Saturday, January 24, 2015

CD Review: Omnivore Recordings Doubles The Helping Of Ron Nagle's "Bad Rice"

California native Ron Nagle was in the middle of the sixties underground rock scene in San Francisco, first as a member of Mystery Trend then joining with Scott Matthews and creating the band, Durocs. In between those two stints, Nagle recorded and released his one and only solo album entitled "Bad Rice." The sound was very raunchy rock, a la Rolling Stones, but with Randy Newman like songwriting. The album included members of Commander Cody's Lost Planet Airmen along with Ry Cooder and Sal Valentino. It was produced by the legendary Jack Nitxsche (Rolling Stones, Neil Young) along with help from San Francisco D.J. Tom "Big Daddy" Donahue. The album became long out-of-print shortly after its release and for the first time, Omnivore Recordings will be releasing it on CD for the first time, along with a bonus disc of demos and outtakes.

The original eleven song release begins with a couple of quick-hitting rockers ("61 Clay" and "Marijuana Hell") as Nagle had his finger on the pulse of the seventies rock world. His songwriting is highlighted by the slower songs like "Frank's Store" and "That's What Friends Are For," but his music would rival any hard rock band from that era with the fast pace of "Capricorn Queen" and boisterous "House Of Mania." The final five songs of the first disc are previously unissued outtakes and alternate takes from that era, including the David Bowie-like "Francine" and the beautiful piano-led "Dolores."

The second disc consists of fourteen songs, twelve of which have never been previously released. Beginning with "From The Collection Of Dorothy Tate," you instantly get the feeling that Nagle could have become of the top songwriters of all time, just on the way he constructed his music. The songs "People Have Told Me" and "Out In The Hall" shows his cup overflowing with talent as these are just as good as what made the final cut of the album. Most of the tracks are two-to-three minutes pop gems like "Half As Much" and "So Long Johnny" and are very welcome on this outstanding new release. Omnivore Recordings has once again done an amazing job gathering all this music and distributing it to the fans. To find out more about Ron Nagle's "Bad Rice" album, please visit omnivorerecordings.com

Friday, January 23, 2015

CD Review: Musician Jim Alfredson Uses THEO To Explore His Prog-Rock Side

American keyboardist Jim Alfredson is one of the best Hammond organist performing these days and his work within the jazz trio organissimo has received praise from critics. His latest project is his solo album under the name THEO that pays tribute to his love of the classic progressive rock bands of the seventies. The new release entitled "The Game Of Ouroboros" will be released on January 27th through Big O Records and the album was three years in the making to complete due to Alfredson's heavy touring schedule.
 
The new six song album begins with a simple phone call which leads into the mystical, Yes-like keyboard introduction of "The Game Of Ouroboros." Alfredson gets funky on his solo before guitarist Jake Reichbart takes hold of the nine-minute song and drives it home. The instrumental "The Blood That Floats My Throne" showcases the full talents of THEO, but the album really excels into the spacey, prog-rock territory with the thirteen-minute heavy rhythm of "Idle Worship" as each member gets their shining moment. The eleven-minute closer "Exile" has an early Genesis feel with its darker tones and tempo changes. To find out more about the debut album from THEO, please visit jimalfredson.com.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Book Review: The Journey Of The Grateful Dead Was "No Simple Highway" As Told By Peter Richardson

This year marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most iconic American bands in music history...The Grateful Dead. Their music has mystified audiences all over the world and their allegiance of fans is incomparable to any other band in the history of music. To celebrate this milestone, the original four remaining members of the band, announced last week that the "core four" will perform once last time together in Chicago, IL during this year's 4th of July weekend. They will be performing at the exact location that The Grateful Dead last performed with the late-Jerry Garcia back in 1995 before his untimely death.
 
Alongside that announcement comes the latest must-have for "dead heads," the recently published hardcover book "No Simple Highway: A Cultural History Of The Grateful Dead." The 375-page book dives into the background of the band's success by addressing three aspects to their music career. Chapter one "Ecstasy" helps explain the origins of the band, beginning with Jerry Garcia's upbringing in Palo Alto, CA. Garcia's obsession with roots music lead to his meeting with jazz trumpeter Phil Lesh and the early formation of Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions with fellow Palo Alto musicians Ron McKernan and Bob Weir. While many fans may know the history of the band, author Peter Richardson gives insight into other happenings that were going on around this time in the music and drug culture. Chapter two "Mobility" talks about their life with being on the road and how it affected their music. The Grateful Dead's 1970 album "Workingman's Dead" was a different direction for the band, but was built to be taken on the road and played to the people, even if many fans did not understand this new direction. The Grateful Dead were all about taking their music in new directions, especially when performing live. As the second chapter deals with the band's touring heights of the 70's decade, chapter three "Community" takes on the business of being one of the top musical franchises in both money and popularity. Their legions of fans were some of the most dedicated as Garcia described their tours as traveling circuses. The band's late-eighties resurgence into the mainstream with the hit singles "Touch Of Grey" and "Hell In A Bucket" opened the floodgates for even more to discover this large fan following. As with the legacy of the Grateful Dead, the book  closes with the August death of Jerry Garcia in 1995. While the history of The Grateful Dead will never stop evolving, this latest book, "No Simple Highway" is one of the most complete as Richardson received access to the Dead's archives in order to try and answer the question, "why?" Why were The Grateful Dead so popular? Why did so many people follow their music? Why after fifty years are The Grateful Dead still one of the most successful bands of all time?
 
"No Simple Highway: A Cultural History Of The Grateful Dead" was published through St. Martin Press and is a wonderful journey through the band's "long strange trip." To find out more about this wonderful book, please visit macmillan.com.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

CD Review: The War And Treaty Debut Their Music "Live At Blue House Studios"

The duo of Tanya Blount and Michael Trotter have been amazing fans for four years now as the soulful acoustic folk band The War And Treaty. They recently released their debut album "Live at Blue House Studios," which was recorded in front of a live studio audience in Bethesda, Maryland and they are donating fifty percent of their digital sales of the album to Operation Second Chance.
 
These two singers are not newcomers to the music world as both have had their music featured in television and movies, but bringing their talents together just electrifies their sound. The fourteen-song album begins with Blount's sultry vocals amongst a stark jazz piano in "Irony" as the two begin to flex their vocal abilities. They trade verses on the loving "One Nation" as you enjoy the live, instantaneous aura of the recording. Their voices really soar as one on "Another Round" and mesh so well on the harmonizing of "My Dear" that this is a perfect musical match. The album closes with the soulful blues of "Open Book" and you can't help but feel their passion in this rendition of "Maryland," which helps about being away from the comfort of your home. The War and Treaty have a CD release party planned for January 21st at the Hard Rock Cafe in Baltimore, MD, before heading down south for a handful of shows. To find out more about their debut album "Live At Blue House Studios," please visit thewarandtreaty.com.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

CD Review: New Independent Releases Flying Under The Mainstream Radar

LA-based band Bullyheart is the latest project from acclaimed singer/songwriter Holly Long. The band recently released their debut album "Antigravity" back in November and has received a number of positive reviews. The ten song release begins with the title-song as Holly and her band sound like an early rendition of The Pretenders on this modern rocker. They continue along with this salute to eighties rock with "No Pleasing You" as Holly's voice is in top form. She displays some soulfulness on the bluesy ballad "Lost My Nerve," before returning to the rapid rock of "Panic Attack." The album closes with the energetic contemporary feel of "There Goes My Man" and the solo display of the heartfelt delivery of "Stay." To find out more about Bullyheart and their latest release "Antigravity," please visit their Facebook page at facebook.com/Bullyheart.

From Chicago comes the Americana/Jazz band Honey & the 45s with their latest release "Mad." The new seven-song EP begins with the blues romp of "Mad" as the vocals of Kristina Cottone give the music a retro feel. The band finds access to the mainstream with the soulful "Come Back," before showcasing the Americana wonder of "Dark," which is easily the highlight of the album with it classic jazz-like appeal. The music gets smooth and sultry with "Skinlovin'," before closing with the country-like ballad of "The Arrows." To find out more about Honey & the 45s, please visit honeyandthe45s.com.

Singer/songwriter The Random Hubiak recently released his latest seven-song EP entitled "Swing Masters." The music has an adult contemporary pop/rock feel as Rand's voice is very reminiscent of early Billy Joel. The first three songs on the album called "Sad Sack" have the same lyrics, but done in three different formats with the swing version having the most appeal. If Billy Joel dabbled more with jazz, then "Snarky Kiss" would be exactly what he would have sounded like. The Random Hubiak sound the most original on part one and part two of the song "Fuse" as it almost feels like part of a Broadway musical. The album closes with the piano ballad "La Casa Azul" as he saves the best for last with this amazing piece. To find out more about The Random Hubiak, please visit his Facebook page at facebook.com/TheRandomHubiak.

Canadian rockers Heavy Heart are preparing to release their latest EP entitled "Somewhere A While Ago" on February 3rd. The songs may be a snapshot of their small town, but they all have a big arena sound that needs to be heard on modern rock radio. The new four-s0ng release begins with the lead-single "Garden Arm" as the energy and adrenaline they display in this song are a major positive as you can't help but want more from this band. They show a darker tone to their music with "Bambi Legs," before closing with the howling chorus and blazing guitars of "Wash" as this is a much welcome introduction to this band. To find out more about Heavy Hearts, please visit the band's Facebook page at facebook.com/heavyheartsband.