Saturday, December 8, 2012

My Best Of 2012 List

I love end of year best of lists.  I still get a kick out of reading other people's opinions and I also end up finding a bunch of things that I missed this year.  I am going with a top 10 for 2012 with all but #1 listed in no particular order.  Was 2012 a great year for my opinion it was a weak year that had some rather good releases.  So here goes nothing...
One of two really good country records that I found over on Triggerman's site.  Just some really great, heartfelt honky tonk music.  Easily better than 99% of what comes out of Nashville in 2012.

This is the other killer from Saving Country Music.  Jason Eady has crafted a piece of classic country music with the title track and the Patty Loveless duet "Man on the Mountain" just two of many high points.
Ian Hunter has crafted some great records over the past decade or so since he started working with the Rant Band.  This is another one.  Ian has his Rock & Roll shoes on for this one.
This live album from Jason Isbell has been on heavy rotation since it came out.  I am liking this more than any of the DBT albums and his solo work.  Jason and the 400 unit belong on stage in front of a crowd.  A great live album.
Bonnie Raitt is one of those artists that doesn't make bad records, it's just that some are better than others.  Slipstream is my favorite record of hers since Nick of Time.  The Dylan covers are exceptional.
I first heard the Hillbenders a couple of years back at the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival.  Bluegrass purists?  Nope?  Loads of great musicians and songwriters and a load of fun live?  You bet.  I play this one a lot.
I haven't really paid much attention to Graham Parker over the years since Squeezing Out Sparks.  Perhaps I should have.  This record has been on in my car almost as much as the Jason Isbell over the past month.  GP & the Rumour have made a good one.  Check them out live if you get the chance...great show with Ian Hunter last week.
I'm not advocating downloading but getting to hear a leaked copy a month or so back made grabbing this on vinyl a no brainer.  Two roots music legends combine to make a really, really good country record.
John Hiatt is another of those artists who never makes a bad record.  For two years in a row he has made a very good one.  It's seems almost effortless for him to write great songs.

Some Honorable Mentions:
Dwight Yoakam - Three Pairs
Melody Walker - Gold Dust Goddess
Tesdeshi Trucks Band - Everybody's Talking
Marty Stuart - Nashville Volume 1:  Tear the Wood Pile Down
Turnpike Troubadours - Goodbye Normal Street

And my choice for the Best Album of 2012...
Some folks hate it, some sort of like it.  I loved it.  After the disappointing Working On a Dream, Bruce returned angry and confrontational with some of the most pointed protest music of his career.  At times introspective, raging and others uplifting and renewing.  Probably my favorite Springsteen album since Tunnel of Love.  Looking forward to the Wrecking Ball Tour part 2 in 2013. 
 So that's my take on 2012.  Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Recent Vinyl Releases

I've been getting a little lazy getting reviews out so I am going to try to shorten them up a bit and do more at once.  I spent a lot of years working in a record store and I used to slap short review blurbs on the inventory sleeve to "entice" potential buyers so I figured I'd go with that format for a bit.

Record Store Day Black Friday Releases

This limited release (7500 copies) features most of the second set from 5/30/71.  This was recorded during the same run as Skull and Roses and has that same kind of vibe.  Do we need another 15 minute version of Lovelight?  Why yes.  Yes we do.  And the sound is fantastic.
Released in 1968 but still reflecting that Summer of Love "glow", Forever Changes has grown in stature over the past 40 or so years.  In fact it was #40 on the Rolling Stone Top 500 of all time (if that means anything to you).  It has some really high points but does sound very much of that era so if you've missed this over the years give it a listen.

This was released as a numbered limited edition of 1000.  The album sees its official release on 12/9 so I was happy to grab it early.  The great Buddy Miller who can pretty much do no wrong teams up with roots legend Jim Lauderdale.  Great music pours out of your speakers and massive smiles pop up around the room.  Love it.

Some Other Recent Releases

I kind of dig the Drive By Truckers and found Jason Isbell's last couple of albums interesting, but I absolutely love this live CD.  A great band playing great songs and a kick ass Neil Young cover.  What else could you ask for.

The first two Marshall Tucker Band albums recently got the 180 gram treatment and were quietly released a couple of weeks back.  Does anyone care?  Damn right they should.  Two stone cold classics from the early 70's hey day of southern rock.  Much more country than the Allman Brothers and tastier playing than the Charlie Daniels Band.  There is way more to these albums than Can't You See.  Two classics from one of my all time favorite bands.

One of rock music's original angry young men is no longer very young, but he is still a little angry and his pen still writes razor sharp lyrics.  Politicians, hipsters, and society in general are all targets that are attacked with wit and wisdom.  Nothing really rocks but that's OK...we're all a bit older.
Last but certainly not least...The Beatles Remasters on Vinyl!  I wasn't going to buy them yet again, but I have begun to cave.  I picked up 4 recently (Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper and Let It Be) and the sound quality ranges from good to pretty damn wonderful.  Rubber Soul in particular is just tremendous.  I have some complaints with parts of Sgt. Pepper but the rest of what I have heard is worth the investment.  Am I going to buy the rest?  Probably. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

It's Election Day

If you don't vote...don't bitch.

Tim O'Brien and Darrell Scott - We're Usually A Lot Better Than This

Early on Tim O'Brien (I believe) quips "we're usually a lot better than this".  Well if that is the case I'd love to hear a good day because the playing and singing on this live disc recorded in 2005 and 2006 and released in October is clinic on how acoustic music should be performed.  Just check out the acapella version of Hank William's House of Gold to whet your appetite for the rest of the record.  Townes Van Zant's "White Freightliner Blues" positively smokes with some killer guitar-mandolin exchanges.  Darrell Scott's "Long Time Gone" is far more bluegrass than the Dixie Chicks version and is far superior (in my opinion).  There is a ton of great playing, singing and songs to be found on this great live record.  Well worth your time if you are even a casual bluegrass or Americana fan.

Usually a lot better than this...hard to believe.

Marley's Ghost - Jubilee

Marley's Ghost is celebrating 25 years of making music this year...and I had no idea about how good a group of musicians they are!  The opening one-punch of Rollin' and Wake Up Mama get things off to a nice country music start (real country sounding not Jason Aldean sounding) with very strong playing (there is not enough steel guitar in 2012) and some really good vocals courtesy of Dan Wheetman.

The album is all over the country map (in a very good way) from the western swing of South for A Change to very strong cuts featuring guests such as John Prine, Emmylou Harris, Old Crow Medicine Show and Marty Stuart.  All of the guests make great turns but this remains Marley's Ghost's show and the results are fantastic.  Another great example of the how ReviewShine can turn people on to sounds that you otherwise would have missed.

Here's a nice version of Levon Helm's Growin' Trade
New York shows please! Bobby Womcack's I Used To Lover Her

Melody Walker - Gold Rush Goddess

It's been a while since I have gone through my ReviewShine downloads and actually gave 'em a listen.  This has been a crazy year and I just haven't seemed to find the time.  Over the past couple of weeks I have been listening to a lot of new stuff while sitting around in the Superstorm Sandy aftermath.  We've been fine at the OldRockr homestead...just short on gasoline!

Melody Walker is a singer-songwriter out of the Bay Area and I have to tell you that I love this record.  I've been playing it quite a bit and continually find something new to like.  Great vocals, strong bluegrass-Americana playing and great songs.  "Gold Rush Goddess" is a little sultry, "Family Band" is a great tune that features The Buck Walters (Humboldt County, CA).  Jacob Groopman is all over the record with some very strong playing but the highlight here is Ms. Walker's vocals. 

A nice California twist on the Americana sound.  You can grab it on her website as a pay what you want release.  Pay something folks 'cause this is a good one.  It's gets the OldRockr1 Seal of Approval for sure.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Bruce Springsteen - Met Life Stadium

I know these shows were a couple of weeks back but life has been pretty hectic for me and I just couldn't find some time to write about them.  I was lucky enough to make it to the second and third nights of the run and as expected Bruce put on a couple of amazing shows.

Night 2 (9/21) 
This was my first time to Met Life Stadium.  It's new.  It's huge.  It reminds me of...well, Giants Stadium but bigger.  I hate stadiums and the only one who could get me there for a concert is Bruce.   This show was a fan's dream...could it be nothing was played off of Darkness?  The setlist was loaded with rarities top to bottom.

Night 3 (9/22)
It was Bruce's birthday at midnight so we expected a late night, but nothing like this. There was a 3 hour rain delay (really 2 if you go by the usual start time). Bruce hit the stage around 10:30 and played until well past the midnight hour. 2AM!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Another night of tour firsts and a great party atmosphere rain and all.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Grateful Dead Dick's Picks 1 & 2 On Vinyl!!!

I am lucky enough to be listening to Dick's Picks 2 on vinyl this afternoon.  On vinyl you say?  Why yes, yes I am.  The good folks at Brookvale Records will be releasing both of these albums on Tuesday, November 20th at Looney Tunes CD's here on Long Island and also at independent record stores around the country.  Both of these releases will be limited to 2000 copies, so you are going to want to look into this like yesterday because brother...they sound fantastic. 

Dick's Picks 2
Columbus, OH

1. Dark Star/Jam
2. Sugar Magnolia
3. St. Stephen
4. Not Fade Away
5. Goin' Down The Road Feeling Bad
6. Not Fade Away

This is the shortest of the Dick's Picks and it features a chunk of the second set from this show and it starts off with a stellar Dark Star > Jam.  Jerry just goes nuts on this one and leads the band into all kinds of tasty places.  I don't always dig where Dark Star goes but this one is a favorite.  This seems  a little short at one cd (57:39) but on vinyl it spreads out over two lps. You can't quibble with the set choices this night from a kickin' Sugar Mag right on though GDTRFB and Not Fade Away.  It jams, it rocks and it is all kinds of sweet.

So how is the sound on vinyl?  They sound really good actually.  These were originally two track recordings so there are limits to how much can be done during remastering.  The spacing of the instruments is fine, but I find the vocals to be a bit too "out front" which can't be helped based on the "warts and all" tapes.  Will it stop me from playing this one again...uh no it won't.

Dick's Picks 1
Tampa, FL

1.  Here Comes Sunshine
2.  Big River
3.  Mississippi Half Step
4.  Weather Report Suite
5.  Big Railroad Blues
6.  Playing In The Band
7.  He's Gone
8.  Truckin'
9.  Nobody's Fault But Mine
10.  Jam
11.  The Other One
12.  Jam
13.  Stella Blue
14.  Around and Around

DP #1 was never one of my's not bad rather it is a kind of weird place to have started the series.  I'll start off by saying the sound is very good, perhaps a bit better than DP #2 which was pretty good to begin with.  This was recorded towards the end of 1973 kind of in the middle of the endless track to support Wake of the Flood.  This is a different Dead than you had only a year or so earlier.  PigPen is gone and the band is less bluesy and psychedelic and more jazzy sounding.  The 60' are now clearly over and the 70's are in full swing with the Dead morphing along with the times.

This set has some great moments in Here Comes Sunshine, a great jam during Playing in the Band and a wonderful He's Gone.   What was great about the Dead is that they played a lot of these songs over their entire career and they had a different vibe in different eras.  Many of these songs would take on a whole new feel in a couple of years and its great to have such a wide selection to compare, contrast and enjoy.

I'm glad to see the Dick's Picks series getting a vinyl I want DP #8!!!

Go down to Looney Tunes or visit them online and grab yourself both of these fine additions to your Dead collection.

Here's a link to pre-order the lp's if you are so inclined.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Larry Carlton - Boulton Center Sept. 20th

Larry Carlton and his quartet set up shop last night at the Boulton Center in  Bayshore, NY for a little clinic on how to play progressive jazz guitar.  Last Night was the first real jazz album that I bought and I have been a fan ever since.  While I have never loved his studio albums (too smooth)   We even had Johnny Farina who wrote Sleepwalk play with Larry for the encore.  The playing was fantastic from all involved making for a great night.  Catch the master if you get the chance.

Larry commented a couple of times about how great  venue the Boulton Center is.  I hope he returns and spreads the word because this place is at the top of my list of places to see a show.  Very intimate with excellent sound.  Check out their schedule of upcoming shows.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

How Far Can The Once Mighty Fall?

Growing up on Long Island back in the 70's it was all about the southern rock.  Hard to believe, but for a few short years at least, Long Island existed  below the musical Mason-Dixon line.  A pre-right wing Charlie Daniels, The Marshall Tucker Band, The Allman Brothers, The Outlaws and especially Lynyrd Skynyrd.  I did and still do love each and every one of the records that came out of this time period.  Some acts, the Allman Brothers come to mind, have made some pretty good records since the hey day years of 1975-1980.  Some have shut it down and some have become a parody of what they once were (I love ya Charlie but could care less about your politics and your guns).

The one that hurts the most is Lynyrd Skynyrd.  Over the past twenty years I have listened to one of my all time favorite groups, one whose music was often misunderstood, turn into some cheap version of itself.  I thought it couldn't get worse than their last album God & Guns (Ronnie must be rollin' in his grave over that one - those old songs like Saturday Night Special were anti-gun!).  It's a Synyrrrrd Naaaation!  Uh, nope.
That brings us to the new album "Last of a Dying Breed".  With sole surviving original member Gary Rossington, Lynyrd Skynyrd has completed their transformation from genre defining innovators to standard issue modern day "country" act that is long on checklist songs and short on originality.  And I say "country" because much of what is coming out of Nashville these days has more in common with Nickelback than Hank my friends.

You want to keep making music?  Fine with me, just change the name.  This album has nothing to do with what was once America's greatest Rock & Roll band.  No southern fried hippies here...just Tea Party anthems and songs about chicks and sweet tea.

Maybe I'm too critical.  I might be missing the point.  I don't think so but maybe.  Decide for your self. 
New Skynyrd
 Old Skynyrd

For me the the choice is easy.  I'll go back to Second Helping or One More From The Road for my Southern Rock fix.  Nothing to hear here...move along.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Warren Haynes - Looney Tunes March 20, 2002

Warren Haynes
Looney Tunes CD's
March 20, 2002

1.  Beautifully Broken (missing about the first 5 or 6 seconds)
2.  Fallen Down
3.  Into the Mystic
4.  Soulshine
5.  In My Life
6.  One

Source:  DSBD > CD-R > Media Join > CD Wav>CD-R>mp3

I had the original CD-R from this show and all that was done was to re-track it and re-burn to CD-R.  This rip is at 192 kbs and it sounds great.  The first 5 or 6 seconds on Beautifully broken was not recorded.  I believe that one of the Allman Brothers sound guys did the board mix that evening.

You can get this here.

Enjoy the music and spread it freely.  Don't sell these kinds of'll have bad karma dude!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Allman Brothers & Santana at Jones Beach

The Allman Brothers were at Jones Beach last week for their annual summer stop on Long Island and this year brought Carlos Santana along for the ride.  I've seen Carlos a couple of times before, and while I am a fan of much of what he has done, I have never been blown away by his live shows.  This year was no exception.  The ban was tight, almost too tight, and there was a lack of fire in his playing.  This is not the same Carlos that you saw at Woodstock my friends and he hasn't been in decades.  Judging by the crowd response I was alone in my opinion and his 100 minute set was a big hit.

I've seen the Brothers too many times to count over the year and I've seen them great and I've seen them suck.  This year had me concerned...Gregg looked and sounded, well tired.  Very tired.  He appeared to run out of breath a bunch of times when he was singing and he had a very lethargic look.  It seems like years of hard living have caught up, and I hope this is not the case, leaving his touring future in doubt.

The good news is the band played their asses off during their set.  I kind of like when they play the shorter one set show.  The band is much more focused with less time to play so their forays into experimentaiton were limited.  That doesn't mean they didn't stretch out on Mountain Jam with Carlos or a smoking Liz Reed.  The set was loaded with early "hits" and the crowd ate it up, although a lot of the women around me looked bored (Santana was the favorite for many of the ladies in attendance).  Susan Teeschi joined in for Don't Think Twice and the whole show wrapped up with Whipping Post.

01. crowd
02. One Way Out
03. Statesboro Blues
04. Come and Go Blues
05. Worried Down With The Blues *
06. Midnight Rider > In A Silent Way >
07. Mountain Jam >
08. Smokestack Lightnin' >
09. Mountain Jam **

01. Done Somebody Wrong
02. Don't Think Twice ***
03. Good Morning Little School Girl ****
04. In Memory of Elizabeth Reed
05. crowd
06. Whipping Post
I truly hope I'm wrong about Gregg's health...he has me worried about his and the band's future.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Hillbenders - Grey Fox 2012

 The Hillbenders were the surprise for me at last year's festival and I was thrilled to see them on this year's schedule.  In fact we got 3, count 'em 3, sets from the finest young bluegrass outfit that I have heard.  Yeah, they play bluegrass,but with an energy and a rock & roll sensibility that makes for one seriously good time.  The main stage set was good, but the two sets in the dance tent were just out of control.  Crossroads!!!  I hope they're back next year.

A suggestion:  how about getting on a tour with one of the jamgrass bands and expanding their audience.  The live Hillbenders experience is just electric...with acoustic instruments!

The new album is due for release soon.  Check 'em out.

Ana Popovic - Boulton Center 7/27/12

With nothing to do on a Friday night I decided to grab some tix for the Ana Popovic show at the Boulton Center in Bayshore (Long Island).  I had heard a little bit of her material but was pretty much unprepared for how good a guitar player she is.  I mean she flat out can play.  Straight blues, slide, a little funk...

The almost two hour show featured a big chunk of last year's album "Unconditional" and the material was pretty good.  In addition to the title track I also really liked "Summer Rain" and "One Room Country Shack".  Each and every song featured some stellar solos from Ana and her band.  These guys play a lot of shows together and they are tight. 

Women have a often have a tough time competing with the guys, especially when playing the blues, but Ana Popovic is a better player than a lot of her contemporaries.  The Ana Popovic Band will be on tour in the USA through May 2013. Check 'em out.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Bruce Springsteen - MSG 2009

So you  might be able to tell from some of my posts I am a HUGE Springsteen fan and have been of over 30 years.  I try to get to as many shows each tour as possible and was lucky enough to be at both of these MSG shows from 2009.  The first night features a complete The Wild, the Innocent and the E. Street Shuffle and the second a jaw dropping complete version of The River.  The links are two of the finest sounding ROIO's that I have ever heard.  Simply fantastic.

You can get night 1 here.

You can find night 2 here.

Both of these releases appear to be from Crystal Cat and claim to be audience/iem matrix mixes.  Whatever they are the sound and performances are top notch.  A must have for any Springsteen fan.