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.
By now it’s safe to assume folks have heard of Tina Turner’s passing yesterday (April 24) at age 83 at her home near Zurich, Switzerland. While neither a notification on Turner’s Facebook page nor a statement by her publicist provided the cause, she had been in poor health in recent years. Based on concerts in Germany and the U.S. in 1985 and 1993, respectively, the Queen of Rock & Roll was among the most energetic performers I’ve seen to date, together with Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and U2.
This post is all about celebrating Tina Turner’s music, which will stay with us. In case you are looking for a traditional obituary, you have plenty of other choices, such as The New York Times, CNN or Rolling Stone. My focus will be on six tunes from Turner’s 40-year-plus performing career, followed by a Spotify playlist of these and some additional songs.
River Deep – Mountain High (1966)
River Deep – Mountain High is one of my favorite tunes Tina Turner recorded with her then-husband Ike Turner as Ike & Tina Turner. Written by producer Phil Spector, together with Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, River Deep – Mountain High was first released as a single in May 1966 as the title track of a studio album by Ike & Tina Turner. That album first appeared in the UK in September 1966 and three years later was also issued in the U.S.
Private Dancer (1984)
Private Dancer is the title track of Turner’s fifth solo and comeback album released in May 1984. The tune, penned by then-Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler, was one of multiple hit singles from what became Turner’s best-selling album with more than 12 million copies sold worldwide. It catapulted her to international stardom as a solo artist – eight years after she had fled from her abusive husband with just 36 cents and a Mobil card.
Proud Mary (1971)
Ike & Tina Turner’s version of Proud Mary is one of the best remakes I can think of. The song was written by John Fogerty who first recorded it with his band Creedence Clearwater Revival for their second studio album Bayou Country, released in January 1969. The tune also appeared as a single at the same time and became one of CCR’s biggest hits, climbing to no. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Ike and Tina Turner’s version, which was included on their 1970 studio album Workin’ Together, did nearly as well, peaking at no. 4 on the U.S. pop chart. Unlike CCR, it also won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Group in 1972.
What You Get Is What You See (1986)
When it comes to Tina Turner’s solo career, I tend to favor her rock over her more pop-oriented songs. One tune in this context is What You Get Is What You See, off her sixth solo studio album Break Every Rule, which came out in September 1986. Turner’s follow-on to Private Dancer was another major internal chart and commercial success. What You Get Is What You See, co-written by Terry Bitten and Graham Lyle and produced by Bitten, also became the album’s third single in February 1987.
Acid Queen (1975)
Turner recorded Acid Queen as the title track of her second solo album released in August 1975. The tune was written by Pete Townshend and first appeared as The Acid Queen on The Who’s rock opera album Tommy from May 1969. A different recording of the song was also included on the March 1975 soundtrack album to the 1975 film Tommy, in which Turner starred as the Acid Queen. Her second solo album was inspired by that performance.
Nutbush City Limits (live) (1988)
The last track I’d like to highlight is a killer live version of Nutbush City Limits that was included on Turner’s first live solo album Tina Live in Europe. Notably, part of that album was recorded at Westfalenhalle in Dortmund, Germany on April 14, 1985 – one of the above-mentioned Tina Turner shows I attended! Written by Tina Turner, the semi-autobiographical tune about her rural hometown of Nutbush, Tenn. was the title track of a 1973 studio album by Ike & Tina Turner. It also became the duo’s most successful single and one of the last hits they released together.
Here’s the aforementioned Spotify playlist of the above and some additional tunes. The Queen of Rock & Roll sadly has left us, but her music will continue to reign!
Sources: Wikipedia; Tina Turner Facebook page; YouTube; Spotify
First new album in seven years tackles life, love and politics
Let me get to the point right away. Graham Nash sounds absolutely amazing on Now, his seventh solo album and first in seven years, which came out last Friday (May 19). Prior to Now, sadly, I only knew Nash as a brilliant member of Crosby, Stills & Nash, sometimes enhanced by Neil Young, as well The Hollies. Unlike Young and to some extent Crosby, I didn’t follow Nash’s solo career, which he launched in 1971. That will change now – no pun intended!
“I find myself in between totally in love and totally pissed off,” Nash toldBillboard in what could be called a perfect summary of the album. The feelings of love refer to artist and photographer Amy Grantham who Nash married in April 2019 after leaving his second wife, American voice actress Susan Sennett in 2016. The “pissed” aspect reflects Nash’s activist side, which is still burning in his belly, 50-plus years after he wrote Chicago to support the so-called “Chicago Eight” who were charged with conspiracy over anti-Vietnam War protests disrupting the 1968 Democratic National Convention in the windy city.
Let’s take a closer look at Nash’s new set of songs. He kicks it off with what essentially is the album’s title track Right Now. The nice mid-tempo rocker also became the lead single on February 21. In a press release record label BMG issed at the time, Nash said, “I believe that my new album Now is the most personal one I have ever made.” I particularly love the guitar action by Shane Fontayne and Thad DeBrock, as well as the work by Todd Caldwell, Nash’s longtime keyboardist who also produced the album.
On A Better Life, Nash asks parents to leave a better life for their children. The inter-generational message is somewhat reminiscent of Teach Your Children, a song Nash wrote in 1968 while still being a member of The Hollies. It first appeared in March 1970 on Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’sDéjà Vu album. Nash’s vocals sound sweet, especially when he harmonizes with himself!
On the country-flavored Stars & Stripes, a tune with a CSN vibe and beautiful pedal steel work by DeBrock, Nash muses about the seemingly never-ending conflict and division among people. At the same time, he’s not entirely pessimistic. “Thank God that I do live in America – a very beautiful country with many faults, and so much more going for it.” Nash toldVariety. “I know that here that I have the right to speak my mind, even if people don’t agree with me.” Let’s hope that will always continue to be the case!
Stand Up, a second single that appeared ahead of the album, is another tune revealing Nash’s activist side by asking people to play an active role in society, not sit on the sidelines: Stand up for what you believe/Stand up for those you love/Stand up for what you want/Stand up for what you need/stand up, take a stand/ lend a hand, if you can.
Buddy’s Back is a beautiful tribute to the amazing Buddy Holly. Appropriately, the tune features vocals by Allan Clarke, who together with Nash co-founded a duo in the late 1950s, which in 1962 evolved into The Deltas, a band that in December of the same year renamed themselves as The Hollies. The name reflected their admiration for Hollie. Obviously, the tune’s Buddy Holly vibe isn’t a coincidence. Man, I love this!
The last track I’d like to call out is I Watched It All Come Down. According to Billboard, the album’s oldest track addresses Nash’s “occasionally turbulent relationships with Crosby, Stills and Young.” Nash explained, “Basically, it’s about my delight with the music that we made all these years and dissatisfaction because we could’ve done more.” The pretty string quintet arranged by Cladwell gives the tune a chamber pop feel.
“I just want people to know you can still rock at 81,” Nash said to Billboard. “I’m 81 now, for f–k’s sake! Holy sh-t! And I’m very happy in my life. I’ve been around a long time, as you know. I’ve made some fine music in my life, with my fantastic musical partners. And I feel there’s still more of it coming.” Here’s a Spotify link to the album:
And, btw, Nash doesn’t keep it to new music only. Since mid-April, he has been on the road for the Sixty Years of Songs & Stories Tour. I completely missed it, including the recent opportunity to see him in New York City where he played City Winery for three consecutive nights! Upcoming dates in June include gigs in California, Arizona and Colorado. The current schedule is here.
A selection of newly released music that caught my attention
Evidently, yesterday (May 19) was a popular day for new music releases. I also found more than 10 songs I could have highlighted in this latest installment of my weekly new music revue, to which I’d like to welcome you. Let’s get to it!
Kicking things off is country singer-songwriter Brandy Clark. To date, she has released three albums starting with her 2013 debut 12 Stories. Her songs have also been recorded by Sheryl Crow, Miranda Lambert, The Band Perry, Reba McEntire and Kacey Musgraves, among others. Off her latest self-titled album here’s Ain’t Enough Rocks, co-written by Clack, Jessie Jo Dillon and Jimmy Robbins – a great tune featuring cool slide guitar action by the amazing Derek Trucks!
Leftover Salmon/Fire and Brimstone (feat. Oliver Wood)
Leftover Salmon are a bluegrass and country-oriented jam band from Boulder, Colo. Since their formation in 1989, they have released eight studio albums, including their new one, Grass Roots. Here’s their cover of Fire and Brimstone, a tune penned by guitarist Link Wray who also first recorded it for his 1971 self-titled studio album. In 1958, Wray’s instrumental Rumble became one of the earliest songs in rock to utilize distortion and tremolo. Leftover Salmon’s rendition features Oliver Wood, of roots band The Wood Brothers. I can hear some Leon Russell in here!
GracieHorse/If You’re Gonna Walk That Straight Line Son, It’s Only Gonna Hurt
Other than she’s an indie artist who evidently has written for at least a decade and who just released a country-flavored debut album, it’s not clear to me who exactly GracieHorse is. From her Bandcamppage: Gracie Horse weaves stories into her songs. On L.A. Shit, her debut record with Wharf Cat, she takes us into the past half a decade of her life…It’s a record of immaculate country music…It’s also a vulnerable record, full of lyrics about the intensity of being alive, all told with a sense of humor and self-awareness. Here’s a cool-sounding tune with an impossibly long title: If You’re Gonna Walk That Straight Line Son, It’s Only Gonna Hurt.
Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives/Sitting Alone
American country and bluegrass singer Marty Stuart has been active since the late 1960s. Initially working as a touring musician with Lester Flatt and Johnny Cash, Stuart launched his recording career in 1978 with Marty (With A Little Help From My Friends). He has since released 18 additional albums, including his latest, Altitude, appearing as Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives. Let’s check out Sitting Alone, penned by Stuart, which has a bit of a Tom Petty vibe – love it!
PONY are a grungy power pop group from Toronto, Canada, led by singer-songwriter and guitarist Sam Bielanski. According to their AllMusicbio, their melodic strain of guitar pop is rooted in early-’90s grunge and classic indie pop. After a series of singles and EPs, they released their full-length debut album TV Baby in April 2021. PONY are now out with their sophomore album Velveteen and here’s the catchy Très Jolie.
Graham Nash/Golden Idols
My last pick for this week is by an artist I trust needs no introduction. Graham Nash who in February turned 81 just released Now, his first new solo album in seven years. It’s also the most personal he has ever made, according to a couple of reviews I’ve seen, for example, this one in Ultimate Classic Rock. Boy, does he sound great, both vocally and musically! And he also has a lot to say, about life, love and politics. I think these won’t be my final words about what looks like a late-career gem. For now, here’s Golden Idols, showing Nash still has some activist fire in the belly!
Of course, this post wouldn’t be complete without a Spotify playlist of the above and a few additional tracks.
Last week (May 11), Eric Burdon turned 82 years. Since the first moment I heard him I’ve always thought he’s one of the most compelling white blues vocalists. It also reminded me of a post I published in February 2019. Here it is again with the added bonus of a Spotify playlist at the end. Yes, it’s a bit of a beast! 🙂
Tumultuous Path Of A Journeyman And Survivor
For more than 50 years, Eric Burdon has been one of rock’s most distinctive vocalists
Oftentimes, I feel the best blog ideas are inspired by a previous post. In this case, it was my writing about great covers performed by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, which included I’m Crying by The Animals. The tune reminded me of Eric Burdon and a voice I’ve always felt was made for singing the blues. Just like many other blues artists or more generally those who started out during the ’60s and ’70s, Burdon has experienced it all, from the highest high to the deepest low and everything else in-between. Unlike many fellow artists, he’s still there, which I think makes him one of the ultimate survivors.
Eric Victor Burdon was born on May 11, 1941, in the northeastern English industrial town of Newcastle upon Tyne. His upbringing in a lower-class working family was rough. Burdon started smoking at the age of 10 and skipping school with friends to drink beer. He described his early school years as a Dickens novel-like “dark nightmare,” which included bullying, sexual molestation and sadistic teachers hitting kids with a leather strap. While his father Matt Burdon struggled as an electric repairman, this allowed the family to have a TV by the time Eric was 10. Yet again the TV sparking it all!
Seeing Louis Armstrong on the tube triggered Burdon’s initial interest in music, first in the trombone, then in singing. The next decisive stage in his life was secondary school and a teacher named Bertie Brown who helped him get into the local art college. There he met John Steele, the original drummer of The Animals. They ended up playing in a band called The Pagan Jazzmen. By early 1959, keyboardist Alan Price had joined. After a few iterations and name changes, the band evolved into The Animals in 1962.
The initial lineup featured Burdon (lead vocals), Steele (drums), Price (keyboards), Hilton Valentine (guitar) and Chas Chandler (bass), who later became the manager of Jimi Hendrix. Between September and December 1963, The Animals developed a following in Newcastle by playing local clubs there. During that period, Burdon met some of his blues heroes, including John Lee Hooker and Sonny Boy Williamson. The Animals also backed Williamson during a local gig.
In December 1963, The Animals recorded their first single Baby Let Me Take You Home. It climbed to a respectable no. 22 on the UK singles chart. But it was the second single, The House Of The Rising Sun from June 1964, which brought the big breakthrough, topping the charts in the UK, U.S., Canada and Sweden. It also started the beginning of the band’s demise when the arrangement of the traditional was only credited to Price who collected all the songwriting royalties.
The band’s first studio album The Animals appeared in the U.S. in September 1964. Their British debut record followed two months later. As was quite common at the time, the track listing between the two versions differed. Altogether, the original incarnation of The Animals released five U.S. and three U.K. studio albums. Here’s the above-mentioned I’m Crying, which was included on the second U.S. record The Animals On Tour, a peculiar title for a studio album. Co-written by Burden and Price, it’s one of only a few original tracks by the band that was mostly known for fiery renditions of blues and R&B staples by the likes of John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed and Ray Charles.
In May 1966, The Animals released Don’t Bring Me Down. Co-written by songwriter duo Gerry Goffin and Carole King, the tune became Burdon’s favorite single, he toldLouder/The Blues during a long interview in April 2013. The song also became the opening track to the band’s fourth U.S. album Animalization released in July 1966. The great tune is characterized by a distinct Hammond B3 sound played by Dave Rowberry, who had replaced Alan Price following his departure in late 1965, and Hilton Valentine’s fuzz guitar. Burdon recalled the song’s recording in a hotel in the Bahamas. “There was an old record player in the room where we were recording and it had this strange, thin electrostatic speaker. Dave Rowberry connected it to his Hammond B3 and that’s where the sound comes from on that track.”
By September 1966, The Animals had dissipated and Burdon started work on his first solo album Eric Is Here, which wouldn’t appear until the following year. Meanwhile, in December 1966, he formed Eric Burdon & The Animals. In addition to him, the band included Barry Jenkins, who had replaced John Steel on drums during the first incarnation of The Animals, John Weider (guitar, violin, bass), Vic Briggs (guitar, piano) and Danny McCulloch (bass). The band subsequently relocated from the U.K. to San Francisco. By that time, Burdon had become a heavy user of LSD.
In October 1967, Eric Burdon & The Animals released their debut. Appropriately titled Winds Of Change, it featured mostly original tracks and psychedelic-oriented rock, a major departure from the past. But, as Louder/The Blues noted, except for San Franciscan Nights, “the British public were reluctant to accept Eric’s transformation from hard-drinking Geordie bluesman to LSD-endorsing, peace and love hippy.” Three more albums followed before this second incarnation of The Animals dissolved in late 1968. Here’s Monterey, the opener to their second record The Twain Shall Meet from May 1968. Reflecting the band’s drug-infused experiences at the Monterey Pop Festival, where they also had performed, the tune is credited to all five members.
Disillusioned with the music business, Burdon went to LA to try acting. But after one year, he returned to music, fronting a Californian funk rock band that would be called War. Together they recorded two original albums in 1970. Here’s Spill The Wine from the first, Eric Burden Declares “War”, which appeared in April 1970. Credited to the members of War, the tune became the band’s first hit, peaking at no. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also marked Burdon’s last major chart success.
Burdon’s relationship with War abruptly unraveled after the band had decided to record their next album without him. It was around the same time his friend Jimi Hendrix passed away. Burdon was devastated. “That became the end of the parade because it affected us so much,” he stated during the above Louder/The Blues interview. “It was tough for me. It was tough for everybody.” Unfortunately, one of Burdon’s answers was drugs and more drugs.
During the ’70s and ’80s, Burdon had numerous drug excesses. In 1983, this led to an arrest in Germany where he had lived since 1977. Subsequently, he returned to the U.S. Yet despite all the upheaval, Burdon still managed to continue recording albums and touring. In 1971, he teamed up with American jump blues artist Jimmy Witherspoon for a record titled Guilty! Here’s Home Dream, a great slow blues tune written by Burdon.
In August 1977, the first incarnation of The Animals released the first of two reunion albums, Before We Were So Rudely Interrupted, billed as The Original Animals. Despite positive reviews, the record only reached no. 70 on the Billboard 200. Lack of promotion, no supporting tour and most importantly appearing at a time when punk and disco ruled were all factors. Here’s the great opener Brother Bill (The Last Clean Shirt), a tune co-written by Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller and Clyde Otis.
Next up: Going Back To Memphis, a song co-written by Burdon and Steve Grant. It appeared on Burdon’s 1988 album I Used To Be An Animal. Released in the wake of his autobiography I Used To Be An Animal, But I’m Alright Now, it was Burdon’s first new album in almost four years.
In April 2004, My Secret Life appeared, Burdon’s first new solo record in almost 16 years. Here’s the opener Once Upon A Time, a nice soulful tune co-written by Burdon and Robert Bradley.
‘Til Your River Runs Dry is Burdon’s most recent studio release, which came out in January 2013. His website calls it his “most personal album to date.” Here’s Old Habits Die Hard, co-written by Burdon and Tom Hambridge. “This song is dedicated to the people in Egypt and Libya trying to throw off the shackles of all those centuries of brutality,” Burdon toldRolling Stone a few days prior to the record’s release. “It reminds me of Paris in 1968 when I saw the kids going up against the brutal police force or the L.A. uprising. I went through these experiences and they’re still with me today. The struggle carries on. I wrote this song so I won’t forget and to say, even though I’m older now, I am still out there with you.”
Burdon’s most recent recording is a nice cover of For What It’s Worth, written by Stephen Stills and originally released by Buffalo Springfield in December 1966. He commented on his website: The whole idea of recording this song came as a result of a conversation I had with a young fan backstage, when she asked me, “Where are the protest songs today?” Right then and there, I wanted to write something about the brutality that’s going on in the world today but I couldn’t find any better way to say it than Buffalo Springfield did in “For What It’s Worth.
In 1994, Eric Burdon was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame as part of The Animals, along with the other original members of the band. He did not attend the induction ceremony. Burdon remains active to this day and uses the name The Animals for his backing band, which includes Evan Mackey (trombone), Davey Allen (piano), Dustin Koester (drums), Johnzo West (guitar), Justin Andres (bass) and Ruben Salinas (saxophone).
While Burdon’s website currently does not list any upcoming gigs for this year, according to Consequence of Sound, Eric Burdon & The Animals are part of the lineup for the KAABOO Festival in Arlington, Texas, May 10-12. The band is also scheduled to perform on May 26 at Avila Beach Blues Festival in California.
Asked by Louder/The Blues during the above interview how he would sum up the past 50 years, Burdon said, “I’d been screwed by [War], I’d been screwed by The Animals. All use Burdon because he’s a great front guy and then come payday where’s the money? A lot of people had a great ride off me being on stage and I didn’t get much of it.” With a little chuckle he added, “I’m not bitter. I’m bittersweet.”
– END –
The original post, which was published on February 10, 2019, ended here. One thing that happened since then is a 2020 British TV documentary titled Eric Burdon, Rock’ n’ Roll Animal, which was written and directed by Hannes Rossacher, an Austrian film director and producer. It featured interviews with Burdon, Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Steven Van Zandt, George Thorogood and Patti Smith. An edited version is available here.
Other than an awkward 2022 remix of Spill the Wine, I’m not aware of any music associated with Burdon, which has appeared since the time the above post was published first. The most recent evidence of live performances I could find on Setlist.fm was from November 2019. The lack of more recent concerts could largely be explained by the pandemic. There’s an Eric Burdonwebsite, but other than what looks like a fairly recent photo, it’s not evident whether it is active. Perhaps Eric is simply taking it easy these days, which after 60-plus years since the start of his career would be more than deserved!
Last but not least, here’s the aforementioned Spotify playlist. It features all of the above tracks except For What It’s Worth, as well as a good number of additional tunes from throughout Burdon’s recording career.
Sources: Wikipedia; Louder/The Blues; Deutsche Welle; Eric Burdon website; Rolling Stone; Consequence of Sound; Eventbrite; Setlist.fm; YouTube; Spotify
A selection of newly released music that caught my attention
It’s Saturday, which means time to take a fresh look at new music releases. This week, I decided to highlight five new tunes. The first four are included on albums, while the final pick is a single. All tracks came out yesterday (May 12).
Alfie Firmin/Lost On Me
Starting us off today is Alfie Firmin, a British singer-songwriter based in Southend-on-Sea, a coastal town about 40 miles east of London. Firmin just released his latest album Absentee. From his Bandcamppage: Containing 10 new original songs, ‘Absentee’ is Alfie’s 4th full-length album since 2018 (three as a solo artist and a fantastic album he did as part of the band Vestiges in 2018) and follows on from and expands upon the laid-back folk-rock sound hinted at on Alfie’s 2020 release ‘Waiting On’ (Self Released).‘Absentee’ is Alfie’s most accomplished album to date. From the McCartney-esque piano balladry of ‘Lost on Me’ to the horn-laden folk-rock of ‘Can’t Stop Thinking About You’ alongside the Laurel Canyon country-shuffle of ‘December Third’ it is an album that is well-versed in the traditions of classic singer-songwriter pop filtered through the lens of Alfie’s distinctive croon. In my book, Firmin’s music is nice power pop. Here’s the above-noted Lost On Me, which indeed has a Macca vibe. I also can hear a dose of Gilbert O’Sullivan in here – lovely tune!
Bailey Zimmerman is a country-oriented singer-songwriter who already scores two multi-Plantinum no. 1 singles in the U.S. on Billboard’sCountry Airplay chart since he emerged 2.5 years ago. Zimmerman, who was born in Louisville, Ill. and worked in the meat-packing industry and for a union gas pipeline before launching his current career, first started posting original music to his TikTok account in December 2020. In January 2021, he released his debut single Never Comin’ Home, followed by Fall in Love the next month, which became one of the above-mentioned no. 1 singles on the Country Airplay chart. He’s now out with his first full-length album Religiously. The Album. Here’s the opener and title track, which appeared as one of several singles. The tune was co-written by Zimmerman, Alex Palmer, Austin Shawn, Frank Romano and Marty James. This young artist certainly if off to an impressive start!
Parker Millsap/Wilderness Within You (feat. Gillian Welch)
Parker Millsap is an American singer-songwriter from Purcell, OK I first included in a Best of What’s Newinstallment two years ago. According to his AllMusicbio, Millsap brings a maverick intensity to his brand of Americana. Ranging from the spare acoustic tone of his early-2010s output to the more nuanced structure of 2018’s rock-driven Other Arrangements, the singer and songwriter continued to hone the layers of his sound heading into the next decade. His fifth album, 2021’s Be Here Instead, was recorded live in the studio with a full band, and he fused acoustic and electronic instruments for 2023’s Wilderness Within You. Here’s the title track of his sixth and latest album, co-written by Millsap and Ryan McFadden. It features Americana artist Gillian Welch on harmony vocals – beautiful!
Nighthawk are a fairly new rock band from Copenhagen, Denmark, blending classic arena rock and hard rock. From their Bandcamppage: Nighthawk started out as a solo project by Robert Majd (bass player in Metalite & Captain Black Beard). The idea was just to have some fun, play guitar and write some energetic rock’n’roll. The debut album featured a bunch of different singers. After that first album release in the summer of 2021 Robert got an itch to do more. This time the stakes would be higher. With the world famous Abbey Road Studios booked, a band and a collection of songs needed to match the caliber of the studio. Björn Strid (The Night Flight Orchestra, Soilwork & Donna Cannone) joined on lead vocals, Magnus Ulfstedt (Ginevra) on drums, John Lönnmyr (The Night Flight Orchestra) on keyboards and Christan Ek (Captain Black Beard) on bass. Nine original tunes together with two covers (of Kiss and Bruce Springsteen classics!) were recorded live in the studio in just two days. Here’s Highest Score, the opener of Nighthawk’s new album Prowler. Their melodic hard rock sounds pretty accessible.
John Mellencamp/The Eyes of Portland
The Eyes of Portland is the second lead single from John Mellencamp’s upcoming 25th studio album Orpheus Descending, scheduled for June 25. Fans who caught the heartland-turned-roots rocker on his current tour already heard the tune, since Mellencamp has included it in his setlist. This follows the first single Hey God, which came out on April 20 and which I covered here. Like that tune, The Eyes of Portland is an outspoken socially conscious song. It’s classic Mellencamp delivered in his distinct vocals roughened by decades of cigarette chain-smoking. I love the man and I’m really looking forward to the album!
So how about a Spotify playlist of the above and a few extra goodies? Ask and you shall receive!
A selection of newly released music that caught my attention
It’s Saturday again and I’m thrilled to welcome you to yet another set of six new tunes – the third week in a row! All tracks are on releases that came out yesterday (April 28).
My first pick is by Country Westerns, a rock-oriented three-piece based in Nashville, Tenn. I first featured in a June 2020 Best of What’s Newinstallment. Their origins date back to 2016 when singer and guitarist Joey Plunkett started working on songs with drummer Brian Kotzur. The trio’s current line-up also includes Jordan Jones, the newest member who replaced their original bassist Sabrina Rush. Here’s a bit more from their website: Country Westerns infuse punk rock chutzpah with a classic rock sheen, yielding a sound that’s simultaneously fresh and reminiscent of all the LPs you used to “borrow” from your cool uncle. Their debut album came out in May 2020, beautifully coinciding with… a worldwide pandemic...CW’s varied inspirations are evident on their self-produced “pandemic EP” that features covers by Richard Thompson, Jad Fair, and Dead Moon. This brings me to Forgive the City, CW’s sophomore album, and the nice melodic opener Knucklen’, co-written by Plunkett and Kotzur.
Annie Blackman is a 24-year-old alternative folk singer-songwriter hailing from Montclair, N.J. After she became a fan of Taylor Swift, Blackman was inspired to pick up the guitar and write her own songs in fifth grade. I love it when music grabs kids – so much cooler than video games! She began her recording career while still attending high school and released her debut album Blue Green in 2016. After Blackman had posted some clips of her original music on TikTok, she came to the attention of San Francisco-based Father/Daughter Records. The independent label signed her in 2021 and released her next (third) full-length album All of It in April 2022. Blackman is now out with Bug, her first EP. Here’s the lovely opener Ash, penned by Blackman.
The Damned/Western Promise
English punk rock band The Damned were formed in London in 1976. They have been active ever since, except for a short break-up from April 1978 to January 1979, after their second album Music For Pleasure had come out in November 1977. To date, The Damned have released 12 studio albums, which includes their latest, Darkadelic. As one would expect, they’ve had multiple changes over the years, with lead vocalist Dave Vanian having been the only constant member. The band’s current line-up also features original guitarist Raymond Burns, aka. Captain Sensible; Laurence Burrow, aka Monty Oxymoron (keyboards, backing vocals); Paul Gray (bass, backing vocals) and new drummer Will Taylor. From Darkadelic, let’s check out Western Promise, credited to Vanian and The Damned – it’s certainly not punk, but I love the tune’s sound!
Dave Hause/Drive It Like It’s Stolen
Dave Hause is an American singer-songwriter who performs solo and with his backing band The Mermaid. Starting from the mid-’90s, Hause played in a series of punk and hardcore bands, including Step Ahead, The Curse, Paint It Black, The Loved Ones, The All Brights and The Falcon, and between these groups released about 10 albums and EPs. In 2009, Hause also started a solo career, which has resulted in six albums to date, including his latest, Drive It Like It’s Stolen. After his third solo album Bury Me in Philly had appeared in February 2017, Hause put together The Mermaid. Hause’s solo work is notably different from hardcore and punk, focusing on heartland rock and Americana. Here’s the great title cut of his new album, co-written by Hause and his brother Tim Hause who also is a singer-songwriter.
Glen Matlock/Something ‘Bout the Weekend
Glen Matlock is best known for being the bassist in the original line-up of short-lived British punk pioneers Sex Pistols. While he left early during the recording sessions of the group’s first and only studio album Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, Matlock is credited as a co-writer on 10 of the 12 tracks. Since his departure in 1977, he has been very busy. Matlock has performed and recorded with various other bands and artists, including Rich Kids, Vicious White Kids, Iggy Pop, The Damned and The International Swingers, among others. He remains a member of the last group and also joined Blondie’s touring band last year. Additionally, he took part in various Sex Pistols reunion tours. Oh, and in 1996, Matlock started a solo career with the release of Who’s He Think He Is When He’s at Home? Five additional solo albums have since appeared, including his latest, Consequences Coming. Off it, I got the perfect tune for a Saturday: Something ‘Bout the Weekend. The nice rocker is credited to Matlock, Hotei (Tomoyasu Hotei) and Mark Garfield.
Sock/Change Your Mind
This brings me to my final pick, Welsh alternative rock band Sock. From their Spotify profile: Formed in Cardiff, Sock make guitar-driven alternative rock, taking inspiration from psychedelic music. Known for their creative melodic arrangements and blending of genres, the band describe their music as “a rather progressive affair.” Following on from the band’s debut album ‘Fresh Bits’, in 2018, their much anticipated self-titled follow-up is out this April. The album features Jacob on Rhythm Guitar & Vocals, Billy on Lead Guitar, Sam on Bass & Keys, and Simon on Drums & Percussion. Produced by the band, the album was recorded during the pandemic and sees the music move into a heavier and more refined sound. From that album, here’s Change Your Mind – nice sounding tune!
Last but not least is a Spotify playlist of the above goodies plus a few additional tracks – another pretty good week on the new music front, at least in my book! 🙂
Sources: Wikipedia; Country Westerns website; YouTube; Spotify
Defiance Part 1 features contributions from the late Jeff Beck, Slash, Billy Gibbons, Todd Rundgren and Ringo Starr, among many others
Ian Hunter may be best known as the former lead vocalist of Mott the Hoople, but he had been a songwriter and musician for more than a decade prior to joining the British glam rockers in 1969. And since his departure from the group in 1974, Hunter has released a fairly steady stream of solo studio albums, including frequent collaborations with Mick Ronson until the untimely death of David Bowie’s former sideman in 1993 at the age of 46. Now, Hunter is out with his 15th and latest album Defiance Part 1, which arrived via Sun Records on April 21 – and, yep, that’s the storied label out of Memphis, Tenn.
According to Hunter’s website, the album first came together in early 2020 when COVID shut down the live music business and many artists took the lockdowns as an opportunity to work on new music. This included Hunter who wrote a series of new songs and recorded bare-bones demos at his home studio in Connecticut with his longtime collaborator, multi-instrumentalist and producer Andy York, who is also guitarist in John Mellencamp’s band.
When quarantine rules prevented Hunter from fleshing out the tunes in the studio with his backing group Rant Band, his manager Mike Kobayashi and Ross Halfin, a renowned music photographer, had a great idea: Reach out to some of his fellow artists who have their own home studios to see whether they would like to contribute to the tracks. Hunter did but evidently wasn’t quite prepared for what happened next.
“Everybody’s sitting around,” Hunter recalls on his website. “It’s Covid. Nobody’s going anywhere. We started sending them out [the demos/ electronic music files – CMM]. Slash started doing something. Robert Trujillo from Metallica. Ringo Starr, Mike Campbell. Joe Elliott [Def Leppard lead vocalist – CMM] is on a few tracks. Johnny Depp said ‘Jeff Beck’s with me and we’d like to do a couple of songs.’ I know Todd Rundgren, I toured with Todd way back, he’s done an amazing job. Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top guitarist – CMM]. Billy Bob Thornton and JD Andrew from The Boxmasters. It’s never ending. I mean, every day we’d get a phone call, this guy wants to do it, that guy wants to do it. It was like, I can’t believe this.”
Time for some music. Let’s get started with the kickass opener and title track Defiance. “There are a lot of reasons for calling this album DEFIANCE,” Hunter notes. “It’s like, people my age shouldn’t be making records, blah, blah, blah. But we’ve still got a bit left.” Hunter who is turning 84 in June certainly leaves no doubt about that. The tune features Slash on electric rhythm and lead guitars and Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo who used the signature fretless bass by the late Jaco Pastorious, the same instrument the virtuoso played on Hunter’s 1976 sophomore solo album All American Alien Boy.
Since I previously covered the excellent Bed of Roses featuring Ringo Starr and Mike Campbell, I’m skipping it here and going to Pavlov’s Dog. The ferocious rocker includes the surviving members of Stone Temple Pilots, brothers Dean DeLeo (guitar) and Robert DeLeo (bass) and Eric Kretz (drums).
One of the lyrical standouts on the album is I Hate Hate.
…I hate hate It’s tearing us apart I hate hate From the bottom of my heart
I hate hate It’s spreading like an epidemic Ain’t no jabs No one is immune
I hate hate It’s all about the money I hate hate, And hate is in bloom…
Sadly, the words remain more relevant than ever!
Angel is one of the slower tunes on the album. It features the late Taylor Hawkins (former drummer of Foo Fighters) on drums, electric guitars, electric piano and backing vocals, Duff McKagan (bass; formerly of Guns N’ Roses), Aerosmith’s Brad Whitford (slide guitar) and prominent session musician Waddy Wachtel (12-string acoustic guitar, lead electric guitars).
The last track I’d like to call out is This Is What I’m Here For, another tune featuring Hawkins, this time on drums only. Wachtel provided electric rhythm and electric guitars, while Def Leppard’s Elliott sang backing vocals.
All songs were written by Ian Hunter who also played piano or electric guitar on most tracks. Defiance Part 1 was produced by Andy York and Hunter. “It’s like when I worked with Ronno [Mick Ronson – CMM],” Hunter told Rock Cellar magazine, commenting on York. “I’m blood and guts in the studio. I want drama 1-10. Andy takes care of all that, the minutiae, the same as Ronson used to do. He’s a stickler. He has to get everything right. I’m a lot kind of, “Well, that will do.” Not with Andy. Andy’s not like that. It’s gotta be right. I need somebody like that.”
Here’s a Spotify link to the album.
But wait, there’s more. Hunter’s website notes there will be Defiance Part 2, which will feature an equally stunning range of special guests while projecting an entirely different thematic approach and songwriting aesthetic. “Well, we’ve got to finish the second part,” Hunter said when asked by Rock Cellar about touring plans. “It’s about 60 percent, 70 percent done. But my co-producer Andy’s out with John Mellencamp till July, so we won’t get it finished till late summer. We’ll see then.”
Sources: Wikipedia; Ian Hunter website; Rock Cellar; YouTube; Spotify
New singles and forthcoming albums by John Mellencamp and Foo Fighters I didn’t include in my Best of What’s New post from Saturday are a good reason for another installment of The Follow-Up. The idea of this recently introduced feature is to supplement my weekly new music revue with short takes of new music I missed or didn’t cover for other reasons.
John Mellencamp – Hey God
On April 20, John Mellencamp released Hey God, the first single from his forthcoming 25th studio album Orpheus Descending, which is scheduled to drop on June 25. Stylistically, the tune would have fit on Mellencamp’s previous album Strictly a One-Eyed Jack. When it comes to the lyrics, the roots rocker leaves no doubt about what was on his mind when he wrote the words.
Weapons and guns, are they really my rights Laws written a long time ago No one could imagine the sight Of so many dead on the floor
Hey God, if you’re still there Would you please come down Hey God, if you’re still there Would you please come down…
Like his two previous albums, Orpheus Descending was produced by John Mellencamp and recorded at his own Belmont Mall Studio in Belmont, Ind. He has performed Hey God and The Eyes of Portland, another (still unreleased) tune from the new album, during his ongoing Live and In Person 2023 North American tour, which is scheduled to run through late June.
Foo Fighters – Rescued
Last Wednesday (April 19), Foo Fighters announced their first album since the untimely death of drummer Taylor Hawkins in Bogotá, Columbia in March 2022 at the age of 50 during the band’s tour in South America. They also released Rescued, a great raw-sounding rocker and the album’s first single.
From a statement on the group’s website: Following a year of staggering losses, personal introspection and bittersweet remembrances, Foo Fighters return with But Here We Are, out June 2 on Roswell Records/RCA Records.
A brutally honest and emotionally raw response to everything Foo Fighters endured over the last year, But Here We Are is a testament to the healing powers of music, friendship and family. Courageous, damaged and unflinchingly authentic, But Here We Are opens with newly released lead single “Rescued,” the first of 10 songs that run the emotional gamut from rage and sorrow to serenity and acceptance, and myriad points in between.
Produced by Greg Kurstin [who in addition to Foo Fighters has worked with the likes of Adele, Kelly Clarkson, Beck and Paul McCartney – CMM] and Foo Fighters, But Here We Are is in nearly equal measure the 11th Foo Fighters album and the first chapter of the band’s new life. Sonically channelling the naiveté of Foo Fighters’ 1995 debut, informed by decades of maturity and depth, But Here We Are is the sound of brothers finding refuge in the music that brought them together in the first place 28 years ago, a process that was as therapeutic as it was about a continuation of life.
Sources: John Mellencamp website; Foo Fighters website; YouTube; Spotify
Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time
Happy Sunday morning, afternoon, or evening – in whichever time zone you are, I hope you’re doing great and are in the mood to join me on another journey to visit music of the past and the present century. This trip will have six stops in the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and 2008.
Shorty Rogers Quintet/Breezin’ Along in the Trades
Let’s start today’s journey by setting our music time machine to the year 1957. That’s when the Shorty Rogers Quintet released an album titled Wherever the Five Winds Blow. Born in 1924 Milton Rajonsky, Shorty Rogers was a trumpet and flugelhorn player who was instrumental in creating West Coast jazz. According to Wikipedia, this jazz style was developed in the 1950s in San Francisco and Los Angeles and is often viewed as a subgenre of cool jazz. Rajonsky who hailed from Great Barrington, Mass. started his career in the ’40s, working with Will Bradley, Red Norvo and Woody Herman. In the early ’50s, he played with Stan Kenton. In 1952, he released his debut as a bandleader, Modern Sounds, the first of many such albums that would appear over the next 40 years. Apart from playing as a sideman, Rajonsky also became a sought-after arranger of jazz music and beyond. Notable examples of the latter include The Monkees, e.g., Daydream Believer, and Bobbie Gentry’s first three albums. Rajonsky passed away from melanoma in November 1974 at the age of 70. Coming back to Wherever the Five Winds Blow, here’s Breezin’ Along in the Trades, a beautiful original composition. Shorty Rogers (trumpet) was backed by Jimmy Giuffre (clarinet, saxophone), Lou Levy (piano), Ralph Pena (bass) and Larry Bunker (drums).
Our next stop takes us to September 1992 and Hollywood Town Hall, the third studio album by The Jayhawks. Since coming across them in August 2020, I’ve come to like this American alt. country and country rock band. Initially formed in Minneapolis in 1985, The Jayhawks originally featured Mark Olson (acoustic guitar, vocals), Gary Louris (electric guitar, vocals), Marc Perlman (bass) and Norm Rogers (drums). By the time Hollywood Town Hall was released, Rogers had been replaced by Ken Callahan. After four additional albums and more line-up changes, the group went on hiatus in 2004. They reemerged with a new formation in 2009, which still includes Louris and Pearlman, and have since released four additional albums, most recently July 2020’s XOXO. Hollywood Town Hall became the group’s first album that made the U.S. mainstream chart Billboard 200 (no. 192). Notably, it also climbed to no. 11 on the Top Heatseekers. Here’s the great Wichita, co-written by Olson, Louris and Pearlman.
The Who/I Can See For Miles
Time for a stopover in the ’60s to visit one of my all-time favorite bands. In December 1967, The Who released their third studio album The Who Sell Out. Primarily written by guitarist Pete Townshend with contributions from bassist John Entwistle and Thunderclap Newman vocalist Speedy Keen, the brilliant concept album includes a collection of songs interspersed with fake commercials and public service announcements. One of the tracks is I Can See For Miles, which also appeared separately as the lead single in October 1967. Townshend was convinced he had written a hit, yet the single “only” reached no. 10 in the UK. It did best in Canada, where it climbed to no. 8, and also charted slightly higher in the U.S., getting to no. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also reached the top 40 in New Zealand (no. 13), Australia (no. 20), The Netherlands (no. 28) and Germany (no. 37). Yet Townshend was disappointed. To me, it was the ultimate Who record, yet it didn’t sell,” he later commented. “I spat on the British record buyer.” While I wouldn’t call the tune’s chart performance terrible, I do agree with Townshend that I Can See For Miles is one of the gems by the British rockers.
John Mellencamp/Theo and Weird Henry
Let’s move on to the late ’80s. In May 1989, John Mellencamp released his 10th studio album Big Daddy, the last under the John Cougar Mellencamp name. Musically, the record continued his transition from heartland straight rocker to roots-oriented artist, which had begun with its predecessor The Lonesome Jubilee. Lyrically, it presents a collection of largely reflective songs. “Big Daddy was the best record I ever made,” Mellencamp toldThe Associated Press in December 1991 in the wake of his 11th studio album Whenever We Wanted. “Out of my agony came a couple of really beautiful songs. You can’t be 22 years old and had two dates and understand that album.” For context, the AP story also quoted Mellencamp as saying, “I had a daughter who grew up and I didn’t know who she was [I assume he referred to Michelle from his first marriage to Priscilla Esterline – CMM]. I was getting a divorce [from Victoria Granucci, his second wife – CMM] and I didn’t want one.” Big Daddy became best known for its lead single Pop Singer, which topped the charts in Canada and New Zealand and peaked at no. 8 in Australia. In the U.S., it surged to no. 2 on Billboard’sMainstream Rock chart and reached no. 15 on the Hot 100. Theo and Weird Henry, on the other hand, is a deep cut I love. It’s got more of a heartland rock vibe.
10cc/The Things We Do For Love
Our next stop takes us back again, to December 1976. That’s when British art pop band 10cc released The Things We Do For Love as a single. Co-written by guitarist Eric Stewart and bassist Graham Gouldman, who had founded the group with Lol Creme (guitar, keyboards) and Kevin Godley (drums) in July 1972, the tune was also included on their fifth studio album Deceptive Bends from May 1977. The Things We Do For Love placed in the top 10 singles charts in the UK (no. 5), Australia (no.) and the U.S. (no. 6). In Canada, it became their second no. 1 after I’m Not in Love, which had become 10cc’s breakthrough hit outside the UK in May 1975. I’ve liked the band’s often quirky songs since my teenage years. 10cc are still around as a touring act led by Gouldman and have been on the road for The Ultimate Greatest Hits Tour, which has upcoming gigs in The Netherlands before moving on to New Zealand and Australia in June. The current schedule is here.
The Hold Steady/Constructive Summer
And once again, we’re reaching the final stop of yet another music time travel trip, which takes us to the current century. In July 2008, The Hold Steady released their fourth studio album Stay Positive – kudos to fellow blogger Graham from Aphoristic Album Reviews who recently reminded me of the New York indie rock band by ranking their nine studio albums that have appeared to date. One of the albums he suggested I check out is Stay Positive. I did and voila! The Hold Steady first entered my radar screen in late March with their most recent studio release The Price of Progress. Formed in 2003, their current lineup includes co-founders Craig Finn (lead vocals, guitar), Tad Kubler (lead guitar, backing vocals) and Galen Polivka (bass), along with Steve Selvidge (rhythm guitar, backing vocals), Franz Nicolay (piano, keyboards, accordion, harmonica, backing vocals) and Bobby Drake (drums, percussion). Wikipedia notes The Hold Steady are known for their “lyrically dense storytelling”, “classic rock influences” and “narrative-based songs [that] frequently address themes, such as drug addiction, religion and redemption, and often feature recurring characters within the city of Minneapolis.” Let’s wrap things up with Constructive Summer, the kickass opener of Stay Positive. Like all other tracks on the album, it was co-written by Finn and Kubler.
So where’s the bloody Spotify playlist? Ask and you shall receive!