The year-end has witnessed a slew of new releases from classic rockers eager to demonstrate that rock ’n’ roll is still as vital as ever. Or to show their fans that they’re still alive (!)
Peter Wolf is an American rhythm and blues, soul and rock and roll musician, best known as the lead vocalist for the J. Geils Band from 1967 to 1983 and for a successful solo career with writing partner Will Jennings. A Cure For Loneliness is his eighth album.
Rock music is a genre of popular music that originated as “rock and roll” in the United States in the 1950s, and developed into a range of different styles in the 1960s and later, particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States. (W. E. Studwell and D. F. Lonergan, The Classic Rock and Roll Reader: Rock Music from its Beginnings to the mid-1970s)
So yeah, rock came from 40s/50s rock ‘n’ roll, which in turn is a form of pop music. So even The Carpenters or ABBA is rock, by that definition. So I am always comfortable to use the terms “pop” and “rock” fairly interchangeably, and get rather annoyed by the insane categorizations that is now so common.
In that light, let’s take a look at some of the different kinds of pop music, I am confident to label as ROCK!
Seems appropriate to start this series with Bob Dylan, doesn’t it? Considering that The Beatles are currently not on any streaming service, Dylan deserves top billing. After all, can one imagine talking about singer-songwriters without mentioning Dylan’s massive influence?
The man is the very definition of the modern folk troubadour but more than that, Dylan’s legacy extends to rock as well, of course. For me personally, I remember hearing Dylan on the radio when I was a kid – especially his well known early folk songs but I really got into his work (ironically enough) – with his controversial Christian conversion album Slow Train Comin’ (1979), which explains why I kick off the playlist with “Precious Angel” (which also features incandescent guitar work from Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler). Including “Make You Feel My Love” was necessary to provide Dylan’s continuing relevance as Adele’s cover version proved conclusively. The rest of the playlist focuses mainly on his seminal 60s/70s works. Enjoy!
… still there’s more …
Chicago quintet Great Divide (Teddy Grossman – vox, guitar/Josh Teitelbaum – drums/Jeff Leibovich – keyboards/Josh Kahle – bass/Jeff Burke – guitar, vox) takes the rock and roots maxim to its logical conclusion. If a cursory listen to the band’s eponymous sophomore album suggests to you The Band, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Tedeschi Trucks Band and the like, then you’d probably be better off exploring Great Divide, don’t you think? Yeah!
Funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign, Great Divide is a evocative, soulful rock n’ roll record in the old fashioned way. In other words, it is as smooth as you like, bringing together a veritable buffet of influences, spanning soul, folk, country, pop and rock with the dynamic horn section providing the proverbial icing on top.
First-rate musicianship, competent songwriting and the honey-dripping pipes of Teddy Grossman make Great Divide, essential listening for the true-blue pop-rock fans out there. How can one argue with genuine articles like the slick opener “Ain’t No Roads”, the lush “Easy Chair”, the gospel-tinged “Moorie” and the Stevie Wonder-channeling “Shine”? Simple, you don’t!
Check out the live clip of “Ain’t No Roads” below
Bluesman Joe Bonamassa will be back in Singapore on 17 September at the Esplanade Concert Hall. Power of Pop sent Bonamassa a bunch of questions by email and we set out the responses below.
PoP: You average almost an album a year – what motivates you to be so prolific?
JB: I like to work and I also like to play all styles. It’s that combination that makes it seem that I put out an album every year. But it averages a year to a year and a half between albums.
Award-winning blues rock star, guitar hero and singer-songwriter Joe Bonamassa and his ace touring band will perform at the Esplanade Concert Hall on Monday, 17th September.
The one-night-only show is in support of his brand new solo album Driving Towards The Daylight (J&R Adventures) as well as the recently released DVD/Blu-ray Joe Bonamassa: Beacon Theatre– Live From New York, which debuted at #3 on the Billboard DVD Chart.
Date & Time: 17th September 2012 @ 730pm
Venue: Esplanade Concert Hall
Tickets: S$ 125*, S$ 105*, S$85*
Time Out subscribers enjoy a 10% discount from 18th – 31st May
Public sales from 1st June
*All prices above exclude booking fee(s)
Purchase at all authorized SISTIC Agents and Box Office, online at www.sistic.com.sg, via the iNETS mobile app (SMS to 76387) or call the SISTIC hotline at +65 6348 5555.
Creedence Clearwater Revival, mostly known to fans as ‘CCR’ was a rock quartet whose singles were big radio hits during the transition period from the 60s to the 70s. As a kid, I remembering hearing their songs constantly on the radio and the secret of their success was very simple – basic rock ‘n’ roll infused with country, folk and soul inflections and not to mention the dynamic larynx of lead singer John Fogerty.
I remember getting hold of a cassette of Chronicle – which was subtitled “The 20 Greatest Hits” for good reason. Chronicle was that rare compilation where every selection was an unforgettable classic. No exaggeration to state that I wore out that cassette from the non-stop play and I would repeat the process over the entirety of the album. Now of course, the whole album is a firm fixture in my iTunes and still receives a regular play-through to remind what top notch rock ‘n’ roll is all about.
If I had to choose my top five from “The 20 Greatest Hits” it would have to be – Who’ll Can Stop The Rain, Someday Never Comes, Have You Ever Seen the Rain, Lodi and Fortunate Son – these tunes have been permanently burned into my consciousness. Add to the list, CCR’s fiery interpretations of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ I Put A Spell On You and Marvin Gaye’s I Heard It Through the Grapevine and what you have is rock ‘n’ roll bliss.
There is no escaping Joe Bonamassa.
Joe Bonamassa is an American blues rock guitarist and singer, who pretty much knew very early in his life – as young as age four – that he had wanted to be a musician. Perhaps part of this determination and ambition in music could have been rubbed off from his parents, both then owners of a guitar shop; and not forgetting the music talents of the males in the Bonamassa family line (a father who plays guitar, and a grandfather and a great-grandfather who both played the trumpet).
RORY GALLAGHER Irish Tour ’74 (Eagle)
Although fairly marginalized now, the late Irish blues-rock singer-guitarist Rory Gallagher was a superstar in his prime – selling in access of 30 million albums worldwide. Gallagher’s style mixed up blues, folk, rock and even elements of prog rock in his passionate manner.
This DVD follows Gallagher on his 1974 Irish tour – splitting time between live performance and backstage interviews. The former demonstrates Gallagher in his element – visceral and earthy – whilst the latter finds Gallagher the man as he shares with us his different guitar techniques, like a genial teacher. Highly instructional.
It’s clear that for Gallagher it’s all about the music, and his fans. Often, Gallagher would be approached in public and he would make a point to spend a little time chatting with his fans, such rapport translated on stage, where a rapt audience drank in every riff, lick and solo.
A true legend, gone but not forgotten. Relive those magickal moments…
Midas Promotions announce today acclaimed Blues-rock guitarist, singer and songwriter Joe Bonamassa will be playing his first gig in Singapore, on 15 May at the Esplanade Concert Hall. The show is in support of his new album Dust Bowl, the twelfth full-length solo release of his career.
CIRCE LINK California Kid (Black Wings Multimedia)
A quick pop of this disc into the stereo; a quick submerge into the deep roots of country, blues and – of course, roots.
ANGIE MATTSON Skeleton Arm (Radio Nine)
LA-based singer-songwriter Mattson seems to possess all the superficial elements required to be noticed in the modern pop-rock scene. She’s certainly easy on the eyes (as her previous modeling history attests) and the ears (her sultry larynx brings to mind Margo Timmons, Aimee Mann and Chrissie Hynde) but to her immense credit, Mattson refuses to bank on these assets solely.
Instead of merely investing in pop fluff (the kind that makes the world go round), Mattson (on this mini-album, her sophomore effort), gets rough, ready and rustic with swampy country-folk blues that are at turns arcane and earthy. For me, integrity is the mark of a true artist and listening to Skeleton Arm, you cannot help but struck by Mattson’s attitude and purpose.
So it may take a little more time to truly get into some of these songs but the rewards are worthwhile. If you, like me, consider yourself a rock scholar, then you know what the roots of our beloved music are. So does Mattson obviously, as she builds her back-to-basics Americana on tribal rhythms and the primal allure of the clash of country music and the blues.
Think: the deeper bluesier moments of Bob Dylan, CCR, the Doors and the Stones and you’ll start to get at what Mattson is alluding to. This power is evident in songs like Cool Water and Mary, where Mattson sings about this strange existence we call life with internal rhythms driven by an almost-funeral dirge.
Skeleton Arm may only last for 28-odd minutes but it represents everything that I believe about good ol’ country-folk-blues as the most soulful music on our planet. Personally, I am excited that I get the chance to watch Mattson when she plays at TAB Singapore from 3rd to 8th August. More info about that at www.tab.com.sg.
In the meantime, check out Angie Mattson at www.angiemattson.com.
DAMIEN JURADO Saint Bartlett (Secretly Canadian)
An epiphany! Just realized why it is that I have so much problems connecting with the “real” world of music and how “artists” like Jason Mraz, Jack Johnson, Lady Gaga, Owl City et al make me wanna puke! It’s because I tend to get into marginalized singer-songwriters like Damien Jurado, who’s passion for music puts him into the shade rather than the spotlight.
Jurado is a profilic sucker as well, as Saint Bartlett is his tenth album since 1997. Uncompromising in his dedication to the true underground values of Neil Young, Nick Drake, Bob Dylan and Alex Chilton, Jurado is the quintessential artists’ artist having been supported in his journey by the likes of Ken (Posies) Stringfellow, Jeremy (Sunny Day Real Estate) Enigk and David (Pedro the Lion) Bazan, kindred souls all.
Saint Bartlett is produced by Richard Swift (another excellent singer-songwriter in his own right) and is filled to the brim with insightful, country/folk/blues/rock magic that will entice and enthrall those of you with the spirit of the counter-culture residing within you. So yeah, its not pretty, pristine and filled with sing-a-long tunes and politically-correct lyrics. But I would not want it any other way. Neither should you.
BOB DYLAN Together Through Life (Sony/Columbia)
“You are as whorish as ever,” growls Bob Dylan in a backhanded compliment, before going to reference Jim Morrison: “Baby, you can start a fire.” Who else but Dylan can shape a line so sardonically earnest?
Dylan has made a strong case for being one of the most important and influential poetic voices of the 20th century, but rarely has his singing voice been given the same attention. A pity, because on Together Through Life, his 33rd studio album, Dylan sings with a compelling verve one hasn’t heard from him in over a decade, maybe two.
Granted, the years have taken their toll, and the octaves have gone off on his voice, but let’s face it. Bob Dylan has never been, and never will be a pretty singer. Even in his youth, Dylan strove to sound older than he really was, giving him a unique tone that would define his early work. Nearly four decades later, the circle is now complete; with the endless gravity only age can give present in every syllable of Dylan’s well worn voice.
The album kicks off with the devastated Tex Mex wheeze of Beyond Here Lies Nothin’, which sets the tone for the rest of the record with its accordion leads and the way Dylan transforms rather ordinary love song lyrics into an extraordinary lament. Life Is Hard, the spiritual sire of this record, is a slow but moving confession of remorse and defeat. Similarly, Forgetful Heart is a banjo-driven country tale of sorrow and weighed down memories. This is Dylan penning poetry of regret. The lyrics might have been co-written with poet and Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, but the nuanced emotions that stoke the slow-burning flames of every song are more Zimerman than Hunter.
That’s not to say that Together Through Life is a confessional record in the vein of Blood On The Tracks. In its unabashed embrace of the Chicago blues and rusted desert songs of old, Life has more in common with 1969’s Nashville Skyline or 1989’s Oh Mercy. Nowhere is the 50s blues influence more prominent than on tracks like the lusty Jolene, with its driving Chicago John Lee Hooker shuffle that keeps the record trotting along.
Dylan returns to ballad mode with the decent This Dream Of You, but it is on the anthemic I Feel A Change Comin’ On that he really nails it. Over an upbeat blues pattern and superb guitar work by Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers, Dylan smoothly ties together personal and political imagery to paint a picture of modern-day America, torn between hope and despair. It’s a civil anthem one hasn’t heard from him since his days of aping Woody Guthrie, but now the epic detachedness has been replaced with a tender first person narrative that expresses everything from hope at Obama’s administration to the massive resentment and envy caused by the Recession. The record closes on the social observation of Its All Good, with Dylan spitting out a list of calamities drenched heavily in something straddling in between hopeful optimism and cynical sarcasm.
Of course, there are throwaway fillers here and there like My Wife’s Home Town and Shake Shake Mama, but part of Dylan’s rascal charm is his genuine ability to surprise. After the sprawling Modern Times, a record like this was probably far from everyone’s expectations. Dylan knows that. But he also knows that he is a man with the “blood of the land” in his voice, and that it’s a voice that will continue to capture audiences for years to come, lost octaves be damned.