Tag Archives: Blues Rock

Wild

joanne-shaw-taylor-wild

Joanne Shaw Taylor
Joanne Shaw Taylor

Sometimes I hear a record and it instantly connects, others take a while to kind of sink in and improve with repeated listens. Then there are the albums that somehow manage to do both – they’re immediately gratifying and yet continue to get better with each listen. English blues singer / guitarist Joanne Shaw Taylor‘s latest album “Wild” is definitely one of the latter.

Joanne Shaw Taylor - The Dirty Truth
Joanne Shaw Taylor – The Dirty Truth

I’ve enjoyed Taylor’s work from the off, with the release of her debut album “White Sugar” (2009) showcasing a natural smoky voice and some mean guitar riffs and solos. Each subsequent album has shown improvement from the one before, up to 2014’s “The Dirty Truth”.

Kevin Shirley
Kevin Shirley

The end of September saw “Wild” hit the shelves. The record was produced by Kevin Shirley, a man known for his excellent production work with artists such as Iron Maiden, Journey, Black Country Communion and (most relevantly) Joe Bonamassa. Shirley has worked hand-in-hand with Bonamassa on every album that the bluesman has recorded since 2006’s “You & Me”, a period of time that has seen the artist’s success and popularity grow massively. It makes sense, then, that a similar musician like Taylor would benefit from Shirley’s expertise.

Joanne Shaw Taylor
Joanne Shaw Taylor

The decision to use the producer for “Wild” has certainly been beneficial. Shirley stated that with regard to the album “…if you’re not blown away, I’ll give you your money back!…” Well, on the evidence of what I’ve heard there are no major worries of him having to put his hand into his pocket too many times, I’d say.

Joanne Shaw Taylor - Dyin' To Know
Joanne Shaw Taylor – Dyin’ To Know

The album kicks off with the short and sweet “Dyin’ To Know”, which builds from a simple guitar riff and vocal line (to my ears Taylor’s voice sounds more assured than on previous albums) into a full-blown band number and features quick bursts of stellar soloing too.

Greg Morrow
Greg Morrow

The backing musicians on the record are Nashville-based and, as with the Nashville studio in which they recorded, were picked by Shirley.

Michael Rhodes
Michael Rhodes

Greg Morrow provides some solid drumming, bass is from Michael Rhodes, keyboard textures as from the hands of Steve Nathan and additional guitars by Rob McNelley.

Steve Nathan
Steve Nathan

Morrow and Rhodes performed on Joe Bonamassa’s latest studio album, along with backing singers Mahalia Barnes, Juanita Tippins and Jade McRae (also all present on “Wild”).

Rob McNelley
Rob McNelley

McNelley’s fretwork can also be heard on, amongst others, “Cosmic Hallelujah” by Kenny Chesney (again with Morrow and Rhodes), whilst Nathan’s keyboards (and yet again Morrow’s drums) are featured on Cyndi Lauper’s “Detours” album. So, just a glimpse of the pedigree of the musicians involved in the making of Taylor’s fifth studio album.

Mahalia Barnes, Jade MacRae & Juanita Tippins
Mahalia Barnes, Jade MacRae & Juanita Tippins

The undoubted star of the show, though, is the one whose name adorns the cover. Whether it’s on the mid-paced strut of “Ready To Roll”, the fantastic cover of “Wild Is The Wind” (even better than David Bowie’s in my opinion), the up-tempo and funky “Wanna Be My Lover”, the delicate and heartfelt “I Wish I Could Wish You Back”, rocker “Nothin’ To Lose” or the closing gorgeous reading of the George Gershwin classic “Summertime” both her soulful voice and perfectly-judged guitar parts shine through.

Joanne Shaw Taylor
Joanne Shaw Taylor

Sure there are sonic and style comparisons that can be made to Bonamassa’s recent work but – 1. that’s no bad thing as his stuff is also excellent, 2. that’s was always the case as both are working within the blues genre and 3. there is more than enough of Taylor’s personality stamped all over this record to make it recognisably her work rather than some Bonamassa-lite or something.

Joanne Shaw Taylor
Joanne Shaw Taylor

Whilst I love various forms of metal and rock – black, progressive, doom, etc., as well as other genres such as pop, country and folk, I have always loved blues and blues rock. Early touchstones for me included the late great Gary Moore and Stevie Ray Vaughan and over time I have grown to enjoy the work of many great blues artists. Much as I think Joe Bonamassa is a modern-day blues great I believe that with this simply superb record Joanne Shaw Taylor – an inspired and inspiring musician – deserves her place amongst the greats. Fabulous stuff which, as I mentioned earlier, gets better each time I listen to it. Highly recommended…joanne-shaw-taylor-btm

“Wild” tracklist:

1. Dyin’ To Know / 2. Ready To Roll / 3. Get You Back / 4. No Reason To Stay / 5. Wild Is The Wind / 6. Wanna Be My Lover / 7. I’m In Chains / 8. I Wish I Could Wish You Back / 9. My Heart’s Got A Mind Of Its Own / 10. Nothin’ To Lose / 11. Summertime

Aquostic II – That’s A Fact!

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Status Quo - Aquostic... Stripped Bare
Status Quo – Aquostic… Stripped Bare

Following on from 2014’s “Aquostic… Stripped Bare” album, British rock legends Status Quo have now unleashed their follow-up record, “Aquostic 2 – That’s A Fact!”.

Whereas the first instalment contained 25 back catalogue tracks re-worked as acoustic versions, this record features a further 16 re-workings alongside 3 brand new songs.

Rick Parfitt & Francis Rossi
Rick Parfitt & Francis Rossi

As before, the arrangements are not simply Quo stripped back to acoustic guitars – as many would have preferred – but feature a variety of additional musicians with instruments including strings, accordion, percussion etc. added. Although I enjoyed that approach first time out I must admit that at times the extra instrumentation feels intrusive and unnecessary to my ears with “Aquostic 2”.

Status Quo Live At The Union Chapel 2016
Status Quo Live At The Union Chapel 2016

I mentioned with the first record that 22 of the 25 tracks were from 1968-1983 and just 3 from 1986-1991 and nothing from anything originally recorded since then. So what do we have on volume two? Well again the bulk comes from the earlier “Frantic Four” phase of the band’s career, with 10 from 1968-1983, 6 from the period 1986-2005 and the 3 new tracks.

Francis Rossi
Francis Rossi

Over the two volumes, therefore, all original studio albums (ignoring the 3 covers albums and the “Bula Quo” soundtrack album) are represented by at least one re-working with the exception of “Spare Parts” (1969), “Ma Kelly’s Greasy Spoon” (1970), “Under The Influence” (1999), “In Search Of The Fourth Chord” (2007), and “Quid Pro Quo” (2011). It might, perhaps, have been nice to dump a few of the obvious choices and included material from these five records – particularly the latter three which all contain great songs.

crmrootw8aakmyiAnyway, I digress. To the album itself… some of the tracks work very well indeed – the single “That’s A Fact”, “In The Army Now” are amongst those with fairly minor tweaking from the original arrangements. A number of very similar to their electric versions – such as “Jam Side Down”, “Living On An Island” and “Lies” – but there are a few that are really quite different to the versions that my ears are used to hearing. Of those, “Roll Over Lay Down” is pretty good, but I am not overly keen on “Lover Of The Human Race” even though I did like the original (on one of the band’s possibly least-loved records) and I don’t like what they’ve done to the 1982 hit “Dear John” at all.

Rick Parfitt
Rick Parfitt

Looking at the new songs, “Is Someone Rocking Your Heart” is the best of the three but in truth none of them are especially catchy or memorable – something that can certainly be said of most of Quo’s best work in the past.

Although Rick Parfitt plays and sings on the record he suffered a major heart attack on tour earlier this year and has just announced – via an interview with Classic Rock magazine – that he will not be returning to the band in a performing capacity. Francis Rossi, the undoubted leader of the group, has decided that the current “The Last Night Of The Electrics” tour will be the last time they perform with the famous Telecasters plugged in and that future touring will be in the Aquostic style only.

richie-maloneThis tour sees Parfitt’s rhythm guitar role being performed by guitarist Richie Malone (a long-term Quo fan) and his vocal duties shared between bassist John “Rhino” Edwards and keyboardist Andrew Bown. Having taken the decision not to return, Parfitt stated that “…in my heart I’m a rocker, I’ve always been. If I’m going to make music it’s got to rock…” and that “…there would probably have been room for me if I decided I wanted to, but I’m not a great fan of the whole acoustic malarkey. It doesn’t float my boat…”. While he is careful not to say anything negative towards his old bandmate it’s clear that Rossi calls the shots.

Francis Rossi, John "Rhino" Edwards & Andrew Bown
Francis Rossi, John “Rhino” Edwards & Andrew Bown

The band’s official statement states that “…Rick will step back from his regular touring commitments with the band…” but that his “…connection with and within the band of course remains intact and that he will continue to be involved with future non-touring commercial activities of the band…” Quite what that means if Rossi is determined to stick to the Aqoustic formula, which Parfitt doesn’t like, is anyone’s guess but further recording involving Parfitt appears unlikely.

Leon Cave
Leon Cave

Overall, then, this is a pleasant enough album. Both Rossi and Parfitt’s voices are showing their age – oddly Rossi sounds better during the group’s plugged-in concerts than on this album – but at 67 and 68 respectively then that’s no huge surprise. The rest of the group, the aforementioned Edwards, Bown and drummer Leon Cave acquit themselves well enough within this context but, as with the two main men I prefer to hear them plugged in and at full flight.

Rick Parfitt & Francis Rossi
Rick Parfitt & Francis Rossi

Given that Quo’s last proper album – 2011’s “Quid Per Quo” – was such a great record it’s a real shame that their career looks to be coming to a close with a fairly naff film soundtrack (“Bula Quo” in 2013) and now two acoustic re-imaginings after so many great years of quality rock records. I for one will miss the days with Rossi and Parfitt cranking out all those classic riffs and songs…status-quo-btm

“Aquostic II – That’s A Fact!” tracklist:

1. That’s A Fact / 2. Roll Over Lay Down / 3. Dear John / 4. In The Army Now / 5. Hold You Back / 6. One For The Road / 7. Backwater / 8. One Of Everything / 9. Belavista Man / 10. Lover Of The Human Race / 11. Ice In The Sun / 12. Mess Of The Blues / 13. Jam Side Down / 14. Resurrection / 15. Lies / 16. Little Dreamer / 17. Living On An Island / 18. Is Someone Rocking Your Heart? / 19. Rockers Rollin’

1 originally from “Blue For You” (1976) / 2 originally from “Hello!” (1973) / 3 originally from “1+9+8+2” (1982) / 4 originally from “In The Army Now” (1986) / 5 and 19 originally from “Rockin’ All Over The World” (1977) / 6, 8 and 18 brand new songs / 7 originally from “Quo” (1974) / 9 originally from “The Party Ain’t Over Yet” (2005) / 10 originally from “Thirsty Work” (1994) / 11 originally from “Picturesque Matchstickable Messages From” (1968) / 12 originally from “Back To Back” (1983) / 13 originally from “Heavy Traffic” (2002) / 14 originally from “Never Too Late” (1981) / 15 originally from “Just Supposin'” (1980) / 16 originally from “Perfect Remedy” (1989) / 17 originally from “Whatever You Want” (1979)

Europe Tour 2016

20160514_095051Friday 13th May 2016. Friday the 13th may be unlucky for some, but it certainly wasn’t for me as I got to see the American blues rock band Gov’t Mule live in concert for the first time. I’ve mentioned before, when discussing the latest solo release from the band’s main man Warren Haynes that it was a track called “Bad Little Doggie” that got me into Gov’t Mule, some sixteen years ago, and I’ve enjoyed every record that they have released since then so when a small UK tour (just three shows) was announced which included a gig at the O2 Academy in Bristol I just had to go!

Bristol O2 Academy
Bristol O2 Academy

Meeting up with my mate in the queue outside, just before the doors opened, I have to confess that I was pleasantly surprised by the number of folk that had turned out for the band, as I had assumed that their profile was relatively under the radar here in England.

Gov't Mule At The Bristol O2 Academy
Gov’t Mule At The Bristol O2 Academy

Having found a decent position on a slightly raised section of the main standing area we chatted whilst waiting for the band to come on. Just after 7:30pm the house lights went down, the cheer of the crowd went up and the band appeared on stage, backed with an illuminated sign declaring “Gov’t Mule – Kicking Ass For 20 Years”.

Warren Haynes
Warren Haynes

Kicking off with a cover of blue legend Robert Johnson’s “32/20 Blues” the quality was immediately apparent. Aided no end by an excellent sound mix guitarist / vocalist Haynes lead his band through a two and a half hour set that genuinely seemed to fly by.

Backing Haynes were co-founder Matt Abts on drums, keyboardist Danny Louis who joined the group in 2001 and the most recent recruit bassist Jorgen Carlsson who came on board in 2008.

Matt Abts
Matt Abts

Haynes remarked early on that this was their first visit to Bristol and so they would play a wide range of their material. Noting also that there was a strict 10:00pm curfew at the venue he promised that rather than performing two sets with an interval, as is their normal routine, they would play right through. Sure enough at least one track was aired from each of the band’s studio releases, plus a clutch of covers, and they only took a very brief break over two hours later before returning to the stage for a well deserved encore.

Gov't Mule At The Bristol O2 Academy
Gov’t Mule At The Bristol O2 Academy

All four musicians were excellent. Carlsson ever-busy with intricate bass runs, Abts hitting the skins like a reincarnated John Bonham and Louis filling out the sound with some superb keyboard work, as well as playing lead guitar and soloing in “Funny Little Tragedy”.

Danny Louis
Danny Louis

In truth, however, my attention was mostly taken by Haynes. His soulful singing is perfectly suited to the band’s material and his guitar playing is sublime. Whether using a pick or finger-picking (and often switching between the two throughout a song), employing the use of a slide, hammering out some fabulous riffs or soaring through ever-impressive solos, the man is fascinating and inspiring to watch.

Gov't Mule At The Bristol O2 Academy
Gov’t Mule At The Bristol O2 Academy

This is a band that is renowned for making each show unique, and a quick check online proves this fact as there was very little repetition from show to show, in fact I think only one song was performed at more than one gig, meaning they played something in the region of fifty different numbers over the course of the three nights.

Jorgen Carlsson
Jorgen Carlsson

Highlights from this particular show would have to be “Game Face” with a middle section that included jazz classic “Birdland”, “Mule”, a stonking “30 Days In The Hole”, the gentler “Soulshine”, “How Many More Years” and the aforementioned “Bad Little Doggie” – was I over the moon to witness that one!

Gov't Mule At The Bristol O2 Academy
Gov’t Mule At The Bristol O2 Academy

The encore was the delicate “Beautifully Broken” which included a tribute to the late Prince with part of his “When Doves Cry” slotted in, followed by a brilliant rendition of “Railroad Boy”. The latter was my mate’s favourite song of the night. He’s not overly familiar with Gov’t Mule’s back catalogue but, as a fellow guitar lover, enjoyed the top quality musicianship on display from start to finish. Then it was out into the still-warm Bristol evening and a post-gig drink in a local pub before I made the journey back across the Severn Bridge.

On the merchandise front, a tour shirt was out of the question – £30!?! You must be joking! – but the band make audio recordings of all their shows available to buy through their website for around US$10 and I will definitely be making a souvenir purchase of this particular gig. A top class show from a top class band…

Setlist:

1. 32/20 Blues / 2. Wandering Child / 3. Child Of The Earth / 4. Temporary Saint / 5. Game Face / Birdland / Game Face / 6. Forsaken Savior / 7. Million Miles From Yesterday / 8. Whisper In Your Soul / 9. Monkey Hill / She’s So Heavy / 10. Soulshine / Tupelo Honey / Soulshine / 11. Funny Little Tragedy / 12. Bad Little Doggie / 13. How Many More Years / 14. About To Rage / 15. 30 Days In The Hole / I Don’t Need No Doctor / 30 Days In The Hole / 16. Mule / 17. Beautifully Broken /  When Doves Cry / Beautifully Broken / 18. Railroad Boy

1 cover of Robert Johnson single (1937) / 2 and 12 originally from “Life Before Insanity” (2000) / 3 and 7 originally from “High & Mighty” (2006) / 4, 9 and 16 originally from “Gov’t Mule” (1995) / 5 originally from “Dose” (1998) / cover of Weather Report single (1977) / 6, 8 and 11 originally from “Shout!” (2013) / 9 cover of Beatles song from “Abbey Road” (1969) / 10 and 17 originally from “The Deep End – Volume 1” (2001) / 10 cover of Van Morrison song from “Tupelo Honey” (1971) / 13 cover of Howlin’ Wolf single (1951) / 14 originally from “Deja Voodoo” (2004) / 15 cover of Humble Pie single (1972) / cover of Ray Charles single (1966) / 17 cover of Prince single (1984) / 18 originally from “By A Thread” (2009)Mule-Europe-2016-Poster-980x1272

Rockin’ All Over The World Remix

OYm8XayZRlkOgxlU-sEOe6wASBUAfter the recent remixed “Deliverance & Damnation” release from Opeth I have another remixed album to look at today. This time it’s the legendary Status Quo.

Status Quo - 1977 Tour Programme
Status Quo – 1977 Tour Programme

The band are in the midst of having some of their earlier albums re-issued as “deluxe editions”. Last year saw “Piledriver” (1972) and “Live!” (1977) get the treatment which included unreleased material of varying quality. “Hello!” (1973), “Quo” (1975) and “Rockin’ All Over The World” (1977) have all just been released. Again unreleased material is included – in the case of “Quo” a disappointingly bootleg quality live recording – but it’s within the deluxe edition of “Rockin’ All Over The World” that the real gold is contained…

Status Quo Live
Status Quo Live

1977 looks to have been a significant year for Status Quo. On the back of a string of self-produced albums since 1972, which had all been successful, the band worked with engineer Damon Lyon-Shaw to co-produce 1976’s “Blue For You” album and the subsequent double “Live!” album which was recorded later that year in Glasgow. “Live!” was released in March 1977 and is rightly regarded as a classic live album in an era when live albums were something of an event for artists. It was also the sound of the band at their heaviest.

Francis Rossi
Francis Rossi

When the “Rockin’ All Over The World” hit the shelves in November 1977 though, there had been a significant shift in sound. Guitarist / vocalists Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt, bassist / vocalist Alan Lancaster and drummer John Coghlan had been joined by keyboardist Andrew Bown as a full-time band member, having previously been a session musician with the group since 1973.

Rick Parfitt
Rick Parfitt

Aside from much more prominent keyboards, the record was also noticeably lighter sonically, with much more emphasis on the treble end of things. As a result, despite the quality of the songs – three of which (“Dirty Water”, “Hold You Back” and of course “Rockin’ All Over The World”) have been regulars in the group’s live set over the subsequent decades – this is an album that has perhaps proved less popular with their fanbase than it deserved.

Alan Lancaster
Alan Lancaster

The reasons for the quality of sound on the original release are varied. Pip Williams was brought in to produce the album for the band, and was assisted by young engineer John Eden. Williams asserted that the band were “under immense pressure to clean it up a bit” and that his job was to “make them more commercial with, perhaps, an American slant”.

John Coghlan
John Coghlan

Elsewhere Eden has said, I believe, that the record was two songs too long because of a “publishing issue of the writers (within the band) getting their equal share” making the album too long to get the required bottom end. I’m not sure about this particular claim as of the ten songs that the three main writers in the band have a hand in the credits are spilt as follows – 5 for Francis Rossi, 4 for Rick Parfitt and 3 for Alan Lancaster. The remaining two songs have not input from any of the three.

Andy Bown
Andy Bown

Regardless of the truth behind the publishing claim, Williams also commented on the lack of bottom end, stating “the longer than usual running time meant we had to cope with inner-groove distortion when the record was cut, while also shaving off the low end”.

Bob Young, Francis Rossi, Rick Parfitt & Pip Williams
Bob Young, Francis Rossi, Rick Parfitt & Pip Williams

Both men agree that “it was mixed on Auratones for American AM radio, so that it would sound great coming out of little speakers” and Eden notes that the pills(!) that were being taken may have had an influence on how it sounded too!

Status Quo
Status Quo

So now, some thirty-eight years later, the record has finally been remixed and released as the second disc in the album’s “deluxe edition”. John Eden was the man given the remixing task which was seemingly completed a good couple of years ago, so it’s taken some time to see light of day. The running order for the record has also been changed, at Eden’s suggestion, so it’s kind of like listening to a new album.

Rick Parfitt & Francis Rossi
Rick Parfitt & Francis Rossi

“Hold You Back” now starts the record, in place of “Hard Time” which has been moved to the end of the album. Immediately the sound is punchier. The keyboards are far less prominent. The song no longer fades out it comes to a sudden stop followed by some studio chatter from Rossi.

Status Quo & Road Crew In 1977 Tour Programme
Status Quo & Road Crew In 1977 Tour Programme

“Baby Boy” is up next and again the keyboards are stripped back. Guitar parts that I’ve never noticed before are suddenly audible. “Hard Time” has saxophone on it. Was that there before?!

Francis Rossi, Rick Parfitt & Alan Lancaster
Francis Rossi, Rick Parfitt & Alan Lancaster

“Rockers Rollin'” and “Can’t Give You More” now have their count-ins restored. The guitars sound rawer and rockier. There are some sections – such as the intro to “Let’s Ride” where it sounds as if the source tape may have degraded slightly, but with the improvements made to the rest of the track it doesn’t matter really.

Status Quo - Rockin' All Over The World
Status Quo – Rockin’ All Over The World

Even “Rockin’ All Over The World” – a song that Parfitt suggested to the band, and one that has suffered a little from over exposure over the years – sounds great. I am one of those who has always enjoyed the original album – I first had it on vinyl back in 1981 – but I have to say that this new version is a massive improvement. The sound is fuller throughout, whilst also reintroducing some rawness to the album so that it sounds much more like the real Status Quo to my ears.

Status Quo Live
Status Quo Live

There are four demo tracks tacked onto the end of the disc, recorded in 1976, of “Dirty Water”, “Baby Boy”, “Hard Time” and “Hold You Back”. These are interesting to hear, particularly “Hard Time” which has a different arrangement in the chorus and “Dirty Water” which shows the guitar solo to be a work-in-progress, but are unlikely to be listened to more than a couple of times.

The remixed album, however, is fantastic and breathes new life into the songs. It’s certainly put the album back onto regular rotation for me. An absolutely essential addition to any serious Status Quo collection…raotw-deluxe400“Rockin’ All Over The World Remix” tracklist:

1. Hold You Back / 2. Baby Boy / 3 Rockers Rollin’ / 4. Who Am I? / 5. Rockin’ All Over The World / 6. Dirty Water / 7. Can’t Give You More / 8. Let’s Ride / 9. For You / 10. Too Far Gone / 11. You Don’t Own Me / 12. Hard Time / 13. Dirty Water (Demo) / 14. Baby Boy (Demo) / 15. Hard Time (Demo) / 16. Hold You Back (Demo)

Ashes & Dust

warren-haynes-ashes-and-dust-album-cover-art

Warren Haynes
Warren Haynes

New out today is the latest recording to feature American guitarist / vocalist / songwriter Warren Haynes.

I first discovered Haynes through “Bad Little Doggie” – a brilliant track with funky syncopation and earthy bluesy guitar playing – from the third Gov’t Mule studio album “Life Before Insanity” back in 2000.

The Allman Brothers Band
The Allman Brothers Band

Haynes was a member of the Allman Brothers Band from 1989 – 1997 and 2000 – 2014.

Govt Mule
Gov’t Mule

In addition he has been founder member of Gov’t Mule since 1994 and appeared with numerous other acts including The Dead.

Despite a heavy recording and touring schedule Haynes has still managed to find time to record three solo albums. The latest of these, “Ashes & Dust”, is a collaboration with American bluegrass band Railroad Earth.

Warren Haynes Railroad Earth
Warren Haynes & Railroad Earth

This marks something of a musical homecoming for Haynes, as he was born and raised in Asheville, North Carolina – a state known for its acoustic-based roots and mountain music. On this record Haynes has recorded some new songs as well as some that have been written for some time but didn’t fit into the more muscular sound of either Gov’t Mule or the Allman Brothers Band.

Haynes has said that he consciously altered his approach on this record, wanting to focus less on his amazing guitar playing (though there is some tasteful slide playing and some wonderful soloing) and more on the singing and storytelling of each song – “I was intentionally catering my sound to Railroad Earth’s sound. I tried to pick guitar tones that I felt would work with the fiddle and the banjo, the mandolin, the upright bass and stuff, so I wasn’t relying on any of my go-to sounds. It kind of forced me to play differently.” – and I think it’s worked out perfectly. His guitars really do blend very well with the acoustic instrumentation of the band to produce a very real and authentic sounding album.

Warren Haynes Grace Potter
Warren Haynes & Grace Potter

The superb Grace Potter crops up to duet with Haynes on a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman” which is so good that it rivals the original in my mind – just as atmospheric but with a folksy twist t the sound. Brilliant.

Elsewhere, former Allman Brothers Band colleagues Oteil Burbridge (bass) and Marc Quinones (percussion) add their talents to the eight and a half minute “Spots Of Time”, a song that the band had played live regularly during their last few years but never recorded.

Other songs of particular note are “Hallelujah Boulevard”, a psychedelically tinged number dealing with organised religion and traditional views that influence people’s lives, the relatively up-tempo “Beat Down The Dust” and the delicate “Blue Maiden’s Tale”.

This may not be a concept album that needs to be played from start to finish to make any sense, but it most definitely is a cohesive record that deserves to be listened to – and heard – from beginning to end to appreciate its beauty…

warren-haynes-railroad-earth-ashes-and-dust-tour-2015-photo

“Ashes & Dust” tracklist:

1. Is It Me Or You / 2. Coal Tattoo / 3. Blue Maiden’s Tale / 4. Company Man / 5. New Year’s Eve / 6. Stranded In Self-Pity / 7. Glory Road / 8. Gold Dust Woman / 9. Beat Down The Dust / 10. Wanderlust / 11. Spots Of Time / 12. Hallelujah Boulevard / 13. Word On The Wind

Bring It On Home

CC+Coletti+++Bring+it+on+Home

C.C. Coletti On Meat Loaf Tour 2004
C.C. Coletti On Meat Loaf Tour 2004

Carolyn Coletti Jablonski, known professionally as C.C. Coletti, first came to my attention in Cardiff back in January 2004 when Meat Loaf was touring to promote the “Couldn’t Have Said It Better” album and C.C. was part of the Neverland Express as backing vocalist / acoustic guitarist.

Since then, as well as appearing on two Meat Loaf studio albums and some live DVDs C.C. has released three albums under her own name.

Anthony Krizan
Anthony Krizan

The second of these, 2013’s “Bring It In Home”, is a tribute to rock legends Led Zeppelin – indeed it is subtitled “Sings The American Roots Of Led Zeppelin”. Working together with producer Anthony Krizan on guitar, second guitarist John Korba, drummer Tony Beard and bassist Todd Lanka, C.C. has crafted an impressive spin on classic Zeppelin tunes.

C.C. Coletti
C.C. Coletti

Taking an acoustically based-back porch blues vibe, C.C. and her band have breathed new life into the classics tackled here. Vocally, there are traces of the likes of Janis Joplin to be found in C.C.’s voice and it fits perfectly with the arrangements and instrumentation on this record.

C.C. Coletti
C.C. Coletti

Some of these tracks are very different to the Zeppelin versions, such as opener “In My Time Of Dying” and “Black Dog” whilst others, “Rock And Roll” included, are closer in spirit to the originals. Nonetheless, the whole album underlines both the quality of the musicians involved and, crucially, that the material is strong enough to withstand the re-imagining and still come out sounding strong and vital. If you didn’t know this was a covers album you could be forgiven for thinking it was a collection of originals, such is the coherence of style and sound.

C.C. Coletti
C.C. Coletti

My personal favourite tracks on this record are “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp”, “I Can’t Quit You Babe”, “You Shook Me” and “When The Levee Breaks”.

I’ve heard plenty of Zeppelin covers (such as this year’s Mojo magazine cover-mounted “Physical Graffiti Redrawn”) as well as tracks influenced by the Zeppelin sound (e.g. Kingdom Come’s “Get It On”, Whitesnake’s “Still Of The Night”) and have to say that I think C.C.’s album is one of the most convincing in terms of approaching the material in a different way whilst retaining a consistent standard from start to finish. Good stufff…

71OhyGRdpwL._SL1050_“Bring It On Home” tracklist:

1. In My Time Of Dying / 2. When The Levee Breaks / 3. Bring It On Home / 4. You Shook Me / 5. Black Dog / 6. I Can’t Quit You Babe / 7. Killing Floor / 8. Bron-Y-Aur Stomp / 9. Nobody’s Fault But Mine / 10. Whole Lotta Love / 11. Rock And Roll

1 originally from “Physical Graffiti” (1975) / 2, 5 and 11 originally from “Led Zeppelin IV” (1971) / 3,7 and 10 originally from “Led Zeppelin II” (1969) / 4 originally from “Led Zeppelin I” (1969) / 6 originally from “Coda” (1982) / 8 originally from “Led Zeppelin III” (1970) / 9 originally from “Presence” (1976)

End Of The Road

July the 4th – American Independence Day – and the date on which I first saw my then-favourite rock band Status Quo live in concert.

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Status Quo – End Of The Road Tour Programme

The year was 1984, and although it wasn’t my first gig (Saxon in 1982 had that particular honour, and I had also seen Gillan, Thin Lizzy and Y&T since them) Quo’s gig at the Showering Pavillion in Shepton Mallet was the biggest venue so far.

Billed as the “End Of The Road”, the band’s sixty-nine date 1984 tour was advertised as their last, with only recording supposed to happen following the tour’s end. It was as far as I was concerned at the time, therefore, to be the first and last time I would get to witness the band live.

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Rick Parfitt, Alan Lancaster, Pete Kircher & Francis Rossi

History shows that once the 1984 line-up of guitarist / vocalist Francis Rossi, guitarist / vocalist Rick Parfitt, bassist / vocalist Alan Lancaster, keyboardist Andrew Bown and drummer Pete Kircher had effectively disbanded once the tour (and 1985’s brief Live Aid appearance) was over Quo would regroup with a different line-up, notably without the participation of Lancaster who Rossi felt unable to work with anymore.

Francis Rossi
Francis Rossi

Continuing a trend set on their 1979, 1981 and 1982 tours, there was no support band on this trek – which was something of a surprise to me as all previous concerts I had attended had support acts – as have the vast majority since.

Not sure how I got to Shepton Mallet from my Bristol home and back again – but suspect it was the taxi of Mum and Dad that was good enough to help me out – and I think I may well have gone with a mate from school, but again the detail is somewhat lost in the mists of time.

Status Quo - Unofficial End Of The Road Magazine
Status Quo – Unofficial End Of The Road Magazine

What I am sure about, though, is the excitement of seeing the Quo in the flesh for the first time, the house lights going down and Parfitt ripping into the opening of “Caroline”.

I had no inkling of the tensions and strife within the band, or the substance abuse that has subsequently been revealed. It didn’t show once the band were on stage. This may not have been the “frantic four” or in truth been as good technically as the later “Quo lite” band of the late 80s, but they were loud, and they were heavy too – no “Marguerita Time” in the set in those days!

Rick Parfitt, Alan Lancaster, Francis Rossi Pete Kircher
Rick Parfitt, Alan Lancaster, Francis Rossi Pete Kircher

One of my personal favourites – “Don’t Drive My Car” was excellent, the original medley (known as the “Milton Keynes Medley” once a recording of it taken from the final gig of the tour was subsequently released as B-side to 1986’s “Red Sky” 12″ single) was fabulous, the always welcome “Roadhouse Blues” and the full-length “Bye Bye Johnny” as encore closer – I do wish that was still the case instead of the snippet the band plays these days.

Status Quo Cartoon From 1984
Status Quo Cartoon From 1984

Best of all, though, was “Forty-Five Hundred Times” which lasted around seventeen minutes. An endurance test for the casual fan of the band maybe, but absolutely glorious to me!

Simply a fantastic gig from a fantastic band (and, as it turned out, only the first of many through the years)…

Setlist:

1. Caroline / 2. Paper Plane / 3. Roll Over Lay Down / 4. Backwater / 5. Just Take Me / 6. Little Lady / 7. Don’t Drive My Car / 8. Whatever You Want / 9. Medley: a. Mystery Song / b. Railroad / c. Most Of The Time / d. Wild Side Of Life / e. Again And Again / f. Slow Train / 10. Hold You Back / 11. Rockin’ All Over The World / 12. Over The Edge / 13. Dirty Water / 14. Forty Five Hundred Times / 15. Big Fat Mama / 16. Don’t Waste My Time / 17. Roadhouse Blues / 18. What You’re Proposing / 19. Rain / 20. Down Down / 21. Bye Bye Johnny

1, 3 and 14 originally from “Hello!” (1973) / 2, 15, 16 and 17 originally from “Piledriver” (1972) / 4, 5 and 9f originally from “Quo” (1974) / 7, 12 and 18 originally from “Just Supposin’…” (1980) / 8 originally from “Whatever You Want” (1979) / 9a and 19 originally from “Blue For You” (1976) / 9b originally from “Dog Of Two Head” (1971) / 9c, 20 and 21 originally from “On The Level” (1975) / 9d originally a single release (1976) / 9e originally from “If You Can’t Stand The Heat…” (1978) / 10, 11 and 13 originally from “Rockin’ All Over The World” (1977)

The Monsanto Years

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Neil Young
Neil Young

During his long and varied career Canadian singer Neil Young has made a lot of records (including around a dozen unreleased albums) encompassing a variety of styles and covering all manner of subject matter.

Some of these are successful and / or classic – “Harvest” and “Freedom” are but two. There are also the less successful – 2014’s “A Letter Home” recorded in a 1947 Voice-o-Graph recording booth, what was that all about?!?

Lukas Nelson, Neil Young & Micha Nelson
Lukas Nelson, Neil Young & Micha Nelson

“The Monsanto Years”, his fifth studio album in the past 36 months, is a full-on protest record. Recorded with backing from Willie Nelson’s sons Lukas and Micha and their band Promise Of The Real.

Not exclusively about the Monsanto organisation, Young also takes issue with Starbucks and Walmart, this is an angry sounding record.

NY_TMY_og-image_1200x630I’ve read pieces of Monsanto that have come up on my Facebook feed in the past, and I realise that they are a particularly divisive entity due to their work in the field of Genetically Modified Organisms and food crops. Now, I’m no expert and don’t know enough to declare myself definitively on either side of the fence, but I do, “romantically” at least, tend to have more sympathy for letting Mother Nature get on and do her thing without the human race thinking it knows best all the time. Then again you might argue that maybe both Young and I are turning into grumpy old men?

monsanto-years on InstagramIn terms of the album, though, this isn’t classic Neil Young but it’s far from a low point in his catalogue either. Some of the tracks suffer from something of a lack of focus and under the weight of the lyrics – almost like they’re not quite the finished article. There are some gems, though. “People Want To Hear About Love” is easily the best and most catchy track here, and “Rock Star Bucks A Coffee Shop” follows closely behind in the hummable stakes. Not great, but a long way from bad and the sentiment surely gives the whole thing extra weight…

NeilYoung_TheMonsantoYears_Header“The Monsanto Years” tracklist:

1. A New Day For Love / 2. Wolf Moon / 3. People Want To Hear About Love / 4. Big Box / 5. A Rock Star Bucks A Coffee Shop / 6. Workin’ Man / 7. Rules Of Change / 8. Monsanto Years / 9. If I Don’t Know

Drones

DronesTeignmouth rock band Muse have just released their seventh studio album “Drones”, a concept album based around the theme of the dehumanization of modern warfare.

Matt Bellamy
Matt Bellamy

Matt Bellamy (vocals / guitars / keyboards), Christopher Wolstenholme (bass / keyboards / backing vocals) and Dominic Howard (drums / percussion / synthesizers), having produced the last two albums themselves, decided this time to produce alongside legendary producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange (Def Leppard, Shania Twain).

Christopher Wolstenholme
Christopher Wolstenholme

The album traces the story of a soldier trained to essentially become an unthinking killing machine who gradually becomes disillusioned with the unseeing brutality of warfare, rebels and eventually rises to power himself.

Dominic Howard
Dominic Howard

Often thought of as the band most likely to take the place of Queen, with Bellamy’s soaring vocals, hugely layered backing vocals and the progressive and evolving sound that the band have developed throughout their career, it’s fair to say that this album is another step to achieving that – if indeed they haven’t already surpassed Queen in some ways. Certainly theirs is big, bombastic and multi-layered music, and often just as catchy as some of Queen’s greats. To me the difference is that Muse take a bit more listening to – in a good way – and aren’t so “pop” as Queen often were.

Matt Bellamy & Kate Hudson
Matt Bellamy & Kate Hudson

Bellamy himself stated that “To me “Drones” are metaphorical psychopaths which enable psychopathic behaviour with no recourse. The world is run by Drones utilizing Drones to turn us all into Drones. This album explores the journey of a human, from their abandonment and loss of hope, to their indoctrination by the system to be a human drone, to their eventual defection from their oppressors”. Sounds complex eh? Add to that suggestions of a second layer of meaning that may, or may not, have something to do with the breakup of Bellamy’s relationship with his fiancée, Hollywood star Kate Hudson, and there’s a lot to digest here.

Muse - Dead Inside
Muse – Dead Inside

The record opens with first single “Dead Inside”, a great track that is reminiscent of “The 2nd Law”, and soon up is anthemic second single “Mercy” which follows the more guitar based “Psycho”.

Despite the subject matter and potential sub-plot tackled here, many reviews have criticised Bellamy’s lyrics as being too simple and sub-standard. Why do so many folk seem to think that something only has real value if it’s highbrow and intellectual? There is nothing wrong with using simple words to tell your story, and at the end of the day if the listener enjoys what they hear, who cares what anyone (including me) thinks?

Muse
Muse

Musically “Drones” is very easy to get in to, despite the progressive and sometimes demanding nature of the music. This is in some way due to the recognisability of Muse’s sound, despite their evolution, together with some familiar sounding passages. For example, “Psycho” has reminders of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” in its guitar riff, “Reapers” has an uncanny echo of Madonna’s “Express Yourself” and the massively epic “The Globalist” loosely uses (I think) Beethoven’s “Sonata Pathétique”. That said, this isn’t spot-the-influence like you might find with Oasis records.

Simply put, this is a superb Muse album. “The Resistance” was brilliant, “The 2nd Law” took a left turn and needed a bit of time to appreciate, but “Drones” is fantastic straight out of the box…

download2“Drones” tracklist:

1. Dead Inside / 2. Drill Sergeant / 3. Psycho / 4. Mercy / 5. Reapers / 6. The Handler / 7. JFK / 8. Defector / 9. Revolt / 10. Aftermath / 11. The Globalist / 12. Drones

St. Cecilia And The Gypsy Soul

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Just over thirty years ago Newcastle born singer Jonathan “Spike” Gray, having moved down to London, decided to start a band, eventually to be called The Quireboys, with his flatmate Guy Bailey, a guitar player. Joining them in the initial line-up were drummer Paul Hornby, pianist Chris Johnstone and bassist Nigel Mogg. Hornby was replaced by Nick Connell fairly early on, and Spike’s fellow geordie Ginger Wildheart was brought in as an additional guitar player.

The Quireboys 1990
The Quireboys In 1990

By 1990 the band had appointed Sharon Osbourne as their manager, replaced Ginger with Guy Griffin and recorded their debut album “A Bit Of What You Fancy” for major label EMI. The album entered the UK charts at Number 2, and set the band up for a very successful couple of years with hit singles, supporting The Rolling Stones and appearing at the Monsters Of Rock festival at Castle Donington.

As with many hard rock bands of their era, The Quireboys were badly affected by the appearance of grunge, meaning that their second album “Bitter Sweet & Twisted” was much less commercially successful than the debut and following it’s 1993 release the band called it a day.

Spike, Griffin and Mogg reconvened the band in 2001 with new members and released “This Is Rock ‘N’ Roll”, and current keyboardist Keith Weir and second guitarist Paul Guerin were on board for 2004’s “Well Oiled”. Since then the rhythm section on subsequent albums seems to have changed more than once and the band’s official line-up lists just Spike, Griffin, Weir and Guerin.

The Quireboys
The Quireboys “Halfpenny Dancer”

In 2009 the band released an acoustic recording of back catalogue numbers, “Halfpenny Dancer” which was critically acclaimed, and following another two electric albums, they decided to work on a successor to “Halfpenny Dancer” and record another set of tracks from their back catalogue, and some new tracks, in acoustic form.

Going to Lemon Studios in Klippan, Sweden, fully intending to do just that but found themselves on a different path when they discovered a variety of instruments to experiment with. Before they knew it they had ten brand new tracks and a great rootsy rock record on their hands.

At the end of March, the band released the resulting studio album, “St. Cecilia And The Gypsy Soul”, which was preceded by the “Gracie B” EP.

The Quireboys In 2015
The Quireboys In 2015

The Quireboys have an instantly recognisable sound, aided greatly by Spike’s distinctive smoky rasp. Sitting somewhere between the acoustic sound of “Halfpenny Dancer” and the rockier stuff of the rest of their catalogue, “St. Cecilia…” is for the most part fairly laid back, and the inclusion of instruments such as mandolin, dobro and lap steel adds to the rich flavour found on this record.

This is a really good album. It’s not in your face or brash but doesn’t wash over you either. Whilst it’s not all “good time rock ‘n’ roll” even the more reflective numbers are engaging and hugely enjoyable…

p19fmcadg418fp8q293g1i3ipaf4“St. Cecilia And The Gypsy Soul” tracklist:

1. Gracie B / 2. Land Of My Father / 3. St. Cecilia / 4. The Promise / 5. Can’t Hide It Anymore / 6. Out Of Your Mind / 7. The Hurting Kind / 8. Adaline / 9. The Best Are Not Forgotten / 10. Why Did It Take So Long