What We’re Listening To: October 18, 2020

Daniel Romano’s Outfit – How Ill Thy World Is Ordered

Not sure how he does it in the middle of a pandemic, but this dude, Daniel Romano has released tons of material while the rest of us are just sitting around watching our hair grow. His latest record, the funkily named How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is a belter and should be up for album of the year consideration. The epic tune “A Rat Without A Tail” is Marc Bolan T-Rex and George Harrison inspired perfection.

The Brothers Steve #1

Once you drop the needle down on “We Got The Hits” from The Brother Steves latest record, #1, you will be hooked and be on your way to coolness a-go-go. With a hip ’60s almost girl group vibe these guys, only one of them is called Steve, are fun, quirky, and mojo-groovy. Think David Bowie covering The Monkees and you will have pretty much nailed it.

The Bookends – Calliope

Born only 12 days apart cousins Karen Lynn and Sharon Lee deliver a swirling potion of ’60s Bubblegum Pop, slicing Rickenbacker guitars, cool organ riffs, and Revolver era Beatles ecstasy. “She’s Got It” is a Nuggets worthy Garage Rock stomper, and “Keep Keeping On” has a distinct “Taxman” vibe about it. Heady stuff, indeed.

Rose Abbott – Magnified

The Laura Nyro inspired title track from her upcoming record, Magnified, has our ears doing cartwheels awaiting the proper full-length.

GospelBeacH – Baby (It’s All Your Fault)

GospelbeacH is one of our favorite bands of recent vintage. On this single from an intimate and acoustic performance at London’s famous Betsy Trotwood pub the essence of the band is framed to sublime perfection.

J.D. Simo – Soul of a Man

This scorcher of a song courtesy of the guitar player’s guitarist J.D. Simo steps out from fronting his own band and goes solo. This cover of a Blind Willie Johnson tune lays the ground bare taking no prisoners.

Five Cool Ones: Five Cool Records Released This Week (October 16, 2020)

Things are kickin’ on the music front this week. Plenty of musicians have released songs into the atmosphere in advance of albums to be released in the next 45 days or so, there are a lot of pandemic-centric tunes hitting the streets, and old favorites are reminding us why they are great.

Sir Elton continues to dribble songs we have not previously heard, this time with “Here’s to the Next Time” a song that was originally written with Bernie Taupin in 1967 from his recently released Jewels E.P.

Lana Del Rey takes things low and mostly slow with her ode to lovemaking with “Love Me Like A Woman.”

And, Rock is the New Roll favorite Dave Alvin is back, front and center with a scorching version of Highway 61 Revisited in his own unique Roots Rock fashion.

Here are five really cool records our ears are getting jiggy with this week.

The Struts – Strange Days

Ears, down our favorite real and true Rock and Roll band in the last five years, Luke Spiller along with his band The Struts are back and as Glam-fastic as ever. Wearing the Queen, Def Leppard, and AC/DC crown with honor, this new record dials down the showmanship and dials up the guitar riffs most noticeably on “Cool” and “Wild Child,” a song that features Tom Morello. This is a band that is maturing before our very ears, heck they even throw in an “Angie” style ballad that is part Rolling Stones and part Black Crowes. Strap your ears on and enjoy. Just start on song number two and skip the title track that features Robbie Williams. But the literal call-in from Def Leppard’s Joe Eliot on “I Hate How Much I Want You” on the chorus is wicked fun.

Low Cut Connie – Private Lives

One of our favorite bands of recent vintage has released one of our favorite records of the year. Becoming known as one of the bands on President Obama’s personal playlist as well as for their incendiary live shows and over the top quarantine sessions, Andrew Weiner and his bandmates are delivering piano rock to the masses the likes of which we haven’t seen since the early Leon Russell days. Favorites are sprinkled all over this thing with standouts that include the title track, the slow burn of “Help Me,” a song we all need to help us hang in there during troubled times, and the almost Dawes evoking “Take A Little Ride Downtown.” This is a terrific set of tunes that deserve to have more ears sent their way.

Herbie Mann: It’s A Funky Thing: The Very Best of Herbie Mann

Taking a walk on the Jazzy side of the fence, the great Flautist Herbie Mann is out with the greatest hits package that is perfect for the Jazz aficionado, lovers of the mojo vibe of the ’60s, or just folks that like great music in general. Spit polished with enhanced quality versions of the classics, every song on this one is a classic must-hear magic carpet ride. Not quite like the originals in some cases, there are several versions and renditions on this that feature vocalists including Tamiko Jones on “A Man and a Woman,” Carmen McRae on “Live For Life,”  and Cissy Houston on Cajun Moon. The song “Push Push Pt. 1” presented here is worth the price of admission alone and “Respect Yourself” is perfectly sublime.

Seaway – Big Vibe

With more hooks than an episode of Dangerous Catch Canadian Pop-Funk outfit Seaway offers up an anthemic brand of Festival Rock that is as exuberant as it is hooky. The ’80’s Power Pop influences are floating around this one for sure, but ’90’s Indie-Punk in the Green Day mold may be a better touchpoint.” Still Blue” is a festival-ready, if festivals ever become a thing again, romper, “Sweet Sugar” takes things a bit slower and even has a scent of The Cars, and “Peach” could easily have been an ’80s Cheap Trick tune. This one is the ’80’s Teen movie soundtrack from a film that was never made.

Joey Molland – Be True To Yourself

As the sole remaining member of Badfinger and 1 of only 2 members of the band that did not commit suicide, Pete Ham died in 1975 and Tom Evans passed away in 1983, Joey Molland is keeping the spirit of one of the best Power Pop Bands ever to strum a chord very much alive in 2020. Lush and Beatlesque to the core, just like Badfinger, this record is a bit of a throw-back with a lot of present-day spit and polish thrown in for good measure. Produced by Mark Hudson, of the Hudson Brothers’ fame along with serving as part of The Boneyard Boys a group of songwriters that wrote a bunch of the latter-day Aerosmith hits, Hudson produced records for Neil Diamond and Ringo Starr among others. An extremely likable listen,  there are elements of Ringo and George Harrison solo efforts here as well as a whiff of Jeff Lynn and Electric Light Orchestra thrown in for good measure. “Better Tomorrow” is a G. Harrison inspired highlight as is the E.L.O. measured tones of “All I Want To Do.”

We certainly can’t have Badfinger Back, but mad props to an artist that had gone through hell and back again for the sake of his art.

 

 

Album of the Day: Dangereens – Tough Luck

Wham glam thank you, ma’am. If you close your eyes while listening to this glam-tastic new release from Montreal’s premier foot-stomping retro band, Dangereens, you might think you have been dropped into a time warp taking you back to 1975.

The influences and touchpoints are pretty straightforward, but that does not make them any less delicious. Marc Bolan, The Rolling Stones, Thin Lizzy, Hanoi Rocks, pretty much every Rock and Roll band you hold dear to your ears makes an appearance here. Heck, there even is a steady fragrance of epic-era Kinks on this set of odes to coolness.

Chuck Berry Riffs and T Rex Glam share the stage with older than their years’ songwriting chops, New York Dolls swagger, and blouse wearing torsos. This one has Rock and Roll record of the year written all over it.

 

What We’re Listening To Sunday (October 11, 2020)

The wheels are turning and the tunes are spinning sometimes faster than we can keep up. So many great bands, so little time. Here are some of the bands and artists we have been checking out this week.

Tuk Smith & The Restless Hearts

Ever since his band broke up over record company legal wrangling ex Biters frontman Tuk Smith has been plotting his return to the big time with the formation of his new band The Restless Hearts. Luckily, we are treated with a few little breadcrumbs in the form of some sweet singles as an appetizer to the main course to be delivered early 2021.

Christopher Shayne – Pour the Bottle

Sort of a devil hybrid of Guns ‘N’ Roses and ZZ Top, this guy throws down hard-edged Southern Rock with an edge that would make Blackberry Smoke blush.

Carla Bruni – Rien Que L’extase

Translated from French as “Nothing But Extasy we would say that description is pretty spot-on in describing this va-voom live video from chanteuse Carla Bruni’s latest record, Carla Bruni. Just to see the sleeves cut-off Harley T she is sporting is worth the price of admission alone on this one.

Haybaby – Get Down

Sort of Grunge Pop this slow build anthem to being comfortable in your own skin reaches deep into the soul and stays there for a while.

Goat Girl – Sad Cowboy

This lose yourself swirling Techno-Pop beauty is in advance of a new record, On All Fours, coming out later in the year.

 

Five Cool Ones: Five (More) Reasons Rock Is Not Dead

Proving once again that Rock is not dead, you just have to look a bit harder to find it, here are five artists that are waiving the Rock and Roll flag.

JJ Wilde – Ruthless

At the tender age of 26, rocker JJ Wilde quit the three jobs she was working and sold her soul for Rock and Roll. Self-describing her style as raw, rough, and full of honesty her latest record Ruthless shimmers, smolders, and burns like a female Jack White.

The Glorious Sons – A War On Everything

Already an arena-ready band when they first hit our ear-waves, The Glorious Sons is a timeless, taut slice of Rock and Roll heaven. Meandering from straight-ahead Rock and Roll one moment to low and slow-burning in the Bad Company mold the next, with songs as tight as “Spirit To Break” along with the gloriousness of the title track from 2019’s A War On Everything it’s a real wonder why these guys are not more well known.

The Luka State – Rooms On Fire

There may not be a better-monikered album in 2020 than The Luka States latest record, Rooms on Fire. Hailing from Chesire, England these young cats are announcing themselves quite nicely with their mini-album, 7 songs clocking in at just under 22 minutes. There is no time to rest here as each song seems to build on the last with the intensity and bombast increasing incrementally. From the stunning “[Insert Girls Name Here]” to the euphoric “Feel It” if this one doesn’t make you feel alive there is something wrong with you.

The Blue Stones – Let It Ride

The Blue Stones, essentially Tarak Jafar on lead vocals and guitar along with Justin Tessier (drums and backing vocals). are slow-walking their first proper record to be released later in the year with a succession of highly listenable Rock and Roll Nuggets leaving us most definitely wanting more. “Let It Ride” is a Black Keys style rocker, and “Careless” has more of an R&B flair to it.

The Blinders – Fantasies of A Stay At Home Psychopath

Already scorching the earth as one of the bands that should restore your faith in Rock and Roll, The Blinders have already taken over their adopted home town of Manchester and are poised to take over the rest of the world. With a visceral Post-Punk attitude their unique approach to their craft almost deserves its own genre, Punk-Adelic would pretty much fit the bill.

Five Cool Ones: Five New Records Released This Week (October 9, 2020)

What the selections lack in quantity this week they are more than making things up with the subtle nuances inherent in many of the releases. Given that the Christmas release blackout period is right around the corner lets try to savor some gems while we can.

If you were asking yourself if we needed another Elton John greatest hits re-packaging like we are getting in his latest hits-fest, Diamonds, the answer would be a resounding “heck no, enough already.” But, if living with this excess means we get to hear the psychedelic splendor of a never before released John/Taupin composition called “Regimental Sgt. Zippo,” color us all in.

And, if that is not cool enough for your delicate ears, AC/DC is back with the prodigal son Brian Johnson returning to the fold in fine vocal form. Their new record, Power Up, will blast your ears off in November.

And, if you are looking for a little more musical diversity, there’s always room on the Jazz train and the Big Band of Brothers celebration of all things Allman Brothers.

Here are five particular cool nuggets our ears were hip to this week.

Blue Oyster Cult – The Symbol Remains

Even though they never really have stopped touring, Blue Oyster Cult’s latest record The Symbol Remains is the band’s first proper record since 2001’s Curse of the Hidden Mirror. And, what a record this one is. With only two members remaining from the classic lineup in Buck Dharma and Eric Bloom, there is still a lot of rock in the roll energy exuded on virtually every track. Careening between classic hard rock, blues boogie, AOR, stadium anthems, and even rootsy garage rockers, the album is almost a track by track historical tour of the band’s entire career.

The lead-off single “That Was Me” could have easily snuggled in there on Agents of Fortune right there between “True Confessionals” and “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” “Box In My Head” is a perfect complement that belongs in the Secret Treaties era, and “Stand and Fight” is a perfectly framed biker anthem. Favorites include the Jon Lord organ inflected “The Return of St. Cecile” that has sort of a “Boy’s Are Back In Town” vibe, and “Train True (Lennie’s Song) is a high-stepping rockabilly rave-up.

Recorded and mixed mostly during a pandemic the production value is first-rate, the mixing polished as tight as the skin on an apple, and the sequencing and tempo changes are as ear-pleasing as you can get. I am not sure if Blue Oyster Cult has anything left in the tank after this magnificent effort, but unlike some of their ’70s rock peers including recently Tesla, Def Leppard, and Black Oak Arkansas, all releasing tepid album versions of their former selves, this new record rivals some of the bands best work, era be damned.

Bahamas – Sad Hunk

Sad Hunk is the fifth studio record that Afie Jurnaven has recorded under his moniker Bahamas making us glad that this Canadian artist has stepped out from backing the likes of Feist and Jason Collett to wander into his own space. Flowing like a bit more amped up Jack Johnson there is even a bit of the spirit of Prince in the two opening songs “Trick To Happy” and “Own Alone.” There is a spirited ’70s Folk-Rock soul on “Done Me No Good” and “Can’t” complain evokes the ghost of Cat Stevens. The song “Less Than Love” would have fit in quite nicely on Boz’ Silk Degrees. This one is the sorely needed escapist chill vibing beautiful noise you need in your life right now.

The Budos Band – Long in the Tooth

As referenced in the album title itself, this Staten Island-based horn-centric band has been around a long time, and yet still seem to be as vibrant as ever. Blending African rhythms, N.O. style second-line horns, funky organs, and psychedelic swirls into an eclectic mix of groovy soundscapes. The song “Sixth Hammer” has a baritone sax solo that will rattle your skeleton, “Snake Hawk” could have been used as the soundtrack for any ’60s science fiction movie, and “Dusterado” is a classic spaghetti Western gunfight in the middle of main street fare. Brevity is the order of the day on this record with no song exceeding 4:00 and most of them in the 3:00 or less range giving less room for expanded riffing and provides for a more textured and varied listen.

Garcia Peoples – Nightcap at Wits End

When a jam band decides to focus a bit more and write songs for those of us that don’t have the attention span to listen to 18-minute open-ended twin-guitar wranglings the results can be pretty ear-pleasing. Here, New Jersey’s own Garcia Peoples have distilled their sound into a less is more set of tunes that provides the listener with a perfect representation of the band in 12 songs weighing in at just under 49 minutes.

The through-line stretching out from from the  Prog-lite of “Altered Times,” the Grateful Dead-inspired psychedelic inspiration of “Painting a Vision That Carries,” along with the Jefferson Airplane by way of Krautrock drone of “A Reckoning” will give you a glimpse of an immensely talented band that certainly will garner more ears into the fold with this set of highly digestible and enormously addicting tunes.

Brothers Osborne – Skeleton

As much as I have been really trying not to like Brothers Osborne with the Nashville hits-factory stench we rightly or wrongly associate with brothers John and T.J. Osborne, my ears won’t fail me now and with their latest long-player, Skeleton, they have suckered me back in. Here, on their third album the Rock and Boogie is amped up a bit more and the Honky Tonk vibe takes on more of an Outlaw Country flavor with a bit of Rock and a little bit of Roll thrown in for good measure. The opener “Lighten Up” is an out and out rocker and should be a terrific festival anthem, “All Night” is a bit of Bro-Country, but when done this earnestly that is not such a bad thing, and the spirit of Mighty Merle even joins the party on “Back on the Bottle.”

Throw in “Dead Man’s Curve,” definitely no relation to the Jan and Dean song, a burning tune of redemption as long as you make it through dead man’s curve, along with the gentle glide of “High Note” and what you have here is a band that blends Country, Pop, Rock, and Americana better than pretty much anyone in the business. And that is a beautiful thing and a feast for the ears.

 

Album of the Day: Born Ruffians – Squeeze

Born Ruffians – Squeeze (4 out of 5)

It’s not often, and actually, it’s pretty cool when a band will deliver two extremely listenable Power Pop gems a scant 6 months from each other and deliver this strongly on both fronts. And, Power Pop mavens Born Ruffians have done just that. After having put together enough material for multiple records, at the bare minimum a double album, the band chose to follow up their April release Juice with this October digital-only follow-up effort, Squeeze. 

From the opening track, “Sentimental Saddle,” a song that takes you on a semi-psychedelic journey swirling left-turns aplenty with Crazy Horse worthy harmonica escapades, swirling keyboards, and layered harmonies topped off with Beach Boys Holland influences on the back-end, the trip that lies ahead can be nothing but groovy. And It Is.

“30th Century War” has sort of a Kinks by way of The Talking Heads feel to it, the song “Waylaid” features Hannah Georgas on vocals is a solid bass line driven Indie Rock song, and “Sinking Ships” is anthemic in all the right places and is a centerpiece of the record.

There is a pure Pop super-sheen on the earworm-worthy “Rainbow Superfriends” that will stick with you long after your first listen, and the festival-ready “Noodle Soup” goes a bit deeper in understanding the need to take care of each other.

This record is everything you would want in an album that provides a solid listen. Songs with a message, pop-hooks abounding, and enough varied textures and turns to make you want to go to the listening well more deeply with each subsequent listen.

 

Album of the Day: Blitzen Trapper – Holy Smokes Future Jokes

Blitzen Trapper – Holy Smokes Future Jokes (4 out of 5)

The overall inspiration for Holy Smokes Future Jokes, the latest record from Indie Rock band Blitzen Trapper centers around the concept of Bardo, that transitional period between death and rebirth. existential stuff, for sure. There’s even a lyric that references smoking dope with Lincoln in a Chrysler on a hill on “Dead Billie Jean” that emphasizes the concept. But, dismiss this record as hippy-dippy nonsense at your own peril. The album has a real comforting ’60s folk fell instrumentally with a distinct George Harrison penned Beatles vibe, most notably on the title track. “Masonic Temple Microdose #1” is prime “Loser” era Beck, and “Sons and Unwed Mothers” is poignantly beautiful.

The melodies are varied and the harmonies are as tight as the skin on an apple. The lyrics may take a bit of headphone time to absorb properly, but the ear-time effort is well worth it. The best way to enjoy this one is to give it a couple of solid runs allowing the record to envelop your senses. Then go back to it, maybe after giving it a couple hours rest, and focus on the lyrics. The experience will be not quite life-changing, but close.

 

 

Five Cool Ones: Five New Records Released This Week (10/2/2020)

The gems are out there this week, for sure, but you just need to dig a bit deeper. Bon Jovi is out with yet another record, The Drive-By Truckers show up, and there’s even a hint of Brian Johnson making a comeback with AC/DC. Rock is the New Roll favorite Glen Hughes and his band The Dead Daisies are out with yet another single from the new record, c’mon boys, release the album already.

Orianthi is proving she does her best work without her ball and chain Bon Jovi’s Richie Sambora.

And, Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown are returning us to Rock and Roll sanity with their new Covic-19 burst of energy.

And, if that’s not enough, here are five records our ears have been hipped to this week.

Dawes – Good Luck With Whatever

Dawes is one of those bands that is a bit like your favorite sweater. It has been around a while, is supremely comfortable, and you know just where to find it when you need a little warmth in your life. And, Good Luck With Whatever the seventh album from Laurel Canyon rockers Dawes is pretty much what everybody needs right about now. Never straying too far from the Dawes California cool by way of Jackson Browne vibe there are nuggets everywhere to enjoy. “Still Feel Like a Kid” provides the health advice that it is ok to age but try not to get old, “St. Augustine At Night” celebrates the simple life and the simple joys and familiarity one’s home-town, and “Who Do You Think You’re Talking To” breezes along in a “Somebody’s Baby” sort of way Jackson Browne way. Recorded at the historic RCA studios in Nashville and produced by super knob-twirler Dave Cobb, this is Dawes at the absolute height of their powers.

The Nude Party – Midnight Manor

Over the last couple of years, Rock and Roll bands like Rookie, White Reaper, and Massive Wagons have announced themselves as one of the torch-bearers of good old-fashioned feel-good Rock and Roll. And, the boys in Nude Party with their latest record Midnight Manor as exhibit A, certainly deserve to be mentioned in that Pantheon. It is not often that a sophomore record can outshine a stellar debut, but here, in this case, the band has definitely stepped their game up several musical notches. Sure there are touch-points plenty, The Rolling Stones, Velvet Underground, T-Rex, just to name a trio of them, but make no mistake, this band is their own unique animal. The opener, “Lonely Heather” shares some DNA with Mott’s “All The Way From Memphis,” “Shine Your Light” will bring to mind Todd Rundgren, and “Thirsty Drinking Blues” is epic-era Jagger and the Stones. “Pardon Me Satan” even has a bit of a Latin tinge to it to add even more diversity to a record that satisfies at every turn. Don’t be surprised if this one gets some best album votes when the end of the year rolls around.

Queen + Adam Lambert – Live Around the World

Putting aside that there will be those that will not give this record, or this version of the band, the ear-time of day, here at Rock is the New Roll we have always felt that putting Freddie’s Olympian vocal prowess aside, Queen was always been about the masterful songwriting and the next-level musicianship courtesy mostly of guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor. And here, Queen fans get to experience the absolute power of a fully formed Queen concert in front of their very ears. On this set, concert footage from all parts of the globe including Brazil, England, Australia, and beyond has been compiled into a greatest hits package that will blow your ears away and soothe your rock and roll soul. Personal highlights are the scorched-earth version of “Hammer to Fall,” the now-iconic recreation of the Live-Aid performance of “Radio Ga Ga,” and the anthemic “We Will Rock You”/”We Are The Champions” that fittingly brings the record to a climactic conclusion.

Hello Forever – Whatever It Is

Pay close attention to this band. In an era where it seems to be cool to jump in the studio, cut 12 songs in 3 days, and release a record to the unsuspecting public, this Psych-Pop group tracked their debut record, Hello Forever, over 200 individual recording sessions, time very much well spent based on the pristine production and attention to detail that is on full display on virtually every song of this fine album. The Brian Wilson soaring and background harmony influence is definitely a call-out here as is Vampire Weekend and Electric Light Orchestra. And, the elongated vocal runs courtesy of lead singer and songwriter Samuel Joseph are definitely Freddie Mercurian. If you like Doo-Wop, Soul, Arena Rock, or even West Coast Folk-Rock, then this highly polished record is your go-to jam.

The Jaded Hearts Club – You’ve Always Been There

What do you get when putting together a band that consists of front-men from two different bands, Miles Kane (Last Shadow Puppets) and Nic Cester (Jet), along with various members of Blur, Muse, and The Zutons? One hell of a covers, and more band, that’s what. Chock full of semi-obscure Motown covers and semi-known rock classics you will know by ear if not by name, this record will take you on a drive down nostalgia avenue in a convertible with the roof down. Most of these tunes fully stick the landing, most notably the version of The Four Tops “Reach Out “I’ll Be There” and Screaming Jay’s “I Put A Spell On You.” But, speaking truth to power, “Fever” is best left unheard and Vera Lynn’s “We’ll Meet Again” that starts things out as a sort of introduction weighing in at just under one minute could have easily been left out. And realistically, does anyone want to hear any rendition of “Money, That’s What I Want” in this day and age?

Five Cool Ones: Five (More) Reasons Rock Is Not Dead

Ok, after having embarked on a little bit of a Tesla and Whitesnake binge of late I am firmly convinced that real Rock and Roll is definitely not dead. You just need to know where to look.

Austin Gold – You Got It All

One of the up and coming Arena Rock bands making music right now. Austin Gold is a sort of Foo Fighters Bad Company Hybrid.

Brother Firetribe – Night Drive

Pretty much, by definition, the coolest driving song of 2020, this one is from the bands 2020 release Feel The Burn, a Melodic Roc classic in the Night Ranger mold.

White Dog – Abandon Ship

A good Old fashioned Rock and Roll Band in the James Gang Mold. Don’t sleep on these guys, they are the real Rock and Roll deal.

Taylor Locke – Dying Up Here

Having played with Sparks and co-founded the band Rooney, there should be no questioning Taylor Locke’s Rock and Roll credentials.

Dirty Princess Band – The Man Vs. The Chevy Van

This audacious debut from this bnand has been described as the Shangri-La’s on ecstasy. And hey, who’s to say they’re wrong.