Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Cars "Move Like This"

(HEAR) (Guest review by Madeline Bocaro) The first new album by The Cars in 24 years sounds new and fresh, retro and classic. It’s like a vintage souped-up 1959 Cadillac with shiny new paint and brand new motor. It’s got huge jets and fins, lots of chrome, leather seats and a wonderful hood ornament – and it rides like a dream!

It’s hard to believe that The Cars never had a number one hit. At least ten of their perfect pop masterpieces cracked the Top 40 in the U.S. charts, but only one made the Top 10 (‘Shake It Up’ hit No. 4 in 1981).

The album’s title, Move Like This is a pun on the band's tendency to not move around very much onstage. This disc is full of hooks, driving beats and cool melodies. The Cars’ signature synth sounds are timeless. They don’t sound dated, as most 80s synths do, because the Cars’ electronic sounds were always more ‘futuristic’.

The opener, ‘Blue Tip’ is the archetypal Cars blueprint. It kicks you right into high gear. The first single, ‘Sad Song’ is the antithesis of its title; upbeat and driving with a great hook, reminiscent of their own ‘Let’s Go’ (1979).

Besides the band’s own familiar style which resounded through recent decades, there is a retro 60s and 70s feel to some of the songs.  ‘Keep On Knockin’ hails back to beat of the Velvet Underground’s ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’ and adds an ‘American Woman’ style guitar solo. ‘Free’ gives a nod to The Who’s ‘I Can’t Explain’ power chords, and ‘Soon’ could have been a Cheap Trick ballad.

‘Drag On Forever’ hints that the album might have been produced by John Cale, with its plodding beat and sleigh bells (which Cale intuitively added to The Stooges’ ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’, and also the Velvets’ ‘Venus In Furs’). The album was produced by Jacknife Lee (5 songs), and the rest by the band themselves. The only incongruous reference is U2’s ‘One Love’ resounding in ‘Take Another Look’.

Benjamin Orr, the Cars' bassist (who shared vocals with Ocasek and actually sang many of their biggest hits) died of pancreatic cancer in 2000. But the rest of the band is back in fine form, and they haven’t missed a beat! Rather than replace Benjamin, the bass parts were programmed/performed by Greg Hawkes and Jacknife Lee, with Hawkes playing a bass once owned by Orr.
This is an amazing comeback by a pure, slick and beloved pop band – and it rocks! You CAN go home again!

The Best Buy version has three extras; 2 of which are non lp tracks. ‘Hits Me’ (demo), ‘One By One’ and the trippy ‘Rocket USA’, (a cover version  of the 1977 Suicide track). It also contains two videos; ‘Blue Tip’ & ‘Sad Song’.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Fab Four, Live at St. George Theatre, Staten Island, NY (May 21 2011)

(Guest Review by Madeline Bocaro)Having always been cynical about Beatles cover bands, I was initiated with a free ticket to see the amazing Fab Faux at their 10th anniversary concert at Radio City in 2008, and was blown away. Once again a ticket came my way, this time for The Fab Four.

Comparing the Four to the Faux is like comparing apples to apple pie, but the 4-piece Fab Four had one thing that the Faux in their orchestral numbers lacked…Ed Sullivan! Old Ed introduced the band, looking exactly as he did on February 9, 1964. His corny jokes, exaggerated hunch and wave were classic! Ed read aloud the telegram from Elvis and The Colonel to ‘the boys’ and exclaimed, ‘they are all fine youngsters’.
I was disappointed when the Fabs emerged in Sgt. Pepper garb, lamenting that Ed’s cameos would be no more. However, to my delight, Ed continued to appear throughout the show, at utterly inappropriate times, joking and revving up the crowd! I loved his Richard Nixon impression! The Fabs’ costume changes - Nehru suits to Pepper uniforms, to Abbey Road album cover attire were timeless (John’s white suit recently sold at auction for $46,000 in January, 2011) - but gray-suited Ed was a surreal and hilarious apparition. He reminded me of the Ramones’ Pinhead mascot!
I now realize that a Beatles cover band – especially a touring one, cannot be too bad. The fans obsessively scrutinize every subtle nuance, so these bands must be technically and historically correct. The Fab Four were loyal to the original sounds. In one more comparison to the Faux, the Four used synthesizers to achieve orchestral sounds, whereas The Faux employ a real orchestra and exact instruments. However, the Four were all the more impressive due to their limitations.
The ‘Penny Lane’ piccolo trumpet solo (R.I.P. David Mason, who passed away last month at age 85) was very good, as was the orchestral ascending scale rave-up on ‘A Day In The Life’. They adequately achieved John’s distorted varispeed vocals and loopy sounds on ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’.
The background archival films of screaming fans and vintage Liverpool footage upped the nostalgia. The guys took it further, mimicking the Beatles’ cheeky banter. It was amusing at first, but Paul’s corny, relentless lines (‘Clap those hands!’) and lame jokes became extremely annoying. Of course, the guy was just doing his job. He can’t help it if Paul is corny and annoying (Obviously NOT my favourite Beatle!)
‘George’ (who really hailed from Liverpool) was a bit too friendly, but his Gretch sounded glorious. ‘Ringo’ was great, but obviously not as effortless and cool as the original with his perfect hits and symphonic fills. 

‘John’ was incredible. His voice, mannerisms and multi-tasking on several instruments simultaneously were remarkable. A beautiful spoken tribute and chilling version of ‘Imagine’ was a nice touch.

The creepy old ornate St. George Theatre resembled a place that the Beatles would have actually played, so that was quite eerie. The show was a much better alternative than the end of the world, which was scheduled for that very evening. So there’s a nice compliment for the Fab Four!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Bob Dylan Revealed DVD (+ The Ballad of Bob Dylan by Daniel Mark Mark Epstein & Bob Dylan "Original Mono Recordings")

(MVD) Guest Review by Gary Pig Gold
( # 10 & 35 )
A mere twenty-eight seconds into Joel Gilbert's extensive new Bob Dylan Revealed documentary, the subject matter himself warns us "There's many sides to the coin, y'know, and you haveta really, uh, the longer you go on, the more sides you show that are, that are, that are there to be, uh, unraveled."

So in between sessions with Daniel Mark Epstein's 496-page The Ballad of Bob Dylan, and the actual man's actual "Original Mono Recordings" box, I spent the month of Robert Allen Zimmerman's 70th (!) birthday pondering that…

1.  Although the subject is dwelled upon for less than a minute during Bob Dylan Revealed (we are later treated to some great Super 8 footage of him gallivanting 'round Europe with his young bard however), Albert Grossman and that more-than-complex relationship with Bob Dylan is delved into, and possibly even explained, in a way Martin Scorsese failed to during all two-hundred-and-eight minutes of his own No Direction Home.

2.  "1966 Electric World Tour" drummist Mickey Jones also offers personal home movies of Dont Look Back (and almost Eat the Document) director D.A. Pennebaker filming Dylan and Band touring Hamlet's Castle in Denmark, and later joins in a spirited debate over exactly who fired out that famed instruction to "Play fuckin' LOUD" as "Like A Rolling Stone" kicked the ol' Manchester Free Trade Hall off on May 17, 1966. Mickey, it can be revealed, theorizes it was merely some ultra-ribald Free Trade Hall stagehand, by the way.

3.  The third chapter of Bob Dylan Revealed, cunningly titled "1967: Drug Rehab," features the late, great, irascible-as-ever Al Aronowitz claiming that Bob, regarding that infamous 1966 motorpsycho accident, "told me he cracked two vertebrae. He saw his whole life pass in front of him. And I think he's full of shit." Can there then still be any doubt why I was most proud to say, during the final years of Al's own life, that "he was a friend of mine" ??!  

4.  Renowned lensman Barry Feinstein (the Times They Are A-Changin' cover for one) recalls the day during Dylan's "Tour 74" that future President (then Governor of Georgia) Jimmy Carter invited Bob over for breakfast at the Governor's Mansion …and then shows the photos to prove it. "He never initiates conversation," Jimmy revealed afterwards, "but he'll answer a question if you ask him." Unlike some singers, Governors, and/or Presidents we could mention.

5.  Rolling Thunder violinist Scarlet Rivera, hair still long but curled 'n' colored today, recalls being dosed with a powerful hallucinogenic just prior to stepping on stage with Bob's Revue before 16,307 in Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens, then being most amorously pursued a month later backstage at the Rubin Carter "Night Of The Hurricane II" benefit in the Houston Astrodome by two of Willie Nelson's security guards (who, Scarlet admits, "were mostly ex-cons"). Willie, it is noted, later dispatched two dozen yellow roses by way of apology.         

6.  San Francisco Chronicle critic Joel Selvin points out the "Neil Diamond-style arrangements" concocted for Dylan's subsequent 1978 World Tour, noting especially how "Blowin' In The Wind" was "done up like a Wayne Newton number." Later, we hear his infamous "God-Awful Gospel" review concerning one of Born-Again Bob's concerts the following year actually solicited a phone call next afternoon from Bob Himself to the Selvin household, during which Dylan wisely, and apparently permanently, revoked Joel's "license to review me."

7.  And speaking of He Whom Is Even Bigger Than Bob, both certified Dylan "garbologist" A.J. Weberman and Valley Vineyard Church Pastor Bill Dwyer are on hand to (attempt to) explain just what may have been going through our hero's mind, and then out of his mouth, as the Eighties began (e.g.: "If you want rock and roll, you can go down and rock and roll," we hear Bob berate one unfortunate, and obviously unsaved, 1980 concert-goer. "You can go see KISS and you can rock and roll all the way down into the pit!") Just in the nick of time however, self-confessed "62-year-old card-carrying Jewish atheist" Jerry Wexler appears to explain just how he approached producing the "wall-to-wall Jesus" that was Slow Train Coming.  

8.  Next, a decidedly un-born again Bob pops up jammin' out "Hava Nagila" on the 1989 televised Chabad Telethon backed by his grand new band Chopped Liver (which also, um, featured Harry Dean Stanton and Bob's son-in-law Peter Himmelman). Unfortunately, footage of co-stars Anna Maria Alberghetti, Marty Allen, and Morey Amsterdam is not included.

9.  As no less an inhabitant as Ramblin' Jack Elliot recalls, the original Rolling Thunder tour bus had been borrowed from, and affectionately christened "Phydeaux" by, none other than Frank Zappa. But when that on (and on!) -going Never Ending Tour launched a decade later, Bob's accompanists had graduated to a twelve-bunk "star coach" that was, in the well-chosen words of percussionist Winston Watson, "forty-five feet of rolling decadence." It must also be pointed out here that Mr. Watson, amongst many others throughout Bob Dylan Revealed and elsewhere, does the BEST Bob Dylan impersonation I have EVER heard. 

10.  So then, as I would think it would be the first itself to admit, Bob Dylan Revealed doesn't quite unravel all sides of that most treasured coin we speak of …currently entering his second half-century of loyal service too, one must remember. But ANY production that can finally get the man's former bassist and musical director Rob Stoner to admit he was in fact cast in the role of Gene Vincent  for Renaldo and Clara more than gets a virtual tip-o-the-snout from this viewer. Now, you must all excuse me while I once again roctober Blonde On Blonde, Disc 1. MONO, of course.  

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Scissor Girls “Are Dead! Long Live the SGs” DVD

( This is a reissue of an amazing DVD we reviewed years ago, finally released on a legit international label (from France!), and check out how our original review is either proven prescient or  worthless by the new release (you decide): "This is actually an amazing DVD and I’m surprised to be watching it on a DIY CD-R. I would expect that a dozen labels would be scratching each other’s eyes out to release this. The SGs were one of the most dynamic, important, thrilling bands that lead the way into the dissonant, noise no wave scene that now is so widely embraced by the underground a decade after the Scissor reign. This contains live shows at Chicago clubs (many defunct), experimental videos and appearances on local TV shows. Despite the lo-fi/no budget nature of this footage, the visually dynamic, frighteningly sexy/asexual, ultra-art school nature of the band (and the people with video cameras they knew) makes this never boring and always hypnotic.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Everly Brothers Reunion Concert: Live At The Royal Albert Hall DVD

(Eagle Rock) Guest Review by Gary Pig Gold
Not even the most peripheral Roctoberan should need any explanation whatsoever at this point regarding how two young Kentucky-bred brothers placed a stamp upon the Sounds of the Sixties equaled only by Buddy and his Crickets:  One listen to nearly every Lennon / McCartney vocal duet from “Love Me Do” onwards – not to mention those most blatant protégés by the name of Simon and Garfunkel – more than prove that particular sonic point.

Then there are albums such as Songs Our Daddy Taught Us (1959) and the ever-amazing Roots (from ’68) which created the undeniable, if criminally under-acknowledged template for the Folk- and/or Country-rock of any Dylan, Byrds, or even Rank and File track you’d care to name-check. “We owe those guys everything,” the man I still prefer to call Bob is on record as admitting. “They started it all.”

Plus need I even mention a staggering string of globe and genre-spanning hit records which continue to reverberate within the DNA of popular music creators and listeners to this very day?

Absolutely not. But what I feel I do need to state here and now, however, is the incredibly long-awaited DVD release via Eagle Rock Entertainment of The Everly Brothers Reunion Concert: Live At The Royal Albert Hall, now here for all to watch, weep, and learn from.

Ending their first run beneath the spotlight with a literally explosive on-stage break-up in 1973 – culminating with Big Don’s caustic statement “The Everly Brothers died ten years ago” – the pair saw and spoke with one another only once (at their father’s funeral) during the ensuing downcast decade. Not surprisingly though, I suspect, as one can imagine little constructive musical place for the duo throughout an era book-ended by “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” and “Billie Jean.”    

But in finally burying various personal and musical hatchets (“We settled it in a family kind of way,” Baby Boy Phil told the Associated Press. “A big hug did it. I guess fate just turned”), the brothers returned to the country which always seemed to not only love, but understand them most with a 1983 performance in London. There, somehow, it took only twenty-five songs in less than an hour and a half to forever erase the years of bickering, brawling, bitterness and deeply-seeded sibling rivalry.   

The Everly Brothers Reunion Concert presents it all. Every roll of the toms, every country-baked Tele-lick (courtesy of the stupendous Albert Lee), every thrash of Don’s signature acoustic and, of course, every note-and-inflection-perfect vocal duet still dripping pathos one bar, then grating passion the next. As only these two Everlys honestly ever could. 

Rounding out this superb package is the (unfortunately truncated, however) 1984 documentary Rock ‘n’ Roll Odyssey, which chronicles not only the songs and successes, but strains and struggles behind this most often completely misrepresented act. And it is most apt, perhaps, that nearly every frame of contemporary footage shot for this film finds Don and Phil being chased with persistent rainfall, be they driving through their childhood hills of bluegrass or arriving in England to sound-check, face the press, and reconnect with their most ever-loyal fan base. “If I wait for cloudy skies, you won't know the rain from the tears in my eyes” after all, as their own song still goes.

Of course the Everlys followed their Royal Albert triumph with one P. McCartney-penned hit (the soaring “On The Wings Of A Nightingale”) and landmark album (1986’s Born Yesterday) which returned the duo to a much-deserved critical, if sorrowfully not commercial level unsurpassed since their late Fifties/early Sixties achievements. In fact an older, wiser, and most definitely still vital Don and Phil continue to harmonize on stage to this very day, though all attempts to get the brothers recording again (save for a lone track climaxing their 4-CD 1994 career retrospective Heartaches & Harmonies plus a song from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Whistle Down The Wind four years later) have failed. But then, as no less an authority on the subject as Don Everly himself stated in his own inimitable manner, “I don’t know whether there’s a place for us. Country music’s turned into a kind of a video soap opera – a contest of cute butts and pretty faces. 

“I was raised in front of a microphone, and on the other side of the microphone was an audience. So it got instilled in me from the beginning:  You go out there and do your best, and if they appreciate it, that’s the reward.”

Your reward? Reveling anew in Don and Phil’s Reunion Concert, and with it the fantastic flood of heartaches and harmonies those Everlys forever bring your way.