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Music Reviews

Everybody’s Talkin’

Everybody’s Talkin’

Everybody’s Talkin’: A Tribute to Fred Neil

Y&T

Fred Neil is not a household name, although everyone probably knows at least one of his songs. Neil was a Brill Building songwriter and an influential presence in the folk revival of the mid-1960’s. Between 1964 and 1967, Neil released three well-received album that garnered him a cult following. His song, “Everybody’s Talkin'” was a hit for Harry Nilsson when it was used as the theme for the movie Midnight Cowboy. The naturally reclusive Neil then retreated back to Florida where he devoted his energies to the Dolphin Project, an organization founded by Ric O’Barry (the Dolphin trainer from the TV show, Flipper), Steven Stills and Neil. Fred Neil continued to perform occasionally around Miami until his death in 2001 with most of those gigs being benefits for the Dolphin Project.

Fred Neil the musician is associated with the New York folk scene, but his heart was always in Florida. “Everybody’s Talkin'” speaks about going where “the weather suits my clothes.” “Bleecker and MacDougal” was the crossroads of the Greenwich Village folk scene, but Neil’s song by that name is all about longing to be back in Coconut Grove. It’s an obvious choice for the Miami based Y&T label to return some of that love with this tribute album.

Everybody’s Talkin’ is book-ended by versions of “The Dolphins”. Eric Anderson’s wistful version opens the set. It’s a reading of the tune that highlights the longing, searching and sadness in the lyric. The country blues rendition by Matthew Sabatella and Diane is still wistful and sad, but the vocal harmonies and instrumental flourishes give it a more hopeful vibe. It’s a subtle shift of emphasis that embodies the best of Neil’s songs. Of course, the centerpiece of the compilation has to be “Everybody’s Talkin'”. Keith Sykes give us a fine version. The sustained guitar lines quite literally underline the longings at the core of the song. Charlie Pickett’s take on “The Other Side of This Life” is the most energetic song on the disc. The Jefferson Airplane featured the song in their live sets, and Pickett channels that feeling with the late Johnny Salton contributing stinging lead guitar. Bobby Ingram’s rendition of “A Little Bit of Rain” has a timeless feel. The play between Bobby and Bryn’s voices makes me think of the classic country pairings like Tammy Wynette and George Jones.

While most of the songs on Everybody’s Talkin’ have that timeless quality, a few of the tunes are definitely artifacts of their time. “Dade County Jail” is an earnest issue song that is an echo of the earnest folk tunes sung by the Kingston Trio. “Handful of Gimme” also feels like a fly in amber. I guess it’s a fair representation of the man and his times, they just feel a little clunky in the flow of the album.

I’m glad that this compilation will bring attention to Fred Neil’s work. For the longest time, Neil’s records were hard to find and they were very late in getting the CD reissue. People who know of Fred, mostly know him from Nilsson or others doing his songs. So here we are introducing a new generation to Fred Neil by other folks doing his music. Fred would probably be fine with that. I know he’d be glad that proceeds from this tribute will benefit the Dolphin Project.

www.fredneil.com

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Event Reviews

Beach House

Beach House

with Louie, Louie

The Beacham; Orlando, FL • May 26, 2017

If a band plays on a dark stage and you can’t see them, are they really there? Such was the implied question at the supremely sold-out Beach House show. Going more for aura and effect through sound alone, darkness was the unspoken fourth member of the Beach House touring band (core members Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally are joined by drummer James Barone, formerly of Tennis ). While I would have preferred a bit more visual stimuli, other than the occasional blue or red light, backlit strobe, or star effect on the plain backdrop that framed them, that music was served on a mostly blank canvas. Which, I must admit, is damn bold and admittedly appropriate for a band as dreamy in visceral pop wonder as Beach House.

Beach House

Jen Cray
Beach House


Jen Cray


Jen Cray

Also bold, slipping into their set a handful of lesser known songs (off of their newly released B-sides and Rarities). Fearless, otherworldly, and nonconformist in their performance art approach to owning a space — a Beach House concert is quite a demanding thing. It demands the audience to experience not just the music but the space that surrounds it. Almost like they wish that you could read the book of their live show rather than show up and watch it.

Jen Cray


Jen Cray

Makes me wonder how much they must loathe the insistent iPhone video recordings. There was a very strict “no flash photography” policy for the show, but not much can be done about those persistent phone fondlers.

Louie Louie

Jen Cray
Louie Louie

Jen Cray


Jen Cray

Opening the night was retro psychedelic pop group, Louie Louie. These four girls may call Philadelphia home, but I wonder from what decade it is that they come from! Tapping into the cosmic grooves of Jefferson Airplane and the Friday night dance harmonies of 60’s girl groups, these ladies were a wonderfully colorful and perky contrast to the midnight musings that were soon to follow.

Click for full photo galleries: Beach House, and Louie Louie.

www.beachhousebaltimore.com

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Music Reviews

Grateful Dead

Grateful Dead

The Grateful Dead – 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition

Rhino Records

How five scruffy freaks, jazzed on the blues, jug band music and bluegrass became an American institution boggles the mind, but for over 50 years the Grateful Dead have been a pop culture mainstay, and this is where it all started. Released in March of 1967, The Grateful Dead showed the San Francisco band starting off pretty much as they ended, playing a mixture of classic blues – “Good Mornin’ Little Schoolgirl”, “Sitting On Top Of The World” coupled with the more exotic – the opener “The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion)” and “Cream Puff War”. Looking back 50 years, this release hasn’t weathered well, when put against their such releases as city-mates the Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow or the debut album from the Doors, both from 1967. The early days of the Dead were built around Ron “Pigpen” McKernan’s blues organ and vocals, and sounded a bit tentative, at least on record.

But live, now that was a different story, which the second disc relates. Made up of two shows from 1966 from Vancouver – which bassist Phil Lesh deadpans “Our fame has preceded us” when the band is introduced to faint applause – now this is the initial stirrings of the Dead we came to love. Numbers such as “I Know You Rider”, “Viola Lee Blues” and “Cold Rain and Snow” remain in the set list of their latest incarnation, Dead & Company. Because the music is timeless, and the Dead are such distinctive, imaginative artists that it all sounds fresh, decades down the line.

It is impossible to write about the Dead without cliché- so here goes. No one on earth, particularly Jerry Garcia, Pigpen, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh and Bill Kreutzmann – would have believed they would be around in 50 years, no matter what drugs you had ingested. But it’s 2017 and most of us are still here, listening to music that at its most potent, can scramble your brain.

What a long, strange trip it’s been. We need it now, more than ever.

www.dead.net

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Music Reviews

Death Valley Girls

Death Valley Girls

Glow In The Dark

Burger Records

If Jefferson Airplane got lost in the desert, tripped out on hallucinogens, and ran into The Velvet Underground near a flaming cactus campfire, the jam session that would have inevitably transpired may have very well resulted in Death Valley Girls’ Glow In The Dark. “Seis Seis Seis,” especially, slithers through a green demon landscape with poison in its veins and temptation on its tongue. It’s sexy and stained, like a leather clad warrior woman with skinned knees. This delicious delicacy of darkness and decadence, out on Burger Records, holds the head of 70’s glam punk under psychedelic waters letting it up for air just enough to croak a “hey, what’s up?” to Quentin Tarantino (who should get crackin’ on another exploitation action horror film and hit this band up for a key track).

“Pink Radiation” uses an eerie church organ to create a sweet, apocalyptic love song. “Glow In The Dark” struts with its tits out — bold, brash and ready to cut you. There’s an overall gang mentality that surrounds Death Valley Girls. More roller derby or biker gang than street fighters — the kind of girl gang (with one dude in the mix) that jumped off the screen of an old drive-in movie. But it ain’t all territorial disputes and knife fights, this band can shake its money maker when it wants to. “Disco” surprises with a mid tempo skating rink jam. “Death Valley Boogie” leans hard on the guitar licks and stakes a claim on the Los Angeles heritage the band was borne out of. “I’m A Man Too” may sound like a 60’s girl group homage, but it’s performed with a sneer and jab in the spirit of Gore Gore Girls.

There’s a sense of “anything goes” that surrounds this music. Late night make-outs with strangers, seances in cemeteries, rocket ship rides to other planets — I’d like to believe that this band is game for it all… so long as it’s their idea, that is.

burgerrecords.11spot.com/death-valley-girls-glow-in-the-dark.html

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Event Reviews

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals

with Futurebirds

House of Blues, Orlando, FL • February 17, 2013

By 7:30 pm the joint was jumpin’ — standing room only to be sure. The Georgia-based band Futurebirds had just thrown down a well-received opening set and a proverbial smorgasbord of soul-flavored 1970s hits now blasted from the front of house sound system as the road crew worked diligently to prepare for the evening’s main event. Finally at 8:10, the house lights dimmed and the headliners took the stage.

Grace Potter, the band’s charming, energetic and fetching 29-year-old blond singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist frontwoman quickly led the charge, stepping up to the mic in short order and offering the battle cry, “Orlando! Are you ready to get funky?” Based on the response from the 1,500-plus fans, the answer was a resounding, “Yes!”

Grace Potter

Christopher Long
Grace Potter

Wearing a long, flowing, sheer black top with skin-tight, spandex-looking (and delightfully appealing) red slacks, Potter apologized quickly for having brought the winter weather to Florida. Following a couple of early set fan favorites, Potter also shared a few obligatory sentiments regarding how “Florida rocks” and that it is one of the band’s favorite tour destinations, a long-standing rock and roll cliché, but oddly, one that still worked. In fact, with the added sizzle factor of the custom Gibson Flying V draped around her neck (which she plays with great skill and precision), Potter likely could have successfully sold whale steaks to any Greenpeace constituents in attendance.

The band currently is touring in support of their latest record, The Lion The Beast The Beat. However, from such popular selections as “Nothing but the Water” (2005), “Ragged Company” (2005 and 2012), “Goodbye Kiss” (2010), and “Keepsake” (2012), the two-hour set encompassed material spanning the Nocturnals’ entire decade-long career, including the acknowledged biggies, “Paris (Ooh La La),” “Medicine,” and the recent hit, “Stars.”

Matt Burr

Christopher Long
Matt Burr

But aside from Potter’s personal “curb appeal,” this is first and foremost, a musician’s band. The combination of founding drummer Matt Burr with newly recruited bassist Michael Libramento makes for a rock-solid rhythm section that is capable of withstanding hurricane-force conditions. Founding guitarist Scott Tournet’s slide work was simply brilliant, the perfect “partner in crime” to be paired with guitarist Benny Yurco. And the moments when Potter, Tournet, and Yurco collided in three-way guitar blitzes truly were magical.

Benny Yurco

Christopher Long
Benny Yurco

The band fired consistently on all cylinders throughout the set when sticking to what they do best: chopping out rootsy, blues-based rock and roll nuggets from their own impressive and extensive catalog. After all, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals are well-respected with a mighty international fanbase, head and shoulders above “local cover band” status. Hence, the show was somewhat compromised by not only the inclusion of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” (okay, a random cover is kinda cool), but an entire encore of Tom Petty tunes, and not his “A-list” stuff either. Uhmm, aren’t people bludgeoned enough already by schlocky hometown bands covering “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” and “Free Falling” every Friday night at their local Brew-n-Cue?

Yet despite the anticlimactic ending, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals delivered an otherwise impressive, world-class performance, one that certainly seemed to more than satisfy their faithful Orlando flock.

Grace Potter: gracepotter.com

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Music Reviews

Deep Purple

Deep Purple

Scandinavian Nights, In Concert 1970-1972, Live in London, and MK III: The Final Concerts

Eagle Rock Entertainment

Back in Biblical times, we kept our music in milk crates instead of on our telephones. Speakers the size of large dog houses rocked the neighbors and the dedicated fan kept a spare needle from Radio Shack on hand, just in case. And what we cranked to 11 were the classic bands, the Led Zeppelins and the Jefferson Airplanes and especially these guys: Deep Purple. It’s been over 40 years, but these guys are still touring and the fine folks at Eagle Rock just reissued four separate collections of Deep Purple’s live shows. This isn’t a boxed set but rather four separate jewel cases, and the material does overlap so let’s fire up the lava lamp and take the magical mystery tour.

The double album Scandinavian Nights has the earliest date code. It’s also the most self-indulgent album of the lot, and the one to consider if you really want the concert experience. The sound is clean and filled with long rambling jams, flashes of musical brilliance, and extended solos that allowed the rest of the band to go off-stage, take a shower, smoke a joint, go out for a pint, and maybe boff a few groupies. “Black Night” is a compact 7:51 and “Into The Fire” an absolutely pucker-tight 4:51, but the rest of the cuts run from 10 minutes to over half an hour. Purple covers the Stones’ “Paint It Black” and they delve deeply into “Child in Time.” While “Paint It Black” has a slow spot where I think the entire band leaves the stage, “Child in Time” features Gillian at his tight-leather-pants-screaming best. “Mandrake Root” and “Wring That Neck” are less well known, and at a half hour each you really need some psychotropics to justify the investment of time. That leaves “Speed King,” a solid piece that was a foundation of their show, but is now rather obscure. Scandinavian Nights is a free-form jazz concert improv jam album, and it’s an acquired taste like scotch whiskey and truffles.

John Peel and Mike Harding of the BBC introduce most of the music on Live in Concert 70-72. More disciplined than Scandinavian Nights, this album recalls The Doors — keyboards prominent and arresting, Deep Purple is at the peak of the “Mark II” phase, and the band is on the verge of its biggest success. The mega-jams are reduced and here we see the heavy rock stepping back from the faster-harder-better paradigm and turning toward the power ballad. The band is at its best lineup: Ritchie Blackmore on guitar, Ian Gillian on vocals, Ian Paice on drums, Jon Lord on keys, and Roger Glover on bass. This session includes most of the Machine Head hits, although that release was still a few weeks in the future. “Wring That Neck” appears here along with “Mandrake Root” as well — these are acceptable songs, but feel like concert jam filler rather than reasons to pop for a ticket. We feel the beginnings of the power ballad with “Strange Kind of Woman.” It’s rock with a story line: A man pursues a woman, marries, and then she has the bad taste to die a few weeks later. While there’s an element of cock-rock in the song, it shows that heavy metal can have a heart. This two-disc set is my favorite; it’s like having a private Machine Head concert.

“Live in London” introduces the Mark III Version of Deep Purple. Glen Hughes replaces Roger Glover and David Cloverdale picks up vocals. The album Burn has just come out and that title track opens this show. After the mandatory local DJ intro, the band blasts out and gives the audience a sonic butt kicking. After the melodic “Might Just Take Your Life,” you hear the bones of “My Woman From Tokyo” opening Who Do We Think We Are? This is the modest live album — solos are minimal, but listen to this version for the monolith “Smoke on The Water” and you’ll see why some drunk is always shouting out for it. Even the half hour of “Space Trucking” seems oddly familiar.

By 1975, Glenn Hughes replaces Roger Glover and Blackmore is on the edge of starting his own solo project Rainbow Rising. In this gloriously decadent album, we open with what is undoubtedly Blackmore’s best take on “Burn.” The guitars roll on like a Mongol invasion, the drumming is tight and solid like a pit bull taking down a Doberman, and then the keyboard grabs your privates, spits in your face and drags you down to rock ‘n’ roll hell. And that was just the first cut. The shock and awe carries thought “Stormbringer,” “Gypsy,” and another rendition of “Smoke on The Water.” True, there’s a forgettable “Lady Double Dealer” and “Mistreated,” but everything else here is sonically crisp and clean and emotionally down and dirty — this is no muddy “Live at the Fillmore” slop and no fakey fakey “Studio Greatest Hits Mixed With Left Over Applause” sham. The wretched excess of jamming is limited to the second disc — “Space Trucking” and “Highway Star” lurk therein, but better versions appear on other discs. This is the high water mark of Deep Purple’s career, and of the first wave of metal — only Zep could challenge Purple, but they flamed out too soon. Deep Purple is solid evidence the Gods have touched us, and this is why they gave us “eleven.”

Eagle Rock Entertainment: www.eagle-rock.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Walking Sleep

Walking Sleep

Measures

From the opening barrelhouse piano chords on the first cut off of their first full-length album, Measures, Walking Sleep announces its bold declaration of powerpop confection drenched in boy-girl harmonies singing dark, disturbing lyrics. Think of The Shins with Juliana Hatfield on vocals, or Belle and Sebastian with a touch of Arcade Fire.

This six-piece California band, formerly known as The Flying Tourbillon Orchestra, came together to flesh out lead singer Hunter Curra’s songs. Sara Radle of The Rentals joined in 2009 after the release of their first EP, Escapements. Actually, she reminds me of Australian band Frente’s female lead singer, Angie Hart. Anyone remember, Marvin the Album?

Their embrace of ’60s sonics is firm on the second cut “In a Dream,” where a swirling Farfisa organ brackets the chorus: “I had a dream last night you were choking me/ I want to know where that came from/ You were calling me by name and asking me to speak/ Now I want to know, how come?”

“Final Chapter” is a bit of a raver about a love relationship that is either on its last legs or about to jump into the big “C” of everlasting commitment.

Following that, the band slows down with “As a Volunteer,” a reverb guitar-drenched ballad with fetching harmonies and a Leslie organ (or a synth approximating the sound of it) about realizing that what you wanted is gone before you realized it’s what you wanted.

The theme of longing and letting go is revisited from a different angle with the orchestral “Let It Go On.” Once again, Farfisa organ is lurking behind the curtains of this number as it builds to a crescendo that evokes Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit,” albeit at twice the running time.

“Arso” comes back with a spare arrangement about a friend that the band members seem to have lost in Modesto. That’s followed by the Dick Dale surf guitars and drumming of “Don’t Be Fooled.” I love the cheesy organ break. Hey, guys, the Zombies called, and they want their organ solo back!

I also like “What We Forgot,” a song about a relationship that seems to be costing the couple everything, including their friends, and wondering if they’ve reached the expiration date on their love, with the line about trying to make it one more night.

All the songs maintain a dream state with the use of reverb, echo, and Farfisa. It’s an album with catchy riffs and lyrics that occasionally catch you off-guard. Overall, a promising effort. I hope to hear more of this band.

Walking Sleep: www.walkingsleep.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Smoke Fairies

Smoke Fairies

Ghosts

453 Music

Time to break out the jerkin and the longbow, and head over to the Ren Faire! That’s how I felt after listening to this moody, spacey collection of vocals from the UK duo Smoke Fairies. That would be Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies, two high school friends who’ve made music ever since. They’ve done their homework, living in New Orleans, Vancouver, and touring with Brain Ferry and Richard Hawley. This release pulls together their singles and an early EP, and makes for a nicely unified musical experience.

“Frozen Heart” beds down with a pulsing rhythm built of soft Celtic drums and bass, and the vocals occasionally launch into what might be a sea shanty. Country fiddles open the bluesy ballad “He’s Moving On” and the lyric takes us down the path suggested — he’s gone, she’s depressed, and the world is frozen into a Spanish moss-covered tomb. The simple arrangements and alternately mournful, positive vocals beg for a sackbut or crumhorn on backup, and by the time we hear “Morning” that sleazy guy has returned, no more likely than the guy from three songs ago to remain, but he’s here now, and life proceeds one more day. I think The Smoke Fairies have emotionally stabilized, so let’s get a turkey leg and watch the jugglers.

Smoke Fairies: smokefairies.comwww.myspace.com/smokefairies

Categories
Music Reviews

Smoke Fairies

Smoke Fairies

Ghosts

453 Music

Time to break out the jerkin and the longbow and head over to the Ren Faire! That’s how I felt after listening to this moody, spacey collection of vocals from the UK duo Smoke Fairies. That would be Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies, two high school friends who’ve made music ever since.

They’ve done their homework, living in New Orleans, Vancouver, and touring with Brian Ferry and Richard Hawley. This release pulls together their singles and an early EP, and makes for a nicely unified musical experience. “Frozen Heart” beds down with a pulsing rhythm built of soft Celtic drums and bass, and the vocals occasionally launch into what might be a sea shanty. Country fiddles open the bluesy ballad “He’s Moving On” and the lyric takes us down the path suggested — he’s gone, she’s depressed, and the world is frozen into a Spanish moss-covered tomb. The simple arrangements and alternately mournful and positive vocals beg for a sackbut or crumhorn on back up, and by the time we hear “Morning” that sleazy guy has returned, no more likely than the guy from three songs ago to remain, but he’s here, now, and life proceeds one more day.

I think The Smoke Fairies have emotionally stabilized, so let’s get a turkey leg and watch the jugglers.

Smoke Fairies: www.myspace.com/smokefairiessmokefairies.com

Categories
Music Reviews

White Pines

White Pines

Is Passed in Sleep; At Night He Hunts

Jumberlack Media

With its 2009 EP, A Face Made of Wood, Joseph Scott’s White Pines project laid some serious claim to contemporary backwoods folk territory. It was a more modest, slightly more psychedelic counterpoint to Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago. As a stop-gap between that release and an upcoming full-length, Scott has put together the Is Passed in Sleep; At Night He Hunts 7″.

Although the record is composed of only two songs, it’s a stellar example of Scott’s evolution in sound. Of the two, “Gather the Children” is the more traditional take on the folk genre. It’s full of pluck-and-strummed acoustic guitar and earnest vocals, but Scott laces it with with a mandolin on heavy reverb and some great doo-wop harmonies. It’s a great piece of unaffected folk-pop. The flipside, “Name As Son,” however, is the true revelation. Built around sleigh bells, glockenspiel, and a monolithic bass line, this is White Pines’ first trip into the wending river of freak folk. Scott’s dual vocal harmonies recall some of the darker, more glorious moments of Jefferson Airplane and The Byrds. The song builds slowly, with more sounds being introduced and coalescing to form an atmosphere of a pagan ritual. It’s absolutely gorgeous. Hopefully, this track signals a tipping of the scales for White Pines down the more experimental alleys of folk. If nothing else, this single whets the appetite for Scott’s future material, whatever form it may take.

Jumberlack Media: www.jumberlackmedia.com