Thursday

WELCOME TO BLITZ MAGAZINE'S WEB SITE!

 



THE KILLER ROCKS ON: Rock and roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis' Sun Records single, High School Confidential (which was originally released in the above picture sleeve) is one of one hundred tracks featured in Acrobat Music's four CD compilation, The First U.S. Hot 100 (August 1958), which includes every single listed in the first edition of the so-called national charts. Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell has the story in the Reissues/Anthologies section of The Shape Of Things To Come column. Click on the appropriate link at right under Previous Posts for details (Click on image to enlarge).

THIS IS THE INTERNET HOME FOR BLITZ MAGAZINE -
THE ROCK AND ROLL MAGAZINE FOR THINKING PEOPLE

Welcome to the official web site for Blitz, The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People. Since 1975, Blitz has been the leading voice for the discerning music enthusiast. Blitz Magazine was also one of the first magazines of its kind to embrace the internet, having also been online since January 1996.


Here you will find news and updates about all of the key artists essential to the growth and development of rock and roll music and related genres, including rhythm and blues, country and western, jazz and easy listening. For highlights from recent past editions of the Bits And Pieces and Shape Of Things To Come columns, click on the archival postings on the right hand side of this page. Be sure and check back frequently for regular updates.

If you have any questions, please e-mail us at BlitzMcD@aol.com.


Michael McDowell
Editor/Publisher
Blitz Magazine
Since 1975 - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People

E-Mail us at BlitzMcD@aol.com for a list of available back issues.


Be sure to follow Blitz on Twitter:
@BlitzMagazine
and
on Facebook at:
Blitz Magazine - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People

AUDREY'S MUSICAL JOURNEY:

Follow the fascinating and unfolding tale (through her favorite music) of the life and times of Blitz Magazine's late and beloved Photo Editor, Audrey McDowell, as told by her husband, Blitz Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell. A Facebook exclusive! "Like" us on Facebook at Blitz Magazine - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People, and watch for further installments.

IN THE BITS AND PIECES COLUMN:

First generation garage rock pioneers the Woolies and Tidal Waves guitarist Bill Long have both ended long sabbaticals and returned to active live performance. Doctor West's Medicine Show And Jug Band front man and co-founder, Norman Greenbaum is recovering from injuries sustained in an automobile accirdent in Santa Rosa, California on 30 March. Jefferson Airplane co-founder and guitarist Paul Kantner recuperating from heart attack. Meet the ambitious Los Angeles trio, the Eiffels, who drew upon the inspiration of the new romantic and synth pop traditions of the early 1980s for their ambitious debut single, I Did It Now. 

IN THE REISSUES / ANTHOLOGIES SECTION OF
THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME COLUMN:

The landmark, four CD The First U.S. Hot 100 (August 1958) collection on Acrobat Music features all one hundred singles that graced the first edition of the so-called national chart, including essential tracks by Rick Nelson, Perez Prado, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Upbeats, Gene and Gina and others. A certain late May 1967 Capitol Records album remains one of the most polarizing and divisive releases in all of music. That same year, Thomas Edisun's Electric Light Bulb Band nonetheless took its cue from that album and created a fine original work with The Red Day Album, now available on CD on Roger Maglio's acclaimed Gear Fab label. The fact that previously unreleased material is still extant in the catalog of an artist who passed away nearly forty-eight years ago is nothing short of a miracle. But such is the case with pioneering visionary and saxophonist John Coltrane, whose November 1966 landmark concert at Temple University, Offering is at last now available on a 2CD set. The highly prolific Real Gone Music label has added Various Artists collections to its enormous catalog of multi-disc collections, including the superb, 100-track Northern Soul: The Early Years set, including rare tracks from Roy Hamilton, Bert "Russell Byrd" Berns, Tammy Montgomery, Billy Bland, the Five Royales and others. Beloved country music pioneer Stompin' Tom Connors is celebrated a year after his passing at age 77 with the first in a series of CDs featuring previously unreleased tracks and rarities. Ash Wells' Sydney, New South Wales-based Teensville label has released the third volume of their acclaimed Girls On 45 series, featuring rare and obscure tracks by Jill Gibson, Ramona King, Sandy and the Sophomores, April Young, Linda Hopkins, Debbie Rollins, Mer-Lyn, Diane Renay, the Blossoms, Lacey Jones and others.


IN THE NEW RELEASES SECTION OF
THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME COLUMN:

In the New Releases section of The Shape Of Things To Come column, veteran first generation garage rockers the Doughboys continue to inspire (not to mention be inspired by those whom they initially impacted) with their latest RAM Records release, Hot Beat Stew. Savage Grace front man Al Jacquez has made a most imprssive addition to his curriculum vitae by serving in that capacity with the Gospel trio, One Achord, whose Dream CD is one of the best such releases of recent vintage. Singer, songwriter and Illinois native Deb Ryder returns with a blues inspired set of eleven strong originals in her latest release, Let It Rain. Washington's Dana Countryman returns with another collection of second generation rock-inspired originals. Medway's Groovy U.N.C.L.E. has turned out a stunningly perfect album with their latest classic garage rock inspired release, Persuaded. Folk rock pioneers the Brothers Four return triumphantly with their latest Seattle Works Entertainment release, The Beautiful World Of The Brothers Four. The Hardest Working Man In Show Business, Jeremy Morris takes Gospel music to a whole new level with his highly ambitious, garage rock-inspired new praise and worship CD, Bright Morning Star. We also take a look at the farewell Appleseed label by CD by the late and beloved singer/songwriter, Jesse Winchester. The Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter John Zipperer has issued one of the most engaging new releases in recent months with his Nick Kirgo-produced album, Full Circle. Florida based saxophonist and former Elvin Bishop sideman, Terry Hanck has set the bar high with his latest Delta Groove Music release, Gotta Bring It On Home To You. 

Tuesday

RECORD STORE DAY 2015


COME TO THE SUNSHINE:The reissue of the great Van Dyke Parks' 1966 MGM label original version of the Harpers Bizarre monster classic, Come To The Sunshine was one of the highlights of Record Store Day in recent years. Retailers and labels across the country concurred that the 2015 version of Record Store Day on Saturday the eighteenth of April was one of the most successful to date. Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell has the story below.

IMPORTANT WORDS:
HIGHLIGHTS OF
RECORD STORE DAY 2015

Many retailers opened one to two hours earlier than their normal business hours. Lines extended for more than a city block in some locations. And the wait time at more than one location to complete the check out process was nearly three hours, with the music lovers in line numbering in the hundreds.

Such was Record Store Day 2015 at various locations across North America, where the most devoted of musicologists and record collectors came to either add to their existing archives or peruse the hundreds of special, limited edition vinyl and CD releases prepared for the occasion. 

"Vinyl has sold very well all morning", said one retailer.

"We have also seen a sharp increase in interest in peripheral items, like posters and t-shirts."

In honor of this year's festivities, various labels rose to the occasion with limited edition vinyl 45s and albums by such perennially favored artists as the Monkees, Herman's Hermits, the Doors, the Ad Libs, Brian Wilson, Bob Dylan, Procol Harum, the Kinks, the Small Faces, Thelonious Monk, Dionne Warwick and the Five Royales. 

Blitz also joined in the festivities, adding to the magazine's archives with rare vinyl and CD items by the Monkees, Gene Vincent, Buck Owens, the Supremes, Bill Haley and the Comets, the Short Creek Trio, Clyde McPhatter, the Bell Notes, Ornette Coleman, the MC5, Bobby Rydell, Jimmy Witherspoon, Jefferson Airplane and others.

BRAD AND REBEKAH AT ODB CONFERENCE



WE ARE NOT THE SAME: That sentiment echoed throughout the capacity crowd at the Our Daily Bread Ministry Conference in Southfield, Michigan on 25 April, as the husband and wife worship team Brad and Rebekah (pictured above) premiered selections from their forthcoming Discovery House CD, All You've Done. Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell takes a look at the duo's work to date below, as well highlights from the conference (Click on image to enlarge).


WHEN WE GATHER:
WORSHIP DUO BRAD AND REBEKAH
SHOWCASE NEW RELEASE AT
PREMIER OUR DAILY BREAD CONFERENCE 

If veteran singer/songwriter and pastor, Jeremy Morris (who records prolifically and primarily for his own JAM label) is leading the charge in thinking outside of the box in terms of Gospel music, then the husband and wife worship team, Brad and Rebekah Bichsel and the musical arm of the Discovery House branch of Our Daily Bread Ministries is certainly following suit by orchestrating the first such collaborative endeavor in that respect.

To that effect, the Phoenix, Arizona-based Bichsels celebrated their recent signing with Discovery House by providing the worship interludes at the first Our Daily Bread Ministry Conference. The event was hosted by the Highland Park Baptist Church in Southfield, Michigan on Saturday the 25th of April. 

During the conference, Brad (who originally hails from New York) and Bakersfield, California native Rebekah incorporated into the worship segments several selections from their forthcoming Discovery House CD, All You've Done. Produced by Josh Silverburg (whose credits include the Newsboys), All You've Done is slated for early June release, and will include such true to form fare as We Are Not The Same, Lift Your Hands and Wake Up.

However, All You've Done is not Brad and Rebekah's first attempt at attempting to expand the curiously well defined parameters that have characterized much of Gospel and Christian rock in recent years. To wit, their 2008 Acoustically Inclined album was recorded in an unamplified setting. Brad Bichsel reasoned that although the album prominently featured drums, they were unamplified for that session in an attempt to bridge the gap between the two approaches.

And while their interim The One We Love album more than made up for its mainstream inclinations with an undeniable anointing and exuberant delivery, All You've Done seems poised to follow suit by treading relatively familiar ground with the joy of a fresh perspective.

The signing of Brad and Rebekah is also a significant victory for Discovery House's musical division, which heretofore had primarily featured releases by renowned vocalist Wintley Phipps, as well as various instrumental concept albums. And if the premier Our Daily Bread Conference was any indication, the Grand Rapids, Michigan-based ministry (which recently changed its name from RBC Ministries, due to the widespread name recognition that has long been afforded its immensely popular Our Daily Bread devotional booklets) seems poised to make a major impact for God's kingdom on a variety of fronts.

Our Daily Bread and Discovery House (whose vast publishing catalog includes the complete works of the enormously influential early twentieth century evangelist, Oswald Chambers) have long been blessed with a wealth of remarkably gifted authors, evangelists and pastors; a number of whom ministered at the conference. Among the authors who were featured speakers during those sessions were psychologist Dr. Sabrina D. Black, broadcaster Sheridan Voysey, Moody Theological Seminary Professor Dr. Eric Moore and (via videotape) Warrior In Pink's Vivian Mabuni, as well as such beloved regular Our Daily Bread contributors as Marvin Williams (who concluded the day's events by delivering an impacting sermon in the guise of the Apostle Paul) and broadcaster Bill Crowder.

Near the midpoint of the conference, Williams and Crowder joined Our Daily Bread editor Anne Cetas and radio co-host Mart DeHaan in a panel discussion that doubled as an ad hoc writers' workshop. During the proceedings, the group also took a moment to remember long time Our Daily Bread contributor, Julie Ackerman Link, who sadly had passed away just days prior to the conference.

Although he was not a participant in the panel discussion, also on hand was the highly respected author and long time Our Daily Bread contributor, Dave Branon. A self-proclaimed Beach Boys aficionado and author of the acclaimed Philippians commentary, Stand Firm, the genial Branon also has more than two thousand devotional articles to his credit.

With many among the hundreds of pastors and ministry leaders in attendance attesting to the resounding success of the gathering in its intended purpose of furthering the Gospel, it is fair to say that both conference and musical interludes were a major blessing for all concerned. Hopefully Our Daily Bread will follow through on their expressed desire to make the conference an annual event.


Wednesday

HANK WILLIAMS III (HANK3) INTERVIEW


FULL ON: Since the release of  his 1999 solo debut with Risin' Outlaw, Hank Williams III (also known as Hank3) has firmly established himself as one of the most astute, unique, creative and ambitious visionaries in all of music. Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell spoke with Hank3 on the eve of his fourteen-date tour in support of his forthcoming Brothers Of The 4x4 and A Fiendish Threat albums. Story follows below.

OVERDRIVE:
A CONVERSATION WITH
HANK WILLIAMS III (A.K.A. HANK3)

By Michael McDowell

“Both the popular country music and the popular rock music of today leave much to be desired. It will get to the point that people will just get tired of its sameness and start demanding something a little bit better. I hope that’s where I come in. I’m very confident in my own abilities now. I hope everyone else will pick up on it.

So said country rock pioneer Hank Williams Junior in an interview with Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell in Blitz Magazine #32, which was published in September 1979. Although it would be nearly a decade before the so-called New Traditionalist movement would for one last time bring to fruition Williams’ vision for country music, the genre’s subsequent protracted aesthetic slump (combined with mainstream rock’s seeming inability to rectify its own situation) makes Williams’ observations all the more timely well into the twenty-first century.

In what is widely regarded as his signature track, the 1979 Family Tradition single (Elektra E-46046), Hank Williams Junior good naturedly celebrated what was generally perceived as the common thread between him and his legendary father, country music giant Hank Williams. But as is often the case, the difference between outside observers’ perceptions and reality can be substantial.

In the case of the Williams family, the common thread has actually been an extraordinary, God-given gift for artistic ability and creativity. Not so that each subsequent generation can dutifully follow in the footsteps of the earlier ones, but so that all concerned can assert their respective creative muse and produce unique and individual works of art that stand on their own merits.

To be certain, Hank Williams set the bar about as high as it can be set in that respect. In turn, Hank Williams Junior took into consideration his own inspirations, and for the past half century has established a most impressive legacy as one of the founding fathers of country rock with his various releases for MGM, Warner Brothers, Elektra and other labels.

Most recently, the current generation of the Williams family has grown exponentially in terms of breaking new ground. Beginning with the release of The Ones We Never Knew (Universal South 623392) in October 2004, Hank Williams Junior’s daughter, Holly Audrey Williams has since established herself as one of the premier singer/songwriters in all of music. Her third and most recent album, The Highway on her own Georgiana label is one of the most compelling new releases of 2013 to date.

All of which culminates in the work of a man who may well be the among the most qualified to not only rescue country music from the doldrums, but to inspire the world of music at large onto greater heights. Born Shelton Hank Williams in Nashville, Tennessee on 12 December 1972, Hank Williams III (also known as Hank3) has, since his 1999 debut as a solo artist with the release of Risin’ Outlaw for Curb Records, charted for himself a most unique and ambitious musical course.

As the son of Hank Williams Junior, Hank3 by definition was blessed with the creative capabilities that are indigenous to his bloodline. But as an avid musicologist, multi-instrumentalist and hardcore record collector, Hank3 also brings a wealth of experience and artistic acumen to the table. A firm believer in musical diversity, Hank3’s personal vinyl, cassette and CD archives include such inspirational visionaries as the late, great banjo virtuoso, David “Stringbean” Akeman and indie rock pioneers (and one-time Blitz Magazine cover story subjects), Black Flag.

In particular, Black Flag’s former front man, Henry Lawrence “Henry Rollins” Garfield has had a significant impact on Hank3, particularly in terms of his stringent work ethic. Likewise a relentless perfectionist, Hank3 has always made a concerted effort to persevere without compromise. While such noble aspirations may have temporarily cost him some momentum in terms of widespread notoriety, he nonetheless has amassed a most impressive recorded legacy along the way, with such triumphs as his 2002 Lovesick, Broke & Driftin’ album for Curb Records and the rather candid 2010 release, Rebel Within for Sidewalk Records to his credit.

In mid-2013, Hank3 once again took an ambitious step; this time in the form of two new albums that celebrate both of his primary musical interests. Recorded over a period of four months in his home studios (with Hank3 handling both drums and guitar, as well as production, mixing and mastering duties), the country-themed double album, Brothers Of The 4x4 also features Zach Shedd on stand up bass, David McElfresh and Billy Contreras on fiddle, Andy Gibson on steel guitar, Johnny Hiland on lead guitar, and Daniel Mason on banjo, with a special guest appearance by one-time National Old-Time Banjo champion, Leroy Troy.

In turn, the hardcore-flavored A Fiendish Threat affords Hank3 the opportunity to showcase his punk rock inclinations, which he does therein with resounding success. Brothers Of The 4x4 and A Fiendish Threat are scheduled for 01 October 2013 release on his own Hank3 label in both the CD and vinyl configurations. Hank3 is celebrating these new releases with a fourteen-date tour that will conclude on 08 September, including stops in Indianapolis, Flint, Pittsburgh, Washington D.C., Charlotte and Atlanta.

In the following conversation (which transpired on 07 August 2013), Hank3 shares not only his unique perspective as a member of country music’s royal family, but also the many varied inspirations behind his ambitious and engaging original material. To be certain, his is an artistic vision that at long last should appease the musical appetites of those whom are (in his father’s words), “demanding something a little bit better”.  

BLITZ: It’s good to see that the so-called Family Tradition has continued in your case. Not necessarily in terms of one generation following in the direction of another, but in that each has maintained a high level of creativity in their own right.

HANK3:
It’s always a challenge, trying to stand on your own two feet. Even if you’re Dale Earnhardt Junior or Frank Zappa’s son. Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to find my own niche and my own voice. That can be a hard task, going up against Hank Senior and Hank Junior!

But my fans have stuck with me throughout the years. There have been a lot of great shows and a lot of different sounds that have come out of me over that period!

BLITZ: You came into an appreciation of music at a relatively early age. As early as the late 1970s, you were already expressing an interest in music and starting to accumulate a record collection. You had an advantage in that respect because of whom your father was, and he no doubt brought a lot of music to your attention.

But by that same token, you came into it right at the height of the burgeoning new wave/punk movement. It seems as though all of that factored into creating a richly diverse musical background for you. Did that concurrently spark your interest as a collector and a musicologist at that time, as well?

HANK3: It’s a little bit of both. My mom and my aunt always had interesting music around. Since I had a drum set and all of these different sounds, I kept trying to play along with Elvis Presley or Queen. Or when I got a little older, Gary Numan and the Sex Pistols. That’s basically how I learned how to play a lot of my instruments. It was kind of a natural progression for me on the guitar and on the drums.

For Hank Junior, Southern Rock was his thing. For Hank Senior, it was a little bit of country, blues and rock and roll. For me, it was just natural to learn other styles of music.

BLITZ: In a sense, you also carried on that perspective. Your grandfather reportedly had an interest in rhythm and blues, which was just coming into its own at that time. In turn, when Blitz Magazine interviewed your father, he mentioned that one of his early inspirations was Chubby Checker.

By that same token, from the onset, you seem to have embraced the rock of major label bands like Deep Purple, as well as the relatively underground movement espoused by Black Flag, the Sex Pistols and the Ramones with equal passion. Interestingly enough, at that time, those two camps were somewhat at odds, as though one was out to overtake or replace the other. Since that time, it seems that both camps have reconciled, though. Yet it seems that you always embraced both camps without that mindset.

HANK3: I’ve seen what you’re talking about. Sometimes jealousy or all of that stuff can come against bands. For me, that was a bit of a tricky one. When I was growing up, I liked Motley Crue. But I also liked Black Flag! Like you were saying, the followers of both were running down the street, hating each other as much as possible.

But with me, I just tried to keep an open mind. Throughout the country part of my show, I try to respect things, as I always try to give people their money’s worth. In the first part of the show, I always say, “I appreciate your coming out. I’m going to be doing some of these other sounds, which some of you might not like.” I think that kind of work ethic has helped me out in the long run, whereas it might have caused some issues with other bands.

BLITZ: There have been cases where artists have tried to move off into different directions or different genres. Or artists have taken careers that were established in one field and tried to establish themselves in another. Yet in those cases, there almost always seems to be some sort of resistance there.

You have always maintained that perspective. Yet for some reason, it seemed to have taken a long time before you committed your musical vision to record. You were involved in the Three Hanks project in 1996, in which you sang with your father and your grandfather’s recordings. But you didn’t make your debut as a solo artist until 1999, with the release of your Risin’ Outlaw album. Why the delay in putting your ideas into fruition?

HANK3: First of all, I wasn’t that crazy about that record, Three Hanks. I thought it was going to look bad, as if, “We’re paving the way for Hank3”. I naturally said, “Why don’t you wait ten years and then put that kind of record out?”

It was an honor to sing with Hank Senior and Hank Junior. But I definitely didn’t like the way that was done, being my very first country record.

The reason for the delay of the release of Risin’ Outlaw was up to Curb Records. They were getting used to me, and I was getting used to them. As time has gone on, I have probably been on my sixth year now without a manager. In some ways, it has worked to my benefit, just having the distribution company out there and putting out what I do, then going out on the road and trying to do it that way. 

BLITZ: You did go with Curb Records for the release of the Risin’ Outlaw album. You may or may not be aware of it, but in the 1960s, Mike Curb was involved with the Sidewalk and Tower labels, which were subsidiaries of Capitol Records. In the mid to late 1960s, they released a lot of film soundtracks and worked with independent first generation garage bands like the Standells, the Chocolate Watch Band and the Arrows.

Since that time, some of the artists who were involved with him have shared your sentiments about their experiences. Presumably you never sought out any of them for advice in that respect, then.

HANK3: Not really. It’s definitely a tough business. If you’re an artist or a musician that knows what your sound is and you know what you want on your records, it can always be a challenge.

For an artist like me, they just didn’t understand or get what I was doing. It doesn’t matter if you’re as big as someone on a huge scale level like Tim McGraw, or someone on a smaller level like myself. It seems like some of those same problems come up in the conversations!

BLITZ: Despite the circumstances behind it, if you look at the Risin’ Outlaw album from the perspective of an impartial, third party observer, there are definitely some tracks of merit in there. For example, it is very easy to be taken with your cover of Bobby Edwards’ You’re The Reason, which of course was also covered in 1965 by Gerry and the Pacemakers. You did a great, great job on that track. What inspired you to cover it?

HANK3: Honestly, I would go through all of the tapes and listen to the songs. And if I was going to be doing someone else’s songs, I at least got to pick out the songs. At the time that album was cut, the original version stood out a lot to me.

BLITZ: You once indicated that on the Risin’ Outlaw album, there are only a couple of tracks that still met with your standards. Presumably one of them was If The Shoe Fits, which states your case as an emerging artist quite well. In other words, “This is where I stand. You might not like it, but I am standing behind who I am”. Is that a fair assessment?

HANK3: Definitely! I would be down at Polygram or something, and see all of these people writing songs in offices. And I thought, “I’m not sure what the difference between y’all’s song is and one of my songs!” Songs like If The Shoe Fits, Mississippi Mud or Country Heroes, all of those in my eyes are decent songs.

Those are for my fans, and that was definitely one of the first to help get me on my way. It was before the heavy rhythm, high energy gallop was coming into play. But it was getting there!

BLITZ: You seem to have hit your stride in that respect with your next album, Lovesick, Broke & Driftin’.

HANK3: Yes! Working with (co-producer) Joe Funderburk on that record, and having (steel guitarist) Kayton Roberts there, working with musicians like that is always an awesome experience! It was a good learning curve. That was one of the last records that I got to do on tape to tape on the machines, pre-digital.

BLITZ: There is one song in particular on the Lovesick, Broke & Driftin’ album in which you and Blitz Magazine are definitely on the same page in that respect, the song Trashville. It seems to be an answer song of sorts within the country genre to Bob Seger’s Back In ’72, in which he talks about how the self indulgence in much of the music of the early 1970s crushed the music which had inspiration and took away the heart and the creative element. There were people who were trying to express themselves personally as individuals, but there was an undue obsession at the time with image and socio-political causes that took away from the heart of the music.

To take it a step further, Blitz Magazine has long maintained that country music’s last collective gasp of consequence was the so-called New Traditionalist movement of the late 1980s and early 1990s, where artists like Dwight Yoakam, Clint Black, Carlene Carter, the Desert Rose Band and Highway 101 came in; plus a lot of the long time greats were concurrently able to return to the spotlight, like Waylon Jennings, George Jones, Johnny Cash, Buck Owens and your father. Would you say that was the cut off point when Nashville became Trashville? Or what was the cut off point for you?

HANK3: It goes back to that independent streak that I’ve had. I’ve always known myself and I’ve always known my songs. I’ve never really understood why someone needed to tell me how to write a song. If you think like that and you play like that, it’s not going to get you very far in Nashville!

I love living in Tennessee, and I love being born and raised in Nashville. There are just two streets that I didn’t get along with that well, as far as business goes. Because if you are a super creative person like you are saying, it’s a tough gig. For someone like me, they just didn’t understand what I do. It’s a challenge when you’re involved in it. The managers, the lawyers, the producers and all of that stuff.

Even back when I first started in Branson, they said, “You know what you need to do, and you know how to do it”. And that’s what I have always basically done. I had to do some time with Curb for a little while, just to get out there. But the deal is still writing the majority of my songs and trying to get out there on the road, doing the best I can and trying to hang in there with it.

It depends on what you’re in it for. I was in it for my sound, my songs. That’s just natural when you’re coming with a bloodline that’s as creative as mine! Some people get into it just to record that song that’s going to become a hit and definitely be played on that radio station. I have been just a little more independent in my ways of thinking.

BLITZ: It’s interesting that you have stuck with Nashville geographically. Consider the following scenario: In the early 1990s, an individual of our acquaintance was a successful radio producer in Southern California. But when the Northridge earthquake struck in January 1994, he panicked and relocated to Nashville, leaving behind his successful $100,000 a year career in Los Angeles.

His idea behind relocating to Nashville was to find success in that field in country music. But about a year after he relocated there, we spoke with the pastor of his church. The pastor told us, “Your friend came out here to die, and to die big time”. Instead of furthering his career in that respect, the former radio producer was now cleaning the house, taking out the trash and mowing the lawn for a successful Nashville producer and living close to the bone. Does such a scenario sound familiar from what you have observed? And if so, what did those involved do about it?

HANK3: For me, it’s not quite that bad. If you don’t set yourself up for that huge fall, then you’re never going to fall. Unfortunately, I have never been used to making that much money! I’ve just been out there trying to figure out how to break even. I had to file bankruptcy about ten years ago, just to keep it out on the road. But being born and raised here, I have gotten a lot of the respect of the old timers. That’s a tough one!

I’ve kept it inside of the bars. There’s something of beauty of not going outside of the bars. It’s been the perfect thing of not too big, not too small. I think that’s helped me a lot over the years.

BLITZ: To that effect, you have maintained your integrity, which means at least being able to sleep at night. We can return to the Lovesick, Broke & Driftin’ album as an example. The opening song, 7 Months, 39 Days is a masterpiece of the traditional country template. You took that sound and put your own personal, distinctive stamp on it. It sounds as though you are in solidarity with that genre of music yourself, yet you want to keep it within your own framework.

HANK3: I’m always open to working with other people. But when it comes to my records, I’m writing the songs! I am at least in a position now that’s great, when another musician calls me up and says, “Hey, man. You wanna sing on this record?” I say, “Sure!” I get to do it, and I have no problems.

I don’t have to miss out on a lot of great opportunities nowadays. I got to record with David Allan Coe. I’ve had Junior Brown here at the house. He likes the way I record and the vibe of the house. There are a lot of things I’m involved with. I’m not totally opposed to working with other people. I did a project for Alamo Jones, just for the sake of doing it. We did like a five song EP. I’m always trying to be creative. I’m just not trying to be creative with other people as much, but the door is still open.

BLITZ: You seem to have made peace with your so-called Family Tradition a lot earlier on than perhaps your father did. Early on in his own situation, the obvious reference point for his concerns in that respect was his 1966 Standing In The Shadows single for MGM. He took a stand for himself, and he did so quite well.

On the other hand, you have also taken quite an impressive stand for yourself. You have done what you do very well for roughly the past fifteen years. Yet you don’t hesitate to give credit where credit is due, and that’s great.

If nothing else, you have demonstrated that the Family Tradition means that the spark of creativity is found in each successive generation, but in an individual way. For example, a couple of years ago, you made a guest appearance on Marty Stuart’s television program, in which you sang an absolutely spot on, bone chilling version of your grandfather’s My Sweet Love Ain’t Around. Then you turned around and did it your own way, underscoring that the common theme of the bloodline is that each generation is creative, but in their own right. Is that assessment on target?

HANK3: Definitely! Once in a while, I will do a tribute to Hank Senior, just because there will never be another one. No one will ever come that close to doing it as good. You won’t see me doing a whole Hank Williams show. You will only see me doing a few. Maybe a couple of songs every now and then, but it’s usually for friends, or just for paying respect.

When I think of Hank Junior and Hank Senior and all of the things that they’ve done, I am strictly mesmerized as a musician, and as a songwriter, about all of the different phases that they have been through in life. So that is something with me. When I’m listening to music, I am always thinking about the process that they had to go through to write the songs. How they might have had to get up at 5:30 in the morning and go down to the radio station. How did they have a voice that early in the morning? I’m amazed by the talent and how they got it done.

BLITZ: Do you think it is possibly a matter of perception? For example, you are presumably familiar with the 2012 reissue CD on the Time Life label, Lost Concerts, which features two complete and previously unreleased 1952 concerts by Hank Senior. The traditional accounts of his life often suggest that things were not going well for him in 1952, with one challenge after another. Yet if you listen to the Lost Concerts CD, what is more than evident on there is an artist who is very much on top of his game. He was doing stand up comedy, his delivery was brilliant, he radiated joy and he was in absolute command of the proceedings. If indeed there were issues extant in his circumstances, you couldn’t make a convincing case of it with that record!

By that same token, certain things were expected of you. Curb Records and the Nashville elite wanted this and that out of you. But you defied their expectations and did things quite well. Is that then a case of the bloodline maintaining its independence and its creative spark?

HANK3: I think it just kind of shows itself naturally. If you look at my whole music career, I’m not trying to be that negative punk. I’m just trying to do what feels natural to me. Some have said that I have held myself back for a lot of years. But it just goes back to that not being too big and not being too small. It’s just being in my niche! Being a drummer and a rhythm guitar player, throughout most of my young life has brought me into a situation like, when Johnny Hiland takes a solo on my record, he says, “Man, your rhythms just really stick out to me. I play on a lot of records around town, and no one has these kind of rhythms!”

So when I hear a compliment like that from someone who is looking at me in the now and not even at the past hardly at all, it’s good to hear that kind of a comment from such a high end musician. Theory and songwriting has always been tough for me with my learning disabilities over the years. It’s always a challenge to pump that stuff out.

BLITZ: It’s interesting that you alluded to exploring the dark themes. That interim period after the release of Rebel Proud, amidst those later Curb reissues, like Hillbilly Joker, Ghost To A Ghost/Gutter Town, 3 Bar Ranch Cattle Callin’ and Attention Deficit Domination, those albums seem to explore a lot of dark themes. Is it more of a situation of sharing first hand experiences, or perhaps doubling as a red flag of sorts to your audience, saying “Don’t go too far over the edge”? How do you view it?

HANK3: I would look at it more like when Johnny Cash would sing a sad lonesome song, or talking about taking his guns to town and killing somebody. You can only hear so much squeaky clean happy stuff on the radio, or whatnot. There has to be room for a lot of other stuff. I’ve just fallen into that “other stuff” category! I’m able to write about that other stuff a little more easily.

I definitely don’t try to push too much religion or too much politics. I do put it out there that yes, there is the light, and yes, there is the dark. And my granddad sang about the light, and he sang about the dark. I’m kind of doing it that same way. The genres are just a little more extreme nowadays. There is a whole genre called doom metal, which had that spooky, eerie, kind of ghostly feel to it.

Like on the new record, when I have songs like Deep Scars or Loners 4 Life, then I’ll turn around and put a good time feeling song in there, like Dreadful Drive, with the clawhammer banjo. Or Possum In A Tree, getting a little bit old school with Leroy Troy, just to brighten it up a little bit.

I’m always trying to keep some balance in mind. 3 Bar Ranch Cattle Callin’ is kind of a lighthearted, fun record. It’s not getting real serious. I tell all the kids that! I’m always trying to have that come across.

BLITZ: You have two of the best new albums of 2013 to date with Brothers Of The 4x4 and A Fiendish Threat. On the track Possum In A Tree in your new Brothers Of The 4x4 album, there is some inventive steel guitar work. The delivery is, like you said, pure. Is there an attempt with that track to capture some of the novelty spirit of the genre, as perhaps your grandfather did with Kaw-Liga?

HANK3: I wrote that song for Leroy Troy. Leroy Troy is a purist, clawhammer banjo king. Yes, I wanted that song to sound more old school. I wrote it with him in mind.

That was my first attempt at trying to play steel guitar. I took my recorder over there. Me and him tracked it live in his shed out back. There’s a lot of reasons why that song is going to stand out. It sounds a little more low-fi than a lot of the record would. There is a reason for that. As Leroy Troy would say, “And to top it off, it’s a true story, too!”

That was definitely a good, lighthearted, fun recording session. I can’t wait to play it for Leroy. He gets to hear it when it’s officially done. I want to see his expression in person!

BLITZ: You mentioned the musicianship of the band. The title track on Brothers Of The 4x4 and Lookey Yonder Comin’ both feature strong instrumental workouts that celebrate the joy of the lyrics, but also showcase the strong musicianship of those who are playing on there with you.

You have always surrounded yourself with really strong musicians, who tend to soar when given the opportunity. Do you find that outside players gravitate to your work for that reason?

HANK3: I’m lucky enough to have a lot of the same players come back every time I make a record. Over both records, there is two and a half hours of music. Yet there is only about twenty minutes of editing. So almost all of these songs might have taken a hundred times to get that one take. But that’s how we did it. The players are definitely steppin’ up to the plate on those songs, like you were saying.

Johnny Hiland was the first guy to lay down some outside stuff on it. Then Daniel Mason on the banjo, Andy Gibson on the steel guitar, and Zach Shedd on the stand up bass. It’s always a challenge, doing the engineering and the recording process of it. Sometimes the players look at me, wanting me to tell them what to play. Then other guys just already know what they’re going to play and lay it down.

BLITZ: It works very well in that respect, too. It seems like with the Brothers Of The 4x4 album, you are shifting the focus a bit more towards instrumental dexterity, rather than lyrical content. Would that be a fair assessment?

HANK3: I’ve always loved the great musicians. It just goes back to writing vocals being a challenge for me. Yeah, I like turning the band up! If you listen to my mixes, you’re going to hear kick drum and snare pretty loud. I’m a fan of the band.

When I was growing up, I never could understand why a lot of the live band members weren’t playing on the records. That always baffled me. So I am lucky enough nowadays that the majority of my live band plays on the record. I get to see some friends that I’ve made over the years come in and do some of the super pickin’, just layin’ it down like it was nothing. Johnny Hiland and Billy Contreras.

BLITZ: You mentioned the clawhammer style of banjo picking. In the past, you seem to have professed an interest in the real pioneers of that work, such as David “Stringbean” Akeman. He was a forerunner of that style when he recorded for Starday. You even covered one of his songs. Would you say that Outdoor Plan from your new album is an attempt to carry on his mission statement? Or at least that of Elton Britt, Uncle Dave Macon or Hank Snow? There is a little bit of all of them in that song.

HANK3: What you are basically picking up on is the man who has been like my grandfather growing up, and that’s Eddie Pleasant. He writes probably two to three songs per day. That song is a co-write, and a lot of those influences are coming across on that song. That’s probably what you’re feeling. Even though he loved it when it was just me and my acoustic guitar. I put a little more of a current kind of bounce under it.

There is a lot more Stringbean that I probably need to get close to. I have some of his records that I want to get to in the future. It brings me peace. When I’m not feeling good, I can just pick up the banjo, go outside and sit down under the tree. There’s something about it that soothes my soul! I know I’ll be doing a little more recording of that one day.

BLITZ: You have stated in recent years that you get that same gratification from sitting down and listening to your record collection. Does that still resonate with you?

HANK3: Absolutely! I go through my highs and lows. If I’m not super busy with the crew, and the trailer is loaded, the gear is in place and the merch is counted, I have some times! Hasil Adkins is one of the guys that can make me hurt if I need to hurt. I can put on some of his songs and definitely get past some emotions. If I feel like working strong through the day, I’ll have Jimmy Martin blasting in the background and getting some stuff done. Music is still definitely tapping into my emotions very strongly, when I’m just listening to it.

BLITZ: Have you added to your collection lately?

HANK3: Right now, I’m kind of stuck. I’ve been into a lot of ’70s rock and roll, and getting into a lot of Roy Duke. I’ve been fascinated with Dock Boggs over the years. Something about Dock Boggs has just grown more and more on me. There is something about the banjo and the singers.

I save a lot of it for when I’m on the road. That’s when I do a lot of my vinyl shopping. I haven’t been on the road in almost a year. So I’m a little out of touch!

BLITZ: You at least maintained enough of that inspiration to be creative enough in the studio to produce an album like A Fiendish Threat. If you were looking to perhaps capture the spirit of Black Flag, the Sex Pistols or, to a lesser extent, the Ramones, you nailed it!

HANK3: Whatever music style it is, whether we are calling it punk rock or not, I think it has a unique sound for it all being played and sang at the same time on the acoustic guitar. The acoustic and the stand up bass has made it its own little whatever people call it.

My friends that I have known my whole life are saying, “What are you calling this?” I just know that it was a record that was a lot of fun for me to record. It made me feel like I was a younger man on some of those vocal takes. A lot of high energy! Imagine a skateboarder that had a really bad wreck, and he’s got to piece himself back together. I’m putting a lot of the “rebuild yourself” kind of hope into that record. There are some positive messages in that one.

BLITZ: That brings to mind another tangent of your Family Tradition situation. You are of course a father. You have a son and a daughter. If either of them approaches you and seeks your advice on music, how would you guide them? What would you suggest to them?

HANK3: With my son, while he’s still in college, I am backing him, no matter what! I always tell him to learn a trade. He’s kind of going through spurts of playing the guitar for a while. Then he will play the banjo for a little bit. Then he will be all about capturing sound with tape decks! Either way, I’m always telling him to try to learn a trade, and play your guitar as much as possible. It’s going to take you a little while to figure out what your calling is.

But I am glad to have the open relationship and to be supportive. It’s always interesting to see him go through the changes, trying to figure out what he wants to do. My main thing is, “You’re young. Enjoy being young while you can. You know I’m here to help you out whenever you need it.

BLITZ: During the times that you were both endeavoring to get started in your own respective careers, did you ever exchange feedback with your sister, Holly for ideas?

HANK3: Me and Holly have never talked all that much on a musical level, probably because we may both be a little bit afraid that we don’t want to offend each other! We just keep it as a family relationship. She knows that I respect her as a musician, and I think that she does the same. I think for right now that’s the best thing for us. We don’t want any of the business messing us up!

BLITZ: A couple of the more interesting tracks on A Fiendish Threat are Watchin’ U Suffer, Fight My Way and Full On. What is the background on those?

HANK3: Watchin’ You Suffer is in a deeper tuning. That’s one reason why it might sound a little different. It’s got a little bit of that melody kind of drive to it. That’s where a little bit of the sci-fi stuff might be coming in to it. If you’re thinking about some 1950s kind of alien movie, where they’re up in the sky watching you suffer, it’s that kind of thing.

Fight My Way is definitely inspired one hundred percent by 7 Seconds, to the point where I was calling them up and telling them, “This comes from y’all one hundred percent, and I need y’all’s permission before I can go through with this!” They gave me their blessings. That was a song that just spoke to me a lot when I was growing up.

Full On is just one of those creative, kind of going for it full on songs of energy, all at once.

BLITZ: When these two albums are released, you may confound expectations, but you should also meet them. Those who have known you and your music, and know that you have pursued multiple directions will be pleased to see how much your work has grown.

That of course leads to the issue of how these new releases will come to the attention of your audience. For example, of course for much of your father’s career, the goal was to get on a major label, make a record, get it on the radio, get it played, get the disc jockeys behind you, and then you will be a success.

But as you are no doubt aware, in the ensuing years, the game has changed radically in that the independent artist and label has largely taken over. Radio has lost a lot of its impact. Commercial music is no longer universally held up as the standard for all to attain. The major labels have pretty much begun to focus on reissues and catalog items, because they cannot do justice to artists as they once could, while a lot of the artists are doing that sort of thing for themselves now. Fan support, technology and social websites have further enabled the independent artist to do that. To what extent do you envision those developments furthering your own career?

HANK3: There is something that my dad had that I’ve never had. He had a great relationship with his managers. That is huge! I’ve never had that. I’ve had a couple that I had been close to for a little bit. But when you’re talking about Merle Kilgore and Hank Williams Junior, I’ve never had anything that powerful in my corner.

BLITZ: It was Merle Kilgore who set up the interviews that Blitz Magazine conducted with your father years ago. He couldn’t have been nicer. A world class gentleman.

HANK3: No doubt. But you need to understand that if you are talking about the music business, what Merle did for Hank Junior was pretty huge. It’s hard to say with an artist like me, but when I see some of my heroes in a tough situation when they get to an older age, it’s either going to work for me, or it’s not. It’s really hard to say.

I had taken advice from Henry Rollins a long time ago. He said, “You work hard. You tour hard. You know your sound. All you need is good distribution, and that’s it.” I’ve stuck by those words, and it’s helped me out a lot.

I’m not saying for certain, but one day I might have a manger again. Someone I feel comfortable with. But most of the time, I’ve found that there are some artists that management just doesn’t work for. I think I’m one of those, just because I’m creative in a lot of ways.

BLITZ: Henry Rollins has maintained a level of success over the decades by constantly reinventing himself. After he left Black Flag, he did spoken word recordings. Then he became an author and a newspaper columnist. Most recently, he has been dabbling in acting. He has been all over the map, but he has nonetheless had success in every one of those ventures. Like you said, he worked hard and asserted himself. Presumably that is also what you are trying to do right now.

HANK3: Absolutely! He is definitely one of my heroes. A lot of my heroes usually have a high work ethic. Sometimes I wish that I could hang in there as much as Henry does. He’s so smart, and he takes on everything. I am hoping to get more and more stronger as I go. People like him, who kind of understand my history a little bit, have helped me conquer a lot of my challenges.

After I’m fifty, I really don’t know what’s going to happen musically for me. It’s going to be hard for me to look past that. Having someone like Henry Rollins to look up to, shows me that there might be other things in life that will ring true for me some day.

BLITZ: So you aren’t thinking creative muse long term as much as you are a survival strategy.

HANK3: I’m more concerned about not being able to pull off the show that I want to pull off! Can I still put on the country and the heavy metal? Every tour is a challenge. I am definitely living more in the now than I am in the future, because if you look at my financial past and all of that, it’s always ups and downs. Every night when you play, sometimes there are a thousand people, some nights there are a hundred people. But they still get the same show! And I’m still there if I’m sick or if I’m well. I’m gonna be up on that stage, doing the best I can, and letting someone forget about their problems for a little while.

BLITZ: It’s interesting that you are concerned about being able to maintain and execute your musical vision once you pass a certain chronological point. In recent years, we have seen a lot of first generation garage rock and related bands such as the Yellow Payges, the Monkees, the Young Rascals, the Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys all take to the road again to considerable acclaim, in spite of such concerns. Would taking it from the standpoint of heightened self-confidence help in that respect?

HANK3: Absolutely! I’m always astounded by some of the older guys that can keep bringin’ it to the table. Two nights ago, I went and saw Adam Ant. The first time I saw him was in 1984. He still has the voice. He still sounds like the guy that I looked up to way back then. I am always amazed by the Iggy Pops and the Willie Nelsons. These guys are still out there singin’ and playin’ and takin’ it to the next level!

I am always fascinated with the voice. For me, the voice is something that is hard to hold on to. On the road, you lose it and it gets weak. It gets gravelly. And sometimes, when you get older, just listening to Hank Junior records, you can hear how much his voice dropped, aside from the mountain fall and all of that.

Or Robert Plant. He is another perfect example of how things change when you get older. It’s always a challenge, that’s for sure! It keeps you on your toes. Who knows what will be waiting around the corner?

BLITZ: Monkees drummer Micky Dolenz, who has a wide and commanding vocal range, keeps his voice up by doing vocal exercises. Many artists also work out in the gym to prepare themselves for the rigors of the road.

HANK3: I have also been psyching myself up mentally in getting ready for the tours. I do nothing but stretch and breathe steam. I’m not the kind of guy who can just walk out on stage and have my voice. After a week and a half into it, I have to work at it two to four hours every day just to get it there. I do warm ups, stretching and exercises to get it to where I want it. Singing three and a half hours a night is always a hard thing.

BLITZ: Is that part of the reason why your upcoming tour is relatively brief, so that you don’t over extend yourself? Some artists have toured up to two years consecutively at a time. But your upcoming tour is scheduled to be completed in roughly a month.

HANK3: I’m just trying to see what a few weeks is going to do to me right now. I’m doing a small run. The longest I can go is a month and a half. Doing three and a half hour shows and four different genres per night? Now if I was just a country act, I could maybe pull off five to six months straight. But doing all of the other hard singing is a lot more tricky for me, mentally and physically.

BLITZ: How much of the set list in your upcoming tour will feature material from the two new albums?

HANK3: The country show will just be here and there, because of the fans. I’ve got my songs that a lot of the people want to hear. Foundation songs.

In October, there will be a lot more. I call this next tour the Nothin’ In It tour! I'm just gearing myself up for a harder run and a lot more work. I’m saving the energy just to get really personally excited for the next two years out there.

BLITZ: With regards to your two new releases, what is your perspective on the current developments in the industry? As you are aware, there has been a lot of interest in bringing back vinyl. Conversely, there has been a push from other camps in the industry towards eliminating physical product and making everything available only as a download. In the middle of it all is the compact disc. All three camps seem to be at odds with one another, each saying that their respective formats have a place, and they don’t want to concede it. What is your take on format availability?

HANK3: I seriously hope that people always have a chance to hold the product in their hands. Both the CD and the vinyl album. I know that vinyl will probably outlast the CDs. But as long as there is something there for them to hold on to, read and flip through, well, you just can’t replace that! Digital downloads are great, but it’s just not the same.

Like you are saying, hopefully it will hang in there. It needs paper and ink!

Since we’re talking about vinyl, I don’t carry that much of it on the road. I always tell everyone that hank3.com is the place to get the vinyl. If anyone does come out to see me live, I usually don’t have an opening band. I always tell people that we usually play early. If the showtime is eight o’clock, then we are usually on stage at eight o’clock, as we often play about three and a half hours.

We cover a lot of different genres. I always do the country part of the show first, and the rock part as the night goes on. We’ve had a lot of great shows at the Machine Shop in Flint, Michigan over the years. There is always a lot of energy in the room on those nights!

Saturday

BITS AND PIECES - NEWS ABOUT YOUR FAVORITE ARTISTS By Michael McDowell


A TOWER OF STRENGTH? The Los Angeles-based trio, the Eiffels (pictured above) draw upon the inspiration of the best of the early 1980s new romantics and straight ahead rockers to produce a highly unique and extremely promising original sound, as evidenced in their debut single, I Did It Now. Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell has the story below (Click on above image to enlarge).

BACK FOR MORE:
THE WOOLIES AND
TIDAL WAVES GUITARIST BILL LONG
RETURN TO FORM

In a 1977 interview with Blitz Magazine, Woolies co-founder and keyboardsman, Bob Baldori was asked for his insights with regards to the band’s longevity. He responded with characteristically self-depreciating humor:

“Because we’re too dumb to quit!”

But such perceived haste has nonetheless reaped considerable aesthetic dividends in the long run. In a year that has seen a triumphant return to the concert stage of such absolute masters of the genre as the Thirteenth Floor Elevators and the Charlatans, first generation garage rock greats the Woolies and one time Tidal Waves guitarist Bill Long have in turn both renewed their respective musical mission statements with a passion.

With their classic line up of Baldori, his brother, guitarist Jeff Baldori, plus lead vocalist Stormy Rice and drummer William “Bee” Metros intact (supplemented by guitarist Ron English), the Woolies' triumphant return to the stage commenced on 27 June with a fundraiser at the Okemos Conference Center in Okemos, Michigan.

Having begun their recording career in 1965 with a cover of Bob Dylan’s Black Crow Blues, the Woolies signed with Dunhill Records in 1966. In January 1967 they released on Dunhill their signature interpretation of Ellas “Bo Diddley” McDaniel’s Who Do You Love, which remains one of the genre’s definitive masterpieces.

A spirited rendition of Huddie “Leadbelly” Ledbetter’s Duncan And Brady followed, after which time the Woolies went the independent route and released a series of acclaimed singles and albums for their own Spirit label, including 2-Way Wishen (sic), Ride Ride Ride and Super Ball. Spirit also became the recording home of fellow first generation garage rockers, the Ones, whose engaging, late 1967 ballad, You Haven’t Seen My Love was subsequently reissued on Motown.

The Woolies also enjoyed a long and fruitful side career as Chuck Berry’s backing band of choice. A landmark 1972 appearance (sharing the bill with the Drifters) at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti was among the many highlights.

Although he was not a part of the band at the time of the release of their 1966 breakthrough cover of Don and Dewey’s Farmer John (which had previously been prepped for garage rock reinterpretation by the Premiers in 1964), guitarist Bill Long came on board soon after its release. He was an integral component in the development of the Tidal Waves’ highly acclaimed second and third singles, the melodramatic, Baroque-influenced August 1966 I Don’t Need Love and the monster classic garage rocker, Action (Speaks Louder Than Words) in March 1967. Both singles were issued by the legendary HBR label (masterminded by animators Jeff Hanna and Joe Barbera) and produced by SVR Records founder and visionary, Jack Chekaway. Long went on to some acclaim as a solo artist with the release of his Seed Of Love single for Barbu Records in 1978, at which time he was also interviewed at length in Blitz Magazine.

Most recently, Long has returned to the one man band approach that served him well in the late 1970s, with live performances in the greater Detroit area. He also headlined at CJ’s Sandbar in Lake Orion on 26 June. New studio projects from both the Woolies and Long would be more than welcome.
 


NORMAN GREENBAUM
RECUPERATING FROM
AUTOMOBILE ACCIDENT
 
Front man and co-founder of the legendary first generation garage band, Doctor West's Medicine Show And Junk Band, Norman Joel Greenbaum remains in critical condition after the 2002 Subaru Outback driven by partner and colleague Bonita Kay Capps (in which Greenbaum was a passenger) was struck by a motorcycle near Santa Rosa, California on 28 March.

As the lead vocalist and principal songwriter for Doctor West's Medicine Show And Junk Band, Greenbaum and his entourage enjoyed considerable acclaim in November 1966 with the single release of their irresistible, jug band-inspired original composition for the Go Go label, The Eggplant That Ate Chicago. The band soon after released a duly inspired album for Go Go that featured such memorable tracks as Weird and How Lew Sin Ate, and finally gained similar acclaim in 1967 for their Gondoliers, Overseers, Shakespeares, Playboys And Bums single; again on the Go Go label.

Greenbaum enjoyed further accolades as a solo artist for Reprise in the early 1970s, with such memorable tracks as Canned Ham, Petaluma and the Spring 1970 monster classic Gospel rocker, Spirit In The Sky. His sublime mid-tempo composition, Hook And Ladder provided Reprise label mate Nancy Sinatra with a first rate, career high single that same year.

Greenbaum's family has asked for both privacy and prayers during this challenging season.



IN TIME:
JEFFERSON AIRPLANE GUITARIST
PAUL KANTNER RECOVERING
FROM HEART ATTACK

Prayers continue for Jefferson Airplane co-founder and guitarist, Paul Kantner, who on 30 March had a stent inserted into a ninety-nine percent blocked artery after suffering a heart attack on 27 March.

Widely regarded as one of the twentieth century's most impacting bands, Jefferson Airplane produced a number of enduring standards for the RCA Victor label, including Ballad Of You And Me And Pooneil, 3/5 Of A Mile In Ten Seconds, She Has Funny Cars, Volunteers, It's No Secret and the monster classic 1967 single, Somebody To Love. Jefferson Airplane bassist Jack Casady was interviewed at length in Blitz Magazine in the 1980s, during his tenure with the band SVT.

A spokesman for Kantner indicated that the beloved veteran musician is stable, making progress and expected to return home to San Francisco by week's end.

 


TOWER OF STRENGTH:
LOS ANGELES' EIFFELS
REVISIT AND BUILD UPON
ROCK AND ROLL'S
LAST IMPACTING MOVEMENT

A cohesive argument could be made for the so-called New Traditionalist movement of the late 1980s and early 1990s being country music's last collective musical gasp of consequence. That highly impacting return to form brought into the forefront such ambitious artists as the Desert Rose Band, Highway 101, Clint Black, Carlene Carter, Dwight Yoakam, Holly Dunn, Randy Travis, Restless Heart and Ricky Van Shelton. In the process, such pioneering giants of the idiom found themselves again rightly hailed as the absolute masters that they have always been, including George Jones, Buck Owens, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard and Bill Anderson.

If indeed the rise of New Traditionalism was the last overall highly impacting musical movement, it could be argued that the diverse and enormously impacting so-called punk/new wave movement that rose to prominence in the mid-to-late1970s through such artists as the Sex Pistols, Dave Edmunds, the Clash, the Ramones, Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello, and which by the early 1980s had splintered into several sub-genres (including new romanticism and hardcore), was the most recent rock and roll movement to unite its most diverse factions for maximum, positive impact and influence.

It is one of the latter sub-genres that in part fuels the mission statement of the ambitious and highly promising Los Angeles-based trio, the Eiffels. Comprised of lead vocalist/guitarist Sean Ulbs, bassist (and Beware Of Darkness alumnus) Benjamin Sturley, and drummer Lee Stuart, the Eiffels profess an affinity for the rich and diverse output of the straight ahead rock, synth-pop and new romantic sub-tangents, typified by such artists as Haircut One Hundred, Roman Holliday, Tears For Fears, the Buzzcocks, Wide Boy Awake, Generation X, the Romantics and the Beat.

Inasmuch as the acclaimed Groovy U.N.C.L.E. has recently produced original material that stands alongside the best first generation garage rock, the Eiffels likewise more than prove their mettle as architects building upon their chosen inspirations with their debut single, I Did It Now. The band will follow up with their debut EP, which was co-produced by Ethan Kaufmann and Will Brierre, and is scheduled for May 2015 release. The EP will be supported with a nationwide tour that will include stops in Orange County, San Diego, Albuquerque, El Paso, Kansas City, Seattle, Eugene, Boise, Des Moines, Chicago and at home in Los Angeles, along with several other cities.

 

Wednesday

THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME (REISSUES AND ANTHOLOGIES) By Michael McDowell


ASCENSION: The notion that an artist who passed away in 1967 would still have unreleased material in the vaults is nothing short of a miracle. But such is the case with beloved visionary and virtuoso saxophonist, John Coltrane, whose just-released two-CD set, Offering Live At Temple University presents for the first time that legendary November 1966 concert date in its entirety. Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell has the story (Click on image to enlarge).

CD REISSUES / ANTHOLOGIES
(REVIEWS ARE POSTED IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER BY ARTIST)

OFFERING LIVE AT TEMPLE UNIVERSITY - 
John Coltrane (Resonance)


In Luke 12:16-21, Jesus told the parable of a man who believed that he had accumulated enough wealth and material goods in life. Given his circumstances, that man opted to relax and enjoy life and his possessions.

However, Jesus told him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And those things you have prepared, whose will they be?”

It has likewise been documented accordingly that no one knows the day nor the hour of Jesus’ return. The simple reasoning is that all are required to live their lives accordingly, as though He may come at any moment, without notice (Matthew 24:3-44).

Even so, at the time this landmark live recording was made in Mitten Hall at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s Temple University on 11 November 1966, it is fair to suggest that John William Coltrane believed (and rightly so) that his time on earth was limited, and responded herein accordingly. Although his outward demeanor suggested otherwise, the pioneering saxophonist and Hamlet, North Carolina native at that time was suffering internally from the liver cancer that eventually claimed his life on 17 July 1967.

“My goal is to live the truly religious life, and express it in my music”, Coltrane once said.

“If you live it, when you play, there is no problem because the music is part of the whole thing. To be a musician is really something. It goes very, very deep. My music is the spiritual expression of what I am: my faith, my knowledge, my being.

With that in mind, Coltrane endeavored to make peace through music with his Maker during his final months, although he did so somewhat ironically at the expense of his core audience. For while the most adventurous of jazz aficionados embraced him as their hero and visionary during his tenure with Impulse Records with his classic quartet (which included pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones), by late 1965 that quartet was no more (although Garrison remained with Coltrane throughout 1966). And while the lineup herein (which included the still very much active and beloved Farrell “Pharoah” Sanders on tenor saxophone and piccolo, as well as Alice Coltrane on keyboards, plus substitute bassist Sonny Johnson and drummer Rasheed Ali), was successful to a degree in disenfranchising even the most hardcore faithful, suffice to say that even all concerned within that new inner circle were also upon occasion taken aback, yet were inspired to improvise accordingly as their leader endeavored to resolve his spiritual quest by whatever musical means necessary.

To that effect, during this landmark performance (of which only excerpts had heretofore been available, and only in bootleg form) Coltrane largely revisited familiar territory borne of happier times. In the process, he painted a brilliant musical illustration of Jesus’ words in Luke 12:20-21, which warn against the accumulation of wealth taking precedence over a right relationship with God. Witness the set opener, Naima, which he had originally recorded in December 1959 and which was released on his groundbreaking Giant Steps album (Atlantic SD1311) in January 1960. Originally a comparatively more genial musical portrait of his first wife, by the time he revisited it for this 1966 live performance (and again, with his current wife on keyboards), Naima had turned into expression of repentance, with Coltrane seemingly begging the Lord for forgiveness for his sins, and confessing whatever transgressions he deemed necessary to have absolved in the process. That sentiment continues well into the twenty-one minute rendition of Leo on the second disc, which makes not so subtle references to Coltrane’s like minded masterwork, A Love Supreme (Impulse AS-77) at various points.

Even the relatively brief (clocking in at slightly over four minutes) Offering is by definition in keeping with the theme of praise, worship and repentance, recalling the common Old Testament practice of sacrifice. Indeed, in his physical condition, Coltrane’s unwavering work ethic and mission statement was a sacrifice in its own right.

But nowhere in this set is Coltrane’s inner turmoil more evident (at least in hindsight, if not first hand observation) than in his relatively truncated (at twenty-three minutes) nearly last look at his signature track, My Favorite Things. In the highly successful original version (recorded in October 1960 and released in March 1961 as the title track of Atlantic SD1361, as well as in two-part form on a single on Atlantic 45-5012), Coltrane found himself blessed with a rare moment of mainstream acceptance, with his relatively melodic soprano saxophone take on the 1959 Mary Martin and Patricia Neway track from the Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein production, The Sound Of Music.

But while the guarded optimism (in light of the Trapp Family’s impending turmoil) alluded to in the original version found a somewhat sympathetic expression of solidarity in Coltrane’s Atlantic venture, upon revisiting the tune at Temple University, it became more of a last will and testament. Even the bare bones opening by bassist Johnson suggests as much, with Coltrane fulfilling the Rogers and Hammerstein vision (in which the Trapps find themselves fleeing from the Nazis at the onset of World War II) in his own way, by segueing from the Atlantic arrangement into a full blown confessional that reveals a man involved in a race against time, and with much for which he feels that he must give account for in the interim. Even the various participants in this session were said to have again been taken aback by the substantial variation in execution from their arguably definitive (and somewhat larger than life) nearly hour-long take on the piece recorded just weeks earlier, on 22 July 1966 and chronicled on the essential, expanded four-disc CD reissue of  John Coltrane Live In Japan (Impulse GRD-4-102).

If Coltrane was a man aware of his imminent passing, he by all accounts took Giant Steps to live his life accordingly. That evening, he remained accessible and greeted well wishers after the performance, concurrently signing autographs and answering questions. Furthermore, he not only he welcomed an unplanned guest appearance by saxophonist Arnold Joyner, but smiled and waved as he drove past Joyner on Broad Street after the concert. For all of his trials and tribulations, this was a man determined to live the final months of his life according to the Biblical role model.

To his eternal credit, he also maintained his trademark strong work ethic until the end. Alice Coltrane later spoke of how he would rise early each morning, dress impeccably in his business suit, load at least several horns into his car (as if they were in brief cases) and head off each morning to “a day at the office”; that is, the studio. And while his decades ahead of its time vast catalog continues to both inspire and stagger the imagination, he astutely resisted any and all of the ongoing attempts throughout his final months by various special interest groups to recruit him for their socio-political agendas. He preferred to let his music speak for itself, which it most assuredly does.

Credit must also go to long time Coltrane producer Bob Thiele, who (although he was not involved with the project at hand) set a wise precedent by astutely taking a “roll tape” approach nearly every time that Coltrane graced a recording studio. As such, his is a vast catalog whose releases number in the hundreds.

All of which makes this most welcome release all the more remarkable, as an example of a heretofore largely unavailable work. Taken from the original master tapes recorded by Temple University’s WRTI-FM, they are of remarkably high quality, although surprisingly (given the date), recorded in monaural. While it is unlikely that there is much more archival Coltrane material waiting for release, it is most fitting that his enormous and unparalleled legacy is blessed with this long awaited collection as its possible capstone. And if Coltrane’s internalized desire was to live out his final days bringing glory to the Lord, it is within reason (given the results) to imagine him in turn ultimately being greeted by the Creator with the words, “Well done, My good and faithful servant."

UNRELEASED SONGS FROM THE VAULT
COLLECTION, VOLUME ONE - 
Stompin' Tom Connors (Universal Music)

In 2013, the world of country music suffered immeasurable losses with the passing of three of its absolute masters: rockabilly pioneer Noble Ray Price, long time genre front runner George Glenn Jones and the beloved and prolific songwriter, television host, film actor, author of two autobiographies (as well as several children’s books) and Saint John, New Brunswick native, Doctor Charles Thomas “Stompin’ Tom” Connors.

Ironically, each of those three beloved legends had been ill since 2012, and all were aware that their remaining time here was limited. Thankfully, in Connors’ case, his circumstances inspired him to return to the recording studio, where he managed to cut roughly one hundred and twenty tracks of mostly cover material amongst an occasional original before his passing on 06 March 2013 at age seventy-seven. 

Unreleased Songs From The Vault Collection, Volume One represents the first such sampling from those sessions, and it more than demonstrates that his considerable acumen as both an interpreter and presenter remained undiminished. In turn, this seventeen-track offering suggests that his creative muse was (as always) fueled by a variety of inspirations.

To that effect, Connors herein presents a faithful interpretation of the 1952 Albert George “Guy Mitchell” Cernik high drama classic, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Columbia 39663), which is dually titled as Pawn Shop In Pittsburgh. Yet while Mitchell relied upon his trademark exuberant delivery to highlight the track’s vivid lyrical imagery, Connors achieved the same results with somewhat uncharacteristic understatement. He followed suit with a decidedly different rendition of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band’s October 1917 signature track, Darktown Strutters’ Ball (Columbia 2297), which owes more to the genial March 1918 interpretation by the legendary  Arthur Collins and Byron Harlan (Columbia 2478) than to the instrumental original. And to further underscore the point, Connors inverted the scenario with an ambitious guitar instrumental reading of recording industry pioneer and Cincinnati, Ohio native, William B. “Billy Golden” Shires’ signature track, Turkey In The Straw, which Golden had released as a cylinder single for Columbia in October 1891.

In terms of his considerable acumen as a musicologist, it is not surprising that Connors irrefutably demonstrated his mettle within country in this collection. To wit, he maintained his aforementioned low key approach throughout such heretofore relatively raucous fare as Johnny Horton’s North To Alaska (Columbia 4-41782) and Terry Fell and the Fellers’ sublime 1954 rockabilly standard, Truck Driving Man (X X-0010). Conversely (and by definition), he raised the diversity bar to a reasonable degree with his relatively uptempo reading of Hank Snow’s Nobody’s Child (RCA Victor 21-0143). Connors brought the experiment full circle with an impassioned take on Wiley Walker and Gene Sullivan’s 1940 monster classic, When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again (Okeh 06374), which out of necessity was rendered at a somewhat less frantic pace than that found in the still definitive interpretation by Elvis Aron Presley in 1956 on his second album, Elvis (RCA Victor LSP-1382).

But it is with his unique and most engaging original material that Connors has long best been associated. His relentless optimism was long showcased to perfection in such career highlights as Sudbury Saturday Night (Rebel RX104), Pizza Pie Love (CKGB QC238), Bud The Spud (Rebel RX106), Rubberhead (CKGB QC160), Big Joe Mufferaw (Dominion 109) and the utterly stupendous Gumboot Cloggeroo (Boot BT.194).

The self-penned material presented herein follows suit to a degree, from the anthemic Cross Canada to the somewhat reflective (and autobiographical) Ode To The Road. It is only with the reworking of his 1967 Little Wawa single (CKGB QC387) that Connors opts for the outright melancholy, which is as much a testimony to his compassionate nature as it is an example of the diversity in mood that surfaces throughout his vast and vaunted repertoire. Throughout this initial volume, Connors accompanied himself on his early twentieth century Gibson guitar, with select tracks featuring full band arrangements.

“It has been a year now since he left us”, said Connors’ son, Tom Connors Junior in this project’s sleeve notes.

“We miss him very much. However the abundance of all your letters of condolence that came to us over the year have been a big help in knowing he was loved so much by so many great people across the country. Because of you, Tom’s music, legacy, and Canadian spirit will live on for generations to come.

Indeed, although this collection inevitably reiterates the magnitude of the loss. Future installments in the series will be more than welcome.


THE RED DAY ALBUM -
Thomas Edisun's Electric Light Bulb Band
(Gear Fab)


Few albums in the overall musical canon have been as polarizing as has been the Capitol label release, Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles. Released in advance in the greater Detroit, Michigan area on 29 May 1967 and virtually everywhere else three days later, that album has either been hailed as a milestone of musical developments or hotly dismissed as the album that sent rock and roll plummeting into a protracted aesthetic slump by inspiring a myriad of self-indulgent copyists who forsook the tried and true verse, chorus and bridge template in favor of often directionless improvisation.

This of course is not to infer that the art of improvisation inevitably leads to such results. The works of such masters of the idiom as John Coltrane and Herman “Sun Ra” Blount irrefutably personify the possibilities of creative autonomy borne of a cohesive foundation.

While the quartet from Liverpool, Merseyside were hardly the first band to take rock and roll in such a direction (given such highly acclaimed earlier works as the Beach Boys’ Smile album, the Fugs’ 1966 self-titled second album for E.S.P. Records and the Mothers Of Invention’s decidedly satirical Freak Out album for the Verve label), detractors often cite Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’s negative impact as more the result of the mob mentality espoused by the band’s enormous legion of devotees, as opposed to any sort of shortcomings on the part of the band itself.

Nonetheless, in the wake of its release, a number of artists took the Liverpool quartet to task in a playful manner with their own variations on the theme. Most notable amongst them is the Rolling Stones’ brilliant December 1967 London label album, Their Satanic Majesties Request, as well as the late, great former Hub Kapp And The Wheels front man Mike Condello and his self-produced sides for Blitz Records (no relation) as Commodore Condello’s Salt River Navy Band. The highlights of Condello’s vast and diverse catalog (including his acclaimed 1967 sides for Lee Hazelwood’s LHI Records as a member of Last Friday’s Fire) remain in print in a 2011 CD compilation on the Sew Sioux Me label.

Amongst those who also took their cue from Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and made some first rate original music in the process was the Louisiana-based Thomas Edisun’s Electric Light Bulb Band. Comprised of multi-instrumentalists Richard Orange, Clay Dunham Smith, Kim Foreman, Gary Simon Bertrand and Robert Sonnier, Thomas Edisun’s Electric Light Bulb Band completed the seventeen tracks that comprise this album during one marathon weekend session in mid-1967.

And while there was at least a modicum of effort on the part of the band to reinvent both that album and related material on a track by track basis (witness for example the parallels between I’m Here and the final moments of Strawberry Fields Forever, as well as the Penny Lane/Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band hybrid of Red Day, plus the somewhat tongue in cheek call and response similarities between Have You Been To The Light and With A Little Help From My Friends, and most notably the Breakthrough-era New Colony Six dreamscape variation on Within You, Without You found in the ingenious Common Attitude, which was also released as a single in 1968), the band overall managed to bring into the proceedings enough of their own sense of purpose and vision to make this collection a free standing triumph in its own right.

For the historical purist, there is one slight caveat with this CD reissue in terms of the sleeve notes: the essay therein cites the involvement in the proceedings by legendary producer Robin Hood Brians, stating that his earlier triumphs included his work with the Five Americans, the Uniques and John Fred and the Playboy Band. All well and good, except that the track cited therein by John Fred and the Playboy Band was their Paula label signature single, Judy In Disguise (With Glasses), which was recorded later in 1967, after the sessions that produced this album.

The sleeve notes also refer to Fred’s Paula label mates, the Uniques as the band that launched the career of John Gale “Johnny” Horton. However, by the time that the Uniques released their first single in 1965, the pioneering rockabilly and country music visionary Horton had been deceased for nearly five years. Horton (who had recorded prolifically for Mercury and Columbia) was tragically killed in a head on automobile collision on 05 November 1960. The Uniques actually launched the solo country career of lead vocalist Joe Stampley.

Minor gaffe aside, the reissue of The Red Day Album is a most welcome addition to the sizable and essential catalog of Roger Maglio’s Gear Fab label. For those who champion well written and executed first generation garage rock, in the words of one of the album’s standout tracks, Thomas Edisun’s Electric Light Bulb Band are certain to Walk Out With Your Heart.


THE FIRST U.S. HOT 100 (AUGUST 1958) - 
Various Artists (Acrobat Music)

In the world of football, there is a term used to describe a particular group of observers of the game. An armchair quarterback has been defined as, “A person who offers advice or an opinion on something in which they have no expertise or involvement.

Interestingly enough, those characteristics appear to be surfacing with increasing regularity within the record collector and musicologist fields. To that effect, a seeming need for recognition has prompted some to approach their participation within those circles as if it were a competitive sport.

This most recent development appears to be a bit more involved than the long standing practice of “look what I found”, in which various enthusiasts discuss their most noteworthy acquisitions in the wake of a successful record hunting expedition. While such periphery as original pressings, monaural versus stereo and format (CD versus vinyl) often factor into the equation (which is somewhat akin to the emphasis on stats over performance and/or entertainment value in the sporting world), it all falls into place good naturedly when both orator and listener find mutual gratification in the aesthetic merits of the performances represented in those recordings.

Yet even the intrinsic artistic value of the music itself has of late seemed to take a back seat among some such commentators, who shift into “stat mode” by rattling off the statistics of a given record’s chart performance, rather than the merits of the work itself. This is usually done by citing that particular record’s statistics with respect to what is commonly referred to as the national charts.

It can be argued that stats may figure to a degree in the overall career of an athlete in terms of their potential candidacy for division titles, hall of fame eligibility and the like. But in terms of the aesthetic merits of a given musical work, chart positions are of no more consequence than  such periphery as geography (that is, where a given artist happened to be born) or the personal circumstances of a given third party observer; that is, the listener.  

By definition, such chart positions are no more than a reflection of the performance of a particular record within a particular seven day period. And while misconception to the contrary continues to run rampant within collector and musicologist circles, the so-called national charts are most assuredly not indicative of sales, let alone aesthetic merit.

The fact remains that during the height of the 45 R.P.M. single era, the phenomenon known as the regional hit meant that a particular release may have sold well in one particular geographical area during a given week, but did not do so elsewhere for several more weeks or even a month or two later. And since those so called national charts only reflected the activity of the previous seven days, those earlier successes are not taken into consideration when compiling each week’s chart.

When the objects of their affection (that is, those 45 R.P.M. singles) were originally released, those who bought and enjoyed them largely did so on the basis of aesthetic merit. And while the national charts and the magazines in which they appeared were available via select news outlets at the time, few of their number followed them to any significant degree.

Yet roughly a half century (or more) after the fact, with the mere mention of a given record, many of those same collectors now rattle off chart performance statistics as if they were batting averages. More often than not, the response to, “I found such and such a single” is now, “Peaked at number 49 during the week of the first of March 1962”, or something to that effect, rather than a discussion of the attributes of the performance itself.

Concurrently, these same advocates of statistics will then lament how what they perceive as the record in question’s chart performance did not do it justice, as if the artistic merits of a given recording were subject to the basis of chart positions. In other words, they are letting an outside source dictate their musical taste for them, rather than thinking for themselves and following personal preference.

Which brings us to the nonetheless most worthwhile and essential project at hand. As a spin off of their hugely successful America’s Greatest Hits CD compilations, the Acrobat Music division of Trapeze Music And Entertainment, Limited has followed suit with this magnificent four-disc collection, which includes all one hundred singles in numerical order that appeared on the first edition of those so-called national charts in August 1958.

So if the notion of a national chart is peripheral (if not anathema) to the artistic merits of the music, then what is the point of such a collection?

The answer lies in the music itself. For within the four CDs that make up The First U.S. Hot 100, August 1958 are one hundred examples of richly diverse, innovative and essential releases. And if their common ground is their inclusion in that premier national chart, then that listing most assuredly serves the purpose of highlighting the most healthy state that this particular segment of the vast world of music was in at the time.

Indeed, from rock and roll pioneer Rick Nelson’s Sharon Sheeley-penned Poor Little Fool at number one to vocalist and Liverpool native Frank “Frankie Vaughn” Abelson’s Judy single at number one hundred, there is a wealth of music that represents a variety of genres and artists at their creative zenith.

In addition to Rick Nelson’s Imperial label disc, the rock and roll spectrum is well represented here with key releases by many of the genre’s finest. They include the great Jack Scott’s Carlton label rockabilly raver (Leroy) and its sublime flip side (My True Love), guitar virtuoso and rock and roll visionary Eddie Cochran’s often covered signature track (Summertime Blues), Chuck Berry’s Beautiful Delilah and his anthemic Johnny B. Goode, Jimmy Bowen’s spirited cover of the great Billy Murray and the Haydn Quartet’s 1910 monster classic (By The Light Of The Silvery Moon), Jiles Perry “The Big Bopper” Richardson’s often covered Chantilly Lace, the Crickets’ Fool’s Paradise and Think It Over, Jan Berry and Arnie Ginsberg’s debut single (Jennie Lee), Buddy Knox’s quirky and engaging Somebody Touched Me, the Everly Brothers’ essential Bird Dog and Jerry Lee Lewis’ Sun-era monster classic, High School Confidential.

Some of country music’s most beloved pioneers were also turning out some of their best work around August 1958. They are represented here by Johnny Cash (Guess Things Happen That Way), Jim Reeves (Blue Boy), Kitty Wells (Jealousy), Marty Robbins (his transitional She Was Only Seventeen) and the great Don Gibson’s Blue, Blue Day.

Rhythm and blues also made a significant impact at the time, with Bobby Freeman (Betty Lou Got A New Pair Of Shoes), Fats Domino (Little Mary), Robert and Johnny (I Believe In You), Bobby Day’s and Thurston Harris’ competing versions of Over And Over, Jackie Wilson (To Be Loved), Oscar McLollie and Jeanette Baker (Hey Girl, Hey Boy), Bobby Hendricks (Itchy Twitchy Feeling) Clyde McPhatter’s rocking Come What May, Chuck Willis’ sadly prophetic What Am I Living For and the legendary Sam Cooke’s irresistible Win Your Love For Me.

World class vocal groups also made their mark in August 1958. Some of the best of their lot appear here, including the charismatic trio, the Playmates (Don’t Go Home), the Poni-Tails (Born Too Late), the Ames Brothers (Stay), the Slades (the brilliant You Cheated), the Platters (You’re Making A Mistake), the Coasters’ rollicking Yakety Yak, the Kirby Stone Four (Baubles, Bangles And Beads), the Diamonds (Happy Years), the Elegants (their APT label monster classic, Little Star), the great Four Lads and their harmony rich Enchanted Island, the equally gifted Four Preps with their magnificent Big Man, Lee Andrews and the Hearts (with their sublime Try The Impossible) and Dion and the Belmonts’ exercise in vocal harmony euphoria, I Wonder Why.

Their solo counterparts were also in fine form in mid-1958. Among them are the highly charismatic Perry Como (with his adventurous Moon Talk), Connie Francis (with her Neil Sedaka-penned Stupid Cupid), the great Doris Day and her magnificent and relentlessly optimistic Everybody Loves A Lover, Jimmie Rodgers (Are You Really Mine), Bobby Darin (the Gospel-flavored Early In The Morning as the Rinky Dinks, as well as his hard rocking Splish Splash), Patti Page’s clever Left Right Out Of Your Heart, Nat King Cole’s Come Closer To Me, Jimmy Clanton (Just A Dream), Paul Anka’s bouncy Midnight, Dickey Doo And The Don’ts co-founder Gerry Granahan’s No Chemise, Please, Pat Boone (That’s How Much I Love You), Peggy Lee (and her cover of Little Willie John’s Fever), Eydie Gorme (You Need Hands), Domenico Mudugno (his prototypical Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu, which Dean Martin, Bobby Rydell and others took to even greater heights as Volare), and Martin himself (his own interpretation of Volare, along with Angel Baby and Return To Me).

Novelty records likewise continued their forward movement throughout the summer of 1958.  Making an impact in that respect were Joe South (with his cover of the Big Bopper’s The Purple People Eater Meets The Witch Doctor), Ross “David Seville” Bagdasarian (his characteristically offbeat and introspective The Bird On My Head), the Honeycones’ vocal workout for Ember Records (Op), the Olympics’ lovable media lament (Western Movies), Sheb Wooley (his enormously successful The Purple People Eater), Tony And Joe’s dance-related romp (The Freeze) and actor Jim Backus And Friend’s attention getting Delicious.

Last but not least, several instrumental artists added to the healthy and diverse musical mix that was mid-1958. Guitarist Duane Eddy represented the rock and roll segment with Rebel Rouser, while jazz/rhythm and blues veteran Bill Doggett contributed a variation on that theme with Blip Blop. The highly prolific and immensely respected bandleader, Perez Prado rounded out the proceedings with his larger than life career highlight, Patricia.

Great records all, making The First U.S. Hot 100, August 1958 an essential acquisition. To be certain, whether a given track was number three or number ninety-four that week is irrelevant. What matters is that the music represented here as a whole is timeless art that enhances the legacies of both artist and genre, while continuing to make an impact in that respect with musical connoisseurs and musicologists. And that is what ultimately constitutes a hit record.


NORTHERN SOUL: THE EARLY YEARS -
Various Artists (Real Gone Music)

The issue of copyright protection in the UK has been somewhat of a sensitive one in recent years. In accordance with the Copyright Designs and Patents Act passed in 1988, the copyright of a sound recording was set to expire fifty years after the recording date of a given musical work.

Those developments did not sit well with such still active veteran artists as Sir Cliff Richard and Bobby Rydell, both of whom (amongst others) lobbied vigorously for their rights in that respect. As a result in part, the copyright protection on musical works that had not yet fallen into public domain was extended from fifty to seventy years on 01 November 2013.

In the interim, a number of labels have risen to the occasion to chronicle the best of those works in a wide variety of genres. They include One Day Music, Jasmine, Not Now, Fantastic Voyage and Real Gone Music.

Of those, it is the latter label that has done so most prolifically. Over the past several years, Real Gone Music has released literally hundreds of four CD collections that spotlight the recordings of such diverse artists as Rick Nelson, the Ventures, Perry Como, Lonnie Donegan, Johnny and the Hurricanes, the Louvin Brothers, Johnny Hallyday, Odetta, Gene Vincent, Pete Seeger, Howlin’ Wolf, Jim Reeves, Chuck Berry, Johnny Cash, Bobby Vee, Pat Boone, Sam Cooke, Hank Williams, Dave Brubeck, Petula Clark, Bert Kaempfert, Skeets McDonald, John Coltrane, Roy Hamilton and many, many more.

Most recently, Real Gone Music has branched out by adding Various Artists collections into the mix, with this genre overview being amongst the best of the lot. The aptly titled Northern Soul: The Early Years provides a healthy look at one hundred tracks that helped shape and define one of the most impacting movements in all of music.

Because the emphasis herein is on pioneering works, little here had developed to the point of being readily identified with the defining works of Northern Soul’s most fruitful period, such as Darrell Banks’ Open The Door To Your Heart, Tony and Tyrone’s Turn It On, Tim’s My Side Of The Track, J.J. Jackson’s But It’s Alright, Lou Johnson’s Unsatisfied and the Knight Brothers’ Temptation ’Bout To Get Me. The only tracks featured in this collection that demonstrate such apparent solidarity are the Furys’ Gee Baby and Sam Cooke’s Sugar Dumpling.

Instead, there is herein instead a pronounced influence of doo wop, Gospel and straight ahead rock and roll, as the artists in question charted their course with considerable determination and proficiency. Some of the more obvious examples included here are Lou Johnson’s If I Never Get To Love You, Chuck Jackson’s I Don’t Want To Cry, Bobby Bland’s often covered Turn On Your Love Light, Little Eva Boyd’s Keep Your Hands Off Of My Baby, the legendary and immeasurably influential Bert Berns (as Russell Byrd) and his Wand label single, You Better Come Home, the Exciters’ Berns-penned signature track, Tell Him, Gene Chandler’s Mary Wells answer song, You Threw A Lucky Punch, Wells’ sublime, self-penned Bye, Bye Baby and the great Nolan Strong and the Diablos’ signature track, Mind Over Matter (which is also a part of One Day Music’s essential two CD overview of the Fortune label).

Much of what is also featured amongst the one hundred tracks in Northern Soul: The Early Years are some of the earliest works by a number of artists who went on to establish considerable track records within the genre. They include Jimmy Ruffin (with his relatively more aggressive Don’t Feel Sorry For Me), the Miracles’ ambitious and exuberant Determination and That’s The Way I Feel, Tammy Montgomery’s pre-Tammi Terrell It’s Mine, Wilson Pickett’s My Heart Belongs To You, the Temptations’ cocksure Check Yourself, Marvin Gaye’s perennially endearing Stubborn Kind Of Fellow, Dobie Gray’s prototypical Look At Me and Robert Knight’s shades of the greatness to come Free Me.

Northern Soul: The Early Years also features a number of tracks by artists who were well established at the time of these recordings, yet who were making some of their initial forays into the genre. Amongst the highlights are Dee Dee Sharp’s Baby Cakes, the Five Royales’ Catch That Teardrop, Billy Bland’s All I Want To Do Is Cry, the Tams’ Disillusioned, the great Roy Hamilton’s Earthquake, the O’Jays’ Miracles, Benny Spellman’s Lipstick Traces (which the O’Jays covered for Imperial in 1965), Crickets veteran Dean Barlow’s Third Window From The Right, Maxine Brown’s Am I Falling In Love, the Supremes’ Tamla-era Your Heart Belongs To Me and the Chantels’ refreshingly ambitious Well I Told You.

As is the case with most of Real Gone Music’s releases, what is lacking in terms of comprehensive sleeve notes, session data, photographs and the like is more than compensated for with an abundance of superb and essential material. Sidney Barnes, Joe Simon, Ted Taylor, Lou Rawls, Dee Clark, Eddie Holland, Marv Johnson, Tony Clarke, James Ray, Barrett Strong, Bruce Cloud (who is also spotlighted on an essential new collection on the Teensville label), Etta James, H.B. Barnum, Gino Parks, the Showmen, Ed Townsend, Irma Thomas, Johnny Nash, Big Dee Irwin, the Marvelettes and Big Al Downing are among those who also turn in first rate performances here, making Northern Soul: The Early Years a key overview of this most influential musical movement. 


GIRLS ON 45, VOLUME THREE -
Various Artists (Tensville Records) 

As the recording industry strives to reinvent itself in the wake of the game changing developments within the current century brought about by the advent of the internet download, reissue and anthology projects released on CD and vinyl have nonetheless continue to flourish. It has grown from the cottage industry with limited resources that it was in the 1970s to a state of the art process that in most cases highlights the work of a given artist at their best.

Several labels have long established their reputation as front runners within the idiom, including Bear Family, Ace/Big Beat, Jasmine, One Day Music, Rhino and Real Gone Music. But over the past several years, a family of labels based in Sydney, New South Wales has firmly asserted itself amidst those vaunted ranks, despite having a very refined and highly specialized genre focus.

Ash Wells’ Teensville and Rare Rockin’ Records has been taken to task within some circles for its nearly exclusive concentration on rare and obscure releases from the initial rock and roll boom until the onset of the British Invasion. The concern expressed amongst those observers was that Teensville and Rare Rockin’ Records should diversify and expand its artist roster accordingly if they expect to sustain any level of impact within the industry.

However, Wells and his colleagues have wisely stayed the course. It has worked to their considerable advantage for two reasons. First of all, their area of focus is one which Wells and his team have doctrinal-level acumen, as well as the physical resources to follow through accordingly. Secondly, the genre was broad enough in scope that it produced a richly diverse and vast body of timeless art in and of itself.

The proof is further underscored in this third installment of Teensville’s acclaimed Girls On 45 series. Once again, Wells has herein outdone himself with a twenty-six track collection that includes a diverse array of artists and styles, with artistic excellence as the ongoing common thread.

Girls On 45, Volume Three opens with a stereo version of the Charmettes’ 1963 Please Don’t Kiss Me Again single for Kapp, which interestingly enough was not a part of One Day Music’s recent fifty-track, multi-disc label overview, Strange Feeling: The Kapp Records Story. An engaging blend of the Crystals’ He’s Sure The Boy I Love (Phillies 109) and a precursor of sorts to the great Shirley Matthews’ Ed Rambeau co-authored Big Town Boy (Tamarac TTM602), Please Don’t Kiss Me Again was penned by Kenny Young (whose 1965 (Mrs. Green’s) Ugly Daughter single on Diamond D-183 - written with Artie Resnick - remains one of the highlights of the novelty genre) and proved the Charmettes to be supremely adept for the task at hand.

Rambeau himself makes a return appearance in this anthology as co-author (with Bud Rehak and the late Stanley Robert “Bob” Crewe) of the March 1965 Troublemaker single (MGM K13335) for the prolific South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-born vocalist, Renee Diane “Diane Renay” Kushner. Calling upon her characteristic bombast and exuberance for the occasion, Renay vividly brings to life Rambeau, Crewe and Rehak’s high drama proclamations of, “Troublemaker, troublemaker, she’s a phony, she’s a faker”. With sympathetic production from Crewe (who also did the honors for the flip side, I Had A Dream), Troublemaker is a high watermark for all concerned.

Bombast and exuberance also serves as a fitting summary for this collection’s contribution by Brunswick Records veteran and future Tony Award winner, Linda Hopkins. Her late 1965, mid-tempo If You Walk Away (Brunswick 55286) blends a Damita Jo-like vulnerability with a Sarah Vaughn/Timi Yuro-flavored flair for the assertive, and provides a nice complement to her duet work that year with Brunswick labelmate, Jackie Wilson (whose collaborations also included several sides with pioneering rock and roll great LaVerne Baker).

Also among those with relatively extensive and renowned track records are April Young, who closes out this latest installment in the series with her 1964 This Time Tomorrow (Columbia 4-43046). Produced by her husband, Jerry Ross, This Time Tomorrow showcases the beloved vocalist in a slightly different setting from that which graces her other releases, giving her a chance to shine within the “caution tempered with optimism” template that was indigenous to many of the genre’s better recordings.

Probably the most welcome inclusion in Girls On 45, Volume Three is a 1964 single that came full circle through the most fortuitous of circumstances. The Los Angeles-based Jill Gibson got her musical start in 1962 as half of the Judy and Jill team (with Judy Lovejoy); a counterpart of sorts to the legendary Jan and Dean. A remarkably gifted vocalist and composer in her own right, Gibson had been collaborating on a variety of musical projects with Jan and Dean head visionary Jan Berry. Signed to Imperial Records (whose affiliate label, Liberty was recording home to Jan and Dean at the time) Gibson penned (in tandem with Don Altfeld) the utterly sublime, tempo varying, dreamscape masterpiece, It’s As Easy As 1-2-3 (Imperial 66068). With the identical backing track and slightly varied lyrics, It’s As Easy As 1-2-3 also appeared on Jan and Dean’s landmark Dead Man’s Curve/The New Girl In School album (Liberty LST-7361) that same year, and was subsequently recruited in late May 1965 to serve as the B-side of their utterly stupendous You Really Know How To Hurt A Guy single (Liberty 55792), which Gibson had also coauthored with Berry and pre-Drake KHJ-AM announcer, Roger Christian.

Meanwhile, Gibson’s version of It’s As Easy As 1-2-3 was more than enough to establish her recorded legacy. She replaced Michelle Phillips in the Mamas and Papas for a brief period in 1966, and went on to a prolific and acclaimed career as a photographer and sculptor.

Several other familiar names also make noteworthy contributions here. Debbie Rollins added to her impressive legacy (which includes her essential He Really Loves Me on Ascot AS2148) with the mid-tempo engaging and defiant, Who Cares What People Say (Ascot AS2150). In turn, Sandy and the Sophomores contribute to the assertive atmosphere with their 1964 march tempo single, Walk Away Girl (Columbia 4-43089).

Conversely, the highly prolific and much respected Blossoms took a cue from the Bert Berns school of lavish and inventive orchestration with their Jimmy Bowen-produced exercise in tempo variation, My Love, Come Home (Reprise 0475). The Jerry Riopelle-produced Ramona King (whose It’s In His Kiss on Warner Brothers 5416 was one of the highlights of 1964) followed suit with her fascinating Bossa Nova beat B-side, Blue Roses (Warner Brothers 5432).

Equally worthwhile contributions from many others round out this essential set.. They include Diana King’s 1965 garage rock/vocal group hybrid, That Kind Of Love (Claridge CR-300-T), Vicki Sallee’s answer song of sorts to Carole King’s It Might As Well Rain Until September (Dimension 2000), the 1964 uptempo Jimmy Darling (Dot 16651), and Vicky Gomez’s 1965 Dobie Gray-inspired, Boys Are A Dime A Dozen (ABC Paramount 45-10679).

While other leaders in the reissue and anthology field may be more prolific in terms of sheer volume of releases, Teensville and Rare Rockin’ Records continue to earn their rightful place alongside of them for their commitment to excellence in research, repertoire and presentation. As such, with this latest addition to their Girls On 45 series, Wells and his team are, in the words of the Jeanne Thomas track featured herein, the Life Of The Party.