during his time as a dishwasher for Greyhound, was credited to him, Blackwell and Enotris Johnson. It became his biggest hit, topping the R&B chart and climbing to no. 6 on the pop chart in the U.S., while reaching no. 3 in the UK. SongfactsnotesThere really was a “Long Tall Sally,” but she was not a cross-dresser as sometimes reported. Little Richard explained that Sally was a friend of the family who was always drinking whiskey – she would claim to have a cold and would drink hot toddies all day. He described her as tall and ugly, with just two teeth and cockeyed. She was having an affair with John, who was married to Mary, who they called “Short Fat Fanny.” John and Mary would get in fights on the weekends, and when he saw her coming, he would duck back into a little alley to avoid her. Man, that tune is cooking – I simply can’t listen to it without starting to move. And if I ever do it means I’m probably dead!
Miss Ann, credited to Penniman and Johnson, is another example of a brand new tune. According to Songfacts, Some of Little Richard’s songs are based on real experiences, and this one is about a woman named Ann Johnson. Along with her husband Enotris Johnson, Ann, who was a white woman from Macon Georgia, took in Little Richard after he was kicked out of his house for what Richard once claimed was because of his homosexuality. The Johnson’s ran the Tick Tock Club, where Richard first performed. I wonder whether the personal connection is a reason why Entrois Johnson received a writing credit for the tune.
The last song I’d like to call out is Jenny Jenny, which if I see it correctly still was new when the album appeared. It was credited to Penniman and Johnson as well. Unlike the other new songs, Jenny Jenny also became one of Richard’s highest-charting tunes, similar to Long Tall Sally. In the U.S., it peaked at no. 2 on the R&B chart and climbed to no. 10 on the mainstream chart. In the UK, it reached no. 11.
Here’s Little Richard is a breathtaking record full of energy, which still sounds great nearly 66 years after its release. I recall I previously wrote Chuck Berry’s 1959 album Chuck Berry Is On Top might as well be titled ‘The Greatest Hits of Classic Rock & Roll’. Frankly, I think Little Richard’s debut belongs in the same category. So perhaps Berry’s album could be called ‘The Greatest Hits of Guitar-Driven Rock & Roll’, while an alternate title for Richard’s debut could be ‘The Greatest Hits of Piano-Driven Rock & Roll’. I guess it doesn’t really matter.
I should also call out the dynamite musicians who backed Richard on the album. Some include Lee Allen (tenor saxophone), Alvin “Red” Tyler (baritone saxophone), Edgar Blanchard (guitar), Frank Fields (bass) and Earl Palmer (drums), who were all leading figures of New Orleans rock and roll and R&B. Allen later became a member of The Blasters. Palmer was one of the most prolific session musicians who played on thousands of albums. His obituary by The Associated Press from September 2008 noted Little Richard said that Palmer “was probably the greatest session drummer of all time,” citing Richard’s autobiography and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s website rockhall.com.
Last but not least, here’s a Spotify link to the album. Hope you dig it as much as I do!
Sources: Wikipedia; Songfacts; Billboard; Associated Press/New York Times; YouTube; Spotify
Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time
Welcome to another Sunday Six. I can’t believe we’ve already made it through the first month of 2023. I hope you’re feeling groovy and are in the mood for some time travel into the magic world of music. As always, the trip includes six stops in different decades. Fasten your seatbelt and let’s go!
Barney Kessel/A Foggy Day
Our journey today starts in 1956 with American jazz guitarist Barney Kessel, a name I first heard from my brother-in-law in the late ’70s or early ’80s, then still my sister’s boyfriend. Kessel, who was active from the early ’40s until the early ’90s when a stroke put an end to his career, was particularly known for chord-based melodies. He was a sought-after session guitarist who worked with many other jazz greats, such as Charlie Parker, Oscar Peterson and Ray Brown. During the ’60s, Kessel was a member of the prominent LA-based session group The Wrecking Crew, playing on recordings by The Monkees, The Beach Boys and others. Eventually, he left studio work to focus on his jazz career, both as a solo artist and sideman. In 1973, Kessel also co-founded Great Guitars, a jazz supergroup with fellow jazz guitarists Charlie Byrd and Herb Ellis. A Foggy Day, composed by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin, is a track from Kessel’s 1956 album Kessel Plays Standards. Check out this amazing guitar tone!
Donald Fagen/The Nightfly
Let’s next jump to October 1982 and The Nightfly by Donald Fagen. His solo debut and first release without his longtime Steely Dan collaborator Walter Becker remains my favorite Fagen album. The Nightfly came 16 months after Fagen and Becker had dissolved Steely Dan in the wake of the Gaucho album, whose recording had been hampered by numerous creative, personal and professional setbacks. Fagen’s first solo album touches on topics from his childhood in the late ’50s and early ’60s, including late-night jazz disc jockeys, fallout shelters and tropical vacations. As such, it is very autobiographical, unlike his earlier compositions for the Dan. Notably, due to writer’s block, it would take Fagen 10 years to release his second solo album Kamakiriad, which was produced by Walter Becker who also contributed guitar and bass. It also led to a supporting tour of Fagen and Becker, their first as Steely Dan since 1974. Coming back to The Nightfly, here’s the great title track.
Etta James/At Last
Time to pay a visit to the ’60s and the debut album by Etta James, an amazing vocalist who over a nearly 60-year career performed in multiple genres, such as gospel, blues, jazz, R&B, rock and roll and soul. James had an eventful life and career, which included heroin addiction, severe physical abuse and incarceration. In spite of her struggles, except for an eight-year gap in the ’80s, James released albums at a pretty steady pace. Following her 1988 comeback album Seven Year Itch, James received multiple recognitions, including inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1993), Grammy Hall of Fame (1999) and Blues Hall of Fame (2001), as well as a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (2003). Sadly, James passed away from leukemia in January 2012, five days prior to what would have been her 74th birthday. Let’s celebrate this outstanding artist with the title track of her very first album At Last! Co-written by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren for the 1941 musical film Sun Valley Serenade, the tune was first recorded by Glenn Miller and his Orchestra, becoming a no. 2 on the U.S. pop chart in 1942. James’ beautiful rendition, one of her best-known songs, reached no. 47 on the U.S. pop chart and no. 2 on the R&B chart. What a voice!
Ry Cooder/Little Sister
Our next stop is July 1979, which saw the release of Bop Till You Drop, the eighth studio album by Ry Cooder. If I recall it correctly, the first time I heard about him was in connection with the 1984 Wim Wenders picture Paris, Texas, for which Cooder wrote the score – one of the best acoustic slide guitar-playing I know. Cooder is a versatile artist who in addition to 17 film scores has released a similar amount of solo albums since his 1970 eponymous debut. Over his 55-year-and-counting career, Cooder has also collaborated with numerous other artists like John Lee Hooker, The Rolling Stones, Randy Newman, Linda Ronstadt and David Lindley. Bop Till You Drop, yet another album to which my then-bandmate and longtime music buddy from Germany introduced me, mostly is a collection of R&B and rock & roll covers. This includes the opener Little Sister, penned by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman and first recorded by Elvis Presley in 1961. While I dig that version, especially Hank Garland’s lead guitar, I like Ray Cooder’s soulful rendition even more!
Matthew Sweet/I Belong to You
I don’t know about you, but I’m in the mood for some sweet power pop. This takes us to the current century, more specifically May 2018 and Tomorrow’s Daughter, the 13th studio album by Matthew Sweet. I first came across the singer-songwriter in January 2021 when his most recent studio album Catspaw appeared, and featured one of the tunes in a Best of What’s Newinstallment. After playing in various bands in the ’80s and releasing two unrecognized solo records (Inside, 1986; and Earth 1989), Sweet achieved commercial breakthrough with his third studio album Girlfriend, which came out in October 1991 and to date is one of two records that reached Gold certification in the U.S. Between 2006 and 2013, Sweet collaborated on a series of cover albums (Under the Covers Vol. 1 – Vol. 3) with Susanna Hoffs of The Bangles. I featured two of their great renditions in previous Sunday Six installments here and here. From the above-noted Tomorrow’s Daughter, here’s I Belong to You, a lovely pop rock tune.
Before yet another musical journey comes to an end, let’s visit one more tune. The year is 1992 and the month is October. That’s when American band Mudhoney came out with their fourth studio album Piece of Cake. Formed in Seattle in 1988, the group is viewed as instrumental in creating grunge and an inspiration for many other bands who embraced that genre, as well as alternative rock. Mudhoney are still active and have released 10 studio albums to date. A new one, Plastic Eternity, is in the can and scheduled for April 7. At the time they recorded Piece of Cake, their only charting album in the U.S. on the Billboard 200 to date, Mudhoney featured Mark Arm (vocals, guitar, organ, piano), Steve Turner (guitar, harmonica, banjo, vocals) and Dan Peters (drums, percussion, vocals), who remain part of the current lineup, and Matt Lutkin (bass, vocals) who was replaced by Guy Maddison in 2001. Here’s Blinding Sun, credited to all members of the band at the time. I like their garage sound.
Last but not least, below is a Spotify playlist of the above goodies. As always, I hope there’s something here you enjoy!
Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time
Happy Sunday and I hope everybody is doing well. Earlier this week, the passing of David Crosby at age 81 once again reminded us we shouldn’t take music artists of his generation who fortunately are still with us for granted. One consolation is their great music will live on as long as this planet exists – that’s one of the incredible beauties of this art form. Let’s celebrate with another excursion into the amazing world of music with six tunes and, yes, Crosby will be one of our stops.
Today, our trip starts in 1960 with groovy music by Bobby Timmons. The American jazz pianist and composer, who started performing during the first half of the ’50s, was best known as a member of Art Blakey’s band The Jazz Messengers, who he first joined in 1958. After his initial stint with this group, he moved on to Cannonball Adderley’s band in October 1959. Timmons was instrumental in creating soul jazz, a subgenre blending influences from hard bop, blues, soul, gospel and R&B. Several of his well-known compositions were written while he was playing with the two aforementioned bands. One is Moanin’, which first appeared as the title track on a 1958 album by The Jazz Messengers. I’m featuring a version Timmons subsequently recorded for an album released under his name in 1960, This Is Here Is Bobby Timmons. On his first album as the sole leader, Timmons was backed by Sam Jones (bass) and Jimmy Cobb (drums).
Let’s jump to the ’80s for our next stop and The Rainmakers, an American pop rock band from Kansas City. When my former bandmate and longtime music buddy from Germany first introduced me to them with their third studio album Tornado, released in 1987, I instantly loved their jangly guitar sound. Formed in 1983 as a three-piece bar band and fronted by singer-songwriter Bob Walkenhorst, The Rainmakers have put out seven studio albums to date. While their most recent release, Cover Band, dates back to 2015, The Rainmakers still appear to be around as a touring act. After two breakup periods from 1990 to 1994 and 1998 to 2011, the band has been together in their original lineup since 2011. In addition to Walkenhorst (guitar, vocals), their current members include Jeff Porter (guitar, vocals), Rich Ruth (bass, vocals) and Pat Tomek (drums). Here’s the seductive Rainmaker, off the aforementioned Tornado album.
Little Village/Take Another Look
Little Village were a supergroup founded in 1991 by Ry Cooder (guitar, vocals), John Hiatt (guitar, piano, vocals), Nick Lowe (bass, vocals) and Jim Keltner (drums). They had worked together on Hiatt’s eighth solo album Bring the Family (May 1987) and decided to form a dedicated band during a break from their own musical projects. Like most supergroups, Little Village were short-lived and only released one eponymous album in February 1992. After a supporting tour of the U.S. and Europe, they disbanded later that same year. While the album didn’t do well commercially, it received a nomination for the 1993 Grammy Award for Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or a Group. The record also peaked at no. 23 on the UK Albums Chart. Here’s Take Another Look, credited to Little Village and featuring Lowe on lead vocals.
Grateful Dead/Shakedown Street
Time to pay a visit to the ’70s with a funky tune by the Grateful Dead. While in July 2018, I jokingly declared I had evolved to become a Deadhead from a bonehead, the reality is my knowledge of the Dead remains fairly limited and mostly includes their earlier albums. As such, I had completely forgotten about Shakedown Street, the groovy title track of their 10th studio album from November 1978, produced by the great Lowell George who is best known as the original frontman of Little Feat. Composed by Jerry Garcia with lyrics by longtime collaborator Robert Hunter, the tune also appeared separately as a single, but like most of their other singles, it was dead on arrival and didn’t chart anywhere. The album performed better, reaching no. 41 and no. 42 in the U.S. and Canada, respectively. I guess the Dead were never about chart success in the first place. Regardless, I dig this funky tune, which soundwise reminds me a bit of 10cc’sDreadlock Holiday. That tune predated Shakedown Street by about four months.
Los Lobos/Made to Break Your Heart
Our journey continues in the current century. We’re going to September 2015, which saw the release of Gates of Gold, the 15th studio album by Los Lobos. I would argue this group blending rock & roll, Tex-Mex, country, zydeco, folk, R&B, blues, brown-eyed soul, and traditional music such as cumbia, boleros and norteños, is not just another band from East L.A. where they were founded in 1973 as Los Lobos del Este de Los Angeles. They are also much more than La Bamba, their great rendition of the tune first popularized by Ritchie Valens. It became a no. 1 single for Los Lobos in the U.S. and many other countries in 1987 and remains their best-known song. They remain active to this day and released their most recent album Native Sons in late July 2021. I reviewed it here at the time. For now, let’s listen to Made to Break Your Heart. Co-written by David Hidalgo and Louie Pérez, two of the four co-founding members who are still with Los Lobos, the tune is the opener of the above-mentioned Gates of Gold.
Crosby, Stills & Nash/Long Time Gone
Time to wrap up another trip and come back to celebrate the music by David Crosby. In order to do that, let’s go back to May 1969 and the eponymous debut album by Crosby, Stills & Nash. Crosby who was a brilliant musician but had a volatile character co-founded CSN in 1968 together with Stephen Stills and Graham Nash, after he had been dismissed from the Byrds. With Nash joining from The Hollies and Stills coming from the dissolved Buffalo Springfield, CSN are an early example of a supergroup. They became even “more super” when Neil Young joined them as a fourth member in August 1969, just ahead of Woodstock. Among my favorite tunes on CSN’s debut is Long Time Gone, one of the album’s two songs solely penned by Crosby. Another gem on the record, Wooden Ships, was co-written by him, Stills and Paul Kantner. Stills also joined Crosby on lead vocals for Long Time Gone.
Last but not least, here’s a Spotify playlist of the above songs. As always, I hope there’s something that tickles your fancy.