Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ripple Theater - Johnny Winter - Live Through The '80s DVD

You’d be forgiven for thinking that a DVD titled Johnny Winter Live Through The ‘80s wouldn’t be all that great, but you’re wrong. Johnny Winter went through a bit of a rebirth in the 1980’s thanks to the popularity of Stevie Ray Vaughan and a new contract with Chicago blues label Alligator Records. Both of these helped introduce Johnny to a new audience and got some youngsters showing up at his concerts. I should know, since I was one of them. Even during the peak of my snotty thrash metal high school powers, I still loved blues and classic rock. A friend and I went to see Johnny at the Beacon Theater in NYC, early 1985 and were blown away by the frail, shirtless Texan’s incredible energy and fiery playing. (His brother Edgar opened the show and did a great set that included a truly bizarre hip hop version of “Frankenstein.”)

This DVD really brought me back to that great night at the Beacon 25 years ago. Starting off in Toronto, 1983 there’s a kick ass version of “Unseen Eye” and 3 other smokers. Johnny’s leading a powerful trio with John Paris on bass & harmonica and drummer Bobby Torello. In 1984, Tom Compton takes over on drums and there’s footage from 3 different concerts – 1 from Europe and 1 in the US. The playing is tight but loose and production is primo. The band really rips it up on songs like “Mad Dog” and his frenzied take on Dylan’s “Highway 61.” After a semi-embarrassing music video for the song “Don’t Take Advantage Of Me” (it was the 80’s, all videos sucked) there’s an electronic press kit Alligator Records put together with a cool interview with Johnny. After that, it’s right back to the boogie with more footage from Europe in 1987 and 88.

Back in the 80’s Johnny stopped using his gorgeous Gibson Firebird guitars in exchange for butt-ugly Steinberger guitars. Despite their cosmetic unfortunateness, Johnny still makes them sound great. Proof that good guitar tone is all in the hands and not in the gear. If you’re a blues-rock lover you’ll definitely want to pick this up and give your TV speakers a work out.


Buy here: Winter, Johnny - Live Through The 80's

and go back and explore more: Live Through the 70's

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Ripple News - A Band of Orcs on Mini-Tour Right Now!

A BAND OF ORCS is set to head off on a mini tour in which they’ll display their live, human killing domination.  Their show on Oct 29 in Simi Valley @ 118 West Live will also be professionally filmed and recorded.  If you want your chance to be on film with the orcs, make sure you head out to the event.

Oct 28 – Yuma, AZ @ Ron’s Place
Oct 29 – Simi Valley, CA @ 118 West Live
Oct 31 – San Diego, CA @ The Ruby Room

People have really been digging these orcs in a live presence.  A certain Metal Sanaz hosted two A BAND OF ORCS shows w/ Sothis earlier this month, and the band also impressed a certain Bruce Campbell to play the Weekend Of Horrors event:

Here’s what some have been saying so far…

SMNnews -
“A BAND OF ORCS play brutal chugging death metal with technical chops.”

PureGrainAudio -
“Truthfully, I found no filler on this disc, just pure raw metal that is sure to satisfy metal heads everywhere”.

Santa Cruz Metal Bay -
“No Headbanger, Metalhead, or Dungeons and Dragons nerd is safe at a Band Of Orcs performance, for the goal of the colossal green beasts is strictly domination and chaos.”

Metal Underground -
“A Band Of Orcs delivers an overwhelmingly destructive death metal experience, even if it is a little nerdy”

Ripple News - Five Exclusive Tracks from the Upcoming Orange Juice Box Set, Coals to Newcastle

Originally formed in Glasgow in 1976, Orange Juice were the recognized leaders of the Scottish neo-pop uprising in the early '80's. Originally dubbed the Nu-Sonics, the quartet renamed itself Orange Juice in 1979, adopting the new moniker as well as an aura of romantic innocence as a direct reaction to the increasingly macho aggression of punk. Releasing a dazzling array of new wave inspired pop, Orange Juice have been hailed as a huge inspiration by such bands as Franz Ferdinand and Belle and Sebastian, and have continued to gain legions of fan, both new and old.

Now all those fans, and us here at Ripple Central, have something to scream about.

Coming November 22nd, the release date has been set for the long anticipated for Orange Juice box set:  Coals to Newcastle.  In honor of this vey special release we're giving folks access to new and long lost songs, photos, and videos every week leading up to November 22nd. 

This week we'd like to share a sneak peak of five songs from Coals to Newcastle  for your listening pleasure. That's right 5 exclusive, Ripple tracks.  Dig in and enjoy to no end!

I know we are!

Buy here: Coals to Newcastle

Friday, October 29, 2010

Ripple Reggae Round-up; featuring Toussaint, J-San and the Analogue Sons, and Lee "Scratch" Perry

It’s all about the riddim.

It’s about the message.  It’s about the rebellion.  It’s about the groove, and the spirit, and at its best, it’s about the euphoria.

That pretty much sums up my love affair with Reggae.  Always casually aware of the Jamaican sounds, it wasn’t until after college that my mind and soul delved headlong into the reggae groove.  Bob Marley had been a constant in my consciousness, but it was really Black Uhuru that ushered me in through the Rastafarian doors.  Different than Marley, way different, Black Uhuru was heavy and mean.  With the bass heavy riddims of Sly and Robbie way upfront in the mix, Black Uhuru rocked like no other reggae I’d heard.  They were heavy and dark.  They were mean and subversive.  They were dangerous. Everything I loved about metal and punk was there, only different, transformed into a melody dense groove that could elevate me like nothing else I’d heard. 

And at its deepest level, that’s what reggae is.   Reggae was/is the music of rebellion.  A yearning love of Jah Rastafari layered against a rampant anger at the status quo.  It was the music of a people no longer willing to be repressed to the ghettos of Kingston or elsewhere.  The people searching for spiritual union and political overthrow. 

Reggae was punk in every sense of the word.  The Clash knew this, as did many other punk bands from the UK.  In the ‘80’s I did a reggae show at KSDT FM where I concentrated on the reggae in rock music.  Elvis Costello, The Tazmanian Devils, The Slits; the soul of reggae was everywhere.

For the longest time, I’ve wanted to start a reggae column here; an occasional buyers guide to true reggae classics and new releases you may enjoy.  I had a friend once who, like so many people outside of Jamaica, liked Bob Marley, but had no idea where to go after that.  My collection became his learning ground.

 Let me know if this works for y’all.

Toussaint – Black Gold

 Reggae, like rock, comes in many flavors and textures, and the genius of roots singer Toussaint is his ability to blend several of these styles into a truly rapturous release.  Possessing a voice that simply drips with soul, reminiscent of Greggory Issacs or Freddie McGregor, Toussaint is just as adept dropping a little lovers rock into the mix with his roots and rockers style.  And even though Black Gold is rooted firmly in the grand tradition of reggae, Toussaint isn’t afraid to mix things up, drop in some modern flavors, play with the instruments, all the while keeping a solid message.  And then again, there’s that voice.  Very few styles of reggae work successfully if the singer can’t pull it off, and Toussaint’s the real deal.  The former lead singer of the band Soulive, Toussaint’s voice is deeply soulful, his tenor lilts and drifts around the driving rhythms and scatting guitar.

“Nobody Knows,” starts things off with about as solid a rockers style hit as I’ve heard in a while.  Check out the trickling runs of fingers across the piano keys, adding a rare jazzy, neo-ambient texture.  Toussaint harmonizes with his voice perfectly on some vocal double tracking while he rants against technology and a return to a more spiritually grounded life.   Bass and drums, always so important in reggae bounce and dance across the track.  This isn’t casual, lay-in-a-tourist’s-hammock-and-soak-in-the-sun reggae, this is heavy rockers style and it packs a punch. Toussaint lightens it up a bit on the next song “This Song,” bringing a gentler Marley-esque rhythm to the game.  Some key horn and guitar fills, and some killer work on the drums lift this one to heady heights.

I’m more a fan of rockers style reggae, which is touch more aggressive in message and tom and high hat drumming, so it’s no surprise that I’m more enchanted by songs like “Roots in a Modern Time,” which follows a Black Uhuru template in its killer vocal style and chorus, than I am by songs like “Hello My Beautiful,” which is pure lovers rock in the Bob Andy vein.  But truth be told, Toussaint does lovers rock as well as the best of them, great harmonies, melodies, and that voice . . . always that voice.  In truth, with Toussaint at the helm, I don’t really care which path he takes me down.  I’m just enjoying the journey.

Toussaint doesn’t shy away from controversy, tackling topics like his own cocaine addiction, (“Conquering Cocaine”), racism; racial pride and racial harmony (“Black Gold” and “Changing”) to the ongoing Rastafarian struggle against repression (“Marching”) and tackles each subject with passion, power and authenticity.  Toss in some gentler numbers like the find-yourself message of “Be You,” the pure spartan joy of “Rain Again” with it’s string accompaniment, and the dignified searching for understanding of “Patient,” and Toussaint has created a true modern classic of reggae, bringing in enough variety and styles to please the casual reggae listener or even the hardest reggae fan.  Highly recommended.

J-San & the Analogue Sons – One Sound

With all respect to J-San and his boys, I gotta be honest, I approached this CD like a man being forced to handle nuclear waste.  Nothing personal, but I’ve been accosted with a seemingly endless stream of self-produced, American reggae (think Big Mountain) that the mere thought makes my skin blister.  I just can’t get into reggae that’s been filtered through two generations of American television and nothing more than the love a full bong.  Reggae is so much more than that.

But dropping this gem into the player, I quickly changed all my opinions.  J-San and the Analogue Sons are the real deal.  Fusing a rockers style with some of the melodica-heavy dub style of Augustus Pablo, J-San has put himself firmly onto my reggae map.  Perhaps one of the things that makes this stand out so much is the production, the entire album recorded on a borrowed analog reel-to-reel.  Man, does that give warmth to J-San’s voice and add just the right fullness to the occasional horns and melodica.  It’s like a warm blanket on a cold night, One Sound is an album you want to wrap yourself in and snuggle down for the night.

Then, of course, there’s the songs.  J-San has studied the traditions well and doesn’t push things too far.  Bringing in a touch of Ben Harper soulfulness, J-San’s music is totally organic..  In addition to the Augustus Pablo touches, there’s a Dennis Brown quality to J-San’s approach, a romantic pain to his voice, a yearning that just can’t be faked.  J-San lives the roots, that’s clear.  “One Sound,” is a horn-laden rocker with a solid riddim that just never lets up.  Harmony vocals are subtle but so effective.   The bass locks in with the rampant snare while the guitar drops in the perfect fills.  Maybe there’s a touch of Junior Reid in the dubness of the style and it’s message of music being the key to overcome one’s struggles.   I don’t know, but it rocks.  “Time Hard,” lightens the tone a bit with a gentle guitar intro over the constant beat, but maintains it’s focus on the hard times right now felt by so many who’ve lost their jobs.  A potent reggae style of bringing a jubilant air to a time of struggle.  Times may be hard, but we can still bond together under one groove and celebrate life.   Nicely done.

“Solid” is so well crafted, and J-San’s voice so laden with soul, I could’ve sworn I was listening to a lost Dennis Brown classic.  “Walk Alone,” drops down into a bass heavy rockers style, while “No Give Up,” finds fertile ground in a deeper dub-thick style.  “Yes We Can,” could be an unrecorded Augusts Pablo standard, with it’s horn/melodica intro and spartan beat.    A little bit of everything here, and it’s all good.

Lee “Scratch” Perry - Revelation

We’ll end this first reggae column with a contribution from a true reggae legend.  Other than Bob Marley himself, Lee “Scratch” Perry may just be the next most important figure in reggae music.  Some call him a genius, others call him a madman, certifiably insane.  Both are probably correct and there’s just no denying the importance Perry has had over Jamaican music for the last 40 years.  A producer, mixer, songwriter, performer, along with King Tubby, Perry created the genre of reggae we now know as dub.  Perry produced many of the seminal Bob Marley and the Wailers tracks like “Small Axe,” and “Duppy Conqueror,” and was single-handedly responsible for slowing down the hyperkinetic ska beat to create the looping bass-driven beat that has become known as the reggae “riddim.”

With a pedigree like that, any new release from Lee “Scratch” Perry is worthy of attention, and Revelation is a rock solid Perry release.  Featuring huge looping runs of bass in the typical Perry dub style, Revelation is just that, a Perry revelation.

The man has it.  Simply put.  Mad, crazy, insane, whatever you want to call him, no one else in reggae ever so successfully pushed the boundaries of the music away from the pop formula that drowned the genre in the ‘90’s towards something vibrant, unique and, simply wild.  “Fire Power,” with it’s “having a party” refrain is about as far away from “One Love” as reggae gets but it’s still totally recognizable with it’s defiant beat and looping bass.  Most importantly, it’s totally infectious.  “Used to Drive a Tractor in Negrille,” is classic Perry; the master delivering his left-field lyrics over a futuristic reggae beat. 

As always, in the eccentric world of Perry, no topic if off limits when it comes to lyrics.  While most of the songs parlay Perry’s devout Rastafarian views, with a strong preponderance of incorporating judeo-christian beliefs and bible mythology, Perry’s not adverse to tossing a song like “Freaky Michael” into the mix where he proclaims that he likes his big nose and decries black celebrities who alter themselves.  Over the years, Perry’s voice has become more weathered and definitely slightly weaker, but that’s not a distraction.  If anything, it adds that sense of grandfather wisdom to Perry’s tales of “Holy Angels” and “Revelation, Revolution and Evolution.”  I mean the man is 74 years old, and damn, if he doesn’t still sound magnetic.

Eccentric, totally original, bizarre at times, but never less than captivating, Perry is a true treasure.  52 albums into his career and he’s still as enticing as ever.


Buy here: Revelation
buy mp3: Revelation

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Sword - Warp Riders

Album number three from Austin, TX band The Sword finds them downplaying the heavy Sabbath influence of their first two and adding a lot more classic rock to their sound. The new direction definitely works in their favor. Debut album Age of Winters was a very solid entry into the Sabbath worship sweepstakes but the follow up Gods Of The Earth seemed to stretch their creativity a bit thin. Despite accusations of “hipster metal,” The Sword is a good band it’s always worthwhile to check out what their up to.

First off, the production on Warp Riders is much improved. Producer Matt Bayles (Mastodon, Isis, Pearl Jam) gives their sound much more clarity. The guitars are still tuned low but the tones are never mushy or lack definition. The other big improvement is with the vocals. J.D. Croncise has never had a great voice and his vocals were always buried in the mix on previous albums. His voice is still not very strong but his singing has gotten better and it sounds like they worked really hard on getting him to sound good.

 “Acheron/Unearthing The Orb” follows in the tradition of Iron Maiden influenced instrumentals that open Sword albums. The single “Tres Brujas” follows and sets the tone for the rest of the album. With a nod to ZZ Top in the title and a riff pinching their classic “Precious and Grace,” The Sword have a chance to win over classic rock fans who aren’t really into metal. “Lawless Lands” and “The Chronomancer I: Hubris” are further Texas boogie stompers.

The other big discernable influence on Warp Riders is Thin Lizzy. “Night City” has some trademark Lizzy guitar harmonies and arrangement flourishes that would sound great on classic rock radio. Fans of the heavier side of Thin Lizzy like “Thunder and Lightning” and “Warriors” will love the songs “Arrows In The Dark” and the title song.

Warp Riders is some sort of sci-fi concept album involving a planet locked in perpetual darkness. Honestly, this type of thing is not my cup of tea, but the music and vocal melodies are strong enough to ignore the sword and sorcery role playing. Fans of ultra heavy doom should skip this one but those who aren’t afraid of a little Foghat boogie in their metal should definitely check this out. They’re touring the US with Karma To Burn and Mount Carmel in October.


Buy here:  Warp Riders
mp3: Warp Riders
vinyl: Warp Riders

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

3 Blasts of Penfold - Featuring Red Hot Rebellion, Holding Sand, and Dan Miraldi

Red Hot Rebellion  -  Built to Rock/For the Benefit of Evil

I love it when a band has a simple purpose, something everyone can easily understand.  Red Hot Rebellion writes music with only one thing in mind, rocking your socks off!  Seriously, the band openly promotes the fact that they want their music to sound like “the soundtrack to a bar fight”.  They set about achieving this goal by utilizing tried and true methods pioneered in decades past.

“Built to Rock” starts off the two song sampler.  This song harkens back to the heyday of boogie rock with its ultra fuzzed out guitar, solid medium-tempo groove, and lyrics devoted to one very special lady.  While this track is solid, the real show begins with the second song, “For the Benefit of Evil”.  Pure rock righteousness bursts forth from this song in every imaginable way.  Once again the fuzzy/heavy guitar tone dominates the proceedings.  The verses are built around a series of choppy riffs, while the choruses revolve around a stop/start mechanic used to great effect.  Towards the end there is the mandatory breakdown leading into a lethal guitar solo to close out the song.  I love the Misfits-like gang vocals in the choruses, and with lyrics like “Devil called me up and said listen here, I got something to tell you son.  It’s better to die behind the guitar than die behind the gun” I get goose bumps!  Did I mention that these songs are obtained for free from the band’s website?  Why are you still reading this?  Get clicking!

Song Download - 


Holding Sand -  On Sleepless Nights EP

Alright, I will be the first to admit that melodic hardcore is not a genre of music in which I am very well versed.  Some of the bands that are name checked as important to this musical category don’t do anything for me personally.  That being said I am very enthusiastic about this new five song EP from French band Holding Sand.  From the moment I started listening to it, the music grabbed me with a vice-like grip and refused to let go.  It’s a good thing that the EP lasts for just under twenty minutes because when I listen to it, listening is all I am doing.  Nothing else gets accomplished in that span of time, and I can’t afford that on a larger scale.

What makes the music so endearing you ask?  Allow me to explain.  Each and every song here has an extremely satisfying musical crunch thanks to the distorted, downtuned guitars of Matthieu Jacquet and Franck Grison.  Anchoring the guitarists is the rock solid rhythm section of Coralie Fumard on Bass and Pierre Sionneau on drums.  Similar to most singers in this genre Clement Horvath switches from angry growls and anguish filled yelling to clean singing at the drop of a dime.  Unlike some other singers I have been subjected to over time however, I can derive no sense of false emotion or fakery in any of his vocals.  On the contrary they seem entirely genuine, and this adds quite a bit to the overall honesty beaming from the music.

“The Future Belongs to Heartless Whores” acts as a strong opening salvo for what is to come and “Shooting Stars” effectively concludes the EP, but my favorites are the three songs in between.  “On Sleepless Nights” brutalizes from start to finish with whiplash inducing guitar lines and vocal vitriol aplenty.  “Black is the new Black” substantially scales back the tempo for what I would deem more of an introspective number.  This song reminds me of an early composition of the band Cable from their Skyhorse Jams EP, except that “Black is the…” has greater focus and meanders far less.  Finally “What Eyes Betray” throws a curve ball at the listener by devoting the first twenty seconds of the song to a series of distorted sound crashes.  The band then stomps on the accelerator with insistent drumming coupled with an ascending guitar riff and only lets up at the end of the song.  Fantastic!

Dan Miraldi  -  Tease

You would be excused for thinking that the three songs on this EP were released years ago.  That isn’t to say that the songs sound dated.  They certainly do not.  Actually, the production on the album is crisp and crystal clear.  No, the songs just sound as if they were written by someone who has not been influenced by any artist or group after the era of The Rolling Stones and The Beatles.  And you know what?  That is a great thing!  All three songs greet the listener like a breath of fresh air with their utter lack of pretense and posturing.

“The Holy Roller Stone Revival” kicks the tires and lights the fires immediately with a strong driving beat and vocals reminiscent of a powerful preacher lecturing his flock.  Although I doubt that young Mr. Miraldi has in fact “…seen it all” as the lyrics suggest, he has certainly seen enough to create this rollicking song, with the call to join this particular revival too infectious to ignore.  “Lucinda” comes next and offers a very pretty folksy ballad for your listening pleasure.  The vocals are hauntingly clear and without any semblance of a whine.  Very endearing.  “Tease” brings the processional to an end with obvious nods to early upbeat Beatles material after a brief keyboard introduction.  The bottom line is that anyone looking for songs that will bring cheer and happiness to their day should check these out, post haste.  Just don’t blame me when all three come unbidden into your head and you’re forced to sing along. (all songs streaming there)


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Trout Fishing In America - Lookin’ At Lucky

This summer was unusual.  The past fifteen or twenty Aprils through Octobers I have spent almost all of my leisure time pursuing trout.  I became addicted to fly fishing in the mid-1980’s.  Even prior to then, I would gather my spinning rod and gear and head to a river, stream, lake or pond to stalk Oncorhynchus mykiss, Salmo trutta, Salvelinus fontinalis and Oncorhynchus aguabonita - rainbow, brown, brook and golden trout.  I have pursued the fish from the Arizona desert through the Sierra Nevada, Rocky and Cascade Mountains onto the plains of Saskatchewan. 

This year, until last weekend, I had not gone fishing - not once. I did not even buy a California fishing license.  I had purchased a yearly California fishing license since I was 16 years old.  It was a hard year. I stuck close to home.  One of my best fishing buddies received a diagnosis of cancer and was now unable to camp or fish.  As the summer wore on he got worse. One of my daughters was having difficulty finding a job after college. The other one was subsidized by us at college out of state. I did not often get to see her. I lost interest in camping and fishing.

So, for the first time this year last weekend I went trout fishing. My wife and I arranged a camping trip with friends and I volunteered to teach them to fly fish.  We bought two-day fishing licenses and headed off for Mount Lassen. I waded into the creek, caught a few fish, sat around the fire and remembered why I had done this for the past 30 years.  I came home tired, dirty but refreshed.

On Monday I went outside to get the mail and there it was inside a small padded manila envelope - Lookin’ At Lucky by Trout Fishing In America. Coincidence?

Trout Fishing In America has been around since I tied my first fly to tippet. This release, on their own label called Trout Records, is their first album for grown-ups in eleven years.  The band is Keith Grimwood on bass and vocals and Ezra Idlet singing along and playing almost every folk instrument known to man - the guitar, ukelele, banjo and bouzouki, as well as percussion. From 1999 until this release Trout Fishing In America was for kids.  They received the children’s music industry’s highest awards - National Parent Publication and Parent’s Choice Awards. They have also garnered four Grammy nominations for “Best Musical Album for Children.” 

Long before Trout Fishing In America there was St. Elmo’s Fire, the adult folk rock band where Grimwood and Idlet met.  Soon they played side gigs together and, in the late 1970’s as St. Elmo’s Fire dissolved,  they played a side gig at a grade school that led to their dedication to kids.

Boy, have those kids been lucky.  Yet, I bet if you ask Trout Fishing In America they would tell you that you are “Lookin’ At Lucky.”  I have not heard original folk music that is as tight, well-written and beautifully performed since neoprene waders were popular.

The first song on the album is “Lookin’ At Lucky,” a country bluegrass march, with a great fiddle part, that tells the story of how a man feels when they’re with someone they love.  I fell for it hook, line and sinker.  It is followed by a country two-step square dance called “She’s The Only Smile,” a song about casting one’s eyes on the most interesting girl at the dance. The tune flows quickly as it dives below the surface.

A fantastic country blues called “Bettin’ That It Won’t” recounts those instances when one hopes for a certain good result but is almost positive it won’t end well - like casting after clumsily tripping over your felt-sole shoes in a quiet pool.  You might hook a fish, but I wouldn’t count on it.

The ballad “Home” is a well-performed melancholy country song about wandering and yearning for home.  I could hear echos of the early Band, the Flying Burrito Brothers and the Little River Band. The song is designed to make you sad - like when you hook a big fish but end up losing it before you even had a chance to see it.   One of the cutest songs on the album is a talking blues, called “Safer Haven,” where the singer goes from location to location and keeps being hit by natural disasters. The song owes a lot to Arlo Guthrie, John Denver and Harry Chapin.  It made me reflect back on those times on the river when a thunderstorm would come in and I’d be standing hip deep in water waving the equivalent of a carbon fibre lightning rod. The track “Drivin’ Rain” is a little country blues funk number. Idlet plays the banjo like it was a rhythm guitar. The lyrics and rhythm brought to mind the swish-swish of the wipers on an old Montana fishing guide’s truck during a mountain storm on the way back from a river fishing float trip.

An odd tune, “Who Knows What He Might Do,” is a driving rant about growing old and acting your age.  I could empathize.  Years ago I could climb over boulders, log jams, rapids and waterfalls in search of prey.  Now, find me a deep pool with easy access.  I still have that same desire to aggressively wade up stream, but at my age I learned that  I just don’t have the same ability. The song “Not Every Dream” is a slow ballad that reminds me of an old Celtic folk song and carries onabout still feeling the same way you did when you were younger.  Counterpoint is provided by violin and acoustic guitar.  It brought to mind all those nights with fishing buddies around the campfire passing the bottle of Maker’s Mark and reminiscing.

A wonderful blues-based number, “The Car’s Running,” recounts “senior moments” such as losing your glasses on your forehead, misplacing the keys, etc.  It made me recall when I hiked two miles upstream to a favorite pool and discovered I’d left my fly boxes back in the car.  “How Many Times A Fool,” a banjo folk tune, explores all the stupid things we do that hurt the ones we love. Sparsely produced and performed, it is as emotive as an early Bob Dylan song, but done with a much better singing voice.  It brought to mind a time one of my fishing buddies on a fishing trip stopped for a drink at a bar in Sierra City on the way back from the river to camp.  There, on a bar stool in the corner, was his first ex-wife.  We didn’t see him back in camp the entire weekend.  In fact, he made his own way back to the Bay Area days later as we all avoided phone calls from his wife.

The last two songs on the album are “I Pretend To Understand” and “My Baby Loves Sudoku.”  The former is a slow country blues about being unable to remember or understand, but, acting like you do.  The latter is a tongue-in-cheek novelty bluegrass epistle on how Sudoku ruins marriages.  It is the closest song on the album to a kid’s song.  Both are a bit silly - like when a fishing partner’s wading shoes soles fell apart in the river and I watched pieces of leather and felt float by while he stood in the river in neoprene stocking feet.  He then knew there was a two mile walk in bare feet out of the canyon ahead of him.  He just went back to fishing for trout until it turned dark.

All in all “Lookin’ At Lucky” is a clever, light, well-performed and well-written first attempt to venture into the world of adult music.  The cuteness and cleverness of Trout Fishing In America’s children’s songs remain.  The musicianship makes each song fun.  The album is like wet-wading - pulling on the old felt-soled boots and leaving the waders behind.  You’re not going in deep or traveling far, but, it sure is damn refreshing. especially if you have a great cast.

- Old School

Monday, October 25, 2010

Quartz - Stand Up and Fight

Back in high school, Brett and I were brothers in arms.  Rock and roll arms that is.  A tad more seasoned than I was, Brett burst my musical cherry by taking me to my first big-time rock concert; AC/DC, Cheap Trick, Ted Nugent, Blue Oyster Cult, and Boston.  Or was it Journey headlining?  Hell, with all the acrid smoke wafting in and around my virginal nostrils that day, I’ll never remember. 

But I do know that Brett also introduced me to the endless hours of joy that became known as the bargain bin dig, and opened up my ears to crazy new sounds in metal, like UFO.  Influential in my life, hell yeah!  It’s safe to say that The Ripple Effect would not exist in many ways, if not for Brett.  A while back I wrote of “big brother” Danny shaping my musical childhood, well Brett was responsible for my much louder heavy metal adolescence.

And with a brother like that in the late seventies to early eighties, you better believe we launched headlong into the NWOBHM and launched hard.   Seemed like we were on a quest to constantly outdo each other, being the first to turn the other guy onto a new band.  For every Tygers of Pan Tang, Girl School, Bitches Sin, Praying Mantis and Witchfynde that Brett found, I pulled out an Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Saxon, Vardis, and Motorhead.  He popped out an AIIZ and I whipped out an AngelwitchWild Horses, Raven . . it didn’t matter.  We were there.

Then how in the hell did we miss Quartz?

Perhaps it was because Quartz were just a bit ahead of our time, their debut album being recorded in 1976 and 1977.  But that shouldn’t of mattered.  This rambunctious platter I now hold in my hot and steamy hands, Metal Mind's just released reissue of Quartz’s second album, Stand Up and Fight, was originally put out in 1980.  That was our time.  And further, Quartz were originally championed by Tony Iommi and his management group.  He produced their first album and Quartz Geoff Nicholls left the band to join Black Sabbath in 1979.  And we were definitely huge Sabbath fans.  So how this record escaped the attention of two pimply-faced, metal mad teenage boys with a ’66 Mustang remains a mystery never to be solved.

But thank God it’s been rectified, because Stand Up and Fight is one helluva blitzkrieg of riff-mad NWOBHM.  A molten cauldron of screaming guitar licks, trodding bass lines and bone-shattering drums.  An album chock-full of one pounding primal metal fest after another.  An album not to be missed.

Mike Taylor was a singer for the ages, with a voice gruff enough to stand out against all the fey pretty boys of the day, but still sweet enough to scale the heights and bring the passion to the songs.  The closest similarity I can find to his voice is Daryl Braithwaite from the latter Aussie band, The Sherbs; but that reference is probably too obscure, so let’s go with a husky Geddy Lee with a case of laryngitis.  Guitarist Mick Hopkins could shred and rip with the best of them, laying down wailing solos or tearing through grinding gears of riffs.   And the rhythm section of Malcom Cope and Derek Arnold were steadfast in their dedication to rock. 

And boy, could they rock.  Ignoring the sole misstep of “Can’t Say No To You,” a timid American-aimed rocker that sounds suspiciously like Foreigner's “Feels Like the First Time,” the rest of the album and the one extra bonus track “Circles” are the true essence of the NWOBHM. 

I’m not going to go into each track here, because I’m gonna run out of adjectives way to soon.  There’s just no way to sum up the raging riff drag race of “Charlie Snow" and it’s cocaine reference.  It’s impossible to describe the bullish metal assault of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Child,” or the angry power wrapped up in powerchords and wailing solos of “Revenge.”  I don’t have the words to lay down how I feel about the mad rockers, “Wildfire,” “Circles,” or “Stoking Up the Fires of Hell.”  Let’s just simply say that Stand Up and Fight is simply . . . simply fantastic.  Raw and primitive, riff-mad metal.   An album that absolutely shouldn’t be missed.

Brett, brother, have I got one for you!


Buy here:  Stand Up & Fight

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Ripple News - Exploding in Sound Roars Back with another Killer Compilation -- for Free!

The never ending search for great music has become a little bit easier, thanks to SONIC WAVES, the brand new digital compilation from tastemakers  Download it for FREE today and come discover your next favorite band. The line-up is a dream come true for the folks at EIS, with songs from Karnivool, Oceansize, Alberta Cross, Dead Confederate, This Town Needs Guns, Native, Retribution Gospel Choir, Tera Melos, Sebastien Grainger, Shoes And Socks Off, Medications, Night Horse, Royal Bangs, Mojo Fury, The Library is on Fire, and many more.
SONIC WAVES draws inspiration from a time when radio DJs played the music you needed to hear, rather than the station’s predetermined playlist.  These are the bands keeping rock music genuine, intelligent, and explosive; these are the decade’s future legends.  Fans of post-punk, progressive rock, alternative, grunge, and indie rock will surely find themselves immersed in the twenty one songs that comprise SONIC WAVES, a collection of brilliant rock music from around the globe.  With every compilation Exploding In Sound seem to outdo themselves and SONIC WAVES just might be their masterpiece.

Sharing of the compilation and the links to download is HIGHLY recommended and encouraged!  Your friends are going to want to hear this, so spread the love.  SONIC WAVES is a free compilation to be used for promotional use only, with a goal of reaching music fans worldwide, helping to provide great music to the masses.  Word of mouth is always appreciated.  Enjoy.

DOWNLOAD here:  Sonic Waves


1.       Karnivool – Set Fire To The Hive

2.       Oceansize – SuperImposer

3.       Tera Melos – The Skin Surf

4.       Medications – For WMF

5.       Alberta Cross – ATX

6.       The Library is on Fire – Magic Bumrush Heartz

7.       Dead Confederate – Giving It All Away (feat. J Mascis)

8.       Native – Backseat Crew

9.       Retribution Gospel Choir – Hide It Away

10.   Vending Machetes – M.O.

11.   Shoes And Socks Off – No Fighting in C101

12.   Earthtone9 – Amnesia

13.   Mojo Fury – Deep Fish Tank [Factory Settings]

14.   Vietwow! – Irritable Brain Syndrome

15.   Royal Bangs – War Bells

16.   Sebastien Grainger – I’m All Rage [Live ‘05]

17.   Suns of the Tundra – Caught Telling The Truth

18.   Art Versus Industry – Devour

19.   Night Horse – Rollin’ On

20.   The Fling – Out Of My Head

21.   This Town Needs Guns - Panda

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Single Life - 7" of Fun featuring, The Banquets, Montagna and the Mouth to Mouth, Aaron Zimmer and Starfucker

The Banquets – This is Our Concern, Dude

What started out as a lark, a fun project by a group of friends with a “The Big Lebowsky” fetish, took roots, sprouted wings, and emerged from it’s “joke” beginnings into one helluva full on melodic punk band.  And I mean, one HELLUVA band.  Just listen to the chiming guitars, that thick and steady bass line, the confident smash of snare, tom and cymbal, and you’ll find nothing amateurish about their playing.  More impressive, dig the confidence in their song writing.  Guitars sneak in and exit just as quickly. Songs build to tension with a genuine feeling.  There’s nothing contrived here.  Just heart-felt passion and some damn fine songs.

And what songs would those be?  How about the beautiful jangly guitar intro leading into the stampeding melodic punk that is “Lyndon B. Magic Johnson.”   Then there’s the anthemic call and response chorus of “Eleanor I Need a Garden.”  Both songs chock-full of singable choruses, captivating hooks, and impassioned singing.  “Eleanor,” even hints at a touch of Oi Punk with its “Ooooh ooooh” vocal hook.   Great stuff.

But things don’t end there.  To give you even more bang for your money, this slice of midnight blue vinyl adds two more tuneful rockers on side B.  “What a Bunch of Aaron Burrs,” up the dissonant punk attitude, dropping in some serious guitar chops amongst it’s ringing guitars and crashing cymbals.  “I Wish I was a little More Lou Diamond,” bursts out on a wail of choppy guitar chords, building in some steamroller bass, and all of it leading into a workout of energy and melody.  

Don’t know what the dudes’s obsession is with people’s names in their song titles, but I don’t really care.  Put out by Black Numbers, this is one of the best 7” debut’s I’ve heard all year.  The Dude abides.

Montagna and the Mouth to Mouth - Ultrapolyamorous b/w At Full Speed

Here at the Ripple, we’re blessed to be contacted by some seriously cool record labels and PR firms, and one of two of my favorites are Chuck and Will over at Bear Trap PR.  Now, it’s true I don’t necessarily fall for every disc the guys send over, but when I do fall, I tend to fall hard.  I think over the years, the Bear Trap men have learned what sounds I tend to gravitate towards, which is usually more on the melodic or straight up punk end of the spectrum.  And over the years, they’ve sent us some great bands, like Balance and Composure and The Cold Beat.

Now here comes Montagna and the Mouth to Mouth.  The brainchild of singer/songwriter Jason Montagna, the Mouth to Mouth released their debut album “L’avenir” in 2009, and now come roaring back with a tasty 7” slice of licorice pizza, Ultrapolyamorous b/w At Full Speed.  And I do mean roaring.  A different sound from the majority of the emo-oriented punk I associate with Bear Trap, Montagna and the Mouth to Mouth fuse shoegazer beats, indie rock, and punk attitude to create a full on blast of noise pop unlike any I’ve ever heard before.  Guitars crash, sounds build, voice hail, bass thuds and the whole thing just keeps coming at me, wrapping me up in some heady vortex of sound as if I was caught in the middle of a punk tornado.  Of the two, I think I like “At Full Speed” better, there’s just something completely endearing about the garage rock three-chord intro and the baby doll female vocals.  But both songs are totally intoxicating in their psychedelic, dizzy haze.  Never before has noise sounded so sweet.

Aaron Zimmer – Honey, Give Me a Hand

It was last year sometime that we at the Ripple fell under the spell of earnest singer/songwriter Aaron Zimmer, and his full throttle pop.  Now after spending a year playing in the NY area, Aaron comes back with his first new song since his debut, Live Wires.  Playing it a bit looser and rootsier than most of the debut album, “Honey, Give Me a Hand,” is a knock out of a follow up.  Aaron seems to relax a bit on this song, aiming for a heart-felt song of love’s redemption, and loosens the reigns on the production.  The whole song feels giddy with spontaneity and the energy of a band banging this out in the living room of a good friend’s home.  That’s not to say it’s sloppy.  Heck no.  I don’t think Aaron could do anything sloppy, he’s too much of a perfectionist.  Let’s just call it easy.

Easy, and terrific.  Just as he did with Live Wires, Aaron has crafted a song of indy rock perfection.  As with all Aaron’s songs, the melody is right in the forefront, bringing me in, letting me know I’m in good hands.  The casual rush of the song sweeps over me in a moment of shear pop delight.

The song is available on iTunes and Amazon as a download, but really it’s a predecessor for the upcoming album.  I’m already standing in line.

Starfucker – Julius b/w Helium Muffin

Not at all what I was expecting from Polyvinyl Records, the home of such guitar-based indy bands as Joan of Arc and the M’sStarfucker are a bursting supernova of cosmic electronic techno indy pop that soars into the stratosphere like a tranced up rocketship of ecstasy disciples.   This is heady, trippy techno disco for the post-rave generation, and damn if it doesn’t do it well.  "Julius" is a bouncy, swirling quasi-shoegazing/ambient techno delight. Synths percolate like early am coffee while the vocals and textures swirl in a dizzying whirl like cosmic dust behind a comet.

"Helium Muffin" is about as ethereal as the name suggests.  A hypnotic blend of spacey synths and throbbing dance rhythms.  Sure to please fans of upbeat dance pop and still interesting enough for the rest of us.  Get the party started, keep it started.


Ripple News - Prophecy Artist, Dornenreich announces 2011 Tour

Dornenreich: Flammentriebe tour 2011

In the 15th year of their existence Dornenreich present their seventh studio-album Flammentriebe via a unique live-show: a double-set including everything from acoustic intimacy to passionate ecstasy. Both the metallic as well as the acoustic side of Dornenreich will be combined for these concerts. Dornenreich will be joined by their special guests Agrypnie which rose from the the ashes of the German Avantgarde-Black-Metal-Ensemble Nocte Obducta.

presented by ORKUS, LEGACY & METAL.DE

10.02.2011 DE - München / Backstage
11.02.2011 AT - Klagenfurt / Volxhaus
12.02.2011 AT - Wien / Szene
13.02.2011 DE - Nürnberg / Z-Bau
14.02.2011 DE - Dresden / Puschkin Club
15.02.2011 DE - Berlin / K17
16.02.2011 DE - Essen / Turock
17.02.2011 DE - Trier / ExHaus
18.02.2011 DE - Stuttgart / Haus 11
19.02.2011 CH - Uster / Rock City

Friday, October 22, 2010

Project Armageddon – Departure

Project Armageddon has mastered the science of quantum physics, and here’s my reasoning behind said assessment. You put on their record, Departure, and you suddenly find yourself at the end of it. No, no. It’s not a glitch with my system . . . the disc doesn’t just magically skip over the content and pick up with the final droning notes. No . . . I’ve heard every note on this album several times, so I know the content is there. Time simply gets lost when this sucker is spinning in its tray. Project Armageddon has managed to make forty-five minutes of music feel like five. The good thing about this? I always want to hear more!

This Houston, Texas trio delivers a pummeling brand of doom metal, at times reminding me of Black Sabbath, especially when they take the more psychedelic roads with the music. These guys do a great job of balancing the all out destructive and cutting guitar tones with the more ambient and ethereal moments. Departure is the kind of album that works best with no external distractions. Lock yourself in a darkened room with a few candles or a lava lamp . . . maybe a black light . . . get comfy in your bean bag chair and take a few leisurely rips from your four foot bong. As the music swirls around you like the smoke from your bong, notice the intricate weave of tones and notes that Project Armageddon layer across your mind. Close your eyes and just follow the music. Let it teleport you to a land far, far away from your daily concerns.

The opening salvo from Departure is a tune called “Plague For Shattered Man” and the guitars are of that sludge-y, stoner variety . . . akin to Deliverance-era C.O.C. and just as devastating. With a riff this heavy, one might expect the rest of the band to drop in and carry the tune in high energy fashion, full tilt rock n’ boogie . . . but nay, Project Armageddon take the tune in a slower direction, almost plodding. Interestingly enough, though, the song doesn’t lack in energy due to the snail crawling through molasses tempo. This song is balls and the musicianship is freaking killer, specifically in the way of the guitars. Love the tones, love the Middle Eastern vibe to the solo, love the drums, love the bass. Seriously, there’s nothing to not like on this song. The vocals may be a bit difficult for some to digest as they tend to be sung in a higher register than would seem natural for the detuned sludgery of the music, but y’know . . . Ozzy got away with it for all that time with Sabbath, so get past it, folks.

Speaking of Sabbath, “Psyko-Sonic” reminds me of that classic Sabbath sound . . . a little bit of “Planet Caravan,” some parts of “Electric Funeral,” maybe some portions of “Black Sabbath.” Just cool and surreal sounding stuff, the kind of music that you can lose yourself in, and the BAM! The guys drop in with fully amplified, fully distorted guitars, and shake you back to your senses. The one aspect I keep keying into on this track is the clean guitars in the droned out mellow portions and how this subtlest of applications gives the mesmerizing portions that extra special texture. It’s the nuance, baby! Music with the subtle twists and turns are always the most interesting listens.

The band then go on a prog-tastic adventure in doom-y musicianship and dedicate the next twenty minutes and four songs to the story of a Nazi bred superhuman race called The Sonnekonige, which was part of the story line to a James Rollins novel called The Black Order (fun read if you get the chance . . . in fact, the whole series is pretty good escapist fun.) The piece opens with an acoustic guitar led, rhythmic track entitled “The Reckoning of Ages, Pt.1,” and acts as the lead into, you guessed it, “The Reckoning of Ages, Pt. 2.” The second chapter of the saga builds and builds and builds in classic sludge-y fashion, droning power chords over sporadic drum and cymbal crashes, before the grooving stoner riffery of “Steward of Shame” kicks in. This third chapter is where we first hear vocals about the tale of the superhuman Sonnekonige, but in truth, the music tells the tale just as well. The thundering stomp of the rhythm almost gives the impression of a legion of soldiers marching towards the world’s destruction. The tones of the guitars are massive and it feels like the weight of all existence is planted squarely on our shoulders.

The title tracks wraps up the album and opens with a classic riff coming straight from the vaults of Sabbath. Check this bad boy out . . . I’m loving their use of breaks to highlight the various instruments. A little bass lick here, a little guitar fill there, and the whole song comes together real well. Despite these short musical breaks, the song has a great flow to it and always feels like it’s moving forward. It also benefits from having a bit of a more up tempo feel than most of the other tracks. Point that spotlight over to the bassist as he drops in a pretty cool solo over that ever so cool guitar riff. Great way to put the close on a bitchin’ disc!

Project Armageddon will appeal to, obviously, the Black Sabbath fans out there, but also to the new generation of doom metal fans . . . people who dig Venomin James or Ogre should pay close attention to these guys. Departure is quite simply a brutally heavy album that touches on some of the fantastic elements of “What if . . . ?” The Sonnekonige epic is a perfect example of the imagination running wild with the concept of a specially bred superhuman, designed solely to do it’s masters bidding. Then, as always happens, the master loses control of his subject and all hell breaks loose. I dig it! Let the music take your mind places that it doesn’t normally go! Laced within all of the fantastic concepts are the warnings of what could be if we give a party absolute power. The collapse of social order, the loss of life, the destruction of our host organism, Mother Earth . . . when the fantasy stands on the brink of reality, the scenarios become horrifying. Thanks for the mind fuck, guys . . . Project Armageddon, ladies and gentlemen!  

--  Pope

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Kings of Frog Island - III

This sounds like the album I’ve always wanted Queens Of The Stone Age to make. And that means it sounds like Wishbone Ash and The Groundhogs playing a festival on the island where the 1973 movie The Wicker Man takes place. The Kings of Frog Island are a collaboration between guitarist and producer Mark Buteux, R. "Doj" Watson and Mat Bethancourt, of the awesome band Josiah (R.I.P.). III is the third and final installment in a trilogy that began in 2005. I never heard the first two records but am now motivated to investigate them further.

I can just imagine Christopher Lee prancing around as Lord Summerisle to the opening song “In Memoriam” as tribal drums pound and a list of the deceased is read. Britt Ekland could also do her lascivious fertility dance to tempt the inspector to this song, too. “Glebe Street Whores” is in complete contrast to the opener with a Groundhogs boogie jam and distorted vocals. Nice one-two punch to start this thing.

“Bride Of Suicide” and “The Keeper Of…” are more in the Queens Of The Stone Age vein but a bit more psychedelic. Nice fuzzed out tones and swirly backwards guitar parts are held down to earth by hypnotic bass lines. “Dark On You” and “Ode To Baby Jane” are doomy but not Sabbathy. Depressing is probably a better description.

There’s probably a storyline here that I haven’t been able to figure out. Maybe if I get the first 2 volumes I’ll put the effort into figuring it all out but for right now I’m too busy blasting this one. I’m just glad The Ripple Boss gave me this one because this sounds like the type of thing that Pope and Racer would play at dawn on one of their epic California road trips. What do you say you fly me out west and we give it a test spin together?

-- Woody

Buy here: Kings

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Murdocks - Distortionist

In 2010, a crack commando unit of three elite musicians was sent to prison by a civilian court for a crime they didn’t commit.  Their crime?  Not rocking.  These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Austin underground.  Today, still wanted by major labels, they survive as musical soldiers of fortune.  If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire…Murdocks.

I was in a whole heap of trouble.  Someone had dropped a dime on my whereabouts to the local junta dictator in exchange for what I hope was a hefty reward.  Being alert at all times paid off once again as I noticed some suspicious characters loitering around the restaurant where I was eating lunch.  Knowing I had less than a minute to make my escape I laid some money on the table for my unfinished meal (always do the right thing, kids) and ducked out the restaurant’s side entrance.  Pursuers were not far behind.  Just as I rounded the corner of the building I heard shouts coupled with the side door being viciously kicked open.  After chasing me for several blocks, the enemy forces had me holed up in an abandoned warehouse.  The warehouse was quickly surrounded, leaving me with no way out.  It was time to call for help from Ripple HQ.

While I can’t recount the short conversation that occurred thanks to my prolific use of profanities, I can politely summarize what was actually communicated.  Commanding Generals Racer and Pope, both of whom received my call for assistance, informed me that there was no need for panic.  Although I thought it to be quite grim, the situation was well at hand.  A GPS tracker on my person told them exactly where I was located, and they had just dispatched an emergency response crew specially trained for just this type of mission.  When I asked how long it would take for this super crew to arrive, the Commanding Generals laughed in unison.  Not three seconds later a jet black van exploded through one of the side walls of the warehouse and skidded to a halt about ten feet from where I stood.

Immediately the windowless side panel door facing me slid open, and the man in the back told me to get in.  I followed orders and jumped into the van.  Before I was seated the man slammed the door shut behind me, yelled at the driver to go, go, go, and we were off.  The van rapidly accelerated pinning me in my seat.  Thank goodness the walls of this warehouse were not reinforced, because the driver chose to ram through the other side wall instead of going out through the hole previously created.  It did work in our favor as the enemy troops merely stood there with mouths agape as the van blew past them in our drive for safety.  Quick introductions followed.  I learned that the three men who rescued me made up the band Murdocks.  The man giving orders was frontman/guitar player Franklin Morris.  Driving the van was drummer David T. Jones, and riding shotgun was bassist Kyle Robarge.

Morris handed me a CD player with a copy of their new album Distortionist and some noise cancelling headphones.  He instructed me to listen to the album while he and Robarge took care of the two jeeps chasing us.  Weapons proficiency had always evaded me, so this seemed like a good idea.  With rapidity I put the CD in the player, activated the noise cancellation, and hit play.  The first song of the album is titled “OMG”, and I would quickly learn that it is characteristic of the entire experience.  It begins innocently enough with a simple drumbeat and plaintive singing laid on top of a delicate guitar line.  Fifteen seconds in the ambush is triggered.  The band hits the nitrous button on all facets of the music pumping the volume level from modest to maximum, instantly escalating the tempo, marking the arrival of the bass with a generous boom, and surprising the listener with unexpected intensity in the vocals.  And that was just the beginning.

My mind was reeling.  Not from the sight of the cart wheeling/exploding jeeps that were formerly closing in on our van, but from the excellence of the music being pumped into my ears.  Frankly, I had a hard time trying to categorize this wonderful music.  Had I heard a band that sounded like this before?  Not really.  Don’t get me wrong, I was certainly able to identify elements that made up this collage of sound.  There were clearly heaping helpings of garage rock, pop punk, vintage pop, and alternative rock swirling around these compositions.  I just had not heard these styles combined in this particular manner before.  The music was certainly aggressive most of the time, but it never sacrificed any melodic sensibility in an effort to pummel the listener.  No, as the album progressed I was amazed to discover that each and every song offered up colossal vocal and musical hooks that needed no time at all to lodge themselves in the deepest recesses of my brain.

Favorite songs were terribly hard to pick out thanks to the whole package being so uniformly excellent.  Early on there is the oft stampeding melancholy of “Bloodsicle”.  A little later the lyrically scathing “Die Together” paints a vivid picture of societal disgust.  “Danger Goat” is an unrelenting punk fueled rave up.  “Sleepy Queen and Charlie Brown” is probably my overall favorite.  In a kind of nostalgic pop perfection the choruses of this song mimic the Monkees’ classic “Daydream Believer”, with the cherry on top being provided afterwards by some heavy downbeat riffing that brings the listener right back to the present.  Drawing the album to a close the Murdocks effectively sum up the musical journey with the track “Widower”.  Several beautiful moments draw to mind classic doo-wop songs (at least to my ears).  Unlike those classic songs that generally dealt with devotion however, the Murdocks’ version instead tells the tale of a man whose heart was cruelly wrenched out of his chest by someone he loved.  Brutal.  On a side note although the lyrical content of the album predominantly conveyed anger about one thing or another, the music itself never left me feeling anything other than glee or happiness.

Twenty minutes later the van pulled into a private airstrip where a plane waited on the runway to airlift me out of the country.  The album concluded just as Morris opened the side door to let me out.  I looked directly into his eyes and told him that while I was tremendously appreciative of the rescue, the music was coming with me.  He chuckled knowingly, shook his head, and replied, “You’re welcome.”  Once I was out of the van the panel door slid shut and it took off for parts unknown.  I watched it depart for the first few seconds and then climbed the stairs into the plane.  The pilot asked if I was ready to leave.  I nodded to him, sat in one of the cabin seats, and hit the play button on the CD player.  The way I figured it, I could listen to Distortionist twice more before we landed and I had to be debriefed.  Sweet!

P.S.:  Go listen to the full album yourself on the band’s website

-- Penfold

Buy here:  Distortionist
mp3: Distortionist

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Robben Ford & The Blue Line - Handful Of Blues

He’s one of the 100 greatest guitarists of the 20th Century, now playing in the 21st Century.  Don’t take my word for it.  That statement was made by Musician Magazine.  Don’t take Musician Magazine’s word for it. Listen to Robben Ford on his 1995 release Handful Of Blues.

This is the ultimate blues rocker album. Ford, with his then band “the Blue Line” (bassist Roscoe Beck and drummer Tom Brechtlein) provide a master lesson in rock guitar blues.  Ford blazes through classic Chicago-style ("When I Leave Here"), jump blues ("The Miller's Son"), jazz-blues balladry ("Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood"), and Texas shuffle ("Tired of Talkin'") with such mastery that, at the time of release Cleveland Plain Dealer music critic David Sowd thought Ford would rise to replace the deceased Stevie Ray Vaughan as the ”undisputed hero to the white-boy blues-picker throne.”  However, Ford’s musical interests go far beyond the blues.

Ford has jazz chops as well as blues chops.  He played guitar for Jimmy Witherspoon from 1972 to 1974, before joining Tom Scott & the L.A. Express as the band’s guitarist  for Joni Mitchell’s 1974  Court and Spark tour.  At the end of the tour he joined George Harrison for Harrison’s 1974 Dark Horse tour.  In the 1980’s he toured with Michael MacDonald and Miles Davis.  But it was Ford’s childhood roots in the blues that captured his imagination in the late 1980’s through the mid-1990’s that led him to produce some of the greatest blues guitar music of the last decade of the 20th Century once he got his shot to record as a solo artist.

After Handful Of Blues was recorded Ford disbanded “the Blue Line.”  He said on his website, "I felt like I was holding back on the guitar side in order to present a band. I played out my commitment with the Blue Line and then decided to take some time off and find some new inspiration."  Yet, nothing Ford has done since Handful Of Blues is nearly as good, as distinctive or as powerful.  With “the Blue Line” disbanded Ford’s interests meandered toward jazz-infused R&B with a heavy urban influence.  While much of his later work is excellent, such as his 2003 release “Keep On Running” on which he plays with Edgar Winter, Ivan Neville and Mavis Staples, it lacks the raw beauty of his work with the Blue Line.  He only produced three albums with the Blue Line and Handful Of Blues is, by far, the best of the three.

Ford fills out the sound on Handful Of Blues by adding Yellowjackets’ keyboardist Russell Ferrante, pianist Henry Butler, Ford's brother Mark on the harmonica and organist Ricky Peterson.  In addition to producing the album LA studio guitarist Danny Kortchmar (who played on several classic James Taylor and Jackson Browne albums) occasionally plays rhythm guitar.  As a result Ford’s sound is more akin to the 1960’s British blues invasion sound than it is to the jazz and R&B tones that permeate his later work.  Yet, even this album contains a modicum of the jazz and R&B that was to come, mostly on Ford’s originals which are some of his best jazz and R&B to date.

The opening track “Rugged Road”  is a fast-paced Ford blues original that Ford follows with a classic rendition of Taj Mahal’s “Chevrolet” which, in the day, received significant airplay. Ford also provides a smooth version of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.”  One of the best album tracks is an original called “Top Of The Hill” on which Ford’s musicianship shines, especially in the short guitar solo.  Another wonderful track is Ford’s rendition of Willie Dixon’s “I Just Want To Make Love To You.”  While it may not have the grit of Dixon’s vocals it features some of the best instrumental performances by Ford and his sidemen found on the album.  Ford also amazes in the longest album track “Good Thing” which has a tonality that harkens back to Ford’s L.A. Express days.

Ford is still out there playing and he will usually include a cut or two from Handful Of Blues in his shows. He will play with jazz guitarist extraordinaire John Scofield at the Blue Note in New York City, NY December 1 through 5, 2010. 

Those on the West Coast will get the opportunity to see him with his band, Renegade Creation that consists of Ford, guitarist Michael Landau (who has played with Boz Skaggs, Pink Floyd, Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell, B.B. King, James Taylor, Ray Charles and Rod Stewart just to name a few) left-handed bassist Jimmy Haslip (who has played with the Yellowjackets, Bruce Hornsby, Rita Coolidge, Gino Vannelli, KISS, Tommy Bolin, Allan Holdsworth, Marilyn Scott, Chaka Khan, Al Jarreau, Donald Fagen and Anita Baker) and drummer Gary Novak (who has played with Joe Williams, Milt Hinton, Kenny Burrell, Barney Kessel, Louis Bellson, Michael MacDonald, Lee Ritenour, Anita Baker, George Benson and Alanis Morrisette), at Yoshi’s in Oakland, CA  December 16 through 19, 2010. 

Best of all at Yoshi’s they will play a Sunday matinee where adults can get in for $18 if they bring a kid ($5 per kid).  This is a great opportunity to be a hero to the neighborhood’s budding guitarists.

- Old School

Buy here:  Handful of Blues
mp3: Handful Of BluesMik

Monday, October 18, 2010

Poobah - Let Me In

One of the first things that attracted me to the Ripple Effect freaks is their deep love and understanding of the ultra obscure heavy bands from the 1970’s that they feature on the “Proto Metal Report.” Anyone who takes time out of their lives to champion Dust, Sir Lord Baltimore, Toad, JPT Scare Band, Jerusalem, etc is someone I want to know. Nobler than just talking about it, they are putting their time and money into bringing some of these lost artifacts back into existence again on their Ripple Music label. They’ve already unleashed a great collection of unreleased JPT Scare Band recordings and now they’ve done us all a huge favor by reissuing Poobah’s Let Me In.

I bought my copy just to support the label but didn’t know what to expect. Turns out this is right up my alley. Vintage Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Winter, Grand Funk Railroad is some of my favorite rock and Let Me In is a killer mix of all of ‘em. Grand Poobah, guitarist, singer, songwriter, Jim Gustafson is an awesome player and burns up the fretboard like a muther. It reminded me a lot of the first time I heard the Truth & Janey band – kick ass American power trio rock from the Midwest with lots of heart and soul.

Recorded back in the glory days of 1972, the original LP of Let Me In featured 6 killer jams and a great album cover. “Mr. Destroyer” starts off with a very funny spoken intro, somewhere in between Cheech & Chong and the voice on the early Ohio Players song “Funky Worm” before an almost “War Pigs” style riff. Jim peels off some great solos and they rhythm section of bassist Phil Jones and drummer Glenn Wiseman is very tight and grooves hard. Jim’s playing brings to mind both Ron Asheton and Tony Iommi at the same time. “Enjoy What You Have” is a mellower song that should replace Boston’s worn out “More Than A Feeling” on the playlist for all classic rock radio stations. It’s followed up with the killer mid tempo boogie of “Live To Work.” Even though Poobah is from Ohio, this is pure Texas boogie that would make Johnny Winter take notice.

Side two of the original LP kicks off with probably my favorite song “Bowleen.” It’s got a great tribal drum beat similar to Alice Coooper’s “Black Juju” and Jim adds some spooky organ on top of his creepy guitar riff. “Rock N Roll” is the type of song that my older brothers used to love to torture my mother with back in the 70’s. It’s loud and obnoxious with lyrics about how great rock is and of course getting high! I can practically hear her screaming to “TURN IT DOWN” during the guitar breaks. “Let Me In” is a 6 and a half minute epic that has everything you could possibly want – great riffs, lyrics about brotherhood and a drum solo.

In addition to this great album, there are TWELVE bonus tracks! You get everything from what was probably their intro tape (“Here’s The Band”) to unreleased gems like “Going To Rock City” and “Walk Of The Bug” to live rehearsals and radio edits. No expense has been spared on this package. Audio restoration and mastering was handled by none other than Tony Dallas Reed of STONE AXE. This guy knows a little bit about how classic rock should sound, so you know the fidelity is top notch. The CD is almost 80 minutes and the double LP is a thing of beauty. The colored wax is a tripped out marble and the inside spine awaits your seeds!


Buy here: Let Me In

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