Tremendous fun and a lot of learning tonight in the School of Jazz! Author Robert Lawson has a jazz collection to die for and we got a small taste of it tonight. The panel for Saturday Jazz consisted of four experts and one newbie:
As the talk veered from Miles Davis to Herbie Hancock, Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus and more, my wishlist grew and grew and grew. Stay tuned to the end to see some of Robert’s most enviable box sets.
As we often do, we started the show with some unboxings. Check it all out below! See you next week.
Friday March 11 – The 10 Year Anniversary Show – Record Store Tales and mikeladano.com (with Harrison and Tim Durling)
Friday March 25 – 2 Years of the LeBrain Train (with Tee Bone and Robert Daniels)
Friday April 1 – The Prank Show (With Chris Thuss and Michael Morwood)
The LeBrain Train: 2000 Words or More with Mike & Friends
Episode 100 – Saturday Jazz
When a guy with the musical intelligence and credentials of author Robert Lawson asks if he can participate in your Saturday jazz show, you say yes!
Much like Donnie in The Big Lebowski, I’m out of my element here. A casual jazz fan like me cannot compete with the knowledge of the guests this week. It’s a Cinco de Listo Top Five Jazz records and the panel consists of:
Respect to Lee Aaron! She’s persisted through the decades with a multi-faceted career, including her early metal roots. What she really needed was some kind of compilation CD that captured it all. 1992’s Powerline is a good compilation but some of Lee’s most interesting work came after. Radio Hitz and More… fills in some of the blanks from the past 20 years. You can only get it via Lee’s website as a promotional item. I bought a T-shirt and got the CD with it, signed and personalized.*
Even if it haunted her career at times, “Metal Queen” is a damn fine song. Period, end of sentence. Today we can see that “Metal Queen” had it all: killer quintessential riff, howling vocals and a searing solo. Few metal singers could touch Lee Aaron’s ability. While the fans knew she could do more than metal, she absolutely owned it on “Metal Queen”. Hail to the queen.
Lee eventually shifted into a hard rock mold. “Whatcha Do to My Body” was a big hit, and it’s next in radio edit form. It delivered big hooks and didn’t require any song doctors. Lee Aaron and her longtime guitarist John Albini wrote it and were rewarded with loads of MuchMusic video play. However the two did collaborate with an outside writer on “Powerline” (1987) and that outside writer was surprisingly former Rainbow singer Joe Lynn Turner. “Powerline” is a bit light and heavily reliant on keyboards, sounding a little like Heart.
The songs included from Lee’s “rock” period are all pretty much hits in Canada. “Hands On” followed “Watcha Do to My Body” in regular video rotation. “Sweet Talk” and “Sex With Love” were singles from another big Lee Aaron album, Some Girls Do (1991). The title track “Some Girls Do” is here and very Van Halen. Two of Lee’s most stunning ballads are included too. “Barely Holdin’ On” could be her best song, period. “Only Human” was from the 1987 pop rock era, but is a strong ballad regardless. Only a few notable singles are missing. The always likeable Disco-dis “Shake it Up” is too hard to find out there in the wild. Another big ballad, “Peace on Earth” is missing in action. However the space does not go to waste.
In 1996 Lee Aaron resurfaced with a new band called 2preciious. The lineup included Lee and the three Dons from Sons of Freedom! A strange combo to be sure, and the alternative-flavoured album they came out with didn’t make waves, though it got decent reviews. “Mascara” is edgy acoustic rock, completely unlike Lee’s previous work. There’s even a rare European-only track called “Concrete and Ice” which is a bass-heavy 90s groove rocker. Great stuff; it’s unfortunate it didn’t gain traction, because with Alanis Morissette being so big at the same time, perhaps Lee could have tagged along.
The next stage of Lee Aaron’s career was her entry into the jazz world. 2000 saw the release of her album Slick Chick, and in 2004 there was Beautiful Things. Tracks from both are here, including the instantly likeable “I’d Love To”. It’s a little jarring to hear “Handcuffed to a Fence in Mississippi” in the middle of a bunch of rock tracks, though.
This compilation is great for gathering together a bunch of Lee Aaron’s diverse hits, but that’s not all. Track 18 is a little bonus for collectors. From Sweden Rock, it’s killer track “Baby Go Round” originally from Emotional Rain. This live version is available nowhere else, which is like catnip for collectors.
77 minutes of music, for free? How do you spell N-O-B-R-A-I-N-E-R?
*If ordering, check before assuming they still offer signed CDs.
RIK EMMETT & RESolution9 – RES 9(2016 Mascot Music)
Rik Emmett had a long productive career as 1/3rd of Triumph, but he has rarely looked back. Post-Triumph he has released a steady stream of jazz, rock, blues and acoustic music, sometimes revisiting Triumph songs in re-arranged form. Finally the ice thawed and Triumph successfully conquered Sweden Rock. In 2016 Rik released RES 9, a new rock album with his new band RESolution 9.
RES 9 is in fact a time machine. Dial up track 1. You will be transported back to 1990 with the rock boogie of “Stand Still”. This is a spiritual sequel to “Drive Time” from Rik’s first solo album Absolutely. Then punch track 2. “Human Race” (not a Red Rider cover) could have been a single from 1986’s The Sport of Kings. With Alex Lifeson guesting on guitar, Rik and the band tapped into the hookiness of 80’s Triumph, but with a modern integrity. When you hit up track 3, you will find yourself in the future. Accompanied by fellow Canadian James LaBrie (Dream Theater), Rik turns in a modern rock anthem with “I Sing”. Big and uplifting choruses preceded by mellow verses are built for radio. LaBrie’s vocals are the perfect compliment. Without a shred of hyperbole, “I Sing” is absolutely one of the best songs Rik’s ever recorded.
The bluesy soul ballad “My Cathedral” gives Rik a chance to show off his impeccable chops. His tone — unbelievable! Moving on to “The Ghost of Shadow Town” effectively dials up 1976 in the time machine, with a dark heavy Zepp-ish blues. “When You Were My Baby” continues down smoove blues street, throwing in some jazz licks. “Sweet Tooth” is turn down a brightly lit side avenue, a sweet treat indeed.
A hard Triumph-like vibe permeates “Heads Up”, another fine hard rocker for the radio. “Rest of My Life” adds the jangle of acoustic guitars to the rock and roll mixture, creating another fine concoction just begging to be a hit. Things toughen up with the pure rock power of “End of the Line”, featuring the returns of LaBrie and Lifeson. The sheer star power of all these Canucks in one studio must have driven the temperatures well below freezing. Still the track smokes, and if you’ve ever wanted to hear Emmett and Lifeson go head to head, then wish no more.
But it is not the end of the line. Back to the future, we have a bonafide Triumph reunion featuring the full trio of Emmett, Gil Moore and Mike Levine. This long awaited reunion happens on the bonus track “Grand Parade”. The genuine surprise here is that it’s not a hard old time hard rocker, but a thoughtful and musically deep blues ballad. It strikes me as appropriate that this much anticipated track sounds nothing like old Triumph. That was, after all, a long time ago.
With RES 9, Rik has re-established his rock credentials. Whether he does another album like this is beside the point. RES 9 is the point; a damn fine album indeed.
SWINGERS – 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.”
“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).
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.
JAYMZ BEE & the ROYAL JELLY ORCHESTRA – ClintEastWoodyAllenAlda(1997 BMG)
Only one of the reasons that Jaymz Bee is totally awesome is that his name isn’t even really James B. He’s actually a James D, from North Bay Ontario, and he is one whacky fellow. A TV music veteran from the Look People (which also spawned Kevin Hearn, future Barenaked Lady) and the Ralph Benmegui show, the man is actually quite a musical genius. After the TV stint, Jaymz teamed up with Jono Grant and immersed himself in lounge music. I have to credit T-Rev for discovering this disc in the late 90’s and turning us onto it. He was all about the lounge music at the time, and Jaymz was catchy and hilarious.
“Man Can Fly” opens the album on a distinctly campy note, but listen to those bass chops and that flute solo! T-Rev, who was always a jazzbo, gave this CD a few fair spins in-store and you can hear why. It’s a great, bright sound that’s perfect for work. “The Man in the Saucy Suit” could work as background music for a Bugs Bunny mapcap adventure, and the lyrics are quite witty.
Our favourite song was usually “You Put the Babe in Baby”, a fast dexterous jazzy tongue twister. Freakin’ incredible, and now I need to pause for a cocktail. Thankfully, the CD jacket has recipes for three suitable drinks: the Berlin Martini, the signature Jaymz Bee Martini, and a Rob Roy!
“Amazon Sugar Pie” is a delightfully jaunty jungle journey with zoot suits and swing. Then on “Tony Bennettless”, Jaymz advises us that no party can swing if it is Tony Bennett-less, and he makes a convincing argument. “Free food and free booze, no it don’t mean a thing,” if a bash is Tony Bennett-less. “A Dog Like You” is another chaotic tongue twister, lyrically hilarious and musically top drawer.
The most surprising track is “A Groovy Movie”, the most straightforward rocking-est of the songs. The humour and swing is intact, but this time you can get down and dance like Austin Powers back in the 60’s again. I think the most interesting song is the slinky, snail-y quiz show sounding title track. It’s fun to try and figure out the compound names before Jaymz gives them away in the words… “BuffySaintMarieAntoinetteFuniCelloBiafra”? “RickJamesDeanMartinShort”?
“Music to Watch Girls By” is yet another fun 60’s swing, and “The Future Keeps Kicking My Ass” is nocturnal and slinky goodness with a Tom Waits vibe…but the closer “Nails” is manic musical insanity. It’s another lyrical masterwork of wit. “Nails! You bang ’em with a hammer! Nails! You cut ’em or you grow ’em…” and you’d be surprised just how many things you can do with nails according to this song, but then we diversify to snails, whales, jails, and finally back again to nails! Best line: “Whales: One swallowed Fred and Barney Rubble!” (You remember that episode, I know ya do.) And stay tuned for the hidden bonus track, in French.
Brilliant with humour like a great Zappa disc. Buy it.
DEEP PURPLE – In Concert with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Paul Mann (1999 Eagle Records)
The original Concerto for Group and Orchestra (1969) was Jon Lord’s baby. The rest of the band didn’t care too much for it, and it had only ever been performed twice. The Albert Hall recording became a successful live album, and it was performed once more in Los Angeles. Soon after, the original score was lost, permanently. Even if Deep Purple wanted to (and let’s face it, if Blackmore were in the band he’d probably say no), it could never be performed again without the sheet music.
I’ll let Jon Lord take it from here. From the liner notes to the CD:
“Marco de Goeij, a young Dutch composer…had decided to re-create it by listening to the recording and watching the video. Over and over and over again. A task of mind-bending complexity, dexterity and musicality, which then only left me the far simpler job of filling in what he had been unable to decipher, re-creating what I could remember of my original orchestration, and in part, as those who know the work will hear, re-composing where I felt it needed it.”
Conductor Paul Mann had independently been searching for the original lost manuscript. When Jon informed him of the re-created one, Mann was on board with the London Symphony to do it once more. Deep Purple now had a new guitar player, Steve Morse, who undoubtedly would have to bring his own slant to the guitar solos. For Jon and the fans, it’s the stuff of wishes come true.
Since the Concerto was really Lord’s project, it seems like a fair compromise for each of the members of Deep Purple to also get a moment or two to showcase their solo work. In fact many musicians from those solo works are welcomed to the stage, including the Steve Morse Band, Ronnie James Dio, Mickey Lee Soule (ex-Rainbow and ex-Gillan), Sam Brown, and more. Deep Purple fans are generally open to different styles of music, and this album showcases those styles in a professional, classy format.
Once again at the Albert Hall, the set commences with a disc highlighting the solo careers. Lord’s “Pictured Within” (with Miller Anderson) and “Wait a While” (with Sam Brown) begin the proceedings with a quiet, powerful pair of songs backed by Jon’s piano and dramatic strings. These versions are, dare-I-say-it, superior to the original studio versions.
From there, Roger Glover’s solo career gets a looksee, with “Sitting in a Dream” and the irresistibly bouncy “Love is All”, my favourite. Ronnie James Dio reprises his vocals from the original Butterfly Ball versions, sounding as great as he did nearly 30 years prior! It really is impossible not to like “Love is All”, which of the two is especially fun.
In 1988, Ian Gillan and Roger Glover did a project together called Accidentally on Purpose, a quirky tropical pop rock album. “Via Miami” is one of the more upbeat tracks from that album. Ian’s “That’s Why God is Singing the Blues” features his solo band’s guitarist Steve Morris (not Morse!) Both it and “Via Miami” spark and roll along joyfully.
Steve Morse (not Morris!) is up next with the Dixie Dregs’ “Take it Off The Top”. It’s the Steve Morse Band and the Kick Horns. It’s always a pleasure to listen to Dave LaRue, Van Romaine, and Steve Morse playing together, but to hear them at the Albert Hall? That’s a venue suitable to the genius they wrench from strings and wood. Graham Preskett joins on violin to dual Morse with string acrobatics.
Ian Paice’s spotlight song is a horn-laden jazz version of Purple’s “Wring That Neck”. This is my kinda jazz, the kind with a rock beat you can swing to! The violin solo lends it a bluegrass feel, too. The first CD ends with a powerfully heavy “Pictures From Home”, originally from the immortal Machine Head record, performed by Deep Purple with the London Symphony. It’s a powerful, dramatic song on which for the full Deep Purple to enter.
Disc two features the entire Concerto from start to finish, all three movements, roughly 50 minutes in length. This truly was Lord’s baby, the piece that kept him up nights in 1968 and 1969 writing little black notes on white paper. It made Deep Purple a unique property when it was released on LP 1969, but had not been heard live in 30 years. Purple fans will be in seventh heaven with this de-extinction. Indeed, Morse’s guitar is different, but he hits the right notes at the right time while still playing within his style. Otherwise, I’ll be damned but I can’t tell the difference.
What can I say of the Concerto itself? I think it’s pretty cool, and I’ve always geeked out to stuff like this. Jon envisioned it as “rock band meets orchestra” — at first they say hello, and play around, then they start shouting at each other, and before long it’s all-out war! Speaking of shouting, my favourite is probably Movement II, which has Gillan’s all-too-brief but oh-so-perfect vocal.
The disc concludes with three more (three Morse?) of recent vintage. “Ted The Mechanic” and “Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming” are two of the best songs from Purpendicular, and “Watching The Sky” is probably the heaviest song from Abandon. I personally feel that all the Abandon material was better live than on album, and “Watching The Sky” maintains that. Unfortunately none of the Abandon songs were really that great.
Of course, “Smoke On The Water” ends the album with guests returning, including Ronnie James Dio who takes a verse. “What do you think Ronnie!” Then the Elf himself is up at the microphone singing “Smoke on the Water” with Blackmore’s old band Deep Purple. I shouldn’t need to tell you that this is one of my all-time favourite live versions of “Smoke”.
This album, which ended up being one of Lord’s last with Purple, was really a special gift to the fans. It is a beautifully crafted live performance containing some of the rarest of the rare gems in the extended Purple canon. An event like this will never happen again. There is a DVD of this show, but beware, it is only about 2/3 of the set. What a disappointment that DVD version was. You want every moment, but you won’t get it.
If you do hunger for more after this, then you can binge on The Soundboard Series 12 CD boxed set. It consists of 6 shows, two of which featured full live performances of the Concerto, with guests such as (yup!) Ronnie James Dio. There is also Live at the Rotterdam Ahoy which lacks the Concerto portion, but makes up for it with a more extensive set of classic rockers, including Dio’s own “Rainbow In The Dark” and “Fever Dreams”!…But that’s another review.
5/5 stars. For the true fan, and anybody who’s not afraid to expand their listening territory.
One can indeed judge a book by its cover. David Lee Roth is hands-on with every aspect of his product, be it a photo shoot, a recording session, or an interview. He must have known his Diamond Dave album was crap, so he made a terrible cover to match it. Check out the tan, that wig and them pants! (Also notice: furry walls!)
This album, following up another aborted Van Halen reunion and the surprisingly powerful album DLR Band, switches gears and shows Dave’s “multi-faceted side”. Sure, we all know Dave likes disco, jazz, blues, showtunes, and standards. It’s Dave doing what he did very successfully on Crazy From the Heat, and trying to do so again. To make an album of this stuff would be fine, but Diamond Dave lacks any sort of zap. At all. It’s just one “who cares” cover after another, a couple crappy originals, and a Van Halen tune.
Dave’s voice just doesn’t generate the heat it once did, and all of Diamond Dave suffers for it. The way Van Halen did A Different Kind of Truth used a lot of production on Dave. Here, Roth is a whimper, a wheeze, a breathless gasp at the greatness that once was. To listen to this album in one sitting is an exersize in stamina. I know because I’ve done it.
Positives: Instrumental moments on the Steve Miller cover “Shoo Bop”. The ace rhythm section of LoMenzo and Luzier are complimented by a guitarist named Brian Young who is shit-hot on this. Then Dave goes all dance-y on it…ugh. “She’s Looking Good” is old-school and well done.
The indigestible: The Doors’ “Soul Kitchen”. Nobody needs to cover the Doors; Dave makes them sound like Smash Mouth. Hendrix’ “If 6 Was 9” has too much of Dave’s boring talking voice, but not enough crooning. His cover of the otherwise excellent Beatles number “Tomorrow Never Knows” (which he actually had the audicity to rename “That Beatles Tune”!?) sucks all the life and innovation out of a great song, as he wheezes to the finish line. This is by far the worst song, even though he also covers “Let It All Hang Out”.
There is only one number here worth owning, which is his Las Vegas version of “Ice Cream Man”. He did this shortly after Your Filthy Little Mouth with Edgar Winter, Omar Hakim, Greg Phillinganes, and Nile Rodgers! According to Dave’s autobiography Crazy From the Heat, this was recorded in a live in a video shoot. The video was never released, but the audio finally was. It lives up to the hype if not the wait.
Decide what you are willing to pay for one or two songs, and buy accordingly.