Monthly Archives: May 2012

Alexander Tucker – Third Mouth

January 01, 1970

(Thrill Jockey)


A trance-like adventure begins in Kent, England with the pop
experimentalist Alexander Tucker.  This
artist features superb acoustic pop melodies while interpreting his view of
nature, life, and love.  (At times he
sounds similar Pink Floyd.) The mind altering adventure on CD begins with a
peaceful view of nature begins and a love of the sea; first track “A Dried
Seahorse” is an emotional tale about a seahorse dying shortly after being born.  This track has a psychedelic feel throughout
featuring light acoustic riffs and a heavy bass line, an ambient vibe bringing
out the wonders of nature and the sea. The tranquility of the Earth
subsequently turns into upheaval with “Mullioned View,” a gloomy story about
humanity’s distorted view of the world wherein human beings are always fighting
with one another instead of finding peaceful ways to coexist.  This track has a more mysterious psychedelic
feel throughout featuring darker acoustic riffs which bring out the ominous


Cosmic adventure continues with the heavier, almost
galactic fifth track “Andromeon,” about taking a ride into outer space and
exploring the unknown.  Finally, the
adventure ends with undying love: “Rh” is a romantic tale about a young man’s
desire for his girlfriend, its percussion suggesting a nervous heartbeat while
chanting vocals bring out the passion in the track.


Ultimately, Tucker has a remarkable grasp of melodic,
psychedelic pop; his album – 35 minutes of pure psych power – will stimulate
the senses and take one’s mind elsewhere. 


DOWNLOAD: “Mullioned View,” “Andromeon”  LESLIE SNYDER

Mark Stewart – The Politics of Envy

January 01, 1970



For his eighth solo effort, former Pop Group ranter Mark
Stewart offers an entirely professional art-punk album. Which is kind of odd,
since the Pop Group specialized in amateurism that went beyond inspired to
downright apocalyptic.

That fans of British post-punk will be intrigued, if not necessarily transported,
by The Politics of Envy is obvious
from its list of guest stars: Richard Hell, Gina Birch, Tessa Pollitt, Youth,
Daddy G and, of course, Bobby Gillespie. (Also Kenneth Anger, for what that’s
worth.) All these pals help Stewart range across dub, funk, goth and electro,
while spouting sloganistic denunciations of consumer culture and other dangers:
“If you’re not busy buying/You’re busy being sold,” warns the
throbbing “Gang War,” a collaboration with the ever-ominous Lee
“Scratch” Perry that includes shout-outs to Hamas and Hezbollah.
(Ironic? Maybe, but irony has never been a specialty of either man.)

Most of this sounds pretty good, if surprisingly conventional. “Gustav
Says” is basically a disco tune, complete with backup chicks. “Baby
Bourgeois” may denounce “corporate cocksuckers,” but its hook is
a cheery “na na na-na na.” “Letter to Hermione” is a Bowie cover that even Bowie might find too deferential. And at the
end of “Codex,” Stewart seems to be channeling Barry White.

Other songs are, thankfully, more unruly. That must be Levene playing guitar on
“Autonomia” and “Stereotype,” which surge like early Public
Image Limited, and “Want” growls and gnashes convincingly. But too
much of The Politics of Envy sounds
like the mid-’80s acts that glued British pop back together after bands like
the Pop Group smashed it to bits.

DOWNLOAD: “Autonomia,”

Ian Hunter Band featuring Mick Ronson – Live at Rockpalast

January 01, 1970



In the
absence of legitimate contemporary rock ‘n’ roll heroes, a sort of “cult
of personality” has grown up around a number of admittedly eccentric
1960s-and-70s-era musicians. From Nick Lowe and Robyn Hitchcock to Todd
Rundgren and other aging rockers raised in the long shadows of the second World
War, the digital era has been kinder to them than most, prompting a rediscovery of their early, acclaimed work by
a younger audience, extending their careers long past the ostensible commercial
“sell by” date. In many instances, it has enabled these artists to
grow old with dignity and grace, allowing them to deliver some of the best
music of their lives in the 21st century.


Of all of
these fellow travelers, Ian Hunter is the oldest and, perhaps, the most
iconoclastic. A late arrival to U.K. glam-rock cult faves Mott the Hoople,
Hunter quickly took over the band’s creative reigns and became its best-known
member. (Don’t think so? Quick, name another Mott member other than Hunter or guitarist
Mick Ralphs…) Hunter’s often-snarky, Dylan-inspired wordplay and the band’s
guitar-heavy hard-rock sound would earn them a modicum of fame, if little
fortune, and by the mid-1970s, realizing that the party was coming to a close, Hunter
jumped the Mott ship for a solo career, taking former David Bowie/Lou Reed
guitarist, and recent band addition Mick Ronson with him.


Although a
direct line can be drawn from Mott the Hoople to the intelligent punk-rock of
the Clash and the less-intellectual, but admittedly more commercially successful
pseudo-metal of Def Leppard, it is Ian Hunter’s sporadic solo career that has
influenced a generation of British, as well as a lesser number of American musicians.
Beginning with his self-titled 1975 debut, which yielded the classic “Once
Bitten Twice Shy,” through the end of the decade and a handful of albums
culminating in 1979’s You’re Never Alone
With A Schizophrenic
, which entered “Just Another Night” and
“Cleveland Rocks” to the rock ‘n’ roll lexicon, Hunter wrote a
musical legacy that continues to resonate loudly even in recent works like
2007’s Shrunken Heads and 2009’s Man Overboard.


In April 1980,
reunited with his friend and longtime musical foil Ronson (management problems
having kept the two madmen apart for
several years), Hunter performed for the popular German TV show Rockpalast. Translating, roughly, as
“Rock Palace,” the program has been broadcast since 1974, airing
performances from, literally, hundreds of rock, blues, jazz, and other artists.
Video clips from the TV show have been a staple of YouTube since the dawn of
that website, but only within the last couple of years has Germany’s MIG Music
made a number of full-length performances available on CD and DVD.


Hunter’s 1980
Rockpalast performance, prominently
featuring guitarist Ronson, stands as a true gem among an eclectic and varied
catalog offered by MIG Music. Fronting a band that included Ronson, bassist
Martin Briley, a pair of keyboard players, and a drummer, Hunter rips through a
baker’s dozen of songs from both his solo albums as well as his tenure with
Mott the Hoople.  Performing in front of
an enthusiastic German audience at the large Grugahalle arena in Essen, Germany,
the first half of Live At Rockpalast mimics the tracklist, if not the actual performances, found on Hunter’s 1980
live release Welcome To The Club. The
album-opening instrumental “F.B.I.” is effectively a raucous band
intro fueled by Ronson’s wiry fretwork and a driving rhythm that leads
straightaway into “Once Bitten Twice Shy,” the hoary hard-rock
chestnut stripped down here, provided a slight boogie-rock framework with
Hunter’s wry vocals dancing atop a sparse arrangement that explodes into a full-blown
rock ‘n’ roll cyclone.


beautifully lovestruck “Angeline” (a/k/a “Sweet Angeline,”
from Brain Capers) is the first of
several Mott the Hoople treasures recreated here, the song’s simple,
slightly-twangy construction reminiscent of Nick Lowe’s Brinsley Schwartz,
Hunter’s passionate vocals rising above a cacophony of chiming guitars and
cascading drumbeats. A pair of beloved tunes from that band’s breakthrough 1973
album Mott are provided similar
reverence, the wistful “I Wish I Was Your Mother” benefiting from
Ronson’s elegant guitarplay and Hunter’s haunting, weary vocals while the
up-tempo “All The Way From Memphis” displays all the reckless abandon
and joyful banter of the original.


Hunter’s modest solo hits, “Cleveland Rocks” may be better-known than
“Just Another Night” due to its use as the theme of The Drew Carey Show for several years, performed
there by the Presidents of the United States of America (remember
“Lump”?). Hunter’s version kicks ass, hands down, the singer
declaring the city one of the birthplaces of rock ‘n’ roll and then kicking out
the jams with a high-octane performance that is over-the-top delicious in its
unbridled energy. Hunter’s vocals ride a wave of distorted guitars and crashing
rhythms, feedback creeping in at the edges as the singer delivers the lyrics
with a punkish sneer and a sly grin. “Just Another Night” ain’t
chopped liver, though…Hunter’s swaggering vocals sit comfortably within a
blanket of sound, keyboards tinkling above a sweaty, grinding dancefloor


Live At Rockpalast includes performances
of several of Hunter’s lesser-known songs as well as an intriguing cover of the
obscure mid-1960s Sonny Bono single “Laugh At Me.” A spry pop-rock tune
with an undeniable melody, vocal harmonies, edgy guitarwork, and period-perfect
alienated teen lyrics, Hunter and crew crank up the pathos and turn up the amps
and deliver a riveting performance. “We Gotta Get Out Of Here”
debuted on Welcome To The Club and,
sadly, wouldn’t be reprised on any later studio albums. Here the song is a
hard-rocking sledgehammer with an infectious chorus, scraps of honky-tonk
piano, tense guitar, bashed cymbals, gang vocals, and an overall crescendo of
chaotic instrumentation.


The set,
somewhat appropriately, closes with the Mott hit “All The Young
Dudes” and Ronson’s “Slaughter On 10th Avenue.” The former,
handed to the band by the album’s producer David Bowie, is played
embarrassingly straight. Ronson’s guitar mimics perfectly Mick Ralph’s original
rakish note-picking, and Hunter’s vocals sound every bit as punkish in 1980 as
they did in 1972. The upbeat “Dudes” leads right into Ronson’s
languid instrumental; taken from the guitarist’s 1974 solo album by that name,
the song starts out slow and jazzy and builds to an enormously satisfying


Ian Hunter
and Mick Ronson would more or less carry on their musical collaboration until
Ronson’s untimely death in 1993, frequently touring throughout the early 1980s as
the Hunter Ronson Band of which, sadly, only bootleg recordings seem to exist.
When Hunter went on hiatus during the latter half of the 1980s, Ronson
continued to record and produce, touring with Dylan and working with artists as
diverse as Morrissey, Meatloaf, Roger McGuinn, and John Mellencamp, among
others. The two friends would reunite for Hunter’s 1990 album YUI Orta, and performed together one
last time in 1992 during a tribute to Queen’s Freddie Mercury that would be
documented on Ronson’s posthumous solo album Heaven and Hull.


For a
couple of nights in Germany
in 1980, however, both artists were at the top of their game, and Live At Rockpalast captures the magic that was Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson


DOWNLOAD: “Cleveland
Rocks,” “All The Young Dudes,” “Laugh At Me” REV.



Moon Martin – Shots From a Cold Nightmare + Escape From Domination + Street Fever

January 01, 1970

(Capitol/Culture Factory USA)


Back in the late ‘70s, the term “new wave” didn’t refer to a
specific style of music, but an actual new
of rock & roll that followed punk’s stripped-down aesthetic, if
not its search-and-destroy principles. The point was still to take rock back to
a simpler sound and get it away from arena rock bombast and overproduced top 40
pop. One by-product of this sea change was that musicians working in a style
that would now be called Americana found a way back into the rock mainstream
merely by making subtle adjustments to what they were already doing (Nick Lowe,
John Hiatt, Carlene Carter) or, in some cases, no adjustments at all (the Stray


One such musician was John “Moon” Martin, born in 1950. Prior
to his solo career he was best known (if at all) as a member of early ‘70s
country rock outfit Southwind. But the singer/songwriter has roots in the same
fertile Oklahoma
scene from which sprang Dwight Twilley and Phil Seymour, with a love of
rockabilly and a facility for pop hooks that made him a natural for the new
wave ‘70s. While he had only one minor hit of his own, he scored a couple of
others when his compositions found their way into other hands. (More on that
below.) But his work of the era has stood the test of time and deserves
rediscovery, a task helped by the reissues of his first three albums by Culture
Factory USA.


Released in 1978, Shots
From a Cold Nightmare
is Martin’s debut solo LP, and arguably his
definitive statement. The record rolls all this strengths into one collection –
rootsy rockers (“Hot Nite in Dallas,” “She’s a Pretender,” the
rockabilly-infused “Cadillac Walk,” later covered by Mink DeVille), soulful
ballads (“Night Thoughts”), midtempo brooders (“Pain Killer,” “You Never Say
You Love Me”). His take on the Beatles’ “All I’ve Got to Do” is an unexpected
delight, but the most immediately striking track is “Bad Case of Loving You,” a
no-nonsense pounder given a feverish (some might say overheated) remake by
Robert Palmer a year later. Fronting a band that includes Phil Seymour,
Blondie’s Gary Valentine and producer Craig Leon on keyboards, Martin proffers
straightforward, uncomplicated arrangements that emphasize the tunes and his
double-tracked red velvet vocals. Shots
From a Cold Nightmare
is arguably a lost 70s classic, now found again.


Martin followed Shots up with 1979’s Escape From Domination,
a record which turns up the pop quotient, at least relative to the debut. Thus
alongside the bopping “Hot House Baby” and “Dangerous” and the snarling “Gun
Shy,” we also get the peppy “I’ve Got a Reason” and “She Made a Fool Out of
You.” Ironically, “Rolene,” Martin’s lone top 40 hit (also later covered by
Mink DeVille), is a roots rocker with no concession to pop slickness. Martin
closes the album with a nod to his past in the form of “Bootleg Woman,” written
by his old Southwind bandmate Fontaine Brown. The midtempo “The Feeling’s
Right,” the soft rocking “No Chance” and the creamy ballad “Dreamer” shave off
a few too many edges, with the latter being too close to easy listening for
comfort, but the rest of the record will still please fans of the first one. (Trainspotters
will note the presence of Jude Cole, soon to be of the Records and a future
solo artist, on backup guitar.)


1980’s Street Fever cranks up the rock elements, with louder guitars and a predominance of faster
tempos and bolder aggression. (As aggressive as possible with Martin’s
mellifluous voice, anyway.) “Breakout Tonight,” “Pushed Around” and “Love Gone
Bad” stand up nicely to the tough power pop of the era, while “No Dice” grooves
in a way that would become familiar to new wavers in the Reagan years and “Five
Days of Fever” simply rocks harder than anything he’s ever done before. “Cross
Your Fingers,” meanwhile, evokes a Phil Spectorish melody and arrangement
without bombast and “Rollin’ in My Rolls” Rockpiles the record to a close. The
mellow “Whispers,” however, sounds like it should be on a different album, nice
as its harmony beds are. The songwriting occasionally feels slight here, but
overall Street Fever maintains the standards
set by Martin’s previous records.


Culture Factory’s limited editions are replicas of the
original vinyl releases, from the credits and the liner notes to the copyright
information and label on the disk itself. As such there are no bonus tracks or
historical notes, though the sound has been remastered, giving the music more
clarity without sacrificing vinyl warmth.


Case of Loving You,” “Cadillac Walk,” “Hot Nite in Dallas,” “Dangerous,” “Rolene,” “Breakout
Tonight,” “Cross Your Fingers” MICHAEL TOLAND


Freakwater – Feels Like the Third Time

January 01, 1970

(Thrill Jockey)


Never mind the fact that they named their debut album Feels Like the Third Time, Freakwater’s
first recording, originally released in 1993, boasted an unerring sense of
familiarity within a rustic country template. Replete with hillbilly harmonies,
fiddles and a convincing front porch sway, it established them as Americana auteurs back when
the genre was in first flush and authentic old school sounds were well outside
the mainstream.


Regardless, the band pulls off their Conway Twitty and Woody
Guthrie covers (“You’ve Never Been This Far Before” and “Put My Little Shoes,”
respectively) with an impressive aplomb and even succeeds in making Nick Lowe’s
lilting “You Make Me” sound like a rural original. Whether it’s the plaintive
wail accompanying “Dream Girl,” the plea for redemption
on the apocalyptic ballad “Pale
Horse,” the woozy sprawl of “My Old Drunk Friend,” or the mournful croon winding
through “Sleeping on Hold” and the anything-but “Forgettable Song,” Freakwater
cast themselves in sepia tones and vintage tomes.


 It’s worth noting as
a historical footnote that the original vinyl pressings are long out of print,
thanks to a fire at the record plant that prohibited the production of all but
the original orders. Happily then, Thrill Jockey opted
to press a newly re-mastered batch of the vinyl version just in time for this
year’s Record Store Day, complete with the original cover art and a free download.
As a result, Feels Like the Third Time feels more like a welcome return.


Make Me,” “You’ve Never Been This Far Before,” “Forgettable Song” LEE ZIMMERMAN


Johnny Bertram and the Golden Bicycles – Neon City

January 01, 1970



funny when you expect a record to sound like something, based on the name of
the band or a photo of the band. This happened before, with the debut by this
band (Days That Passed) and I was
surprised then. Of this Portland, Oregon (via Mississippi) bunch I expected
beards, flannels and a record that sounded a lot like Fleet Foxes (which the
debut did a bit more) but this record has a touch of Band of Horses here, some
Matthew Sweet there and yes, some of that mellow Northwest folk that the kinds
love so much, if you know what I mean. Wait, you don’t know what I mean? Well,
keep reading.


a lot of bands these days it’s hard to categorize their music, which is a
compliment to the band. It has a bit of a dusty feel, but isn’t really country,
it’s folky without sounding like they’re completely aping one specific band or
scene and at times some punchy power-pop rears its head and they do that well,
too. The one thing that sets Bertram and Co. ahead of the rest of the pack is
the strength of the songs. The melodies are strong as are the harmonies, and
tunes like the moody “Out of the Darkness,” the chunky “River” and the
country-inflected “The Sawtooth Range” and the dreamy/folky title track (all on
Side A) should boost this guys stock if anyone’s listening.


music on Neon City is like the food
at the Village Inn (where I went for the first timer last night) it’s cozy,
comforting and you want to keep going back to it (now if only the management at
the Village Inn would play this record during dinner time, that would be
something, eh?).


DOWNLOAD: “Out of the Darkness,”
“River,” “The Sawtooth Range,” “Neon
City,” “Mistake” TIM


Marvin Etzioni – Marvin Country!

January 01, 1970

(Nine Mile)


Songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Marvin Etzioni has worn many hats
during his past quarter century in the music business, mainly those of producer
(Peter Case, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Tom Freund, Grey DeLisle) and, early on,
bass player for Lone Justice. In the early 90s he made a serious of
well-received solo records, the best of which is 1992’s The Mandolin Man.
Twenty years later he’s finally returned to solo album action, though in the
company of some better-known friends, with the double album Marvin Country!


Title aside, country music is more of an influence than a formula
here. The record veers from country rock and balladry to bluesy rock and earthy
folk, with a wide variety of guests to match. The results of casting such a
wide net, both in stylistic experimentation and talent, is unsurprisingly
uneven. Lucinda Williams reminds us why she’s not known as a harmony singer on
the faux-countrypolitan “Lay It On the Table.” A self-conscious lo-fi aesthetic
and clumsy environmental lyric undo the well-meaning “Where’s Your Analog
Spirit?” (guest-starring Shane Fontayne). The retro folk song “Ain’t No Work in
comes off as unfinished, in either version (one with Steve Earle and the other
as the Holy Brothers). “Gram Revisited” (which contains samples of Parsons
himself) and “What’s Patsy Cline Doing These Days? pts
I & II” (featuring irreverent cowpunk Jon Wayne and quirky gospel
folksinger Grey DeLisle) sound uncertainly poised between grateful nods to his
forebears and experimental art.


Luckily, the interesting failures are balanced by more successful
ventures. “Hard to Build a Home,” “Hold Fast Your Dreams” (with soul singer
Chris Pierce) and “You Possess Me” (featuring his old bandleader Maria McKee)
hit perfect notes in soulful country balladry. “Living Like a Hobo” (with Buddy
Miller) and “The Grapes of Wrath” (with John Doe) find just the right balance
of satirical librettos and rough-hewn country rock. The mandolin/drum machine
duet “Diamond in the Sky” proves that Etzioni’s cross-pollination can work
well. Many of the best songs feature Etzioni alone or with minimal
accompaniment – “God’s Little Mansion,” “Miss This World” and “You Are the
Light” (featuring the Dixie Hummingbirds) strip down to the bone for the most
effective emotional highlights.


It’s tempting to give
post-partum advice about editing and pruning, but truthfully, Etzioni’s
artistry is best experienced unadulterated, warts ‘n’ all. The simple fact that
he’s willing to release the bare-bones “There’s a Train,” in which the singer
is so moved he actually breaks down over the course of the song, says as much
about Etzioni’s vision as it does his talent. Marvin Country! may have
its cringeworthy moments, but it’s a singular statement, and it’s hard to
imagine taking advantage of the skip button when transcendence is just moments



Possess Me,” “God’s Little Mansion,” “You Are the Light” MICHAEL TOLAND


Garrison Starr – Amateur

January 01, 1970

(Radtown Music)


It’s been a long road so far for Garrison Starr, one in
which she’s carved herself a nice little niche while still searching for wider
awareness. So though its title may seem intended to underplay her abilities,
there’s a good chance that Amateur will, in fact, bring her all the more closer to the larger audience that’s so
decidedly her due.


Granted, there’s a certain sense of deliberate calculation
at play here, especially evident in the techno underpinnings of “Keep Your Head
Down,” the anthemic outreach of the self-anointed “To Garrison, On Her 29th Birthday” and the riveting refrains of “When You’re Really Trying.” Likewise,
even some of the more modest songs like “The Train That’s Bound For Glory”
feature souped-up arrangements, which in this case belies the traditional sound
and suggestion. The credits name-check a cast of thousands… or so it seems,
especially with Mary Chapin Carpenter, Gary Jules, Glen Phillips and Kevin
Devine among those enlisted.


Fortunately though, as the album works its way forward,
Starr seems to find her feel and foregoes the mostly extraneous trappings. As a
result, the tracks that come later – the contemplative “Other People’s Eyes,”
the yearning “I May Not Let Go” and the beautifully sensual “Rednecks and
Sailors” – are also those that boast the most appeal, courtesy of Starr’s
sensual come-ons and her greater investment in emotion. Amateur? Hardly.
Clearly, this Starr is still on the rise.


“Rednecks and Sailors,” “The Train That’s Bound For Glory,” “When You’re Really

Silversun Pickups – Neck of the Woods

January 01, 1970



the course of three albums I’ve waited for Silversun Pickups to make a record
that sounded like something fresh and original. Sadly, their latest, Neck of the Woods, is neither. The band
continues to suck from the teat of 1990’s alt-rock; taking most of their
musical cues from bands like Sunny Day Real Estate, Sonic Youth and, most
blatantly, Smashing Pumpkins. On the album the band does jump decades and takes
some tricks from great bands of the 1980s. “The Pit” is straight up New Order
with a dark, brooding, interesting synch driven sound; “Here We Are” is filled
with drum machine sterility and quietly strummed guitar, most likely an attempt to build atmosphere.


So if
you’re looking for a record that feeds your need for nostalgia, for a time when
loud/quiet/loud songs ruled the land, then pick up Neck of The Woods. However, if you’re looking for something that’s
groundbreaking, thought provoking, unique and ultimately worth the money, don’t


DOWNLOAD: “Mean Streets,” “The Pit” DANNY




Sonny Landreth – Elemental Journey

January 01, 1970



After spending two decades proving he’s the master of
Cajun-influenced stomping roots rock, Sonny Landreth has decided to explore new
worlds for a change. His fans know that few are his equal at conjuring
expressive, intensive, and inventive slide guitar melodies and riffs in the
context of songcraft. This time around, Landreth puts all those skills to the
service of instrumental rock.


Borrowing Joe Satriani and Eric Johnson for two cuts will
put him on the radar of Guitar World aficionados, yet while just as technically challenging as anything those two
have created, Landreth’s material is more evocative, and more emotionally rich
than either. Landreth also plays with a string section and a keyboardist on
many of the cuts here, a rare foray outside his normal three piece band set-up.
The arrangements are subtle, supple, and entirely supportive of Landreth’s
delicious soloing. While a couple of tunes (“Gaia Tribe,” “Reckless Beauty”)
recall Landreth’s vocal material, most of the material here is unlike anything
we’ve heard from him before, but every bit as beautiful.


DOWNLOAD: “Wonderide,”
“Brave New Girl” STEVE PICK