Friday, February 26, 2010

The Hard Way


Released in 1990, The Hard Way probably ranks as Steve's most overlooked album. Why? To be honest, I don't have a clue. It's a solid-to-spectacular 13-song set containing such long-lasting classics as "The Other Kind," "Promise You Anything," "Billy Austin," "Have Mercy" and "Justice in Ontario," which I rate amongst the best tracks Steve's ever recorded. Echoing "Copperhead Road," it compares and contrasts the story of Jim Donnelly (lynched a hundred years ago for a crime he didn't commit) to a more recent occurence in Ontario, where witnesses to a murder were brought up on charges and convicted. There's no saving grace, no kicker--just the cold, hard truth. In fact, "Justice" is at the heart of this album. There may have been several factors that contributed to this being a highly overlooked album. Coming off the heels of his successful Copperhead Road album, which was almost more rock than country, The Hard Way didn't receive near the pub it deserved. Also by 1990 Steve's drug use had amped up and he had been addicted to heroin for many years. It started to become clear that the drugs were seriously affecting him. By 1992, his drug problems resulted in him effectively stopping performing and recording for two years, a period he refers to as his "vacation in the ghetto". He eventually ended up in jail on drug and firearms charges.

The Hard Way may well be the album that cost Earle his job with MCA records(they wanted more country and less political), but for music fans looking for genuinely hard hitting lyrics supported by high-power guitar and drum work, it's one of the best albums any artist in any genre has ever produced and certainly should be revisited.

The Other Kind
Regular Guy
Promise You Anything
Buy It

Funny Toon

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Devil Lied to Me


Country Dick Montana was a musician who was probably best known as the founder, drummer and sometimes vocalist of the Beat Farmers. He was also in the short-lived trio the Pleasure Barons with Mojo Nixon and Dave Alvin. Anyone who ever witnessed the onstage antics of Beat Farmers drummer-singer-madman Country Dick Montana will likely never forget them. Rising up from behind his kit, bottle in hand, the 6-foot-3-inch mountain of a man with a booming basso profundo voice hurtled himself into each song, sometimes hurtling offstage in the process. In 1995 Montana suffered a heart attack and died while playing "The Girl I Almost Married" during a Beat Farmers show at the Longhorn Saloon in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada. The band disbanded shortly thereafter.

Yet two months prior to his death, Country Dick had just put the finishing touches on his first solo album. The Devil Lied to Me was posthumously released in 1996 and it's a shame Dick passed away because it was a four star album. Guest performers included Katy Moffatt, Rosie Flores, Mojo Nixon, and Dave Alvin. Some selections include Dave Alvin's Rich Man's Town, Paul Kamanski's Indigo Rider, a cover of Tom Petty's Listen to Her Heart, and the originals King of the Hobos, as well as a tribute to amateur rappers entitled Bum Rap. I thought I should tie something in with the Olympics that I have been busy watching and this album seemed fitting to me since he passed away doing what he loved in Whistler. RIP Country Dick, Gold medalist in beer drinkin' and hellraisin' and all around awesomeness.

Indigo Rider
Suddenly There's A Valley
Green Door
Buy It

Funny Toon

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

...But The Little Girls Understand


Back on Jan 28 I wrote a post about the Knack's classic debut album. Get the Knack. Judging from the comments it was a well received post and I got the feeling that most agreed with what I'd said. Little did I know that in a little over two weeks, lead singer and guitarist Doug Fieger would pass away from a six year battle with cancer. Doug finally succumbed to his cancer at his home on Feb 14. I knew he was ill but always hoped for the best outcome for him. I had always hoped that someday The Knack would get the recognition they deserved and I still feel that day will come, but unfortunately Doug won't be with us to see that day. So I am here to spread more Knack goodness in Doug's memory. RIP Doug, I for one thank you for the music.

By the time The Knack released their second album, ...But The Little Girls Understand, the backlash had already started. The album takes it's title from a line from Willie Dixon's Back Door Man. Doug Fieger stated that "But The Little Girls Understand" was made up of songs originally slated to be on "Get The Knack" as part of a double album, but Capital Records said "No!". So The Knack had enough songs for a 2 record debut but what band tries that trick? Especially as a debut album. Back then the studios were notoriously against double albums. The Clash got away with it twice as a result of trickery on their part as I found out when I was reading Joe Strummer's biography. As a result this album was rush released 8 months after "Get The Knack" in 1980. Now if this album was a debut album it would have came off fine, but since it was all material slated for the original, critics nailed it saying it sounded like their first album. Well duh. Also releasing the catchy(yet eerily familiar)Baby Talks Dirty as the first single only increased the backlash. They were also under fire again for the lyrics to their songs. The album did sell well, but not nearly as well as the first and it seemed to be the final nail in the casket for the Knack. Perhaps if they had released their debut as a double, it would be hailed as a masterpiece today. Who Knows? It's still a great album to me.So in memory of Doug Fieger I urge my readers to revisit this album and perhaps discover that it's not as bad as some may want you to think.

Hold on Tight And Don't Let Go
It's You
Tell Me You're Mine
Buy It


Funny Toon

Friday, February 12, 2010

Budokan!


Cheap Trick's first live album came out in 1978 and was called Cheap Trick At Budokan. Originally the album was never intended for American audiences as it was only released in Japan where Cheap Trick were almost bigger than the Beatles. When the album started selling well as an import in North America, the record company took notice and released it several months later in 1979. They didn't change much for the American release, as the booklet that was included was mostly written in Japanese. Widely regarded as one of the best live albums ever recorded it has also been recognized in Rolling Stones top 500 albums of all time. The album came from two shows recorded April 28,30 from the Budokan arena. In 1998 At Budokan: The Complete Concert was released, remastered and fully restored to include all the concert tracks left off the original 79 album. A 30th Anniversary Edition of this historic show, Budokan!, was released on November 11, 2008, as a four-disc set. In addition to the two-disc "Complete Concert", it includes a DVD and CD version of the concert from April 28, 1978. The filmed concert had originally been shown on Japanese TV, and was not previously commercially available until now. It may seem as either exploitation or overindulgence for an album that was a model of efficiency in its original humble ten-track form, but this triple-CD DVD box provides plenty of thrills for those inclined to venture once more into familiar territory.

My very first concert ever was Cheap Trick from the North American leg of that same tour. So This set was an absolute thrill for me. Watching the DVD was mesmerizing and took me back to my first concert all those years ago, it gave me chillbumps and I felt like I was sixteen again. Cheap Trick's forte has always been their live shows. The energy, the antics, musicianship and the raw rock n roll sound has never been adequately captured in studio form. The screaming fans, the killer vocals of Robin Zander, Rick Nielsen's screaming guitars, Tom Petersson's crashing bass lines, and the thunderous drums of Bun E. Carlos. My experience of that first Cheap Trick concert is the standard to which I compare all other live experiences. So if you're a Trick fan, this is the definitive volume of this classic album. I'm putting up a couple tracks from the April 28th show that was shown on television that is only available in this set. A true classic that there should be a law stating that if you listen to rock n roll you must legally own this album.

Auf Wiedersehen
ELO Kiddies
Buy It

Funny Toon

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Covergirl


Slim Jim Phantom, Lee Rocker and Earl Slick released two classic rockin' albums in the mid 80's that never made the transition from vinyl to digital. In late 1984 when the Stray Cats career started to decline and tensions among the band members were on the rise, Brian Setzer decided it was time to call it a day and the trio was no more. Bass player Lee Rocker and drummer Slim Jim Phantom hooked up with guitarist Earl Slick, who had played with David Bowie and Silver Condor as well as leading his own band. The Cat boys brought along their rockabilly roots, Slick brought along some glam rock muscle and in 1985 Phantom Rocker and Slick released their self titled debut. Most critics hated it, but I freakin' loved it. The best song by far on Phantom, Rocker and Slick is "Men Without Shame," a swaggering 6 1/2-minute jolt of pure electricity. Slick's guitar work is masterful and bears down on you like a locomotive. On the strength of this song alone the album stayed on the charts for six months. Keith Richards and Nicky Hopkins make an appearance on the album and there is not a bad song to be found.

Their second album Cover Girl came out in 1986 and yielded one hit, a cover of the Hollies, Long Cool Woman in a Black dress. Both albums were only released on vinyl or cassette and sometimes you can find a copy on Ebay or elsewhere for an extravagant price. Back in 2008 Jim was asked a question about the possibility of these two classic albums ever being released again and he replied that they were trying but the record company wasn't cooperating. The second album is not quite as strong as their debut album but still has some quality stuff on it and is worth tracking down if you have a turntable. Homercat has a couple tracks here and if anyone is really interested in the rest, drop me an email and the cat can hook you up.

Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress
Cover Girl

Funny Toon

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Steel Breeze


Steel Breeze is a group from California that had a popular video on MTV with "You Don't Want Me Anymore" in 1982. One may ask how did I come to pick this dusty old gem from the attic? Mrs. homercat is a music lover like myself, yet she claims to absolutely hate 80's music. What with all the synths and stuff. She says 80's music chased her over to country music until "real" rock n roll returned in the 90's. So imagine my surprise when I was going through her cache of vinyl albums and there it was. An album that combined all the trends of the day, one I may add that she actually purchased. So now I'm beginning to suspect that she may be a closet 80's fan.

Steel Breeze took their name from a snatch of lyrics to Pink Floyd's "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" ("You were caught on the crossfire/Of childhood and stardom/Blown on the steel breeze"), the six piece outfit became an early darling of MTV. Blending traditional, guitar-based power pop with the new wave/synthesizer trends of the day, their self-titled 1982 release scored a sizable hit, aided by heavy rotation on MTV of the song "You Don't Want Me Anymore." The song wasn't quite able to crack the Top Ten, but it remained charted for five months. They went on to release one more disappointing album and that was the end of Steel Breeze, like many of their 80's counterparts. This really is a good album, although it is kind of dated. But if you liked 80s new wave rock, it's for you. One thing that may surprise you is that there is some really good guitar licks on this album.

You Don't Want Me Anymore
Lost In The 80's
Buy It


Funny Toon

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Suspended Animation


The Monks were an English punk band formed in the late 1970s,which rose out of the ashes of the group The Strawbs. Not to be confused with the garage rock band from the 60's of the same name. Their first album, Bad Habits, was released in 1979. The album spawned a number 19 hit single in the UK Singles Chart — "Nice Legs Shame About Her Face". In 1981 they released their second album, Suspended Animation, and it was released only in Canada. At this time they were huge in Canada actually playing stadium gigs across the country. Suspended Animation eventually went platinum in Canada, and pushed sales of Bad Habits to double platinum certification in 1982. The album was finally released worldwide on CD for the first time in 1999. With The Monks you either get it or you don't, I guess. While not as brilliant as their debut album, Suspended has it's moments and it deserved more than a Canada only release back in 81. Especially with the sheer volume of lousy one hit wonders that populated the 80's, this album deserves another listen.

Don't Want No Reds
Grown Ups
Buy It

Funny Toon