Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Bob Seger System - Ramblin' Gamblin' Man

I know that I've ranted'n'raved about Bob Seger before on this blog and for those who only know his late, TV commercial music, be aware that at one time, he was a fierce Detroit rock'n'roller, right up there with the best of them! This was the first album by the Bob Seger System (he has had a number of different bands over the years and used different names) and was originally titled Tales of Lucy Blue (one of the songs and the reason for the cover) but was changed when the new title track became a smash hit.

And goddam, what a song! A chooglin' rock'n'roll rhythm, drivin' guitars and cool keys back Seger's boastful anthem - making it one of the best r'n'r songs on the radio in 1969. The original title track follows and is a slower, more psychedelic groover with some stingin' guitar (Bob is a fine player and gets to show off throughout this record - he is certainly better than some of the lead players he had in later bands) and wavy melody lines. Handclaps get ya in the mood for "Ivory" where blues-rock riffs collide with waves of organ (also played by Bob) and guitars, while his growly voice does a call'n'answer with female backing singers. The one non-Seger song of the album, "Gone" (by bassist Dan Honaker) is a quiet ballad and not particularly memorable but "Down Home" comes bangin' in with a slammin' beat by drummer Pep Perrine, cool riffs and some nice blues harp by guest Michael Earlwine. "Train Man" doesn't ever seem to really sync for me, with its varied times, separate sections and unremarkable melody (though I like the "heys" and some of the guitar licks) and while "White Wall" has some groovy wah-wah and riffs, it also doesn't really stick with you - again, there and multiple breakdowns with divide the tune, but the punches back in are powerful and I dig the backwards lead guitar. Unfortunately, "Black Eyed Girl" follows in this direction - come cool bits but broken up with slow, open parts - a little more successful with the heavy guitars but still not very cohesive. All is forgiven and forgotten with one of Seger's best songs ever, the anti-war moster "2+2 = ?" - starting with Honaker's dynamic bassline, then a counterpoint guitar lick, propulsive drums and vicious lyrics - this is freakin' Detroit high-energy bash'n'roll! Sonofabitch, if this doesn't take your breath away then you don't dig rock'n'roll! The only problem is that it's over before you know it - he could have spent a little more time on this one and a little less on the previous couple. After that we get a respite with a short piec of soulful organ work in "Doctor Fine" before the appropriately titled closer "The Last Song".

So, yeah, there is a bit of filler here'n'there and some ramblin' (so to speak) bits, but overall, this is a solid rock'n'roll album and it is a shame that (so I've heard) Seger has halted the release of his early work, which many consider to be his best, because it is not up to his current standards. This can still be found in used record stores and should be picked up when it is!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

RIP Scotty Moore

Scotty Moore, Rock Pioneer and Elvis Presley’s Guitarist, Dies at 84 

Alan Six - Illuminachos

Las Vegas seems to be the capital of goofball punk-pop combos and this trio has joined the fray. Featuring Dave (the Boy Scout guitarist in the Mapes) on drums (having learned them just for this project), his wife Adrienne on bass and lead crooning/shrieking and buddy Lance on buzzsaw guitar, Alan Six has come from the Ramones school of short-fast-and-melodic to tell you all of the things that they don't like. At times is does sound like Dave and Adrienne's daughter helped to write the songs - although several are about telling guys to f'k off and r'n'r rebellion - and there are innumerable pop culture references that this old man doesn't get ("Objectively Smoof", "Bel Biv Demotion of the Ocean", "Avoig the Noig!"), but lots that you can sing along with and plenty of "I don'ts" to chant along with.

Adrienne really can sing - and wail (she can truly pierce your ears live) - and several of the songs remind me of the late, great LA group the Creamers. They do work with different tempos and come up with real melodies - and even do a punk version of 60's doo-wop in the political treatise "There's No Crying in Alan Six" - and power through the seven songs before you know it.

Fun stuff from some cool Las Vegans - and only 5 bux! Whadda deal!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Mapes, the Undercover Monsters, Alan Six and Melanie and the Midnite Marauders at the Dive Bar Friday June 24, 2016

The Dive Bar is always a good time - great bartenders, cool soundman, a real stage and a fun atmosphere. Melanie and the Midnite Marauders opened the night this evening and had a good time providing a bit of high energy honky tonk for the early crowd.

(MMM photo by Nikki Ruffling)

Our pals Alan Six were celebrating the release of their debut CD, Illuminachos (more on that when I have a moment), and kicked out a set of anarchistic, sloppily tight punk-pop. Singer/bassist Adrienne keeps a rein on the beat while alternating melodic singing with impressively therapeutic shrieking. Lance provides the power chords while Mr. Dave frantically keeps time. Their coer of the Misfits "Angel Fuck" fits in perfectly with their sound.

The Undercover Monsters came out from Riverside to join the festivities and hang out with their pals in the Mapes. This co-ed combo (two Daves - drums and guitar, along with bassist Emily and guitarist Jessica) also creates a punky/poppy sound, with everyone except drummer Dave divvying up the lead vocals duties to a backing of simple, solid punk rock. Jessica takes off the guitar at one point to run around and cause trouble and they all seem to have a good time. Nice peeps, too!

Las Vegas' legendary Mapes keep popping up more and more frequently these days (they're also playing tonight at 11th Street Records) and also mine the goofy, punk-pop market, although these guys add rude'n'obscene lyrics to the mix. These eve no one seems particularly wasted (unlike some shows...) and so they played a reasonably stable'n'comprehensible set even while flailing about in their own r'n'r fashion. No food was thrown at this one, but plenty of confetti appeared and ended up everywhere, including deep recesses of some people's bodies. As usual, a good time was had by all! Oh, and in what must have been a first, the band asked that people STOP buying them drinks!

I don't get to the Dive Bar as often as I should, but I always have a great time there. Thanks for another fun-packed night!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

RIP Ralph Stanley of the Stanley Brothers

Bluegrass Legend Ralph Stanley Dies at 89
I just wrote about the Stanley Brothers a week or so ago. A great band and Ralph was a very talented banjo player.

recommended gigs

Friday June 24 - Melanie and the Midnite Marauders, Alan Six - CD release party! - the Undercover Monsters and the Mapes at the Dive Bar

Saturday June 25 - Psyatics at the Dive Bar with the Two Tens, Jerk and Joni's Agenda
Saturday June 25 - the Mapes, Stalins of Sound and Radio Silence at 11th St Records
Saturday June 25 - Water Landing, the Steady Extras, Robert Stokes at Aces Ales
Saturday June 25 - the Chicken Shack returns to the Bunkhouse
Saturday June 25 - the All Togethers at the Pioneer Saloon

Monday June 27 - the Swank Bastards at the Golden Tiki

Wednesday June 29 - Time Crashers, Illicitor, Decent Criminals - house party

Thursday June 30 - the Scoundrels with the Rocketz at the Hard Hat

Friday July 1 - the Astaires, Civilians, Fuck Shit Piss, Three Rounds at the Dive Bar

Saturday July 2 - Cash'd Out and the Acid Sisters at the Plaza Hotel

Sunday July 3 - The Burly-Q Revue at the Double Down featuring the Ace Tones

Saturday July 9 - Unwieldies at the Dillinger

Thursday July 14 - Screeching Weasel, the Dickies, the Queers at LV Country Saloon

Friday July 15 - Super Zeroes at the Double Down

Tuesday July 19 - Toys That Kill, Civic Minded 5, Illicitor, Fredward at the Dive Bar

Thursday July 21 - Cashed Out, the Rhyolite Sound at Triple B

Friday July 22 - Eagles of Death Metal at the Hard Rock

Sunday July 24 - Bob Log III at the Golden Tiki

Tuesday July 26 - Jesika von Rabbit and Spindrift at the Bunkhouse

Friday July 29 - The Swamp Gospel and the Lucky Cheats at the Sand Dollar anniversary party!

Wednesday August 3 - Franks'n'Deans Weenie Roast at the Double Down

Wednesday August 10 - the Maxies and the Ataris at the House of Blues Las Vegas

Friday August 12 - Shooter Jennings back by Waylon's Band at Fremont Country Club
Friday August 12 - the Weirdos, Scoundrels, and the Civilians at the Dive Bar

Saturday August 13 - Unwieldies at the Dillinger

Saturday August 13 - The Swamp Gospel, Thee Faded Pyctures, and more at the Double Down

Wednesday August 17 - the Ataires and the Who Generation at the House of Blues

Friday August 19 - Psyatics CD Release Party at the Double Down with Tito Mojito and the New Conquerors, Pluralses and Swamp Pussy

Sunday Aug 21 - David Allen Coe at the LV Country Saloon

Saturday Sept 10 - Unwieldies at the Dillinger

Friday Oct 21 - the Psyatics and the Vibrators at the Double Down

What have I forgotten? Lemme know

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Rolling Stones - Goats Head Soup

The follow up to the iconic Exile on Main Street, this 1973 release had a lot to live up to and while it is not the classic that its predecessor is, it is a solid piece of Stones rock'n'roll.

They create quite the sultry groove in "Dancing With Mr. D.", a fave from this session, and vary tempos within "100 Years Ago", breaking down just as the feel was catchin' on, but then come back into the funkiness with a smokin' Mick Taylor guitar solo. "Coming Down Again" is nice enough, but is a fairly unremarkable ballad, but leads into the fantastically funky hit "Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)" - probably their last truly great hit single. Terrific lead guitar, cool wah-wahs, powerful horn section and damn catchy - everything cooks and connects on this one!

The other Top Forty smash from this record was, of course, "Angie", an acoustic ballad that succeeds where "Coming Down Again" failed - hooky and memorable and a great arrangement. "Silver Train" is a personal treasure from the album - a slide-driven, up-tempo blues rocker that Johnny Winter took to even higher levels on his Still Alive and Well LP. There's a bit of a gospel feel to "Hide Your Love", a clap-along number with excellent guitar leads, followed by yet another string-laden ballad, "Winter" - ironic as they were recording in Jamaica - that builds as Taylor gets to stretch out some more on his guitar. "Can You Hear the Music" is another tune that doesn't strike you at first but kinda sneaks up on you in an insistent way - sort of like "Moonlight Mile" - and they conclude with one of their rudest (other than "Cocksucker Blues") but best groupie-rockers, "Star Star" (aka "Star Fucker"). Great piece (so to speak!) of rock'n'roll to close things out.

Not up to par with their previous albums (how could they match the foursome of Beggar's Banquet,  Let It Bleed, , Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street?), but still a fine endeavor and one of the last true successes.

The Rolling Stones - A Bigger Bang

Apparently, this 2005 CD was the band's last release and while it's not one that I listen to often, it is still a worthy successor to their previous greatness.

The opening "Rough Justice" is kind of a monster - huge, heavy guitars, cool slide work, and a stompin' r'n'r groove. "Let Me Down Slow" has a feel like something off of Some Girls, with some nice melodic flourishes. Patented Keith Richards' staccato chords drive "It Won't Take Long", they get a bit funky in "Rain Come Down", do a so-so (but undeniably catchy) soulful power ballad in "Streets of Love", get bluesy in "Back of My Hand" (nice slide'n'harp work), build a r'n'r dance groove for "She Saw Me Coming" and then give another unmemorable ballad in "Biggest Mistake".

Reminiscent of "Angie", there is an acoustic ballad in "This Place is Empty", then they wake up and bring the fire for "Oh No, Not You Again" (a bit of a nod to "Shattered" here), and give us a rocker with nice open spaces in "Dangerous Beauty". There's a slow burner in "Laugh, I Almost Died", they get political (this was the Bush years, remember) in the blues-rocker "Sweet Neo Con", are almost frantically funky in "Look What the Cat Dragged In", produce another stomper in "Driving Too Fast" before ending the proceedings with Keith's "Infamy" (a play on "in for me", as in "you got it in for me").

Certainly not one of their best, but also certainly better than many of their later releases. Some real bits of coolness and definitely worth hearing, in any case.

Junior Brown Long Walk Back

Once I stumbled across Junior Brown - through Facebook friends, as I recall - I was hooked on his traditional country sound and his incredible guitar playing. I picked up this CD after diggin' the title track on one the Junior comps I have gathered.

The afore-mentioned title number, "Long Walk Back To San Antone", is a cool bit of country/blues/swing with a great groove and some amazing git work, of course. Even more wild git-steel playing in the upbeat C&W "The Better Half", but the maudlin ballad "Read "em and Weep" doesn't really stand out. He rectifies that with the kitschy but rockin' "Rock-a-Hula Baby" where he combines the silly subject matter with insanely good playin' - and even gives a goofy Elvis-like ending. Speaking of Elvis, "Lookin' For Love" sounds like it could have been one of his later, movie soundtrack songs, with a Fifties influence but a bit more polish that necessary - dig the sax'n'guitar though! I love his instrumental work and "Peelin' Taters", despite the frivolous title, delivers the goods and the fingers fly through "Freedom Machine" at an incredible pace - he truly is one of the most creative and innovative players I've heard in any genre. The steel-guitar driven ballad "Just a Little Love" works much better than "Read "em and Weep" - not quite as weepy and the steel performance is truly beautiful. "Keepin' Up With You" is kind of a blues rock number, but with disjointed rhythms, more kooky lyrics, but guitar work that is reminiscent of Stevie Ray Vaughn and even Hendrix, at times. Dig the surf-meets-country of "I'm All Fired Up" and he closes with a guitar tour-de-force that only he could deliver, "Stupid Blues". Man, I could listen to his guitar all day long and never get tired - I wish he didn't feel the need to play the goofball in so many of his songs, though I guess it has served him well over the years.

I've found that all of Junior's CDs are a bit uneven, but his instrumental work overcomes any objections I ever have and everything I've heard has more than enough greatness to balance out the foolishness.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

I Am Thor - documentary

My old pal Frank Meyer from the Streetwalkin' Cheetahs helped produce this bio-pic of the 70's rock star who went by the name of Thor. If you grew up in the 70's you most likely saw this man's album in the stores, but also most likely never got a chance to see him live, and this film helps to explain the trials and tribulations that ravaged this would-be god's career.

Growing up in the 50's and 60's, Jon Mikal was drawn to rock'n'roll (his 60's garage band, the Ticks, actually sound pretty cool from the brief snippet in the movie) but also, through his brother's influence, he became a professional body builder. From there, his life ran through many unique and crazy adventures - a stint in Vegas, a time as a male stripper - before he decided to seriously pursue heavy metal and signed to a major label. From here the story gets even weirder - kidnapping, porn stars, sabotage, breakdowns, b-movies, retirement, a failed marriage and a return to the stage.

The doc mostly concentrates on this return as it shows the many facets of this time and the many different musicians that has played with Thor, including, at times, Frank and his cohorts in the Cheetahs, Bruce Duff and Dino Everett. There are many small shows - one promoter bemoans the fact that there were 6 paying customers - some house parties with punk bands, and lots of couch surfing and slogging through towns to little interest. But then Thor is invited to play several festivals in the Netherlands, including one dedicated to Thor himself, so the film ends on a high note with the man finally receiving some notoriety.

I was reminded on the Anvil movie here and hopefully this flick with help to re-ignite Thor's fame, as well. Another rock'n'roll "what could have been"!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Cabaret at the Smith Center, Las Vegas, Saturday June 18, 2016

I've been a fan of the Liza Minnelli movie version of Cabaret pretty much since it was released but have never before seen a stage presentation. The version performed at the Smith Center is updated from the original and has simple yet effective staging and fine costumes that reflect the previous take without copying it.

Here the story doesn't simply revolve around Sally Bowles (Andrea Gross) and Clifford Bradshaw (Lee Aaron Rosen), but seems to take more from the original book of short tales, Berlin Stories, as it explores the budding relationship of the inn-keeper (Shannon Cochran) and her Jewish beau (Mark Nelson) along with friend Ernst (Ned Noyes) and the prostitute Kost (Alison Ewing), and, of course, the Emcee (Randy Harrison). While the iconic songs remain, there are many that did not appear in the movie, as they revolve around the other characters.

I enjoyed this adaptation - there are enough variations to keep it fresh, but still keeps the feel of the original. The Smith Center brings some superior productions and, if you don't mind the upper strata, you can get seats at a reasonable price (a number of our punk rock friends were in the same area as we were).