News for June 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 6/30/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Red Tide” by Foxboro Hot Tubs

“The only difference between Green Day and Foxboro Hot Tubs is that we are the same band,” said Green Day lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong when queried about the band and their 2008 “debut” album called “Stop, Drop and Roll.” The Hot Tubs started out as an excuse for Green Day to get together, drink some wine and bash out some garage rock. Once they got going, the alter ego became an easy way to escape the celebrity that surrounds Green Day and allow the group to play tiny clubs. However, before the record was released and shortly after they started posting songs online, their cover was blown. So now, Green Day perform Foxboro Hot Tub songs as a mini set during their concerts. Many of the Tubs’ songs reference the riffage of groups like the Yardbirds, the Stones, the Monkees and dozens of others ‘60s groups. This one pays homage to the Kinks’ classic “Tired Of Waiting For You.” And as for the mother band, Green Day will be releasing three separate albums (called “Uno,” “Dos” and “Tres”) over a six month period starting this September.

Edited: June 29th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 6/29/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “That Time Is Gone” by The db’s

Like manna from the heavens, the Gods of rock ‘n’ roll have bestowed upon us a brand new album from The db’s, their first in 25 years, called “Falling Off The Sky.” Writing concise jangly pop tunes with hooks that grab you and keep you coming back is not an easy feat, yet these veterans make it seem easy. This album is no different; it is stuffed to the brim with great songs performed to power pop perfection by guys who have been doing this for a lifetime. With the exception of their last studio album, The db’s always were, and still are Peter Holsapple on guitar and keyboards, Gene Holder on bass, Chris Stamey on guitars and Will Rigby on drums, with an assist by power pop producer extraordinaire Mitch Easter on guitars. On this record, it’s like the last 25 years never happened, and that’s a good thing! Not only that, but after a few spins the hooks begin to grab you…and they don’t let go! Here’s a live version of the album’s lead track.

Edited: June 28th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 6/28/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Clementine” by Neil Young & Crazy Horse

Man, the balls on this guy. For years he’s been following his muse by foisting every type of music onto his unsuspecting public with the expectation that his audience is going to eagerly lap it up. We’ve had the faux rockabilly of The Shocking Pinks, the somewhat Republican country of “Old Ways,” half-baked concepts like “Greendale,” the inspired electro-pop of “Trans,” the “Metal Machine Music of “Arc,” the ham-bone “T-Bone” of “Re-Ac-tor,” the smooth soul of “Are You Passionate?,” the juxtaposition of excruciating kiddie choruses with left wing political views on “Living With War,” not to mention his numerous films…some good and some really dreadful. Which brings us to “Americana” and it’s concept of taking old public domain folk and children’s songs and electrifying them. As an audience we’ve been with him for every turn…and the reason for this is that even when his concepts are really misguided, they are still worth a listen and more importantly, his records are always INTERESTING! “Americana” is no different…the concept sounds really awful on paper, and the initial spins bared mixed results. But with repeated listening, Neil’s latest is one of his better records…one I keep coming back to and probably will as time goes on.

Edited: June 27th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 6/27/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air” by Jimmy Fallon (as Neil Young)

I always thought the greatest Neil Young impression was National Lampoon’s spot on song parody “Old Maid (Southern California Brings Me Down)” by Tony Scheuren from the 1975 Lampoon album “Goodbye Pop,” until this one came along by Jimmy Fallon. It was originally performed on his TV show “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” and now it has surfaced on his just released second album called “Blow Your Pants Off.” The new record also features another Neil parody (with special guest the real Bruce Springsteen) doing the song “Whip My Hair,” plus duets with Paul McCartney (“Scrambled Eggs”), Justin Timberlake (“History Of Rap”), NBC News’ Brian Williams (“Slow Jam The News”) and others with Dave Matthews, Eddy Vedder and Stephen Colbert. While I wouldn’t say the album is essential listening…it is a indeed a hoot!

Here’s the National Lampoon parody:

Edited: June 26th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 6/26/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Trials, Troubles, Tribulations” by Geoff & Maria Muldaur

She’s the same Maria Muldaur of “Midnight At The Oasis” fame but most people don’t know much about her before she sent her camel to bed. Muldaur’s maiden name was Maria D’Amato and she got her start performing as a member of the Even Dozen Jug Band alongside future Lovin’ Spoonful member John Sebastian, David Grisman and Stefan Grossman. The Jug Band was part of the same Greenwich Village folk scene that spawned Fred Neil, Phil Ochs and Bob Dylan. D’Amato then went on to join the Jim Kweskin Jug Band where she met her future husband Geoff Muldaur. After Kweskin’s outfit split up, Geoff and Maria went on to release two marvelous down-home old-timey albums for Reprise records. This song comes from the first one called “Pottery Pie” released in 1968, a second called “Sweet Potatoes” followed in 1971. Maria Muldaur went solo after their marriage split up in 1972 releasing numerous albums and hitting it big with the aforementioned top-ten hit “Midnight At The Oasis” in 1973. In the late 70s, Maria sang backing vocals with The Jerry Garcia Band. She’s released over 30 albums over the years and continues to release folk and gospel albums to this day.

Edited: June 25th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 6/25/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “East Of Ginger Trees” by Seals & Crofts

The duo of Jim Seals and Dash Crofts were one of the most successful soft rock groups of the 1970s. The duo hailed from Texas and after gigging around they both joined The Champs of “Tequila” fame as touring members of the group. Glen Campbell was also a member of the group and the three of them left and formed the group Glen Campbell and the GC’s. After the demise of the GC’s, Seals & Crofts decided to go it alone as a duo with Seals on guitar, violin and saxophone and Crofts on guitar and mandolin. It was around this time they began to follow the Baha’i Faith. After releasing several albums that didn’t go anywhere, they finally hit with the album “Summer Breeze” that properly highlighted their heavenly harmonies and songwriting chops. The title track became a top-ten hit, but the album also included such gems as the song “Hummingbird” and this one. From there, the sky was the limit with the hits “Diamond Girl,” “Get Closer,” “We May Never Pass This Way (Again)” and “Hummingbird.” While I was a huge fan of their records, the duo lost me with the release of the 1974 album “Unborn Child” and it’s stance against abortion. They broke up in 1980 and have reformed sporadically over the years. They are long overdue for a reunion.

Edited: June 24th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 6/24/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “It’s Raining Men” by The Weather Girls

The duo of Martha Wash and Izora Armstead were originally called Two Tons O’ Fun for obvious reasons before they took on the moniker of The Weather Girls. The song was written by producer Paul Jabara and “Late Night with David Letterman” band leader Paul Shaffer. The group also provided backing vocals for the likes of Bob Seger, Sylvester and Aretha Franklin. Martha Wash later went on to sing lead vocals on Black Box’s “Everybody Everybody” and C&C Music Factory’s “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now).” Over the years, this song has become a gay anthem…just in time for Pride Day!

Edited: June 24th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 6/23/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Hey Hey My My (Into The Black)” by Devo w/Neil Young

Q: Where do the worlds of The Kingston Trio, Devo and Neil Young all collide? A: Why, on “Human Highway,” of course! “Human Highway” was a mostly dreadful film released by Bernard Shakey (aka Neil Young) in 1982. The film starred Neil Young, Dean Stockwell, Dennis Hopper, Russ Tamblyn and Devo and was filmed between 1978 and 1981. It was briefly shown in movie theaters upon its release and was never to be seen again until its home video release in 1995 on VHS. It is currently out of print. While the movie is quirky and mostly incoherent, it is also very funny and somewhat entertaining in places. Devo were cast as Nuclear Garbagepersons, but getting into the convoluted plot that deals with a nuclear power plant and the last day on earth would be as convoluted as watching the film again. Devo can be seen performing the Kingston Trio classic “Worried Man Blues” on the back of a truck and “Hey Hey My My (Into The Black)” with Mark Mothersbaugh in his “Booji Boy” guise and Neil Young on guitar. In fact, it was in this performance that Mothersbaugh first uttered the words “rust never sleeps” that gave Young the title to his next record.

Edited: June 22nd, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 6/22/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Disseminated” by Soul Coughing

Mike Doughty was once the doorman for The Knitting Factory, a New York City club that specialized in avant garde jazz and off-the-wall rock music. It was through his association with the musicians that frequented the club that Soul Coughing was born. Doughty had been a poet in college and it is his off-beat poetry mingled with the adventurous sampling of cohort Mark De Gli Antoni that typified their music. The original lineup of Soul Coughing featured M. Doughty on guitar and vocals, sampler extraordinaire Mark De Gli Antoni, Sebastian Steinberg on upright bass and drummer Yuval Gabay. The band recorded three exceptional albums “Ruby Vroom,” “Irresistible Bliss” and “El Oso” before suffering an acrimonious breakup over songwriting credits and royalties. Doughty has gone on to release numerous solo records, most of them quite excellent. This song comes from the group’s 1996 second album “Irresistible Bliss.” The featured sample is Raymond Scott’s “The Penguin.” Scott’s music was adapted by Carl Stalling for numerous Warner Bros. “Looney Tunes” cartoons.

Edited: June 21st, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 6/21/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Johnny Carson” by Das Damen

Das Damen was an alternative band from New Jersey who was originally signed in 1986 by Thurston Moore (of Sonic Youth) to his record label. The band consisted of Jim Walters and Alex Totino on vocals and guitar, Phil Leopold von Trapp on bass and vocals and Lyle Hysen on drums. They recorded throughout the late 80s and early 90s mostly for the SST record label which was also the home of Minutemen, Husker Du and Black Flag. While most of their music was considered post punk and hardcore, they were also prone to covering great pop tunes by influences like The Beatles and The Beach Boys. Their “Marshmallow Conspiracy” EP was withdrawn when it was discovered that the song “Song For Michael Jackson To $ell” was an uncredited cover of The Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour.” There was no such controversy with this cover of The Beach Boys’ “Love You” track, “Johnny Carson,” that appeared on the 1990 “Smiles, Vibes and Harmony – A Tribute To Brian Wilson“ CD. The now-out of print CD also featured tracks by Sonic Youth, Peter Stampfel & The Bottlecaps, Handsome Dick Manitoba, Nikki Sudden & The Mermaids and many others.

Edited: June 20th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 6/20/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Carpet Of The Sun” by Renaissance

I had almost forgotten about Renaissance, a group I loved back in the 1970s and even went to see once at Radio City Music Hall. It wasn’t until a friend of mine posted a song from their 1975 album “Scheherazade,” that they even crossed my consciousness after all of these years, and the first thing that came to my mind was embarrassment. I seemed to remember that their brand of “airy fairy” progressive music hadn’t held up very well over the years…and I wasn’t sure if my 2012 ears could still stomach the saccharine-sweet vocals of lead singer Annie Haslam. Nevertheless, I turned to my trusty record collection and yanked their catalog of records out and decided to give their 1973 album “Ashes Are Burning” a spin. Lo and behold, the warmth of Haslam’s voice enveloped me with the cozy nostalgia that I still harbored for this group. This song in particular brought me right back to the days of hearing WNEW FM DJ, Scott Muni blathering away about how great Annie Haslam was. The band consisted of Annie Haslam on vocals, Jon Camp on bass and vocals, John Tout on keyboards, Terrance Sullivan on drums and Michael Dunford on acoustic guitar. The original lineup of the band, long gone by 1973, included Keith Relf and Jim McCarty originally from The Yardbirds. Michael Dunford was an original member of the British beat group, Nashville Teens who scored a chart hit on these shores with “Tobacco Road” in 1964. Nostalgia is a powerful thing…and as a good friend of mine has always posited, nostalgia is the past with the pain removed. Listening to Renaissance in 2012 wasn’t as painful as I thought it might be, still slightly embarrassing, but certainly worth the time.

Edited: June 19th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 6/19/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Cry Me A River” by Joe Cocker

Like most people my age, my first exposure to this Arthur Hamilton-penned track was this rocking Joe Cocker version from “Mad Dogs And Englishmen.” So you can imagine my surprise when I later discovered that the song was originally a sultry ballad that had been a top-ten hit in 1955 for Julie London. The song was originally written for Ella Fitzgerald to sing in the 1955 film “Pete Kelly’s Blues,” but it was dropped from that production. Fitzgerald didn’t get around to recording it until her 1961 album “Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie!” By that time, the song became closely associated with London. Which brings us to the “Mad Dogs And Englishmen” version of the song. Cocker and company totally recast the song as a barroom rocker on their 1970 tour. The “Mad Dogs” band consisted of Leon Russell, Chris Stainton, Don Preston, Carl Radle, Jim Keltner, Bobby Keys, Rita Cooldige, Jim Price and many others. The group was assembled by Leon Russell after Cocker found out that instead of a few weeks off after a grueling tour, he was booked for another several months on the road and needed a band. After a few days rehearsal, it was decided that they should film and record the tour for release. The album was recorded over four shows in two days at the Fillmore East in New York City on March 27-28th 1970. Six years ago, Hip-O Select released all four shows in their entirety as a limited edition six CD set.

Edited: June 18th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 6/18/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Scotch And Soda” by The Kingston Trio from the 1958 album “The Kingston Trio.”

 Before The Beatles…there was The Kingston Trio! The Trio of Dave Guard, Nick Reynolds and Bob Shane were the most recognized act of the initial folk boom of the late 1950s causing a sensation throughout college campuses. Their brand of exuberantly sung folk songs mingled with a healthy dose of good natured “aw-shucks” humor offered pure entertainment and insured them a place on the charts and on concert stages. Before the Trio ever recorded a note in the studio, they got a booking based on their performances in frat houses opening for Phyllis Diller at a San Francisco club called The Purple Onion. Sending 500 postcards out to everyone they knew inviting them to the week of gigs, they ended up with a sold out engagement causing a sensation for themselves. Their hits included “Tom Dooley,” “The M.T.A.,” “The Tijuana Jail,” “Where Have All The Flowers Gone,” ”A Worried Man,” and many others. This one comes from their 1958 debut album called “The Kingston Trio.” In 1961, Dave Guard left the group and was replaced by John Stewart a major talent in his own rite who went on to write classics like “Daydream Believer.” I have had the pleasure in my own career of anthologizing The Kingston Trio on CD for both Reader’s Digest and Time Life Music. Although touring members of The Trio still exist, the last version with original member Bob Shane stopped touring in 2004.

Edited: June 17th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 6/17/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Daddy’s Song” by Harry Nilsson

Nilsson is one of my favorites songwriters, right up there with Lennon & McCartney, Bob Dylan, Bacharach & David, Jagger & Richards, Stevie Wonder, Elvis Costello, et. al. This song was originally from Nilsson’s second album, “Ariel Ballet” from 1968. But a funny thing happened on the way to the pressing plants. Without Nilsson’s knowledge, RCA pulled the song off of the album after the initial pressing shipped because The Monkees paid them $35,000 to have exclusive rights to the song for their recording that was sung by Davey Jones in the Monkees’ film “Head.” Most fans didn’t’ get to hear the track until a remixed and rerecorded version was released on Nilsson’s 1971 album “Aerial Pandemonium Ballet” which was probably the first “remix” album ever released. The original recording was restored to the lineup of the album in the late 1990s when RCA released it on CD. Losing the song was indeed a bummer for fans, but it couldn’t hurt an album that also sported such soon-to-be classics as Nilsson’s cover of Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talkin’” (from the film “Midnight Cowboy”) and songs like “One” (later a top-five hit by Three Dog Night) and “Good Old Desk.” The Beatles were huge fans of Nilsson with John Lennon once proclaiming Nilsson to be his favorite songwriter. During the recording of the “White Album,” the Beatles shared some of their recordings with Nilsson and Nilsson reciprocated by sharing an acetate of this album with them.

Edited: June 16th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 6/16/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Ghetto Defendant” by The Clash

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 30 years since The Clash released their last great record “Combat Rock,” and while the record was considered pretty cutting edge upon its release, parts of it haven’t aged well at all. Sure there’s the cheap ‘80s production which can be annoying (but is probably due for some kind of hipster revival in the near future), but tracks like “Overpowered By Funk,” “Death Is A Star” and “Red Angel Dragnet” don’t seem fully realized (and never really did) and sound somewhat clunky today. That said, there is a clutch of classics to be found here: the requisite hits “Rock The Casbah” and “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” that still sound good today, and classic album cuts like “Straight To Hell,” “Car Jamming” and this track. I happened to see The Clash perform five times back in the day, but perhaps the most memorable of the performances was when they played the Pier in New York City in 1982 and were joined by Allen Ginsburg to reprise his role on this song.

Edited: June 16th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 5/15/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Think” by The 5 Royales

If ever a group deserved to be in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame, it should be The 5 Royales. Not only were they a pioneering R’n’B and Doo Wop vocal group, but they had one of the greatest songwriters of the era in Lowman “Pete” Pauling as a member. Pauling wrote most of the Royales’ material and many of their songs went on to be big hits for others. The 5 Royales were formed in North Carolina in the early 1950s and consisted of Lowman “Pete” Pauling, Jimmy Moore, Obadiah Carter, Otto Jeffries and Johnny Tanner. They recorded for King Records and had chart success with songs like “Monkey Hips And Rice,” “Baby Don’t Do It” and “Somebody Help Me.” But it was the songs that were penned by Pauling and recorded by others that really made them legends. The group was responsible for introducing this song that later went on to be a big soul hit for James Brown. They also recorded the original versions of “Dedicated To The One I Love” made famous by both The Shirelles and The Mamas & The Papas, and “Tell The Truth” which was originally recorded by Ray Charles.

Edited: June 14th, 2012

Song Of the Day by Eric Berman – 6/14/12

Song Of the Day by Eric Berman – “Tulsa Yesterday” by Chris Robinson Brotherhood

The ghosts of Grateful Dead and Yes are alive and well with the Chris Robinson Brotherhood. Chris Robinson was one of the founding members, guiding force, guitarist and vocalist…and brother of the other founding member Rich Robinson…in The Black Crowes. While the Crowes took The Faces and Rolling Stones as jumping off points, the CRB is firmly influenced by the good old Grateful Dead. The band includes Neal Casal (formally of Ryan Adams’ Cardinals) on guitar, Adam MacDougall (of The Black Crowes) on keyboards, Mark “Muddy” Dutton on bass and George Sluppick on drums. Together, the CRB churn out a heady brew of country-tinged Psychedelia with a hint of prog thrown in for good measure. Their first record, where you can hear the studio version of this song, is called “Big Moon Ritual.”

Edited: June 13th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 6/13/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “This Is The Girl” by Patti Smith

You would be hard pressed to put into words the seismic influence Patti Smith’s first album, “Horses,” had on me when I first heard it in 1975 at the age of 14. It was like a door opened into uncharted territory and I eagerly walked through it. As it turns out, she had a hard time making subsequent records that even approached the magnificence of her debut. Sure, records like “Easter,” “Radio Ethiopia” and “Wave” had their moments, but none of them were consistently good from beginning to end. Then she laid low for nine years and emerged with “Dream Of Life” with its anthem “People Have The Power” in 1988, which in my opinion was a huge disappointment. The records that followed…”Gone Again,” “Peace And Noise,” “Gung Ho” and “Trampin’” all had their moments, but the hold Patti Smith once had over me was forever lost. What was once mystical and poetic, now made my eyes roll up into my head. I refer to this as the Jim Morrison syndrome. So here we have the new album, “Banga,” which is her most consistent record since her late ‘70s heyday. Some of the questionable poetry still remains, but it doesn’t overpower the proceedings and many of the songs have strong melodies that couch the lyrics. I love the feel of this song…it’s got some old school doo wop and soul in its blood brought out by the camaraderie of her longtime band mates Lenny Kaye and Jay Dee Daugherty from the old Patti Smith Group. They’re augmented by bass and keyboards player Tony Shanahan, who also co-wrote this song.

Edited: June 12th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 6/12/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Story Untold” by The Nutmegs

They took their name from Connecticut, “The Nutmeg State,” where they hailed from and cut their teeth on the very same street corners that also produced The Five Satins. Like so many of the Doo Wop groups of the 1950s, The Nutmegs had an ever-changing lineup centered on a lead vocalist, and in their case it was founder Leroy Griffin. After scoring a number two R’n’B hit with this song in 1955, The Crew Cuts rushed out a competing cover version of the song which went up to number 16 and stymied the progress of the original on the charts. The group then got a shot a performing at The Apollo Theater in Harlem where controversy struck when they were accused of doing a suggestive dance on stage and were forced to apologize to DJ Allan Freed before they would gain any more bookings. While this was their biggest hit and soon after the hits began to dry up, in the 1960s a New York City record label called Times Square began releasing a capella Nutmegs demos recorded in the 1950s creating renewed interest in a capella recordings and scoring several more regional hits while igniting a new subgenre of Doo Wop music. This track is another from Rhino’s essential “Doo Wop Box” sets. You can’t help but hear the profound influence this music had on the likes of Frank Zappa, Lou Reed and Paul Simon to name but a few.

Edited: June 11th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 6/11/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Been So Long” by The Pastels

Over the last few days I rediscovered the first of the three Doo Wop box sets released by Rhino Records between 1993 and 2000. That’s over 300 Doo Wop recordings – most of them classics…some not – spanning 12 CDs. The first box is by far the best because it has all the classics that anybody who is remotely interested in Doo Wop would want in one place. What makes the other two box sets pretty darn near essential are all of the undiscovered gems you’ve never heard before. There is so much great listening between these three box sets. Today’s song of the day was recorded by The Pastels back in 1957. The Pastels consisted of lead DiFosco “Dee” Erwin, first tenor Richard Travis, second tenor Tony Thomas, and baritone Jimmy Willingham. They were all stationed at a U.S. Air Force base in Narsarssuak, Greenland until being transferred to Washington DC in 1957. This, their first and only hit reached the R&B top five in 1958 and number 24 on the Billboard pop charts. They would never reach those heights again, but with an absolutely perfect record like this one…they already left their indelible stamp on the history of Doo Wop music.

Edited: June 10th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 6/10/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Close Your Eyes” by The Five Keys

They were originally formed as The Sentimental Four out of Hampton News, VA and they consisted of two sets of brothers: Rudy and Bernie West, and Raphael and Ripley Ingram. Their first recordings were for the Aladdin Record label although the line-up changed when Rudy West went into the Army. At this point they added Maryland Pierce and Dickie Smith on vocals and changed their name to The Five Keys. Several line-up changes ensued until Rudy West returned from the army and to the group and they signed to Capitol Records where they had their greatest success. While this 1955 song wasn’t one of their big hits like “Ling Ting Tong” and “Wisdom Of A Fool,” it is still considered one of their best featuring lead vocals by Maryland Pierce with Rudy West on the answer vocals. Controversy struck when Capitol Records released the album “The Five Keys On Stage.” Apparently, some mistook Rudy West’s thumb for a phallus (see the first guy all the way on the left side of the cover) and the cover was recalled and airbrushed. If you look closely on this photo, you can see the offending appendage.

Edited: June 9th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 6/9/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “That’s Why God Made The Radio” by The Beach Boys

So yesterday it was Neil Young…today it’s the Beach Boys. Perhaps, I’m getting old when it’s the music from my childhood heroes that still turns me on. That’s not to say that there isn’t plenty of current music that I like, I just don’t see the point in ignoring my heroes because they’re old…besides it’s them that are getting older, not me. So here we have a new release by the remaining members of rock’s first dysfunctional family, The Beach Boys. A group who’ve had their share of drama…much of it played out in the media over the past 20 or so years. For a bunch of old guys, they sure do act like babies. Like yesterday’s Neil Young album, my expectations were mighty low for this record, with “the boys” not being able to stay in the same room over the years unless that room was in a law office, how much camaraderie could we expect on their first long player together in 20 years? And let us face the facts, Brian has pretty much been a spent musical force releasing Disney and Gershwin records and such over the last few years and with Mike Love consistently acting like the jerk in the media…heck he still can’t cop to the fact that “Smile” is indeed a masterpiece…certainly there wasn’t much to go on. But surprise, surprise…there’s some good stuff on this record. The harmonies are intact, and some of the songs, though inconsequential, are pretty good. The intended track for today’s Song Of the Day was “From Here To Back Again” a gorgeous track from the new album, but it seems The Beach Boys are pretty good at protecting themselves and there were no audio samples of the track on YouTube. In that song and on “Pacific Coast Highway” and “Summer’s Gone,” the two songs that follow this on the record, the boys revisit the essence of their “Pet Sounds” days with a pretty good approximation of that sound which shows that Brian still has some musical mojo left after all. There are goodtime vibes harking back to their glory days on standouts like the title cut, “Strange World,” “ Isn’t It Time” and “Spring Vacation.” Some of the songs are corny and a bit hackneyed, but overall this record is not the embarrassment I thought it would be. Major kudos go out to Jeff Foskett who has been the guiding force toward making Brian’s solo concerts over the last decade sound as good as they do due to his vocals and guitar playing. It kind of makes me sorry I didn’t go see them when they came to town last month.

Edited: June 8th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 6/8/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Get A Job” by Neil Young & Crazy Horse

This ain’t your daddy’s doo wop…nor is it your sister’s “American Recordings” by Johnny Cash. What we have here are four crusty guys digging up some crusty old tunes and playing them the only crusty way they know how to. Nothin’ fancy…one take and done. You can practically feel the camaraderie and familiarity these guys have with each other in every note. This Neil Young sounds awful on paper. When I first heard about the premise of him doing old Americana songs recast for Crazy Horse, I though it was gonna be awful…and on some of the tunes here, I was completely right. But the record does have its charms, and it certainly has lots of crunch. On this track, Neil and the Horse ride back into Neil & The Shocking Pinks territory with a cover of The Silhouettes’ doo-wop classic, only this version is rickety, a bit clumsy and totally charming. Some of the tracks work really well…”Clementine,” “Gallows Pole,” “High Flyin’ Bird,” “Travel On” and “Jesus’ Chariot”…while others are completely dreadful…”Oh Susannah,” “Tom Dula,” “This Land Is Your Land,” “Wayfarin’ Stranger” and “God Save The Queen.” Note to Neil: Everything you do isn’t pure genius. Just because the tape is rollin’, doesn’t mean you have to release it. This record would have made a great EP. So, does it pass my Neil test, meaning will I play this album a few months from now? Probably not…there’s only one Young record released in the last decade that I go back to and that’s “Prairie Wind.” Neil needs an editor…but in the meantime, keep on rockin’ and releasin’ the tunes. It gives me something to write about.

Edited: June 7th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 6/7/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Memories Can’t Wait” by Talking Heads

Former art school students have a funny way of expressing themselves. Like naming an album “Fear Of Music” and including a song like this one that conjures deep seated feelings of dread and ill will. But it doesn’t end there…Byrne numbly mumbles throughout this record asking himself questions like “What is happening to my skin? Where is that protection that I needed?” in another song. “This ain’t no party…this ain’t no disco…this ain’t no fooling around” is another rally cry that adds to the grim picture on Talking Heads’ third aptly titled 1979 platter. It’s a record where “Heaven is a place, a place where nothing ever happens”…albeit, the Heaven in question here is not a final resting place, but a club. Producer, Brian Eno was once again invited to this party and the growth between this album and the one that came before it felt on all levels. The Heads’ palate expanded to include African rhythms and straight-ahead funk and disco. While this was the last album to be created by the core quartet, the song “I Zimbra” pointed towards the future with an expanded lineup that featured numerous percussionists and Robert Fripp on guitar. In other places we’re treated to songs with titles like “Drugs,” “Mind,” “Paper” and “Electric Guitar.” Oh and there were hits too…”Life During Wartime” and “Cities” that filled dance floors around the world.

Edited: June 6th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 5/6/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001)” by Deodato

“Popcorn” by Hot Butter…”My Ding A Ling” by Chuck Berry…and this Tchaikovsky masterwork reconfigured for Jazz by Brazilian keyboardist Eumir Deodato were amongst the many left-field hits of 1972. This Grammy Award winning track was the standout hit from Deodato’s first album called “Prelude” which featured the stellar musicianship of Billy Cobham, Ron Carter, John Tropea, Hubert Laws, Ray Baretto, Airto Moreira and Stanley Clarke. While Deodato never quite lit up the charts again, he has been an active producer and arranger who has worked with such diverse acts as Bjork, Frank Sinatra, Astrud Gilberto, Kool and the Gang and Lupe Fiasco. Nowadays, the rock group Phish perform this arrangement often in concert.

Edited: June 5th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 6/5/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Burn In Hell” by Junior Kimbrough

Like his good friend R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough hailed from northern Mississippi and didn’t find fame until relatively late in the game. Kimbrough recorded sessions in the 1960s and 1970s that went mostly unreleased. It wasn’t until music critic Robert Palmer produced his first record for the Fat Possum label in 1992 that Kimbrough attained national attention. Kimbrough opened a club in Mississippi after the release of the record called Junior’s Place where he and R.L. Burnside regularly performed for such musical luminaries as Keith Richards, Tom Waits and Bono amongst the common folk. Kimbrough’s window of fame was a scant six years coming to an end when he died of a heart attack in 1998 at the age of 67 following a stroke. This song comes from his last album before his death “Most Things Haven’t Worked Out.” You can hear Kimbrough’s influence today in the music of The Black Keys and Jack White.

Edited: June 4th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 6/4/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Oleo” by Eric Dolphy

Today, I had the chance to play all three albums of Eric Dolphy’s Copenhagen concert from September, 1961. I haven’t played these recordings in many years and it was great to get reacquainted to the mastery of flute, saxophone and bass clarinet that was Eric Dolphy. The music has been released in all different ways over the years…first it was issued as three separate albums on Prestige (7304, 7350, 7366) under the title “Eric Dolphy In Europe, Volume 1,2 & 3.” My version of the three albums comes in a double album consisting of Volume 1 & 3 under the title “Copenhagen Concert” released in 1973 and an early 1970s straight reissue of the original “Volume 2″ album. The quartet consisted of Ben Axen on piano, Erik Moseholm on bass and Jorn Elniff on drums. I really wanted to post their version of the song “Hy-Fly” from the same concert which, true to its title, is a tour-de-force flute-bass duet which really does fly for 13 minutes, but I couldn’t find it on You-Tube. But if settling is listening to the group’s take on Sonny Rollins’ “Oleo,” than settling doesn’t always mean settling for second best. I first became aware of Eric Dolphy through the Frank Zappa track that paid homage to him called “The Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue.” While attending college in the early 1980s, some of our friends had an annual “Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue” in the backyard of the house they rented each year which I was fortunate enough to attend where I was exposed to some of the coolest jazz I had ever heard up to that point.

Edited: June 3rd, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 6/3/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Brooklyn Roads” by Neil Diamond

This was Neil Diamond’s first single after signing with MCA records back in 1968. Diamond had already scored numerous hits for Burt Burn’s Bang record label and was now ready to debut on the MCA distributed UNI label. The song highlighted a far more personal side of Neil Diamond with its autobiographical lyrics and adult oriented orchestral arrangements. It appeared on the album “Velvet Gloves And Spit” which also included the singles “Two-Bit Manchild,” “Sunday Sun” and a remake of the song “Shilo.” The album also included the most unhip and embarrassing song in the entire Neil Diamond canon, the anti-drug “Pot Smoker’s Song” in which drug addicts share their bizarre stories.

Edited: June 2nd, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 6/2/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Hollaback Girl” by Gwen Stefani

Shouldn’t everyone have four Harajuku Girls with them everywhere they go? I think so…and so does Gwen Stefani. After all, it was Stefani who put Harajuku fashion on the map in America anyway via her L.A.M.B. line of clothing. While not designing fashion, Stefani also has children with rock stars, launches perfume lines, records solo records and tours the world with her multi-platinum pop Ska group No Doubt. This song comes from her first solo record, “Love, Angel, Music, Baby” and was the first single to sell over a millions downloads. I’ve not much more to say about this track other than this sh*t is bananas…b-a-n-a-n-a-s…

Edited: June 2nd, 2012