eric clapton

REVIEW: Rich Robinson – Got to Get Better in a Little While (10″ EP)

RICH ROBINSON – Got to Get Better in a Little While (2016 Universal 10″ clear single for Record Store Day)

This really pretty record (a single or an EP, who cares?) was found on the Taranna 2016 expedition with Mr. Books.  It’s apparently a Record Store Day exclusive from April 2016, although I had no problem getting this one for $16.99 in October.  This my first purchase of anything by Rich without his brother Chris.  Knowing the Black Crowes, I was fairly certain it wouldn’t suck.  I was still surprise to see on the back, an ad for not one not two not three but FOUR Rich Robinson “Expanded Editions” on CD and LP!  Who knew?  Not this guy!

“Got to Get Better in a Little While” is a Derek and the Dominoes cover, apparently one that Crowes used to do regularly, as does Rich.  You have to hear this if you like bluesy rock that produces pure smoke from sheer musical chemistry.  Yes, Clapton is God and the original can’t be touched, but a real jackass could easily make this song sound like shit.  Rich does the opposite, and it sounds as part of his musical being.  There’s some deep bass that just cuts through, and this goes on for eight and a half minutes of jam session heaven.  Just bop along.

The second side has two Rich originals.  Greasy late night blues is on the menu.  “Look Through My Window” sets a scene of steamy Tennessee dusk.  Brilliant stuff for any fan of slippery slidey guitars.  Then an acoustic/electric tune called “Falling Away” closes on a first light of a quiet dawn.  Great tunes, both, making up a tidy little 16 minute EP.  Or single.  Whatever!

The vinyl itself is clear and thick.  The package doesn’t say anything about clear vinyl, but you almost expect clear or coloured when you buy these limited editions.  It looks lovely spinning with its green label.  Great little EP, reasonably priced for the collector and fan.

4/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Richie Sambora – Stranger In This Town (1991 2 CD deluxe)

scan_20161021-2RICHIE SAMBORA – Stranger In This Town (1991 Mercury 2 CD deluxe)

Bon Jovi went on hiatus after the lengthy New Jersey tour.  Their future appeared uncertain.  Jon had released his first solo album, a soundtrack called Blaze of Glory. Alec John Such was reportedly opening carwashes in Hungary, although that was probably a joke answer in a magazine interview.   Meanwhile, the rest of Bon Jovi (Richie Sambora, David Bryan and Tico Torres) gathered in the studio to record.  With Tony Levin on bass and Chapman Stick, the group assembled Richie’s first solo album, Stranger In This Town.  Although fans were worried about a possible split, there was much excitement for Richie to have a chance to sing his own songs.  Adding to the hype, Eric Clapton appeared as a special guest.  (Randy Jackson played bass on one song, “One Light Burning”.)

Sambora seemed to determine to fly his own colours.  Predominantly, that’s blue, as in the blues.  He also mixed in soul, pop, and rock to create an album that wouldn’t alienate any Bon Jovi fans.  David Bryan contributed songwriting, and there is even one Bon Jovi song in the mix.  It’s not a guitar album, although it need not be stated that the guitar playing on this album is brilliant.  Richie went for feel and atmosphere rather than flash.

This is apparent on opening track “Rest in Peace”.  It’s not really a full-fledged song, but more an introduction to the album.  It even has listening instructions:  “Turn down the lights…light a candle…welcome.”  That doesn’t sound very rock and roll, does it?  But it is good advice.  That’s the kind of album this is.  “Rest in Peace” is loaded with soul, and this merges with the pop rock on “Church of Desire”.  A song like this wouldn’t have worked with Bon Jovi.  It has more soul, and its quiet production lets the music breathe more than Bon Jovi songs do.  It’s a brilliant track, and Richie’s solo just blasts.  Different from Bon Jovi, but accessible for Bon Jovi fans:  it’s an ideal song for a first Sambora album.

The blues single “Stranger In This Town” sounds like something Richie had been aching to do for years.  Backed by a choir of vocalists, this is Richie fulfilling some musical dreams.  Both blues fans and rock fans should enjoy the middle ground where they meet on “Stranger In This Town”.  As a single, it seemed to represent the image Richie was going for.  This album has three singles in a row, making the first side a little more consistently strong.  “Ballad of Youth” was the debut single, combining Bon Jovi’s anthemic melodies with Richie’s new laid-back vibe.  It even has a Bon Jovi-like positive message.  “Don’t waste your life away, thinkin’ ’bout yesterday’s blues.”  The excellent third single was the synth ballad “One Light Burning” which almost sounds like Richie Sambora joined the Cars.  For the programmed sounds and percussion, Richie said they had “about 100 computers” networked together.  Oh, 1991!  Though a ballad, it’s the centerpiece of the album.

It’s possible they intended “Mr. Bluesman” to be the centerpiece, but the lyrics are difficult to digest.  When you write a song as a tribute to your hero, such as this tribute to Eric Clapton, lyrics are always the trick.  Thankfully Mr. Clapton’s guest guitar appearance, though brief, does tell us the story.  Hearing him rip on this blues ballad is like a searchlight cutting through the murky haze.  But here’s the weird thing.  Didn’t Eric find Brian May’s tribute song “Blues Breaker” embarrassing?  Yet he appeared on this ballad?

IMG_20151004_091117“Rosie” is a Bon Jovi song that was heavily bootlegged, from the fruitful New Jersey sessions.  It sounds like Bon Jovi, but Richie’s version has way more guitar.  Unfortunately the Bon Jovi version has never been released.  It was mysteriously not included on the Sons of Beaches demos that came out in 2014, even though the other songs were.  One has to assume Jon didn’t include it on his set because Richie already had his version out.  The next track “River of Love” is a title that has nothing to do with the Bon Jovi demo of the same name.  This is the first and last really greasy rocker on the album.

It’s ballads from there out, but terrific songs nonetheless.  “Father Time” (written with Desmond Child) is a melancholy rock ballad that Jon probably wishes he wrote.  It’s a powerful song, like an amped up “One Light Burning”.  Guitars burn up and down your spine while Sambora soothes your ears with his soulful croon.  Tico and David provide the solid base upon which the song is built.  Their expert chops are essential parts of the entire album.  Things draw to a close on “The Answer”, an acoustic lullaby-like song that has a lot of heart.  A sentimental ballad asking existential questions is an unconventional way to end an album, which is part of what makes it special.

Mercury did something unusual for the era, but very common today.  They released Stranger In This Town as a single CD, and a 2 CD deluxe edition.  The deluxe is housed in a long box, and has two bonus tracks.  At the end of CD is “The Wind Cries Mary”, which saves fans from having to buy the atrocious Ford Fairlane soundtrack on which it originated.  It’s a smoking Hendrix cover, and the best tune on that soundtrack.  On the second CD you will find an almost 20 minute interview with Richie discussing the songs on this album.  No revelations here; it’s really just an extended promo for the album.  Half of it is music anyway…snippets of the same music from disc one!  An OK extra, but the real bonus is “The Wind Cries Mary”.

The final extra, usually missing on the second hand market, is the metal guitar pick shaped pendant.  It has Richie’s solo logo on it, but nobody’s going to be wearing this thing.  All this is packed in the box, which is a beauty but awkward to store.

As an introduction of the “real” Richie to the fans, Stranger In This Town was a success.  He differentiated himself from Bon Jovi, and also proved he could sing an entire album easily.  Critically and commercially, the album was less successful.  There were mixed reviews, with the rock press hung up on the soft songs.  With the benefit of 25 years’ hindsight, Stranger has aged well, better than Bon Jovi itself.

4/5 stars

 

 

REVIEW: Wayne’s World – Music from the Motion Picture (1992)

MOVIE SOUNDTRACK WEEK

By a weird coincidence, I wrote up this review on the exact same night that Aaron wrote up his for the KMA. Weeeeeeird.

Scan_20160605WAYNE’S WORLD – Music from the Motion Picture (1992 Warner)

Today we’ll take an extreme close up look at Wayne Campbell, Garth Algar, and the movie soundtrack that returned Queen to the top of the charts.

Wayne’s World was a phenomenon.  Not only did it put Queen back on their throne, but it also kickstarted a whole wave of Saturday Night Live movie spinoffs, including the Coneheads and Pat.  The soundtrack was one that “everybody” had to have.   While I had started my Queen collection well before the movie came out, this soundtrack was the first place that I acquired “Bohemian Rhapsody”.  In many regards, you can almost regard “Bohemian” as a brand new song in 1992.  It charted as if it was brand new, and it became a cultural cornerstone only after the movie.  I know I can’t be the only one who head-banged to it in the car on weekend nights during the summer of ’92.  As one of the most campy yet brilliant tracks ever recorded in the history of rock, “Bohemian” deserved everything that came its way.

The soundtrack CD was made up of new and old material like “Bohemian”.  Also dusted off:  “Dream Weaver” by Gary Wright.  Though not to the same degree as Queen, Gary Wright experienced a bit of a renaissance thanks to the prominent usage of the song in the film.  The 1975 soft rock ballad is still cheesey fun today.  Then, Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady” was given a fresh release in one of the most memorable Garth scenes.  Admit it:  If you are over a certain age, you make the little “fox ears” on your head just like Garth Did when Jimi sings “Foxy”!  I know you do — don’t try to lie.  Although I can’t recall the song being in the movie at all, a mediocre Eric Clapton outtake from 1985 is included on the CD, in “Loving Your Lovin'”.  It’s about as memorable as you would expect a mid-80’s Clapton outtake to be; its just “OK”.  Of course, everyone knows that Alice Cooper’s “Feed My Frankenstein” was used during the Cooper cameo in the movie.  It introduced Alice to a whole new generation who still remember and love that song.

New tracks included the zippy Red Hot Chili Peppers funk blitzkrieg “Sikamikanico”.  Bass pulsing in time with the racing beats, this is the kind of Chili Peppers I love.   Meanwhile, Black Sabbath unveiled their first new material with Dio since 1981, on “Time Machine”.  This Wayne’s World version of the song is completely different from the one that was recorded for Dehumanizer, although both are included on the Sabbath remaster.  The Wayne’s World version feels faster and more frantic.  It was quite a thrill for fans to hear a brand new Black Sabbath song in a mainstream comedy movie.  (Cool scene too, with Robert Patrick of Terminator 2 fame.)  Although the soundtrack couldn’t resurrect their careers, both Cinderella and Bulletboys had new tunes on the CD.  Bulletboys tackled a cover of Montrose’s “Rock Candy”, perfect for their Van Halen worshipping vibe.  Cinderella had a new rocker to show off, a soul-infused vintage song called “Hot and Bothered”, which was a fine return to form but had no impact.  Finally, Rhino Bucket who were considered heirs to the throne of AC/DC included a new song called “Ride With Yourself” from their 1992 album Get Used to It.  It’s cleaner sounding than AC/DC but it’s in that ballpark.

Finally there are the throw away tracks.  At the time, Tia Carrere was being hyped up for a music career.  They hooked her up with Ted Templeman and recorded a cover of “Ballroom Blitz” (you know the scene in the movie) and a ballad called “Why You Wanna Break My Heart”.  Both are fine in the movie, but not really necessary for rock fans in general to own on CD.  Still, here they are!  (Tia’s version of Hendrix’s “Fire”, also in the movie, was included on the B-side of the “Ballroom Blitz” single.)  Then there is a throw-away version of the Wayne’s World theme song with Wayne and Garth singing.  I’ll take the Aerosmith version any day!

Not on the soundtrack CD, but prominently featured in the film, was Ugly Kid Joe’s hit “Everything About You”.  No big loss; you should be able to find their Ugly As They Wanna Be EP for under $5.  Party on!

3/5 stars

MOVIE REVIEW: Beware of Mr. Baker (2012)

“He influenced me as a drummer, but not a person.” – Simon Kirke, Bad Company

BEWARE OF MR. BAKER (2012 SnagFilms)

Directed by Jay Bulger

Cream.  Graham Bond.  Fela Kuti.  Blind Faith.  Masters of Reality.  The resume is one of the most impressive for any drummer of any genre.  It belongs to the one and only Ginger Baker, a phenomenon of a man, a loose cannon, and a rhythmic genius.  As you might guess, a documentary based on this wildman prodigy had to be tour de force.

From the start, you know this is not going to be your typical love-fest documentary.  It begins at the end, with Ginger Baker assaulting director Jay Bulger with his cane, cracking his nose over the issue of who else might appear in this film.  Indeed, Ginger was not happy about some people the director was interviewing, perhaps his ex-wives and arch nemesis but brilliant bandmate Jack Bruce (RIP).

MR BAKER 5

The bloodied director Jay Bulger

Bruce is one of many associates interviewed.  Bill Ward, Chad Smith, Neil Peart, Charlie Watts, Eric Clapton, Chris Goss and many more praise the drummer’s abilities.  His skill seemed to earn Baker many a free pass over the years, for his quick temper.  Poor Eric Clapton thought he was free of the fiery drummer with the end of Cream, but then Ginger joined his new band Blind Faith!  In this film, Baker seems like an incredibly difficult individual.  He barks at the director many times over questions he doesn’t like.  He’s purposely difficult.  Living a faraway life on a ranch in South Africa, Ginger Baker had isolated himself from his past.  It is a recurring theme in his life.  When things got tough, or when he went flat broke, he has always uprooted and gone elsewhere, starting over fresh.  Baker never had it easy, losing his dad in World War II when he was only four.

The constant uprooting and starting anew took its toll on Baker and his family.  While living in California in the early 90’s with his third wife, he hooked up with Masters of Reality for their landmark second album, Sunrise on the Sufferbus.  Though it was a good experience musically, Baker couldn’t hack starting over this time.  Opening for Alice in Chains, the drummer was pelted with crap by grunge fans that had no idea who the legend Ginger Baker even was.  The union did not last and Baker was off again to start over once more.

Through the mess that was his life, Ginger Baker was always one of the most brilliant drummers on the stage.  More a jazz drummer who played heavy, Baker learned to move all four limbs independently which created an illusion of a blur of speed.  He wasn’t physically moving as fast as it sounds, but the end result was a unique sound in rock that nobody else copied.  Jazz drummer Phil Seaman introduced him to African rhythms which led to a life-long quest.  Baker lived in Africa more than once, absorbing the local rhythms and playing with Fela Kuti, learning all he could from the birthplace of the drum.

Johnny Rotten, with whom Baker played in P.I.L., praised the drummer regardless of his personal shortfalls.  Whatever his personality might be, it is what was necessary for Baker to perfect his craft, argues Rotten.  The ends justify the means.  He could not have been Ginger Baker, if he was not Ginger Baker.  A very punk-like attitude.  Whoever Baker bruised and bloodied, the higher goal of rhythmic transcendence was achieved, and could not have been achieved if he was a different person.  That’s the way Johnny Rotten sees it, and since nobody can change the past, that’s a good way of looking at it.

4.5/5 stars

Part 297: “The World Must Change”

EARTH

RECORD STORE TALES Part 297: “The World Must Change”

1997. A middle-aged mustached gentleman walked into my store with Eric Clapton’s latest single, “Change the World”.

“Hi,” he said. “I bought this at HMV, but it’s not what I wanted. I’m looking for a song, I think it’s called “The World Must Change”. Do you know it?

I searched my memory for a bit but drew a blank.

“I heard it on the radio. It’s a real hard-driving song,” he said, “and I could swear in the lyrics, he was singing ‘the world must change’. I told the girl at HMV and she said it was Eric Clapton. She sold me this, and it’s definitely not the right song.”

If he told the girl at HMV that it was a “hard-driving” song, I don’t know how she came up with “Change the World”, unless she’d never heard “Change the World” before. It is anything but hard-driving.

The fellow searched my rock section for pretty much any CD that look like it had songs about changing the world, and listened to a number of them, but came out blank.

A Google search today reveals little, aside from a George Benson song called “Everything Must Change”, but that is even further away from “hard-driving” than the Clapton track.

He ended up selling his Clapton single to me for $2, because HMV wouldn’t take it back once opened. It was a huge drop from the $9.99 sticker price, and he wasn’t happy, but $2 was pretty much top dollar for us to buy CD singles at the time (unless you had something rare, like an old Metallica single). I felt genuinely bad that I couldn’t find that song for him. I suggested he call the radio station on which he heard the track.

Now today, I appeal to the Internets at large:  Any ideas what song it could have been? Post a comment!

REVIEW: Brian May & Friends – Star Fleet Project (1983)

IMG_00000735BRIAN MAY & FRIENDS – Star Fleet Project (1983 Capitol Records)

This near-legendary mini-album is probably infamous for the wrong reasons.  Ask a friend if they’ve heard this record.  If they haven’t, they may respond, “But that’s the one with Eddie Van Halen, right?  And they did that song for Clapton, and he hated it, right?”  That’s how the story goes anyway.

The fact is that Star Fleet Project is actually really good, and so is “Blues Breaker (Dedicated to E.C.)”.  And yes, this is one of Eddie Van Halen’s rare cameos outside his eponymous band.  I am a fan of both Queen and Van Halen, but my love of Van Halen trumps my love of Queen.  As a Van Halen fan, it is really exciting to hear Eddie playing outside his band’s box.  On a technical level, I don’t know exactly how Eddie is torturing his guitar strings, but I sure love the sounds that come out of it.  I’m hearing Eddie at what many people consider to be his creative peak.  This is the era of 1984, “Jump”, and “Beat It”, considered by many to be the greatest guitar solo of the decade.  It’s sheer nirvana to hear Eddie tapping over Brian May’s trademark guitar sound.  It’s two things you never pictured together.  Once you hear them together, it’s like Reece’s peanut butter cups!

Eddie throws every trick he has into the bag.  Tapping, squeals and eruptions, it’s all here.  As for Brian, he does double duty on lead vocals as well, on two tracks:  “Star Fleet” and “Let Me Out”.  “Star Fleet” (8 minutes in its album incarnation) is a theme song that Brian covered, from a Japanese show that his son was a fan of.  It’s the most commercial of the songs, but I have to say I love it.  The chorus isn’t the best, but the guitar playing blows my mind every single time.

Queen fans may enjoy the piano blues “Let Me Out” best, as it sounds like it would have fit right in on News of the World.  I can imagine Freddie putting his spin on it quite easily.  Brian takes the first solo, but next time he says “Help me, Edward!” and it’s Van Halen playing the blues.  You don’t get this on Van Halen albums.  Brian and Ed alternate, and then Eddie blazes the fretboard shredder style.  To hear these two guys going back and forth over a blues progression is such a monumental moment.

The final track (and all of side 2) is the infamous “Blues Breaker”.  I’m not sure what E.C. didn’t like about it (I’ll just assume he was too humble to accept such flattery).  You don’t get to hear Eddie Van Halen nor Brian May jamming very often.  This is the second such jam, and this one well over the 12 minute mark!  You’ll wonder where the time went.  As an admirer of both guitarists, I’m constantly in a state of anticipation for what they will play next. The backing band are not slouches either: Alan Gratzer – drums, Phil Chen – bass guitar, Fred Mandel – keyboards.  They captured this stuff mostly live off the floor, and that’s the way the record sounds.

Finally, a word about the current status of this mini-album.  Used vinyl is probably your best course of action.  While this is easy to find on counterfeit bootlegs, official CD releases were scarce and confined to rare CD singles and Japanese imports, vinyl is much cheaper than any of those.  I first encountered this record in the collection of a creepy dude, as recounted in Record Store Tales Part 229:  Silent Knight.  That was 1994, and I still have never seen any of the CD releases of Star Fleet Project in person.  Besides, that big robot on the cover just looks better on an LP sleeve doesn’t it?

4/5 stars

Part 108: Building the Store, Part 2

RECORD STORE TALES PART 108: Building the Store, Part 2

Last time, Statham posted something about a dream he had, of us putting together our own record store. I wish I could have had the experience of opening a store without doing work!  The reality of it varied.  On the couple of times I helped set up a store, it was hardly glamorous.

The first time was when we opened up the first store that I managed.  It was the biggest one so far, lots of stock, all crap. Junk. Shite.  Basically what we did was, maybe starting six months in advance,  just buy lots and lots and lots of stock.  Before long we had, I dunno, maybe 5000 discs, all garbage.  Dozens of Jann Arden, Spin Doctors, Michael Bolton…I had so much Michael Bolton that he took up three fucking rows!  I even had rare Michael Bolton.  Nobody had rare Michael Bolton!  Nobody wanted rare Michael Bolton!  Then you’d go to the Metallica section, nothing.  Kiss, a couple copies of Kiss My Ass.  And we had soooo much country.  We had buckets of country.  And rap artists that you nor I have ever heard of. 

Waltz back over to the rock section and browse the classics.  Did we have any Floyd?  Nothing.  Led Zeppelin?  Just the tribute album, Encomium.  Meat Loaf?  Bat 2, but not Bat.  We had a couple of Rush discs, like Counterparts, but nothing from the 70’s.  No Maiden.  No Miles.  No Dylan.  No Hendrix.

We had no standardized pricing scheme back then.  So, if I was pricing Eric Clapton’s Unplugged at $9.99, the guy next to me might have priced it at $11.99 because maybe he liked it more.  It was very subjective.  Sometimes you knew what a CD was worth brand new and based it on that, sometimes it was so common that it didn’t matter, and sometimes nobody had a fucking clue.  We’d try to fix the pricing it as we went, but it was slow.  After we opened, a customer would come up with three copies of the same album.  “This one is $8.99, this one $9.99, and this one $11.99.  Is that because one is more scratched?”  Logical question!  But no, we just cocked up.

It took weeks to manually input and price all those discs.  Shelving them took a couple more days. Making the header cards, setting things up, all told we were at it for maybe a month.  Then the big day came and we did our opening.  We were only half-equipped:  there was no second computer yet, and only half of our CD players for listening station had been bought.  Signs were still arriving to be put up.

I’ll never forget our sign that showed up that said, “WE PAY CSAH FOR YOUR USED CDS!” 

Regardless of how crappy the stock was, it sold!  I couldn’t believe it!  There were only a few decent albums and I figured once they were gone, that was it.  That wasn’t the case at all.  People kept buying the old rap and country discs.  Tanya Tucker?  Check!  We had lots!  And people were buying it!

Then, used stuff started coming in at a rapid pace.  Crazy stuff too.  I remember this one huge Tangerine Dream box set coming in, on the Thursday of the first week.

After we opened and good stuff started coming in by the box full, all the hard work seemed like it was paying off.  But the setting up was long and tedious, and I couldn’t stand Todd, who was also on setup duty.  But who gives a crap?  I spent weeks doing nothing but data entry while listening to music (our own music, which we brought in – of course).  I rocked a lot of Deep Purple those weeks.  It was awesome.

I remember that I had just found two Purple albums that I wanted:  Concerto For Group and Orchestra, and King Biscuit Flower Hour.  I also rocked Purpendicular, which had just come out, as much as I could.   Todd didn’t understand the music at all.  All he was interested in listening to was Floyd, nothing else.  He played Bush once or twice, but otherwise it was all Floyd.  He really, really liked P.U.L.S.E.  And he just murdered Floyd for me, for a long time.

When I listen to albums like Concerto and Purpendicular, it brings me right back to doing data entry in that store.  Not a bad soundtrack to work to.