Music Podcast Review: The Walker Lukens Song Confessional ded

The premise is deceptively brilliant. Gussy up a cool looking trailer into a space where people can enter and bare their souls confession style, drag the trailer around the country to music venues, festivals and other haunts where music fans tend to mingle, and chop it up with folks that have a story to tell. Once the story is told, the transcript is turned over to one of the many talented, mostly Austin based, songwriters. They, then, have four hours to write a song using the bones of the story that was just told. And then, once written, the song is professionally recorded to be pressed to a seven inch vinyl record and presented to the storyteller.

A year and a half in the making Walker, along with fellow musician Zac Catanzaro, have partnered with Austin radio station KUTX to gather the best of the Song Confessional tales into a one of a kind weekly podcast.

Episode 1 features a somewhat bizarre set of circumstances where the narrator experiences death first hand over the course of a bus ride and a road trip from Fort Worth to Austin. We won’t go into any more details, you can enjoy it for yourself by clicking on Walker himself below.

The song generated for episode 1, “Don’t Let Me Die in Waco,” written by Austin based Croy & The Boys, is a good ol’ Jerry Jeff Walker style Honky Tonk sing-along with the band tune. It is stellar, and Bad Boy Croy only needed one hour to write it. Texas Longhorns will love the song, Sooners and Aggies will be mildly amused, and Baylor Bears will be downright pissed.

And, while your in the listening mode, check out Croy & The Boys latest record, Howdy High-Rise.

Classic Album Review: Alice Cooper – Welcome To My Nightmare

A Cosmo Crane review originally published on the Cool Album of the Day website. For more reviews like this make sure to check them out.

Part Psycho Circus, part Jerry Springer show, part Quentin Tarantino shock-fest, Alice Cooper’s Welcome to my Nightmare album and subsequent tour was, depending on your point of view, either ridiculous or brilliant. The ultimate answer is of course given the benefit of historical perspective, that the album is ridiculously brilliant. Released in 1975, the album was Alice Cooper’s first post band break-up outing and is by far the best solo record of his decades long career.

Giving up the comfort of a consistent touring band and going to ax person by committee was certain to be a calculated risk. It was going to be hard to improve on Billion Dollar Babies, his previous album that included the hit songs “Elected,” and “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” and was the bands biggest seller to date, and the future of the entire enterprise without guitar muse and songwriting partner Glen Buxton was anything but certain. The new direction was going to turn the theatrical knobs up to 11, and incorporated many of the shock and awe elements from prior albums along with songs that were a bit more visceral in nature dealing with psychological horrors of the mind right alongside the physical ones.

The album was a top 10 seller, largely on the strength of the songs “Department of Youth,” “Welcome to My Nightmare,” and the somewhat controversial for the time “Only Women Bleed,” a song that reached the top ten, and was protested by various women’s groups due to the subject matter that dealt with spousal abuse. The song was also somewhat of a departure for Cooper in that no song he had previously recorded was as political or thought provoking. The fact that it was also a ballad, also served to put the Alice Cooper coven of fans on notice that a change was coming, and they were not necessarily going to like what the future had in store.

A concept album centered around the nightmares of the main character Steven, Welcome to My Nightmare, much like a Broadway play, was expressly written for the stage, and a tour was launched shortly after the release date where the record was performed mostly in its entirety. With production duties handled by long-time collaborator and Cooper Muse Bob Ezrin, the record has the feel of a real concept album in the Tommy mold, and is best digested in one sitting. The mix of rockers like the standout “Department of Youth,” and the guitar heavy anthem “Devils Food,” are intrinsically interspersed with the somewhat creepy “Steven,” a song that seems to share some DNA with the theme from exorcist, with the far off calling of Steven’s mother downright chilling, and the equally scary “The Awakening,” all kicked off in fine macabre fashion with “Welcome to my Nightmare,” a song that goes from a whisper to a scream to set the stage for what we are about to experience. Welcome to my nightmare I think you’re gonna like it. I think you’re gonna feel you belong.

To say that Welcome to My Nightmare marked the end of Alice Cooper’s commercial appeal may be stretching things a bit. After all, his live shows are still immensely popular; he has his own radio show, and has recently been elected to The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But in reality, the album did mark the creative zenith of his career with subsequent albums Lace and Whiskey, Zipper Catches Skin, Dada, and Hey Stoopid, never even coming close to the artistic marvel that was Welcome to My Nightmare.

Much like anchovies on a pizza, an Alice Cooper show is something everyone should experience at least once. On recent tours, he has assembled a top notch band that includes Orianthi, the Aussie guitar goddess that was scheduled to play “Beat It” on the ill-fated Michael Jackson comeback tour that never was, and he has not lost a bit of his energy, strutting around the stage and striking poses that would make Mick Jagger jealous.

As a rock icon, Alice Cooper is one of the best. Welcome to My Nightmare is not Blood on the Tracks, and it certainly is no Tommy or Quadrophenia. It is what it is, a glorious shock jock guilty pleasure sort of a listen, one that should be consumed with gusto every Halloween.

So turn out the lights, lock the door, place the candy on the porch on a self-serve chair, and put the record on the stereo, at maximum volume of course. The candy may not last past the second set of kids, but your retro time warp back to 1975 will make you a better person, sooth your soul, and your ears will thank you.

Track Listing

  1. “Welcome to My Nightmare” (Alice Cooper, Dick Wagner) – 5:19
  2. “Devil’s Food” (Cooper, Bob Ezrin, Kelley Jay) – 3:38
  3. “The Black Widow” (Cooper, Wagner, Ezrin) – 3:37
  4. “Some Folks” (Cooper, Ezrin, Alan Gordon) – 4:19
  5. “Only Women Bleed” (Cooper, Wagner) – 5:49
  6. “Department of Youth” (Cooper, Wagner, Ezrin) – 3:18
  7. “Cold Ethyl” (Cooper, Ezrin) – 2:51
  8. “Years Ago” (Cooper, Wagner) – 2:51
  9. “Steven” (Cooper, Ezrin) – 5:52
  10. “The Awakening” (Cooper, Wagner, Ezrin) – 2:25
  11. “Escape” (Cooper, Mark Anthony, Kim Fowley) – 3:20

Personnel

  • Alice Cooper – Vocals
  • Bob Ezrin – Synthesizer, Keyboards, Vocals, Fender Rhodes
  • Vincent Price – Special Effects, Vocals
  • Dick Wagner – Electric and Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
  • Steve Hunter – Electric and Acoustic Guitar
  • Josef Chirowski – Synthesizer, Keyboards, Vocals, Clavinet, Fender Rhodes
  • Prakash John – Bass
  • Tony Levin – Bass
  • Pentti “Whitey” Glan – Drums
  • Johnny “Bee” Badanjek – Drums

Classic Album Review: Mink Deville – Cabretta

A Bernie Sparrow review originally published on The Cool Album of the Day website. For more reviews like this make sure to check them out.

Willy DeVille is a rock star. Just look at him.  If you saw Bryan Adams or Elvis Costello walking down the street they could be mistaken for a mechanic, college professor, or accountant, certainly not for rock stars. But Willy Deville, looking like a slightly less road worn version of Keith Richards with a few less battle scars, could only be mistaken for the front man for the seminal post-punk band Mink DeVille and a rock star of highest order of which he is both.

Willy Deville was a product of the 60’s, from the West Village New York City. Very much influenced by the urban street scenes of his youth the young Willy grew up listening to Fred Neil, street Doo-Wop group groups, Motown, Phil Spector records, as well as Stax soul sounds, Simon and Garfunkel harmonies along with a vast rainbow of street sounds he absorbed growing up in  this urban environment.

Billing himself and his band as Mink Deville, Willy soon became a fixture at the famed CBGB’s night club that gave birth to the Ramones, Blondie, The New York Dolls, as well as a host of other iconic musical artists that were largely responsible for bringing that punk, softened just a bit to appeal to the general public, sensibility that would become hugely popular.

With the release of his debut album Cabretta in 1977, the Rock Star very quickly established himself as a force to be reckoned with Rolling Stone reviewing the album by saying “Cabretta is one of the best albums of the year, with the charm of its’ popular rock &roll urban rhythm and blues of the 50’s and 60’s, between The Drifters and Phil Spector.”

That Phil Spector sound was largely created by Jack Nietzsche, the arranger back in the “Wall of Sound” days that was the producer of the album, and the rest was from the musical collage of sounds that Willy absorbed from his youth.

The record just oozes cool with every track starting effectively with the opening track “Venus of Avenue D” that would have been a great Velvet Underground song with a daring street snarl, and danger lurking around every corner saxophone serving to set the urban mood. We are told that The Venus of Avenue D is the queen of his block, and who are we to argue?

We walk further down the musical street and run into “Little Girl” that is a straight on Phil Spector girl-group inspired song that could have been the B side of “Leader of the Pack”, and “Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl” is a piano based, bongo and maraca’s exquisitely sounding song that showcases the range in DeVille’s voice along with his skill in delicately turning a phrase and changing tempo at will.

“Gunslinger” is another punk influenced song from the Lou Reed urban songbook, and “Cadillac Walk” is one of my desert island songs with a distinct Dire Straits on uppers feel to it. And the coolness continues.

The true diamond in this sea of jewels is “Spanish Stroll”.  DeVille lowers his register a little bit here throws in a bit of Mariachi Spanish influence, and delivers a tour de force story of Mr. Jim with his finger on his eyebrow and left hand on his hip, he’s such a lady killer’ he thinks he’s so slick, and of course, he does the Spanish Stroll.

I won’t even tell you anything about the last two songs on the record.  By the song titles alone, “She’s So Tough” and “Party Girls” you inherently know they are good. And they are, extraordinarily so.

Willy Deville went on to record seven critically admired yet criminally ignored albums under his own name, including Miracle with side-man and producer Mark Knopfler, as well as five additional records with Mink Deville.

The “Rock Star” Willy Deville passed  away in 2009 due to complications from pancreatic cancer after doctors discovered it after providing the musician treatments for hepatitis –C. He was 58 years old.

Always the pragmatic optimist Willy was ultimately realistic about his legacy.  When considering how he would be viewed after his death he told an interviewer “I have a theory.  I know that I’ll sell more records when I’m dead.  It isn’t very pleasant, but I have to get used to the idea.”

A music critic also wrote, “Willy DeVille is America’s loss even if America doesn’t know it yet.”

I’m not sure that truer words have ever been spoken.

— Bernie Sparrow San Francisco, California USA

Track listing

Unless otherwise noted, all songs by Willy DeVille.

  1. “Venus of Avenue D” – 4:57
  2. “Little Girl” (J.Barry,E. Greenwich,P.Spector) – 4:19
  3. “One Way Street” – 2:50
  4. “Mixed up, Shook up Girl” – 3:44
  5. “Gunslinger” – 2:09
  6. “Can’t Do Without It” – 3:15
  7. “Cadillac Walk” (John Martin) – 3:14
  8. “Spanish Stroll” – 3:38
  9. “She’s So Tough” – 2:30
  10. “Party Girls” (Willy DeVille, Rubén Sigüenza) – 4:30

Personnel

  • Willy DeVille – guitar, harmonica, vocals
  • Thomas R. “Manfred” Allen, Jr. – drums
  • Steve Douglas – saxophone
  • Louis X. Erlanger – guitar, background vocals
  • The Immortals – background vocals
  • Max Bowman
  • Val Heron
  • Mike Johnson
  • Bobby Leonards – piano, keyboards
  • Allen Rabinowitz – background vocals
  • Rubén Sigüenza – bass

Links

Listen to the full album below