country

REVIEW: Steve Earle – I Feel Alright (1996)

STEVE EARLE – I Feel Alright (1996 Warner)

One of the greatest albums of the 90s might never have happened if Steve Earle didn’t get addicted, go to jail, and finally clean up.  Earle was always a formidable songwriter.  “Ain’t Ever Satisfied”, “Someday”, and “The Other Kind” (to name only three) dripped with emotion and a certain perfection, insofar as art goes.  Steve’s songs were always about life, but in the 90s, life got intense.  I Feel Alright is the resultant album, a masterpiece that serves as the prototype for several more of Earle’s later works.

I Feel Alright was actually preceded by an acoustic album called Train A Comin’, made up of songs written from 1974 to 1995  In the liner notes, Steve tells the story.

“When I was locked up, I was getting ready to go off on this boy that stole my radio.  My partner Paul asked me where I was going.  I said, ‘To get my radio, and then go to the hole for a little while.’  He looked at me like I look at my 13 year old sometimes and said, ‘No, you ain’t.  You’re gonna sit your little white ass down and do your little time and then you’re gonna get out of here and make me a nice record.’  SO, I MADE TWO.”

“I Feel Alright” opens with defiant chords, hands hitting the strings unrelentingly, and then Steve opens his mouth.  It’s the same voice but somehow, now it feels like he really means it.   “I feel alright tonight,” he sings reassuringly.  Because we were worried about him!  The worldly lyrics are backed by shimmering layers of guitar.

Fun hits hard on “Hard Core Troubadour”, classic guitars chiming away.  Singing about a girl who’s seeing another guy on the side, Steve threatens him with the epic line:  “Wherefore art thou Romeo, you son of a bitch?”  It’s over and out in under three minutes, but the enduring adventure will be worth a repeat spin.

A blast of harmonica enters for the sentimental “More Than I Can Do”.  Upbeat and unforgettable.   Simple, impeccably constructed, and effective.  Three perfect songs in a row.

The first ballad, “Hurtin’ Me, Hurtin’ You”, is the kind of song Steven Tyler has been trying to write since about 1993, except done right.  This is what he’s been trying to write — the bluesy country heartbroken ballad with punch.  Sorry Tyler, Steve’s got you beat.  This song has “Crazy” beat by a country mile.

Upbeat harmonica enters the fray once again on “Now She’s Gone”, the story of a wild child.  Something Steve probably knows a thing or two about.  Vivid storytelling.  “She met a boy up in Kentucky, Charlie was his name. Just when he thought he got lucky, she stole his watch and chain.”  Most of I Feel Alright is short and sweet and this is no exception.  With rough and weathered voice, Earle sings it with intent.

Side one closes on “Poor Boy”, traditional country a-la Johnny (Cash or Horton).  Strong beat, light twang, and seasoned singing.  This is the kind of country Steve would have grown up on.

Opening side two, “Valentine’s Day” is a somber apology.  It sounds like Earle has made quite a few apologies in his day, and this represents them all.  Gentle, with subtle country backing vocals and light strings.

The clouds give way to a fiery blaze in “The Unrepentant”.  Steve’s hunting the devil himself this time, with a “bad attitude and a loaded .44.”  He concludes his threat with, “You got your pitchfork and I got my gun…somebody’s gotta do it.”  Fans of “Copperhead Road” will enjoy this song cut from a similar electrified cloth, though at a slower, more deliberate pace.

The only track on I Feel Alright that might be out of step is the blunt blues “CCKMP” (“Cocaine Cannot Kill My Pain”).  It’s obviously dark, raw, and intense.  Clearly born from Steve’s own experiences, and completely relevant to the journey.  Will you enjoy listening to it?  Difficult to say.  What can be said is “CCKMP” is the dark point of this ride, the scary part in the tunnel.  It has its place.  It would have been wrong to leave out this crucial part of Steve’s journey.

“Billy and Bonnie” is a classic outlaw story, mandolin singing away while a driving beat takes us on down a dusty dirt road.  A Cadillac, a gas station robbery, and a day in court make for a killer story (literally)!  Then it’s a little bit of traditional country bluegrass on “South Nashville Blues”.  Looking for a little company, with money in pocket.

Ending as strongly as it began, I Feel Alright goes out on a duet with Lucinda Williams.  “You’re Still Standing There” is the love letter at the end of the story, the happy ending.  More blasts of harmonica, backed by impeccable melodic construction.  When you filter those melodies through the very human voices of Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams, you get a raw celebration of a closer that just makes you wanna smile.

The celebration is just that Steve survived.  That he came back truly a stronger singer/songwriter is the remarkable part.  Though he came close to perfection on followup albums like El Corazón and Trancendental Blues, song for song, Steve has never touched the level of I Feel Alright again.  It’s one of those magical albums that’s composed of classic after classic after classic; songs you want to keep hearing over and over again.  Very real performances, communicating human emotion efficaciously.  A perfect record.

5/5 stars

Just Listening to…Jim Dead & the Doubters – Pray For Rain (2015)

Jim himself will be our guest tomorrow on the LeBrain Train.

You never know what to expect from Jim Dead.  Sometimes he’s mournfully acoustic, sometimes he’s raging electric with a full band.  The Doubters are the latter and Pray For Rain is a powerful listening experience traversing blues, rock and country.

Opener “Wooden Kimono” is a relentless electric blues.  Jim sounds tormented, as any good blues singer should.  Sabbathy guitar bends on “May the Road Rise” show that this band is not afraid to mix influences.  This is rock — like the better parts of Pearl Jam distilled.  Blues and granite mingle gladly on the title track.  It must be stated that the drums on this album are most excellently powerful.

On down the line, the album straddles the blues/rock lines, travelling all the way to the Stone Temple of grunge on “Lovesick Blues”.  The brief “Trains” goes somewhere else completely different, something from the old west but in the 2000s.  The leads into “Crows on the Wire”, the only overtly country song.  A welcome reprise from the rising tides of heaviness.

The greatest track on the album could be “Home”, a quiet dusky number which erupts with heartfelt lead vocals that rends the soul to slivers.  Echoes of Tom Waits, but not Tom Waits.  This is chased by some wicked slide on “You Coulda Said” and finally, acoustic melancholy on the closer “I’m Not Lost”.  A magnificent end.

Pray For Rain is an intense album.  It’s heavy with feeling, and guitars.  Some of the lead work is outstanding and the vocals are always fierce…yet tender.  It’s focused and raw.  Pray For Rain was recorded in a couple of days but the payoff is that you’ll want to listen to it for years.

 

The Big Lebowski radio, tonight!

I will be LIVE at 12:30 AM (ET) Saturday morning with Robert Daniels on VISIONS IN SOUND. Tune in on your dial to 98.5 or internet to CKWR!  You folks in the UK can tune in as you enjoy some morning java!  Join Us THIS Saturday 12:30-2:30am (ET).

This Week On Visions In Sound – The 20th Anniversary Of The Big Lebowski – Drop in to see what condition your condition is in this week as this week we celebrate the 20th of the Coen Brothers cult classic The Big Lebowski. We will also be live on Facebook!

I’m a bit of a fan of both the movie and its excellent soundtrack.  My movie review can be found here.  Check out my cool Lebowski ID and swag!

 

 

REVIEW: The Four Horsemen – Daylight Again (21st Anniversary Edition)

scan_20160919THE FOUR HORSEMEN – Daylight Again (2009 21st Anniversary Edition)

Haggis was itching to make some music again, but not with Frank C. Starr.  When the original Horsemen split in 1992, Haggis cut off contact with Starr, and the two never spoke again.  Instead Haggis hooked up with a singer and harmonica player named Tim Beattie, who did some mouth organ on “Homesick Blues” from the first LP.  Tim could sing too, with a slight southern drawl as a contrast to Starr’s AC/DC shred.  Guitarist Dave Lizmi and bassist Ben Pape were not interested in rejoining the band, so Haggis brought in two new members:  Rick McGhee handled the guitar leads, and Duane D. Young held down the bottom end.  Dimwit Montgomery flew down from Canada to complete the lineup.

It wasn’t to last long.  Even without the explosive Starr, the volatile band began to melt down shortly after writing a batch of new, soulful rock tunes.  Rick McGhee quit.  Dimwit too; Les Warner ex-of The Cult came down to record the drums.  Even Dave Lizmi came back briefly, but left after recording an album’s worth of demos.  Lizmi was replaced by a new guitarist named Mike Valentine before it all hit the wall again.

The album that became Daylight Again was recorded in 1994 (with Lizmi) and shelved.  According to Haggis, the fate of the band was “an inevitable outcome.  We had evolved to the point of being unrecognizable from the group that had been signed five years previously.  We started out as card-carrying members of the Bon Scott fan club, and ended up sounding like the house band at an Arkansas chicken ranch.”  The label lost patience and dropped them.  Haggis quit music completely, while up in Toronto, Lizmi decided to give the Horsemen one more try….

Daylight Again wasn’t intended for release as-is.  These are cassette and DAT recordings, cleaned up as much as possible for CD.  Hiss and noise are part of the deal, so buyer beware, this is not the gloss of a Rick Rubin production.  You can taste the rawness; not even blue-rare, just pure raw blues unfettered by mixing consoles.  The sound is modified by banjos and pedal steel.  The location is somewhere in the deep south.  You can feel the humidity in the rehearsal space and sense the hot tube amps humming away.  Somewhere in between the Allmans and Skynyrd, the Horsemen found some inspiration from old grooves.

You can even find a little funk (“Trailer Park Boogie”) among the blues, soul, folk and rock influences.   These traditions are given a boost with a touch of gospel.  Nowhere is this more obvious than the closer, an 11 minute jam on “Amazing Grace”.   Each Horsemen album ended with a long, emotional song of epic quality.  It was “I Need a Thrill/Somethin’ Good” on the first LP, and “What the Hell Went Wrong” on Gettin’ Pretty Good…at Barely Gettin’ By.  “Amazing Grace” trumps both in the emotion and time categories.  It’s also Beattie’s best performance on the album.  The guitar melodies are just sublime.

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Daylight Again is an incredible, albeit unfinished album.  Some arrangements sound fluid and not quite there yet; it’s a flawed gem of a recording.  The thing about the blues is that it has a timeless quality.  You can’t nail this album down to a specific period because the blues are eternal.  Whether it’s Beattie blowing away on some harmonica jams, or Lizmi’s pure feel, there are loads of tradition to dig into on this album.

As discussed in a previous instalment of this series, Dave Lizmi formed a new Horsemen lineup himself shortly after the Haggis/Beattie version disintegrated for good. With Frank C. Starr back in the saddle, Lizmi’s Horsemen released the “official” second LP, Gettin’ Pretty Good…at Barely Gettin’ By.  However, Daylight Again pre-dates those recordings by almost two years and showcases a “lost” period in Horsemen history.   The 2009 reissue does a great service by finally bringing this lost LP to light.

4/5 stars

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REVIEW: Swingers – Music from the Miramax Motion Picture (1996)

movie-soundtrack-week


Scan_20160714SWINGERS – Music from the Miramax Motion Picture (1996 A&M)

Now here…now here is a soundtrack!  Every track is a keeper.  With a mixture of oldies and newer songs, Swingers had a peerless balance.   If you’re down to swing, dance, or just get dirty, this soundtrack has what you need.  Bonus points for the uber-thin and young Vince Vaughn on the front cover too. Jon Favreau executive produced the soundtrack, and it’s clear the guy has good taste in music.

I love it when a soundtrack puts scenes from a movie right in your head.  Dean Martin’s “You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You” kicks off both the CD and the movie, and all I can think is “Vegas baby, Vegas.”  That slow jazz just sets the mood for the adventures ahead.  The horns pop!  It’s money, baby.  Talk about setting the bar high for an opening track; thankfully there’s lots more to come.

“Paid for Loving” by Love Jones brings me right into the film’s setting again, but it’s Tony Bennett’s “With Plenty of Money and You” that has me seeing the bright lights of Vegas before me.  Remember Mikey and T rolling up in their suits?  You’d feel like a high roller too, with a song like this playing.  Tony is followed by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (who appeared in the film).  Now, I do kinda wish it was the live version of “You & Me & the Bottle Makes 3 Tonight (Baby)”.  In the film, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy play it live, but this is a studio version.  I think including the live version would have been an extra treat for fans, but I’m not complaining.  If you don’t find yourself tapping your toes to it, call the coroner, because you may be dead.

Mixing new and old, Scotty and the guys from Big Bad Voodoo Daddy are chased by Louis Jordan, from way way back in 1941.  If you love muted trumpet solos, then dig right in.  A song you should recognise is the oft-played “Groove Me” by King Floyd (1970).  It’s a soul classic that found itself used on TV ads over the years.   More jazz (a couple cool instrumentals), and more Big Bad Voodoo Daddy are to be found as the CD progresses.  Daddy have three tracks on the CD, all of which were in the movie.  “Go Daddy-O” has to be a favourite for sure, but “I Wan’na Be Like You” has a tropical salsa beat.

Roger Miller’s “King of the Road” isn’t jazz and doesn’t swing, but it has the same golden oldie feel.  It’s not the only country song:  George Jones himself honours the CD with his presence.  The melancholy ballad “She Thinks I Still Care” is one of the…saddest, I guess…lyrics I’ve ever heard.  It’s a great song from a great scene in the film.

“Pick up the Pieces” by the Average White Band is the kind of song everybody needs.  “Need” isn’t too strong a word either.  You know the song, you love the song.  You have to.  It’s required.  Finally, “I’m Beginning to See the Light” by Bobby Darin completes the journey, and it’s back to the same kind of sound that Dean Martin started the album with.  And what a journey it is!  You just…feel BETTER after listening.  When I bought this CD, I felt like this line of dialogue directly applied to me:

“You’re a big winner.  I’m gonna ask you a simple question and I want you to listen to me: who’s the big winner here tonight at the casino? Huh?  Mikey!  That’s who!  Mikey’s the big winner.  Mikey wins.”

5/5 stars

REVIEW: O Brother, Where Art Thou? – Soundtrack (2000)

movie-soundtrack-week


O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? – Music from a film by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen (2000 Universal)

Hot damn!  It’s the Soggy Bottom Boys!

Even if you hated the film (have a doctor check to see if you still have taste left), you can’t deny the fun and authentic roots music on its soundtrack.

A bizarre re-telling of Homer’s The Odyssey set in the 1930’s depression-era south, O Brother was nothing if not unique.  It mixes a liberal interpretation of Greek mythology, with Americana and the mythology of the blues era.  Some people don’t get it, some people do but don’t like it, and others have long been swept away by its charms.  Those with an allergy to George Clooney, fear not:  he does not actually sing on this soundtrack, although his co-star Tim Blake Nelson certainly does (on “I’m in the Jailhouse Now”). Dan Tyminski from Alison Krauss & Union Station sings for Clooney’s character Ulysses Everett McGill on the signature hit, “Man of Constant Sorrow” though many people assume it’s George.

The soundtrack CD is a mixture of light and dark.  The first two songs  are the perfect example:  “Po Lazarus” is a chain-gang work song, just before Ulysses Everett McGill and his two companions break free and embark on their Odyssey.  It’s followed by a 1928 recording by Harry McClintock, “The Big Rock Candy Mountain”, a joyful nonsense song about a hobo finding paradise on the rails.

“Where the boxcars all are empty,
And the sun shines every day,
On the birds and the bees,
And the cigarette trees,
The lemonade springs,
Where the bluebird sings,
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains.”

The composite of light and dark reflects the movie itself, but makes for a fairly inconsistent listen.  The soundtrack follows the progress of the film, but without the story backing it up, it’s harder to go with the flow from song to song.  The a capella “O Death” (Ralph Stanley) for example is squeezed between the popular songs “Man of Constant Sorrow” and “I’m in the Jailhouse Now”, so most people will typically skip it.

I look at this soundtrack CD as a great “starter kit” for exploring more genres of music.  The dominant ones are folk and bluegrass, but there are also blues tracks and hymns.  Norman Blake’s “You Are My Sunshine” sounds wonderful sitting in the shade on a summer day.  Immediately after that, you get the velvet tones of Alison Krauss, from the baptism scene with “Down to the River to Pray”.  You have never heard a more perfect version, serene, still and deep as the water.  And, yes, the Soggy Bottom Boys!  In the film, Ulysses Everett McGill and his companions Pete, Delmar and Tommy Johnson (loosely based on Robert) wind up cutting a record.  There are four versions of “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow” on the album.  The first is the acoustic track shown being recorded in the film.  The version that became a hit single in the real world is from the climax, a fully augmented mix with fiddles and slides.  That is included closer to the end of the disc. There is an instrumental version on acoustic guitar by Norman Blake, a fine take indeed.  The fourth is an instrumental version on fiddle by John Hartford, barely recognisable.  All four are quite different but valuable.

Blues singer and guitarist Chris Thomas King was cast in the film as Tommy Johnson, and his solo track “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” is a fine example of acoustic blues.  There is plenty of sunny and gleeful folk, such as “Keep on the Sunny Side”, “I’ll Fly Away”, “In the Highways” and of course “In the Jailhouse Now”.  Tim Blake Nelson is certainly a multi-talented guy, but the yodelling part is not performed by John Turturro as it appears in the film.  Still Pat Enright’s yodel part is one of the highlights of the entire album.  It’s important to note that producer T Bone Burnett captured authetic sounding performances here.  Close your eyes, mix some scratchy vinyl sounds over it, and you can imagine these are vintage recordings from the 1930’s.

Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch, the Fairfield Four, the Cox Family and more…this CD is a great way to both enjoy an hour of music from the film, and kickstart a collection of folk, bluegrass and more.  Dig in!

4.5/5 stars

Final bonus:  Sh*t LeBrain’s Grandma Says!

I love my grandma with all my heart, but sometimes she gets the names of movies wrong.  We took her to the theater to see “There’s Mail Waiting for You” (You’ve Got Mail), and she also really enjoyed this movie, which she calls “Brother Can You Spare a Dime?”

REVIEW: Jim Dead & the Doubters – Pray for Rain (2015)

Multi-site review! For the other Jim Dead & the Doubters reviews, click below:

Scan_20160125JIM DEAD & THE DOUBTERS – Pray for Rain (2015 Jim Dead)

I like Jim Dead’s authentic dark slant on country and blues.  I don’t know how you get such a true slab of blues out of Scotland, but there is no lack of truth in Dead’s music.  With the Doubters he gives a full-on band experience, blues-rock with drums and electric twang, but nothing has changed.  Jim Dead still sounds wracked with all the pain and agony from past records, perhaps even more so.

A “Wooden Kimono” doesn’t sound like comfortable garb, but this song is anything but wooden.  It’s played on wooden instruments plugged in with electricity, and accompanied by Dead, telling it like it is.  “Wooden Kimono” is a swampy stomp; this gives way to “May the Road Rise”, a powerful moaner of riffs and wounds.  Jim Dead has never sounded better, truthfully, than he does baring his soul on “May the Road Rise”.  “Pray for Rain”, the title track, is a storm of rock power so just get swept up with it.


This is a rough mix — the album version sounds better.

The blues vibe comes across on “Holding the Line”, with some very nice guitar work up front.  A soaring chorus and some bluesy guitars are just what the doctor prescribed.  “Lovesick Blues” is heavy shit, grunged up and ready to take it to the next level.  “I’m sick of TV, I’m sick of me,” sings Dead with the anguish you expect, but with a Glenn Danzig howl.

As if to emphasize an LP side change, “Trains” fades in slowly and feels like a new start.  Jim Dead likes writing about trains.  I like that.  “Trains” is the opposite of “Lovesick Blues”; it’s a brief percussive tune that introduces the country twang of “Crows on the Wire”.  Sounding like an upbeat road tune, “Crows” reminds me of Blue Rodeo.  It defies you to stand still.  “Let it rain, let it snow,” sings Jim and this time we’ll agree to disagree.  “Home” then is ominous, with those big fat guitar tones you love, again sounding a bit like Greg Keelor’s work in Blue Rodeo.  “You Coulda Said” has one of the sweetest sounds in the whole wide world, that being a dirty slide guitar.  The final track is the quieter “I’m Not Lost”, also the name of a prior Jim Dead EP.  Call it the album epic, but at almost seven minutes it really does feel like a journey.  It starts somewhere and goes somewhere else.  That’s the key.

If you want something authentic and real to listen to, with the darkness and brightness of the real world, than look no further.  You must simply Pray for Rain, and get this CD.  This is the real thing; the genuine article.  You can buy Pray for Rain by clicking here.

4.5/5 stars

Top Five(s) of 2013 – Part 1

No bullshit, let’s just get to the lists!  Yes, lists!  This year I asked some past contributors & readers to give me their Top Five Albums of 2013.  Some have left comments with their lists.  So let’s get to the lists — I also threw my hat into the ring!

Lemon Kurri Klopek

5. OST- Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa.
Mostly for the Alan Partridge banter between tracks. Insanely funny stuff from Steve Coogan. Some decent music too. Featuring an eclectic playlist featuring the likes of; The Human League, Glen Campbell, Carly Simon, Sting and OMD.
STEVE4. TravisWhere You Stand
Quietly released in August. Solid record from the Glasgow quartet.
3. David BowieThe Next Day
I’m one of the people who like all eras of Bowie. That’s it.
2. Sigur RósKveikur
Love this band. Everything they’ve done.
1. Steve Earle and The DukesThe Low Highway
Some of the best songs Steve has written. This record is up there for me with I Feel Alright and El Corazon.

Seb

Black_Sabbath_13Sebastien, whom I first met at Sausagefest is a talented guy and you will be hearing from him in the future!  He’s a musician/ producer/ filmmaker/ Star Trek fan and we’ll be collaborating on something in 2014 for sure.   Consider this Seb’s first guest shot.

5. Killswitch Engage –  Disarm the Descent
4. Black Sabbath13
3. Philip H. Anselmo & The IllegalsWalk Through Exits Only
2. Avenged SevenfoldHail to the King
1. Protest the HeroVolition

Tom

Tom is our host at Sausagefest, and one of the Jedi Masters who helped instruct me in the ways of Rock.  Top Five was simply not possible for this rock warrior.

GHOST11. Vista Chino Peace
10. MotorheadAftershock
9. Deep PurpleNOW What?!
8. Charles BradleyVictim of Love
7. AnthraxAnthems
6. VoivodTarget Earth
5. Steve EarleThe Low Highway
4. Black Sabbath13
3. Orange GoblinA Eulogy For The Fans
2. Clutch Earth Rocker
1. Ghost Infestissumam

Meat


You guys already know Uncle Meat from his numerous lists in the past.  Please welcome back the one, the only, the man the myth the legend, Uncle Meat.  He’s submitted a Top 8 this year.  That’s cool with me.

8. MotorheadAftershock
7. EminemThe Marshall Mathers LP 2MEAT
6. Vista ChinoPeace
5. GhostInfestissumam
4. The SadiesInternal Sounds
3. Black Sabbath13
2. Sound City PlayersReal to Reel
1. Steve EarleThe Low Highway

LeBrain

NOW WHAT_0003I thought I had my Top Five nailed down weeks ago.  Then, Aaron threw a spanner in the works by giving me the new Pearl Jam for Christmas.  Instantly enamored with this sure-to-be classic, I had to re-think my Top Five.

Then, just two days ago I realized that one of my albums is a 2012 release.  But I felt so strongly about it, that I can’t take it out.  So here’s a Top Six.


6. Queens of the Stone Age…Like Clockwork
5. Pearl JamLightning Bolt
4. Alice In ChainsThe Devil Put Dinosaurs Here
3. Flying ColorsFlying Colors 2012 release
2. Black Sabbath13
1. Deep PurpleNOW What?!

I would also like to give credit to the new self-titled Dream Theater for putting out an album that caused me to rethink this list over and over and over again!

2013 was an interesting and exciting enough year that I’ve decided to do another buncha lists tomorrow!  We’ll be looking at movies, television and more.  Come back then for some bonus Top 5’s of 2013.

Oh…and HAPPY NEW YEAR!  See you in 2014!

FURTHER READING:  Check out Aaron’s 2013 lists at the KeepsMeAlive.

 

Gallery: Christmas Haul 2013

Music, movies, and books! I’ve been very occupied these last couple days.

I get the Guiness’ Book of World Records, and the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not books every year. I imagine my surprise when I discovered a friend of ours in both books! Apparently, Sweet Pepper Klopek holds the world record for “Most Baking Sheets Buckled Over the Head for One Minute.” This is a guy who has been on my living room couch!  Lemon Kurri says:

“He’s in there a couple times. Most mouse traps sprung on a tongue in 1 min too.”

 

REVIEW: Aerosmith – “Dude (Looks Like A Lady)” 12″ single

It’s THE WEEK OF SINGLES!  Each day this week I’ll be bringing you reviews and images of a recent CD or vinyl single acquisition.  

Monday:  Van Halen – “Best of Both Worlds” 7″ single
Tuesday:  Deep Purple – “Above and Beyond” CD and 7″ singles

 

AEROSMITH – “Dude (Looks Like A Lady)” (1987 Geffen 12″ single)

There was an old Canadian magazine called Music Express that was…well, it was OK.  Back in 1987 they did a spread on the new Aerosmith (Permanent Vacation), including a really cool caricature of Steven Tyler that I cut out and kept.  This Aerosmith article contained what I now consider to be a myth, although one that led me on a wild goose chase for years.

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Music Express

The magazine claimed that one of the new Aerosmith B-sides was a song called “Once is Enough”, a collaboration with Willie Nelson.  Not only did I believe this to be true, but it was seemingly confirmed by an old customer of mine who insisted she had this Willie Nelson tune.  Now I’ve finally acquired the “Dude (Looks Like A Lady)” 12″ single with “Once is Enough”, and there is absolutely no indication that Nelson had anything to do with it.  I wonder if the confused writer thought that John Kalodner in the music video for “Dude (Looks Like A Lady)” was Willie Nelson?  That’s as much insight as I can offer on this strange myth.

As it turns out, “Once is Enough” is an outstanding song, and no wonder:  It was written by Richie Supa, who also wrote three of my personal Aero-faves:  “Chip Away the Stone”, “Lightning Strikes”, and “Amazing”.  Supa has a certain magic in his melodies, rooted in old time rock n’ roll.  When Aerosmith record a Supa song, the results are seldom disappointing (“Pink” being the only letdown I can think of).  It does have a country twang to it, particularly the intro, but otherwise this is a rock n’ roller.

Although “Once is Enough” is instantly likeable and arguably an unknown classic, it was never released on any of the numerous Geffen Aerosmith compilations.  I think it’s stronger than much of the material on Permanent Vacation itself.  I can only assume it did not make the album because it’s too different from the songs that did.  In fact it probably would have fit better on Pump, which also had some twang on the hit “What It Takes”.  The country vocal harmonies are really sweet, and Joe Perry lays on some awesome slide.  When it takes off into full-on rocker mode, it’s irresistible.  Why a great tune like this remains so hard to get more than 25 years after its release, I don’t know.

The rest of the songs on the single are Permanent Vacation album tracks:  “Dude”, “Simoriah” and “The Movie”.  I’ll be honest, I never thought much of “Dude”.   It was originally titled “Cruisin’ For A Lady”, but obviously the new words (supposedly inspired by Motley Crue) have become a Tyler landmark.  So, good on them.  It’s been used in numerous movies and is a radio staple today.  With that Bruce Fairbairn horn section in there, I just thought it was too pop.   No matter how I feel about this commercial rock song, Joe Perry’s solo smokes.

Both “Simoriah” and “The Movie” are filler as far as I’m concerned.  For its merits, Permanent Vacation had a bit too much filler on it.  I’m more of a Pump guy myself.  As filler goes, “Simoriah” has a speedy groove going for it, but it’s not an outstanding song.  “The Movie” is just an atmospheric instrumental.  I’ve never felt that Aerosmith compose the most interesting instrumentals in the world.

Just 3/5 stars for this one…but 5/5 stars for “Once is Enough”!

One last thing:  I also have a CD single for “Dude (Looks Like A Lady)” completely different from this.  It was obviously a later release, since one of the B-sides was “Love In An Elevator” live.  “Once is Enough” was not on that CD single.

More AEROSMITH at mikeladano.com:

Music From Another Dimension! (2012 deluxe & regular editions) – Get A Grip (1993 limited “cow hide” cover) – Draw the Line (1977) – Record Store Tales Part 95:  Aerodouche Dandy