Errols Weekly Music Update.

June 24, 2011

Weekly Update – 06/24/2011

Allman Brothers at the Beacon Theater on Wed. July 27 for a benefit show whereby the proceeds will be donated to community-based organizations that provide education and support services to people with chronic hepatitis C. Tickets on sale now. $73.35 and $169.55.

Tedeschi Trucks Band at the Beacon on Sat. Sept. 10. Tickets on sale this morning at 10:00 a.m. $63.15 and $99.95 (Already in with “pre-sale” tickets yesterday).

Bob Dylan and Leon Russell at Jones Beach on Sat. Aug. 13. Tickets on sale Mon. June 27 at 10:00 a.m. (If you have a Citi card you can purchase “pre-sale” tickets up until 11:59 p.m. Sun. June 26).$34, $69, $89.90 and $143.50.

Stevie Nicks at PNC Bank Arts Center on Thurs. Sept. 1 and at Jones Beach on Sun. Sept. 4. Tickets on sale this morning at 10:00 a.m. PNC: $25, $62.35, $84.50, $143.50 and $201; Jones: $27, $52, $62.50, $84.70 and $201.

Elvis Costello at the United Palace Theater on Sat. Rocktober 1 and at the Wellmont Theater on Thurs. Rocktober 6. Tickets on sale today at noon. United: $60.05, $70.30, $90.85 and $138.10; Wellmont:$45, $55, $95 and $125.

Sugarland at the Mohegan Sun on Fri. & Sat. Rocktober 14 and 15. Tickets on sale tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. $70.45 and $90.90

Britney Spears at the XL Center in Hartford CT on Tues. Aug. 9. Pre-sale on now if you own a Citi card until 5:00 p.m. tonight. General public tickets on sale Mon. June 27 at 10:00 a.m. $26.50, $56.50, $92.50, $172 and $347. (You have to be out of your mind if you buy the $347 tickets).

Alien Ant Farm at the Gramercy Theater on Sat. Aug. 6. Tickets on sale today at noon. $19

Other items:

Thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends (including all the members of Bruce’s E-Street Band) on the terribly sad passing of Mr. Clarence “Big Man” Clemons. I was under the impression that he was going to come out of his sickness and would eventually get back on stage with Bruce and company. Bruce’s words were poignant and passionate as one could feel his heavy heart. I think it goes without saying that their band will never be the same without the Big Man but you know that Clarence would want for Bruce and the E-Street band to continue on. This is such a sad event and it is weird feeling to encounter because we never think that our contemporaries will pass on, we still feel like it is 1981, right? It is foreign to me to have the songs that I listened to while growing up are now being played on the “oldies” format and then beyond confusing when legends like Clarence leave this world. Again, a very sad happening. Rest in peace Clarence.

U2 and Bono made a touching tribute to Clarence at a show in California earlier this week as they prepared to play the awesome “Moment of Surrender” song. You can see a clip of it here http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/20/u2-dedicates-song-to-clar_n_880680.html. Very nice touch gentlemen!!!

Thoughts and prayers go out to Leslie West for a speedy recovery after having emergency surgery last weekend to remove one of his legs below his knee after it swelled up significantly on June 18. He is expected to make a healthy recovery but faces extensive rehabilitation. Best wishes Leslie for a healthy recovery.

Sad news about Glen Campbell. It was just released that he is in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s. My thoughts and prayers are with you Glen, and your family and friends.

Doctors have informed Adele that she should not sing (and also not speak too much) for the next month or so as she tries to recover from laryngitis. Her North American tour has been postponed for the time being and there is a chance that if she doesn’t take care of her vocals, she could do some serious damage to them that could last a lifetime. I’m no doctor and don’t want to sound like I’m preaching, but her bad habit of smoking can’t really be helping, right?

Sean Kingston seems to be making a nice recovery from his jet ski accident almost a month ago as he recently posted a picture on Twitter and thanking his fans for all the warm wishes and prayers. Doctors say he should make a full recovery in six months. This really is something considering he was near death after the crash. He was just released from the hospital. All the best Sean!!!

Talk about your “Odd Couple” music matchings- Metallica has teamed up with the legendary Lou Reed and they have recorded 12 songs together. The “unnamed” album has no release date as of yet but I will keep you posted. Apparently after the “once in a lifetime” Rock and Roll Hall of Fame concert(s) at Madison Square Garden a few years ago, where the boys jammed with Reed, sparked an interest between the two which led to recent Lou Reed sightings in the hometown of Metallica-San Francisco-fueling the rumor mill that a collaboration was occurring. This has to peak your interest, no?

Mick Jagger has formed his own “super-group” and its name is “SuperHeavy” which includes Dave Stewart, Joss Stone, Damian Marley and A.R. Rahman (composer). Their album will be released in September. The first single-“Miracle Worker”- will be released soon as they are working on the video. Jagger actually sings in Urdu for a song called “Satyameva Javate” which translates into “the truth alone triumphs.”

My favorite “rock” song of the week is “God of Thunder” by KISS. I love the way Gene is supposed to be so demonic and now seeing him on his own TV reality show kind of makes me chuckle when I listen now a days. “I am the lord of the waste lands…and I command thee to kneel.” They don’t make songs like this anymore.

Nuggets

Mechanical Resonance

 

Tesla. I can recall the first time that Tesla came into my radar-it was after the Diamond Dave/Van Halen debacle whereby either Dave left on his own or Eddie dismissed him. I was not a happy camper because I felt Roth was “the guy” for Van Halen (although as you know I quickly warmed up to the Red Rocker taking over the controls as the front man). So I followed both bands after the split up. Dave grabbed Steve Vai for guitar and Billy Sheenah on bass and quickly formed an “all-star” rock band which would be the template for future mixing and matching of talents to form “super groups.” (Ironically Hagar has now done the same thing by drafting Joe Satriani, Michael Anthony and Chad Smith for the new superband-“Chickenfoot”). Anyways, Diamond Dave headed out on tour with Vai and Sheehan and guess who they tapped to be the opener? Yes that’s right-Tesla. Now I go through phases with opening acts because sometimes I easily dismiss them (which is a flaw in my character I guess) and other times I embrace the idea and hope that the opening band pulls me in so that I have another act to follow. I don’t know why I am not consistent with the approach of trying to find more bands, although in some cases I do know the openers but probably choose not to go.

With Tesla, I did not know who they were and this was before their most recognized song-“Signs”-(which is a cover) was released, so I had not heard one song on the radio by these guys but once they took to the stage I started to notice that something real good was happening. Little by little after every song they performed my interest in purchasing their music sky rocketed and by the end of the show I was hooked. To this day, Tesla was the best opening band that I have ever seen and the day after that concert I ran to the music store and bought their debut album-“Mechanical Resonance”- and the rest as they say is “history.” To this day, Tesla remains one of my most favorite bands and yes folks these guys still create new music while touring their ass off every year and remain one of the hardest working bands out there. I ran into a fellow “Brooklyn-nite” at the Sully Erna show and he thought Tesla stop making albums in the 1980’s. After losing my breath and vision for a few seconds, I came to; then informed him of his fallacy with the hopes that he would explore this awesome band from Sacramento, CA.

“Mechanical Resonance” is an album that I listen to “top to bottom” and in my opinion there is not a bad song on the entire work but I recognize that I have a biased opinion of these guys-they can never do any wrong. So I know there are songs on this that the “general” public would probably skip over, hence the reason why it lands here in the “nuggets” section of the blog. If you want to get over the notion that Tesla is some kind of “hair-band” or that they only have “one” song (Signs) then my recommendation is to start with their debut and work your way through their impressive catalog-“satisfaction guaranteed or your money back.” C’mon what do you have to lose? Here they are the golden nuggets from MR and the band named Tesla (in no particular order).

Getting Better – I remember the first time I heard this song I thought it was going to be a slow ballad but then at the 1:07 mark, it kicks into straight up rock and roll. This is and has always been one of the fan favorites at their live shows. If you are one of those folks who thinks that “Signs” is the only song they have, why not take a stroll down this lane with “Getting Better” and if you say you don’t like it- you are lying to yourself and to me. Jeff Keith is/has been one of the best rock singers in the business for some time now and he shines brightly in this upbeat track. “Ahh it’s getting’ better now…everyday…yeah yeah yeah.”

Changes – Arguably the best track on the album and also has to land in their top ten songs of all-time. The guitar riff is so addictive that you won’t be able to get it out of your head. Once the tempo picks up the song becomes that much better. Tell me Jeff doesn’t knock this one out of the ball park with his great vocals?!! The guitar solo is rip roaring and if this doesn’t prove that they were not a “hair-band” then I don’t know what will. The arrangement is second to none and in my opinion this is one of their many “masterpieces.” “Times making changes in my life…changing you and me…”

Modern Day Cowboy – If you like rock music, then it is nearly impossible not to like this song. A couple of summers ago there was a local fair in a town nearby and this one ride had all these “classic” and “hard” rock tunes streaming over the speakers at a very loud decibels and once this song came on I freaked and immediately ran near the gates surrounding the ride to jam away. I don’t think this song gets the deserved attention that it truly deserves (although “Rock Band” did add this song to its catalog). This track usually creates a frenzy at their shows because the guitar work is so good, the solo is righteous. Great summer song!!!

Rock Me To The Top – Tesla rocks baby and the proof is in the pudding with this bad boy. Yes it may remind you of Def Leppard (especially the background vocals) but what is wrong with that, especially the “early” Leppard when they were cutting their teeth and trying to make it in the business. Take a listen to these guitars and tell me these guys aren’t talented? It kills me that this band doesn’t get the respect it deserves, this is some good rock and roll here folks. This could be a good work out song because it moves.

Little Suzi – Another crowd pleaser, I’m telling you folks it doesn’t get much better than the songs I have listed so far, including this one. I would put this song up to any rock song out there and it can go “toe-to-toe” with the best of ‘em. The acoustic guitar work is infectious and the injection of the electric guitar makes Tesla one of the best bands out there to incorporate both sides of the guitar into their songs. Put on a great set of headphones and squeeze until your ears almost meet inside your head and tell me this song isn’t great?!

Comin’ Atcha Live – Another great workout song (beginning will remind you of Van Halen’s “Eruption”) but it takes just about a minute to get rollin’ but once it does watch out. The drums are incredible and it keeps the train buzzing along at break-neck speed. The weird thing is that this song was used extensively at their “Acoustic” shows and most people forget that this is an “electric” guitar song where the speed is much faster than the acoustic concerts. The guitar solo is spellbinding and it has to make you want to give someone a “high five” like they just scored the winning basket in the final seconds of a championship series game. This again is “straight up rock and roll, no additives or preservatives!!!” Hard not to like this song.

Songs That You Are Scared To Admit You Like

 

The Tide Is High – Blondie– Ok now that summer is here there are usually some songs that seem to get more air-time during this season than at other points of the calendar year and the drums that start this song make it seem like you are on a Caribbean beach (and also eerily similar to “Summertime” by Will Smith, looks like Will borrowed part of this song). Whenever I do hear this song the chorus stays in my head all day long- it is very addictive. “The tide is high but I’m moving on…number one…number one…”

Fight For Your Right – Beastie Boys– I think I read somewhere that the Beasties did not want to make this record because they thought it was a joke and maybe it is but I can’t get enough of this song. The lyrics are juvenile and listening to the production now seems a little dated (but at the time it was by far the coolest thing out) and it is a little scary for me to bounce around the house with my baseball cap turned sideways (for those of you who know me) and mimic these guys. I can recall being at a party for one of my brother’s best friend and he stole the spotlight as he was singing and dancing all over the place, he ruled the floor as the people around him said-“wow he really likes that song.” “Ahh mommy’s just jealous…it’s the Beastie Boys!!!!”

Daybreak – Barry Manilow– There are guilty pleasures and then there is Barry Manilow. It is like a lightning rod every time I mention him on this blog (which has only been a few times) and emotions run high but I have to be real and state that I absolutely love this song. It has the obligatory hand clap and an infectious melody that has to make you sing along with him. For some reason I can just picture him singing this on “American Bandstand” and being interviewed by Mr. Dick Clark. I can listen to this song all day long.

The Way We Were – Barbara Streisand– When you are married to the biggest Barbara Streisand fan who owns much of her catalog it is hard not to like her songs and this one always stands out in my mind. This is a tough song to listen to if you are in a sad mood because it will bring tears to your eyes. A classic tune and I’m not sure this song belongs on this list but I am assuming I made the right call.

Jaded – Aerosmith – I know there used to be a lot of complaints about how Aerosmith turned into this “power ballad” machine during the 1990’s and for the most part I agreed with that assessment but I also liked most of those songs. Now this isn’t a ballad but you can’t get any more “pop” than this song and most die-hard fans of Aerosmith don’t even recognize this song-it is like they kicked it out of their catalog and memory forever. Again I am okay with that but I will keep the “pop” alive and happily listen-“My, my, baby blue…yeah you’re so jaded…I’m the one who jaded you.”

Lost Without Your Love – Bread– I love this band and can’t get enough of their spectacular songs which help define the great music for the decade of 1970. This song is beautiful and I will never be afraid to admit I love this tune. Mr. Gates had this way of making you drift off into another stratosphere and this song is the epitome of that statement.

More Than Words – Extreme – Talk about the ultimate “power ballad” from a rocking band-this song is the poster child for that subject and it is weird how most of the general population can probably only name one song that Extreme did-yes this would be it. Now it was (is) not cool for the “rocker” to admit that they love this song so I will do it for them- I can’t get enough of this tune. “Hold me close…don’t ev-her let me go…more than words.” Power ballad at its best. Love this tune.

Faith – George Michael – C’mon you know you like the acoustic riff and the infectious melody, especially the chorus-“cause I got to have faith…I gotta have faith…I gotta have faith, faith, faith.” Hey which version would you rather listen to-this one or Limp Bizkit’s version? (Don’t even say Bizkit). This is another song that is hard to get out of your head once you listen to it.

Shannon – Henry Gross– This one hit wonder always brings me back to my summers spent as a child/teenager up in Otisville N.Y. and this was forever played on WABC AM radio by either Ron Lundy or Harry Harrison as the most popular DJ’s. Is it cheesy?-Yes; Is it “bubble-gum?”-Yes; but I love it. Hey there is such a thing as cheesy popcorn, right? “Shannon is gone I heard she’s drifting off to sea…”

When I Need You – Leo Sayer– At our last family game of Scrabble, I put this song on the “set-list” and you had to see the reactions of both my boys’-it was like they had eaten something very sour. They immediately said that it was from the “1970’s” and they would be correct but my wife and I were singing it word for word (which just intensified their dislike). I say- what do they know? Love this song!!!

Mambo No. 5 (A Little Bit Of) – Lou Bega– I just recently learned that it is not cool to admit that you like this song. I don’t know why that is because this is one of my most favorite “dance” songs. I can remember when our family made a trip down to Disney in FL and my wife and I were able to go out dancing and when this song came on, I was like Tom Cruise in “Risky Business” as I was in my own world dancing like crazy. Love this song.

The Morning After – Maureen McGovern– These songs are on my I-Pod so I kid you not. I love these “classic old school” type of songs. When is the last time you have heard this tune? I bet it has been a while but this is “comfort” food for your soul. Love it.

High Enough – Damn Yankees– Talk about sappy hair-band power ballads? This could be the poster child for it but I absolutely love this song and can listen to it everyday for the rest of my life. “Can you take me high enough…to fly me over yesterday.” The Shaw/Blades harmonization is a diamond in the ruff and most people don’t know that this combination has produced some of the best vocals in the 20th Century. Ok, I know it is very cheesy to see the right wing fanatic Ted Nugent “playing to the video” like someone from Poison or Warrant but it was the times.

Hopelessly Devoted To You – Olivia Newton John– Whenever I hear this song I can’t move, it stops me right in my tracks and I just listen with keen admiration. I know all those of you out there who say you don’t like this song are lying-you won’t admit it-but you like it. And it is from the great movie-“Grease”-so how can anyone not like it? Great song.

Top Ten

For the last few weeks when I have put my I-Pod on “shuffle” songs by Skid Row (early Skid with Sebastian) and Bon Jovi have been popping up all over the place, so I figured it was a sign to combine both of these bands for this week’s “top ten” list. Now with respect to Bon Jovi, the focus here will again be their “early” material as I believe that both my sons’ have stated that if I did a top ten for this band, they would stop reading the blog. My relationship with this band has soured, especially the last ten years or so and it’s not so much the musical direction they have taken but more the way they have taken the “safe” path whereby it seems like all of their new material sounds very similar-there is no more edge to this band. (Not that they even had a material edge in their younger days). But on the other hand, they have been around for decades and have managed to nudge their way into every radio station format (just like U2) so they must be doing something right? (At least that is what I am telling myself). Even back in their heyday, I could never understand how these guys would be tapped the headliners for those massive rock festivals when bands like Dio, The Scorpions, Judas Priest were going on before them. But I can not say that I do not like their early material (and a song here and there from their later years) and in fact I used to go see these guys every time they came to the Tri-State area during the late 1980’s. Yes I bought in to the “pop” hard rock appeal of Bon Jovi and have to admit that their live shows were very good. Now I acknowledge that it really is sort a slap in the face to name only five songs from this “hit-making machine” but I think I just put in context where I am coming from, hence the reason for naming only five songs.

Now with Skid Row, the focus here is really only the first few albums with Sebastian Bach. I am keenly aware that this band went on without him and has had a very successful career and are still touring these days. I jumped on the band wagon with their sophomore release-“Slave to The Grind” because I thought it was much heavier than their debut which spawned hits for MTV to lift that format to its legendary status (I don’t think MTV has played any videos since Sebastian left Skid Row-which was a long time ago). I can recall driving all the way to Hershey Park with my friend Sal to go see Guns & Roses, with Skid Row being the opening act. It was a steamy day/night and Skid Row added more thunder to what was already going on in the sky and I have to say that I was really impressed with their sound at the time. Again they steered away from the “pop” metal with their second album and this was the tour that highlighted “Grind” and the results were stellar. I’m not sure what happened with the band but my assumption is that egos came into being and displaced a band headed in the right direction, in my opinion. So I am stuck on an island and have been informed that I could only have five song selections from the bands- Bon Jovi and Skid Row-“These Are Them:” (Oh one thing I forgot to mention, Bon Jovi basically “discovered” Skid Row and was instrumental in them signing a recording contract).

Skid Row

5.     18 and Life –OK I know this was the “poster child” for MTV during its “hey-day” and since it is now 2011 I think the nausea has worn off from them playing this video at least seven times a day for almost three years straight. If you can block that from your mind you realize that this is a quality track that arguably is their most popular and recognized song. I never considered this a “hair band” song but it clearly came out during this era and is usually viewed as one of the better songs associated with the “hair” movement. This is a classic song and has stood the test of time. I also think of summer when I hear this because it has often come up on my shuffle when I walk the beaches on Cape Cod.

4.     I Remember You –OK so this fits the mold of “Poison” or any “power ballads” that seem to dominate the airwaves during the late 1980’s and pre-Nirvana. This is another song where the video was played endlessly on MTV and I would say this song catapulted them to “rock star” status. It has some “sugar on it” but sometimes the sweetness is the best part of a nutritional diet. Every so often you can have a piece of cake and not feel guilty about it-this is one of those songs.

3.     The Threat –The next three songs come from “Slave to the Grind” which was released in 1991 and was a stark difference from their debut as they turned on the “heavy” switch which resulted in them having the first “metal” album to debut at number one on the Billboard charts. This knock-out of an album is, in my opinion, the best work these guys ever put out and it is due to songs like this one. Talk about an edge? Sebastian sounds possessed and seemed determine to shed the “hair-band” skin that everyone just assumed they would ride the “MTV” gravy train with power ballads. The guitar solo is righteous and Mr. Bach was at his very best during this period of rock before Nirvana came along and ruined everything.

2.     Slave To The Grind – The title track to their sophomore album will just knock your socks off as it seems to be a mixture of metal and punk which created this unbelievable vibe that Skid Row was a force to reckon with and be sure to look over your shoulder if you are walking down skid row. Again the guitar work is something to take notice and the heavy head-banging beats are perfect for your next kick boxing (or any kind of) workout. This kind of music psyches me up like none other and I wish they could have continued on as a unit just to see where this change in direction would have taken them. But at least we have this recording to show that this band was deservedly popular at one point and made their mark on metal/hard rock music.

1.     Monkey Business – If I had to come up with a list of all time great hard rock/metal songs, this one would definitely be included. Ironically the first time I heard it was actually on MTV as the video was “debuted” in the summer of 1991 and it just blew me away. I immediately bought the album and listened to it like a zillion times during the rest of 1991. I absolutely love the slow start to this classic tune and just like when water boils, once it reaches that point you need to watch out so that you don’t get burned from how hot this song is. This song makes me think of a how mean a dog would become if you try to take away the bone it is enjoying-this song grabs a hold of you and doesn’t let go-just like that dog holding on to its bone.

Bon Jovi

 

Image of Bon Jovi

5.     In & Out Of Love – It’s amazing on how a band sounds when they are trying to “make it big” and sometimes those songs end up being the best arrangements in an artists’ catalog. I would say that this tune lands in that category; there is an edge, a hunger that is apparent in this track that captivates the listener as Richie’s guitar riff is reminiscent of early Kiss-yes that’s right it is always back to KISS for me but that’s what I hear. Obviously the keyboards give it the flavor that KISS didn’t have but remember Doc was manager for both bands. They did the “hair band” thung by talking in the song asking the girl if she wanted to go for a ride on the bus. (obviously something they wouldn’t do now).

4.     Runaway – Now this is a Bon Jovi song that one can sink their teeth into as the head-banging groove is almost too much too take and Richie’s guitar work is something to take notice of as they blast their way into stardom. I can remember adding this to our rotation at MBIA for Dave’s boot camp class and as the volume was turned up everyone out on the floor was able to listen to this classic Bon Jovi tune. I bet you the folks out on the floor wanted to come in and join our class just because of this song-if this doesn’t move you, check for a pulse right now.

3.     Lay Your Hands On MeOK, I know what you are thinking, this song is so “cheesy” complete with all the bells and whistles of the “hair-band” movement but you have to remember that I have always had a huge appetite for this era. Seriously, I have always loved this song and maybe it is the “gospel” like vibe from Jon and the female background singers or maybe it is the “flashy” guitar riff from Richie but whatever it is, I find myself never skipping to another song when it lands on my I-Pod shuffle. I know many of you out there are making faces like you just ate one of those “sour” candies but like I said sometimes I need a little cheese in my diet as well. Oh well you can’t please everyone….

2.     Wanted Dead Or Alive – Even my uncle Gary likes this song and that is an almost achievement because he left the rock world behind in 1977, (I don’t think I have ever heard him say that he likes a song from the “teenage” music that I still listen to but I will never forget him saying that he liked this song), so I don’t want to hear any negative comments. This is by far their most popular song and when you see them perform it acoustically, you have to be mesmerized. Every band has that “signature” song and in my opinion, this is it. Richie’s guitar solo is rip roaring good and the entire vibe of the song puts you back in the wild wild west. “But I walk these streets…a loaded six-gun on my back…I play for keeps…cause I might not make it back.” I know that it is over-played and could have landed on my list of classic rock songs that should be banned for the next ten years but I haven’t heard it in a while, so I can leave it here at number two.

1.     Born To Be My Baby– This was another staple in the MBIA boot camp class as I can recall singing along to every word while running, dancing and “air-guitaring” to this upbeat fun song that again reminds me so much of summer. I know my kids are squinting in pain but again sometimes I need the “pop” in the more “pop”-ular songs or join the rest of the “pop”-ulation in loving a song. (usually I pick the most obscure songs, right?). “Two, three, four- nah,nah,nah,nah…rainy night and we worked all day…” LOL, I know what you are thinking but I am sticking to my guns. This is a perfect song to sing to that someone special in your life, albeit it with loud guitars!!!

Trivia Questions

Answers from last week:

1.     50 Cent

2.     Mickey Dolenz

3.     Billy Idol

4.     Geddy Lee

This week’s trivia (Random)-

1.     I am the lead singer for a rock band for some time now. We have had our ups and downs and we did break up for a while and I had trouble finding work because all I ever wanted to do was sing in a rock band. During our time away from each other one of the jobs I held was being a DJ spinning records at a Gentleman’s club. We came back strong in 2004 and haven’t stopped working since with two new albums as well as a double “cover” album and we seem to be on tour almost 10 months out of each year. Who am I and what is the name of our band?

2.     I came on the scene in the late 1980’s and turned the music world on its ears with my soulful voice and energetic ways. One of the first tours I had, I opened up for Little Feat and the buzz I created was evident as there was just as many people watching me as well as Feat. The next time around I was a headliner. I have been compared to Janis, who is my idol and I performed one of her most famous songs on a music awards ceremony and took the house down. Who am I?

3.     We exploded on the scene in the early 1990’s and took out every “hair band” in our path as the kids gravitated to our genre which we are credited with creating and still considered the best in this genre. Who are we?

4.     I was on top of the male dominated rock world during the 1980’s and women around the globe emulated the way I looked and dressed. In “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” their were some many girls at the high school depicted in the movie who looked like me? I married the guitarist in my band and we have been together ever since and I still tour every year. Who am I?

Name That Tune

Answers from last week:

1.     Simple Man – Lynyrd Skynyrd

2.     What’s Your Name – Lynyrd Skynyrd

3.     That Smell – Lynyrd Skynyrd

4.     Gimme Back My Bullets – Lynyrd Skynyrd

Can you guess the title from the following lyrics from part of the song?

1.     “…I said you can’t hide on the inside all the pain you’ve ever felt…ran to my heart but don’t look back… cause we’ve got nobody else…”

2.     “…what’s wrong with that…I’d like to know…cause here I go again…I…love…you…”

3.     “…just listen to the music of the traffic in the city…linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty…how can you lose…”

4.     “…always priests and politicians…have words to thank for their positions…words that scream for your submission…”

Back on this Day

Back on this day in 1967, Pink Floyd made their television debut on the “Tops of the Pops” on BBC and performed “See Emily Play.”

Back on this day in 1972, Procol Haram’s “A Whiter Shale of Pale” entered the Billboard charts and would peak at #5. Number 5? Are you kidding me? It should have been number one forever, such a phenomenal song. John Lennon had said that was one of his all time favorite songs.

Back on this day in 1984, Jimmy Page joined Yes on stage in Germany to perform a rendition of the Beatles “I’m Down.”

Back on this day in 1995, Pearl Jam ended their set early in San Francisco due to Eddie Vedder being sick. Neil Young finished up the show with a longer set but many PJ fans were not happy.

Back on this day in 1999, Eric Clapton sold his guitar that he composed “Layla” on for $497,500 and the proceeds went to a charity for centers for people with alcohol and drug dependencies.

Back in the day in 2000, KISS held a two day auction where they sold $875,000 on this day from the sale of stage props, costumes and instruments that they had used over the years.

If it is your birthday today, you share the same birth date with the legendary guitarist Jeff Beck, Mick Fleetwood, Chris Wood (Traffic), Colin Blunstone (Zombies) and John Illsley (Dire Straits).

By the way, tomorrow-June 25- marks the second year since Michael Jackson passed away. I still can’t believe he is no longer with us. Thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends as tomorrow will be a tough day for many.

June 17, 2011

Weekly Update – 06/17/2011

Foo Fighters at the Prudential Center (The “Rock”) on Mon. Nov. 14. Tickets on sale this morning at 10:00 a.m. $49.65 and $71.30.

Stevie Nicks at the PNC Arts Center on Thurs. Sept. 1. Pre-sale tickets available now until next Tues. June 21 at 10:00 p.m. for Citi card holders. General public on sale next Fri. June 24 at 10:00 a.m. $25, $62.35, $84.50, $143.50 and $201.

Barry Manilow at Radio City Music Hall on Fri. thru Sun. Feb. 10 – Feb. 12, 2012. Pre-sale tickets available until this Sun. June 19 at 10:00 a.m. if you have an American Express card. General public on sale this Mon. June 20 at 10:00 a.m. $63.90 and $326. (Again the gap in prices is a crime).

The Chris Robinson Brotherhood at the Music Hall of Williamsburg on Wed. Aug. 10. Tickets on sale today at noon. $20.

Incubus at Jones Beach on Sat. Sept. 3; at PNC Bank Arts Center on Sun. Sept. 4 and at the Mohegan Sun on Wed. Sept. 7.Tickets for Jones and PNC go on sale tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. for the general public. (If you have a “Citi” card you can purchase “pre-sale” tickets until 10:00 p.m. tonight). Jones: $27, $52, $62.50 and $116.65; PNC: $25 and $116.30; Tickets for Mohegan on sale next Fri. June 24 at 10:00 a.m. $58.

Mr. Big at BB Kings on Wed. Aug. 23. Tickets on sale this morning at 10:00 a.m. $35. (I don’t see Tommy Shaw or ted Nugent in the line-up but Billy Sheehan is)

Katy Perry at Madison Square Garden on Wed. Nov. 16. Tickets on sale this morning at 10:00 a.m. $63.15 and $83.60.

Jill Scott’s Summer Block Party at Jones Beach on Thurs. July 28. Tickets on sale this morning at 10:00 a.m. $84.45 and $176.75.

The Psychedelic Furs at Irving Plaza on Mon. Rocktober 3. Tickets on sale this morning at 10:00 a.m. $41.50.

Yellowcard at Irving Plaza on Wed. Nov. 2. Tickets on sale tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. $34.50

The Kills at Terminal 5 on Tues. Aug. 9. Tickets on sale today at noon. $30 ($35 day of show).

Bryan Ferry at the Wellmont Theater on Tues. Rocktober 4. Tickets on sale today at noon. $45, $55, $80 & $95.

Donny Osmond at the Oakdale Theater in Wallingford CT on Wed. Aug. 24. Tickets on sale this morning at 10:00 a.m. $41.50, $62.50 and $84.25.

Toby Keith at the Comcast Theater in Hartford CT on Fri. Sept. 16. Tickets on sale this morning at 10:00 a.m. $31.75 and $105.70

Liza Minelli at NJPAC on Fri. Dec. 16. Tickets on sale this morning at 10:00 a.m. $35 – $125. http://njpac.org/show_events_list.asp?shCode=15876

Other items:

Thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. Clarence “Big Man” Clemons for a healthy recovery after he suffered a stroke at the beginning of this week. Initial reports stated that he was very ill and it shows you how life comes at you. Just a few weeks ago he was performing with Lady GaGa on American Idol (he performs on two of her songs on her new album) and now this. This man is a legend and I, along with many others, have our hearts crossed that he comes out of this situation in good health. I wish you all the best, Clarence.

Review of Sully Erna at Grand Ballroom on Thurs. June 16, 2011

Image of Sully Erna

I went to see Sully Erna last night at the Grand Ballroom within the Hammerstine Ballroom (did not even know it existed) and it was on the 7th floor (did not know that there were that many floors and other “ballrooms” within the Hammerstein) as he performed his amazing solo album-“Avalon”- in its entirety. Folks I am telling you right now, everyone needs to spread the word on this album and the band’s performance, which was simply astonishing. He and his band set out to take you on a musical journey and it contained moments of pure exhilaration where you felt as if you were the only person in the audience watching this remarkably talented ensemble put the meaning of life back into music. Sully’s unbelievable voice will possess you and once the startling vocals of Lisa Guyer kicks in, the blending of the two will take you to heights you have never experienced before. If there was one thing that was so evident in the show was the passion that Ms. Guyer delivered and it was all natural-one could sense the music taking over her entire state of being and as an audience member, what could be better? There were so many instruments being played-piano, cello, guitars, keyboards, drums and bongos supplemented with the best instruments of all-the vocal prowess of Sully and Lisa but they made it all seem like one; this is what organized music is all about.

When they played “Sinner’s Prayer” I really felt like it was going to rain within the Grand Ballroom because of the atmosphere created by the music, it was like the skies were going to open and pour rain down on us-you had to feel the energy in the air as the musicianship was played with such precision. I felt like I was in the “Amazon” in the jungle instead of inside the concrete walls. There were moments of pure tenderness such as when Sully performed “My Light” as a chronological film of his daughter was displayed behind him as he poured his soul into the lyrics-“a simple kiss at night is the innocence I crave…I love you all my life, I love you everyday…” He then turned to the audience for help on the clapping part as Lisa entered and ignited the audience with her unbelievable vocals, especially towards the end. “You’ve become my light.” If this doesn’t lift you off the ground, nothing will. There was a moment in the show where I was really choked up and for the first time ever at a concert, I was near tears as the band performed- “Eyes of a Child”- as images of children with AIDS appeared on the screen. The song is filled with a cry for help and if everyone could have seen this performance around the world, I am truly convinced that all together we could find a way to end this dreadful disease. The pictures of severely stricken children actually did make me “turn away” because I couldn’t take the pain. As Chris Pecato artfully played his masterful guitar solo I felt like this was the best show I had ever been to, I wanted to take away the pain of all those children. Talk about taking you to another dimension?

One of the best performances of the night was “Cast Out (Spirit Ceremony)” as the band seemed like they were all possessed-and they were-with the music that was inside all of them as they graciously let it all out for us to take in. Sully, as we have all learned from his Godsmack shows, is an excellent percussionist and he sat on a chair and methodically played the bongos with laser like precision as Lisa again made us all drift off into another world. As the song came to the end, almost everyone of the eight member act was playing some sort of percussion instrument and each person seemed to be playing their own thing but again they made it feel like “one.” The night’s show stopper was “7 Years” and by this point I felt like I was the only one that was part of this musical journey and didn’t care if anyone was going to hear me sing or look at me like I was possessed-Sully and his band mates had done their job-they put the music back into life or life back into music, either way it was an incredible experience. You could see/feel both singers reaching deep down into their abdomens’ and bringing it all up and releasing the beauty from the bottom of their heart and souls. “Life is but the memories we’ve created…for all those too, remember you and celebrate our life…it’s time to fall away…it’s time to separate and fly!!!” This could have been the best song I have ever seen performed, absolutely incredible.

Sully Erna came out for the encores and introduced his “family” of friends, some new and some “older” and voiced his support for Godsmack for which he had no reason to do in my opinion because I “get” this other side of him and no explanation is really needed, he is truly talented in both projects. He poked at David Stefanelli, the drummer, stating that his hair did amazing things. Sully informed the audience that the guitarist, Chris, was a “classic rock” aficionado and was naming songs and Chris would deliver the riff. He then asked the audience to shout out a tune, “Another Brick in the Wall, Part I” but the guitar solo and Chris delivered. Then the crowd shouted out “Ace of Spades” and the game was quickly over as Sully correctly pointed out that the song wasn’t “classic rock.” The band played a masterful cover of “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac and then Sully instructed the audience to deliver back to him what he had done for them by asking us all to sing “Hey Jude” by the Beatles. Trying to reach down and give it my best made me realize how far down I had to dig to even try to match what Sully and Lisa do so naturally but hey I gave it my best shot and I believe that was all he was asking for. Thank you Sully for an incredible night and for the invitation into your new world of music. I can’t wait for the journey to continue.

Nuggets

Ou812

Van Halen. Now as you all know I am nuts for this band, especially now with Diamond Dave on board again but I believe I am one of the few fans who actually loved when Sammy was in the band as well. I love Van Halen through both periods (not bringing up Gary Cherone because that was only one album that seemed to be just slapped together, I have the utmost respect for Cherone but I don’t think he should have received all the blame for that failed mission, as we all have learned from Sammy’s new book-Eddie had some real issues, so Gary shouldn’t have been the only one with a “bulls-eye” on his back). Yes, there is a different explosive energy that ignites the band with Diamond Dave at the helm but the Red Rocker is no slouch either and he added his touch which translated into many great tunes as well. I have been on a “Van-Hagar” kick the last few weeks and it is due to their 1988 album –“OU812”- or “Oh…you ate one, too?”- a response to the Diamond Dave solo album which was entitled- “Eat ‘Em and Smile.” Both parties went through a bitter divorce and for the first couple of years after Diamond Dave left the band there was this constant bickering whereby Sammy dove head first into the fray and automatically took Eddie and Alex’s side (hey I guess if he wanted the gig, what other choice did he have?). Each band took shots at each other to lay blame on the break-up on each other’s door step and honestly after a while it was kind of exhausting.

OU812 is a solid album and it does contain songs that again attack Diamond Dave but the focus of the band started to shift away from all that noise and tried to steer into the defined path that would result in more “pop”-ular songs recognized by the general public. In a twist of irony, the Van Halen boys did not want to go in the musical direction that they stated that Roth was heading them down- which was the “Pop” highway but with Hagar, they ended “setting up shop” on “Main Street.” (see-“Feels So Good” which Van Halen has supposedly never performed live in concert because Alex and Michael Anthony felt the candy had way too much sugar on it). In my opinion, they had to throw in the “heavier” songs on to their albums just to prove that they were “metal” whereas with Roth that “edge” just seemed to be very natural.

Now this album will forever remind me of Mrs. Fagan and the rest of her “sons & daughters” who welcomed me into their family with open arms and my life changed forever once I met them all. They made me feel like family and let me into their world and the one thing I can always say is that all I do when I am with them is laugh. What else could be better? Isn’t life supposed to be fun? They make (made) it fun for me and I will forever thank them for taking me in. It was the summer of 1988 and we all jumped on a plane to visit Robert and Tommy who both lived in the Ft. Worth area of Texas and you know I had to bring some of my music with me. By the late 1980’s I was still purchasing “albums” but also was knee deep into buying “cassettes” and I was so into “eight one too” that I had to bring it on the trip. Every chance I had I slipped this cassette into the stereo system that Robert had and the house was so huge that you know I had to let everyone in the Haslet area know that Van Hagar was “in the house.” Mrs. Fagan would come in to the living room while I was “air-guitaring” and making believe I was the Red Rocker holding her ears and begging someone else to take over the controls of the music that was being played at massive volumes. I would apologize to her in the mornings as we would always be the first ones to arise and make a pot of coffee together (OK, well she made the coffee, I just drank it with her). Mrs. Fagan, thank you for putting up with me and my music selections. (I also had “Surprise Attack” by Tora Tora with me on that trip so she couldn’t escape all the screaming vocals and guitars).

So I recognize that there are some songs on this album that most of the general public would probably “skip over” and I do myself admit that as well. Hence this is why this album lands in the “Nuggets” section as there are some real keepers on this piece of work which when Eddie looks back he says that “sonically it is crap.” (What does “sonically” mean?) Anyway who cares there is some straight up rock and roll here as well as some soda pop which is easily digestible. This album was dedicated to Eddie’s father who had passed away during the recording of this work.  Here are the golden nuggets, in no particular order:

Mine All Mine – Talk about your “straight up rock and roll?” This is the perfect way to start off this album as the “head-banging” picks up the pace as this fast moving song makes me want to run up and down a wall (just like when Bo Jackson ran up the outfield wall in Kansas City and made that unbelievable catch). Throughout my teenage years and twenties there were two singers that I always “wanted to be” and they were Lou Gramm and Sammy Hagar. In my opinion, Hagar gave it his all every time he stepped behind a microphone or a guitar- a boxer’s mentality-you can feel his passion- “some only see what they want to see…claiming victory…ahh but that’s not me…give me truth…give me something real.” Yes he was the real deal and to this day he is still rocking out!! Way to go Sammy.

Black and Blue – Whenever I hear the opening licks to this song I am immediately transposed into something I can’t explain, it is like my entire blood stream is injected with an energy that is hard to match. I am also back in the living room at Robert’s house in Texas making believe I am a combination of Eddie, Alex, Michael and Sammy as I make believe I am playing guitar, drums, bass and singing as they all enter my veins and I become them. My walls are shaking as I am trying to get the volume higher but it is not working, it is at the “max” and I love on the DVD that they made back then when they all walk in single file behind each other, how cool was that? Freaking awesome tune!!!

Cabo Wabo – By this time everyone should know that Sammy’s all time favorite place on this earth is Cabo Wabo Mexico and the title track is, in my opinion, the best song on the album. I can’t explain what this song does to me either, you just have to feel it like I do. When a song makes you feel, then you know the artist has done their job and in this case Van Hagar gets an “A+” grade (or “AAA” in the business world). I think this was the song that threw Mrs. Fagan over the edge and she had enough of loud guitars and screaming and when Eddie’s solo comes into play, you just may have to hold your ears if you are around me because like I said the volume can’t get any higher. “Come on crash on the beach!!!” Are you ready for summer? This is a great summer song!!!

When It’s Love – Love the piano work by Eddie and this is a song that I always try to play on my headphones when I walk along the beach in Cape Cod-there is nothing better than a blue sky, water running up on the sand and you walking with this song playing in your ears. I would have loved to been in the studio when they worked on this song-it has to be considered one of their most complete songs ever recorded. C’mon don’t you feel the passion? It is dripping. Sammy is friggin’ great on this tune!!!

Finish What You Started – I can recall reading somewhere that when Van Hagar let The Scorpions into the studio to listen to this song before they were to hit the road on the “Monsters of Rock” tour together and the members of the German outfit had this look of puzzlement. “What is this? This ain’t heavy?” They were right but the song is so solid, especially Eddie’s solo, I can just picture his fingers rolling up and down the neck of his guitar. It has this funky “stop & go” groove that I can’t get enough of. Love this tune!!!

Album Review: “Circuital” by My Morning Jacket released on May 31, 2011

Circuital

I am a “late-comer” to the party that is called “My Morning Jacket.” I was hooked into them by their “Evil Urges” album and discovered their lead singer Jim James as one of the most hypnotic vocal performers of this new 21st Century. I can’t speak to the way the band “used to be” or how their journey into something “new” has escalated their fame or popularity, all I know is that this is now the second straight album that I am totally satisfied with the result and Jim James is fast becoming one of my all time “story teller” and/or singers of this generation. It always fascinates me when I read the comments from the “die-hard” fans that they dislike the direction that “their” band has taken as I will never understand why bands receive so much criticism for trying to better themselves or record music that is not the same as their last album. Why can’t bands grow? We are not automatically born into this world as adults, we develop into the person we are and who is to say when we should stop expanding our horizons? Shouldn’t this apply to musicians or bands?

Look at Paul Simon, the living legend, he is still creating and writing what he believes in and it is 2011, not 1969. There are so many other examples of artists who “create their own paths” each and try not to be the same from their last approach and many times the fans just want the same thing. (Perfect example- U2 creates a spectacular album-“No Line on the Horizon”- and have been vilified because fans want to hear a recycled version of “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”- it’s enough already). Anyway folks, “Circuital” is in my opinion, the best release of any album so far in 2011 and I have a feeling that it will be at or very near the top of my best albums of 2011 once December rolls around. There is “something” about this album that will keep you coming back for more. It is so different from anything out there today which only deepens their mystique while feeding you the most important ingredients that a band can do- passion with a mix of just about everything else to feed your soul and quench your thirst for life with a focus on memories while providing hope for the future. You know how certain books are “required reading?” Well folks, this album is “required listening.”

Side one starts off with the psychedelic “Victory Dance” which Jim James received the vibe after he had Lasik surgery. Folks, I am telling you-put a set of headphones on and squeeze them as hard as you can into your head and let this song take you to another planet as it did for me. I immediately knew I was going to love the entire album just based on this opening song. Again I don’t look at song titles or any lyrics the first time I cut my teeth on an album. I put it on and if it takes me away then I know I am in for a pleasant ride and as you really listen closely to this song (and album) you can hear all the different “noises” and professional production which results into some of the best quality songs of 2011 and beyond. It has a “crazy” ending-sort of like a symphony coming to a crash or a Steven Spielberg movie where a monster is awaiting and the beauty of “Circuital” begins with a simple sort of guitar riff that will have your head bopping up and down. For some reason I think of Gordon Lightfoot, I don’t know why but I feel him in James’ vocals. The acoustic guitars are pure ecstasy and you want them to come in and fill the parts but the genius of this band is that they tease you but eventually you are satisfied and if you don’t feel Jim James on this song, well you will not get the rest of this mesmerizing album. Listen to the piano work that seems to go “up and down” as the drumming is so infectious and again when you listen to all that is going on, you realize how talented this band from Kentucky really are.

Track # 3-“The Day Is Coming”- is one of the highlights on this fantastic album as the disjointed groove is something to behold. There is nothing out there today that is like this song. Jim James is absolutely the best male singer out there today just based on this song alone. His vocals are pure and crystal clear and look to the lyrics-“you receive, but always want more…taken, for granted…this lifetime and what’s up ahead”-to make you think about the day that is coming. “Wonderful (The Way I Feel)” is another spectacular song which makes you stand up and pay attention as you wonder how this band can create such beauty and seemingly fly under the radar. This song is a spine tingling event where you lie on every word that Jim is so eloquently singing into your heart-“I’m going where there ain’t no fear…I’m going where the spirit is near…I’m going where the living is easy…and the people are kind…a new state of mind”- powerful words, no? “Outta My System” starts off like the Beatles “Good Day Sunshine” and again has that “psychedelic” feeling to it but so melodic that it pulls you in and doesn’t let go. Remember those old cartoons where the aroma of something would lift the characters off their feet and bring them to the smell? This is the same thing. The topic is what I have been preaching for a while, when you’re young you do things that you probably would not do once you become older, hence the theme of “Outta My System.” (Although robbing cars is something that I probably would not have experienced, especially living my “Richie Cunnigham” type of life but I can relate to the song).

Side two starts off with the very cool-“Holding on To Black Metal”-where Jim’s vocals are on high octane throughout (I don’t know how he stays up there for the entire four minutes plus). According to Jim, it is the song is a joke but not a joke at the same time. You hold on to metal despite the cries from your grandmother that that metal music is no good for the soul. But on the other hand some can’t move on to anything else. (does this sound familiar all you Metallica hater’s out there?). The groove is so extremely cool and the best part of the song are the background vocals provided by an all girl choir from Louisville Kentucky. Listen to the guitar parts on this tune and tell me you have heard something like this before? So ridiculously talented and they make it seem so easy, this song just flows with no bumps in the road at all. Could be the coolest song recorded in 2011. “First Light” starts off like an old Soundgarden tune would and then takes a turn for the old “R&B” and “Soul” highway where you can tell that these guys had to have parents/grandparents who played that kind of genres around them as they grew into adults. I don’t like to repeat myself but if you listen to all that is going on behind the scenes, it is really incredible how it all comes together-these guys are in a zone that few other bands achieve, in my opinion. Don’t know what to call it? Good-don’t put it in a box because they won’t allow it-if it moves you and you like it, then what’s more important. They end the song on kind of a Pete Townshend moment where I can picture the “windmill” arm like moment-bringing it back to Soundgarden. I could see a case for “You Wanna Freak Out” being the best song on the album and you would get no argument from me (although my favorite is yet to come). The beginning sort of reminds me of Collective Soul but again it quickly turns into a MMJ song where the mesmerizing effects of Jim James continues to put you into another stratosphere as he really has to be considered the best male vocalist out there today. This is a head shaking song that will have you swaying back and forth and without notice a heavy guitar riff explodes into the tune and rips the cover off the ball. This song makes me freak out…on how good it is.

When I first heard “Slow, Slow Tune” I thought it was going to be the “filler” of the album but as you give it a chance it lulls you into this fantastic place whereby you think back to that special moment in your life, like when I had my first dance with my lovely bride more than twenty years ago. Jim James vocal range is so impressive on this song, it is unbelievable. The guitar solo lifts you off your feet and makes you float away, this song has quickly turned into one of the best on the album. You see what happens when something is given a chance? Ok the absolute best song on the album and is already my all time favorite MMJ song-“Movin’ Away”- is pure brilliance. I have to stop writing and listen to this song because I don’t want to be interrupted when I listen to this unbelievable masterpiece. The lyrics speak to the heart and it’s about someone who has moved away from you (or you have moved away from) and the feelings that go along with it. Sometimes you feel sad about the things you are leaving behind and sometimes you don’t but what I love best is the quote that Jim James gave when he speaks about the meaning of the song- “It is so filled with the possibility of change”- and as I thought about it, I couldn’t have said it any better (of course I did not write it). Folks, there are songs that come along like this that totally have such a deep impact on your life and for me, this song has captivated my being like none other. There are the words- “a new life to create” repeated twice and I immediately think of my new nephew who has entered our lives as we try to move on from losing his grandmother for whom he will never physically meet but who embodies all of what she is about. I know Mr. James didn’t have this meaning when he wrote this tune but it is always how it resonates with the person who interprets it, doesn’t it? She has moved away from us but he has entered our lives, and has taken away some of the pain. This could be the most beautiful song ever recorded, the album is worth the price of admission just on this song alone. You will love the way he says the word “influence” just as much as I do. Spectacular ending to a spectacular album, this song will send chills down your spine.

“Circuital” is an unbelievable piece of work and the more I listen to it, the more I am convinced that this may possibly end up the best album of the 2010 decade and we’re only into the second year of this decade. I won’t listen to any negativity that may come out of the fans who feel that they need to do “The Tennessee Fire” or “Z” all over again. Their creativity is undeniable, their sound is their own and they won’t be defined into one certain genre. They record songs that they want to make and the results are irrefutable, My Morning Jacket are in a zone like few other bands have achieved or will ever reach. Spread the word about this album so it gets back to me and the “circle” will have been formed. Every song on this album is fantastic in their own way, listen for yourself and tell me you disagree.

Top Ten

Image of Lynyrd Skynyrd

This week’s I-Pod shuffle landed on “Mississippi Kid” by Lynyrd Skynyrd and I immediately thought that they should be the subject of this week’s “Top Ten.” The age old question rears its ugly head again and we all ask-“What if?”- Yes, what if Ronnie Van Zandt, guitarist Steve Gaines and vocalist Cassie Gaines (all 28 years old) were all still around today instead of succumbing to that tragic day (Rocktober 20, 1977) when the plane they were all on crashed into the earth and took the lives of the already legendary members of one of the most prolific rock bands in the history of music. You know they would still be touring and recording (as they are still today) but who knows what heights they would have achieved? They were the rough, tough, gritty members who took no prisoners. They pissed off anyone and everyone but never apologized for it- a sort of “punk” southern rock band that refused to abide by any rules but the trail they blazed on their own. And blaze they did. Think about it for a second-recall right now how many songs that you know off the tip of your tongue right now if someone asked you-how many great songs did “Len-erd Skin-erd” make? Yes we all know “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Free Bird” (which will NOT be on this list just because they are a given and they are endlessly played on classic rock radio format). But then you say “Gimme Three Steps,” “That Smell,” “Tuesday’s Gone,” “What’s Your Name” and the list just goes on. Was there a more soulful singer than Ronnie Van Zandt-I think when he was born he knew immediately that music was going to be his passion (and profession). If you ever get a chance to see their biography documentary on television (sometimes on VH1 classic or the channel that does “Biographies”) it is a must see event.

I have always had a fascination with folks that “break all the rules” and after watching this documentary it only made my curiosity deepen and I plunged into their music knowing some of the history behind their albums and ultimately what made them tick. The bottom line is the music is really the only thing that mattered to them and all the other stuff they seem to let get in the way because it was their way of life. I’m not saying I agree with this but again it is the “fascination” factor, I guess because I have lived my life like Richie Cunningham and always wondered what it would feel like to be the “rebel.” Anyway back to the music, Lynyrd Skynyrd sat on top of the music world for some time during the 1970’s and created some of the best rock music this planet has ever heard and they have to be considered one of the all-time great bands. Now I do not profess to know all there is to know about this band like the “die-hard” would, but hopefully there are one or two songs on my list that would land on their file of the top ten songs by Lynyrd Skynyrd. I look at this attempt the same way I did for Billy Joel and U2-I consider myself a fan but do not know their entire catalog like I do for Van Halen or Metallica. So here it is, I am stuck on an island and have been informed that I can have only ten songs by the band pronounced “Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd.” These Are Them:

10.     The Needle and The Spoon – Obviously from the title of the song, it deals with drug usage and unfortunately it seems to be part of the rock and roll culture, right? “Sex, drugs and rock & roll.” The message here though is not to mess with the needle and the spoon. “Lord they are going to bury you boy.” The guitar riffs sound eerily similar to “Sweet Home Alabama” but then it veers off into its own vibe and how much more can you say about Ronnie Van Zandt? He was born to do this. There is a sweet guitar solo that adds to the flavor of the tune, all round this is a super solid song.

9.       Whiskey Rock-A-Roller –They had such a distinctive sound and songs like these are in my opinion what defined them-this is pure rock and roll mixed with side order of country and blues that separated them from the rest. I absolutely love the piano work in this song (and so many others) and I encourage my youngest son to listen to these songs to get the fever as he plays piano. Folks this is pure as the maple syrup that you would pour on to your stack of pancakes on Sunday morning, it doesn’t get much better than this. Ronnie’s vocals are pure genius.

8.       Mississippi Kid – This aforementioned song sort of reminds me of what Led Zeppelin would perform if they were from the southern part of the U.S. because that acoustic guitar sound is just like something Jimmy would play. Sometimes the “simplest” of songs have such a stark appeal and I am so attracted to this tune because it is performed with precision, passion and most of all, love. Again if you feel it then the band or artist have done their job- you have to feel this. (Now of course some of the lyrics are violent but the focus is on the musicianship and vocals). “…Well I’m not looking for trouble but nobody dogs me around…” The more I listen to the lyrics, the more offensive it may be, especially towards women-using the word “fetch” is beyond offensive. So I will understand if this doesn’t make your list but I love the musicianship, especially the harmonica solo.

7.      Down South Jukin’ – This knee slappin’ tune bleeds with that old style country music which clearly identifies what influenced these boys when they were growing up. I feel like I am on a farm in the South East part of the U.S. on a hot summer morning as I am riding on the back of a tractor filled with hay as I lay with a blade of grass stuck between my teeth while trying to match the “drawl” like vocal style of Mr. Van Zandt-he sounds like he is putting no effort at all into singing the tune because it just comes naturally. People wish that they could sing like him and have tried for years which is a testament on his influence and legacy. By the way, being from the “North East” I have no idea what jukin’ means, do you?

6.       I Know A Little – They had me on the opening guitar licks and once the drums and piano come in well it is pure ecstasy. I can just picture a “barn” party where people are coming through the entrance and Skynyrd are up on stage playing this great tune as everyone just starts dancing with everyone next to them. The party is already in high gear as the men on the grass/hay floor start to “air-guitar” and “air-piano” to some of the greatest solos you have ever heard. I remember putting this song on the MBIA boot camp class with Dave and everyone loved this tune-this is what rock and roll is all about. I could listen to this song all day long. This song will also forever remind me of Mr. Resto, he loves this song.

5.       Take Your Time – The opening groove will make you feel like you just walked into a “local saloon” with your ten gallon cowboy hat, bad ass boots and six gun holster at your side as you walk up to the bar and order yourself a boiler maker and knock it back like it like a child drinks chocolate milk. The guitar solo half way through the song is so righteous, so virtuous that you will wonder why you have not focused on it until now. Then when the piano solo comes into play, you will picture that same bar with some dude with a ZZ Top like beard playing while the entire crowd gathers around the piano and watches in amazement. These boys can play. (Again watch out for the “saucy” lyrics, especially for the “youngin’s”).

4.       Comin’ Home – In my opinion, songs like this come around very few times in our lifetime and it always amazes me how sometimes a song like this will “fly under the radar” for the majority of the population. This tune makes me think of how great America is- “baseball, apple pie and Chevrolet.” (My youngest son says I watch too much television because I am always quoting those old great shows or commercials-I love “TV Land”). The arrangement of this track is second to none, folks this is an absolute “stunner” of a song. Do you know it?

3.       Gimme Three StepsOk I know what you are thinking-“Are you kidding me? This song is played as much as “Sweet Home Alabama” (for which I have asked to be banned on classic rock radio for the next ten years)-how does this song make your list? You have every right to be upset and I acknowledge that this is played way too much but you know what? – I tried to keep it off my top ten but as I “battled” between so many songs, I couldn’t put this one to bed-there is something about this song which keeps me coming back for more and I don’t know why. I understand if you want to break something when you first hear the opening licks of the song, I get it but I feel like I am being pursued by that “Mister.” Every time I hear this song I feel like the “fat fellow with the hair colored yell-Oh” and feel like I have to run for my life before being shot. I said “excuuuusssee meeeee.” Sorry folks this comes with me if I am stuck on an island but it may not be on your list.

2.       Tuesday’s Gone – I bet many of you out there are wondering why “Simple Man” isn’t on this list and it would definitely crack my top 15 but for some reason “Tuesday’s Gone” had always hit me harder than “Simple Man.”Both are great tunes but I love the way Ronnie sings this song, it is freaking incredible. The slow groove in this tune is so infectious you can not help but sway back and forth and once Ronnie comes in with the “Train roll on…on down the line…won’t you please take me far away” I am already lifted off the ground with an outer body experience. I also love the “crispness” of the drums, especially when the “high hat” is hit with such precision to accentuate Ronnie’s words. It sounds like there is an entire orchestra behind them as the arrangement of this song is second to none-the piano solo is so righteous it makes me want to jump up and give them a high five. This is pure brilliance, ‘Nuff said!!!

1.       Don’t Ask Me No Questions– Talk about an “In your face” song (besides “Workin’ for MCA”). My assumption is that this song is directed towards the press as the band catapulted to stardom after their debut and if you didn’t want the “pull no punches” answer, then “don’t ask no questions.” The guitar lick is so sweet in the beginning of the song and of course the piano is just doing its thing. The best way to listen to this song is with a great set of headphones surrounding your whole head and squeeze tight so that you can soak it all in. I know what you are thinking-“How can this be your number one song?”-and my response is “Why not?” It has everything- a rocking groove, so much going on in the background with piano, horns and a very infectious groove but what I love best about this song is that it puts a smile on my face-especially towards the end of the song when Ronnie exclaims- “so don’t ask no stupid questions and I won’t send you away.” Rest in peace Ronnie (and Steve and Cassie). You are truly missed.

Trivia Questions

Answers from last week:

1.     Ric Ocasek

2.     Elvis Costello

3.     Stevie Nicks

4.     Carole King

This week’s trivia (Random)-

1.     Who is Curtis Jackson?

2.     Who is George Michael Braddock?

3.     Who is William Broad?

4.     Who is Gary Lee Weinrib?

Name That Tune

Answers from last week:

1.     Let’s Go – The Cars

2.     You’re All I’ve Got Tonight – The Cars

3.     Touch and Go – The Cars

4.     Misfit Kid –  The Cars

Can you guess the title from the following lyrics from part of the song?

1.     “…well mama told me…when I was young…said sit beside me…my only son…and listen closely…to what I say…”

2.     “…back at the hotel Lord we got such a mess…it seems that one of the crew had to go with one of the guests…ahh yeah……”

3.     “…whiskey bottles and brand new cars…oak tree you’re in my way…there’s too much…”

4.     “…put ‘em back where they belong…ain’t foolin’ around cause I done had my fun…ain’t gonna see no more damage done…”

Back on this Day

Back on this day in 1972, Rolling Stones album-“Exile on Mainstreet”- reached number one status on Billboard Top 200 albums and stayed there for four weeks.

Back on this day in 1972, Grateful Dead’s original founding member-Ron “Pigpen” McKernan- played with the band for the last time at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.

Back on this day in 1978, “You’re The One That I Want” by John Travolta and Olivia Newton John in the movie “Grease” went to number one on the UK singles chart and stayed there for nine weeks.

Back on this day in 1980, The Mighty Led Zeppelin kicked off their last tour together by playing in Germany.

Back on this day in 1989, Def Leppard’s“Hysteria” enters its 96th week in the top 40 of the Billboard 200 album chart, tying a record set by Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in The U.S.A.”

Back on this day in 1991, Van Halen released their ninth studio album-“For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge” which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 album chart and went on to sell 3 million plus in the U.S. alone.

If it is your birthday today, you share the same birth date with Barry Manilow and Gregg Rolie (Sanatana and Journey)

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