Friday, December 24, 2010

STREET PLAYER, My Chicago Story, Danny Seraphine

As told by founding member, drummer Danny Seraphine, this autobiography about the formation, rise and decline of the rock band, Chicago is a comprehensive, if narrowly recalled history of this band. Given Chicago's publicly elusive identity, any history of this brass and guitar ensemble should be enough for an engaging rock and roll read.

Seraphine holds several gripes with the band, not the least of which is his firing from Chicago in 1990, and this odd-man-out point of view, (he eventually finds himself hermit-like in the Colorado wilderness literally contemplating life), leaves the book a little slanted in perspective and just short of trusting, even as you anxiously hang onto his simple and sometimes eloquent prose.

With an outgoing Italian-bred excitement, Seraphine's book is like a cross between a juvenile teen novel championing street gangs and petty crime, and a confessional rock and roll expose. His reconstruction of the Chicago timeline is told with all the enthusiasm of a teen-ager hot-wiring his first car.

Yet one feels slighted by recollection of events that are given the once over by Seraphine's 'kid from Chicago' narrative. I have a difficult time believing he was fired from the band because his playing was inadequate. Surely the band would cite otherwise.

Their debut album from 1969, "Chicago Transit Authority" (their original name) is a slick and perfect pop album (one of my favorites), steeped in shiny production and jazz influenced innovative arrangements, and Seraphine's hurried recollection implies the band simply went into a recording studio and put it to wax. That no mention is made of the brilliant percussive finale to the song, "Beginnings" by this drummer-writer, while the song itself is briefly mentioned, suggests a team of producers and a whole lot of money lie unaccredited.

This and other glossed over incidents make Seraphine's passive mob connections, (he insists they are just friends from Chicago - two of them were found shot through the head in a cornfield), all the more genuine.

Yet the book sparkles with interest in other venues. Encounters with Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and other rock and roll icons are incidental brushes with life that go believed. We'll take his word that he called Janis Joplin a bitch to her face after a bitter exchange, and trust him when he tells us it was his good buddy, and not himself who spent an intimate night with her. He may be pulling our chain informing us his buddy had claw marks down his back the following morning.

The sad death of Chicago founding member Terry Kath, (guitarist and memorable lead vocal on "Make Me Smile" and "Colour My World"), a presumed suicide (or not) in 1978, is a heart breaker and serves as a driving force to Seraphine's rags to riches, (and back to semi-precious rags) story.

His identifying himself as an absent father is commendable, and his gentle plea to reconcile with Chicago at the end of the book is cloying.

Still despite reservation, I can't help but like author Danny Seraphine. My grandmother also made killer lasagna. It's enough to believe that he believes everything he says.

Friday, November 19, 2010

the paper days

My Angie Baby song list seemed like a good idea at the time... it was momentarily cosmic ... I came home from work and had no heat, no water, no gas, and my living space was drenched from the dead hot water tank. indeed it was making a strange growling sound I chose to ignore. sounds of the house at night are getting fierce, I said. rehearsal in an hour. favorite books were a mash of soggy ink and pulp ... (quote) "soon the (x) will be gone and we'll get on with this thing called life",... i've never had a rehearsal schedule that has lasted more than 24 hours. As soon as I got the schedule I scheduled all my remaining vacation days at work to coincide with the theatre schedule ... not bingo ... I am working with the finest group of actors I've ever seen assembled. I am acting as if I've never spoken aloud before ... a cocktail rocky horror in pink tights with my ability to delve into simple minds I am not, ... you. you hacked into my computer to dig some dirt up and I've bored you to death. ... true story! but years old - i'm going, going, gone ...

Saturday, November 13, 2010


best random play


  2. NO MORE MR. NICE GUY, Alice Cooper

  3. FREAKSHOW, Ani Difranco

  4. I WANT YOU BACK, The Jackson Five

  5. THERE'S NO WAY OUT OF HERE, David Gilmour

  6. HANGING AROUND, The Cardigans

  7. SOMETHIN' STUPID, Frank and Nancy Sinatra

  8. TOBIN SPROUT, Courage The Tack

  9. GOON SQUAD, Elvis Costello and The Attractions

  10. DON'T YOU EVER LEAVE ME, Hanoi Rocks

11. Empty Sky, Elton John

107. ANGIE BABY, Helen Reddy

Saturday, November 6, 2010

THE LAST NIGHT OF BALLYHOO, The Jewish Repertory Theatre of Western New York, The Alleyway Theatre

A Christmas tree in the living room of a Jewish family in 1939 Atlanta, Georgia forces different reactions from characters in The Jewish Repertory Theatre of Western New York's production of Alfred Uhry's THE LAST NIGHT OF BALLYHOO.

One family member defends the custom as quaint and decorative like hearts on Valentine's Day. Another character is appalled that a Jewish family would suggest the celebration of a Christian holiday. An upstart teen enters the living room and declares with warmth and familiarity, "Ah! A Hanukkah bush!".

Meanwhile the threat of World War II looms from the nightly news on the family radio, and Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh are in town for the world premier of "Gone With The Wind". But never mind that. A seasonal teen party, Ballyhoo, is commencing and Lala Levy doesn't have a date.

THE LAST NIGHT OF BALLYHOO is a period domestic comedy as cozy as a holiday eggnog and as spirited as a shot of whiskey in the cup. It offers a modest life lesson to be true to one's self, and drapes a cheery wreath around a family at holiday time. What Eugene O'Neill's "Ah, Wilderness!" does for the Fourth of July, BALLYHOO does for a Jewish Christmas.

Occasionally, genuinely upsetting drama finds its way into this light-hearted affair with Lala, (Jennifer Leibowitz) threatening her own glass menagerie daydream of movie star magazines and pulp fiction romance. Her petty teen angst (boy trouble mostly) are suggested as evolving from deeper psychological roots. Fortunately for the warm comedy lovers among us, any recognizable pathos concerning flirting rather than engaging life become weightless, wat with the Ballyhoo dance and everything else going on.

While the Christmas tree is a funny prop and remains on stage throughout, it doesn't look characterized as representative of its caretakers. As it is, it looks like it was purchased at Dollar General with lights intact, and immediately ignored.

Why is playwright Alfred Uhry's domestic arrangement so severe? Initially what we see suggests a common family situation, like Beaver Cleaver could burst through the door at any moment. We soon learn that the adult Levy family consists of a man, his sister, and his sister-in-law, and this production offers little reason for the awkward familial design. Indeed the adults of this play are of little psychological value.

Lisa Ludwig as apparent matriarch Boo Levy boosts BALLYHOO with a wildly gruff voice and manner, keeping Christmas as one might drink a green beer in a silly hat on St. Patrick's Day. She makes comedic mincemeat of any suggestion she is a tragic Tennessee Williams heroine.

There is a beautiful scene with Sunny Freitag, (Bonnie Jean Taylor) on a train home from college, gazing at the familiar sights of home, that is as richly detailed as cinema.

THE LAST NIGHT OF BALLYHOO, winner of the 1997 Tony for Best Play and penned by the author of "Driving Miss Daisy", will find you confronting your own magnificent voids, as one character put it describing her religion. Take my Catholicism, please. The play is sweet and touching, especially its final scene, and offers a heartfelt expression of the holidays.

It plays through November 7 at The Alleyway Theatre in Buffalo, New York.

This article was first published by the author at

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Paper Chase

The next time someone hands me a rehearsal schedule, I am going to tear it up into tiny bits and casually fling it over my shoulder.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Dan shows a tongue full of offerings from the ziti table.

DEVO at Northern Lights in Clifton Park, New York

Devo still looks like Devo but they're much older now. Their planetary crash test dummy appearance - robotic, geeky and punk - has matured into a nostalgic grandfatherly warmth, as familiar and fascinating as your favorite sci-fi flick from childhood.

The Northern Lights rock and roll club in Clifton Park, New York, wedged in a suburban shopping plaza between a Family Dollar store and a new-fangled alternative church, served ziti, hot dogs and sausages from a small steam table in the same room Devo took the stage. Somehow, steamed ziti and Devo just don't mix well.

Still it seemed a fitting environment for the return of a band who look like they emerged from the bowels of a chemistry lab. For the record, the server was hot, the hot dog was not.

A curved wall-to-wall video backdrop, typical of Devo shows of the past, projected psychedelic spud boy drama as they opened with the fiery anti-gun plea, "Don't Shoot, I'm A Man", off the recently released SOMETHING FOR EVERYBODY. Mark Mothersbaugh's electrifying synth keypad delivered a spine-tingling ride up and down the musical scale.

Devo marched through their recording career with, notably, several songs off their acclaimed debut from 1978, Q: ARE WE NOT MEN? A: WE ARE DEVO!. "Jocko Homo" spirited the crowd into a marketing dream come true vocal chant, ("We are Devo!"), and the punkish "Mongoloid" gave the hopping audience a dizzying dancing beat. "Uncontrollable Urge", a primitive lust for sex, was raw and beautiful.

"Peek-A-Boo!" from OH NO! IT'S DEVO was as comically evil if a bit more thunderous than ever, with a bass line so heavy and deep I thought my knee caps were going to pop out.

"Gates Of Steel" and "The Girl U Want" along with the title track from FREEDOM OF CHOICE, were perfectly rendered and welcome reminders of a cassette tape I literally wore out back in the day. Their ten minutes of mainstream fame, "Whip It", a chart-topping ode to masturbation, was performed, unlike the rest of the show, without distinction. It was handed to the crowd like a salesman's calling card.

Cover songs, The Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" and Johnny Rivers' "Secret Agent Man" seemed reborn again with the former sounding positively calypso and "Secret Agent Man" losing a paranoid edge to a wizened resigned maturity - "They've given me a number, and they've taken away my name". "So what, who cares", the song seemed to say.

Musically the band was tight and disciplined and the vocals were as freakishly nasal as ever. They can still hop in unison and play guitar at the same time, and Bob Mothersbuugh's (Mark's brother) lead guitar was fast and fluid. Special mention must be made of younger by comparison drummer Jeff Friedl who led the beat so ferociously you'd think he wrote the music himself.

Booji Boy, a decadent and delightful Devo persona in mask, resembling a walking, talking deformed Kewpie doll, made his obligatory appearance at show's end, interrupting finale "Beautiful World" with a "personal" story about an encounter with the late Michael Jackson. Apparently, Jackson too thought it was a beautiful world. Booji Boy nearly shook a tear from our eye.

They tossed plastic energy dome caps into the audience, ($30 a pop at the Devo marketing table), shook pom-poms like grotesque cheerleaders, ripped the anti-contaminant uniforms off each other, and threw the shredded clothing into the crowd. Gimme, gimme eBay souvenir! They then continued playing in their underwear which was decidedly Devo fashioned.

They saluted, marched, hopped, and pranced all over the stage. There is little doubt these guys are eating their Wheaties. But mostly they rocked, as only a good mongoloid from planet Earth can.

This review was first published by the author at

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Todd Rundgren at The Tralf, July 16, 2010

A bartender in the crowded Tralf Music Hall where Todd Rundgren was moments away from taking the stage explained the sweltering heat in the building by saying the sun bakes through the unfortunately placed windows all day making it difficult for the AC to chill the room at night.

Right. Or maybe money dictates the level of that cooler. Baby, it was hot in there.

On stage, Rundgren joked about the warm, heavy air while dousing the sweat off his face with a towel as he and his band delivered a nearly 2-hour blistering guitar led set of blues-great Robert Johnson covers and rock-great Tundgren classics. We were treated to a bright and sunny "I Saw The Light" at show's end.

There were times when the four piece band, infused deeply in the breath of supreme guitar instrumental heaven, sounded as accomplished and tight as any live rock music I have heard in my lifetime. I know Rundgren is a great songwriter, producer and singer. I had forgotten he is also a great guitarist.

I swear, the next time I intend to tell the world how I felt about a Todd Rundgren show, via online review, I will take notes. On this hot summer night, I was too busy dancing and drinking warm beer to offer a comprehensive account of the evening. Is this a German import or a Bud Light?

I can tell you this - Rundgren cooled a hot room. And then sizzled it. "Soul Brother" was particularly soooooo fine!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Theatre Review: YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU, The Chautauqua Theatre Company

The Chautauqua Theatre Company, on the grounds of the historic gated community of The Chautauqua Institution, best described as an intellectual amusement park, with lecture halls. libraries and an opera house, opened its 2010 theatre season on July 15 with the 1936 Pulitzer Prize winning YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU, by George S. Kaufman and Moses Hart.

It's a madcap comedy featuring on-stage explosions that startled several of the opening night audience, ( I was counting the fire exits after the first firecracker went off ), and a frenzied police raid interrupting the general domestic mayhem occurring in the living room of the eccentric Sycamore family, a group of New York City oddballs who defy conventions of society and march to the beat of a different drum, or as is the case here, xylophone.

The Sycamores are a family free of strife, politically independent with a healthy distrust of government that leans towards a moderate socialist stance, a fashionable notion in Depression-era 1936. The patriarch of the clan, Martin Vanderhoff ( veteran actor Stuart Margolin ), refuses to pay income tax (doesn't believe in it ), and their home serves as a halfway house for idle and earnest dreamers. They lull their active days away in urban utopia with fanciful endeavors.

Penelope Sycamore (Kristine Neilsen ) is a playwright of eleven apparently unpublished plays boasting thematic titles like The War Play, The Religious Play, and The Sex Play. She became a playwright only because a typewriter was mistakenly delivered to the door. We are never certain of her play-writing abilities and she soon returns to another passion - painting Olympic decathlon discus throwers.

Her husband Paul ( Michael Bradford Sullivan ) wants nothing more than to perfect recreational fireworks, hence the explosions and billowing smoke coming from the basement door. Son-in-law Ed ( Brendan Titley ) plays classical compositions on xylophone when he is not accidentally publishing anti-government propaganda on his living room printing press. His wife Essie (Julia Ogilvie ) struggles valiantly to be a ballerina, with eight years lessons under her belt she leaps and bounds across the stage with all the grace of a balled and chained kangaroo. They are a decidedly wacky bunch.

The centerpiece of the elaborate and gorgeous living room set design by Lee Savage, is an aquatic tank of pet snakes. The snakes serve as a springboard for several sight gags.

Conflict arises when the normal and lovely daughter Alice ( Rachel Mewbron ), the oddball Munster, becomes engaged to her upper-class and wealthy boss, Tony Kirby ( Charlie Thurston ) whose family tree is as far away from the Sycamores as an oak is to a chia pet. The young couple arrange for the in-laws to meet at a dinner at the Sycamore home.

As situation comedy will dictate, the stuffy Wall Street devoted in-laws, in full dinner dress, arrive at the Sycamore home on the wrong night. For the Sycamores it's just another evening at home with bombs exploding and assorted lunatics running amok. It's a beautifully executed scene of comedic timing.

Overwhelmingly, the production is a jewel, helped mightily by Kristine Nielsen's delightfully zany portrayal of Penelope Sycamore, a character that hints at a genuine bipolar disorder when delivered by lesser actresses. Nielsen projects a joy for life with a scatterbrained, hurried pace and delivery as if she expects to uncover an escaped snake at every turn. She remains accessibly sane within the framework of her nuttiness and lays the groundwork for the over-the-top lunacy around her.

I loved Julia Ogilvie's bizarre attempts at ballet throughout the play. She spends most of her time high on tippy toes and flutters in and out the door like a confused but trained gust of wind. She is a constant comedic marvel and is clearly disguising an expert dance talent.

Carol Halstead, in the dual role of Mrs. Kirby and the visiting Russian countess, Olga, is superb as the stone-faced Kirby, and exceptionally so as the exiled countess. Her thick exaggerated yet perfect Russian accent is a tickle to the ear and her towering slighted persona as the once Russian royal forced to work for tips in a New York City restaurant, crowns this already colorful production in the third act.

Opening night jitters were apparent. There was a few jumped and dropped lines and the recovery was none too swift. A tall standing floor lamp fell over and members of the ensemble nearly halted proceedings to re-erect it, as if they were emergency responders to the fallen lamp. There was a tendency from the actors to project boldly into the audience as if attempting to engage us further. Need they be told their chemistry is engaging enough?

I don't know why YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1936. It's highly entertaining but still an elaborate bit of fluff. The lazy anti-government platform must have spoken clearly to the Depression-era audience who made it a colossal hit on Broadway. Today, in the care of this ensemble, it's a testament to the staying power of a tight and funny script. It's a rollicking night of good theater.

YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU plays through July 25 at The Chautauqua Institution in beautiful Chautauqua, New York.

this review was first published at

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Question: Are we not an '80s novelty act performing "Whip It" to die-hard fans on an endless reunion tour through Europe, Japan and Australia?

Answer: We are middle-aged Devo!

SOMETHING FOR EVERYBODY, Devo's first studio album in twenty years is sure to darken the pupils of seriously affected de-evolution believers. Although every song seems a commercially infused variation on their big 1980 hit, "Whip It" the album offers enough sonic retardation - wobbling sheets of aluminum, computer sound glitches, spud boy yelping - to satisfy even the casual devotee. A strict adherence to '80s new wave - lots of synth keyboard and mechanic-like percussion - gives the album an impossibly organic sound like we never left the decade.

"Later Is Now" borrows the opening bars of The Who's "Baba O'Reilly" and gently steers into a Talk Talk melody that recalls the best of '80s radio. "Siren Ready" offers an adrenalin charged vocal track that sounds like a competitive driver weaving through traffic in downtown Afghanistan. "What We Do" has a guitar grind over a dopey, middle-aged view on mortality, ("eenie, meenie, minee, mo"), and "Sumthin'" is an addictive foot-to-the-pedal rocker with shaking wobbling aluminum presenting the state of democracy as a gilded jewel offering "something for everybody".

Often these songs are quickly digested and short on mental afterglow although the catchy rhythms of "Later Is Now" and "Sumthin'" have found a permanent home in my melody maker mind. You won't be chanting the moronic and militant "Jocko Homo" from their first album anytime soon again or pondering the state of de-evolution as a feasible scientific philosophy as these songs serve mostly as short punchy radio anthems.

Blame the commercial art of it on the tracks being voted for inclusion to the album by fans at the Club Devo internet site where a more radical song like "Signal Ready" didn't make the final cut. Devo remedied the situation by releasing three versions of the album - Standard Version, Song Study Version, and Deluxe Version - with different sequencing and exclusive tracks on each. A vinyl edition is due in July.

Devo have always been best considered an intellectual joke not to be taken too seriously and never to be dismissed as a passing novelty despite the anti-contaminant body suits, energy dome caps and a week's duty as co-hosts of "The Mike Douglas Show" in the early '80s, (John Lennon they are not). Their debut album from 1978, the Brian Eno produced Q: ARE WE NOT MEN? A: WE ARE DEVO! is a slaughterhouse pop masterpiece and remains one of new wave's finest moments. Since then their albums have been hit or miss and SOMETHING FOR EVERYBODY mostly hits like a tireless energy bunny.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Theatre Review: I AM HAMLET, at the Subversive Theatre Collective

I AM HAMLET is part rock opera, part puppet theatre, and part cinema, yet it's still a staged working of Shakespeare's "Hamlet", as told by a jester. In this production, the Danish prince, suspecting his mother and stepfather of murder, struts to a nearby standing microphone and belts out a rock music song just about the time he'd be delivering an anguished soliloquy in a more traditional production.

His unfortunate fiance, Ophelia, clutches flowers and skips merrily across the stage, (picture Porky Pig's girlfriend Petunia at her most coy), and belts out her own righteous babe song as if in answer to Meatloaf's "Paradise By The Dashboard Lights", while gleefully shaking her tush in the direction of her forlorn lover.

Meanwhile, Hamlet's father's ghost appears, cued by spooky sound effects, dressed as if he assaulted the wardrobe rack at a Japanese Noh theatre production, and lip-speaks to a heavily produced taped recording. This bit goes on for some time. Derroch and Dan Death, the gravediggers, are tacky Halloween hand puppets animated by the only actor on stage. This is "Hamlet" performed by a single actor.

It may be true that the word, "ham", an actor who steals the spotlight, is derived from the play's title. In I AM HAMLET we watch an actor's subconscious anxiety while playing the role manipulate every aspect of the play, reducing all around him to insignificance.

Ophelia's father, Polonius, wearing a rubbery grotesque mask, has never before seemed such a genuinely funny character. The once martyred and righteous player is now a buffoon, and his death scene is a hilarious comedy only altered from the traditional play by a funny face.

Ophelia is no longer the delicate flower overpowered with depression, but a dumb blond who jumps into the river to allow Hamlet more freedom on the stage. The ghost, maybe Shakespeare's most towering character, looks as though he could be hosting a third rate children's television show on local TV. Only the Ham himself manages to gnaw the woodwork of earnest and limited acting. He's succeeded in eliminating everyone else from the stage.

The production is not simply played for laughs, although it certainly isn't serious Shakespeare either. Actor/performer Brian Morey and director Joe Siracusa have given us "Hamlet" splattered with a vaudevillian pop art. It may touch upon the profound but cerebral merit is soon swept away by the fine but sparse Broadway-like original music, (picture a small scale Shakespearean "Rent"), sung most exceptionally by Morey, and the sheer audacity of this foolish man delivering "Hamlet" as though his life depended on it.

If it does have meaning it may lie in the dead skull of the jester Yorick, ("Alas, poor Yorick"), who in this production should be grinning like a crazed jack-o-lantern. Morey glides through each scene with a magician's sleight of hand, creating a natural rhythm that eludes the absence of actors on the stage.

His King Claudius is a little heavy on the Peter O'Toole, and the production's "play within a play" jarringly projected on a movie screen and a bit long in the tooth, is such an abrupt change of circus rings you half expect a hot dog vendor to come hawking through the aisle. Still, this first-rate joke is a whole lot better than second rate Shakespeare.

I AM HAMLET plays at the Subversive Theatre Collective at The Manny Fried Playhouse, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through June 5 in Buffalo, New York.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Music Review: Peter Frampton, THANK YOU MR. CHURCHILL

You want to party like it's 1976? Peter Frampton's new album, THANK YOU MR. CHURCHILL, has enough guitar riffs and musical hooks to rival the pleasures of his celebrated FRAMPTON COMES ALIVE album, still the fourth biggest selling live album in America. While CHURCHILL offers a more rocking COMES ALIVE vibe, it doesn't sound like yesterday's clunky 8-track and there's not a talking box to be heard. It's a breezy bit of serious rock and roll in the classic rock vein that fits nicely among the sons of grunge and teeny-bopper kiddie cocktail music that fills today's radio.

Not that you can expect to hear any of it on the radio even as "Invisible Man" from the album is currently the number six single on the classic rock best sellers list, (it takes a satellite radio connection to realize such a list even exists). It's a catchy Motown inspired rocker, think The Four Tops not so much The Temptations, that may lay evidence to what I've always suspected: Frampton is an unaccredited session player on scores of hit records - "I'm pulling the strings in the shadows behind the scenes. I'm keeping the beat, before you know it you'll be on your feet dancing in the street.", he sings invoking the pleasant beat of Smoky Robinson's "Tears Of A Clown".

It's a tight rocker but not as efficient a hit single as the cutesy titled "I'm Due A You", with a 'do-what-you-do-wah-do' lyrical atmosphere underscored by a foreboding darkness with happily infectious guitar riffs. Steely Dan at their most paranoid contemplative moments come to mind - "emotionally overdrawn, the check's in the mail, something is creeping across the lawn, my stalker's out of jail.".

While the title track seems an impersonal and clumsy sentiment, (Frampton claims he is thanking Churchill for ending WWII so his father can return and impregnate his mother, so he may be born, he may as well be thanking the milk man), "Vaudeville Nanna and The Banjole" is a soft spoken reminiscence of his first affair with a crude stringed instrument, a memory that serves as a nuclei to his life, longing for "guitars behind glass that I wanted to play". The seven minutes plus instrumental, "Suite Liberte" combines surf rock lullaby with blues guitar licks in a simple elegant invitation to every fledgling guitarist to pick up your guitar and play along.

Elsewhere the album rides a wave of competent rockers featuring Frampton's fiery and jagged playing, ("Road To The Sun" especially rocks), and testimonial ballads that find him an ever maturing lyricist forever embedded in rock culture.

Peter Frampton, legendary 16 year old guitar player of beloved British blues rock band Humble Pie, proven songwriter and hit maker, seasoned musician and sudden overnight sensation, time weary traveler of the humble concert trail, Grammy award winning composer of the 2007 rock instrumental, FINGERPRINTS, is still punching the clock of the music we love that is rock and roll. So who do you got to blow away on guitar to be inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

in reference to: Music Review: Peter Frampton - Thank You Mr. Churchill - Page 2 - Blogcritics Music (view on Google Sidewiki)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


April 17 was Record Store Day. It's celebrated the third Saturday every April. This year marked its third anniversary. It was conceived by a record store employee to celebrate the unique culture of the nearly abolished and newly resurgent independently owned record store. It has grown into a minor cultural phenomena with several recording labels releasing major records in minimum quantity on Record Store Day. It was parodied on this past weekend's "Saturday Night Live". This year's crop is the biggest and best yet with unique one of a kind and reissued records from Leonard Cohen, Depeche Mode, Bob Dylan, The Flaming Lips, Green Day, Modest Mouse, New Order, Pavement, Radiohead, Sonic Youth, Bruce Springsteen, John Lennon, Talking Heads, Tom Waits, Wilco, Neil Young, and nearly countless others.So I ventured out early driving to Jamestown, NY to hit my first record store, Townhouse Records on East 4th Street downtown. I've never been. It's small. So small that I kept tripping on crates of records that were scewed about and bumping my head into things that were hanging. It's a more records through the hippie bead archway sort of place. The three or four young men who worked there, (or maybe they were living there), didn't so much as greet me when I walked in to what looked like a private bedroom under construction with records, records, records! After a deadly silence I summoned a "Hello!", to which they responded. Mind you, it felt like I walked into somebody's home.So I got my bearings and navigated through the store and it's a pretty cool store, with record player collectibles in eye-catching spots, and when I say record player collectibles, I mean crafted replicas of record players, like Hummel, or bigger, or those spooky snow babies. And much cooler, unknown, nearly antique loving replicas of the phonograph. Still I couldn't grasp this store. Not understanding in a few moments the layout, and trying to land in a comfort zone, and truly stepping over mounds of stuff with every step in every direction I anchored on the punk section which was woefully small given this castle of records. My mission was to find the Record Store Day records under a code of silence. All the workers, so close to me I could have reached out and slapped them, were indulged in a constant superficial conversation. I would say personal conversation but it was too dull to be personal. They were annoying. They kept buzzing by me with stacks of records, yacking, yacking, yacking. Mind you, we are all in the same small room. And I left my glasses in the car and I can't read the fine print without them. So I have to leave this intimate situation and then return. Mind you, this is a second story 'townhouse' through a door at the end of a dilapidating hallway like you're gonna meet a guy named 'Mike'. And I think I'm the only customer but I'm not sure. There were four of them, walking in and out the door yacking, yacking, yacking, and after awhile I couldn't tell if they worked there or not. At least one of them seemed versatile enough to be record store worker, owner, customer, and friend from the neighborhood rolled into one. But I felt funny about leaving and coming back, like they'll think, he leaves he comes back he's gonna kill us all with a gun, so I announce, "I am leaving but I will be right back". They took no notice like one of them could have said, "is there someone in the room with us?".I found the Record Store section, and it was a humble and proud little group. I suppose it costs these small independent record stores to supply the new releases on Record Store Day and while a lot is offered in limited quantities from the record labels, each store has only a share dependent on the size and success of the store. Perfectly understandable, and the kid's face lit up when he told me I was looking at a Record Store Day exclusive. It was a reissue of TV ON THE RADIO's 2008 release on vinyl. I have it on CD. I really wanted to buy a Record Store exclusive off these guys, the most humble store I visited but I was anxious to leave. They kept standing around blocking the records while browsing them, yacking, yacking, yacking. And they kept greeting each other with an absolutely serious, "Happy Record Store Day", sounding like an exchange between committed Communists. I did buy some old records - The Alarm, "Electric Folklore Live", ( I played it and it is in pristine condition with poster, even as I am the last Alarm fan), Sly and The Family Stone, "Back on The Right Track", (it skipped), and David Bowie, "Tonight", often cited as his worst album ever. Great price and they gave me three protective record sleeves. But no cookie. There was a plate of them freshly baked at the register, certainly in honor of Record Store Day, and I was sort of munchie, and they looked good, but I was not going to reach over and just take a cookie from what may have been some-one's lunch. My eyes on the cookies must have expressed fascination, hunger, delight. Yes, I would like a cookie, thank you very much. Dude, your arm goes flinging uncontrollably at your side, you pick up the plate of cookies, you smile, and you say, would you like a cookie? To your only customer.

Several hours later I drove into Buffalo to visit Spiral Scratch Records on Delaware Avenue, another record store I've never been. Here is a familiar record store - small and dark, with characters out of a Crumb comic book hunched over prized gold. Like the hushed word is we're about to be raided but everything's cool. The RSD (Record Store Day) selections were greater than in Townhouse. But not quite what I wanted. The guy browsing next to me said it, - "this is so not a day to be spending 30 bucks on a record. " Yes, be selective. I still had a third store to visit. I bought a Canadian punk compilation, Canadian Relics, a seven inch vinyl record that I now love, for pittance. I was determined to buy at least one RSD album at my next stop.

But more trouble. I parked on the road right in front of the store and some jerk parked his car illegally just an inch in front of me, and I was wedged in. Oh, I know this. Somebody likes me and they made it so I couldn't leave my parking space, and I'd be forced to talk with them. This trouble follows me everywhere. God knows what trouble I've caused myself this time. Surely my sarcasm is evident.

So I go back into the record store and I yell, "Who's the asshole that blocked me in?". Well, only in my brutish fantasy. Actually I worked those wheels and tires like a surgeon removing a sliver. I went sideways out of my parking space. It took me several minutes what with traffic bombarding me every inch. The nerve of some people.

Record Theatre was like the plaza suite of RSD stores. Both locations had a live band playing every hour, and the place was mobbed. Pennsylvania & Gold, an alt-Americana outfit were playing when I was there. A nice version of Dylan's "One More Cup of Coffee". I've been going to Record Theatre since I was a teenager. At the University Plaza location they had a slew of RSD merchandise. Still I somehow left Record Store Day 2010 without any designated merchandise. Now I'll probably do what I do every year after RSD - buy the records on ebay for much more than they cost on RSD. I had a list of all the offerings this year and my favorites just weren't in stock at these locations.

Pennyslvania & Gold at Record Theatre, Record Store Day 2010

I really ragged on the guys from Townhouse Records. I love the store and I will be back to buy more records as soon as my horse comes in. It was an amusing surreal experience and I enjoyed joking about it, and I relish my time there. After all, I can be an intimidating presence and it was the first hour of Record Store Day, nerves were frayed...

"You got to be young and never grow old, it's the golden age of rock 'n roll"
Mott the Hoople

Saturday, April 17, 2010

MATT POND PA, The Dark Leaves

Matt Pond PA, may have stayed too long in the woods. Their earthy landscape of harvest moons and shadowy creeks harboring folk-goth songs of sorrow and lust has sustained them through nine albums. Their newest, THE DARK LEAVES doesn't depart from the cello driven forested parlor music they are identified with or singer, lyricist, and only constant band member Matt Pond's woeful meanderings in which his sad and weary view often struck a gentle nerve of alienation and heartache, ("The Hollows" from the MEASURE album is exciting and mournful). In THE DARK LEAVES the cloying lyrics, ("how it kills me, oh love kills me") and same old sound, like chamber music led by a pop star, finally sounds only dreary.

Given the band's narrow scope the songs here are quite diverse. "Remains" features a mesmerizing electric keyboard against a marching gospel-like ballad, "Winter Fawn" sounds like Roger Waters' "Grandchester Meadows" as a wind-up squeaky toy, and "Specks" has a go-tell-it-on-the-mountain fiddle with a echoed Springsteen yelp. But the stuff is getting maddeningly tiresome due to Pond's increasingly metaphoric lyrics set mostly against a moonlit country creek in which we waded, we swam, we frolicked, and now we want to get the hell out of these woods. New ground needed to be unearthed and we don't even go deeper into the hollow as the album flickers with interest via warm musical passages but extinguishes itself in a monotonous vibe.
The album may pass the mental hum test as parts of it gently breeze through my mind hours after hearing it, but still it's got no bite, no stinging refrain, too much salt in the wound and not enough tongue. It's lovely, just not lovely enough. Even the title of the album, The Dark Leaves, the dark departs, like there's got to be a morning after, leaves the most unimaginative of thoughts. I liked Matt Pond PA so much more when I thought they were a place, and not a person in Pennsylvania.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

MOVIE: The Ghost Writer

Kim Cattrall and Ewan McGregor in Polanski's THE GHOST WRITER

Roman Polanski's new film, THE GHOST WRITER is a suspeseful if conventional espionage thriller along the paranoid lines of such 1970s cinema as ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN and THE PARALLAX VIEW in which American institutions like the CIA and the Secret Service are seen as nothing short of the scariest movie monster since Godzilla.

Written by Polanski and Robert Harris from his novel, the film tells the intriguing story of a Tony Blair-inspired retired British Prime Minister, Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan), who hires a ghost writer, (Ewan McGregor) to finish rewriting his memoirs after the previous ghost writer he hired dies unexpectedly and maybe mysteriously before the manuscript is completed. As the nameless ghost writer moves into the Martha's Island winter retreat where the former Prime Minister is holed up while finishing his book, there is a public outcry and accusation that the former British politician is responsible for the kidnapping of terror suspects and their subsequent torture by the CIA.

As in his previous works like ROSEMARY'S BABY, THE TENANT, and BITTER MOON, Polanski is a craftsman at building suspense based not on cinematography but on a screenplay. This taut topical thriller is standard storytelling yet the audience finds itself ingrained in the plot and anxious for the next development which offers profound conviction and subtle, ever growing suspense as thrilling as a protagonist dangling from the precipice of a cliff. While it doesn't empower the viewer as those 1970s films that proved engrossing enough to contribute to the removal of a U.S. President, it does leave us asking, just short of hopelessly, if we are indeed enslaved to the global powers that be.

The casting of several unlikely actors in key roles gives the film an eerie recognition as if Polanski is familiarizing us with headlines from our own times. Kim Cattrall, Samantha on TV's SEX AND THE CITY, is smashing and indeed an actress as Lang's right hand woman. Jim Belushi - yes, the sitcom star - is momentarily unrecognizable as a completely bald publishing boss, and the eternally young Timothy Hutton is a mild-mannered, possibly sinister lawyer. Aged character actor Eli Wallach is gritty and colorful, but seen too briefly as a local oddball possessing a link to the mystery.

THE GHOST WRITER is not the grand motion picture Polanski's THE PIANIST was, but it is entertaining and thoughtful and drawn from the hand of a director who at 76 years old can still spellbind his audience.

Monday, April 5, 2010

THEATRE REVIEW, Macbeth, The New Phoenix

One of the three withches in New Phoenix Theatre on the Park's production of MACBETH forcefully and accidentally rammed into my leg as she squirmed and gesticulated at the feet of the audience while prophesying the splendor and doom of the would-be-king Macbeth. The witch, played by a male actor hunching like a manic cat, clucking like a bewitched hen, crouching so close to me I could have used her as a footstool, looked up at me and hissed after clobbering my shin with her full body weight. I managed a polite smile. Later when a sword was slammed to the ground after a valiant bit of swashbuckling, it did a sort of bounce on its handle and landed with a crash just inches from another audience member. Thse poor players were eager to convey the murderous rage of power-hungry Macbeth and I suppose we were fortunate enough to leave the theatre fairly uninjured.

The production's minimalist set design - a chair here, a lantern there - the spare costumes in goth black with red drape signifying royalty, and the intimate but small stage space demanded a strong verbal resonance from the actors which they delivered like the hushed secrecy of a candlelight storytelling. The stage was set, indeed emptied for something wicked coming as the players routinely and creatively performed this darkest drama with as much enthusiastic spirit as children playing from a costume trunk in a spooky attic.

The pervertedly devoted Macbeth and Lady Macbeth (Brian Riggs and Kate LoConti), plotting to inherit the royal crown of Scotland through murderous deeds, played off one another brilliantly displaying a hateful dance of rage and lust, confronting and comforting each other like caged injured animals while violently kissing and coiling thier clamped embraced bodies together in what seemed less a display of heated emotion than of erotic asphyxiation. The acrobatic tumbling witches (watch out for that body slam) looked at times to be playing a wildly complex game of Twister and successfully created a goofy sort of mysticism meets yoga. The swordplay was exceptional and offered relief in the form of exciting choreographed movement when interrupting the increasingly intense tragedy.

Occasionally the players lost themselves in the deep anguish of their speeches, and words became whimpers, shrieks and squeals. Macbeth particularly, with his back turned and far into the depths of his tormented psyche, was often indiscernible. Yet his broken physical stance spoke measures.

Seating on all four sides of the stage left a glaring red light directly in my sight path forcing me to cup my hand over my eyes to see the action on stage before it landed in my lap. A lighting design error maybe, but the suspense of the story heightened with the emergence of a player silhouetted against a blazing sunset. Hence, horrible shadow! The nine-member cast accomodated the 30-plus characters in the play with efficient and casual costume alteration: acquiring a limp, throwing on a hat, affixing a pair of glasses, sometimes in mid-scene, creating a bit of a Mad Hatter identity crisis. This too only added to the charm of this hands-on, grassroots, and devoted production.

Directed by Kelli Bocock-Natale, this fine dose of Shakespeare plays at the New Phoenix on the Park in Buffalo, New York on Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays at 8PM through April 10. Thursday night performances are pay-what-you-can.

in reference to: (view on Google Sidewiki)

Friday, April 2, 2010


I have Traffic's "John Barleycorn Must Die" on CD, and a vinyl record copy of "The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys", possibly the worst rock and roll album title ever. Both offer a blues based meets prog platform and a rich, laid back listening experience. I'm also listening to ToyMatinee's one and only album on CD from 1990, a rather bland bit of rock made interesting by some quirky sonic touches, (the sudden clarinet carnival at the closing of "Turn It Up Salvadore"). Lyricist, singer Kevin Gilbert died in 1996 while indulging in autoerotic asphyxiation, the sexual arousal of suffocation. Dude, thanks for the stylish exit. Also, The Toys 45rpm, "A Lover's Concerto", from 1965 may be the first time classical music made it into the popular hits charts. Based on Bach's "Minuet in G Major", which is now believed to be not written by Bach at all but by Christian Petzold, (oh, who gives a living crap) the record is a beautiful slice of perfect melody by the first in a long line of emerging black girl groups. I've misplaced the damn record in my cluttered office space excuse for an apartment or I'd offer a pic of it. Decca? Needless to say those opening Motown-like brass bars leading into that lovely girl singer, -"how gentle is the rain? -" takes me back to the first times I realized I loved radio. If I feel like coughing up the pocket change, maybe you can hear it here. Or better yet, there, at the widget at the top of this blog.

I'm experimenting with web browsers and I'm about to slam my head into a wall out of frustration.

The Toys

Today is Good Friday, that's a good paid day off. Thank you Jesus. The grandest prank ever played on mankind, not! not! that is NOT awesome! Awesome is what the kids at Fatima said - ( I'm kidding, I'm kidding! Oh frickin' persecute me why don't you!) forgive me, I possess the finest of Christian traits, when I die he's going to walk up to me and say, "Good job, man!",.... my faith has been shaken, sucks sausages in hell- i don't know why i said that. I love you, another champale my brow beaten friend? No, i haven't seen john and yes, it looks like rain. I did a play. Langston Hughe's HARVEST at Subversive Theatre. An actor walked out two weeks before opening and I got a call to fill in. That's what I like. No pressure, no 6 week rehearsal schedule. Here I come to save the day. My mediocrity is improving

And I'm writing for Oh, to be an online published writer. That has been my goal in life.

I was wondering what to do with my 3- day weekend, and I'm tired of diligence. I'm tired of grocery shopping, and frickin' laundry and paying bills, and coffee in the morning and a snack at night, of hellos and goodbyes, of calls and TV. I woke up musing that I'd like to see that new Polanski film, maybe go shopping, Barnes and Noble Christmas gift card may be expiring, and then I realized what I really want to do this weekend is get blitzed and hang around home dusting cobwebs or something. Venture out into the yard and look odd for the neighbors boredom. Party out, the ceiling's the limit! If you find me wandering around Dunkirk, point me to my home.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Tina Weymouth
A girl singer with a very limited vocal range singing minimal exotica pop that you can dance to. And for those who don't want to dance there's a candy dish of drugs nearby. The Tom Tom Club is Talking Heads alumni, and married couple, Tina Weymouth (bass) and Chris Frantz (drums). They formed The Tom Tom Club as a side project to Talking Heads in 1980. CLOSE TO THE BONE (Sire 123-), from 1983 is their second album. Chris Frantz's trippy percussive outbreaks come when they're needed most and Tina Weymouth, well god love her, but she's like your twelve year old niece putting on a show for the family. Their sunny day martini LSD weekend is what the me-want-drugs decade was all about. "The Man With The Four Way Hips" leaves the letter D for disco scorched on your forehead. "Pleasure of Love" is all peace daisies and keen observation - I met him one day at the park / I was scared because it was after dark, and he wore bad street clothes. - and "Bamboo Town" is your standard 'rock stars in the back of a cab' detour. You can hear Bamboo Town and especially The Man With The Four Way Hips here.

Speaking of druggie music, TONE CASUALTIES , Music For The Next Generation, (1998) was a free label sampler from Tone Casualties when I ordered a record from them. It's glossy and dark tech stuff from artists around the globe. All the tracks are spacey with particular mind bending attention given to Madam Crain & Wahorn's "Panties On Fire", a late night sex confessional in which Madam asserts "it's very, very zen to be with one thousand men"; it can be heard via the widget at the top of this post, Holger Czukay vs. Doctor Walker's "Backup Dream" finds the former leader of revered kraut rock band, "Can", experimenting with spooky tech and noise, and Blue and Holding's "Sleep", is a cool blend of electronica blues and Peter Gabriel mysticism from the album, "Hell".

The original cast recording of The Who's Tommy is here. I can't take it for Peter Townsend's original rock opera. Everybody sounds like they should be wearing a Vikings war helmet with animal horns. Finale "Listening To You" is climactic but a kazoo would do it justice, even The New Seekers' livened up their lives with a decent rendition of it. I've tried to warm up to this CD, but it only makes me long for the original album.

Friday, February 5, 2010


It wasn't long ago I couldn't fathom enjoying an original Broadway cast recording. Aside from rock musicals like "Jesus Christ Superstar", "Hair", and even "Godspell", songs from Broadway were too simple, disposable and brassy, like an ingrained patriotic anthem you can recite as perfectly as your zip code. Video recordings of Stephen Sondheim's work changed all that, when I found great depth in the musical compositions of his Broadway hits; "Sweeney Todd - The Demon Barber of Fleet Street", "Sunday In The Park With George", and "Into The Woods". Now I savor Broadway cast recordings; a staple in thrift store record bins, and while much of it still sounds like the dreary and hokey soundtrack from last year's Ice Capades, (My Fair Lady), just as often certain shows become my favorite music. Such is the case with the Broadway cast recording of TITANIC, A NEW MUSICAL (RCA Victor). I was considering auditioning for a role in a local production of TITANIC so I bought the Broadway cast recording, and while I never did go on the audition, I've eaten the CD countless times. I remember the first time I played it - ugh!, - too 'in your face' with sentiment and laughs, too familiar, too obvious, too bloated, and too damn joyful. But I put the CD on for another spin, and then another, and another, and before long I was joining the finale chorus as a chartered member on board. To sit down and listen to the entire work became as satisfying as a great book, satisfying on two levels - to envision the dynamics of the Broadway stage and to experience the life of the Titanic as opposed to its death. The music gloriously and tragically reveals the historic incident with a broad range of the social, spiritual and psychological forces that came together on that faithful voyage. It hints at reasons for our obsession with a tragic incident that while certainly a footnote in history, is undeserving of its beloved celebratory status. Composer Maury Yeston borrows heavily from the baroque-like orchestrations familiar to music listeners in 1912, the year of the plunge, giving the piece a timely authenticity as the orchestra waves roll, the confident ship streams foreword, and in operatic verse the story is told. Moments of intense emotion; hear the fear and anger that rivals the iceberg in "The Blame"; the captains final chilling note as the ship engulfs him in "To Be A Captain (reprise)"; ship designer Thomas Andrews heart wrenching plea for salvation in "Mr. Andrews' Vision", plus more traditional show-stoppers and comedy. An actual artifact, a piece of music found among the treasures of the 1994 salvaging of The Titanic, and previously unknown to music historians, "Autumn", is a featured song and serves as a constant musical theme. I remember hearing of this show when it first played Broadway in 1997 and picturing a horrific musical comedy with a bad oceanic set design and singing people garbling as they drown, like community theatre gone berserk. Its tryouts in New York, (no out of town tryouts due to the elaborate technical production), were fairly horrific with the ship refusing to sink when it was supposed to. Reviews were generally negative, and it seemed the show was as sunk as its namesake. In walk fans like Rosie O'Donnell who featured the cast on her show, championing the musical in a high stakes word-of-mouth campaign ($?). The show became a success on Broadway, winning the Tony award for Best Musical, but never made a profit for its producers. It's a great blast of music which defines the Titanic on a musical scale and wears its Broadway rust proudly. Here is the Rosie O'Donnel clip with the cast singing a truncated version of the opening scene. And we'll be right back with Kelly McGillis.

I picked up a slew of unfamiliar indie rock titles somewhere and it included THE TIMBRE PROJECT's "Ruining Perfectly Good Songs" (Ice Cream Headache Records), Jaime d'almeida's one man, multi instrumentalist band which employs guest musicians from the Boston area. It's a breezy bit of indie rock in the songwriter vein, often coming a little too close to sounding a lot like Marcy Playground. Opening track, "Everything's Graded" is my favorite, a jangly bit of pop with a cool distorted guitar weaving in and out like the sound waves of a shaking aluminum saw.

Tin Tin is Steve Grows (guitar) and Steve Kipner (keyboards), a band produced by Maurice Gibbs of The Bee Gees, who released two albums in their short career between 1969 - 1973. Both albums tanked and in 1971 their record company half-heartedly released "Toast and Marmalade For Tea" off their first album, expecting it to fail as did previous singles. It became an unexpected hit record, and their only success. It's a ridiculous pop song with repetitious lyrics set to an off-center, off-speed eastern orient-like guitar rising to an elaborate repetition of form. It may be the worst record you ever heard. I spent a modest chunk of my childhood weekly allowance on it. Here, miraculously is a vintage video of it.

Monday, January 25, 2010


How's this for a rock and roll fantasy? Imagine being the chauffeur for The Who in the late 1960s. You get to know Peter, Roger and the gang on an intimate level and eventually hand Peter Townsend the songs you have written. You want to be a rock star. He gets back to you and agrees to produce your first album and play bass on your first single. Such is the story of Thunderclap Newman, a vehicle created by Townsend to produce the songs of his former chauffeur and Who-roadie, John 'Speedy' Keen. Along with Keen on vocals and percussion, Townsend enlisted the aid of Dixieland pianist Andy 'Thunderclap' Newman and 15 year old Glasgowian guitarist Jimmy McCulloch to create the recording band. Their first single, "Something In The Air", (originally titled "Revolution", but retitled when a certain other British band released a single under the same name), with Townsend on bass under the pseudonym Bijou Drains, was a number one hit in England and rose to number 37 on the American charts. The song, an apocalyptic lofty ballad with full orchestra enticing a memorable guitar riff has earned itself a respectable reputation, having been featured in several recent movies and TV shows including "Kingpin", "Almost Famous", and "My Name Is Earl". The subsequent album, the Peter Townsend produced "Hollywood Dream", (1969) their one and only album, was also successful in Britain and developed a cult following in The States. I was introduced to THUNDERCLAP NEWMAN on a cool Autumn night when I was about 13 years old. I took a walk around the neighborhood to see what was shaking and ran into some older guys under a street light talking about music. They were buzzing about Thunderclap Newman and apparently listening to their debut, "Hollywood Dream" in stereo headphones was nothing short of nirvana. I was invited in to one of their homes to sample the album in headphones, and I soon understood their excitement. The music took me immediately. Particularly there was a harmonica piece that crackled brilliantly through headphones as if opening a psychedelic portal in my adolescent brain. For this 13 year old this was some heavy adult stereo shit. Who can explain what happens to what is essentially a one-hit-wonder band? A second single, "Accidents" from "Hollywood Dream" , culled from it's 9 minutes and 40 seconds album length, reached number 46 in England but didn't chart at all in the States, and two more singles made no noise whatsoever. The band broke up in 1971. Keen and Newman each made solo albums, and Keen produced Motorhead's first album. He died in 2002 apparently of complications from arthritis. McCulloch played with Paul McCartney and Wings and died from a heroin overdose at age 26 in 1979. Newman has recently resurrected the band under the title, The Thunderclap Newman Band and has performed some gigs in England.

The original American album cover of Hollywood Dream

Somewhere behind me is a trail of lost and forgotten records where you can find a copy of the American edition of "Hollywood Dream". It's cover, a life-sized cardboard picture of a man (Keen) propped up against the Hollywood Hills, is different than the pic on the British album whose cover now graces the CD. I'm pretty happy with the CD, (1991 PolyGram). It contains the entire album plus alternate versions and a few unreleased songs. Heavily influenced by The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper, the nearly 10 minute long "Accidents" cues all things British by Beatles' standards (think a crime ridden Penny Lane) along with jazz piano, guitar solo, harmonica and kazoo interrupted by a steady stream of screeching tires, sirens, and general shattering of glass, leading up to a psychedelia a la "A Day In The Life". There's a sweet post-hippie naivety to "The Reason", a song as pleasant and dreamy as "Something In The Air", and the name has changed but the sentiment is the same in a cover of Dylan's "Open The Door, Homer", which becomes open the door, Richard expressing the point of view of a chauffeur turned rock star. "Look Around" is a 3 minute McCoys like jangle made melodic by an addictive electric piano refrain, and "Stormy Petrel", offers a kazoo solo which, in it's simplicity reaches an uproarious comedic height.
So Jim Stone and Kevin Childs, if you happen across my blog some day - dig this, - I AM STILL LISTENING TO THUNDERCLAP NEWMAN! You can hear and see the band mock playing "Something In The Air" here in a vintage video, and the complete "Accidents" can be heard here.

The Thompson Twins have said they were living as squatters in an abandoned building in London before becoming a 1980s pop sensation. The Twins, - Tom Bailey, Alannah Currie, and Joe Leeway, not related and certainly not twins, were trimmed to a trio after Bailey, (keyboards, vocals) experimented with several other TT lineups for their first two albums. 1983's "Side Kicks", titled "Quick Step and Side Kick" in England, became a major success in England and a minor one in the U.S. The followup album, 1984's "Into The Gap", became hugely successful on a global scale due greatly to the phenomenal sales of the single, "Hold Me Now". Leeway left the group after the next album, 1985's "Here's To Future Days", leaving The Thompson Twins a duo. Bailey suffered a nervous breakdown during the making of "Here's To Future Days", which proved to be only a moderate success. Bailey and Currie were married in 1989 after publicly revealing their relationship after the birth of their first child the previous year. They had a second child and were divorced in 2003. Sales of subsequent Thompson Twins albums declined sharply in the late 80s and the band disbanded in 1993. Bailey still works in the music business as producer and songwriter. The reason The Thompson Twins are in my collection is their constant appearance in thrift store record bins. At 49 cents a copy how can I resist near-mint copies of a promotion only "Side Kicks", (Arista 6607), and "Into The Gap", (Arista 8-8200). I also have the "Hold Me Now" single, (AS1-9164).

"Side Kicks" introduced The Thompson Twins buoyant new-wave pop to most American audiences although a previous album received little airplay. "Love On You Side" is an infectious new-wave anthem, and "Watching" is truly bizarre with a mock operatic vocal track provided by Grace Jones. "Into The Gap", offers the singles, "Hold Me Now", still as crisp and catchy today as it was in 1984, "Doctor, Doctor", a more desperate love song, "You Take Me Up", a chain gang meets pop meets gospel singalong, and the title track where The Thompson Twins in all their niceness attempt a global political message with middle east musical scenery. The "Hold Me Now" single has an experimental instrumental B-side called "Let Loving Start". Here's the video for "Doctor Doctor".

Another band from the 1980s, TILL TUESDAY made a new-wave glitzy splash with a hit single off their first album. "Voices Carry", an emotionally charged ballad that builds to a canopy of swirling vocals and hook laden orchestration is TILL TUESDAY'S signature song, but it is "Coming Up Close" off their second album; a piano tinged, countrified lament that name drops Bob Dylan that I had to hear again and again. While critics buzzed about singer Aimee Mann's strong songwriting skills, that second album, "Welcome Home", suffers from being a too ordinary example of lightly feathered, heavily produced 80s pop songs. A third critically celebrated album was the swansong for the group and Mann has gone on to a successful solo career in the indie rock vein. I own Till Tuesday's "Welcome Home" CD ((Epic) and the "Voices Carry" single. Here is "Coming Up Close" mock sung by the group in a mock concert. Aimee Mann looks stunning.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


I've seen three theatrical films so far in 2010. That's more than I usually see in an entire year. In UP IN THE AIR, George Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, a jet setting middle-aged man employed by a firm hired by top level executives to do the dirty deed of firing employees. He spends most of his time shuffling credit cards and putting away martinis in airports and planes and flies around the country dropping into cities to deliver the bad news to unwitting working stiffs. His graceful, tactful manner in which he boots them out the door is like a good doctor delivering news of a terminal illness. His home base in contrast is a nondescript small condo that looks unlived in. He'd much rather be on a plane up in the air where he loves his life. You may never see another movie character more pleased with living than Clooney is here as the John Wayne of flight bound executives. If the film was a musical he'd be singing zip-a-dee-do-da in an airport lounge. Enter top rated recent college grad Natalie played by Anna Kendrick. She has this new idea of how to revolutionize the industry of firing. Do everything by computer. Why fly around the country to terminate an employee in Des Moines, Iowa when you can give 'em the bad news via face to face hookup, (it doesn't seem like a particularly genius idea.)? Clooney's boss, (Jason Bateman, yes the former child star), likes the idea, Clooney is livid that a new bee is about to knock him off his high cloud. The boss pairs the two of them up, - she is to fly around with him learning the business of job termination, he is to accept the termination of the old way of doing things. But just when you think the movie is about to launch into a Doris Day - Rock Hudson pillow fight, it takes a few unexpected turns, both modern movie chic and old-fashioned nostalgia, over shoots it's expected results, and ascends to its serio-comic conclusion as assuredly as a jet leaving a runway. It's a film that is hard to classify. A comedy, yes but if tragedy can be deathless, this is it. In its lighter than air theme ( we are to understand we are merely dust particles in the ultimate cosmos), it becomes almost as insignificant as a feature film offered on a continental flight, yet with a life supporting oxygen mask dangling at our side to remind us of our mortality. Most of the poor saps getting the employer axe are played by non-professional actors who answered an ad placed by the movie makers looking for recently fired people to participate in a documentary. Imagine the renegotiation when it was understood the 'documentary' starred George Clooney. Here is a preview of UP IN THE AIR.

As portrayed by Robert Downey Jr., SHERLOCK HOLMES is a bit of a boob in the new Guy Ritchie film. He's a drunken eccentric, the laugh of Baker Street, a real character who joins street boxing bouts to get his ass kicked in because he bloody well likes it. His Baker Street residence is a cross between a mad scientist's laboratory and a squatter zone, his relationship with Dr. Watson is more man-crush than gentlemanly and his deductive reasoning is rattled off as if it's a do-good pledge from a Marvel superhero. He often appears as if he's savoring a lung full of opium although the movie never indulges in that Sherlockian trait, (it may have sent poor Robert right back to rehab). I love Sherlock Holmes. I've read the stories, seen all the old movies, all the TV shows, hell if there was a Sherlock Holmes board game, I'd be playing it, a Sherlock Holmes brand of tuna, I'd be buying it. So with a slight degree of reluctance, (where does Sherlock go for blow and gay sex if not Dr. Watson?), this movie is a rowdy but welcome addition to the Holmes repertoire, somewhere between Basil Rathbone in 1939's "The Hound of The Baskervilles" and Gene Wilder in 1975's "Sherlock Holmes Smarter Brother". Downey makes a discomforting yet strangely identifiable Sherlock and Jude Law nails a patient control in what is a difficult role for actors as second fiddle Watson. I can't think of another pulp fiction over 100 years old that still fascinates readers today and this spin on Sherlock is ... well it's elementary my dear Watson.
Basil Rathbone

Pedro Almodovar is one of only a few movie directors whose work can get me into a movie house, and Penelope Cruz starring in his new film, BROKEN EMBRACES makes my attendance a certainty. She plays Lena, a struggling former actress and occasional prostitute working as a secretary to one of the richest business tycoons in South America (huh?). Anywa, Ernesto, (Jose Luis Gomez), the old billionaire has super hots for Lena, and she eventually allows him to help her financially support her oppressed family who are burdened by her father's terminal stomach cancer. Got that? She then becomes mistress to Ernesto living the life of luxury with him in his mansion until boredom and a lack of interest in house hostessing causes her to renew her acting career, (apparently she sucked acting too). She then has an affair with the director of a picture she's to star in. Almodovar puts a suspense spin to all this, as Ernesto has the couple followed and watched on film and the movie becomes a Hitchcock maze with little mystery and groundless heightened intrigue merging with a 1950s soap opera like "Back Street", with artsy comments on film making. The movie resonated cerebrally with me, it's got a visual velvety flow, but I was always expecting the film to suddenly reveal it's true core in a crucial scene but to no avail. It just sort of goes on like this. It's a thick comfy pillow supporting a vague careless dream told in flashback and forth. You can watch a preview of BROKEN EMBRACES here.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Ten Years After's CRICKLEWOOD GREEN, 1970 (Deram 18038) , it's title derived from an unclassified hallucinogenic plant, adorned many a stoned teen bedrooms in my youth, the picture of 70s hard stoner rock, staring back at me through a stoned haze while doing a doobie with a buddie after school while the mom was shopping or working. It's 'green' influenced album cover of stagnant collectible curios including a ponderous characterized military statue and a pair of bronzed miniature boots is as familiar to me as the light prism on Pink Floyd's DARK SIDE OF THE MOON. But I never owned it until recently. I picked the vinyl album up somewhere cheap and felt as if I had encountered a dear old friend. CRICKLEWOOD GREEN is a revered British blues rock album highlighted by Alvin Lee's fluid guitar expressing heavy blues rock and meticulous finger picking. Opener "Sugar The Road" is a snazzy bit of freewheeling rock that streams like a fast corvette on a winding mountain road, a 'roll down the windows' song if ever there was one with guitar bass drums and vocal effortlessly creating an addictive breeze of blues and rock. "50,000 Miles Beneath My Brain" is a seven minutes plus guitar layered jam that burns like a sizzling dynamite lead about to blow, and "Me and My Baby", apparently an Alvin Lee composition, if not then a blues standard, must have reached that status by now ("Me and my baby never get the blues") - it's air guitar rock heaven like you'd hear in any great blues tavern. CRICKLEWOOD GREEN has a particularly smooth mix and sound, as if the vinyl is a grade better than most, maybe due as stated in the liner notes, the music was recorded in layers of sound rather than absolute separation of instruments. Alvin Lee eventually went on to a solo career but the remaining members, Leo Lynons (bass), Chick Churchill (keyboards), Ric Lee (drums) and new member Joe Gooch (guitar and vocals) still tour and records. In 1969 Ten Years After played Woodstock and were featured in the film and soundtrack, catapulting them to fame. My VERY GOOD copy would fetch about 10 bucks on the market.

THAT PETROL EMOTION is an Irish, London based band fronted by an American vocalist, Steve Mack. I picked up the "Detonate My Dreams" CD single (Koogat) somewhere, at some time for some reason. It also includes a remix of "Blue to Black", a funk sort of dance jam, and the demo version of "Big Human Thing", a jangly pop song sounding a bit like Smoking Popes. "Detonate My Dreams" is a cool enough song with That Petrol Emotion's customary guitar onslaught. Here is the video. We're not too delighted with vocalist Steve Mack prancing around the video like a forest fairy, but the song rocks. This CD maxi-single goes for about 5 bucks.

One of the breeziest songs to flow out of the radio airwaves in 1983 was The The's "This Is The Day", from the debut album, SOUL MINING, Epic 39266, (A previously intended debut, "The Pornography of Despair", was shelved with some tracks being later released as B-sides and extras.). Although many members have filtered in and out of the British The The, the title is essentially a one man affair from writer, musician, vocalist Matt Johnson, sometimes using session players, sometimes a traditional band lineup and sometimes Johnson performed all band functions himself. The The have released six albums since their debut, their last being 2000's NAKED SELF. Interestingly, Matt Johnson has recorded several albums that have never been released but are included in all his listings of The The music. SOUL MINING could probably be found in most lists of best music of the '80s. It's industrial pop landscape full of thick synth and genuine musicianship, (Squeeze's Jools Holland lays a few mesmerizing piano runs on "Uncertain Smile", and The New York Doll's David Johanson plays harmonica on "Perfect Day") is a perfect backdrop to Johnson's brooding day-to-day survival 'too stoned to care' angst-ridden vocals. This record in Very Good condition can be bought for about 12 dollars. You can hear "This Is The Day" here -

Here's another oddball CD single in my collection, how it got there I'll never know, but there's no denying Third Eye Blind's HOW'S IT GOING TO BE (Elektra CD Single) is a fine hit song, a singable hook ridden ballad that was a major success in 1997. The unavailable elsewhere 'B' side, "Horror Show" doesn't raise this CD from a nominal market value.