CD Review: Johnny Winter: "Live at the Fillmore East 10/3/70"

CD Review: Johnny Winter "Live at the Fillmore East 10/3/70"
Collectors' Choice Live
All Access Review:  A-

It was a curious decision to say the least. After Johnny Winter split with the band – bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer “Uncle” John Turner - that had backed him on 1969’s Johnny Winter and 1970’s Second Winter, an album that also boasted the instrumental multi-tasking of brother Edgar – the Texas blues guitar dynamo took a flyer on three members of The McCoys. That’s right, those McCoys, the same gang responsible for the 1965 smash hit “Hang On Sloopy.” 

Playing matchmaker, it was Johnny’s manager, Steve Paul, who suggested the pairing, and what an inspired union it was. At first blush, the trio of guitarist/vocalist Rick Derringer, drummer Randy Zehringer and bassist Randy Jo Hobbs and the roughneck, garage-flavored R&B they were known for seemed unlikely to push and prod Winter to new heights. But, by the late ‘60s, the McCoys were experimenting more and more with psychedelia, and their performances at Paul’s Scene club in New York indicated to Paul that maybe, just maybe, they weren’t so different that they couldn’t make a go of it.

Immediately, Winter and his new band mates fell into lockstep. A couple of weeks of jam sessions led to the recording of 1970’s brilliant  Johnny Winter And, an edgier, more rock-oriented record than anything Winter had previously done, though still thoroughly basted with Lone Star state blues. Many consider it to be the high point of Winter’s recorded output, and the former McCoys, now sharing musical recipes with Winter, were now getting their just due.

The very month Johnny Winter And, doubling also as the name of this new super group, was released Winter and company invaded the Fillmore East and burned the place to the ground, as this seven-song concert document, one of the first rare vintage live recordings being issued by the Collectors’ Choice Live label, of that fiery performance proves. With Derringer and Winter trading wild, uninhibited solos, their duels like Old West shootouts with bullets, or, in this case, notes, flying everywhere, Johnny Winter And sizzle on the opener “Guess I’ll Go Away” and follow it up with the equally potent “Good Morning Little School Girl” – two simmering blues numbers that rapidly are brought to a boil.

After showcasing the Derringer-penned, slash-and-burn rocker “Rock And Roll Hoochie Koo,” a song he would later score a Top 30 hit with and a featured track on the then-newly released Johnny Winter And, the foursome downshift into the tantalizing, smoky blues workout “It’s My Fault,” which flies off into an extended jam that could have gone on forever … and almost does. Anyway, the slide-guitar frenzy of “Mean Town Blues” and the locomotive power of “Rollin’ And Tumblin’” close out the proceedings in breathless fashion, following a completely unhinged, ramshackle deconstruction of Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited” that’s deliciously blasphemous.

As entertaining as it is to witness Winter and Derringer play with reckless abandon, without the sure, confident, and often combustible, movements of a well-oiled rhythm section binding it all together, their efforts would have resulted in a chaotic, self-absorbed mess. Bounding to and fro, Hobbs and Zehringer, bashing it out with controlled violence, are a force in and of themselves. While the playing is smoking and white-hot, there’s also a loose and carefree vibe that comes across clearly, and the occasional rebel yell signals just how much fun this hastily put together, if short-lived, unit was having at the time. Now, those who weren’t at the Fillmore East back then can beat their heads against the wall with regret over missing seeing them in person.

-         Peter Lindblad

DVD Review: Jane’s Addiction "Voodoo Live"

DVD Review: Jane’s Addiction "Voodoo Live"
Eagle Vision
All Access Review:  B+

Part Oscar Wilde, part Liberace, with a little bit of P.T. Barnum thrown in for good measure, Perry Farrell played the pied piper of excess and debauchery to wide acclaim in the late ‘80s and early-‘90s, leading Jane’s Addiction out of the L.A. underground and into the light of alternative-rock godhead with dark, puzzling lyrics, controversial album covers and a sound that was impossible to define. Freely sexual and embracing the ethos of “better living through chemistry,” Ferrell wanted to party and indulge in orgies, while grunge, handcuffed to a pipe in its own dank cellar of cynicism and despair, tapped into the angst and anger of America’s flannel-clad youth and simply overwhelmed the recording industry.

There was no room for self-pity in Jane’s Addiction. With a guitarist in Dave Navarro whose chops were dizzying, frenetic and atmospheric, plus a rhythm section – drummer Stephen Perkins and bassist Eric Avery – that laid down powerful, seductive grooves, Jane’s Addiction offered subversive poetry that plumbed the same depths of humanity Lou Reed did with the Velvet Underground, along with a multi-faceted, visionary attack that embraced art-rock, hard funk, psychedelia, island rhythms, punk, dark wave and heavy metal. And it had Farrell, a Dionysian showman in the tradition of Jim Morrison, only not quite so bent on self-destruction.

Almost 20 years removed from their heyday, the original Jane’s Addiction lineup reunited in 2009, performing on Halloween night in New Orleans – what better setting could there possibly be for a revival of their surreal alternative-rock circus? “Voodoo Live,” a new concert DVD from Eagle Vision, captured the band’s colorfully theatrical live set at the Voodoo Experience, a thrilling, captivating performance that again makes you wonder why, oh why, they’ve only given the world a scant catalog of just two sensational studio albums, one lukewarm comeback LP (2003’s Strays) and an early live manifesto.

Amid smoke and ever-changing colored lights, an older, but no less dangerous, Jane’s Addiction put on its own Mardi Gras, complete with a pair of burlesque dancers performing x-rated stunts with and without Farrell. Opening with a hypnotic “Up The Beach” before launching into the rumbling, Zeppelin-like avalanche of chords that rolls down “Mountain Song” and “Ain’t No Right,” Jane’s Addiction fires on all cylinders. Down-shifting for a spell, Jane’s plunge into the moody, enthralling abyss of “Three Days” and the track’s somewhat jazzy, not-so-distant cousin “Then She Did …” before blitzing through the frenzied classic “Been Caught Stealing” and the funked-out “Stop.”

Looking resplendently alien in a glitzy cape and bodysuit and occasionally guzzling a bottle of wine, Farrell takes care to acknowledge the hardships New Orleans has seen in recent years and the city’s ability to recover. To salve their wounds, he and the band offer the massive waves of sonic bewilderment that pound away in “Ocean Size” and a wonderfully life-affirming “Jane Says,” where the band is joined onstage by what seem like a hundred costumed partygoers in joyous celebration of putting off rehab for one euphoric night of glorious insobriety.

Accompanied by a New Music Express featurette on Jane’s return, plus two scorching, up-close-and-personal live versions of “1%” and “Ocean Size” performed in a tight, sweaty little club, with the crowd right in their faces, “Voodoo Live” is a quintessential Jane’s Addiction experience, even if Farrell’s somewhat weakened vocals don’t always match the intensity of what’s going on behind him. The camera work, clear with images coming at you from a variety of angles, is professional and thankfully free of tricks, and even if there’s a paucity of extras and Farrell’s voice isn’t what it used to be, this DVD is still remarkable. And Farrell’s charisma is magnetic, with Navarro, Avery and Perkins, often seen in grotesque masks as he bashes away at his drum kit, giving absolutely jaw-dropping performances, their playing the perfect balance of passion, precision and unpredictable direction.

-         - Peter Lindblad

Herman Rarebell and the fascinating tale of ‘Heya Heya’

Isn’t it strange how a little rock novelty ditty can rise up and become an unexpected smash in one country or region and be almost completely ignored by the rest of the world?

Such is the case of “He Ya” by the early ‘70s cult outfit Jeronimo (mislabeled on the cover on a Holland release as Geronimo). A huge hit in Germany and other European countries, “He Ya,” along with another success in “Na Na Hey Hey,” helped Jeronimo merge into hard rock’s fast lane, as the band shared stages with the likes of Deep Purple, Golden Earring and Steppenwolf, who once served as their touring partners.

In the U.S., though, Jeronimo was barely a blip on the radar screen. Being a native of Germany, Herman Rarebell remembers Jeronimo well … so well in fact that the former drummer for The Scorpions has reworked the song for his new Herman Ze German solo album, Take It as It Comes, out now on Dark Star Records. Ghostly Native American chanting and tribal drums give way to monstrously heavy guitars riffs from Horst Luksch, more chanting from the Children Choir of Unterensingen, Germany and dark electronic washes in Rarebell’s version, called “Heya Heya.” The total package is incredibly compelling.

Rarebell explains how “Heya Heya,” perhaps the most strikingly original track on the album, evolved.
“It’s an Indian tribe song and ‘Heya Heya,’ you know, is actually a cover song,” said Rarebell. “It was done in 1971 here in Germany and it became a big hit by a band called Jeronimo. It was written by two Americans, and they’d covered it in ’71 and it became #1 in Germany and it stayed #1 in Germany for nearly six months.

It was one of the longest #1s. But it never ever got outside of Germany. So, you know, my version is completely different, of course. As you can hear, it sounds really big, but basically, being a drummer, I always liked that Indian beat and I decided to make it really heavy. So it sounds really big, that kind of thing.”
Marquis De Schoelch plays keyboards and Jens Peter Abele trades off between bass and rhythm guitar on the track, which Rarebell recorded for one of his favorite charities, World Vision, an organization that seeks to assist children worldwide. But it is Luksch who plays a starring role on “Heya Heya.”

“When we did this, we did it for charity in the beginning for an organization called World Vision,” said Rarebell. “On World Vision, you literally can support a child in the Third World for about $25 a month. So basically, they really bring those kids up there, educate them. I have, for example, two kids that I’ve supported for over 25 years now; they are now doctors in Germany. So they go to school with that $25, they buy clothes, they buy their school books. They probably feed half their family with it too. And we had 30 children sing on it. We recorded it in Unterensingen. That’s where the studio is, near to Stuttgart. So when we recorded this in this place, this village actually, there was the school and the teacher. We told her this and she made the kids sing along with the song. She rehearsed it with them for about an hour and then she came down and we recorded it, because it was good fun to do this along when they’re singing “Heya heya heyay,” and when you go to YouTube, you can order the video. Yeah, I made a video of it, too.”

“Heya Heya” is not the only surprise Rarebell has in store for everyone. An interesting re-recording of the Scorpions’ biggest hit, “Rock You Like a Hurricane,” also makes an appearance on Take It As It Comes, the album title being a mantra of sorts for Rarebell.

“When you really look at the world nowadays, there’s not that much you can do about catastrophes and look at the thing that’s happening right now here in Europe and in Russia (wildfires were raging across the region at the time of this interview),” said Rarebell. “The whole of Russia is burning down at the moment, and then you look at east Germany right now, which is completely under water. What I’m talking about is if there’s a higher thing structuring you, natural catastrophes, you can only make the best out of them and look forward and take it as it comes. There’s not much you can do about it. And it literally could be your last days, so live it like this. And that’s my philosophy. You know, looking back on life nowadays how are you going to change it. See what I mean? Take it as it comes, think positive and it’s the same in America. You have recession there and it’s very difficult for a lot of people. You have to take it as it comes and look forward. Otherwise, you’ll never get out of this shit anymore. This is just what I think, you know? It’s better to think positive to the future rather than negative.”

Looking forward, and not back, seems to have worked out pretty well for Rarebell.

- Peter Lindblad

Official Herman Rarebell Website:

CD Review: Herman Ze German "Take It As It Comes"

CD Review: Herman Ze German "Take It As It Comes"
Dark Star Records
All Access Review: B

Some dime-store philosophers and would-be poets choose to drown themselves in misery, and who can blame them? The nightly television news is a horror show of unimaginable human suffering. Great numbers of people in the United States are out of work and desperate to escape the financial straits they’re in. Massive earthquakes, tsunamis, mudslides, drought and a whole host of other natural disasters have been visited upon the third world, wiping out fragile infrastructure and causing death, disease and homelessness.

How could anyone with any sort of sensitivity and compassion not gaze upon it all and succumb to incurable melancholy? Big-hearted and a true humanitarian, former Scorpions drummer Herman Rareball, aka Herman Ze German, won’t turn a blind eye to such tragedies. Nor, however, will he simply throw his hands up and give in to despair, as the title of his latest solo LP indicates. Rarebell enjoys life. Our time on this earth is fleeting, after all, and to not have any fun and joy during our short stay would be a waste of such a precious gift.

Believing wholeheartedly in the words emblazoned in scary movie graphics across the album cover, Rarebell is anything but dour here. Blazing away with heavy doses of adrenalized pop-metal spiked with saxophone flourishes courtesy of wife, and actress, Claudia Raab, Rarebell points a double-barreled blast of rock straight at your heart in the somewhat bluesy title track and the life-affirming epiphany “Don’t Lose Your Trust.” The dirty underworld of phone sex operators is explored on the darkly erotic “Rough Job,” before the seductively sinister “Freak Show” tears into reality TV and its shameless pandering to the worst in all of us.

Of course, there’s the obligatory string-laden power ballad “Your Love is Hurting” and it’s not without its melodic charms, even if it is a somewhat predictable exercise at this point in Rarebell’s career. “Let Me Rock You,” espousing how great rock and roll is, is also a fairly obvious clichĂ©. But when Rarebell experiments with moody atmospherics and exotic rhythms, like he does on the mysterious, heavy cover of the obscure “Heya Heya,” a hit in Germany by the long-forgotten German trio Jeronimo, or Geronimo as their name mistakenly appeared on record in Holland, he reveals a restless artistry that is continuing to expand and grow. With its Native American beats and chanting, not to mention the heavy guitar magic courtesy of wunderkind Horst Luksch, “Heya Heya” is a beast of a track and clearly the heavyweight champion of Take it as it Comes.

But what of the mix of black electronica, robotic metal and almost spoken-word lyrical delivery of the Rarebell’s new, and possibly controversial, cover of “Rock You like a Hurricane”? Well, it’s different, that’s for sure, and Rarebell certainly doesn’t play it safe in tackling this Scorpions’ classic. Perhaps he should have played it safe and left well enough alone. In its original state, “Rock You like a Hurricane,” often cited as one of the greatest hard-rock songs ever, was perfectly carnal, a rush of sexual heat and desire that dripped blood and other bodily fluids from its mouth. This one, while perhaps a little more evil and aggressive, feels somewhat disjointed and awkward. Still, give Rarebell credit for not simply rehashing an old chestnut. This version is interesting, and given time, and an open mind, you might just warm up to it.

There are moments of astonishing brilliance on Take it as it Comes. “Backattack,” with its frenzied harmonica and hell-spawned, country metal vibe, is really a unique and thoroughly satisfying blending of genres, and Rarebell’s ability to mesh modern-rock elements with old-school metal is work in progress that is undeniably compelling.

-        -  Peter Lindblad  

CD Review: Hawkwind "Blood of the Earth"

CD Review:  Hawkwind "Blood of the Earth" 
Plastic Head North America
All Access Review:  B+

Major Tom is presumably still out there sitting in his tin can far above the moon, and from time to time, every couple of years or so, the unfortunate lost astronaut longing for his earthly home has probably watched the space-rock voyager Hawkwind rocket past his doomed ship, heading to parts unknown to any other musical entity of the last 40 years. Blood of the Earth is another mind-blowing trip through the psychedelic/prog-rock cosmos for a band that blasted off in 1969 and has put on more miles than all the space shuttles and astronauts in NASA combined.

Not quite as wild and wooly as 1973’s Space Ritual Live [live], but far more visionary than some of the atrocities of the late ‘90s and early 2000s committed in Hawkwind’s name, Blood of the Earth looks backward and forward, and eastward, for inspiration. On occasion, this version of Hawkind, with longtime leader Dave Brock (guitar, keyboards and vocals) still manning the captain’s chair and ably assisted by crewmen Richard Chadwick (drums), Niall Hone (guitars), Mr. Dibs (bass) and Tim Blake (keyboards), is capable of stirring up awesome cosmic tempests on command and shifting into the kind of maximum, hypnotic overdrive that would propel rhythm sections of the band’s glorious past through storming guitars, as they do on “Green Machine.” Pushing the needle into the red, Hawkwind takes off on a careening, metallic re-make of “You’d Better Believe It” from the 1974 LP Hall of the Mountain Grill with all the powerful thrust of Apollo 11, while the blurred rush of late-‘60s pyschedelia, propelled by airy horns, on the pulsating opener “Seahawks” is reminiscent of the Moody Blues in their prime.

The ultimate counter-culture tribe, one that is constantly creating planets of sound rather than visiting them physically on some “Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy”-like holiday, Hawkwind again merges prog-rock complexity, not to mention pomposity, with the sonic bombast of its space-rock imagination to stun us earthbound mortals as “Comfey Chair” builds and builds to a dramatic conclusion. But, Hawkwind doesn’t confine itself to building sci-fi soundscapes of wonderfully strange and trippy elements. The tribal beats that ground the soaring electronica and guitars that seem the aural equivalent of the Northern lights on another re-make, “Sweet Obsession,” from Brock’s 1984 solo effort Earthed to the Ground, lend an organic feel to the track, while the Middle Eastern-tinged “Wraith” is an exotic bazaar of instrumentation that has one foot in Persia and another in ancient alien worlds. 

Blood of the Earth doesn’t always captivate. There are valleys along with the peaks, places where everything is stagnant and seemingly not sure of where to go next. But overall, Blood of the Earth is typical Hawkwind in that it’s difficult to predict what direction their spaceship will go and the propulsive ride evokes a myriad of images and spacey effects that stirs the imagination.

- Peter Lindblad

More visitations expected from metal legends UFO in 2011

There was something different about UFO when original drummer Andy Parker re-enlisted in 2007 with the long-running British hard-rock champions for a third tour of duty. Michael Schenker was gone.

That raging guitar burn Schenker brought to UFO in 1973 after leaving The Scorpions was just the Molotov cocktail UFO had been looking for as they sought to set the world of heavy metal on fire. Schenker’s furious shred ignited a string of four-alarm UFO blazes starting with 1974’s classic LP Phenomenon on through albums like 1975’s Force It, 1976’s No Heavy Petting, 1977’s Lights Out, 1978’s Obsession and 1979’s Stranger in the Night.

Parker was a key cog in the UFO machine, his rugged, precision drumming providing the muscle in support of Phil Mogg’s distinctive vocals, Pete Way’s thumping bass and UFO’s Swiss Army knife keyboardist/rhythm guitarist Paul Raymond, not to mention Schenker’s frenzied fretwork. But Parker left the band in 1983, returning for a brief early-‘90s reunion of that classic ‘70s UFO configuration that included, of course, Schenker, and then soon bowing out again.

But as the new millennium arrived, so did UFO, with Schenker helping to carry the flag for the metal diehards. Then, 2002 came, and this time, it was Schenker’s turn to leave again, but not before powering UFO recordings that included the double-CD Covenant and then Sharks. Enter Vinnie Moore, charged with the unenviable task of filling Schenker’s shoes. And when Parker came back to the fold in 2006, he found it a little odd not be working with Schenker anymore. It wasn’t long, though, before Parker began to appreciate Moore’s skill and working with him on Monkey Puzzle and 2009’s The Visitor, album No. 20 for UFO, was an absolute pleasure.

“Pretty much most of the albums I’d done with the band before that were with Michael, so Vinnie brings a whole different feel to the band, and I just love the guy,” says Parker. “He’s an incredible guitar player and he’s a great guy.”

Moore wasn’t the first UFO crew member to replace an integral member of the group. Parker himself, who’d been there almost since the beginning, departed in the early ‘80s after 14 years with UFO. Schenker, though, is a special case, his six-string fireworks so spectacular and influential over the years that his profile rose to mythic proportions. Moore has proven to be up to the task, however, as a new UFO greatest-hits package, The Best of a Decade, a hard-hitting, bluesy and often melodic mix of choice live and studio cuts from UFO’s releases in the 2000s, bears out.

As for Parker, he wasn’t sure he’d ever return to UFO. A phone call from Raymond convinced him it was the right move, and now he’s looking forward to a long and bright future with the band he helped build into a metal empire.

“The thing is, they’d asked me several times over the years,” explains Parker. “It’s difficult because life doesn’t always go the way you plan and this is my third stint in the band. I quit in ’83 for pretty much personal reasons. And there was a lot of stuff going on with the band, a lot of problems within the band, and we were just pretty much burned out from constant touring and studio work, and you don’t have any time to deal with your private life. I left and I had a very young daughter when I left in ’83; she was only three years old, and I wanted to spend some time with her. That was the first time. I came back in ’94. The guys asked me to rejoin. I did the Walk on Water album, and that was great. It was a great experience. But there was still a lot of stuff going down in the band that I didn’t really want to deal with. They still had a lot of inner kind of tension going on there, and I chose not to tour, which, in hindsight, turned out to be the right choice. And I’ve said this before, as much as I love and admire Michael - he’s an amazing guy - but there was a lot of problems with him and stability-wise with the band. I just didn’t feel like I wanted to be in a band that was that unstable at that time. They asked me to come back in 2005, and I knew that Vinnie was in the band, and initially, I came back and did one show for them, because Jason [Bonham] had left and they had a show booked in Spain. So the moment I did that show and got to play with the guys again, and with Vinnie, it was just such a pleasurable experience that they asked, ‘Will you stay?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’ You know, this is really what it’s all about, what I remember UFO being and how it should be.”

Not all UFO devotees might agree. Parker knows that the band’s most recent material has, perhaps, strayed a bit from that powerhouse ‘70s-era sound. For him, though, the return to a more blues-oriented attack, which still packs a mighty sonic wallop, is a welcome one.

“It’s almost like it has come full circle, because what I’ve noticed is I’ve been back in the band the last two albums and there’s a lot of blues influence surfacing in this material, and that’s where we started,” states Parker. “I mean, the big blues boom in the mid- to late-‘60s in England is where I kind of met the guys during that, and that’s what Paul Raymond came out of, with Savoy Brown.”

UFO honed their chops doing blues covers, before expanding their horizons and exploding in a giant space-rock supernova that set the stage for the edgier metallic meltdowns that occurred when Schenker arrived. Getting back to the blues, however, has been a satisfying move for Parker and the rest of UFO in last few years.

“I know there are probably people out there who think we’re kind of, you know, softening up, but I really like the way the band is going,” says Parker. “I don’t think I can sit still and try and kind of recreate what [we] were doing in the past. And then one thing I’ve always loved about UFO is we weren’t trend followers, you know? I mean, basically, what we play comes from the heart and it’s wherever we happen to be at that point in time. So I’m real happy with it, and I think it’s a great direction for us.”

And, as Parker sees it, there is no need for UFO to veer off course, not while the creative juices are still flowing.  “The band’s playing great, and sounding great, so I just hope it continues for as long as possible,” says Parker. “Everybody’s happy to be back and I think the band still has a lot to offer. We’re getting ready to start work on material for another album, so hopefully, in the new year there will be something out again – no. 21. So that’s something to look forward to, but yeah, I mean, we’ve got the greatest fans. They’re so loyal and they’ve stuck with us over the years. Hopefully, we won’t disappoint them.”

Just as working on an album like The Visitor didn’t disappoint Parker, who picked that album when asked which UFO studio LP he likes best – even though he says his favorite will always be the live effort Strangers in the Night.

“I’m pretty happy with the last one, The Visitor,” says Parker. “Yeah, because, you know, I love them all. You know, the fact that we can still turn out and play that good now … and I really enjoyed making the last one. It’s a different experience, these days, you know. It’s a lot quicker, and a lot more efficient, but I just think that after 20 studio albums to be able to turn out an album of that quality … and there are some great songs on it. I’m really happy with it.”

- Peter Lindblad

Y & T - The "Bruce Springsteens" of Heavy Metal

Herbie Herbert's Agenda

Several years ago, Backstage Auctions had the privilege of hosting an auction for legendary manager and entrepreneur Herbie Herbert, who is best known for ‘creating’ Journey by taking Neal Schon and Gregg Rolie with him from Santana (1973) and adding additional local San Francisco talent. While morphing Journey into the stadium giant that went on to sell 75 million albums, Herbert also had his eyes set on another local band; Yesterday & Today. Part of the auction was a set of Herbert’s personal agendas from 1974 through 1976, which gave a brilliant day-to-day insight of the infancy of both bands.

Vintage Backstage Passes
Once Herbert landed a record deal for Yesterday and Today, the umbilical chord was cut and both went their own way. The first two albums did very little but enter the “eighties” and Y&T (who had now shortened their name from Yesterday and Today) released arguably the three most epic rock albums from that decade in succession; ‘Earthshaker’ (1980), ‘Black Tiger’ (1982) and ‘Mean Streak’ (1983). Growing up in Europe I never had the opportunity to see Y&T in their prime and – as with so many other bands – they eventually became a (fond) memory.

Fast forward to August 11, 2010. As sponsor of the Houston Music Awards, Backstage Auctions attended the award ceremonies at the ‘Warehouse’, where co-owner Kelli van Gool presented the ‘Best Heavy-Metal Band’ Award. Leaving the venue later that evening, my eye caught the illuminated billboard, which read ‘Fri. Aug.13 - Y&T’. Needless to say, I couldn’t pass that up. Knowing that the original line-up had been decimated to its backbone (Dave Meniketti – Guitar/ Vocals and Phil Kennemore – Bass), I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Not sure if “Friday the 13th” had anything to do with it, but as soon as I arrived at the venue, I learned that Phil Kennemore was replaced, due to surgery that week (Phil, we wish you all the strength and a speedy recovery).

Whatever doubts I might have had leading up to that point, they vanished as soon as Y&T set the tone for the evening with a sensational ‘Open Fire’, which is hands down one of the best rock songs to kick-off any show. Meniketti’s voice was as strong as it was 3 decades ago and his impressive skills had – if anything – improved. The entire band sounded tight, displayed joy and delivered – with an abundance of youthful energy – a set that included a selection from their most recent album (‘Facemelter’), rarities and naturally, all their classics such as ‘Hurricane’, ‘Mean Streak’, ‘Hang ‘em, High’, ‘Rescue Me’, ‘Dirty Girl’, ‘Black Tiger’, ‘Forever’ and the incredible ‘I Believe In You’ (with its superior crescendo that makes every rock band wish they wrote this song).

Dave Meniketti & Jacques van Gool
All this made for a fantastic evening, but was really struck me was that we were treated on a show that lasted close to three hours. Yes, that’s THREE with a ‘3’. I mean, here’s a band that’s been around for over 36 years, more or less “wings” it with a (fantastic) replacement bass player, charges a meagerly 13 dollars for a ticket and still gives you literally everything they’ve got. In a day and age where most concerts are deprived of spontaneity – at an often outrageous price – I realized that I just witnessed something very special. Less than 10 minutes after the show Dave Meniketti and co. came out to hang with an appreciative crowd, making sure that every fan had the opportunity to shake a hand, get something signed  or have their photo taken.

Yes, I still wonder what it would have been to see Y&T in the 70s or 80s but it’s hard to imagine that it could have been any better than in 2010. If you ever have the opportunity, please make sure that you too can witness this phenomenon. Trust me, it’s a privilege. Short of that, go to their website and pick up any of their outstanding albums (I know, it’s called CD but you….old school). Driving back home at 2 in the morning with a bucket list that was a name shorter, it occurred to me that if there ever was a Bruce Springsteen of Heavy-Metal, it’s called “Y&T”.

- Jacques van Gool, Backstage Auctions

DVD Review: Emerson, Lake & Palmer "Pictures at an Exhibition" (Special Edition)

DVD Review: Emerson, Lake & Palmer "Pictures at an Exhibition" (Special Edition) 
Eagle Vision
All Access Review:  B+

Leaving themselves wide open for a hailstorm of criticism from all corners of the music world, the absurdly ambitious Emerson, Lake & Palmer resurrected, in 1970, Mussorgsky’s tour de force “Pictures at an Exhibition” in a live setting for the great unwashed – i.e., the brutish masses that had turned on to rock and roll and had long ago turned off classical music – at London’s Lyceum.

Eager to bridge the ever-widening gulf that separated these two warring factions and somehow negotiate a truce, or even initiate a greater understanding of each other’s points of view, ELP, only together for almost a year by the grand unveiling of this extraordinary undertaking, went for the jugular in this triumphant showcase of their musical virtuosity and uninhibited, almost Barnum & Bailey-like showmanship. If the Stones had their “Rock and Roll Circus,” this was ELP’s Cirque du Soleil, and this colorful, vintage concert DVD of that show captures the band in full, majestic splendor.

With an armada of keyboards at his disposal, Keith Emerson, in particular, plays to the crowd, heaving an organ to and fro to coax strange, tortured sounds from its mechanized soul. His fingers flying across the keys, Emerson makes you wonder if Robert Johnson wasn’t the only musician’s soul the devil has in his back pocket. But his playing is dazzling, frantic and fluid, as is Carl Palmer’s intricate, preternatural feel as a drummer and Greg Lake’s transformation from a gentle, expressive acoustic folkie to galloping, swinging bassist. And the cameras, with a variety of well-framed close-ups and revealing shots from odd angles, display, in fantastic detail, what adventurous, supremely confident and playful players all three are, especially on “Blues Variation” and the fiery opening twin salvo of “Promenade” and “The Gnome.” There is a kind of chemistry between them that cannot be understood by any kind of science, but it’s palpable and it blazes with energy as they leave the closer “The Great Gates of Kiev” in wondrous ruins.

Mussorgsky is said to have composed “Pictures at an Exhibition” to re-create, musically, a stroll through an art museum. There is nothing in ELP’s version that would suggest an easy, carefree walk while studying lines, use of color and all those other elements that make great art. Lively, grandiose and vibrant, ELP’s take is gutsy, at times dangerous and funny, and not at all respectful, which is what you want from an art-rock combo that always walked a tightrope without a net.

Closing the Lyceum performance with ELP classics “Take A Pebble,” “Knife Edge” and “Rondo,” the trio draw a lineage from their classical influences and in their capable hands, “Pictures at an Exhibition” was a rousing critical success, just as their 1972 live “Pictures at an Exhibition” LP actually won the day commercially as well. This DVD is an essential document of how the classical rockers and their sometimes dark and scary art-rock proclivities, as self-indulgent as they were, absolutely destroyed anything that smacked of convention.

Watch the bonus 1971 Pop Shop performance also included on this DVD, even with its inane, throwaway interview footage, to see how ELP was just as wild and unpredictable with its own material, Emerson’s multiple stabbings of that old organ of his with a set of knives being just one of the sensational, over-the-top moments that made you either giggle or gasp. Either way, ELP never, as this incredible concert film shows, played it safe, and for that, they should always be lionized.

-         - Peter Lindblad

CD Review: Lillian Axe "Deep Red Shadows"

CD Review: Lillian Axe "Deep Red Shadows" 
Love & War Records
All Access Review:  B

Keeping to those Deep Red Shadows referred to in the title of their ninth album, Lillian Axe, their solid hard-rock credentials built on blazing heavy-metal riffs, strong-as-steel song structures and a melodic sensibility that’s always ranged from unremittingly dark to sweetly poisonous, hardly ever emerges from them to find the world waiting with bated breath for whatever new sinister creations they’ve dreamed up. And that’s unfortunate, because Steve Blaze and his hardy crew of metal miscreants rarely disappoint, even if their albums never seem to rise up to that glorious metal nirvana reserved for only the chosen few God, or perhaps Satan, have blessed.

With song titles like “47 Ways to Die,” “The Quenching of Human Life” and “Sad Day on Planet Earth,” Deep Red Shadows would appear to be obsessed with human mortality, but that’s only one side of the story. Actually a passionate indictment of apathy and the blind eye mankind increasingly turns toward human suffering “Sad Day on Planet Earth” is all wrapped up in a fairly complex web woven of cycling, silvery acoustic guitar. Similarly cast, the follow-up, “Nocturnal Symphony,” is a dreamy, romantic meditation on eternity and the afterlife that you wish had something that set it apart from its predecessor, but is, none the less, interesting in its own right, if a bit devoid of emotional resonance.

As for “47 Ways to Die” and its black, sweeping embrace of more pop-oriented tricks, this is the song that would have AFI fans all in a tizzy if Lillian Axe weren’t so unnecessarily pigeonholed as a “metal” act. There are irrepressible vocal hooks hidden in its slowly building wave of guitars, setting the stage for the heavy, ponderous riffing and death-trip fantasy of “The Quenching of Human Life” and the stained-glass vision that colors the crushing quiet-loud-quiet dynamics of “A Minute of Years.” Better still is the pounding epic “Under The Same Moon,” a relentless battleship of a song thrashed by storms of guitars as its black clouds open up ever so slightly to reveal a bit of pale acoustic sun midway through, before dropping the hammer of the gods one more time and ending up in some protective harbor of melodic goodness and light.

Deep Red Shadows is a nice effort, but one that, aside from how wonderfully “Under the Same Moon” unfolds and how “47 Ways to Die” simply crashes against the rocky coast of your ears, contains less memorable and majestic moments than you’d for from a band that’s been fighting the good fight for so long. Consistently good, but somewhat clinical and bloodless, the album draws out the intricate guitar work of Blaze and Sam Poitevent and the power and grace of Derrick LeFevre’s vocals. Former Metal Church singer Ronny Munroe replaced LeFevre this summer, and perhaps he’ll push the band to greater heights. Until then, enjoy Deep Red Shadows for what it is, not what it could have been.

-         - Peter Lindblad

Odd Couple: Cavaliere and Cropper take to the air with ‘Midnight Flyer’

Worlds apart in the 1960s, geographically speaking and perhaps musically, as well, Felix Cavaliere, of the British Invasion-influenced, East Coast R&B gang The Rascals, and Steve Cropper, the quintessential Southern soul guitarist who powered the Stax label house band Booker T. & the MGs, would, occasionally, pass each other like strangers in the night.

“You know, we used to know each other in the past from the Atlantic (Records) family,” explains Cavaliere. “We used to cross paths once in a while in the studio. Matter of fact, Booker T. did cut ‘Groovin’’ – they cut an instrumental version of ‘Groovin’’ and had a hit with that.”

A sunny, summery ode to carefree Sundays spent loving the one you’re with and gazing upon nature’s wonders, with bird sounds flitting about the instrumentation, the organic “Groovin’” was a massive #1 hit for The Rascals in 1967 and proof of the band’s increasing sophistication with regard to pop arrangements and songwriting. They were the kings of blue-eyed soul.

Meanwhile, down South, Cropper was creating that signature guitar style of his, one so fluid and expressive that it seemed the very embodiment of hot, humid Dixie soul. No ordinary sideman, Cropper’s skill as an arranger, writer, player and producer gave Otis Redding’s “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” a certain glow and introspective depth, while pumping heated blood through the huffing, puffing circulatory system of Wilson Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour.”

“I think what’s unique about his playing is, he’s got sort of a style that he’s developed from listening to people like Curtis Mayfield and a lot of the blues guys, but it’s not any of those, it’s his own,” says Cavaliere.
From afar, the two artists shared a mutual admiration for each other’s work. But, working together? That seemed a far-fetched notion in the late ‘60s, back when Cropper’s Southern cooking was still simmering in Booker T. & the MGs’ soul kitchen, and Cavaliere and the Rascals were branching out into psychedelia and jazz. Years went by, and both bands dissolved, leaving Cavaliere and Cropper as free agents. And Cavaliere, along with his New York accent, would, shockingly, wind up moving to Tennessee, home to Cropper.

“We just started writing together, and it kind of jelled and we had a good time, and he got us a [record] deal,” says Cavaliere, explaining how the partnership that’s resulted in not one, but now two albums, that latest being Midnight Flyer, on Stax, came to fruition. “It was a total surprise to both of us. It kind of went on from there, and we went on to do the second one, which was just a lot of fun. And the reason that it works so well is because we both have kind of similar musical kind of identities, you know.”

Although, being from places that couldn’t be more different, Cavaliere and Cropper have their own approaches when it comes to lyrics and music. “He, being from the South, has these kinds of little idioms that really go well with music, and they come out in the words,” says Cavaliere. “They just have that kind of Southern charm to them that I think people like. On the other hand, I come from a more jazz background, more of an R&B/jazz type world; he’s like more of straight-on blues world. So, the mixture of the two, I think it works because, as I say, both of those formats are kind of cool.”

The marriage works, at least in part because of Cavaliere and Cropper’s interest in exploring diverse musical styles. From the high-stepping funk workouts of “Move The House” and “Do It Like This” to the seductive grooves of “Sexy Lady” and the sweaty soul faceoff between Cavaliere and his daughter Aria on “I Can’t Stand It,” Midnight Flyer is a multi-dimensional effort from two old dogs who’ve been teaching others tricks for a long, long time. And yet, there’s still something about Midnight Flyer that harkens back to the good old days for both.

“He gets a kick out of my chord changes, and the grooves that come out,” says Cavaliere, “because he relates it to like ‘Groovin’’ and the same with his stuff. You know, there’s kind of like a Wilson Pickett feeling in some of these songs.”

It’d be easy for Cavaliere and Cropper to fall back into familiar working patterns, but on Midnight Flyer, they took inspiration from advanced technology. But they did draw some lines in the sand.
“Well, you know, we tried something different this time, a little bit more modern,” relates Cavaliere. “And you know, whenever two older guys do modern stuff you’ve got to really be careful. I used Apple products called Logic, and we set up in a studio. It is so much fun to write in the studio because you’re getting like immediately great sound, and we found these loops to write to and kind of just composed on the spot live to those loops. You know, drum patterns, and it just, you know, brought a different type of inspiration to the project. And then, of course, we went back and did the traditional bass, drums, of course guitars, keys. But it started from kind of like the more modern, computer type of thing.”

As for Aria, the young singer didn’t back down being the in the company of legends. Her dad wouldn’t have had it any other way.  “I wanna tell you, she kind of freaked me out a little because I know she’s good, and she came totally prepared and just like belted it out, man,” laughs Cavaliere. “Everybody was just like that old Pioneer speaker commercial, you know, they were just kind of blasted against the wall. She kicked it. It’s a thrill, you know. I can’t describe how good you feel when somebody really comes to a job and does well like that. You know, she looked at it like a job. I mean, I told her, I said this is for real. You’ve got to be prepared when you come in the room. Nobody’s going to sit around and teach you anything. And she did great. She did … I took her on the road with me for a while, although I’m not really encouraging this type of life for anybody. It’s very difficult. She loves it.”

So far, as it relates to their partnership, so do Cavaliere and Cropper, two artists intent on letting the world know they still have something to say.

-Peter Lindblad

CD Review: Otis Redding 'Live on the Sunset Strip'

CD Review: Otis Redding 'Live on the Sunset Strip'
All Access Review: A

Awkward, clumsy, maybe even a bit oafish, Otis Redding didn’t dazzle crowds or make girls swoon with suave, sophisticated dance steps. He left the polished choreography to those slick, twinkle-toed Motown crews, with their impeccable footwork and stylish moves. Redding, being the showman that he was, albeit one who wasn’t afraid to show genuine emotion, would be more inclined onstage to fall on the ground in tent-revival ecstasy and rip those snazzy suits he wore right off his body. And if he could have, he would have plunged his sweaty hand deep into his chest cavity and pulled out his still beating heart for all in the audience to see.

Nothing like that happened at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, which served as Redding’s coming-out party. Still, his raw energy, infectious smile and powerful drive, presented without the slightest bit of guile, left no doubt to anyone in America, including those who had no idea who he was before that monumental event, that he could deliver the goods live.

But, what was it exactly that set tongues wagging from sea to shining sea about this tall, gangly African-American soul singer from the South? Was it that his singing, at once soulful and pleading, before exploding with joy and inexhaustible emotion, was so passionate and honest that it simply couldn’t be ignored? Could it be that he was one of the most physical and hardest working of all soul and R&B men, James Brown included, and that he always wore his heart on his sleeve, wringing every drop of blood, sweat and tears out of every song he did and never reaching that point where he just simply gave out?

Yes, yes and, again, yes, but Redding was doing this long before Monterey. In fact, California had witnessed his power to galvanize an audience the previous year, when Redding brought his own band to Los Angeles’s Whisky A Go Go and turned the place inside out, as the two-CD, 28-song Live on the Sunset Strip points out in such strikingly rich sound and unadulterated realism – all the good-natured between-song chatter, crowd applause and riot-inciting introductions that yell out “Are you ready for star time?” transporting you back that hot, sweaty club.

In 1966 having marked a turning point for Redding in terms of national, and perhaps international, exposure even before Monterey, he was at the top of his game when these recordings were made. What sets them apart from other live recordings of the time that Redding made with the Bar-Keys or Booker T. & the MGs was the simple fact that … well, those famed backing bands weren’t there and Redding’s own hand-picked unit was. For that alone, this release might be considered a historical artifact.

But, holy God, don’t believe for a second that that is all there is to the lively, combustible Live on the Sunset Strip, which features three start-to-finish, guns-a-blazing sets in their entirety. Backed by tight, radiant horns and full-bodied instrumentation that bleeds with him when he bleeds and rejoices when he’s ready to summon angels from heaven, Redding tears through multiple covers of The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” (Disc 1and Disc 2) and stomps (in the best way possible) gleefully all over The Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night” (only on Disc 2), while injecting “Respect,” the song made famous by Aretha Franklin that he wrote, with a lethal dose of testosterone. And he huffs and puffs his way through three powerhouse performances of “I Can’t Turn You Loose,” each one leaving you more breathless than the last, and pleads, or perhaps “prays” is a better word, expressively for second chances in “Just One More Day,” three gripping versions of “Chained and Bound” and “These Arms Of Mine.”

Speaking of Brown, Redding embraces “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” in Set 2 of Show 3 on Disc 2, stopping midway when the mood strikes him and then starting again, adding his own lyrics, in an improvised throwdown that includes a jazz-flavored sax solo that fits perfectly and unstoppable, tasty grooves that never once let up. When Redding asks the crowd if they’re tired and they answer, “No,” you can’t help but scream in agreement, even while reading the detailed and smartly written, well-researched liner notes by Ashley Kahn in the accompanying booklet, a great color photo of Redding flanked by go-go dancers adding to the overall experience.

Thrilling to the absolute last note, Live on the Sunset Strip is a must-have for any Redding fan and should be required listening for today’s soul and R&B pretenders. This is how it’s done, kids.

-         -  Peter Lindblad 

CD Review: Judas Priest 'British Steel' (30th Anniversary Re-Issue)

CD Review: Judas Priest 'British Steel' (30th Anniversary Re-Issue)
Sony Music

All Access Review:  A-

A powerful streak of individualism runs through British Steel, the landmark heavy-metal album that roared from the mouth of Judas Priest 30 years ago. “Breaking The Law,” for example, might seem, on the surface, to be a call to take up a life of crime or smash windows and loot the shops on Main Street without regard for public safety, and undoubtedly, the romantic notion of the outlaw unrestrained by societal conventions figures prominently in the song. But look a little deeper, and you’ll find it is a story of desperation, of an unemployed drifter of a man at the end of his rope who figures he has nothing to lose and “… might as well begin to put some action in my life.” And that action might not be exactly legal.

What about “Grinder” and its references to “self-reliance” and the need for “room to breathe,” and the line “… from the treadmill/ I take my leave”? Or in “You Don’t Have to be Old to be Wise,” the first words out of Halford’s screaming maw are “I’ve had enough of being programmed/ And told what I ought to do.” There are outside forces that will demand conformity of you, one of them being the workplace, but Priest will have none of it.

Considering where Judas Priest came from, namely Birmingham, England, with all of its smoke-spewing, soot-stained factories and dirty coal mines, it’s hardly surprising that Rob Halford and company would cry out for independence and freedom from a life of soul-killing blue-collar work. Nor is it shocking that Priest, though they wanted nothing more than to escape Birmingham and find their own path, would do so without disrespecting the sweat and toil of those laborers they watched go off to work day after day, while at school, as Halford explains in the DVD accompanying this reissue, the clanging of work tools was within easy earshot. And lastly, it’s not exactly stunning, in hindsight, that the strong sense of self that pervades Priest’s lyrics and their racing, hard-charging, industrial metal riffs would resonate with frustrated British, and American, youth of the time.

Still, Priest was hardly an overnight sensation. Their career, starting in 1970, the year the band was founded, was marked by a steady climb up from the streets, with late-‘70s LPs Stained Class and Hell Bent for Leather spearheading the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement and establishing a beachhead for the massive metal invasion that was to come with 1980’s British Steel – which zoomed up to #3 on the British album charts its first week and went platinum in America, birthing two classic metal hits in the aforementioned “Breaking the Law” and “Living After Midnight.” Their studs-and-leather look already inspiring a legion of imitators, Judas Priest confidently drove their Harleys into a new decade, their sound pounding harder and faster than ever, but with British Steel came a more sure sense of melody and, dare one say it, more commercially appealing songs. 

Re-mastered to add more punch and sonic richness, the 30th anniversary reissue of British Steel is a powerful reminder of why the album had such an impact on the world of heavy metal. From the onset of the opener “Rapid Fire” on through the relentless “Grinder,” and that tricky little bass intro and the ensuing avalanche of guitars in “The Rage,” the new meaner, leaner British Steel simply attacks and demolishes expectations, Halford’s incredible voice soaring ever higher and the intertwined twin-guitar forays of Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing grabbing the bull by the horns and unleashing molten, instantly memorable riffs, such as those that drive “Breaking The Law” and “Living After Midnight,” both of which pack a bigger wallop here. A bonus track, “Red White & Blue,” could be a new anthem for America, but it’s not quite as potent as usual Priest fare and comes off a little like the similarly anthemic “United.” But a gutsy, bulldozing live version of “Grinder,” recorded at a show in Long Beach, Calif., is a welcome addition, the guitar solos seeming to pierce heaven.

Making the package essential is that DVD, which includes a sensational, life-affirming concert of modern-day Priest doing British Steel in its entirety and throwing in classics like “Freewheel Burning,” “Victim of Changes,” “Diamonds & Rust” and the crowd-pleasing finale “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” to get fists pumping. Along with the live show, there’s a segment on the making of British Steel, featuring an interview with Halford, Hill, Tipton and Downing that’s enjoyably nostalgic and informative. What a way to honor an album that wasn’t just a breakthrough for Priest, but also one that set the standard by which almost every succeeding metal, real metal, that is, album was measured.

-         -Peter Lindblad

The Rascals: Summer of ‘65

What a summer it was for The Rascals in 1965. Sunny days spent in The Hamptons, living near the ocean and playing The Barge at night, packing the house with a red-hot, straightjacket-tight R&B sound draped in the Union Jack of British Invasion-style rock ‘n’ roll.

For four young New Yorkers what could be better than escaping the sweltering city heat for a few months of breezy fun and performing in a carefree atmosphere, full of smiling, dancing patrons who were just there to party?

“When you came into The Barge, from the moment you entered there, we had you,” recalls Felix Cavaliere, an original founding member of The Rascals who wrote many of the band’s best-known hits.
Having a secret weapon like Adrian Barber, sound man for, of all people, The Beatles going back to their Star Club days, manning the board helped The Rascals turn heads. Working his magic, Barber added sonic richness to The Rascals’ live sound.

“We sequestered him in the United States,” remembers Cavaliere, who is still making music 45 years later, having just released his second collaboration with Booker T. & the MGs guitarist Steve Cropper, Midnight Fever. “He became an engineer, and he became a producer, but he also was way ahead of his time in kind of like refining the acoustical sound of a club. In those days, that was not really done.”

As Cavaliere recalls, referring to other clubs where The Rascals plied their trade, “Everything else was a basketball court; [the sound] bounced all over the place.” With Barber corralling the stray, ping-ponging emissions from their amps and sonically surrounding crowds who came to watch them, The Rascals took no prisoners.

“The sound system was all around the room, and there was no way you were going to escape the sound from the stage, and it was just wonderful,” says Cavaliere of The Rascals’ shows at The Barge, a floating night club on Long Island. “I mean, people really just lost their balance, man. It was so cool because obviously there was drinking and a lot of extra-curriculars going on, and we were on the water. We were literally on the bay. There were people that would walk over the side thinking it was the exit (laughs). Yeah, it was a little bit of San Francisco and California that came to the East Coast.”

A little bit of Hollywood also blew in that summer, according to Cavaliere. “It was so much fun, and they were all luminaries there, because it was in the Hamptons. You know, Betty Davis used to come every Sunday. It was just magic, it was so much fun. And it was a summer that I’ll never forget because we lived right across the street on a beach, the kind that many people would just dream of being on, never mind living on. Pretty cool … pretty cool for a bunch of young guys, it was a lot of fun.”

More than that, it was the year The Rascals went viral. Formed in 1964 close to New York City in the Garfield, N.J., hometown of members Eddie Brigati (vocals) and Dino Danelli (drums), The Rascals came together when Cavaliere, Brigati and guitarist Gene Cornish left Joey Dee and the Starliters. Danelli, a teen jazz prodigy who had toured with jazz legend Lionel Hampton and played with Cavaliere and Eddie Brigati before The Rascals, joined later. For Cavaliere, the move from the Starliters had been a long time coming, circumstances being what they were.

“Well, frankly, the only reason that I was with Joey Dee was because I was unable to do anything on my own until my status with the United States government was settled as far as the draft,” explains Cavaliere. “I really could not do anything or start anything until that was kind of left behind me, so to speak, and so I took that job. I was in college. I left college knowing full well I was going to get drafted … I always knew what I wanted to do. So, I mean, that wasn’t the problem and I certainly didn’t want to be a sideman for anybody. I wanted to be a leader, and I had some ideas, but I had to be patient and I had to wait. And that’s exactly what happened. When I was refused as far as military duty was concerned, I was able to go out and start the band. And unfortunately, or fortunately, all of the other guys had to go through that very same process before we could really get our feet on the ground and start marching.”

Ah, but first, they needed a name, and it was funny man Soupy Sales who gave it to them.
“Yeah, great story,” says Cavaliere. “Well, real quick, we wanted to get known, so he had a big hit record. You know, ‘The Mouse,’ and he was one of our favorite guys, as far as being on television, and we made an appointment with him at WNEW television station, and he saw us. We said, ‘Look, you’ve got a hit record. You need a band.’ And everything he said made us hysterical. We laughed, ‘cause we loved him. And he says, ‘Well, what do you call yourselves?’ And, ah … we had a couple of names, he says, ‘I’ll tell you what I’ll call you …’ but we couldn’t print it (laughs). So, we actually did a mini-tour with him, and he gave us the name The Rascals. He said, ‘This is not really what I call you guys, but this is the best I could come up with.’ We got it from him, you know. Great man.”

Then, it was time for basic training, with early rehearsals conducted in a place familiar to Cavaliere.
“What I remember is so vivid in my mind, because the first time we rehearsed was at my family home, which was right directly across the street from a high school,” says Cavaliere. “And what I remember was a crowd of kids outside, who were listening to us jam. And I kind of knew we had something pretty good, because, you know, they were there. And it was the first time, so that was a good sign to me, a good omen.”
With fortune smiling upon them, The Rascals took their set of well-drilled cover songs to the club scene, debuting at the Choo Choo Club in Garfield. Thinking back, Cavaliere’s memories of that first show are a little fuzzy.

“Oh, God,” says Cavaliere. “I don’t remember too much about that, the first one. Of course, I remember the environment … because the reason it was called Choo Choo Club was because, literally, there was a train right behind the dressing rooms. Oh yeah, every time you got to [a certain part of a] song, where you heard a whistle coming through, it was really funny.”

Club owners, on the other hand, often were not amused when bands, like The Rascals, that they hired to play covers would try to slip a few original songs in their sets. Nor were they lenient when it came to fashion.
“Yeah, absolutely, covers, because the venues demanded it of us,” says Cavaliere. “You know, in those days, it was 21 and over, drinking, suit and tie, and you know, pretty strict. If you did your own song, you had to really, really, really sneak that one in (laughs).”

Likewise, The Rascals rebelled when it came to their outfits, with Danelli coming up with a solution that Cavaliere reluctantly agreed to while the band was booked for the summer to play The Barge. These “choirboy shirts with knickerbockers,” as they’ve been described, were uniforms Cavaliere could have done without.

In good-natured fashion, Cavaliere says, “Well, we could only blame one guy for that, and it’s the drummer. As I said, we had to have ties and jackets, like that, and we were struggling with it, couldn’t stand it. So, Dino said, ‘I know there’s a way we could attract some attention and maybe get rid of these darn ties and jackets,’ and he came up with wearing knickers, kind of like what AC/DC ended up doing. We didn’t have the ties, but the club owners demanded that we put a tie on. You can look cute [they said], but you’ve got to look dressed. So it was kind of a compromise, and I really didn’t care for it at all.”

Trudging onward, The Rascals built momentum while playing at The Barge. Word of their infectious act eventually reached the right people, leading to new management with legendary impresario Sid Bernstein, promoter of The Beatles’ famed Shea Stadium show.

“We met Bernstein during that period of time,” relates Cavaliere. “Interestingly enough, as soon as we met, our salary doubled, ‘cause they went into management and said, ‘Look, you’ve got a nice club here. How about paying the band?’ (laughs)  At The Barge, I’d been running the group out of a business book called ‘This Business of Music.’ I didn’t know anything about the music business.”

Bernstein, introduced to The Rascals by a third-party businessman who’d seen their act and then recommended them to the famed manager, was instrumental in introducing The Rascals to a world beyond The Hamptons.

“Sid was a unique kind of guy,” says Cavaliere. “He could see in the forest a really good acorn that was about to sprout, you know, and he could point that thing out to other people and get them really excited about it. However, on the nuts and bolts end of things, he was not good. He was not good on the ‘let’s not spend more money than we have on the tour of Europe,’ that kind of thing. His expertise was like in spotting it and in nurturing it and kind of like selling it to people, getting them all psyched about it - interesting man, very interesting … he was a visionary.”

Among those growing increasingly excited about The Rascals were the good people at Atlantic Records. Seeing the potential of this white, blue-eyed soul act playing what essentially was black music, Atlantic, a label that was home to mostly African-American artists, signed The Rascals at Bernstein’s behest.

“Well, first of all, [it was] the only label that would allow us – and I say ‘us,’ even though it was my idea to produce ourselves, I really wanted to produce the band; I didn’t want an outsider coming in and changing what I thought was developed already – they were the only label that gave us that opportunity, for want of a better word,” says Cavaliere. “We are and were completely in control of the music. And the fact that three-fourths of my record collection came from that label, and also, that there was really no white acts on the Atlantic label until we got there, it was a thrill, obviously. As a young musician, to be part of that family was the luckiest thing that ever happened to me. I mean, seriously. They were great, they were all about music, and I know business is business and what was going on down the hall in the finance department … I don’t even care. I’m telling you, as a musical family they left their mark on America and the rest of the world.”
So did The Rascals, although not without having to overcome some obstacles, the first being a change in their name. Soon after signing to Atlantic, the label found out that another group, Borrah Minnevitch’s and Johnny Puleo’s Harmonica Rascals, was going to protest the group’s use of the name The Rascals. To get around this problem, Bernstein rechristened the band as The Young Rascals, which irritated Cavaliere and the rest of the band.

“Hated it,” says Cavaliere. “As I say, it was not our idea. We had nothing to do with it. And that’s … you know, the name of a band is really important to the band. It’s something that management should have consulted us about. There was a lot of resentment, and the choice of names I thought was horrible. You know, the joke I tell about it all the time is that when I first moved away from New York City and went into Connecticut, people used to come into my home and want to know about that little dog, if that black circle around his eye was real (laughs). And that says it all, you know.”

Unable to change their name until 1968 or ditch those hated uniforms until after their first #1, 1966’s “Good Lovin’”, Cavaliere and company put aside their frustrations with those issues and set about recording their self-titled debut LP. They’d had a minor hit in 1965 with “I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore,” which would appear on The Young Rascals album, a high-energy, full-throttle blast of R&B and British Invasion rock highlighted by well-crafted harmony vocals and arrangements that electrified kids all over the country. Filled with covers of tracks like “Mustang Sally” and “In the Midnight Hour,” The Young Rascals really took off when their cover of The Olympics’ “Good Lovin’” charged up the charts all the way to the top.

“Oh man, I couldn’t even believe it,” says Cavaliere, remembering how he felt when he heard “Groovin’” went #1. “Seriously, like who would have ever thought that was going to happen? The only inkling we had, as I said earlier, is … that song was a record that was done by The Olympics, and they did it entirely different. I just recently read a Rolling Stone article that really ticked me off. These young kids, they don’t even know what they’re talking about. But if they listen to the Olympics record, it was a chop shop. It was a Latin groove. We heard that thing on the radio, and like I said earlier, you had to play covers. We showed the guy that it was a cover, even though it was like an obscure record on a black station that I was listening to, and we converted it to, basically, rock. From the first day that we played that song live, people jumped out of their seats and got up and danced. So, you know, you got something here. Now, again, as kids, we didn’t know how to interpret that into sales, but the record company did.”

Working on the production and engineering end of things, Tom Down and Arif Mardin also knew what they were doing, and their wizardry helped The Rascals develop their studio chops.
“Yeah, we had a good band,” says Cavaliere. “And the only thing that was missing was we didn’t have a bass player, which I did at that time on the organ. It’s interesting, ‘cause today, it’s kind of the other way around. But when you transfer yourself or transmit yourself from a live act to a recording act, it’s a major change. It’s kind of like no makeup on a woman, or like having no clothes going out the door. There’s nowhere to hide. You can have a great stage show and a nice show and dancers all around you, which sounds very familiar to today’s world, you have to play and you have to sing. And we didn’t even have things that tuned you up like they do now. We had to actually perform. That’s a whole different ballgame, you know, and we had to learn it. So, we did the best we could, and we had phenomenal teachers. You know, Tom Dowd was the engineer and he had recorded everybody, as I say, in my whole musical collection. The Drifters, you know, like Miles [Davis] and Ray Charles, so we were very fortunate to be brought in the Atlantic kind of idiom, which is, and was, a jazz world in that … you know, you produce it in the studio. You make it happen, and you turn on the recording button. You play it and you do it until it sounds good and then you stop. And that’s a different way of doing it from how we do it now. You can layer, layer, layer, layer, layer … fix, fix, fix. We can take all of the soul out of it. We can take all of the life out of it very easily and get it down so that it’s perfect and nobody cares (laughs).”

Nobody, but nobody, took the life out of The Rascals back in the mid-1960s. With that summer of 1965 serving as a springboard, The Rascals became the foremost practitioners of blue-eyed soul, racking up 18 U.S. hit singles and five gold albums until it all disintegrated in 1972. Still, even with all the recrimination, lawsuits and back-biting that ensued, Cavaliere has fond memories of that wonderful summer of 1965.
“I had that conversation with Paul McCartney a few years back,” says Cavaliere. ‘We were backstage and he said, ‘Do you realize how young we all were then?’ Because we all have kids that age and older … we were in our 20s. We were babies. We didn’t know anything. And I just laugh. I said, ‘You know, I never even thought about it.’ But, again, when that happened, we never even thought about it. Oh, man, are you kidding me? I mean, like I say, look, there’s nothing like being with a group of guys and going out and singing songs, and having people in the audience know the songs and know the words, there’s nothing like that. I mean, that’s what people dream about their whole lives. And it happened to us. What can I say? I mean, I’m just so thrilled that I was there.”

- Peter Lindblad

CD Review: Foghat 'Last Train Home'

CD Review: Foghat 'Last Train Home'
All Access Review: B+

It’s hardly surprising that Foghat would record a blues album. What does raise eyebrows is that it took them this long to get around to it.

After all, three-fourths of the original band, including guitarist/vocalist “Lonesome” Dave Peverett, bassist Tony Stevens and the solo remaining founding member, drummer Roger Earl, all cut their teeth in Savoy Brown, one of the bands that spearheaded the British blues boom of the late 1960s. And even though Foghat would make their bones in the classic-rock arena with the hard-charging anthem “Fool For The City” and the bump-and-grind, slide-guitar wail of “Slow Ride,” both timeless hits that were contractually bound to make up at least part of the soundtrack for every hush-hush late-‘70s high school kegger ever held, blues was always a part of their DNA. 

Only Earl is left from Foghat’s founding fathers to carry on the band’s good name, and for years, he’s had unfinished business he’s wanted to attend to – namely, Last Train Home, the record he and Peverett always wanted to make. And with a new pack of wild-eyed good ‘ol boys – lead vocalist/guitarist Charlie Huhn, guitarist/background vocalist Ryan Bassett, bassist Jeff Howell, keyboardist Colin Earl and Lefty “Sugar Lips” Lefkowitz on harmonica – picking up the flag for Earl’s fallen comrades, the new Foghat rises to the occasion.

A mix of fresh, new compositions and old blues covers, all electrified, Last Train Home is Foghat firing on all cylinders and pouring their hearts and souls into this labor of love. That familiar, nasty slide-guitar you loved on “Slow Ride” is front and center on the smoldering title track and slithering like a snake through the rugged, down-and-dirty grooves of “Born for the Road,” two of three new Foghat originals here. And the great thing is that everything on the electrified blues of Last Train Home bears that Foghat stamp. It’s unmistakably Foghat, Earl having taught his charges well the Foghat way, evidenced even on surprises that include the frantic piano pounding and harp blowing of “495 Boogie,” which sounds like Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Walter on speed, and “Rollin’ & Tumblin/You Need Love,” a mean, gutsy, muscular blues reminiscent of Blackfoot’s Southern rock fury.

Closing time on Last Train Home comes after Foghat interprets two more traditional blues numbers by special guest Eddie “Bluesman” Kirkland, the slow, simmering “In My Dreams” and the whorehouse swagger of “Good Good Day.” While Kirkland sings, and does so expressively, Foghat shows a different side here, performing with touch and feel instead of the more straightforward rock and roll that almost becomes too paint-by-numbers with the band elsewhere on Last Train Home. That slight criticism aside, Foghat has truly honored Peverett’s wishes with this tribute.

-         Peter Lindblad

An Insiders View of the Memorabilia Scene

By Stephen M.H. Braitman

It never fails that our truly personal “Rosebud” is humble, perhaps common, and not what others expect. When asked what he would save if the flood waters were rising, Jacques van Gool reflected a moment and then said without embarrassment: a 1975 issue of the Dutch magazine Muziek Express with Kiss on the cover.
Apparently it was the first time Kiss had made the cover. “Emotionally, that magazine brings home more memories to me than anything else.” It was, as he said, “a life-changer.”
Jacques van Gool - Backstage Auctions 
That change in life turned van Gool into a music collector, growing a personal collection into a significant leisure activity apart from his main gig in the globetrotting corporate world. When he and his wife Kelli became fed up with relentless travel and no home life, they seized on the opportunity to capitalize on their obsession with music memorabilia. Jacques and Kelli now run Backstage Auctions in Houston, focusing on collectibles personally owned by artists, managers, producers and promoters.
We wanted to hear from van Gool as someone totally immersed in the world of music memorabilia for a perspective many collectors simply can’t have. Like other professionals in his field, he has a view that is helpful on many levels to understand the dynamics of the market. Like, what the heck is happening now? And should I buy everything in sight?
We’ve had a certain amount of controversy over what constitutes “music memorabilia” lately, like Elvis’ medicine bottles. How do you define it? Is absolutely everything worth buying and selling?

Jacques van Gool: Honestly, I try not to define it. To me, memorabilia is anything that you enjoy collecting. And if you ask a thousand people why they collect, you probably get a thousand different answers. So, if collecting medicine bottles is your thing, then by default those bottles become memorabilia to that collector.
Having said that, I personally don’t believe that absolutely everything is worth buying and selling. We’ve been offered many very personal items over the years and that’s where I draw the line. Sure, I’ll take Bruce Springsteen’s boots, jeans and sweaty shirt any day, but I’ll pass on socks and underwear. I’ll gladly offer up Bob Dylan’s handwritten lyrics or letters, but an expired passport or a hospital bill with a social security number goes a step too far. I realize that the lines have been blurred over time, but I still believe that true music memorabilia is comprised of items that were meant to be collected: records, posters, shirts, autographs, photos, instruments, lyrics, magazines, etc.
Fortunately, that still makes up 95% of what’s out there, so I think we can easily group the remaining 5% as novelty items, which, by nature and design, attract mostly a different audience than the traditional collector.
At what point do you recommend that an object be authenticated? How rampant in the industry are counterfeits and frauds? And what categories of memorabilia are most suspect?

Jacques van Gool: Oh man, you sure know how to ask the tough questions, don’t you? I guess that once it became clear that there was money to be made in music memorabilia (and this goes back to the 1970s), you started seeing the first counterfeits. It likely began with autographs but has since spilled over to high-end concert posters, rare vinyl, vintage T-shirts, toys, tour programs, you name it.
It’s really no different than what you see among sports or movie memorabilia, or art, coins, stamps, jewelry — heck, even wine for that matter. I’m not sure that you can weed it out, but as an auctioneer you have an obligation to your buyers to protect them from fraudulent practices. We’ve eliminated it by exclusively representing the authentic source of whatever we auction, which creates huge peace of mind for everyone involved.
Short of that, if you want to sell or buy an item that comes from a secondary source, you really need to do your homework. Fortunately, there are many experts in many different fields who can help you authenticate. I must add, though, that you have to make sure that this expert is truly independent and has no other agenda but to serve you with the highest level of integrity.
Naturally, the most suspect area is that of signed memorabilia, simply because we all want a fully signed Beatles photo or poster from 1964. The reality is that only so many true signed pieces are in circulation and once the prices start to hit the four and five-digit levels, it’ll bring out the crooks from around the world. I’ve seen loads of fake autographs coming from Australia and Europe and Canada, so it’s not an American problem per se.
I’m not even going to touch the whole subject of whether to use a forensic expert or an autograph expert. At the end of the day, even though this is a massively complex issue, I believe that it’ll come down to something very simple: If you, as a buyer — in heart and mind — are happy and satisfied with the item you bought, than that’s all there is to it.
Every collector has a unique standard to which they measure their own collection. Some may need three independent reviews, letters and documents to pull the trigger, whereas the next buyer acts on impulse and buys simply because he or she likes what they see. That’s something that we (the sellers) can’t control. But what we can do — and must do — is take every step possible to provide the right stuff. After all, we are being looked upon to uphold a standard, and I like to believe that — since we have seen it all — we should know how to separate right from wrong.
There are many auction houses and retailers dealing in music items, and there’s tons of stuff out there — and not even counting eBay! Is there too much stuff? Is this a bubble market?

Jacques van Gool: I agree that there is a ton of stuff out there and naturally, from a competitive viewpoint, I’d like to see less; but that’s a bit of a double edged-sword. The fact that so many generic auction houses have jumped on the music memorabilia market also helps the rest of us in that it supports and promotes the overall hobby. The more places there are where you can buy collectibles, the more potential there is to create or generate new collectors, something that in the end is always good for our business.
I don’t believe it is a bubble market, though. Collecting music memorabilia is something that I see continuing for as long as there is music. The only fluctuations you will see is in the number of sellers. When the market is strong, there will always be an increase in auctioneers, retailers and stores that want a piece of that pie. When the market slows down, some will retreat and move on to something else. The diehards will always remain loyal and fortunately, there are some great music memorabilia stores and sellers who have truly been dedicated to serving the market for decades.

What type of people are actually spending thousands of dollars on higher-priced items and objects? Are there enough rich or well-off collectors out there, or is the market mixed with pure investors?

Jacques van Gool:  Well, you never can have enough rich collectors as far as I consider, but in reality, the real high-rollers make up for perhaps 5 or at best 10 percent of collectors. The beauty of collecting is that literally everyone can do it — and does do it. As such, you’ll see a perfect bell-shaped graph, which I believe to be a reasonable reflection of the income classes in the industrial world.
You’ll always have a good chunk of collectors that solely operate at the lower value end, the largest population is to be found in the middle, and only a small percentage operates at the very top of the curve. I have always operated on that principle and, as such, aim to have our auctions reflect all three levels. In other words, I always want to have something to offer for every wallet, and no one should ever feel left out.
As for who buys the higher-end collectibles, in my experience that’s an exotic blend of clients. Naturally they have one thing in common, which is sufficient disposable income, but as far as their motives for collecting, I think only a small portion buys for the purpose of “investing.” Most high-end collectors are still true fans and motivated by the exclusivity of the item.
Are the voracious buying habits of showplace retail establishments like Hard Rock Cafe and museums like the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame and Experience Museum drying up collectibles and driving up prices?

Jacques van Gool: The museums used to buy in the very beginning, but once they established themselves, they have for the largest part relied on donations. The HRC has many deals directly with musicians who will provide them constantly with new material. By the way, most of the products you’ll see these days are reproductions.
The Hall of Fame is almost exclusively donations, which are mostly on temporary loan. They rotate their pieces fairly quickly and at some point, most of it will be returned to the consignor.
If your question is whether places like these generate a positive effect on collecting as a whole, I’d say the answer is yes. Everyone who likes music has visited at least once a Hard Rock CafĂ©, and you can’t help but be excited about the cool stuff that’s hanging on the walls. As a true collector, you naturally would love to have a piece just like that, whether it’s a signed guitar, a vintage concert poster or a record award. And that’s where the auctioneers and memorabilia sellers come into play. I’m all in support of places like the Rock Hall and the Hard Rock Cafes because, in the end, it’s good for the hobby, thus it’s good for business.
Is there any comprehensive database yet for music memorabilia similar to those available for fine art, like Or is it still the Wild West — nobody really knows what’s out there, and new stuff is always being discovered? In other words, how mature is the field of collecting music memorabilia?

Jacques van Gool:  I don’t think it’s mature, but it is certainly maturing. Ever since the ’70s, people — mostly dedicated fans — have been putting together price guides which, if anything, are often helpful sources to knowing what is out there. You can find books these days dedicated solely to guitars, vinyl, T-shirts, posters, etc. On top of that, there are great band- or artist-related price guides for The Beatles, Kiss, Madonna, Rolling Stones and so on. Also, with the continued accessibility of the Internet, you’ll start to find more and more decent Web sites dedicated to pricing and inventory.
So I believe the hobby is getting better. That said, I believe this hobby is still too young to have established a reliable and consistent platform for pricing. I still see too many extremes in pricing to be able to say that a certain poster or shirt or autograph is worth “X” and “X” only. The best you have these days are ranges. But on the upside, the ranges have become more defined and more reliable, which is the result of collectors and Web sites comparing sales data.
What doesn’t make it any easier is the fact that new discoveries are being made on an almost daily basis, and many will have an effect (up or down) on what was established previously.
But, in a way, that’s the beauty of collecting music memorabilia. Unlike cars, coins or stamps, where you pretty much know what’s there, music memorabilia is much more diverse.
Lastly, we shouldn’t forget that this isn’t an exact science. We collect mostly because of our passion, and when you translate passion into value, the number in the end will be different for most of us. To me, that’s also the beauty of collecting music memorabilia. One collector will pay $50 for a certain poster, whereas the next collector will pay $500.
I find absolute pricing to be a bit of a dangerous undertaking, and I personally would like to see us concentrate more on ranges instead. Once we have widely established and accepted ranges, it’s up to the collector to decide whether on not to follow those guidelines. It certainly will make the whole negotiating part a little easier and, better yet, will provide a great aid in assessing the true value of a collectible.
Stephen M.H. Braitman is a music appraiser, writer, collector, and fan.