Thursday

WELCOME TO BLITZ MAGAZINE'S WEB SITE!


BIFF BANG POW: The annual Record Store Day event on 23 April seemed poised to graduate from cottage industry celebration to major event, with the 2022 edition drawing capacity crowds to seek out limited edition releases in greater numbers than ever before. In our two part exclusive coverage, Editor / Publisher Michael McDowell takes a look at how leading retailers around the world prepared for the event, as well as a detailed celebration of some of the exclusive releases prepared for the occasion (several of which are pictured above). Click on the Record Store Day 2022 link in the Previous Posts column at right for the full story (Click on the above image to enlarge). Photo by Michael McDowell. C&P 2022 Blitz Magazine. All rights reserved.

WELCOME TO THE INTERET HOME
FOR BLITZ MAGAZINE
SINCE 1975 -
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:

The sudden passing on 30 April of beloved JUDDS co-founder NAOMI JUDD came as a tremendous shock to all. Editor / Publisher Michael McDowell salutes the Judds' extraordinary legacy, which kept them on center stage throughout the 1980s.

In a free standing article, beloved five tool player DEBBIE GIBSON took a giant leap forward on 28 April by joining forces with AARP in a concert celebrating the positive effects on brain health of music. (Link under the Previous Posts heading at right). Hot on the heels of that performance, Gibson announced the 06 May release of an all new video to accompany Me Not Loving You, one of the highlights of that AARP performance. Details in the Bits And Pieces column (Link also under Previous Posts at right).

In a free standing article under the Previous Posts heading at right, we take a sneak peek at the RECORD STORE DAY holiday already in progress in Australia (with insights from Queensland based collector Cliff Dickinson), in anticipation of the North American celebration on the morning of Saturday 23 April.

The musical atmosphere was joyous throughout early April in Southern California, as expat favorite son ADAM MARSLAND returned home to triumphant reunions with two of the bands that put his career on the map: COCKEYED GHOST and ADAM MARSLAND'S CHAOS BAND.

He became one of the leading lights of West Coast rock and roll, Gospel and rhythm and blues via the establishment of his iconic Specialty label in 1948. We remember the legendary ART RUPE, who passed away in his Santa Barbara home on Good Friday at age 104.

Their phenomenal sixty-five year run came to a sad conclusion on 08 April with the passing of BACHELORS co-founder and front man, CONLETH "CON" CLUSKEY. Editor / Publisher Michael McDowell salutes the sublime voice that gave the world of music an example of absolute, utter perfection in 1964 with their London label monster classic signature single, Diane.

They were front runners in the so-called punk / new wave movement, which rescued rock and roll from its worst protracted aesthetic slump to date in the mid - 1970s. We pay tribute to SAINTS co-founder and front man, CHRIS BAILEY, who passed away on 09 April.

Veteran supergroup CINECYDE and Blitz Magazine's pick for the Best New Band of 2021, the REARRANGEMENTS took back center stage with a vengeance in their performance before a capacity crowd at Bowlero's in Troy, Michigan on the evening of 26 March.

In a free standing article (link under the Previous Posts heading at right), Editor / Publisher Michael McDowell discusses with veteran composer and vocalist DANA COUNTRYMAN a wide variety of topics, including his recent relocation to the northernmost part of Washington State, as well as his acclaimed Pop Scrapbook album for Sterling Swan and his forthcoming salute to such legends as Bing Crosby, Buddy Clark and Nat King Cole. 

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

In an era of idealistic and subdued singer / songwriters, his vivid and often controversial lyrical imagery made him a visionary of the highest order. Editor / Publisher Michael McDowell recalls the career highlights of the legendary HARRY CHAPIN, in tandem with Strawberry / Cherry Red's release of his six CD Elektra-era box set, Story Book.

Veteran Indiana composer, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist BRAD LONG is the long overdue recipient of an anthology retrospective CD on the Space Brain Collective label.

Wells' Teensville label salutes the unique and troubled legacy of songwriting great RAY WHITLEY with the Various Artists collection, Extraordinary Man, featuring such greats as the Delltones, Tommy Roe, the Clingers, Brian Hyland, December's Children and others.

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

Veteran five tool player BRIAN GARI takes the cerebral perspective of the modern lover to the next level in his latest Original Cast label release, Expose Yourself.

The highly prolific and multi-talented JEREMY MORRIS has transitioned from 2021 into 2022 on the strength of his two latest JAM Records releases, My Shining Star and Live For Today.

Jackson Five co-founder TITO JACKSON has taken decisive and encouraging steps to expand upon his extensive legacy with his all new blues album for Gulf Cost, Under Your Spell.

Veteran first generation garage rock greats the TOL-PUDDLE MARTYRS endured a fair share of pandemic related logistics issues to get the word out. But their efforts were worth it for their all new Under A Cloud, one of their most ambitious releases to date. 



Tuesday

DEBBIE GIBSON SINGS FOR AARP



LEGACY: In a most welcome move to reach out to relatively underserved factions of her sizeable demographic, beloved five tool player (composer, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, arranger, producer) DEBBIE GIBSON took to the stage in Las Vegas, Nevada on 28 April for a magnificent concert in tandem with AARP, to showcase the positive effects of music on brain health. Editor / Publisher Michael McDowell has the story below. (Click on above image to enlarge).

MY LIFE'S A RUNWAY: 
DEBBIE GIBSON
AMPS UP TARGET
DEMOGRAPHIC WITH AARP

"When you come to a fork in the road, take it".

So said the legendary New York Yankees catcher, power hitter and Hall Of Famer, Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra. In one of the most storied thinking outside of the box moments in history, Berra successfully parlayed his nineteen seasons in Major League Baseball into an equally enduring legacy as a philosopher and author. 

Dismissed not surprisingly among some factions within the rank and file as being capable of little more than cleverly worded malapropisms such as the one above, Berra's seemingly homespun wisdom (borne of selective showcasing, not unlike the imagery projected by Cream in their 1968 White Room single for Atco) in reality reflected a keen insight into the human experience. 

That insight was celebrated in Berra's series of best selling books, including You Can Observe A Lot By Watching, It Ain't Over and I Didn't Really Say Everything I Said. Two months after his September 2015 passing at age 90, Berra was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal Of Freedom. In turn, Berra's unique brand of academic excellence has been commemorated by New Jersey's Montclair State University, which hosts the Yogi Berra Museum And Learning Center. 

In music, few artists have likewise confounded expectations, changed courses and flourished in the process as well as has the beloved five-tool player (vocalist, composer, producer, arranger and multi-instrumentalist) and Brooklyn, New York native, Deborah Ann "Debbie" Gibson. When her game changing late 1980s affiliation with Atlantic Records had run its course by the early 1990s, Gibson subsequently reinvented herself via leading roles on the Broadway stage, a series of successful film and television appearances, and a transition from the mainstream into the world of the indie artist. 

In the latter category, she has also emerged as a seasoned keyboard virtuoso, as evidenced by her magnificent, self-composed September 2019 piano instrumental, French CarouselMost recently, her 2021 The Body Remembers album on her Stargirl label took top honors from Blitz Magazine - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People as Best New Album Of The Year. In turn, a limited edition twelve inch single culled from that album which included an outtake of the sublime Me Not Loving You proved to be one of the biggest sellers of the annual Record Store Day celebration in April 2022.

However, unlike Berra, there was one inevitability in Gibson's career focus that was relatively slower in coming. That is, until now.

To be certain, Berra savored every moment of his time in the Major Leagues. A national hero throughout its duration, Berra was also frequently in the spotlight off of the field at the time via numerous television guest appearances and press interviews. To be certain, his storied observation, "Nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded" could be said to serve as a consolation of sorts for his transition to equal acclaim in less of a center stage capacity. as well as the unrelated purpose for which the expression was originally intended. 

In Gibson's case, the transition from mainstream center stage in the early 1990s to independent artist certainly brought with it its own set of perks, including so-called "street cred", the peace of mind borne of aesthetic autonomy in terms of artistic mission statement, and the gradual but sustained acceptance within the more academically inclined and far more demanding circle of journalists, musicologists and record collectors. The latter multi-faceted contingent stands in marked contrast to the hip quotient cadre that often defines and dictates the ever fluctuating parameters of the mainstream. 

As such, while Berra relished his time within academic circles in his later years, he continued to speak with great fondness of his accomplishments at the plate. They included an unparalleled ten World Series victories, as well as a most impressive 358 career home runs. Suffice to say that while Berra was out of the mainstream spotlight in his later years, he nonetheless missed the thrill of center stage. 

Likewise, the highly respected Southern California composer and lead vocalist of the acclaimed Dime Box Band, Kristi Callan. While Callan herself had enjoyed such adulation at the pinnacle of Southern California's musical movement in the early 1980s as co-founder of the much ballyhooed Wednesday Week, she once summarized the fervent but fleeting mainstream attention succinctly. 

"It's addictive", she said. 

In Gibson's case, her numerous accomplishments as an artist have continued to flourish in recent years, buoyed in no small part by the unwavering support of her fervent legion of devotees, affectionately known as Deb Heads. Even so, Gibson through it all graciously accepted a steady stream of offers for interviews and cameo appearances from a variety of mainstream sources, some of whose followers subsequently professed that they had lost track of her when her storied affiliation with Atlantic Records had drawn to a close. 

In part, Gibson endeavored to compensate by availing herself as a mentor and champion of up and coming artists. All well and good, albeit not a challenge for the faint hearted, given the mainstream's unrelenting focus on the here and now (more often than not at the expense of the attributes of the proven and enduring successes). As the Lovin' Spoonful most forthrightly put it, "It's like trying to tell a stranger 'bout rock and roll". 

Thankfully, Gibson is no slouch in that department. She got the message.

As noted, the more demanding factions of the so-called indie contingent will insist upon a discernible commitment to the betterment of the art before embracing a given artist. But once that commitment is proven to be more than a fleeting gesture of placation, the artist in question will have their unwavering loyalty for life. And with her most recent in a growing series of product endorsements (which within the current decade has included exercise equipment and health food), Gibson has taken an unlikely (albeit potentially highly positive) step in the right direction.

On Thursday the 28th of April, Gibson joined forces with the American Association Of Retired Persons (AARP) to present a virtual concert. While at 51, Gibson may to the casual observer seem to be outside of their perception of the organization's target demographic (although a key component of AARP's professed mission statement was to focus on issues of importance to those aged fifty or older), the event's emphasis upon the ongoing study of the impact of music upon the betterment of brain health most assuredly resonates with her long established advocacy of health concerns, given her own battle against Lyme Disease in the previous decade. 

True to form, that forty-five minute AARP presentation soared in every sense of the term. With an introduction by Jen Martin, Gibson was joined on stage by long time choreographers Buddy Casimano and Eddie Bennett, both of whom doubled as singers with backing vocalists Serena and Myra. 

Occasional tips from AARP extolling the virtues of music on brain health flashed across the screen, as Gibson drew equal parts from her early legacy with Atlantic Records and her most recent The Body Remembers album. Opening with that album's Love Don't Care, the remainder of the set list included Foolish Beat, Shake Your Love, Out Of The Blue, Lost In Your Eyes, Legendary, a seriously revamped Electric Youth, an absolutely stunning rendition of Me Not Loving You, and a medley of Only In My Dreams and Girls Night Out.

Most assuredly, this initial joint venture was a resounding success on all accounts. With Casimano and Bennett in agreement, Gibson succinctly professed her enthusiasm for the experiment.

"Aging gracefully means you are always vital", she said.

In taking such a giant step, Gibson is certain to further endear herself without compromise to that highly discerning indie demographic. And given the universal appeal of the online event's professed cause, her across the board support should continue unabated, and will most likely expand in the process. In the words of another artist who also found thinking outside of the box to be both a necessity and a viable alternative in the wake of her own moments in the mainstream spotlight -- Miley Cyrus -- it is indeed the Best Of Both Worlds.

DANA COUNTRYMAN INTERVIEW


THREE CHEERS FOR ANYTHING: Veteran composer and vocalist DANA COUNTRYMAN (above, left) with vocalist Michael Andrew (above, right) in October 2021. Countryman and Andrew will be collaborating on album inspired by the works of such visionary greats as Buddy Clark, Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole this coming summer. Meanwhile, Countryman continues to enjoy acclaim for his late 2021 solo release, Pop Scrapbook on his Sterling Swan label. Countryman discusses these and other projects in an exchange with Blitz Magazine Editor / Publisher Michael McDowell below (Click on above image to enlarge).

POP SCRAPBOOK:
DANA COUNTRYMAN
HOISTS THE SAIL ON THE
SINGER / SONGWRITER YACHT
By Michael McDowell
There are times when artists who are known for thinking outside of the box will even raise eyebrows along the way among the faithful who have come to expect the unexpected from them.

The Washington - based veteran vocalist and composer Dana Countryman did so some time ago via a two fold proclamation that has long served as a key component of the foundation of his musical mission statement. For while his DIY / indie approach to the recording process remains very much in step with that championed by the so - called punk / new wave movement of the mid to late 1970s, his inspirations for his own work draw largely from the singer / songwriter contingent of the early 1970s, whose efforts were occasionally regarded as anathema within those circles. 

Not that either faction espouses or practices genre myopia. But for Countryman's purposes, the basics are best conveyed via an emphasis on lyrical content. In that respect, his inspirations range from such pioneering giants as Nat King Cole and Buddy Clark to Steve Lawrence And Eydie Gorme, as well as Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks' landmark 1995 collaboration, Orange Crate Art.

"I'm just finishing the songs for my next album, which will all be written in the style of Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole", said Countryman.

"I'm calling it My '40s Album. I'm hiring a fantastic vocalist who sings similar to Michael Buble".

But for the project at hand, the wistfulness of the legendary Buddy Clark seems to be the order of the day. That relentless optimism is augmented by not only the vivid lyrical imagery of the singer / songwriter movement, but to a noticeable degree by the so-called Yacht Rock (for lack of a more fitting term) of Starbuck, the Sanford Townsend Band (and others) that availed itself in that transitional and hopeful period between the singer / songwriter dynasty and the onslaught of the punk / new wave movement. 

To wit, City Life beings with a whistling romp not unlike that found in Barry Manilow's Can't Smile Without You. In short order, it segues into Brian Gari (as inspired by Buddy Clark) territory. The results are akin to a musical  version of the adventure undertaken by Charles Farrell's Lem Tustine character in the 1930 motion picture, City Girl.

In turn, Sunday Comes Along draws from the mid-tempo shuffle of England Dan And John Ford Coley's I'd Really Love To See You Tonight to celebrate a day of rest. Curiously, Countryman sidesteps the church commitment indigenous to the day that many regard as the weekly sabbath,. Instead, the focus shifts to such pastimes as crossword puzzles. A variation on the Small Faces' Lazy Sunday for the singer / songwriter faithful, to be certain.

True to form, relationships are a key component of Countryman's day to day itinerary, as well as his lyrical approach. To that effect, Let's Keep Dancing is a duet with his wife and frequent duet partner Tricia, who brings an inspired Karen Carpenter feel to this track.

However, just as the proceedings take on an air of the familiar, Countryman confounds expectations with one particular track.

"I put Record Store Employees on (the album) to confuse my regular audience!", he said.

Indeed, Record Store Employees is a real "bite the hand that feeds you" moment. Therein, Countryman outlines the "inconvenient truth" borne of a lack of decorum and social graces common to some who work within the industry.

"It was actually written from a real life experience that happened to me in the 1970s", said Countryman.

"Everything was true, except my demoting the hapless soul into a Seven-Eleven employee!"

Just to bring the project full circle, My Little Caroline returns to form with a lavish arrangement that celebrates in part the best of Tony Burrows' work with the Flower Pot Men, Edison Lighthouse, the White Plains, the Pipkins and First Class. 

With the exception of My Little Caroline, the mix is not as crisp throughout Pop Scrapbook as it is in Countryman's earlier releases. While that may well have been intentional, with a recent move to the upper reaches of the state of Washington (near the border with British Columbia), Countryman has upgraded his in house studio to accommodate the most demanding aspects of his ever increasing musical vision.

"Things change", he said, adding that his vision is kept fresh in part by a regular exchange of ideas with the aforementioned Brian Gari.

"We chat all the time, and play each other unfinished stuff".

Most assuredly, the resultant Pop Scrapbook is a sterling example of such astute preparatory procedures. In the words of one of this collection's standout tracks, it is an ever changing methodology that nonetheless never fails to instill a Brand New Feeling in those who experience it.

Saturday

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



GO WEST: The triumphant return home to Southern California for two weeks of expat ADAM MARSLAND was highlighted by the reunions of two of the bands that put the veteran vocalist, composer, producer, multi-instrumentalist and Karma Frog Records founder on the map more than two decades ago.  Editor / Publisher Michael McDowell discusses the highlights below. Pictured above: ADAM MARSLAND'S CHAOS BAND, left to right: Adam Marsland, Evie Sands, Jason Berk, Teresa Cowles and Kurt Medlin (Click on above image to enlarge).

ME NOT LOVING YOU:
NEW DEBBIE GIBSON SINGLE
AND VIDEO RAISES THE BAR
FOR HIGH DRAMA

Here, My Dear.

Those three words comprise the title of a landmark double album by the late R&B giant, Marvin Gaye. Released on the Tamla label in December 1978, Here, My Dear was a musical chronicle of some particularly painful challenges in Gaye's life throughout the years that immediately preceded its release.

To be certain, baring one's soul on such matters can be one of the most daunting and challenging projects an artist can undertake. True to form, the subject matter itself may also vary slightly from case to case, as evidenced in such high watermarks as the Thirteenth Floor Elevators' You're Gonna Miss Me and Rick Nelson's Garden Party.

Yet with the release of her game changing The Body Remembers album for her Stargirl label in 2021, beloved five-tool player (vocalist, composer, arranger, producer and multi-instrumentalist) Deborah Ann "Debbie" Gibson took her rightful place among such elite company.  Indeed, the richly diverse material therein earned The Body Remembers the nod from Blitz Magazine - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People as Best New Album Of The Year. 

But while the many moods of Marvin Gaye that were showcased within his album were often expressed via such unique tongue in cheek material as A Funky Space Reincarnation, Gibson instead opted to address those particular facets of her own work with a cut to the heart approach. 

By definition, such intense methodology has proven difficult (it not impossible) for many an artist to reproduce with conviction in the studio after the fact. But to her considerable credit, Gibson absolutely soared in her own attempts.

Far and away, the standout track from The Body Remembers in that respect is its closer, Me Not Loving You. While the circumstances behind such a proclamation vary from such other life changing tragedies as the passing of a loved one, the two factions nonetheless stand in solidarity within the complex and highly personal world of the grief process. 

In the wake of her lavishly praised concert for AARP's music and brain health campaign (which included an over the top intense rendition of it), coupled with the overwhelming success of a "stripped down" version on a twelve-inch picture disc during April's Record Store Day celebration, Gibson has announced the completion of an all new video for the track, in tandem with its release as a single. 

The video was filmed on location at the aptly named Valley Of Fire State Park in Nevada's Clark County. The Gibson - composed single was produced by Sean Thomas, with the video directed by Nick Spanos.. For what she termed, "Legit raw energy and emotion", Gibson also sang along with her studio track during the filming process.

"The video is epic", Gibson told Blitz Magazine.

"Yet super intimate and raw".

A rare combination, to be certain. But by all indicators, a guaranteed triumph from an artist who once in matter of fact manner proclaimed in song to Think With Your Heart. Both video and single dropped on 06 May.

LOVE CAN BUILD A BRIDGE:
REMEMBERING NAOMI JUDD
( 1946 - 2022 )

Christmas in the early 1980s in Southern California was always a special occasion.

Upon our relocation from suburban Detroit to the greater Los Angeles area at the turn of the decade, Blitz Magazine - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People literally hit the ground running. The great musical renaissance was in full bloom, making household names out of such area visionaries as the Blasters, Black Flag, the Go-Gos, the Long Ryders, the Dream Syndicate, the Balancing Act, the Minutemen, the Rain Parade, the Three O'Clock, the Textones, Wednesday Week, the Point and the Last. Blitz Magazine was there throughout the thick of it, covering it all.

But in the entertainment capital of the world. that particular movement was but a part of the overall picture. Music in general had rebounded from the protracted aesthetic slump of the early 1970s. In turn, genres that had ridden out that slump were seeing a new breed of artist come along that breathed new life into the movement at large.

One such genre was country music. Although it had endured the setbacks of the early 1970s better than most, country by the early '80s was seeing an encouraging return to form that combined its rich heritage with a more refined artistic vision. Greats such as Alabama, Janie Fricke, Gene Watson, the Bellamy Brothers and Eddie Rabbitt were leading the charge. In the process, they paved the way for music's forthcoming last collective gasp of consequence, which came in the final months of the 1980s with country's New Traditionalist movement.

Among those leading the charge in the early 1980s were a mother and daughter duo from Ashland, Kentucky known as the Judds. Comprised of mother Diana Ellen (professionally known as Naomi) and daughter Wynonna, the Judds endeared themselves to the genre's connoisseurs in short order via a series of personal appearances that eventually led to their signing with RCA Curb Records. 

It was during one such industry event that the Judds and Blitz Magazine crossed paths. Encouraged by Blitz Magazine's unwavering enthusiasm for country music in general and for their demonstrated potential within the genre, the Judds and their management team offered to keep Blitz Magazine apprised of developments in their camp.

And that is where they proved themselves when the rubber met the road.

During the following Christmas season (and in those pre-internet days) Blitz Magazine's mailbox began to receive a steady stream of Christmas cards. Most were instantly recognizable from return address alone, from friends and family members to industry colleagues.

But during that one Christmas season, one particular card caught out attention. The return address was not immediately familiar. And unlike almost all of the ones from our industry colleagues, the envelope was completely handwritten. 

Upon opening the envelope, we were pleasantly surprised to find a hand written card from Naomi and Wynonna Judd. More than just a generic benediction of Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, the Judds had written a couple of lines that referenced our brief meeting months earlier. And as far as the Christmas benediction was concerned, they took it a step further with an expression of blessings and prayers. 

Months later, the Judds' recording career took off in a big way. With the professed inspiration of everyone from Ella Mae Morse (whose Cow Cow Boogie they committed to vinyl) to fellow RCA alumnus Elvis Presley (whose For The Heart gave the Judds their first hit single in 1983), the Judds immediately took command of center stage in country music, where they remained for the duration of the decade. One first rate single followed another, including Why Not Me, Girls Night Out, Mama He's Crazy, Have Mercy, Grandpa Tell Me 'Bout The Good Old Days (which was subsequently covered by vocal group legends the Pixies Three), Turn It Loose, Maybe Your Baby's Got The Blues, the anthemic Love Can Build A Bridge and their utterly stupendous, Gospel inspired I Know Where I'm Going

With so much activity commanding the lion's share of their attention, it would have been understandable if the Judds had found it necessary to cut back on or curtail certain activities. Nonetheless, in the middle of that extraordinary run with RCA Curb, for the next few Christmases, Blitz Magazine was most pleasantly surprised to find a new handwritten (occasionally from the road) Christmas card from Naomi and Wynonna, and still containing an above and beyond the call message of blessing and encouragement.

As their massively successful Love Can Build A Bridge single (which eventually served as the title for Naomi Judd's best selling autobiography) reiterated, it was that sort of outreach of love and selflessness (combined with their formidable acumen on stage and in the recording studio) that made the Judds both a runaway success and among the likely forerunners of the aforementioned New Traditionalist movement.

Sadly, bridges sometimes collapse, though. And as the 1990s dawned, Naomi's health concerns were forcing the Judds to call it a career. Following a highly emotional farewell tour, daughter Wynonna somewhat reluctantly embarked on what nonetheless became an enormously successful solo career. The family's public profile continued at high level at the same time, as Wynonna's sister, Ashley followed her own muse into a remarkable acting career. 

An accomplished pianist (who had served in that capacity in church in her early years), Naomi Judd kept her hand in music well into the twenty-first century. Inasmuch as circumstances permitted, the Judds played the occasional reunion show and made one off television appearances. 

On 11 April, the Judds announced what they termed their Final Reunion Tour, with ten stops (along with country music veteran Martina McBride) scheduled for September and October 2022. On 30 April the Country Music Hall Of Fame posted on social media that the Judds would be making a personal appearance the following evening, in tandem with the ceremony that was to be held in tandem with their induction into the organization. 

Sadly, it was not meant to be. Before day's end came the shocking news that Naomi Judd had passed away after a lengthy battle against mental illness.

"We are shattered", said sisters Wynonna and Ashley Judd in part in a statement.

"We are navigating profound grief. As we loved her, she was loved by her public".

In addition to her daughters, Naomi Judd is also survived by her husband, Larry Strickland. She was 76.

CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT:
ADAM MARSLAND'S HOMCOMING
BRINGS JOYOUS REUNIONS

No doubt the late Ian Dury would have included such developments among his Reasons To Be Cheerful.

For two weeks in April, Southern California was blessed with the return of one of its most accomplished expat sons: vocalist, composer, producer, multi-instrumentalist and Karma Frog label founder, Adam Marsland. Having relocated to Asia several years ago (where he divides his time between Indonesia and the Philippines and produces his acclaimed Adam Walks Around video documentary series), Marsland more than made up for delays and postponements caused by the pandemic over the past two years by (among other things) successfully reuniting with two of the bands that put him on the map as an artist, Cockeyed Ghost and Adam Marsland's Chaos Band.

"It was exactly the opposite of the last time I was in Los Angeles", said Marsland.

"I came back for a short visit, and wound up trapped for nine months by COVID".

Suffice to say that Marsland's most recent stay was far more productive.

"It was incredible to reunite with two of my old bands", he said.

"(And) getting Cockeyed Ghost back together for only the second time in twenty years to do a video shoot".

Cockeyed Ghost's first three albums for the Big Deal label kept the ambitious quartet on center stage in Southern California's burgeoning so-called Pop Underground in the late 1990s. Their fourth album, 2001's Ludlow 6:18 became the initial release on the Karma Frog label.

But the icing on the cake during Marsland's return was the most welcome reunion of his vaunted Adam Marsland's Chaos Band. A supergroup of sorts, the Chaos Band includes in its ranks veteran session bassist and Dragster Barbie co-founder Teresa Cowles (whose spot on portrayal of Wrecking Crew bassist Carol Kaye in the 2014 Brian Wilson biopic, Love And Mercy was one of the highlights of that award winning production), as well as the beloved and highly prolific rock and roll legend, Evie Sands, who serves as the band's guitarist. 

With a long established sterling reputation on stage and in the studio to their credit, Adam Marsland's Chaos Band also developed a reputation for their uncanny ability to flawlessly reproduce on stage the most richly diverse cover material, which in past appearances was occasionally done in direct response to audience requests. The band played to a highly appreciative audience on 14 April at the Cinema Grille in neighboring Culver City.

"This has been a perfect two weeks in Los Angeles", Marsland added, shortly before his departure for Manila.

"I do not exaggerate. I did everything I hoped to do".

And according to Marsland, the best is yet to come.

"The big news is that I am going to be reopening my Karma Frog studio business in Asia, with a specialty in sweetening people's recordings and demos", he said.

"People who have a vision for a song, but don't have the ability to make a professional representation of it can bring their stuff to me to realize their ideas."

And while Southern California was certainly blessed to have had one of its favorite sons at home for a brief season, Marsland is also poised to introduce his considerable acumen as an artist to a whole new audience.

"I hope to start performing again in Asia, once I figure out a way to do that legally", he said.

"Very excited to get back to work!"

GOING HOME BLUES:
REMEMBERING SPECIALTY RECORDS
FOUNDER ART RUPE
(1917 - 2022)

As often noted at Blitz Magazine - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People, such periphery as geography and chronology have at best a minimal bearing on the aesthetic merit of a given musical work.

That said, it can nonetheless be asserted that Southern California was one of the world's leading centers for the growth and development of rock and roll and rhythm and blues during the movement's formative years. That lofty distinction can be attributed in part to the enormous contributions of two of the genre's most gifted visionaries.

First among them was the legendary John Grayton Dolphin. As founder of the iconic Dolphin's Of Hollywood music store in central Los Angeles and the Recorded In Hollywood, Lucky, Cash and Money labels, Dolphin lent his formidable talents as entrepreneur, producer and composer to the works of such greats as Charles Mingus, Major Lance, Sam Cooke, Jesse Belvin, Percy Mayfield, Damita Jo and Illinois Jacquet, to name but a few. Tragically, Dolphin was murdered in his office on 01 February 1958 by disgruntled singer Percy Ivy in the presence of aspiring musicians Sandy Nelson and Bruce Johnston. 

To be certain, Dolphin's most capable counterpart in the movement was Specialty Records founder Art Rupe. Born Arthur Newton Goldberg in Greensburg, Pennsylvania on 05 September 1917, Rupe parlayed an early interest in Gospel music into the foundation of the Juke Box label in 1944. Following a split with his business partners some months later, Rupe established the Los Angeles - based Specialty label in 1948. The label's earliest signings represented some of the best in the Gospel and rhythm and blues fields, including the Southern Harmonizers, the Pilgrim Travelers, the Camille Howard Trio, Joe Lutcher And His Society Cats and Roy Milton And His Solid Senders.

Not one to defer to any such arbitrary limitations as geography in pursuit of the art, Rupe recruited the best of both genres from across the nation to his label in the ensuing years. As the 1950s progressed, Specialty boasted one of the most formidable artist rosters of any label, including Lloyd Price, Big Maceo, Wynona Carr, Joe Liggins, the Soul Stirrers (and their soon to be solo artist front man, Sam Cooke), Smokey Hogg, Percy Mayfield, the Four Flames, Mercy Dee, Kenzie Moore, H-Bomb Ferguson, Floyd Dixon, Guitar Slim, Willie Johnson, the Sepia Tones, Marvin And Johnny, Earl King, Art Neville, Little Richard, Jerry Byrne and Larry Williams, to name but a few. 

By the early 1960s, Rupe had turned his attention primarily towards publishing. Upon Specialty's reactivation as a catalog label in 1970, Rupe invested in other interests, establishing the philanthropic Art Rupe Foundation in the process. He eventually sold Specialty to Fantasy Records in 1991.

An occasional speaker on the lecture circuit in recent years, Rupe made occasional appearances for such causes as health care and education. His tireless zeal for his art and varied interests kept him on center stage until Friday 15 April, when he passed away at his Santa Barbara home at the age of 104. Rupe's survivors include daughter Beverly and a grand daughter.

SWEET LULLABIES:
REMEMBERING BACHELORS
FRONT MAN CONLETH "CON" HUNLEY
(1935 - 2022)

Great art knows no such periphery as chronology.

Even so, the year 1964 certainly boasted far more than its share of world class, game changing releases. To that effect, an unprecedented TEN 45s tied for first place among Blitz Magazine's picks for the Best Single of that most extraordinary year.

One of those ten singles, Diane came from a highly prolific, Dublin-based trio known as the Bachelors. Comprised of John Stokes and brothers Conleth "Con" and Declan "Dec" Cluskey, the Bachelors began in 1957 as a multi-instrumental trio known as the Harmonichords. The ambitious trio made their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in March 1959. The group signed with Decca Records in the UK the following year, at which time they changed their name to the Bachelors at the label's behest.

Following their runaway success with Charmaine in 1963, Decca released Diane as a single at home. Diane also saw a U.S. release in 1964, by which time the Bachelors had signed with London Records (recording home of the Tornadoes, Marianne Faithfull, the Nashville Teens and the Rolling Stones). With Con Cluskey's commanding voice and the trio's stunning mastery of vocal harmony, Diane became an instant classic in that most productive of eras. It remains a much loved example of absolute, utter perfection. 

One sublime release followed another for the Bachelors: Whispering, Chapel In The Moonlight, Can I Trust You, The Sounds Of Silence, No Arms Can Ever Hold You, Ramona and their utterly stupendous 1965 cover of Tommy Dorsey's Marie among them. John Stokes and the Cluskey brothers continued to record and tour prolifically throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s, when an acrimonious split between the brothers and Stokes in 1984 left the Cluskeys to persevere as the Bachelors, while Stokes continued with a new group of Bachelors.

Blitz Magazine communicated regularly with the Cluskey brothers in the early 2010s. At that time, they were performing regularly in their native Ireland, were recording on a regular basis and had begun creating online news videos for their substantial fan base. 

A devout Catholic and family man, Con Cluskey and his brother, Dec were back in the recording studio as recently as March 2022. Sadly, Con Cluskey had taken ill not long after that final session. He passed away on 08 April in his Elland, West Yorkshire home. Cluskey was 86.

KNOW YOUR PRODUCT:
REMEMBERING SAINTS
FRONT MAN CHRIS BAILEY
(1957 - 2022)

"You really did your homework".

So said the legendary Hank Williams Junior to Blitz Magazine after the first of multiple interviews done with the country rock visionary some years ago. Indeed, attention to detail should be an essential component of any such endeavor.

In terms of the groundbreaking punk / new wave movement that rescued rock and roll from a protracted aesthetic slump in the mid 1970s, few artists understood and followed through on that concept as well as did Chris Bailey, co-founder and front man of the much loved, Brisbane, Queensland -based Saints. Inspired by such richly diverse greats as Pink Floyd co-founder Syd Barrett, fellow home grown greats like Johnny O'Keefe and pioneering rockers Little Richard and Elvis Presley, the Saints formed in 1973 as Kid Galahad and the Eternals, featuring Bailey, guitarist Ed Kuepper and drummer Ivor Hay.

By 1974, the band changed their name to the Saints. Relying primarily on cover material at the onset, the band made their recording debut in 1976 with their highly acclaimed (I'm) Stranded single. Despite internal reassessments of instrumental priorities and occasional personnel changes, the band persevered with a vengeance. Widespread acclaim followed in short order, with the band commemorating their meteoric rise in their 1978, Sam And Dave - inspired signature single, Know Your Product. That Harvest label release made Blitz Magazine's short list among the Best Singles of the Decade of the 1970s.

Bailey and the Saints persevered and recorded prolifically up to the present day, with their most recent line up also including drummer Peter Wilkinson, bassist Pat Bourke and guitarist Davey Lane. Sadly, their extraordinary, near - half century run has come to a finale with the passing of Chris Bailey on 09 April. He was 65.

PROFESSIONAL HELP
FROM THE INVINCIBLE:
THE REARRANGEMENTS
AND CINECYDE
RECLAIM CENTER STAGE

"I can only take so much".

That classic line from the chorus of American Junk, the mid-1980s signature single by the beloved visionary trio, Apo Hiking Society, was a rallying cry that spoke volumes on multiple levels. American Junk was composed for the purpose of taking to task the growing aesthetic slump in which the mainstream music emanating from North America found itself at the time. The group took exception to that movement's perceived omnipresence in the overall musical landscape.

But in one of the most glorious examples ever of the power of music, an extended live rendition of American Junk that subsequently appeared on the group's Worst Of Apo Hiking Society album was rife with coded messages to the faithful. Those not so subtle words of encouragement eventually led to the People Power movement in Manila, which ultimately drove dictator Ferdinand Marcos from power in February 1986.

Nearly four decades after Jim Paredes, Boboy Garovillo and Danny Javier took that extraordinary and game changing step, society at large finds itself once again mired in socio-political ills that stagger the imagination. But whereas the most gifted of artists have been known to rise to such occasions with duly inspired original material, relatively few among the present day crop of aspirants seem to have been blessed with a strong understanding of the fundamentals of composition, making it all the more challenging to build the essential bridge between artist and audience.

Thankfully, in the spirit of Apo Hiking Society's aforementioned proclamation, two bands comprised of some of the best of the greater Detroit area's most capable and discerning musical veterans took to the stage at the Bowlero Club in suburban Troy, Michigan on the evening of 26 March to assert that they likewise could "only take so much" by reclaiming the power in the music.

With former Plugs front man Jeff Shoemaker and Mutants co-founder Pat "Pasadena" Supina at the helm, the Rearrangements brought to the table an extraordinarily high level of musicianship, rounded out most capably by the muscular, no-nonsense drumming of Jim Bialk and the commanding stage presence of bassist Gerry Paz. Shoemaker and Pasadena contribute the bulk of the band's first rate original material, which Shoemaker notes is inspired by the best of the British Invasion, first generation garage rock and what he terms, "1969 Detroit". That richly diverse mix earned the Rearrangements Blitz Magazine's pick for Best New Band Of 2021 in last year's annual Blitz Awards, as well as a most respectable number two finish in the Blitz Awards for their debut album, At Sixes And Sevens.

It was material from At Sixes And Sevens that comprised the bulk of the Rearrangements' performance at Bowlero. Their hour-long set was rounded out by songs from the band's forthcoming second album, highlighted by Pasadena's Ain't Dead Yet. The lone acknowledgement that evening of their collective legacy was a spirited rendition of the Plugs' single, Donna, which was equally well received by the highly appreciative capacity crowd.

Pressing ahead with a supergroup line up has also served Cinecyde well in recent years. The band rose to prominence as one of the leading lights of the greater Detroit area's contribution to the burgeoning punk / new wave movement in the late 1970s. In the process, Cinecyde created what is arguably one of that movement's definitive and most enduing anthems with their 1977 Tremor label single, Gutless Radio.

Four and a half decades after that triumphant moment, Cinecyde took to the stage at Bowlero with founding members Gary Reichel (lead vocals) and Jim Olenski (lead guitar) in full assault mode. The dynamic tension that has driven the pair from the onset was in full force that evening, with Reichel's high drama delivery standing alongside the ivory tower-ish yet compelling execution that has become Olenski's trademark.

In Cinecyde's case, that dynamic tension is stabilized (although in no way circumvented) by the grounded approach of their most capable bassist, Larry "Skid Marx" Moran. Co-founder of the acclaimed duo Flirt in the late 1970s (whose Real label Don't Push Me single was a highlight of that movement), Marx came on board with Cinecyde after the tragic and untimely passing of group co-founder Chris Girard in July 2019.

Conspicuous in its absence at Bowlero were such Cinecyde stapes as Gutless Radio and Tough Girls. The band instead focused primarily on selections from their highly acclaimed Vegetable Or Thing album for Tremor, which was also featured prominently among Blitz Magazine's picks for the Best Albums of 2021. 

As is the case with the Rearrangements, Cinecyde is blessed with exceptionally strong drumming. But while Jim Bialik primarily provides a solid foundation to both support and stand alongside the Rearrangements' straight ahead verse, chorus and bridge approach, Cinecyde's Diane Schroeder goes on the offensive in keeping with the frequent changes in tempo and meter indigenous to Reichel's material, filling in with inventive flourishes when possible and working in tandem with Marx to assure that Reichel and Olenski's in the zone moments remain accessible without compromise. 

While neither band has yet confronted the socio-political challenges of the day head on in their songwriting, their relatively more universal approach more than serves them well, insuring both the timeliness and timelessness of their art in the process. And as Apo Hiking Society would no doubt have concurred, that may well be the best way to ultimately get that power of the music out of their systems for the ultimate betterment of that art.