A little bit of pop trivia before we begin. “Plastic Soul” is of course, a term originally coined by an unknown black musician to describe Mick Jagger. Paul McCartney cited it as an influence on the album title of Rubber Soul. Whilst David Bowie described his excursions in soul and funk with the Young Americans album also as “plastic soul”.
For most of its first run, Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) operated as a band. However, in effect the success of ELO was really down to one person viz. singer-songwriter-musician-producer Jeff Lynne. Thus, this album of new material — the first since 2001’s Zoom — is credited to “Jeff Lynne’s ELO” and perhaps rightly so. Though personally, ELO would have done it for me — I mean ELO fans know who is the force behind those wonderful songs.
Yet another new feature at the bi-polar webzine, “7 and 7 is” in honour of Love’s seminal proto-punk masterpiece. Basically seven reasons why you should be listening to a band/artist that I am intent on recommending to you, dear reader. Well, actually seven of my favourite tracks of that particular band/artist – you get the general idea. This week: R.E.M.
At a time where there are millions of causes to get behind, some pretentious music-hating moron starts a petition to ‘stop’ Phil Collins from coming out of retirement. Over 2,000 people have signed the petition and of course, the music press gleefully reports about this juicy bit of ‘news’.
The late Arthur Lee and Love (the band Lee led & fronted) remains one of the most under-rated bands from the 60s/70s. Well, at least compared to their peers. Already well-documented is the fact that the likes of Jim Morrison (The Doors), Jimi Hendrix and Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin) were massive fans of this ground-breaking iconoclastic band. Certainly, the backward gazing bands of the 90s British indie scene owed a thing or two to Love.
One of the most freewheeling eclectic 60s bands, Love (which also included guitarist-songwriter Bryan Maclean, lead guitarist Johnny Echols, bassist Ken Forssi & drummer Michael Stuart) were never constrained by genres or styles and dabbled in folk, baroque pop, psychedelia, acid rock and even proto-punk (check out “7 and 7 Is” is below).
Not only that but the band can lay claim to producing one of the bona fide rock masterpieces of all time – the magnificent Love Changes.
However, due to drug problems and internal disagreements, the band’s commercial success dissipated in the late 60s, with Lee fronting a new set of musicians, but this incarnation of Love never garnered the widespread acceptance or acclaim of the original group.
Reel to Real was Love’s final official album and until now, has never been issued on CD! By the recording and release of this album, Love was essentially Lee with an assortment of session musicians but despite its marginalisation in rock history, deserves serious re-examination.
Not least for its daring coverage of a multitude of styles, despite its primary focus being on soul, R&B and blues-rock, one could imagine the young Prince, Lenny Kravitz or Terence Trent D’Arby listening to Reel to Real and copping one or two musical ideas.
Whilst modern pop fans would probably find themselves grooving to soulful gems like “Time is Like a River” and “Stop the Music”, alternative rockers might take a shine to off-beat numbers like “Singing Cowboy” and “You Said You Would”, which sound like Hendrix channeling Buck Owens! And that last song – “Everybody’s Gotta Live” – is the Lennonesque anthem Noel Gallagher wished he was smart enough to rip off!
The new reissue has rather illuminating outtakes which on occasion outshine the original tracks with their spontaneity and raw energy. There’s also a sloppy studio rehearsal of that classic Forever Changes outtake “Wonder People” for all your Love completists out there.
Hailing from Bueno Aires, Argentina, Baby Scream has been flying the power pop flag for the past decade or so, delivering premier Beatlesque goodness that fans of the 90s Pop Underground would have no problem appreciating. The sardonically-titled Greatest Failures compiles some of Baby Scream’s finer moments (“Slut”, “Mars” and “Morning Light” amongst them) and provides a good starting point. Deeper exploration of the Baby Scream discography is available at Bandcamp. Led by vocalist/guitarist Juan Pablo Mazzola – who himself sings with a Lennonesque authority – Baby Scream is a safe haven for the power pop purists out there who are pining for the good ol’ days of the 90s Pop Underground. Check ’em out!
Suffice to say that The Doors is one of the most important rock bands ever and if you’re a rock lover/scholar then one just cannot get enough of this seminal outfit. This DVD strings together The Doors’ use of the visual medium to convey not only commercial messages but also the core values of the band. From its earliest music with awkward TV appearances (John Densmore has hardly enough time to get behind his drums when “Light My Fire” kicks in on American Bandstand!) and innovative music film, The Doors quickly realize the potential of the visual medium as an additional promotional and creative avenue – Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek were film students after all. Bonus material include outtakes and a documentary recounting how The Doors began to use film to highlight their talents. Essential.
There can be no doubt about The Eagles‘ place in rock history. Biggest selling album of the 20th century, inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, a comeback album that sold in excess of 5 million in these troubled times for the music industry and a best-selling live show that continues to run and run.
Not to mention, a sideshow of controversy that has dogged the band despite the absolute highs. The high profile suit by former member Don Felder against The Eagles and the publication of Felder’s ‘tell-all’ book, Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles (1974 – 2001) has tarnished somewhat the reputations of Don Henley and Glenn Frey (the co-leaders of the band) but that has not stopped the musical juggernaut from continuing to pull in the big bucks.
This documentary – as you might imagined – tells the story from Henley and Frey’s perspective. Both men are rather dismissive about Felder in the interviews and Frey evens gets in some descriptive expletives for good measure. The fact that the duo come across smug and self-righteous leaves a very bad taste in the mouth.
The first DVD recounts the band’s rise to fame and implosion in 1980 with rare footage and incisive comments from the key players. The second DVD recounts the band’s even more impressive comeback beginning the Hell Freezes Over tour in 1990.
Of the two DVDs, the first one is the most exciting as one gets to witness the making of iconic songs (“Take It Easy”, “One of These Nights”) and albums (Hotel California) and how Henley and Frey went from backing Linda Ronstadt to having the best-selling album of the 20th Century – Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975). The second DVD, well, is simply too sanctimonious at times with the unwelcome sight of Henley and Frey justifying their arrogance – rather unwatchable at times. Overall, the excellent first DVD is worth the price of admission though.
The Grand Illusion / Pieces of Eight Live DVD (Eagle Vision)
Nostalgia is a powerful force especially in relation to rock music. Much of 70s classic rock has faded into obscurity and remembered mostly by the young generation of the time. Styx is a band that had massive commercial success in the late 70s and early 80s but its platinum albums are not given much critical merit in the scheme of things nowadays. A shame really.
So how does one approach a live DVD wherein the band reproduces two of these best-selling albums (viz The Grand Illusion and Pieces of Eight) in their entirety? Especially when the main player (i.e. Dennis De Young) is no longer on board? Purely I suspect only as a well-crafted instance of nostalgic entertainment.
I would confess to being a big fan of Styx’s recorded output of this special era and songs like “The Grand Illusion”, “Superstars”, “Come Sail Away”, “Sing For the Day”, “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)” and “Queen of Spades” still resonate with me strongly. So with that in mind, I must say that as an exercise in nostalgia this DVD succeeds wildly.
To his credit, Lawrence Gowan has filled De Young’s shoes (as singer and keyboards player) very well and to such an extent that if you didn’t look at him, you’d never think that De Young was absent. Gowan is an excellent showman and he possesses all the chops to keep anyone from missing De Young. Whether this is a good or bad thing is hard to say actually!
To be fair, the concert overall is top notch with the songs re-produced perfectly. Considering all the work and effort that was obviously put into the show, one cannot fault the professionalism of all involved. The sold-out audience lapped it up eagerly and if this DVD somehow gets new music fans to check out Styx’s discography then at least something more than mere nostalgia would have been achieved.
The self-styled ‘Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band in the World’ seemed to rejuvenate and reinvent itself in 1978 with the release of Some Girls, an album that incorporated elements of disco, punk and new wave into the Stones’ tried and trusted brand of blues-rock.
This DVD covers that special era in rock history – perhaps the Stones’ last great incandescent moment of glory before descending into self-parody since. The main attraction is concert footage from a memorable gig in Texas, where Mick Jagger and company pulled out all the stops to demonstrate that even in their 30s the band was still a potent force.
Aside from the new material (Eg. Miss You, When The Whip Comes Down, Beast of Burden. Far Away Eyes, Shattered and Imagination), the Stones also delivered their ‘greatest hits’ with the usual aplomb – Honky Tonk Women, Tumbling Dice, Happy, Brown Sugar & Jumpin’ Jack Flash.
Bonus features include contemporaneous clips from Saturday Night Live, 20/20 and a 2011 interview with Jagger. For classic rock fans everywhere.
Also worth picking up – the latest reissue of Some Girls which includes an unmatched collections of outtakes that no Stones fans would want to miss.
Perhaps no one artist epitomizes the classic 70s rock era more than Peter Frampton.
Frampton had already established himself as a rock star even before the 70s were well underway with his adventures with The Herd (being voted ‘Face of the Year’ in 1968) and Humble Pie (alongside the late legendary Steve Marriott). Frampton was a triple threat – good looking, equally talented vocalist and lead guitarist, with catchy tunes to boot!
But his 1976 double live album Frampton Comes Alive would encapsulate all his achievements into one handy package which shifted 16 million copies and made Frampton a household name.
For me, the defining moments here are the single hits – Show Me The Way – with the distinctive ‘talkbox’ guitar effect and infectious chorus, the breezy Baby I Love Your Way and the bluesy Do You Feel Like We Do. More than that, Frampton’s style would combine pop, rock, jazz, folk, blues and soul in varying measures which reflected the dizzying eclectic sound of the times.
To this day, Frampton Comes Alive is the go-to album when I need reminding why I love 70s rock the most.
5th July – 27th August @ The Idea Generation Gallery
The exhibition will offer an intimate account of The Doors from their rise to fame to their breakthrough on the music scene in 1965. The exhibition will reveal intimate portraits of Jim Morrison and how he became one of the most charismatic lead singers with The Doors becoming one of the most controversial rock bands to exist.
Idea Generation Gallery will showcase the photography of Henry Diltz, Joel Brodsky, Bobby Klein and Ken Regan, who all documented the bands time together. Alongside their most celebrated works, When You’re Strange brings together the lesser known archives and previously unseen contact sheets of photography taken over the decade the band were together.
So if you’re in London during the above period, you might want to check this out.
THE DOORS When You’re Strange: A Film About the Doors (Eagle Vision)
By now, the legend of Jim Morrison and the Doors should be familiar to any student of the classic rock era. So it does not bear repeating, in my view. Indie filmmaker Tom Dicillo has delivered a landmark rockumentary, which I’m certain will influence the approach of rockumentaries to come. Basically, Dicillo has opted to tell the story of the Doors via original archival footage only. No contemporary interviews with the surviving Doors, for instance and no recreations of historical events, thank you very much. This approach allows the events to seem current and not mere reminisces of “ancient history”. There is also hardly any pontification about the Doors’ legacy and place in the rock pantheon.
The film begins with excerpts from Morrison’s 1969 experimental movie – HWY: An American Pastoral – and looks so uncannily modern that it is shocking to realize that its more than 40 years old! Johnny Depp’s narration fits perfectly so its perhaps surprising to learn that the original narration (by Dicillo) was considered unsatisfactory (at advance screenings) prompting the recruitment of Depp.
The major achievement of When You’re Strange is that it properly distills the musical alchemy of the Doors – the combination of 4 very different characters and talents whose sum was greater than its parts – certainly Morrison was the band’s visual focal point but Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger and John Densmore were indispensable components as well. Of course, as we edge closer to the denouement, the path to Morrison’s self-destructive demise takes centre stage and dominates proceedings but that is in fact how the sad events unfolded.
Even if the film does not broach the subject of the Doors’ legacy much, it is clear of course that the band’s influence remains potent to this day, particular on post-punk (that probably needs another full-length documentary to adequate explore). Thus, it behooves me to state that When You’re Strange is essential viewing for any serious lover of pop-rock music. Highly recommended.
Widely considered nowadays as the Stones’ finest hour, the making of this double album is the stuff of legend. Recorded largely in Keith Richards’ exotic villa in the South of France (when the Stones become tax exiles), the Stones produced an album of incredible power that tied up the loose strands of blues, country, folk, soul and rock into one heady smorgasbord.
Even as the latest remaster of Exile drops, so this companion rockumentary provides the background in an effort to record (and perhaps deconstruct) the myth behind this magnificent group of songs. Using extensive archive footage, contemporary interviews with the relevant participants and also, commentary from notable fans.
Does this “behind the scenes” look at this seminal epoch in rock history add or take away from the experience? That depends I suppose on your perspective. The fact that the recording took place in the villa via the Rolling Stones mobile truck rather than a proper studio (well, the basic backing tracks in any case) was ground-breaking for its time and does embellish the legend somewhat. However, it is sobering to note that the actual conditions encountered by all concerned was less than conducive and it is a minor miracle that the album turned out as it did.
Personally, I felt that most of the “celebrity” fans’ comments were full of shit, you know. I mean, who the hell cares what a hack like Will.I.Am thinks? Right? Odd when you consider that the film proper excludes Liz Phair when she provides the best comments on Exile. Good thing you get to witness Phair in full flight on the “bonus features” section. The lady is definitely the genuine article.
TAYLOR LOCKE AND THE ROUGHS Grain and Grape (Self-released)
Press release information about Taylor Locke and the Roughs –
Front-man Taylor Locke is the lead guitarist in the powerpop band Rooney, bassist Charlotte Froom (daughter of celebrated producer Mitchell Froom) was formerly in the band The Like, drummer Mike McCormack is in the popular Los Angeles indie band Everyone Else and guitarist/keyboardist Chris Price has a band called Price who has recorded their debut album for Geffen Records which has not yet been released.
Perhaps then that it’s no surprise that this debut album – Grain and Grape – is decidedly “old school” in that it evokes 70s classic sensibilities filtered through a 90s alt-rock agenda. So you might discern the influences of the Raspberries, Big Star, Cheap Trick, Tom Petty, Jellyfish and Wanderlust in fine tracks like Hourglass, Reach for the Sky, What Have I Done and Joy.
Looking at retro-rock trio, Earl Greyhound, consisting of Matt Whyte (singer/guitarist), Kamara Thomas (bassist/singer) and Ricc Sheridan (drums), you’d think that they were living in a time warp. With a sound that unashamedly recalls classic rock of the 70s, their debut LP – Soft Target – mines Led Zeppelin prodigiously, the trio is an absolute dream for all lovers of that beloved epoch.
And whilst that debut effort may have drawn accusations of mimicry, the band has upped the ante by expanding the range of their sound on this 2nd album, to include prog (the 2-part The Eyes of Cassandra), stoner rock (Holy Immortality), jazz pop (Black Sea Vacation), country-blues balladry (Bill Evans) and folk (Out of Air). Fans of the first LP need not worry, there’s still enough Led Zep-fueled goodness for all you hard rocker out there.
Wow, what a gem! The opening track, ‘Lose Control” had me hooked from the first beat. Brilliant, faultless production! Great jangly guitars, lovely, creamy bass tone that is appropriately smooth or aggressive when necessary, very solid grooving drums and great, dirty rock-and-roll vocals that have been sorely absent from popular music for far too long. X-factor oozes from every song, everything is exquisitely, tastefully done and comes together beautifully with lots of raw energy. Dancy, upbeat and totally appropriate for a Victoria Secret’s Fashion Show- which is one of the best compliments I can think of for this sort of music. You simply can’t help but start nodding your head and tapping your feet.
The music is well written, genuine, convincing, catchy and immersive. Lots of great dynamics which keep the songs interesting and make them feel like they ought to go on forever. Would love to catch these guys live- so much infectious energy! Would be incredibly well received at a music festival, in a small club, anywhere really! Their songs needs to be in movies and advertisements already. This is the sort of musicianship that makes other musicians sit up and pay attention.
A total pick-me-up. Love it. Very rarely does a band excite a music reviewer this much. People need to hear this! It must be shared! These guys really need to be famous, three songs are enough for me to say that this is Grade A classic rock right here. I honestly can’t think of any way that this music could be any better. More, more! If they had an album out I would buy it immediately!
DEEP PURPLE History, Hits & Highlights ’68-’76 (Eagle Vision)
The finest hard rock/heavy metal band of all time. No contest. In my humble opinion. Yeah. more than Led Zeppellin and Black Sabbath. Well, I’m a little biased as after the Beatles, Deep Purple would be the main inspiration of the first band I played in. I think we may have even called ourselves, Blue Lightning…
This DVD focuses on the golden age of Deep Purple as the band moved through four distinct line-ups, famously known as Mark I, II, III and of course, IV. With rare TV clips – both mimed and live – from 1968 to 1976, HH&H is a classic rock fan’s wet dream as iconic songs such as Hush, Black Night, Speed King, Child In Time, Highway Star, Smoke on the Water, Burn et al are featured.
But what really seals the deal for me are the various insightful interviews with the Deep Purple members, which provides an intriguing backdrop to the departures and additions throgh this period. In particular,the interviews with Ritchie Blackmore and Jon Lord provide much grist for the mill.
Be warned though, the sound and picture quality are much less than you’d expect in the digital age but really it is the historic, archival nature of these videos that should be appreciated at face value.
Essential for all students of rock history. And for those about to boogie…