R. Stevie Moore – “Delicate Tension” (1978)

November 1, 2008 at 3:11 pm (Kurt Loder, Reviews & Articles)

Kurt Loder’s August 1979 Trouser Press review of this album by the extremely prolific, unfairly-obscure cult artist R. Stevie Moore…  

 

I suppose it’s not really kosher my reviewing Delicate Tension, seeing’s how my name appears on the album cover. But since Ira Robbins, J.D. Salinger, Don Knotts and Sonny’s Chevrolet are similarly disqualified, who’s left? Besides, I was an admirer of R. Stevie Moore’s fractured pop stylings way before he was aware of my existence, and am not likely to revise that estimation.
I can only urge some latently adventurous Major Label to bestow a few of those hot dogs in the satin baseball jackets up off their A&R asses and out to Verona, New Jersey, for a reminder of what actual talent sounds like. I mean, here’s R. Stevie, bereft of the requisite beans to book himself some stretch-out time in a legit studio, and Fleetwood Mac’s been dicking around with their “long awaited” next album for what, two, three years? Is there no fucking justice?
Until the Verona Visionary’s turned loose in a real studio, though, we can be truly satisfied with Delicate Tension, a broadly eclectic album unified by a seductive pop-rock logic, and distinguished by some of the most accurate and animated overdubbing you’re likely to hear coming from any quarter. Vocally, Moore–who played virtually all of the instruments here–most closely resembles Syd Barrett during his Madcap Laughs phase, especially on “Norway,” with its lilting acoustic guitar strums, Beatle-ish oohing and delicately catchy refrain, and the gloopy-voiced “I Go Into Your Mind,” which sounds like it was sung at the bottom of a vatful of jello. But the witty “Apropos Joe”–even though taken at a pace that might leave the Ramones winded–recalls the lead wheezler with the Residents, while “Oh Pat” is pure folk rock, complete with ringing guitars, Byrdsy bass and, for spice, a sourly whimsical lyric filtered through an Enoesque limey slur. On the other hand, “Cool Daddio”‘s thick mix and drolly detached vocal captures perfectly the spirit of early-’70s English art rock.
I could go on, particularly about the lyrics (“You like Debby Boone/He likes the Ramones/I don’t understand/Why you two have a phone”). But why sit still for any further babble when you can scamper out and score a copy of this thoroughly idiosyncratic disc for your very own? For what few slumming mainstreamers may be reading this, suffice it to say that Toto will never sound the same after a few rounds with the redoubtable R. Stevie.

 

Kurt Loder 

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Geordie – “All Because of You” (1972)

November 1, 2008 at 10:48 am (Music)

Geordie’s first big British hit. Yes, that’s Brian Johnson, years before joining AC/DC. Check out the strange effect on his vocal at the beginning, before launching into a stomping, rocking Slade-like number. This made it to #6 on the charts.

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The MC5 – “High Time” (1971)

November 1, 2008 at 10:48 am (Reviews & Articles)

High Time - album cover

Lenny Kaye’s 1971 Rolling Stone (issue #90) review of the final MC5 album…

 

It seems almost too perfectly ironic that now, at a time in their career when most people have written them off as either dead or dying, the MC5 should power back into action with the first record that comes close to telling the tale of their legendary reputation and attendant charisma. This may appear particularly surprising, given the fact that the group’s live performances have been none too cosmic of late, but then the old saw is that you can’t keep a good band down, and it’s never been more forcefully put than here.

Which is not to say that High Time is a perfect album, by any means. Most of side two, with the exception of a lovely little chorus run in Fred Smith’s “Over and Over,” doesn’t hang together exceptionally well. A large part of the songs seem incomplete, written around chord progressions that quickly wear thin and words that display the lower edge of the school of right-on lyrics. Rob Tyner’s “Future Now” (despite a knockout bass line) is the greatest offender in this case, and though there are some nice moves toward free-form sound on sound toward the end, nothing ultimately is developed or carried through. Wayne Kramer’s “Poison” is a little better, opening with a lightning-like series of guitar exchanges, but when Rob comes in spitting words like “Nature, and Peace,” one is reminded of nothing so much as the Chambers Brothers on a particularly V-signed night. Things come to a crashing finale with “Skunk (Somely Speaking),” which moves well for its first half of good ol’ kick-em-out rock, and then dies a tragicomic death with the addition of some out-of-place horns.

But if the second side leaves much to be desired, side one is a no-bones classic. “Sister Anne,” about a nun who “don’t give a damn about re-vo-lu-tion/She’s a liberated woman, she got her solution,” is a top-flight piece of work in the old tradition. The MC5, whatever you might have felt were their other (sometimes glaring) faults, always knew how to play those I-IV-V progressions like nobody’s business, and they’re at their finest here. The song is put together like a charm, with a great kicking piano and a long soaring coda that carries you without a hitch into a bizarre Salvation Army instrumental at the end. Good shit, any way you look at it, and if there was ever a suspicion that the MC5 would never learn their way around the recording studio, let it be quietly put to rest now.

“Sister Anne” is only the beginning. “Baby Won’t Ya” takes on where the Salvation Army leaves off, all rollicking choruses and guitar breaks. Rob’s voice sounds strong and sure throughout, and when he hits the line about how “A lovely senorita took me by the hand. She said ‘whoo baby, won’t ya be my man’,” it’s easily worth another notch on the volume dial. From there, it’s tossed to Wayne and “Miss X,” a ragingly beautiful cut, helped along by a massive organ, incredible vocals, and a superb arrangement.

The capper, though, is saved for Dennis Thompson: his “Gotta Keep Movin'” not only defines the MC5 in the way that all of us would have liked to remember them throughout the past dismal year, but also manages to pull in every trick that literally made them the most exciting band in America for a brief and glorious time. It’s all there the precise breaks, the madly screaming dual guitars, the fanatic drive and energy. Make no mistake, they shovel it out as good as it ever gets, and that’s pretty damn good indeed.

For this, we can only praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.

 

Lenny Kaye

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Jackie Lomax – “Sour Milk Sea” (1969)

November 1, 2008 at 10:41 am (Music, The Beatles)

This single was written & produced by George Harrison and was released on Apple Records in 1969. Also features Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton & Ringo Starr performing. The Beatles even rehearsed this song.

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Badfinger – “No Matter What” (TV – 1973)

November 1, 2008 at 10:36 am (Music)

Badfinger appearing on The Midnight Special, March 2, 1973, performing one of their best & biggest hits.

Note: The video quality on this is not the greatest. Sorry.

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The J. Geils Band – “Freeze-Frame” (1981)

November 1, 2008 at 10:11 am (David Fricke, Reviews & Articles)

David Fricke wrote this review for Rolling Stone, dated Jan. 21, 1982. This was the band’s last album made with frontman Peter Wolf and was also their biggest. Their sound had changed quite a bit over the years, as they left behind their early blues roots and started to incorporate new wave elements into their sound (which began with the previous album Love Stinks). No matter what style of music they played (rock, R&B, blues, reggae, ballads), they always played it with conviction & panache…  


Ever since their early greaser days, when they were spitting out hard-boiled cover versions of tunes by the Miracles and John Lee Hooker, the J. Geils Band were also creating incendiary originals based on the lessons of Motown soul and electric Chicago blues. Such songs were ignited by the group’s adventurous spirit and wild-party enthusiasm. Singer Peter Wolf’s mighty mouth, guitarist J. Geils’ bull’s-eye licks and the wicked Wyman-and-Watts-style kick of bassist Stephen Bladd and drummer Daniel Klein may be the main reasons why the group was once knighted the American Rolling Stones. Indeed, few bands today could serve up a tasty Memphis stew like “Cry One More Time” (from 1971’s The Morning After) with such down-home panache and commercial cool or go Top Forty with reggaecum-Rascals-type R&B as in their 1973 hit, “Give It to Me.”
Even fewer groups stand a chance of matching the J. Geils Band’s thirteenth album, Freeze-Frame, for imagination, studio ingenuity and basic raunch-and-roll drive. This is maximum R&B with all the trimmings–a major-league helping of Stax-meets-the Stones, spiced heavily with pop exotica like cocktail strings, hot punk-funk rhythms and fractured jazz. Spurred on by triple-threat Seth Justman (keyboards, production, the lion’s share of songwriting), the J. Geils Band dare to go where most of their peers fear to tread, parading their uptown boogie with flamboyant gestures rooted mostly in New Wave cosmopolitanism: synthesizer future-pop, Third World inflections, rockabilly twang. Whereas such an ambitious midcareer failure as 1977’s Monkey Island suffered from indecision and overreach and 1980’s Love Stinks was a bit heavy on the emotional bile, Freeze-Frame is bold, even reckless at times, but always buoyant — a frenzied living monument to the art of partying.
These guys have certainly learned how to have fun with extremes. “Do You Remember When,” an exhilarating Wolf-Justman number that’s two-thirds classic O’Jays and one-third Las Vegas MOR, gets a wide-screen disco treatment, with galloping percussion and champagne strings (not to mention a short guitar-harmonics coda that imitates Chinese wind chimes). Seth Justman opens the six-minute “River Blindness” with a serpentine be-bop keyboard line over a rhythm machine. Harp man Magic Dick blows a resonant staccato riff, while Wolf leads the way through a dense, apocalyptic jungle chant that’s highlighted by an amp-eating Geils guitar solo. Just a few seconds later, the howlin’ Wolf eases into a bittersweet, Bruce Springsteen-style weeper called “Angel in Blue,” crying in his beer with hoarse gentility.
There’s purpose, of course, in all this playacting. The angular slash of J. Geils’ guitar and the jerky, psycho-James Brown pace of “Insane, Insane Again” project the madhouse anxiety of the tune’s title better than Justman’s wordy, strait-jacket lyrics. Even in a comparatively direct Geils smoker like “Rage in the Cage,” Magic Dick provides a police-siren wail and the group does a middle four that sounds like a chain gang breaking rocks. The song itself is about a teenage renegade running from the suburban thought police.
The J. Geils Band couldn’t pull off musicalcharades on this scale if they weren’t in peak playing form. Peter Wolf is much more a singer than a shouter these days. Magic Dick does things with a harmonica that sound like a sax section one minute and a guitar army the next. And the whole group cooks like six chefs on Bourbon Street. Seth Justman, to his credit, holds the show together with his astute arrangements and uncanny scoring of horns and strings.
But, more important, the J. Geils Band — whose world view is best summed up in the flippant and cynical “Piss on the Wall” (“Some folks say the world ain’t what it is/All I know is I just got to take a wiz”) — spell relief from life’s ills P-A-R-T-Y, and Freeze-Frame is, above all else, championship, nobullshit rock & roll. Like the young outlaw says in “Rage in the Cage”: “I’m nauseous — my transistor’s ’bout the only antidote to keep my temperature from runnin’ wild/Let me hear that radio!” When you hear this album come roaring out of your Panasonic ghetto blaster, you’ll know what he means.
 

David Fricke

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Van Morrison – “His Band and the Street Choir” (1970)

November 1, 2008 at 9:57 am (Reviews & Articles)

Jon Landau’s Jan. 21, 1971 review from Rolling Stone

 

During his down and out days. Van Morrison used to live on Green Street, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. After “Brown Eyed Girl” had hit during the summer of 1967, Van had followed his stars to the Boston of “Bosstown Sound” notoriety. Back then, the Boston Tea Party presented mainly local bands and the most popular of these was a group called the Hallucinations, which proved to be the forerunner of the J. Geils Band.

The Hallucinations used to do Morrison’s classic “Gloria” as a regular part of their show. One night, in front of an unusually restless crowd they introduced “the man who wrote this song” and Van came out to sing it in front of their very hard arrangement. No one seemed to know who he was. Frustrated and out of control he stood on the stage shouting meaningless phrases and incoherent syllables like some crazed demon. The audience’s mood went from indifference to hostility until one of the group’s guitarists grabbed the microphone and, in a fit of anger, screamed at the audience, “Don’t you know who this is? This man wrote the song.”

I saw Van Morrison over a year ago, playing second to the Band. He introduced most of the songs from Moondance there and they all sounded great. His band was great. The arrangements were great. Unfortunately, Van himself was again not in control of himself. And it wound up being just another one of those concerts that has given him a reputation as a stiff of a live performer.

Well, ladies and gentlemen. I saw Van Morrison perform a month ago, in front of 3,000 people, and he ain’t no stiff. As he was beginning his half of the concert I felt myself getting nervous at his nervousness. He took an exceptionally long time to tune and was obviously worried. He opened with a hesitant and shaky “And It Stoned Me,” but when he hit the second number, “These Dreams of You,” everything fell together. From then on, for the next hour and a half, he was like a locomotive moving down the tracks picking up steam at every stop.

When Van Morrison starts burning, it is without the mannerisms and posturings we have come to associate with stars. Short, uncharming, unglamorous, and unsmooth, he simply stands in front of his band, guitar in hand, and sings. There is no affectation. Everything is revealed and nothing hidden by the games of a false shaman. As he churned through the classics of Astral Weeks, and then “Moondance,” “Come Running,” and most of Moondance. I kept thinking that he was singing with the kind of feeling and fervor that some other artists have by now lost.

After “Moondance” the band left the stage for a solo by Van and then came back, minus the horns, for a superb “Ballerina.” When he got to “Into the Mystic,” the music was steaming and the audience was close to frenzy. The horns, which had trouble finding themselves earlier in the evening, were now providing perfect support for his voice and Van himself kept opening up, more and more, with every new verse and chorus.

The performance could have stopped there but now the three women who comprise the touring Street Choir joined Van for a great “Crazy Love” and “Domino.” He ended it all with “Caravan.”

For an encore Van offered “Cyprus Avenue.” Working his way up to a ferocious conclusion, he stood before the audience shaking his head back and forth, hair falling about him, looking like a man insane. Finally, with tension mounting, he ran across the stage, ran back again, jumped over a microphone chord, held the mike up to his face and screamed, “It’s too late to stop now,” and was gone.

Van Morrison’s road has been rocky, and it has not left him unscarred, but it is now obvious that he has not only made it through his personal bad times, but that he has come upon a period of great personal creativity. Beginning with Astral Weeks, he has released three albums of extraordinary quality in the last two years.

Moondance is, in my mind, one of the great albums of 1970. In it Van presented his fully developed musical style. The songs were gospel tinged but also touched with ballad-like prettiness. The band swung with the freedom of good jazz groups but locked itself into the simple melodic structure of the songs. The lyrics were simple, personal, and intense. And the singing was all things to all people: gospel, jazz and rock. Morrison has a great voice and on Moondance he found a home for it.

If Moondance had a flaw it was in its perfection. Sometimes things fell into place so perfectly I wished there was more room to breathe. Every song was a polished gem, and yet too much brilliance at the same time and in the same place can be blinding. The album would have benefited by some changes in mood and pace along the way. One or two light and playful cuts would have done the job.

On His Band and the Street Choir he seems to have realized that and has tried for a freer, more relaxed sound. Knowing he could not come up with another ten songs as perfectly honed as those on Moondance, he has chosen to show another side of what goes on around his house.

“Give Me A Kiss,” “Blue Money,” “Sweet Jannie” and “Call Me Up In Dreamland” are all examples of Van’s new, rollicking, good-timey style. “Give Me A Kiss’ is old rock and roll done with a light, jazzy touch. The chorus is enhanced by some simple back-up singing and, as on most of the record, drummer and associate producer Dahuud Elias Shaar moves things along perfectly. “Blue Money” features a sort of pumping piano by Alan Hand and a great nonsense chorus by Van and some of the Choir. “Sweet Jannie” is a straight shuffle about, presumably, Van’s wife Janet Planet: “Sweet Jannie, won’t you come out tonight wanna take you walking, by the pale moonlight,” and then, “Oh, baby c’mon, take me by the hand, I don’t want to stop walking, till we get up to the preacher man.” John Platania’s lead guitar is cool and mellow and plays against Van’s voice perfectly. And Van sings the blues with a lack of pretension we don’t normally associate with white singers.

“Call Me Up In Dreamland” is the sing-along of the year. Like “Blue Money” it has a sort of doubled bass in the bottom but the chorus, sung by what seems like everyone on the record, is especially powerful:

 

Call me up in dreamland,

Radio to me man,

Get the message to me,

Anyway you can …

 

While “Blue Money” sounds almost too loose and “Give Me A Kiss” for all its drive, a bit too conventional. “Call Me Up In Dreamland” is both loose and familiar, but still sounds thoroughly original and fresh.

As if to balance this assortment of light material, there is a group of down tunes all identified by the prominent use of acoustic lead guitar: “Crazy Face,” “I’ll Be Your Lover Too” and “Virgo Clowns.” The former is about a man who pulls out a gun and announces, “I got it from Jesse James.” The other two are simple love songs, the latter urging the girl to “Let your love come fill the room.”

On the rocking material the arrangements involving the whole band are kept to a simple minimum, with most of the creative sounds coming from the high pitched horn section. On the ballads, the rhythm section is kept loose with the lead acoustic predominating, and the horns, again, adding a distinctive and unexpected touch. Van’s singing is as smooth and powerful as it’s ever been. Occasionally he employs some eccentric phrasing that disrupts the flow of the music rather than enhancing it, but much more common is the soulful intensity with which he sings. “You’ll be my queen, I’ll be your king, Then I’ll be your lover too.”

The creative core of the album lies in four songs. “Gypsy Queen” is a sort of tribute to the Impressions that doesn’t really sound like the Impressions. It merely gives Van an excuse to use his falsetto, which he does brilliantly. “I’ve Been Working” is one of two songs on the album that makes direct use of Van’s roots in modern soul music. The born riff could have found its way to a James Brown session without any problems. The chorus in which the horns and Van’s voice come together to say “Woman, woman, woman, you make me feel alright” is breathtaking. And the rhythms especially bass, drums, and guitar are an awful lot funkier than one would have expected.

Finally “Domino” mixes that R&B funk with some pop lyrics and melodic ideas and it turns out to be Van’s top ten single. The guitar figure at the beginning of the cut is not only a great way to start a single, but a fine way to begin the album. Van’s singing is at its best, as all its eccentricities and nuances make sense here: “Oh, Domino, roll me over Romeo, there you go …” The bass, drums and horns it all hangs together as well as anything cut recently in Muscle Shoals or Memphis.

As “Domino” opens the album with a show of strength. “Street Choir” closes it with a burst of both musical and poetic energy which is not only better than anything else on the album but may well be one of Van’s two or three finest songs. Here, the keyboard holds the arrangement together, while the Street Choir enhances the chorus as they do only as well on “Call Me Up In Dreamland.” And finally, Van’s lyrics take over to complete the album’s statement,

 

Why did you leave America

Why did you let me down,

And now that things seem better off,

Why do you come around,

You know I just can’t see you know,

In my new world crystal ball,

You know I just can’t free you now,

That’s not my job at all.

 

His Band and the Street Choir is a free album. It was recorded with minimal over-dubbing and was obviously intended to show the other side of Moondance. And if it has a flaw it is that, like Moondance, it is too much what it set out to be. A few more numbers with a gravity of “Street Choir” would have made this album as close to perfect as anyone could have stood.

But notwithstanding its limitations. His Band and the Street Choir is another beautiful phase in the continuing development of one of the few originals left in rock. In his own mysterious way. Van Morrison continues to shake his head, strum his guitar and to sing his songs. He knows it’s too late to stop now and he quit trying to a long, long time ago. Meanwhile, the song he is singing keeps getting better and better.

Van Morrison: Rock on.

 

Jon Landau

 

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David Fricke – “Elvis Costello: Is This Year’s Elvis Still King?” (1979)

November 1, 2008 at 9:56 am (David Fricke, Elvis Costello, Reviews & Articles)

Written for Circus magazine (issue #210), from Feb. 13, 1979. One of Fricke’s early pieces, right before he went to Rolling Stone

 

At first glance, the 1979 model Elvis Costello does not look appreciably different from the ’78 version.  He still wears the same black horn-rimmed glasses setting off the defiant glare in his eyes, sports the same awkwardly moddish dress, and sings in the same snarling declamatory tone.
But the Elvis who’s just released his third album, Armed Forces (Columbia), is not quite the same bitter but determined person who sang his songs of lost innocence and pained experience for unsympathetic ears in London pubs for five years.  The former computer operator who lived a middle class life with a wife and son during the day and played his songs at night in semi-pro bands is a changed man.  The social outcast is now a star.
Dave Robinson, a Costello confidante and head of Stiff Records (Elvis’s first label), claims the main difference is that now the artist is no longer actively creating his music in the environment that “made him and his songs good.  He’s on tour now;  his little hovel on Downer Street, London W2, is not where he lives anymore.  His influences and everything around him have changed. And you hope that now if you put him in the lobby of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel that he’d write about that and it will be just as relevant.  That’s the situation with Elvis Costello.”
More to the point:  how will Elvis deal with the stardom both in and out of music?  So far he’s taken it by the throat and choked it as hard as he can.
For example, Australian wire services were humming over the news of a riot he started at a concert there by refusing to encore for 1200 fans who paid $11 a head.  His reason?  “They were too mechanical.”  More recently, at a London concert, Costello staged what one fan called “an absolute rip-off” when he played another short no-encore set for a full but demonstratively angry audience.  A sound engineer at the show surmised that Costello rushed through his set and stalked offstage “probably because the audience wasn’t dancing.”
Now the press reports sighting Elvis in the close company of blonde, scene-making bombshell Bebe Buell (ex-Playmate girlfriend of Todd Rundgren, Peter Frampton, and Rod Stewart).  Where Elvis walks, wagging tounges are sure to follow, but those tongues are asking if Costello – hailed as rock’s Angry Young Conscience by the same press he despises – is now succumbing to the pressures and temptations of fame he once called “the arse end of rock.”
Fame has not as yet dulled his lyrical sword.  On Armed Forces (originally dubbed Emotional Fascism), he flourishes metaphors, non sequiturs, and verbal barbs with the same meticulously choreographed finesse displayed on My Aim Is True and This Year’s Model.  But where Model’s “Lipstick Vogue” and Aim’s “I’m Not Angry” were forcefully staged attacks, Armed Forces‘s action imagery in the song titles (“Oliver’s Army,” “Goon Squad,” “Accidents Will Happen”) and the high-tension performance of Elvis’s band, the Attractions, is tempered by Nick Lowe’s sympathetic production and the veiled (as opposed to outright) threats in the lyrics.
The Live at Hollywood High EP included with early pressings of the LP is a touch disappointing only in comparison.  The three songs (“Accidents Will Happen,” “Alison,” and “Watching The Detectives”) don’t capture the Attractions – Steve Nieve, keys;  Bruce Thomas, bass;  Pete Thomas, drums – at their tightest, but the vocal fire Elvis breathes into his performance particularly sends “Detectives” up in a blaze of heated irony.
The former Declan MacManus – English son of a professional big band singer – has been stoking those flames since childhood when he followed his father to concerts and recording sessions when schooling allowed.  “Being a musician never seemed like a good job to do,” he once said.  But upon quitting school at 16 and eventually landing his computer operator gig in Liverpool, he took to writing songs and, for a period, gigging with a band called Flip City.
The popular story of Elvis’s discovery by Dave Robinson and now-manager Jake Riviera – the fearless original leaders of the fledgling Stiff label – goes that Elvis (who occasionally gigged under the moniker of Declan Costello, the latter a stage name used by his father) answered a Stiff newspaper ad for new and unusual talent.  Robinson adds, however, that Elvis first came to him with some songs in 1971 when the former was managing Brinsley Schwarz (with bassist Nick Lowe) and booking bands into London’s Pub-Rock Central, the notorious Hope and Anchor.
“He was really good at the time, too,” Robinson says of Elvis in a clipped Irish accent.  “He was writing marvellous songs, sensational stuff (including a prototype of his recent U.K. hit “Radio, Radio”), but there was no market he could do it in and I just wasn’t in a position to do anything about it.”
And the ones who were in the position couldn’t be bothered.  Costello personally banged on record company and publishing doors, giving live auditions in the offices, to no avail.  That succession of record company rejections and dismissals up until the Stiff deal has coloured Elvis’s current dealings – and the flamboyant managerial style of Riviera – with the music business and its hangers-on.  Consider Riviera’s celebrated tossing of an English journalist down a flight of stairs last year because the reporter supposedly hassled Elvis about an interview.
Elvis is certainly not the intimidating prima donna Riviera’s outburst implies, as the members of Canadian rock band, the Battered Wives, will attest.  The Wives were the opening act on a late ’78 Costello tour of the North Country and, much to the chagrin of Elvis’s retinue, garnered most of the headlines.  Militant feminists, outraged at the band’s name, staged several protests along the tour route, some of which made the local front pages.
“They could have got really uptight,” explains Wives drummer Toby Swann of Costello and crew.  “We were just opening the show but were getting most of the headlines.  They could’ve kicked us off the tour, but Elvis seemed to think it actually was rather funny.”  That was particularly true in Montreal when the Wives were pelted by protesters with raw edibles during a rousing version of the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me.”  Snickers Swann, “they really got us.”
Maybe it’s Elvis’s love of the incongruous that makes him such an intriguing – even puzzling – figure in pop, not unlike Dylan in top evasive form.  There is, however, no doubting Costello’s unbeatable chops as a songwriter who can burn experience on the brain with third-hand clarity as well as first-hand urgency.  His own unshakeable belief in himself is all this year’s model needs to bypass rock’s sophomore jinx.
“Years from now,” predicts Dave Robinson, “when people compile their lists of artists who wrote songs now that you can still play in 1985, Elvis will certainly be on it.”
As he once said in a song, Elvis Costello is not angry – or anything else.  He’s just Elvis. 

David Fricke

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The J. Geils Band – “The J. Geils Band” (1970)

November 1, 2008 at 9:31 am (Reviews & Articles)

Jan. 7, 1971 Rolling Stone review of the debut J. Geils album by Jon Landau. They were one of the great white blues/R&B bands of that time…

 

The J. Geils Band is the best album I’ve heard in some time. Made by six men who have spent the last five years learning their craft around the Boston – Cambridge area, it is a goodtime, modern piece of rock and roll; it is also totally devoid of the self-consciousness and pretensions that usually mar this kind of thing. In its energy, understanding, and execution the album not only reminds me of the early Stones, but compares favorably with them.

Lead singer Peter Wolf has been an R&B fanatic since he can remember. Out of his knowledge of the music he has put together a truly personal and distinctive style that apes no one and expresses his point of view naturally. Guitarist J. Geils, on the other hand, came to R&B only after spending years studying jazz. Like Wolf he has gotten past the purely derivative stage and on this album establishes a distinct identity with his solos and outstanding rhythm playing. His timing is impeccable and he can be as mellow as he is hard.

In many ways the album belongs to harpist Magic Dick. There are only four cuts (out of the 11) that could be called straight blues and on them he displays as broad a grasp of his instrument as I have heard by anyone recently. But even better is his ability to use the harp naturally and intelligently on material that would not normally call for its presence at all. Songs like “Wait” and “Homework” would normally rely on horns, but does the job so skillfully the listener never notes their absence.

Seth Justman plays a real piano as well as organ. Most of it is confined to rhythm playing but it is done expertly and distinctively. Underneath everything Stephen Bladd and Danny Klein provide the kind of loose, unobtrusive drums and bass that are the cornerstone of R&B.

The albums’ two instrumentals. “Ice Breaker” (dedicated to Mario Medios) and Albert Collins’ “Sno-Cone” are short and to the point. Everyone steps forward, blows a chorus, and steps back and lets the next guy burn. “Sno-Cone” has the shortest and one of the nicest drum breaks I’ve heard lately.

“Wait” introduces us to the uniqueness of Wolf’s singing and song style: “The bartender says you’re disengaged, and I thought I saw you look my way . . .” Steve Cropper might well be envious of Geils’ rhythm while the arrangement has the kind of sway to it that makes it all sound so easy.

“Cruisin’ For A Love” and “Pack Fair and Square” are two straight blues done as good as it can be done. The harp dominates both with its perfect lines and tone while the guitar supports perfectly and takes the lead with force and control when it is called for. All of it happening as Wolf sings us the lyrics of the immortal Juke Joint Jimmy: “I’m back on Broadway, cruisin’ for a love again.”

“Serves You Right to Suffer” distills the essence of the genius of John Lee Hooker like it has never been done before: “Serves you right to suffer / Serves you right to be alone. You’ve been livin’ in the good day / The good day is gone.”

“Homework” is an Otis Rush tune that comes back now as an R&B single styled burner. The ending is something else.

Finally, “On Borrowed Time” is a straight soul ballad, written by Wolf and Justman. It is a highlight of the record and nowhere is the uniqueness of the band better shown. Instead of using horns, the harp and organ (the two instruments in the group that can sustain notes) fill out the arrangement, not only making it all sound full, but direct and honest as well. The singing and the rest of the arrangement are fine.

The nicest thing about this album and the band is the balance they have found between the personal and the formal. They have chosen to work within certain conventions and modes. At the same time, they have completely avoided the route of slavish imitation and instead have put together an amazingly intimate and personal view of this kind of music. The material is perfect, the execution flawless, and the spirit never fails them.

John Lee Hooker is fond of saying “Nothing but the best, and later for the garbage.” He could have been talking about the J. Geils Band.

Jon Landau

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Barrence Whitfield and the Savages – “The Girl From Outta Space” (Live – 1991)

November 1, 2008 at 8:01 am (Music)

The man with the smooth, crooner’s voice…uhhh…okay, I’m totally kidding. Barrence’s voice is anything but smooth on this savage (pardon the pun) track (check out that scream at the end) – recorded live in 1991 (I believe over in France, opening up for Bo Diddley).
This band put out some seriously rockin’ R&B/garage rock albums in the 80s. Worth tracking down if you can find them…

Note: the video quality on this is just average.

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