Cottage Views Reviews by Senior Editor Michael A. Cimino
Reviews are listed in chronological order. Scroll down to find or jump to a review by clicking on links.
Phil Collins - Going Back DVD
Heart - Christmas Disc
Heart - Live disc & Anne Solo
Paul McCartney - concert
Paul McCartney - Memory Almost Full
Rolling Stones DVDs
Strawbs - Live
The Fireman (a.k.a. Paul McCartney)
as seen in MMZ
Julian Lennon - Everything Changes (Conehead UK)
Back in the eighties Julian Lennon helped fill the void left by his famous father’s passing with some very Lennon-esque Pop-Rock. While his music did not contain the acerbic wit and edge of his father, it did have a familiar sound that was comforting and popular, and (although sometimes over-produced) the voice was blood-line authentic.
Unfortunately, some of his best work (“Now you’re in Heaven,” “Saltwater,” “I Don’t Want To Know”) was all but ignored by the public en masse and as time marched on Julian would leave the recording world, disgusted by the machinations of promotion and critique and the press’ obsession with his family instead of his music. While Julian was off pursuing his interests in cooking and sailing, his half-brother Sean didn’t help the music world much with his sporadic output and avant-garde leanings, once again leaving a void in the music world only to be filled by pale imitators.
Finally, this past season saw the return of Julian Lennon – the musician - with the release of Everything Changes. Approaching 50, Julian is obviously making music for himself and his own generation and is not attempting to record the proverbial “hit record” or chase the elusive Pop charts. The content of the new disc is mostly piano based mid-tempo music that can only be classified as Contemporary Singer/Songwriter. His MO hasn’t changed much over the years and on Everything Changes he continues to voice his sorrow for humanities’ imperfect ways through dreamy melodic tunes that brush stroke Rock ‘n’ Roll with elements of Psychedelia.
Of immediate interest will be the first single/video “Lookin’ 4 Luv” which features gorgeous harmonies and a backwards guitar solo that will easily entice any Beatles fan. But it is the hidden gems that are of particular note, especially the creeping “Touch the Sky” that musically swoops in and out while the lyrics move us towards a goal of universal hope, and “Disconnected” - a modern day magical mystery tour of slithery rhythms accented by sitar, cello, and harmony vocals that speak of mans detachment from his true self “by the powers that be” in today’s manic society.
The highlight of the disc culminates in the confessional rant of “Just for You,” where Lennon’s search for redemption runs parallel to his longing for the elusive memory of that which once was and can never be again.
It’s interesting how art imitates art and then reflects it back. Throughout Everything Changes you can hear the powerful influence of mid-period Beatles, their disciples Oasis, and then, ultimately, Julian Lennon who has forged his own brand of Brit-Rock that carries on his father’s voice for peace, love and understanding.
As he sings on the coda to this disc “The love you left behind will carry on” it is he, like his father before him that has left an indelible stamp on this world. No longer will Julian Lennon ever have to stand in the shadow of another’s brilliance, and should he decide to once again eschew the field of Pop music it will be this collection - his most fully realized and cohesive recording - which he will be remembered for.
Julian Lennon has given a portion of his royalties from Everything Changes to the White Feather Foundation which promotes the co-existence of all species and the health and well being of planet Earth.
"...flows like autumn leaves on a cool breeze, capturing candlelit romance in a glass of deep red wine."
"success written all over it."
Older Reviews below... Scroll on, scroll on...
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60s British Invasion - Various Artists (Madacy Entertainment)
While surfing for gifts on Amazon this year I came across a 3 CD box set called 60s British Invasion that comes housed in a Collector’s Edition tin. First of all let it be very clear – these are not the original hit versions that you may have grown up with. What is contained here are ‘new stereo recordings by the original artists.’
Apparently this collection was made in Canada in 2008, but other than that we don’t get much information. Some of the versions are true to the originals, some are not, and some are recorded live. For some people this defeats the point, but for other collectors - such as myself - this is a treasure trove of very cool stuff. The alternate take of Eric Burdon’s “House of the Rising Sun” with an a cappella intro and a scorching guitar solo is worth the price of the box set alone (a bargain at $10.99), and the live version of “I’m a Man” not only contains a drum solo worth listening to, but also has Spencer Davis singing lead himself.
Beatle-files will be interested to hear Mary Hopkin’s mature voice soar on “Those were the Days” which stays true to Paul McCartney’s original production, and Tony Sheridan’s “Why,” which sounds an awful lot like a remix of the original recording that has the Hamburg-era Beatles singing backup on it. Ex-Wings, and Moody Blues founder, Denny Laine turns in a straight forward rendition of “Go Now” with excellent musicianship and vocals that make the song sound undated. Unfortunately, former Beatles sidekick Billy J. Kramer’s new recording of “Bad to Me” pales in comparison to the original and his other two contributions to the set, a peppy version of “Do you want to know a Secret?” and a sloppy "Little Children" add little to his reputation.
Two other highlights worth mentioning include a 9 minute jam on “We gotta get out of this Place,” and a heavy electric “Sunshine Superman” that sounds more like T Rex than Donovan.
Although the booklet gives zero information as to when or where any of the re-recordings came from, quite simply, this box is value packed, and I’m glad I picked it up.
The Rolling Stones DVD Reviews
Stones in Exile (Eagle Rock Ent.)
Ladies and Gentlemen - The Rolling Stones (Eagle Vision)
new DVDs that capture the dark underbelly of Rock ‘n’ Roll are centered on
the Rolling Stones, and are proof positive of why they have been dubbed the
World’s Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band.
first, Stones in Exile, smartly kept to a 60 minute documentary, is a behind the
scenes making of the Rolling Stones masterwork Exile on Main Street.
Having been forced to flee their native England in the very early
seventies to avoid the taxman the Stones convened in the south of France for a
very long party that occasionally resulted in some of the greatest music they
would ever produce.
the close of the sixties, and The Beatles disbanded, the Rolling Stones usurped
the seventies shattering any remaining hopes or dreams of idealism and
in Exile also dispels the myth that Mick Jagger is totally in charge of this
freewheeling circus, and shows Keith Richards as the driving force of the group.
With new interviews from all members, past and present, the film shows
that Mick and Keith were not holed up in a sweaty basement making music every
day as was widely rumored.
Jagger and his very pregnant then-wife Bianca were in fact in Paris for
much of the time while Keith pursued his muses – a trio of drugs, music and
Guitarist Mick Taylor, who was relatively new to the band at that time,
appears rather unaffected by the decadence surrounding him and gives voice to
Keith’s ideas while the rhythm section of Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts made
their dutiful appearances.
It was a strange time for the Rolling Stones and it is a miracle that
they lived through it, did not go to jail, and needless to say continued on as a
other film, Ladies and Gentlemen – The Rolling Stones is really where all of
the sweat that went into making Exile pays off.
Filmed over four nights in Texas on the
Exile on Main Street tour, Ladies
and Gentlemen is a concert film that is as riveting today as it must have been
to be in the front row then.
And here is where Mick Jagger shows his worth.
As frontman, he is a jumping, strutting, cock-sure rooster that
completely owns the stage, conjuring a spell that few Rock Stars can produce.
The band is rock solid and fireworks spill forth, especially from Mick
Watching this film you can totally understand why Richards recently
stated that if were up to him Taylor would still be in the band today.
Both the sound and vision on this disc have been meticulously
remastered and the results are top notch.
Ladies and Gentlemen is extremely
satisfying for any Rock music fan, and
Stones freaks will be hard pressed to decide which parts to watch over and over
Just some of the highlights are the semi-acoustic set of “Sweet
Virginia” and “You can’t always get what you Want” and the bonus videos
of the Stones rehearsing, including the rare instrumental “Bluesberry Jam”
that shows Keef’s chops as a Blues guitarist.
Both of these discs are presented by Eagle Records/Eagle Vision, one of the largest independent companies in the UK who have been fighting the good fight to keep quality Rock ‘n’ Roll alive by investing in heritage artists and releasing new records and archival audio and video. They are also responsible for Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood’s new solo album I Feel Like Playing which features guest appearances from ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons, Kris Kristofferson, Jim Keltner, Slash, Flea, Eddie Vedder, and others.
Phil Collins - Going Back (DVD)
release sure to catch curiosity seekers’ attention is Phil Collins:
Going Back (Eagle Vision DVD/Atlantic CD).
When I first heard that former Prog-Rocker-turned-Schlock-Meister Phil
Collins had returned to recording and performing my head cocked with one eyebrow
lifted in an expression of “what…?”
Love him or hate him, Phil Collins has had a lengthy career with enough
success to stare down the baddest of the bad; he lifted his first group out of
Prog-Rock obscurity at a time when the music world were ready to condemn the art
form simply out the necessity to change and into chart topping territory, racked
up millions of sales as a solo artist and producer, scored musical moments for
Disney, and re-interpreted Soul music for white-bread America.
On Going Back Collins returns to the music that moved him when he was
young – the single sides of Motown and Stax with some startling results.
It really is hard to imagine that this is the same musician who laid down
the slamming drums of “In the Air Tonight,” the dark, mysterious vocalist of
Genesis’ “Mama,” or the tough Rock singer of “No Son of Mine.”
Now approaching age 60, Collins has mellowed into a dark suited
entertainer with a ready for Vegas act, complete with a few of the original Funk
Brothers in tow.
This may not be Smokey, the Temps, or the 4 Tops, but for better or worse
upon listening to these well executed tunes you begin to realize that unless
someone like Phil Collins does this kind of stuff we are never going to get to
see or hear these truly American Classic songs performed in a live setting with
a band of top notch musicians, and this genre of music can easily slip into
darkness through apathy and the pursuit of progress.
To his credit, on the DVD, Collins keeps the tunes coming without much chat
in between songs.
He is here to entertain us, and entertain he does.
You can deny it if you like, but for most of us Phil Collins is a guilty pleasure.
So, lighten up, get your groove on, and shake your boney butt a bit.
Thanks Phil, and merry Christmas.
Rosanne Cash - The List (Manhattan Records)
In 1973 Johnny Cash gave his daughter Rosanne some music advice, along with a list of songs she should know, when she was first starting out in the family business. Some 35, or more, years later she finally got around to recording some of them. The result, The List (Manhattan Records) is flawless. Simply put, Rosanne Cash is the most honest voice in American music today. If her Papa were still alive he would be very, very proud.
John Ford—Big Hit in India (Whole Shot Records)
Former Strawbs bassist John Ford, now residing in the states, has been quietly releasing home-made records for some time now. Having never lost the ability to write a memorable hook, Ford opens the flood gates on his latest offering serving up 12 slices of tasty treats that run the gamut of Pop-Rock. From the 60s styled Brit Pop of the fab “Still Waiting,” the Soft-Rock sway of “And I Love the Way,” to the neo-Rock-a-Billy of “We Always Rock and Roll,” every track on Big Hit in India demands repeat listening. This is a well thought out record having the flow of classic albums from yesteryear with production and sound quality to match (something that has been inconsistent on past recordings). On the arena-ready title track Ford bemoans I can’t get on the radio/Or on TV/They tell me I’m much too old/For this music scene only to suppress his laughter as he sings But I’m a big hit in India/That’s why they call out my name/Get out the mini skirts and the flowered shirts/San Francisco, G I Jane! If some programmers get savvy and start playing some of these infectious tunes Big Hit in India would be a big hit everywhere.
The Fireman - Electric Arguments (ATO Records)
It won’t take more than a few moments of listening to the new Fireman disc for Beatle-files of a certain age to reassure themselves that John Lennon and Paul McCartney were musical soul mates. On the opening track of Electric Arguments McCartney unleashes a rave up that shows how he could have improved on Lennon’s 1972 throwaway “Do the Oz.” This is McCartney’s third collaboration with producer Youth (a.k.a. Martin Glover of Killing Joke) under the pseudonym The Fireman, and the first to contain full-on vocals. While McCartney is not afraid to look back on his illustrious career, especially with the Revolver-like bass lines in “Highway,” he is not resting on his laurels either. Pushing forward, he nears Jon Anderson territory on the atmospheric “Lifelong Passion” and enters into the ambient world with “Lovers in a Dream” and the ten-minute plus closing track. With material this good, on the heels of the excellent Memory Almost Full, anticipation for the next full fledged McCartney disc is going to be excruciating.
Sharon Little—Perfect Time for a Breakdown (CBS)
Hand picked by Robert Plant to open his North American tour with Alison Krauss, Sharon Little’s voice is anything but small. On her debut album, Perfect Time for a Breakdown, the Philadelphia native let’s loose her God-given instrument on eleven all too brief original songs. Recorded primarily with only her producer, Scot Sax, in tow this is the kind of tough Blues based Pop-Soul that has the potential to cross over and reach Norah Jones type masses. Key tracks include the slow burner “Follow That Sound” and the funky “Space Ship,” which contains a classic kiss-off line worthy of note; Don’t want to step on your toes, But someone’s gotta do the driving here/So call me when you learn how to steer. I’ve got a feeling that nobody’s big enough to get in the way of Sharon Little’s success.
Fire - The Magic Shoemaker Live (Angel Air)
by Lindsay Sorrell
Following an absence of some 37 years, the three original members of Fire
reunited to perform their classic (and now highly collectible) album, The
Magic Shoemaker, which was a "fairytale opera" written by Dave
Lambert and originally released in 1970. Fire had never before performed the
entire album as they unfortunately split before it had even been released,
somewhat disillusioned with the unfathomable workings of the music industry.
However, a recent surge of interest in Fire led Dave to consider reforming the
band to fulfill a long-held dream to do just that.
The Magic Shoemaker Live has a 12-page glossy color booklet packed with photos and comprehensive information, and is an excellent buy for music lovers seeking something different.
Many thanks to Lindsay Sorrell for this fine piece of journalism.
Strawbs - The Broken Hearted Bride (Witchwood Media)
Read Review Here
Anne Wilson - Hope & Glory (Zoe)
Heart - Legendary Albums Live - Dreamboat Annie (Shout! Factory)
Not that long ago I wrote that there was a renaissance of Heart music going around at the Cottage Views office... and now it is happening again! The release of Ann Wilson's first ever solo disc, Hope & Glory (Zoe Records) and the debut of Legendary Albums Live (with a matching DVD to boot) - a project spearheaded by Shout! Factory Records - there is no shortage of Wilson vocalizing and crunching guitars around here. On Ann's solo disc she duets with the likes of Elton John (on the excellent EJ classic "Where to Now, St. Peter?"), Wynonna Judd, and Alison Krauss, just to name a few. Classic Rock covers are the par for the course here and she knocks out some home runs with Zep's "Immigrant Song," and the Animals' "We Gotta Get Out of This Place."
If you haven't listened to the original Dreamboat Annie in a while the new live version is reason to reminisce. Included are powerful versions of the hits ("Magic Man," "Crazy On You"), FM radio staples ("Sing Child," the title track), and should-have-been hits ("Love me like music, I'll Be Your Song"). This is top-notch, high energy, Rock played by pros who sound convicted. For an encore (included on both CD and DVD) are Heart's renditions of songs that influenced the writing of the original album. You must hear their takes on Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog" and "Misty Mountain Hop," and The Who's "Love, Reign O'er Me." Buy these now!
Paul McCartney - Memory Almost Full (Hear Music) August 2007
Memory Almost Full is the most memorable collection of songs that McCartney has written in several years. In a sense the disc is reminiscent of Ram in all the best possible ways as it sparkles with simplicity and quirky melodies that you can't get out of your head. It is a shame that one of the most beautiful tracks recorded for this disc, "Why so Blue," has been relegated to the bonus disc of the deluxe edition.
Dave Cousins - The Boy in the Sailor Suit (Witchwood Media) July 2007
Dave Cousins is far from alien to the readers of Cottage Views. As founder, guiding light, and chief songwriter of British Progressive Folk-Rock legends Strawbs, Dave Cousins has now been delivering excellence for forty years. It is truly amazing that as he reaches this milestone in his career he has just released his second ever “official” solo album. Certainly, there have been recordings outside of the Strawbs fold, including works with erstwhile Strawbs Brian Willoughby and Rick Wakeman, as well as his collaborations with Germany’s Connie Conrad and his contributions to numerous other artists, but The Boy in the Sailor Suit finds Cousins, who happens to be experiencing a professional renaissance, working with musicians both known and unknown to his die-hard fans.
The ten track CD features Strawbs bassist Chas Cronk and Blues guitarist Miller Anderson (who was featured on Cousins’ excellent debut solo album Two Weeks Last Summer) as well as drummer Chris Hunt and fiddle player Ian Cutler. While Cutler’s playing adds swing to Cousins’ spitfire vocals on the upbeat opener “Never take Sweets from a Stranger” and urgency to the Pop-y “Skip to my Lou,” and Anderson’s stinging guitar work accents “Mother Luck” and the modern Dylan-esque “Hellfire Blues,” it is strictly Cousins who remains the star here. His songwriting and arranging, whether it is leant to arena-ready Rock or his trademark romantic ballads, is pointed. His viewpoint is contemporary. And his vocal chops have never sounded better.
The Boy in the Sailor Suit is a worthy addition to a career well worth investigation and celebration. If you have ever been a fan of the Strawbs, Fairport Convention, Jethro Tull, Cat Stevens, or any other like-minded British Rockers, seek this disk out.
Bob Seger - Face The Promise (Capitol) November 2006
Two strong songs kick off the new disc from
Michigan’s favorite American heartland rocker Bob Seger.
The first, a souped up slicer with driving guitars, the second a melodic
mid-tempo tune that picks up where “Against the Wind” left off in 1980.
hasn’t lost his trademark sound, and his well-worn vocals are right on the
money. This is good stuff – very
good stuff. But what would you
expect from a multi-platinum selling superstar who hasn’t made a new record in
12 years? After all of this time I
would expect some quality – so the jury is still out… until Seger delivers
the verdict with the title track, “Face the Promise.”
no less then four other guitarists backing him up, Seger leaps into action like
he was 21 years old all over again and hungry for acceptance.
Face the Promise is packed full of big guitars, crystalline sound, and
truly gritty American Rock ‘n’ Roll.
none of his previous band members (The Silver Bullet Band) appear on the
disc there is no lack of quality musicianship and guest appearances by old
friends Billy Payne and Shaun Murphy of Little Feat fame
take the record up a notch. Even Kid
Rock earns his due here, lending his white-trash yelp to the Hank
Williams tribute “Real Mean Bottle.”
Seger has always excelled at fusing Detroit Soul with Hard Rock. His alchemy is unique, and it has been missed. Face The Promise is a very worthy addition to his catalog. Glad to have him back.
The Zombies - Odessey & Oracle
I heard this album for the first time about 32 years after it was released, and had only heard ONE SONG from it - the hit "Time of the Season" - before I listened to it in full. So it was if I was hearing it when it first came out in 1969... it was so amazing, beautiful, melancholy, melodic, and unlike anything I had ever heard. It solidified me as a huge Zombies fan, and the rare combination of brilliant songwriting, musicianship, vocals, and production is second only to The Beatles. Although this isn't my favorite record of all time, I would be happy if it was the only thing I could listen to for the rest of my life.
contributed by John Lathrop, Austin, Texas, USA
– Man Alive! (Titan/Pyramid Records)
Strawbs - Live at NEARfest 2004 (Witchwood Media) September 2005
In the 20 odd years that we patiently waited for the Strawbs to return to full time work we were greeted with sporadic discs that were somewhat of an amalgam of all of their stylistic musings past. Hidden within those discs (Don't Say Goodbye, Ringing Down the Years, etc.) are several unpolished gems, and I readily admit that I welcomed this mature direction. As the Strawbs aged gracefully Dave Cousins wrote more accessible material and Brian Willoughby laid down the tastiest of guitar licks.
Following their 30th Anniversary gig, and the departure of Willoughby, Cousins and Co. are now back to the line-up that broke through in the United States with Hero & Heroine, and Ghosts - two of their best charting records. Last year saw the release of the excellent Deja Fou (an album of all new material), a tour to promote it, and a much deserved headlining gig at the North East Art Rock Festival.
The live album culled from this concert is extraordinary in that it shows how powerful this music was and continues to be. Through all of its long and tangled career it comes down to the fact that the songs written in the time frame between 1973-1978 (and the new tracks which are a reflection of them) define who the Strawbs really are. The band is in top form, and on Live at NEARfest they have finally recorded their definitive concert performance. From the acoustic beginnings of "Out in the Cold" to the thundering "The River/Down by the Sea" (which includes a blistering guitar solo from Dave Lambert) to the gentle closer "Here Today Gone Tomorrow" the Strawbs map out the blueprint for true Progressive Rock, with superior skill and sound quality to match.
With music of this caliber so scarce an art form in today's world let us hope that this is not the journey's end but truly a new beginning.
Magical Mystery Tours by Tony Bramwell with Rosemary Kingsland
Magical Mystery Tours (Thomas Dunne Books-St. Martin's Press), the new autobiography from Beatles' assistant Tony Bramwell will shed very little new light on all things fab for Beatle-philes, although readers just getting to know the history of The Beatles' inner workings will find this 400 + page tome fascinating.
The Beatles' inner-circle of assistants in London was always old friends from their hometown of Liverpool, and Bramwell is no exception. While he treats each Beatle equally in the book it becomes obvious that he and Paul McCartney were the closest of friends, and that friendship still remains today.
The real crux of Magical Mystery Tours is not so much the story of The Beatles themselves but of the people surrounding them, and how they influenced four men who changed history. Bramwell should be commended for his frank portrayals and observations of Brian Epstein's psychosomatic homosexuality, Yoko Ono's stubborn hunger for money and power, and Allen Klein's ruthless greed. There is also one little known fact that the author delivers in the final chapter which may shock those who thought they knew the real John Lennon.
At times Bramwell's reminisces digress into bits and pieces of social commentary, and wild tales, which confuse the time frame continuum, but they are interesting and this man has certainly led a charmed life.
It has been said before, and once again this proves, that being born of privilege, and being able to keep your feet (somewhat) on the ground has its advantages. In the case of Tony Bramwell, some very large advantages.
Heart Presents "A Lovemonger's Christmas" - Sovereign Artists
For those who didn't know that Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart have an alter ego, known as Lovemongers, here is a present that will surely warm the hearth for this season and many more to come.
A Lovemongers Christmas was originally released in 2001 to little applause, but with Heart's current presence in the marketplace, due to the successes of their fantastic Jupiter's Darling disc and supporting tour, this re-issue (with 2 new tracks) should now get some long overdue respect. A combination of traditional and original holiday songs, the Wilson sisters and friends take a softer tone here with beautiful renditions of "Ave Maria," and "Oh Holy Night," and even bring a New York Cabaret feel to the new original "Let's Stay In."
Additionally, "It's Christmas Time," another original, is a great Rock Christmas song that deserves to be played on radio year after year - just like Billy Squier's "Christmas is the Time to Say I Love You," or Bruce Springsteen's "Santa Claus is Coming to Town."
The other new track, a cover of Patti Griffin's "Mary," is also worth noting. Whether singing of the mother of mankind, the mother of Christ, or just another mother named Mary this song, especially in Ann Wilson's hands, is a moving tribute to womanhood.
Not only is this disc highly recommended, but I must say Heart is the most-welcome comeback in years. Merry Christmas, indeed.
Pink Floyd - The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
Sometime in late 2003 Continuum Books began releasing a series of books based on the recording of Classic Rock albums entitled the 33 1/3 Series. Included in the initial rollout were The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society, by Andy Miller, and The Piper at the Gates of Dawn by John Cavanagh. Pocket-sized, and in paperback, these quick studies will set you back about $10 each and take up about an afternoon's worth of time. While Miller's tome is overly verbose and torturous to get through, Cavanagh's peek inside of Pink Floyd's debut recording is a joy. Right up front the author reveals that he is a fan, and not a journalist, thus setting his tone with simplistic, yet good sentence structure and well conceived organization. Whether you think of original Floyd frontman Syd Barrett as a genius or a crackpot, or a combination of both, Cavanagh's writing will definitely make you reach for your old copies of Piper to re-think it all over again.
The Who – Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970 (August 2004)
While we now exist in the twilight of The Who’s career, and our memories of their worth have begun to fade, here now arrives a document to remind us why, at the dawning of the seventies, “The bloody ‘Oo” were the greatest fucking Rock band alive.
On the Isle of Wight, on August 30, 1970, at 2 AM, four lads from Acton, England, stepped out onto a stage surrounded by 600,000 festival-goers and exploded into history.
Gone were the smart suits of the sixties, along with the repertoire of hit singles. In their place were loosely arranged songs played in a ferocious full-frontal attack to the cranium that would define Rock music until the Punks usurped it some 7 years later.
Vocalist Roger Daltrey had reinvented himself as a Rock god, complete with hippie fringe and a mane of curls that framed his face like a golden halo. He was no longer the tough street hood in mod clothes. He was now an open receptacle radiating with Messiah-like presence. On one side he is flanked by the solid, almost catatonic, bassist John Entwistle dressed in a Halloween-like skeleton outfit, on the other the antithesis; guitarist/songwriter Pete Townsend – leaping and jumping, arms flailing in a windmill motion – choking his instrument into submission. Behind all of this, drummer Keith Moon is thrashing his equipment in an endless roll that defies interpretation. No band at that time, or since for that matter, had ever approached music with this type of abandon and was able to make any sense of it. Watching this outlandish stage act you can’t help but question how the music could fuse at all – and yet it does.
Whether playing a new composition or reinterpreting a Classic from the generation before, The Who refused to define what was or was not a lead instrument. All of the players, including Daltrey, were lead and rhythmic. Improvisation, as was the modus operandi of the day, was taken full advantage of, and the swirling whirlwind that spontaneously combusted onstage extended to the audience making a Who concert, especially this particular night, a celebration that every single soul in attendance became an integral part of.
Digitally remastered in 5.1 surround sound by Townsend himself, Live at the Isle of Wight is a minor masterpiece exposing a major breakthrough in the history of Rock ‘n’ Roll. My only complaint is the lack of camera shots of Entwistle during key moments (his lead vocal on “Heaven and Hell,” his thunderous runs in “Pinball Wizard,” etc.).
If you have ever doubted that Rock is the most powerful form of musical expression then this is the DVD you need to see.
AEROSMITH - HONKIN’ ON BOBO (June 2004)On their latest release, Aerosmith finally step out of cartoon character long enough to get back to doing what they used to do so well – rock with the sloppy swagger of the Rolling Stones circa Exile on Main Street. From the opening assault of Steven Tyler’s lascivious howl on “Road Runner” Boston’s perennial teenagers slap you in the face with every dirty lick in the Blues-Rock book. Honkin’ on Bobo (Columbia Records) isn’t so much a collection of Blues tunes, or a tribute to the inventors of the idiom, as it is a tribute to what Aerosmith grew up listening to – the British Blues Boom re-inventions of Blues classics. Once a vehicle for a young Van Morrison, “Baby Please Don’t Go” sounds like it was tailor made for Aerosmith. Joe Perry’s guitar plows through the track like a runaway freight train while Tyler’s vocals, and crazy-man scatting, teeter on cliff-edge while being perfectly integrated into the mix. Had his whisper-to-a-scream antics been overplayed here it would have brought them right back to the child’s sandbox. Another highlight is the super sexy-sounding vocals of Tracy Bonham backing Perry (doing a rare lead vocal) on the haunted “Back Back Train” paraphrasing what made Rock ‘n’ Roll so dangerous in the first place. These songs with this production, along with the most solid rhythm section in Rock today, makes Honkin’ one of the best releases of the year.
Little Feat - Kickin' it at the Barn (June 2004)
Anyone who knows anything about Little Feat knows that musical-adventure is their middle name, so it’s no surprise when Indian tablas, or an authentic Mexican band, show up midway through a tune on their latest disc. But these are sidebars, really. Kickin’ it at the Barn (Tomato Records) which slipped out some six months ago via the internet is now readily available and the Feats are touring in support of it. Not that I would expect anything less, but this is easily their most cohesive studio work in many years. Right from the fire-y start of “Night on the Town” you know you’re in for a joyride, and everyone in the band sounds totally electrified. Perhaps it had something to do with recording it in multi-instrumentalist Fred Tackett’s barn-turned-studio in Topanga Canyon where they could all temporarily relax. Vocalist Shaun Murphy’s Blues offering, “I’d be Lyin’,” is one hell of a mover, and Tackett’s own “In a Town like This” gets a more Rocked-up treatment than on his solo disc. You don’t have to be a Jam-Band fan to enjoy the percolating workout of “Stomp” or the funky Frank Zappa-like Progressive Rock of “I do What the Telephone tells me to Do.” The recording is clean and spacious and the performances go without question. These guys are musicians’ musicians. The acoustic capper, “Bill’s River Blues,” is a nice touch, too.
Dave Lambert - Work in Progress (February 2004)
During their heyday in the seventies Folk-Rock cum Progressive Art Rock ensemble the Strawbs accrued a solid fan base, moved a respectable amount of records, achieved chart success, and sold a truckload of concert tickets, yet never quite became broadly famous Pop Stars. Their particular brand of contemporary music always reached an audience, perhaps due to leader Dave Cousins’ entrepreneurial style of marketing, but stayed outside of the mainstream of American ears until guitarist Dave Lambert joined the group in 1973.
Prior to joining the Strawbs, Lambert had signed a publishing contract with The Beatles’ Apple Records and recorded with a notorious aggregation known as Fire (a.k.a. Friday’s Chyld). Between the Strawbs devolvement in the late seventies and their full-time reformation twenty years later Dave Lambert dropped out of the game to become a ski instructor and entertained small audiences with an acoustic guitar – usually in front of a ski lodge’s fireplace.
Lambert’s contribution to the Strawbs, and music, is no small gift, as the group’s most evergreen recordings remain the epic tunes that Cousins penned for he and Lambert to present as two sides of the same coin. Now, Witchwood Records – the Strawbs own boutique record label – will release Work in Progress, a new compilation chronicling the works of Dave Lambert. Highlights include three brand new solo tracks, an unreleased Fire single from 1970, and the guitarist’s acoustic set from 1998’s Strawbs 30th Anniversary celebration.
Unfortunately, missing from the collection are three key tracks from Lambert’s cannon; Fire’s debut single “Fathers name is Dad,” “Take a Look at My Life” (a hit for Eddie Money in 1982) from his 1979 solo album Framed, and ‘the single that never was’ “New Beginnings” from the Strawbs’ Deadlines recorded a year earlier.
Although these gems are not available for this anthology – being tied up in legal wrangles – from a fans/collectors point of view, or from the perspective of ‘great music’ vs. ‘product,’ this disc comes highly recommended. The new, leadoff, track, “The Man I Saw Last Night,” (featuring Cousins on harmonies) is stunning modern-day Folk complete with Lambert’s trademark guitar fills, while another track “Starlight,” recorded when Lambert was fronting the King Earl Boogie Band in 1972, is a tremendous slow burn in the style of early Jethro Tull, the unplugged rendition of “The Winter and the Summer” shines brightly, and the guitar solo in “Remember Me Always” is… well, rather memorable to say the least.
Allman Brothers Band - Hittin' the Note (September 2003)
Hittin’ the Note,
the first new recording from the Allman Brothers in nine years, is a sonic
journey that is nothing short of spectacular. With Warren Haynes of Gov’t
Mule back in the fold, as guitarist as well as producer, Hittin’ the
Note soars from the opening bars of “Firing Line” and burns brightly
right through to the last note. Sparing with Haynes is guitarist Derek Trucks,
the 22 year-old nephew of Allman’s drummer Butch Trucks, who has been a
traveling musician since the ripe old age of 11. Both players are white hot on
this set and rightfully have been voted into the top 100 guitarists of all time
by Rolling Stone magazine alongside original Brothers Duane Allman and Dickey
In addition to the guitarists, joining founding Brothers Gregg Allman, drummers Trucks and Jaimoe, and longtime percussionist Marc Quinones, is new bassist Oteil Burbridge – late of Bruce Hampton & the Aquarium Rescue Unit. This intense new line-up tears it up in classic Allman fashion from the Funk-ified “Maydell” to the Blues drenched remake of the Rolling Stones’ “Heart of Stone.” When the band swings into the mid-section tempo change in “Desdemona” or the Santana-esque “Rockin’ Horse” there is no doubt about who wrote the book on jamming. The band sounds truly invigorated and Allman’s claim that Note is “the best album we’ve made since Eat A Peach” may prove to be no exaggeration.
The Eagles Have Landed (August 2003)
The latest format to be developed for peddling music is the DVD Single. Whether or not this new medium is valid, viable, or marketable has yet to be decided. As M TV proved many years ago the marriage of sound and vision makes new music readily digestible. On the downside, unimaginative video permanently stamps the viewer with a vision that robs the mind of its own interpretation.
One of the first DVD singles to come our way is from veteran supergroup, the Eagles. Smartly, the Eagles (now a quartet) opt for a performance clip, shot in glorious black and white, for their latest song “Hole in the World.”
Through the eye of the camera we witness the now older statesmen of Rock harmonizing and performing with the most sincere of expressions, barely cracking a smile until the song is three quarters over. Written by founders Don Henley and Glenn Frey the song actually owes more to the vocal arrangements of ex-Poco bassist Timothy B. Schmit, who joined the band right as they were about to hit the pinnacle of their popularity in the seventies.
Unfortunately, “Hole in the World” is plodding, lightweight MOR at best. Its repetitive and sobering lyric “There’s a hole in the world tonight/Don’t let there be a hole in the world tomorrow” reeks of Henley’s ever growing ecological concerns yet the Eagles fail to offer any suggestions or solutions. Ultimately, the song comes across as superficial and trite.
Furthermore, while all are capable musicians, there are no aural fireworks to push the tune along and it becomes utterly forgettable within moments. Guitar hero Joe Walsh, who also came into the band after their initial success, is relegated to organ while studio sleuth Steuart Smith (Rosanne Cash/Cicadas) lays down some tasteful, yet pedestrian, licks.
If this is all the Eagles have to offer as they stride into middle age then many fans, young or old, are going to be disappointed.
Lynyrd Skynyrd - Vicious Cycle
After reading Rolling Stone’s one star review of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s latest, Vicious Cycle (Sanctuary) I have to wonder if they received the same disc that I did. Sure, these are good ol’ beer and whiskey drinking, mama loving, southern boys (and girls), and perhaps their hit “Red, White & Blue” is a bit of “jingoism,” but did the reviewer open his ears to the swing of “Sweet Mama,” the massive attack of “That’s How I Like It,” or the shear fun of “Pick ’Em Up?” We all miss the original members who tragically lost their lives to the Rock ’n’ Roll road but for lovers of real down-home ballsy music the current Lynyrd Skynyrd can still kick plenty of ass. And I’m sure that Ronnie Van Zant is smiling down on his “sound-alike little brother Johnny.”
Canned Heat - Friends in the Can (August 2003)
first time I heard Canned Heat was on the soundtrack record of Woodstock.
The track was “Going up the Country.” The singers voice was wobbly and
somewhere up in the stratosphere but the groove was remarkably infectious.
Shortly after that I was turned on to their hit single “On the Road Again”
(which actually came out before Woodstock). Afterwards, they reached their
stride with a cover of Wilbert Harrison’s “Let’s Work Together.”
Unfortunately, in late 1970 one of the founders, Alan Wilson, passed out
of this world and the band never regained their momentum. Lucky for us Canned
Heat soldiered on with a number of lineup changes anchored down by percussionist
Fito de la Parra. Now, three years after the current lineup first
performed together, Canned Heat have once again captured the magic of that first
Friends in the Can (Fuel 2000 Records) Canned Heat deliver a powerhouse
record of Rock, Soul, and Blues charged with electricity, plenty of great
guitar, and - as the title suggests – some talented friends. Joining
percussionist Fito de la Parra,
guitarists Dallas Hodge and John Paulus, bassist Greg Kage,
and Stanley Behrens (who can hit those high notes as well as blow amazing
harp and sax) are former members Harvey Mandell, Larry Taylor, Taj Mahal,
and others. Some of the highlights are Kage’s Jazzy workout on “That Fat
Cat,” the guitar crunch of “Getaway” featuring Corey Stevens and Mike
Finnigan, and “Little Wheel” a track they recorded with their mentor,
the late John Lee Hooker, that never made his 1990 Grammy Award winning
disc The Healer. As a bonus they throw in the re-make of
“Let’s Work Together” which was featured in a commercial for Target retail
the sound of Friends in the Can, the 2003 incarnation of Canned Heat is
STEVE MILLER BAND - LIVE 1973/1976 (September 2002)
If you haven’t picked up the newly released King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents the Steve Miller Band just go ahead and kick yourself. The two disc set was recorded in 1973 and 1976 - just after The Joker hit the airwaves and just as Fly Like An Eagle was beginning to sell. A reggae-fied version of “The Joker,” an 11 minute early version of “Fly Like An Eagle,” the rarely heard (unjustly, I might add) “Nothing Lasts,” and the solo in “The Window” are just some of the highlights. Packed with powerful playing this disc has been well worth the wait.
Paul McCartney - Continental Arena, NJ - 17 April 2002
When Paul McCartney
reentered the forum of touring artists on his 1989-1990 Flowers in the Dirt
world tour he came out guns blazing, effectively showing the world he could
still rock the house. He kept that
band together long enough to perform, record, and release a follow up studio
disc, an unplugged special, and two live albums.
This prolific spasm of work from the former Beatle not only
verified his worth and longevity in contemporary music, but also showed his
depth, dexterity, and tremendous vocal abilities.
With all of his achievements,
and celebrated past, there could be precious little that he need prove now, and
another world tour could be perceived as something of a moot point.
In defiance, Paul McCartney
took the stage of New Jersey’s sold out Continental Arena for the first of
several appearances in the New York area and easily conquered the crowd within
moments. Performing more acoustically then ever before Macca sailed
through hit after hit, effortlessly hitting all the high notes, underscoring the
fact that he was, is, and will forever be, the greatest songwriter in the
history of popular music and one of our most gifted singers.
For every generation of fan (especially those individuals who arrived at The Beatles through last years phenomenally successful 1 collection) Paul McCartney, with a lifetime of memories on his sleeve, offered up a performance that will not be soon forgotten. If you were there to experience it few could persuade you otherwise.
republished with the permission of Rock Society the official journal of the UK Classic Rock Society
Joey Molland's Dream
In his latest video, “Isn’t That a Dream,” from This Way Up (Independent Artists), Badfinger guitarist Joey Molland sifts through the terrain formerly mined by George Harrison and John Lennon and rediscovers his voice as an extraordinary songwriter. While not as political as Lennon, or as preachy as Harrison, Molland urges us to take a stand and imagine an existence free of hunger and disease or be forewarned of our eventual downward spiral into oblivion. Like Harrison said of the hippies who dropped out all those years ago, Molland expands that “lying down” will come to naught. His interweaving of inquisitive lyrics present powerful imagery that manifests into a masterwork of heartfelt simplicity while the director offers us a voyeuristic approach into Molland’s mind.
For those who have been missing the sentiment of late period Beatles, “Isn’t That a Dream” is the video to catch. Molland’s unique perspective is a gift to the world that should not be taken for granted, and that is something The Beatles knew all along.
Click here to view Joey Molland's video
Natalie Merchant - Motherland
(December 2001) Returning with her third solo album of new material since leaving 10,000 Maniacs, Natalie Merchant has once again ignored the critics who proclaim her a well-wisher of misery. Charged full with conviction, Motherland is a dark and mysterious record not intended for the light of heart. From the straight ahead Rock of “Saint Judas” to the Jazz-club Blues of “Put the Law on You” and Modern Folk of the title track, Ms. Merchant storms through a variety of styles with restrained confidence.
While most of the record is sung with a more mature and husky voice, one of the highlights is when she raises the bar of her vocal range, not unlike the childlike demure of early Mary Hopkin, on “The Ballad of Henry Darger” which brings to light a deceased writer that has since been declared something of a genius all too late.
It’s contemplative nature aside; Motherland is brimming with excellent songs and outstanding arrangements. Organ fills swirl with electric guitars, underscored by banjo, violin, and other instruments of antiquity, that conjure up glimpses of otherworldly environs.
Co-produced by T Bone Burnett (Elvis Costello/Wallflowers), the eclectic instrumentation will draw you in but it is the singer’s brilliant lyrics and vocal abilities that will inspire your imagination and bring you back for more, time and time again.
(November 2001) Above: A new supergroup featuring (left to right) Kenny Gradney and Richie Hayward (the rhythm section from Little Feat), Jimmy Herring (guitarist for Aquarian Rescue Unit, Phil Lesh, and the Allman Brothers) and keyboardist T Lavitz (Dixie Dregs, Widespread Panic) have just released their debut disc entitled Endangered Species on the Tone Center label, an imprint of Shrapnel Records. Featuring impassioned performances, Endangered Species brings to mind Jeff Beck's Blow By Blow where the musical virtuosity of all of the performers gel into tasty grooves that never run away into mindless showboating. It's been a long time since an instrumental disc has packed this much wallop and contained such infectious melodies. Several of the cuts, especially Herring's "Lockwood Folley" and Lavitz' "Justice," are screaming for someone to add lyrics to them, and yet, these performances are completely whole without words. "Camel Lope" sounds like a Little Feat romp and "The Gospel Truth" could have come out of an Allman Brothers session. This is exciting stuff not to be missed.
TODD SHARP Walking all the Way (September 2001)
It has been said that one must be a miner digging into the hillside of the fossilized mountain of Rock ‘n’ Roll in order to discover anything new that can truly move your soul. Because current radio isn’t doing us any favors, you have to know who’s who, where they’ve been, and what they’re up to.
One such gem that has recently been unearthed is Todd Sharp’s Walking All The Way (WannaPlay Records). This is contemporary Rock as it should be—acoustic and electric, contemplative and courageous, eclectic and ecstatic—all based on good singing and good playing.
While Todd Sharp has been in the game for a long time, he is not a household name—mostly because he has been too busy lending his guitar prowess and songwriting talents to those we already know. After putting in a long stint behind Hall and Oates, Sharp was picked up by Mick Fleetwood Management right around the time that Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks replaced the departed Bob Welch in Fleetwood Mac. Working on respected solo projects by Welch and Mick Fleetwood, Sharp hit pay-dirt writing, or co-writing, eight of the ten songs that would make up Christine McVie’s celebrated solo disc in 1984, including both hit singles. From there work ensued with Bonnie Raitt, Al Stewart, Tom Petty, and Rod Stewart, just to name a few. He is currently on tour with Delbert McClinton.
On Sharp’s new solo disc (his second) he delivers a classic Rock record worthy of that term. While shades of his past experiences do pop up, hinting at vintage Fleetwood Mac, the Eagles, Jackson Browne, and a little Kenny Wayne Shepherd virtuosity, Todd Sharp creates a sound all his own that is best described as a melting pot of American Rock.
One time Fleetwood Mac vocalist Bekka Bramlette, Delbert McClinton, and former Heartbreaker Stan Lynch (who co-wrote five of the songs) all make guest appearances, as do much of McClinton’s super-tight band, including bassist George Hawkins, Jr. (Fleetwood’s The Visitor).
The music resonates with amazing precision and authority considering that much of it was recorded live to tape in a very short period of time. One listen to tracks like “Widowmaker,” “I Believe in You,” and “Walking all the Way to Idaho,” and you’ll understand why Sharp is a “strong believer in the slow burn.” This disc comes highly recommended.
DELBERT McCLINTON - NOTHING PERSONAL
(Summer 2001) Delbert McClinton is in a class all his own. Listening to his new disc, Nothing Personal (New West), is like listening to an great old Stones album—it has some Honky-tonk, a little Country, a slice of Rock, and a healthy helping of Blues. Few remember that it was McClinton who taught a young John Lennon how to blow harmonica, and at the age of 60 McClinton is still sounding as good as ever, reminding us that Rock ‘n’ Roll is an American idiom made up from every kind of instrumental passage imaginable. McClinton may have been unjustly ignored since his 1980 hit “Giving it up for your Love” but with Nothing Personal that trend may well change, and you just may find yourself slow grooving all summer long.
*editors note: Nothing Personal went on to win the Grammy for best Contemporary Blues recording that year.
GREGG ROLIE - ROOTS
(Summer 2001) Original Santana vocalist/organist Gregg Rolie has been honing his songwriting skills for over thirty years, and now has returned to the Latin rhythms that first brought him to our attention. Remember, it was he who convinced Carlos Santana to record "Black Magic Woman" and sang lead on all of those early Santana hits. On Roots, his third solo album, Gregg Rolie creates the kind of music that makes you get up out of your seat and groove with visions of Spanish dancers in your head. Roots has the kind of songs that make you want to punch the air for no apparent reason. Roots is the kind of album that sounds like a beam of sunshine cutting through low riding clouds in a blue summer sky. Roots is an American treasure that you’ll want to play over and over again. Remember the name Gregg Rolie, buy the album, Roots, and tell them Cottage Views sent you. $$$$*
*editors note: Roots earned the highest rating of any review that Cottage Views has ever published.
Kenny Wayne Shepherd/Double Trouble - Beacon Theatre, NYC
Tuesday (June 5, 2001) the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band and Double Trouble, former rhythm section for Stevie Ray Vaughan, blew the roof off of the Beacon Theatre in New York City. The double billed show was 100% high energy excitement with each group turning in an hour set each before they merged for a good 35 minute encore which was a tribute to Stevie Ray and Jimi Hendrix. Highlights of the show included Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)" and a take on Buddy Miles' "Them Changes." In addition, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and vocalist Noah Hunt are stars to look out for. These young cats know how to whip an audience up into a frenzy and keep them there. They have all the right moves that a Rock fan wants when they go out to play. Also, Tina Schlieske, guitarist and vocalist for Double Trouble, stunned the audience with her awesome singing and playing when she stepped out front to deliver Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll," Hendrix's "Hey Joe," and her own "Come on In," which includes the line Come on in/There's room in my confessional for one more sin! Kenny Wayne and the boys were so gracious that afterward they made sure that every fan who waited got a handshake and an autograph. I can't say enough good things about this double billing.
Photos by Kathy Rutigliano and Michael A. Cimino, © Michael Cimino Archives
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