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.
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
Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time
Welcome to another Sunday Six, a celebration of the diversity of music of the past and the present, six tracks at a time. If you’ve looked at the blog before chances are you know what’s about to unfold. In case this is your inaugural visit welcome, and I hope you’ll be back. The first sentence pretty much sums up the idea behind the weekly feature. So without further ado, let’s get to it.
Gerald Clayton/Peace Invocation (feat. Charles Lloyd)
I’d like to embark on today’s journey with beautiful music by Dutch-born American contemporary jazz pianist Gerald Clayton. From his website: The four-time GRAMMY-nominated pianist/composer formally began his musical journey at the prestigious Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, where he received the 2002 Presidential Scholar of the Arts Award. Continuing his scholarly pursuits, he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Piano Performance at USC’s Thornton School of Music under the instruction of piano icon Billy Childs, after a year of intensive study with NEA Jazz Master Kenny Barron at The Manhattan School of Music. Clayton won second place in the 2006 Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Piano Competition...Inclusive sensibilities have allowed him to perform and record with such distinctive artists as Diana Krall, Roy Hargrove, Dianne Reeves, Ambrose Akinmusire, Dayna Stephens, Kendrick Scott, John Scofield…[the list goes on and on – CMM] Clayton also has enjoyed an extended association since early 2013, touring and recording with saxophone legend Charles Lloyd…The son of beloved bass player and composer John Clayton, he enjoyed a familial apprenticeship from an early age. Clayton honors the legacy of his father and all his musical ancestors through a commitment to artistic exploration, innovation, and reinvention. This brings me to Bells on Sand, Clayton’s brand new album released on April 1. Peace Invocation, composed by Clayton, features the above-mentioned now-84-year-old sax maestro Charles Lloyd. Check out his amazing tone – feels like he’s caressing you with his saxophone!
Next, let’s go to another piano man and the year 1982. When I think of pop and piano men, the artists who come to mind first are Elton John and Billy Joel. While John recently announced the remaining dates of his Farewell Yellow Brick Road The Final Tour, as reported by Billboard, the piano man from New York apparently has no plans to retire. Instead, he continues to sell out show after show at Madison Square Garden, even though he hasn’t released any new pop music since August 1993 when his 12th studio album River of Dreams came out. I was fortunate to see the man at MSG in the early 2000s, and it was a really great show – in terms of the atmosphere think Bruce Springsteen playing MetLife Stadium in New Jersey! The Nylon Curtain, Joel’s eighth studio release from September 1982, remains among my favorites. Here’s Allentown, his blue-collar anthem about the plight and resilience of steelworkers in the Allentown, Pa. region in the early ’80s following Bethlehem Steel’s decline and eventual closure.
Buddy Guy/Cognac (feat. Jeff Beck, Keith Richards)
Hopefully, I don’t jinx myself with this next pick, but I just couldn’t help it! Undoubtedly, more frequent visitors of the blog have noticed my love of the blues, especially electric guitar blues. One of the artists I keep going back to in this context is the amazing, now 85-year-old Buddy Guy. I’m beyond thrilled I got a ticket to see him on Wednesday night at a midsize theater in New Jersey – a total impulse purchase! It would be my third time. After a near-70-year career, Guy continues to be a force of nature. Here’s Cognac, a track from his most recent studio album The Blues Is Alive and Well, released in June 2018. Co-written by Guy, Richard Fleming and producer Tom Hambridge who also plays drums, the song features Jeff Beck and Keith Richards. It really doesn’t get much better when three guitar legends come together to play some blistering blues while taking sips of liquid gold! You can read more about the album here.
The Rolling Stones/The Last Time
Getting to The Rolling Stones from Keith Richards isn’t a big leap, but there’s more to it than you may realize. Long before Keef got together with Buddy Guy and Jeff Beck to play guitar and sip some cognac, there was a special connection between British blues rock-oriented artists, such as Eric Clapton, Beck and the Stones, and American blues greats like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Buddy Guy. When U.S. musical variety TV series Shindig! invited the Stones in 1965 to perform on the program, Mick Jagger agreed under one condition: They would have to let Muddy Waters on as well. Apparently, the bookers had no clue who that was. “You mean to tell me you don’t know who Muddy Waters is?”, Jagger asked in complete disbelief. Guy likes to tell the story during his shows to this day – and to express his appreciation that British acts like the Stones, Beck and Clapton played a key role to introduce white American audiences to African American blues artists. Here’s one of my favorite early Stones songs. The Last Time, which first appeared in February 1965 as a single in the UK, holds the distinction of being the first original Stones tune released as an A-side. Credited to Jagger/Richards, as would become usual, the tune was also included on the U.S. version of Out of Our Heads, the band’s fourth American studio record from July 1965.
Christopher Cross/Ride Like the Wind
Our next stop takes us to the late ’70s and Christopher Cross. Call me a softie, I’ve always had a thing for the American singer-songwriter whose eponymous debut album from December 1979 is regarded as a key release of the yacht rock genre. Perhaps it helped that one of his best-known songs was titled Sailing and appeared on that record. On a more serious note, I think Cross has written some nice songs. Here’s my favorite, Ride Like the Wind, which together with Sailing and Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do) became his biggest hits. Cross dedicated the catchy tune to Little Feat co-founder and leader Lowell George who had passed away in June 1979. It features Michael McDonald on backing vocals and a pretty good guitar solo played by Cross. Now 70 years old, Cross is still around and to date has released 15 studio albums. Apart from the debut I’ve only listened to his sophomore release Another Page.
Stone Temple Pilots/Plush
And once again we’ve reached the end of our journey. I’ll leave you with some ’90s alternative rock by Stone Temple Pilots. Plush, off their debut album Core, became their first single to top Billboard’sMainstream Rock chart and one of their biggest hits. Frankly, I mostly know the band by name, but that tune seemingly was everywhere when it came out in May 1993 as the album’s second single. The song was co-written by Scott Weiland, Eric Kretz and Robert DeLeo, who at the time were the Pilots’ lead vocalist, drummer and bassist, respectively. Kretz and DeLeo remain with the band’s current lineup, which also includes DeLeo’s older brother and co-founder Dean DeLeo (guitar) and Jeff Gutt (lead vocals). The Pilots’ eighth and most recent album Perdida appeared in February 2020. Excluding the group’s 5-year hiatus between 2003 and 2008, they have been around for some 28 years – pretty impressive! Perhaps I should check ’em out one of these days.
Last but not least, here’s a Spotify playlist with the above songs.
Cover versions of songs can be intriguing and sometimes even better than the originals. An example of the latter I always come back to is Joe Cocker’s incredible rendition of With a Little Help From My Friends. There are also other great covers of Beatles tunes. Fellow blogger Hanspostcard is currently dedicating an entire series to this topic, titled Under The Covers: Other Artists Covering Beatles Songs. In part, it was his great series that inspired the idea for this post. Since I already wrote about covers of Fab Four tunes, I decided to focus on another of my all time favorite bands: The Rolling Stones.
While I figured it shouldn’t be very difficult to find renditions of Stones tunes by other artists, I only knew a handful of covers and wasn’t sure what else I would find. It turned out that seven of the 10 covers I ended up selecting for this post were new to me. My picks span the Stones’ music from the ’60s and early ’70s, which is I generally feel is their best period. All tunes were written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Let’s get to it.
The Grass Roots/Tell Me
Kicking it off are The Grass Roots, an American rock band that has been around since 1965. Their debut studio album Where Were You When I Needed You from October 1966 featured a few covers including Tell Me, a tune that first appeared on The Rolling Stones’ eponymous debut album in the UK released in April 1964. The U.S. version, which had a slightly different track list, appeared six weeks later.
Mekons/Heart of Stone
In 1988, British post punk rock band Mekons released their seventh studio album So Good It Hurts. It included this nice rendition of Heart of Stone, a Stones tune that first came out in December 1964 as a U.S. single. It also was included on the U.S. and U.K. albums The Rolling Stones, Now! (February 1965) and Out of Our Heads (September 1965), respectively.
The Who/The Last Time
After Mick Jagger and Keith Richards had been busted and imprisoned on drug charges in 1967, their friends The Who went to the studio to record a single intended to help them make bail: The Last Time, backed by Under My Thumb. Even though everything was done in a great rush, by the time the single hit the stores, the Glimmer Twins already had been released. Since John Entwistle was away on his honeymoon, he gave his okay to proceed without him. Pete Townshend ended up overdubbing the bass parts. Initially, The Last Time was the first original The Rolling Stones song released as a single in the UK in February 1965, yielding their third no. 1 hit on the Singles Chart. It came out in the U.S. two weeks later, reaching no. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Alexis Korner/Get Off Of My Cloud
Alexis Korner, who has rightfully been called “a founding father of British blues,” had a major influence on the British music scene in the 1960s. His band Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated was a breeding ground for UK musicians who at various times included artists like Jack Bruce, Graham Bond, Ginger Baker, Cyril Davies, as well as then-future Rolling Stones members Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts. Get Off Of My Cloud became the title track of Korner’s 1975 studio album. Originally, the Stones released the song as the follow-on single to (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction in September 1965, matching that tune’s previous chart-topping success in the U.S., UK and Germany. Get Off Of My Cloud was also included on the Stones’ fifth U.S. album December’s Children (And Everybody’s) released in December that year.
Ruby Tuesday has been among my favorite Stones tunes for a long time. I also think the cover by American singer-songwriter Melanie is among the most compelling renditions of Stones songs. Melanie’s great version first appeared on her third studio album Candles in the Rain from April 1970 and was also released as a single in December of the same year. The Stones recorded the original for their 1967 studio album Between the Buttons that appeared in January and February that year in the UK and U.S., respectively. The song also became the album’s lead single and another no. 1 hit in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100. In the UK, it climbed to no. 3 on the Singles Chart.
Molly Tuttle/She’s a Rainbow
While I’ve featured Molly Tuttle’s version of She’s a Rainbow before, I simply couldn’t resist including it in this post as well. Similar to Ruby Tuesday and Melanie, the tune represents both one of my favorite Rolling Stones songs and one of the greatest renditions I know. Tuttle, an incredibly talented acoustic guitarist, included it on her most recent album …but i’d rather be with you, which came out in August 2020. She’s a Rainbow first appeared on Their Satanic Majesties Request, a studio album the Stones put out in December 1967. Two weeks after its release, it also became the record’s second single.
Bettye LaVette/Salt of the Earth
Here’s another really cool cover: Salt of the Earth by American vocalist Bettye LaVette, who has touched many genres, including soul, blues, rock & roll, funk, gospel and country. She recorded Salt of the Earth for an album titled Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook and released in May 2010. The soul and gospel vibe is perfect for this tune, which the Stones included on their Beggars Banquet album from December 1968.
Larry McCray/Midnight Rambler
Larry McCray is an American blues guitarist and singer, who has been active since the ’80s and released his debut album Ambition in 1990. I had not heard of him before. His cover of Midnight Rambler is included on a Stones tribute album from August 2002, which is called All Blues’d Up: Songs of The Rolling Stones. I haven’t listened to the rest of the album yet, but based on the track list and other participating artists, it surely looks intriguing. The Stones recorded Midnight Rambler for their studio album Let It Bleed that came out in December 1969. According to Wikipedia, Keith Richards has called it “the quintessential Jagger-Richards song.”
Santana/Can’t You Hear Me Knocking (feat. Scott Weiland)
Now we’ve come to Can’t You Hear Me Knocking, a gem from what I consider to be the best Stones album: Sticky Fingers released in April 1971. Carlos Santana covered the tune on his 21st studio album Guitar Heaven from September 2010, a compilation of classic rock covers featuring many guest vocalists: In this case, Scott Weiland, former lead vocalist of Stone Temple Pilots. Weiland who had struggled with addiction and other health issues for many years died in December 2015 from a drug overdose.
The Pointer Sisters/Happy
I’d like to wrap up this post on a happy note, literally, with a great rendition of Happy by The Pointer Sisters. It was included on their sixth studio album Priority, which came out in September 1979 and was their second foray into rock. Their first was predecessor Energy from November 1978, which among others featured one of their biggest hits: Fire, the Bruce Springsteen tune. Originally, Happy appeared on what many Stones fans consider the band’s best album: Exile on Main St. from May 1972. Happy, backed by All Down the Line, also became the record’s second single in July 1972.