Thursday, June 30, 2011
As I said, my grandson Jai, wise beyond his years, has convinced me to look at the more recent bands with an open mind. In the spirit of "all things rockin' from then to NOW", I submit for your consideration an exceedingly rockin' group of gentlemen calling themselves Three Days Grace.
They were formed in Norwood, Ontario in Canada in 1992, originally under the name Groundswell, broke up in 1997 and regrouped later the same year this time as Three Days Grace. Starting out as a trio, they were guitarist/vocalist Adam Guntier, drummer Neil Sanderson and bassist Brad Walst. Guitarist Barry Stock was added in 2003 and the line-up stands the same today. The band had become acquainted with producer Gavin Brown, who helped the band record a demo which they shopped around catching the attention of several record companies. EMI Music expressed a desire to hear more material, so Brown and the band recorded what would be their break-out single, "I Hate Everything About You" (a rock and roll sentiment if there ever was one) . The band finally signed to Jive Records after being sought out by the label's president.
The band's self-titled debut album was released July 22,2003 to favorable reviews. Including the hit "I Hate Everything About You", and accompanied by extensive touring, it went platinum in the U.S. and double platinum in Canada. It was later in 2003 that Barry Stock joined the band. Two more singles from the album were released, "Just Like You" and the riff -heavy stomper "Home".
After a break taken by the band to allow singer Adam Guntier time to rehabilitate from an addiction he developed to pain killers, they went to work on their sophomore album, One -X. This collection contained at least five songs written by Guntier while in rehab,"Over And Over","Gone Forever","Pain","Never Too Late" and the single, "The Animal I've Become". This album features a bit more in terms of shifting dynamics and diverse writing. It is a definite progression from the first album.
Released on June 13,2006 , One -X also went platinum in the U.S. and double platinum in Canada.
Life Starts Now, the third Three Days Grace album, was released September 22, 2009. This one debuted at #3 on the Billboard charts. The band seemed to depart from the darkness of their previous efforts while retaining the powerful riff-heavy style they've cultivated over their career. A more rock-anthemic tone overall is the result. It is on this album that in my opinion, their highest-achieving song appears. That song is "Break".
Three Days Grace definitely rocks. They display a deep appreciation for the groove, pleasantly massive guitar tones and a rhythm section that effectively pounds their message home. Topped off with Guntier's perfectly servicable rock and roll shout, this band would seem to have a compete package. I, for one, am happy to have encountered the work of Three Days Grace.
Jai, you've done it again lad!
Sunday, June 26, 2011
They started out as The Dave Clark Quartet, Clark on drums, guitarist Dave Sanford, bassist Chris Walls, and keyboardist/arranger Don Vale. They were originally the backing band for North London singer Stan Saxon. As time went on, the group played more and more on their own , slowly building a local following.
Sanford, Walls and Vale left the band over time to be replaced by Lenny Davidson, Rick Huxley, and Mike Smith respectively with the addition of Dennis Payton on saxophones. Mike Smith took over lead vocalist duties when the band eventually split with Saxon in 1962. It was in February of 1964 that the band, after several misses, had a huge hit with the song "Glad All Over" which knocked the Beatles' "I Wanna Hold Your Hand " out of the #1 spot on the U.K. singles chart. The song peaked at #6 in the U.S. Shortly after they became the second British Invasion act to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show where they performed the hit. This would be the first of 18 subsequent appearances on the show.
After the success of the Beatles' film A Hard Days Night, The Dave Clark Five released their own film Catch Us If You Can, which was directed by John Boorman. The U.S. release of the film was titled Having A Wild Weekend. The band was promoted as representatives of "The Tottenham Sound" as a response to "The Mersey Beat" sound of Brian Epstein's stable of acts. They were a successful touring act, one of the first, in fact from Britain to extensively tour the U.S. They were also touted as a "cleaner" version of the Beatles, even though in appearance and musical influence they were quite similar, and their sound actually a bit rougher than the Fab Four.
It should be noted that Dave Clark, in addition to forming, leading and writing for this band, he was also the manager and executive producer of The Dave Clark Five. He formed a media company and negotiated business deals that among other things allowed him production control and ownership of all the group's master tapes, which any astute musical artist will tell you, is one of the first rules in being successful in this particular vocation. Musical creation and the business of music are two very different animals, the taming of one has no bearing on the ability to tame the other as too many musicians have learned to their regret. Dave Clark was one of the few musicians who had the opportunity and ability to look after the band's interests.
Hits like "Because", "Bits And Pieces", "I Like It Like That" and "Over And Over" kept the Dave Clark Five at or near the top of the charts from 1963 to 1970 when the group disbanded. All told, they had 17 hits in the U.S. They were actually a bigger attraction in the U.S. than in their native England for that period, but enjoyed a bit of a renaissance in the U.K. during the period of 1967 to 1970. On December 17,2006 saxophonist Dennis Payton died after a lengthy battle with cancer at the age of 63. Keyboardist/vocalist Mike Smith returned to performing putting together Mike Smith's Rock Engine in 2003. They did two short tours in the U.S. and Smith made an appearance on Late Night With David Letterman substituting for bandleader Paul Schaffer as Schaffer himself was the guest host that night. In September of 2003 Smith suffered a spinal cord injury from a fall at his home leaving him paralyzed from the neck down. On February 28,2008 he died of pneumonia. Two weeks later on March 10,2008, The Dave Clark Five were inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Formed in 1972 by Kent State art students Jerry Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh, on bass and synthesizer respectively with both as vocalists. They were rounded out with Bob Casale (Bob 1) and Bob Mothersbaugh (Bob 2) on guitars and Alan Myers on drums. They released their first single "Mongoloid" b/w "Jocko Homo" on their own independent label Booji Boy. This was followed in 1977 by an utterly insane re-working of The Rolling Stones' classic "Satisfaction".
The band's mix of discordant pop, deadpan surrealist humor, cheesy science fiction themes and satirical social commentary caught the attention of many, including David Bowie and Iggy Pop who got behind the band and helped them get signed to Warner Brothers Records. Bowie was set to produce their first album but had to pull out due to prior obligations. Brian Eno ended up producing the album entitled Q. Are We Not Men? A. We Are Devo, which contained re-recordings of "Mongoloid" and "Jocko Homo", as well as "Satifaction". An appearance on the tv show Saturday Night Live October 4,1978 gained them national exposure.
The band's follow-up album, Duty Now For The Future, saw the band delve deeper into electronic music, and while not a major success, it contained some fan favorites such as "Blockhead" and a cover of the Johnny Rivers hit "Secret Agent Man", songs they performed on Don Kirshner's Rock Concert later that year. A higher level of visibility was gained in 1980 with the release of the next album Freedom Of Choice which featured their break-out hit "Whip It" as well as popular songs "Gates Of Steel" and the title track. More tv appearances on shows like American Bandstand and Fridays did much to spread the word.
In 1981 the next album New Traditionalists contiunued the band's popularity, containing stand out tracks like "Through Being Cool" and "Beautiful World" with accompanying videos containing sharp social commentary. The album was shipped with a bonus disc upon which was a cover of "Working In The Coal Mine", the old Jimmy Dorsey hit done surprisingly faithful (for this group) to the original. This would prove to be the peak of the band's success as subsequent releases met with diminishing commercial and critical response.
Outside of a few bright spots, such as the theme song to the movie Doctor Detroit, and a harder rocking re-recording of "Girl U Want" for the movie Tank Girl, there seemed to be little steam left in the Devo machine. Mark Mothersbaugh had some success writing theme songs for tv, the most notable being Pee Wee's Playhouse, but by 1984 the band began a cycle of changing personell, break-ups and re-formations, ultimately fading from the scene until 2007, when their songs appeared on the video games Rock Band and Rock Band 2. Highly influential, many later bands have adopted Devo's formula and expanded on it , creating an entire rock sub-genre. Devo itself still occasionally perform one-off shows and short tours.
Saturday, June 18, 2011
Don Cornelius was a news reader and disc jockey in Chicago circa 1965 for radio station WVON. In 1967 he was hired by tv station WCIU as a news and sports reporter. He also was promoter and emcee for a series of local dance shows. These shows caught the attention of the station and Cornelius was invited to bring them to television. After getting sponsorship from the Sears And Roebuck Co., the show, called Soul Train aired on WCIU-TV on August 17 1970 as a live weekday afternoon show.
The show's success attracted the attention of another local company, The Johnson Products Co., maker of Ultra Sheen and Afro Sheen hair products. They agreed to co-sponsor the show's move to syndication. Cornelius along with the show's syndication company Syndicast targeted 24 cities for syndication. The show aired October 2,1971 and by the end of the first season was on in all 24 targeted markets. The show,now weekly, was picked up by CBS-owned WBBS-TV, and operations were shifted to the Los Angeles where it remained for the duration of the show's run. Syndicast remained the syndication company until 1985 when Tribune Entertainment took over.
Soul Train's identity was determined by a few enduring elements. One was the Scramble Board, where one dance couple was chosen to re-arrange randomly placed letters on a magnetic board to spell out the name of , as Don would say, "a famous artist whose name you should know". While the couple worked on this, a recorded hit would play and the audience at home could yell things at the tv like, "come on you idiots, it's The Bar Kays", or some such.
Another element was the group of dancing couples that were featured during the recorded songs. They were alternately known as The Soul Train Dancers and The Soul Train Gang. During the years people such as Rosie Perez, Nick Cannon, Carmen Electra, Jermaine Stewart, and MC Hammer were first noticed among their ranks. Jody Watley and Jeffrey Daniels, two former dancers, went on to fame as part of the group Shalamar with Howard Hewlitt, and in Watley's case, as a solo artist. These dancers, many of them professional, were watched by young people in all markets keeping up with the latest in dance and clothing styles. The Soul Train Line, another of the show's defining elements was made up of two single lines formed by the dancers while a couple or a single dancer would dance down the length of the space between them. This was where the best dancers highlighted their technique.
The greatest identifying element of all was the face and voice of the show, the inimitable, and later to be proven irreplaceable Don Cornelius. He combined a towering presence with a booming baritone voice that announced the hits as "a groove that definitely makes you wanna move", or "a big'un everybody's sure 'nuff diggin' ". He brought many years of announcing experience to the table as well as definitively cool demeanor. He hosted the show until 1993, remaining a creative force behind the scenes for the remainder of its run. Succeeding hosts were comedian Mystro Clark, actor Shemar Moore, and actor Dorian Gregory. The sad simple fact is, when Don left he took the show's personality with him.
Soul Train stands as an icon in rock music history. Countless artists were brought into millions of homes by this influential show. The spin-off Soul Train Awards and Soul Train Lady Of Soul Awards shows gave recognition to the best and the brightest in the genre. Mr. Cornelius said it best..."and as always in parting we wish you love, peace and soul".
Monday, June 13, 2011
During the 70's there were quite a few Power Ballads of note, Aerosmith's "Dream On", Boston's "More Than A Feeling", even Led Zeppelin's venerable "Stairway to Heaven" come to mind. But in the 80's the Power Ballad became one of the defining forms of the decade's rock, with every hard rock/metal band worth its salt trying its hand at it, and some (Dokken,anyone?) making quite an annoying habit of it.
Any road, there were quite a few pearls among the proverbial swine, songs that more than justified the Power Ballad's existence. To follow are some of the better attempts. Let's see those lighters, people!
and perhaps the best of the bunch :
Introduced in 1952 as an answer to the runaway popularity of Fender's Telecaster model that came out in 1950, the Gibson Les Paul was a collaboration between Gibson president Ted McCarty and legendary jazz guitarist and electronics inventor Les Paul. Along with the Fender Stratocaster and Telecaster, it is one of the three most popular electric guitar designs in the world.
Aside from the unique body design, the Les Paul had other features that set the instrument apart from others. Although it was a solid body guitar, the strings were always mounted on the top like the company's hollow body guitars rather than through the body as found on many Fender models. An array of pickup options was also available giving a choice of inherent sounds. The double-coil Humbucker pickup was a Gibson innovation which cancelled the hum found in single coil and magnetic pickups. This pickup was introduced in 1957 to replace the Les Paul's original single coil P-90 pickups. The weight of the instrument was a result of the mahohogany and maple construction,both heavy woods. As design advances evolved, the company was able to make Les Pauls for every level of player and budget,with the exception of the complete novice. This beginner market was served by the Gibson Melody Maker, which despite the absence of the Les Paul nameplate, consistently followed the design and appearance of the Les Pauls.
Over the years the Les Paul has become an ever-present staple of all things rockin'. To follow are some of the Les Paul's more celebrated users.
Friday, June 10, 2011
The music business. Not a vocation for the faint of heart. For some it can be a benevolent giver, rewarding hard work, talent and persistance with success and wealth, or at the least, a living wage. For others, and they are legion, it can be a cruel mistress, rewarding each step forward with two steps backward, talent and inspiration reaping apathy and frustration, hard work producing only hard times. If ever there was a band for which the stars refused to align, it was the band called Badfinger, a group that despite a string of hit singles, never got the rewards they were due.
Originally a group called The Iveys, guitarist/keyboardist Pete Ham, guitarist Dal Jenkins, bassist Ron Griffiths, and drummer Mike Gibbons Got together around 1964 and were based in London. A year later, Jenkins departed the band and was replaced by Tom Evans. Their manager, Bill Collins had them working as a backing band for vocalist David Garrick and as a band on their own. While Garrick ultimately faded into obscurity, the band made a name for itself and atracted the attention of many in the business wanting to work with them, including one Ray Davies of The Kinks. Collins, keeping the band on a short leash, saw any such overtures as a threat to his own authority and rebuffed these opportunities. Finally there came an offer even he could not refuse when Mal Evans, road manager for The Beatles offered to work with The Iveys, impressed as he was with their sound. He got them an audition with the Beatles' newly formed Apple Records and they impressed Peter Asher, Apple's A&R man. Paul McCartney himself submitted a song to the group to be their first single on the condition that it be played exactly as it appeared on the demo McCartney supplied. The band of course agreed and "Come And Get It" became the band's first hit.
The song, a proposed part of a soundtrack for a movie called The Magic Christian, went to #4 in the U.K. and #6 in the U.S. Midway through the recording of the song, Griffiths left the group. Tom Evans switched to bass and Joey Molland was recruited to play guitar. It was at this time that the band changed it's name to Badfinger, after a Beatles' song "Badfinger Boogie", a working track that ended up as "With A Little Help From My Friends". This was to avoid confusion with another band called The Ivy League who were moderately successful at the time.
Ham and Evans were seasoned writers by this time and along with Gibbons, provided much of the rest of The Magic Christian's soundtrack, In addition they worked on Gearge Harrison's solo album All Things Must Pass, played on Ringo's solo song "It Don't Come Easy",and contributed to John Lennon's album Imagine. They also found time to record an album of their own in 1970 called No Dice,which contained another hit, "No Matter What" as well as "Without You" which became a hit for Harry Nillson.
1970 also brought them together with manager Stan Polley, a shrewed experienced individual who had the expertise the band felt they needed at this point. Polley went right to work, first re-organizing the group's finances (red flag) and somehow as a result saw little money of their own. They released the next album, Straight Up at the end of 1971. The album was difficult to record going through two producers, George Harrison and Todd Rundgren in trying to find usable material. The album did include two major hits, "Day After Day " and "Baby Blue". Straight Up turned out to be a fine piece of work, and would have been more successful had Apple done more to promote it, but at the time Apple Records was having business problems that would ultimately shut the label down. Badfinger found itself on its own in terms of pushing the record.
The band toured constantly in 1972 and late that year attempted a self -produced follow-up album. It produced no hits and to make things worse, the band saw less and less money due to manager Polley's machinations. Nearing the end of their Apple contract, Polley engineered a big-money deal with Warner Brothers. In the meantime the band released their final Apple recording, Ass. This album had no tour to promote it and therefore tanked, as well as the subsequent self-titled album,the first for Warner Brothers. Apple by this time had collapsed, tying up the band's royalties for what turned out to be years. The group then recorded its next album, Wish You Were Here. Although this was the most critially acclaimed work they had in years, their money woes escalated when millions went missing from an escrow account set up for the group by Polley.On the advice of the group's attorneys, Wish You Were Here was withdrawn weeks after its release.The legal mess became huge,and the band's hastily recorded third Warners album was never released . The label dropped them. With the band impoverished and with no prospects of seeing any money any time soon, Pete Ham left the band, and on April3,1975 he hung himself in his garage at home.
Evans and Molland tried to contiunue the band on and off with different members starting in 1978, but the instability of the group efforts along with the ongoing legal entanglements proved to be insurmountable. On November 19,1983, after a loud argument with Molland on the phone, Tom Evans became the second group member to commit suicide by hanging.
The music business...a cruel mistress indeed.
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Hard Rock. Funk. Ska. Jazz. Oh, sorry all...I was just trying desperately to describe the music that this band plays. Punk. R'n'B. It's all in there, my friends, presented with a seemingly inexhaustible amount of energy and humour. Fishbone is one of a kind. Oh, did I mention Alternative Rock? And the scathing social commentary? I think I may have covered it...but probably not.
Fishbone was formed in Los Angeles the year 1979 by vocalist/sax player Angelo Moore, bassist John Norwood Fisher, drummer Phillip "Fish" Fisher, Walter Kibby on vocals and trumpet, guitarist Kendall Jones, and Christopher Dowd on keyboards and vocals. Their first release was a single on Columbia Records called "Party At Ground Zero" followed by a self-titled EP and then a full-length album, In Your Face.
In support of The album, the band appeared in the reunion beach movie Back To The Beach starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello, as well as touring with The Beastie Boys In the U.S. and other parts of the world. They were mainly a ska/reggae band early on, but later incorporated hard rock and other styles. Their 1988 release Truth And Soul received wide pread critical acclaim, and rightly so. The album features a diverse range of musical styles, guitar-heavy and groove-rich. The lyrics touch on a variety of social editorializing and it's centerpiece, the Curtis Mayfield-written "Freddie's Dead", is a masterpiece of the first order. In spite of the critical raves, the album failed to be a commercial success. This was likely due to the difficulty the music industry in general had with categorizing a black group playing music other than funk or R'n'B.
Commercial success did come with the next album, 1991's The Reality Of My Surroundings. With the addition of ex-Miles Davis guitarist John Bigham, it reached #49 on the Billboard albums chart. The band made a memorable appearance on the tv show Saturday Night Live, made a video of the track "Sunless Saturdays" with Spike Lee directing and another track, "Everyday Sunshine" became a moderate hit on radio and MTV.
The follow-up album, Give A Monkey A Brain And He'll Swear He's The Center Of The Universe (think the title needs a few more words, lads?) continued the trend of stylistic diversity with it's 1993 release, but of course no band story is complete without the inevitable internal upheavals. Guitarist Kendall Jones left the band battling mental instability, prompting bassist Norwood Fisher to seek him out with the intent to render aid, but instead somehow got charged with kidnapping. The band was dropped by Sony Records, and Keyboardist Christopher Dowd left to form his own band, Seedy Arkhestra, recording an anti-Fishbone song called "Flog Your Dead Horse".
1996 saw the release of Chim Chim's Badass Revenge which became a cult favorite but went largely unnoticed in the mainstream. In 1998 drummer Phillip Fisher left the band to be replaced by John Steward. John Bigham also departed to be replaced by former Sound Barrier and Mother's Finest guitarist Tracey "Spacey T" Singleton. Walter Kibby left the band in 2003. Several other line-up changes took place, but original members Angelo Moore and John Norwood Fisher are still working under the Fishbone banner. They are currently recording an album for late 2011 release and a documentary, Sunless Saturdays : The Story Of Fishbone Is making the film festival rounds.
Fishbone...a brilliant band that deserved better.
Saturday, June 4, 2011
The evening gowns, peroxide blonde beehive and heavy make up made her the epitome of 60's female pop fashion, but it was the voice,a husky alto brimming with emotion that made her a superstar as well as a blue-eyed soul pioneer. She was born Mary O'Brien , but to us she was Dusty Springfield.
She was born in West Hempstead, East London,U.K. April 16,1939 . Her early career found her with a folk-rock trio she formed with her brother called The Springfields who had a top Five British hit ,"Say I Won't Be There". They were a busy working act whose travels took them many places, including Nashville,Tennessee where Dusty's passion for rhythm and blues was ignited. She left the group to go solo in October of 1963 and shortly after recorded her first single, "I Only Want To Be With You".
Written by Ivor Raymonde, and produced in the Phil Spector wall-of-sound-like fashion by Johhny Franz, the single went to #4 on the U.K. charts, #12 on the U.S. Billboard charts and was the first song ever performed on the British tv show Top Of The Pops after its release in November of 1963.
Her debut album,A Girl Called Dusty, featured mostly her favorite cover songs, including the Supremes hit "When The Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes" and went to #6 in the U.K. In 1964 she recorded the Burt Bacharach song "Wishin' And Hopin' " which was #1 in the U.S.
In December of 1964 , her tour of South Africa was interrupted when she was deported for performing in front of an integrated audience , which at the time was against the country's national policy.
In 1965,while participating in The Italian Song Festival ,she heard the song,"Io Che Non Vivo(Senza Te)". She recorded the American version,"You Don't Have To SayYou Love Me", with lyrics written by her good friend Vickie Wickham and her future manager Simon Napier-Bell. It became her second #1 hit.
Springfield played a big part in introducing Motown artists to a wider British audience both through her recorded cover songs and her role in facilitating the first tv appearances of Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson And The Miracles and Martha And The Vandellas on a special edition of the tv program Ready,Steady, Go. The show aired April 28,1965 and also featured Springfield and Motown's studio band The Funk Brothers.
More hits followed , including "The Look Of Love",a Bacharach-David composition that was the centerpiece for the James Bond movie Casino Royale's soundtrack and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song in 1967. It went to #22 U.S.
Then came Memphis and "Son Of A Preacher Man".
It was a song on an album that proved to be the singer's most significant in terms of her career direction. In 1968, when the pop music landscape turned to the "undergound" sound with the likes of The Jefferson Airplane, Steppenwolf and Hendrix, Dusty's style of pop fell from favor. To invigorate her career and credibility she signed with Atlantic Records, and producers Arif Marden, Tom Dowd and Jerry Wexler Knew exactly what to do with a soulful voice like Dusty's . The album Dusty In Memphis was released in 1969 to critical acclaim and reached #6 on the U.S. charts with "Son Of A Preacher Man " as its centerpiece, helping the album sell over 2 million units.
Her carreer was up and down in the ensuing years , keeping busy on projects of varying success. It was in 1987 that she was invited by The Pet Shop Boys to sing on a tune called "What Have I Done To Deserve This". She accepted and the song went to #2 U.S. and U.K.
Dusty battled and defeated alcoholism and drug dependence . An admitted bisexual, she was also an advocate for animal protection. In 1994 she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After a period of remission, the cancer became aggressive again and she finally succumbed to the disease March 2,1999, ten days before she was inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.
Hers is truly a voice to be missed.