Tuesday, May 27, 2008


THE Handwritten lyrics of "Give Peace a Chance" are to be auctioned in July. The lyric sheet was given to a fan who snuck past security to hang out with the Lennons at their "bed-in for peace" in Toronto, where they also recorded the song.

YOKO Ono and the holders of hours of video tape of John Lennon are awaiting a May 21 hearing to see who controls the video, which was shot by Ono's ex-husband, Anthony Cox. The holders of the tapes say they bought them from Cox. Ono claims the footage was private and never meant to be seen by the public.

OVER the weekend, Sir Paul was honored by Yale University with an honorary Doctor of Music. An enraged McCartney demanded an additional Doctor of Film for his '80s opus, 'Give My Regards to Broad Street'.

LEXUS gave Paul a new hybrid luxury sedan earlier this month (guess he can't afford one!). Instead of shipping it by boat they sent it as air freight, which burns more fuel. Those who have bought into the global warming hoax have been critical of the move, McCartney himself was reportedly "horrified". McCartney also wants the world to "go veggie".

McCARtney is headlining a Liverpool concert on June 1st which also includes Foo Fighters and a few Liverpool bands. It's McCartney's contribution to the city of Liverpool being designated Europe's 'Capital of Culture' for 2008.

"I REAd the news today, oh boy," and got a free copy of Macca's latest CD, Memory Almost Full with the May 18th edition of the London Mail. Sir Paul's generosity extends to a free concert in Kiev, Ukraine on 6/14. For those wanting to go, flights to Kiev run about $2900...which I think is what I paid to see him in Columbus.

ALSO, having just spent $47 million dollars to get rid of his wife, McCartney wants to bring her on his next world tour because it's the only way he can see baby Beatrice.

AS MEentioned here, the two Traveling Wilburys albums that were issued last year as a collection will be re-released as individual albums (Volume One and Volume Three. Thought wanting one without the other is like wanting a left arm but not the right. Should you own these albums in some form? Should you own a copy of 'Star Wars'...or the Bible? I still recommend the set instead. You get the same music plus a DVD for a lower price.

RINGO key rings? It's not a dream...it's true. Find them along with more snazzy merchandise on the Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band tour...maybe coming near YOU! Tour member Colin Hay sez, "It's a mistake for you not to geet tickets. Wait, I'm getting another call. Who can it be now?"

ORF Wit' his head! A topiary sculpture of the Beatles, only recently unveiled in Liverpool, was vandalized when some scouser decapitated Ringo. Starr upset the local faithful on the telly recently saying that he missed "nothing" about Liverpool, contradicting the sentimental lyrics on his latest album (reviewed here), Liverpool 8. "It's damp and it's cold and it's dark," said the former Dingle resident. Way to promote the Capital of Culture, Ringo!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008



Rock 'n roll icon Chubby Checker continues to make history when he brings his tour to Belterra Casino in Florence, Indiana, which is a short drive from Cincinnati. I've interviewed Chubby twice before, in 1999 and 2000, when he was coming to Evansville, Indiana, and I was a writer for a paper there called News4U (which I think is now defunct). I took the occasion of Chubby's coming to my town to reconnect with him and hear what he's thinking about these days.

The last time I interviewed Chubby, he was very emphatic about his legacy, what he calls 'Dancing apart to the beat'. You see, according to Chubby (and his website), 'dancing apart to the beat', where couples dance together without touching, did not exist before he did "The Twist" on "American Bandstand" in 1959. Ergo, everything that followed, from disco to the rave, owes something to Chubby Checker. He makes a good case, but the way he was so emphatic and adamant about it took me by surprise back then. Eight years later, he's mellowed about it...or not. "In the 20th century", he says, "we’ve done things that no ones ever done. Like on this telephone, we’re talking right now. I always call myself the Alexander Graham Bell of the music industry because I gave rock ‘n roll the dance that it never had: The Twist, The Fly, The Pony, The Shake, The Hucklebuck. I mean, all these dances have been going on since I came on the stage on “American Bandstand” in 1959. I went on “American Bandstand” when I was in high school and changed the world right then, right then and there. “The Twist” is the only song to be #1 twice. It’s the biggest song of the Sixties. Think about that. All the British Invasion and all of the Woodstock, “The Twist” was the biggest song of the Sixties. We’re the only people that had five albums, not in the Top 100, we had five albums in the Top 12, all at the same time on the chart…nine double-sided hit songs, first platinum – “Let’s Twist Again”, first Rock ‘n Roll Grammy – “Let’s Twist Again”."

Rattling off his impressive resume is second nature for Chubby, but what really gets him excited is when you ask him about his new single, "Knock Down the Walls." Chubby hasn't had a major label release since 1982's 'The Change Has Come' on MCA, and his last releases, like 2001's instructional 'Sixty Minute Workout', went by mostly unnoticed. But now Chubby Checker has gone digital - "Think about that. “Knock Down the Walls” you can get on iTunes and Amazon.com. That song is Chubby Checker 21st century. It has even no shades of the 20th century. In fact, most performers, your great performers and the most popular people that are making millions of dollars today, can’t even come near that song. That song is 21st century. I don’t think any man or woman that comes from the 20th century can match what we’ve done with “Knock Down the Walls”. And there’s nothing like it. It’s totally…don’t expect to see the Chubby Checker that you knew. All my old fans, I don’t know that they might want to gravitate to this song because it’s so unlike anything that I’ve ever done. In fact, I have a lot of new, young fans, that start at about nine or ten years old to 25 years old, that covet this song, “Knock Down the Walls”. It’s nuts. It’s crazy. I’m getting play on Adult Contemporary. I’m getting played on Top 40. I haven’t been on Top 40 radio since 1965. “Knock Down the Walls” has given me some new territory…familiar territory that I’m familiarizing myself again with Top 40 radio. Some of these disc jockeys weren’t even born when Chubby Checker came around, but they really love this song and the song is getting a lot of airplay."

For all of his talk about hit records, it struck me that his desire to get the song played went beyond fame or profit. I mean, a legend like Chubby Checker can't get any more famous. He really wants to share this song with the world: "Only about 5% of the people have heard this record. We’re struggling getting airplay, but you know something? I think they’ll come around...when they realize that we’re making a statement in the music industry once again with a great new song that the new people that really like it are picking up the phone and asking for “Knock Down the Walls” and the message that “Knock Down the Walls’ has is probably the best message in the music industry today. Not because I did it. I just think God gave it to me and I put it out there."

You can hear the song for yourself on MySpace, download it, or wait for it's release as part of a new 'greatest hits' package: "July 22nd is the official release of “Knock Down the Walls” and what we did – it’s a double-sided CD. One side is the 20th century and the other side is the 21st century." But don't just settle for the music, as Chubby explains:"We have a new t-shirt, called ‘King of the Twist’ t-shirt, and we have a new candy bar, the world’s only checkerboard chocolate candy bar. By September 1st, 10,000 stores will have all these records and t-shirts and candy bars. So, I’m really excited. I’ve got a second chance. It’s just great."

So, if you're heading out to see Chubby, expect to hear his new song and his old favorites, but prepare yourselves: "We're gonna kill 'em. That's what we do. Take out your insurance. We’re coming. That’s what we do. You know the centerpiece of this show is not about me. It’s about the people. They are the centerpiece of this show. They always have been. I play for them. I mean, they are the most important part of what I do. And this is why out of all that we’ve done – we don’t get a lot of airplay, we should; we don’t get the recognition that we deserve; we’ve done more things than most singers have ever done – but what’s kept me in business is what we’re going to be doing at Belterra. That show that we have…nothing can touch it. It’s just so perfect. For some reason, we’ve created perfection when we do our live show. Our live show’s kept us in business all of these years. This has been the pearl of my success – the live show."

I couldn't let Chubby off the line without getting him to say something controversial (unless he already had!), so I turned the conversation to politics and the burning question - has Chubby Checker endorsed a candidate? "A long time ago...and I’m not saying who I did, either. But I’ll tell you something. Something wonderful is happening in America right now. I think that our country is getting ready to look totally different in the face of the entire planet. We’re the greatest country in the world and I think this election is going to prove that we are the greatest country in the world. We’re able to reach out to all the countries in the world and make peace in the whole planet. I really believe that. We’re at a time in our lives right now where America really stands up for something. It’s wonderful."

Chubby Checker and the Wildcats will be appearing May 24th at Belterra Casino, Resort and Spa in Florence, Indiana. For ticket information visit their website. For more Chubby Checker tour dates, visit chubbychecker.com.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Every six months I try to put together a list of recent and upcoming releases and tours.  This is all about music that I'm interested in and hope you are too.  I used to send this out as an e-mail to my disinterested friends and family.  Now I have a blog to foist it on the disinterested public.  It may scare you to learn I've been working on the list in bits and pieces for eight weeks.  Special thanks to fellow blogger Jim Bates for giving me a first look at his two album reviews (at the bottom of this post).

Recent Releases of Note - in for titles in red, a review follows in the last section of the post
  • Black Crowes - Warpaint
  • Johnny Cash - The Best of the Johnny Cash TV Show
  • Johnny Cash - Live from Austin, TX [CD/DVD]
  • Elvis Costello & the Impostors - Momofuku
  • Elvis Costello - This Year's Model [deluxe edition reissue]*
  • Bob Dylan - The Dylan Trilogy**
  • Bob Dylan - Dylan [3-cd career retrospective]
  • Bob Dylan - Dylan [1-cd compilation of 3-cd set]
  • Electric Light Orchestra - Platinum***
  • Flight of the Conchords - Flight of the Conchords
  • Gary Louris - Vagabonds
  • Magnetic Fields - Distortion
  • Mudcrutch - Mudcrutch
  • Willie Nelson - Legends of the Grand Ole Opry
  • Willie Nelson - Live from Austin, TX [CD/DVD]
  • Willie Nelson - Moment of Forever
  • Willie Nelson - One Hell of a Ride [4-cd career box set]
  • Randy Newman - Leatherheads [movie soundtrack]
  • Frank Sinatra - Beautiful Ballads & Love Songs
  • Frank Sinatra - Sinatra at the Movies
  • Mark Stuart - Left of Nashville
  • They Might Be Giants - Here Come the 123s [CD/DVD]
  • I'm Not There soundtrack - cover versions of Dylan songs
  • Walk Hard:The Dewey Cox Story soundtrack - many songs written by Dan Bern

Upcoming Releases
  • Stacey Earle - Just Along for the Ride [Sept.]
  • Stacey Earle & Mark Stuart - Love from Stacey & Mark [May]
  • John Hiatt - Same Old Man [5/27]
  • Billy Joel - The Stranger [2-cd reissue] [7/8]
  • Billy Joel - The Stranger [2-cd/2-dvd box] [7/8]
  • Move - 4-cd box set ['08]
  • Move - Looking On [reissue w/bonus tracks] ['08]
  • Sam Phillips - Don't Do Anything [6/3]
  • Frank Sinatra - Nothing But the Best [5/19]
  • Traveling Wilburys - Volume One [6/3]****
  • Traveling Wilburys - Volume Three [6/3]
  • Neil Young - Archives ['08] [on Blu-Ray disc only]

On Tour in the Midwest
  • Crosby, Stills & Nash - 7/16 - South Bend
  • Stacey Earle & Mark Stuart - 6/17 - Bloomington
  • Davy Jones - 7/4 - Indianapolis
  • Alison Krauss & Robert Plant - 7/15 - Cleveland; 7/18 - Lexington
  • Gordon Lightfoot - 9/24 - Cleveland
  • Willie Nelson - 8/1 - Louisville
  • Tom Petty - 6/22 - Cleveland; 7/3 - Noblesville; 7/8 - Cincinnati
  • John Sebastian - 8/9 - Cleveland
  • Loudon Wainwright III - 9/27 - Indianapolis
  • Weird Al Yankovic - 7/3 - Indianapolis; 7/5 - Merrillville; 7/6 - Toledo
  • Weird Al Yankovic - 7/20 - Columbus; 7/21 - Cincinnati
*Costello is reissuing his catalog yet again.  The first major overhaul was on the Ryko label in 1993 where bonus tracks were added to each album on a single disc.  In 2002, the entire catalogue was reissued as 2-disc sets, with the original album on 1 disc and a 2nd disc of bonus material.  This new reissue series on Universal represents a further expansion, with bonus tracks added to the original album on disc one and a complete live concert of the era on disc 2.  I’ve already bought ‘This Year’s Model’ three times, so…thanks, but no thanks.

**Box set of three most recent studio albums – ‘Time Out of Mind’, ‘Love and Theft’, and ‘Modern Times’.

***2-disc reissue of the compilation albums ‘Burning Bright’ and ‘ELO Classics’.  If you only get one ELO compilation, avoid these and buy the excellent ‘All Over the World’ from 2005 or 2-disc ‘Light Years’ from 1997.

****The Traveling Wilburys Collection released last year is split into separate discs, retaining the bonus songs from the box set discs.  

Flight of the Conchords – Flight of the Conchords

This album is basically a collection of songs from the HBO series “Flight of the Conchords”. I raved about last year’s EP here and I think their series was the best comedy on TV in 2007 (find the DVD ). Packaging the songs outside of the context of the show (using the word “context” in the loosest possible way) lacks a little something. In the show, the songs are married to amusing/interesting video, such as the soft-focus French film pastiche of “Foux du Fafa.” The songs “Robots” and “The Most Beautiful Girl (in the Room)” worked better on the EP as live cuts. For their next album they should look at recording a club show. My recommendation is to buy the EP and the TV series, and maybe download “Bowie”, the song on the album that works best as a standalone.

ONE HELL OF A RIDE – Willie Nelson

It’s hard to sum up a 50 year (and counting) recording career in 4 discs, especially when the artist being memorialized has been as prolific as Willie Nelson. The red-headed stranger has 92 albums by this collection’s count (an album cover gallery is included in the booklet). So, remarkably this isn’t part of the ongoing plot to get you to buy everything you already have again.

The set is a solid overview of Nelson’s output, including the hits and highlights and choice duets. If anything is given short shrift it’s the more recent material. ‘Across the Borderline’ from 1992 was a creative triumph and a return to crossover success and his highest charting album since 1984 (it was also the album that got me hooked on Willie). It’s represented here with four tracks, while the dozen or so albums to follow garner only eight tracks between them. This is a shame, because rather than rest on legendary laurels, Nelson continues to search and explore the musical landscape. So, if your Willie collection is sporadic (I only have the Liberty set and about half his output since ‘Borderline’) this package doubles as an historical document and a great listen.

Gary Louris - Vagabonds

Gary Louris has created his own kind of gospel, but they are hymns for the desperate corners of life. They’re not just about the drifters and drug abusers, but folks like you and me, some drifting through life. The occasional use of a small choir, which includes Jenny Lewis and album producer Chris Robinson, elevates the emotional timbre, particularly on “She Only Calls Me on Sundays”, where it seems in conflict with the song’s subject. The album at times feels depressing, but the arching message is uplifting, as represented in the snippets of lyrics below and summed up by one song’s title lyric “We’ll get by but we don’t know how.”

Some folks look for saviors
Some for missing pieces
Some for earthly ecstasy
Some they look for Jesus
- “Omaha Nights”

I want to laugh or say a prayer
I never had a cross to bear so beautiful
- “To Die a Happy Man”

Find a way
Feel without a trace
Feel fulfillment in this small corner
- “True Blue”

EXCLUSIVE!!  Two reviews courtesy of A Scale Canadian

By Jim Bates

I have no idea what possessed Tom Petty to reunite his early 70s band Mudcrutch, but boy am I thankful that he did. Recorded mostly live in 10 days Mudcrutch’s decades late debut album has an early start as one of the best albums of 2008 and in many ways it adds a new chapter to Tom Petty’s storied career.

To catch you up on the story, Mudcrutch was formed in 1970 in Gainesville, Florida. Moving to California they signed with Shelter Records and recorded a single. In 1975 the band broke up and it appeared they would be best remembered as Tom Petty’s first band. However, here we are in 2008 with a Mudcrutch album. Mudcrutch is Tom Petty on bass and vocals, Mike Campbell on guitar, Randall Marsh on drums, Tom Leadon on guitar and vocals, and Benmont Tench on keyboards and vocals.

This is Tom Petty and company at their most country rock. They seem to have more energy and passion then seen in the last few Petty albums. It sounds like everyone is having fun. Apparently the loose fun breeds success. Standouts include the opening folk cover “Shady Grove,” the first single “Scare Easy”, and the Stills inspired “Bootleg Flyer.” You many not be surprised from the titles that these are story songs. “Crystal River” finds a way to be pretty, psychedelic, and hypnotizing. Petty tends to keep it tight on his records, but in “Crystal River” the band jams and stretches out. “Oh Maria” recalls the Almond Brothers and tells a tender love/stalker story about a drug dealer. “Topanga Cowgirl” makes me want to move to Topanga Canyon right this minute. Benmont gets to take lead vocals on “This Is A Good Street. Hey Ben…that is a good song…you should get to write and sing more often. Clearly the highlight of the album is a rocking cover of the Byrds “Lover of the Bayou.” In fact this album seems Byrds inspired. Not the early Byrds Petty usually references, but the later Sweetheart of the Rodeo and beyond Byrds. The album’s only misstep is a cover of “Six Days on the Road.” Not that it is bad, but the world just doesn’t need another average cover of “Six Days.” Note to rock bands…forget this song…

After the disappointing Highway Companion and a few predictable setlist summer tours, Tom Petty sounds rejuvenated and has crafted the most enjoyable album of 2008 so far. I wonder if we will ever hear from Mudcrutch again?

The Black Crowes - Warpaint
By Jim Bates 

Lets get this out of the way immediately. Warpaint does not reach the rarified plateau of Southern Harmony and Musical Companion or Amorica. Does that mean it is a bad album, or in any way a disappointment? No not at all. It just doesn’t rise to the level of two of the best rock albums of all time. Happy?

Ok, now with that out of the way, we can evaluate Warpaint in and of itself. Warpaint is the first Black Crowes studio album in seven years and the first since the Crowes reunited in 2005. It also marks the introduction of Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars on guitar and Adam MacDougall on keyboards. Produced by Paul Stanley, it clearly represents where the Black Crowes stand in 2008 and it appears the band is very happy with the album. This is an album by a band that has grown up and older. They have weathered many personal and professional storms and are still standing. They may not rock as hard as they used to, but the band appears comfortable in their skin and that shows in this album. It is not a new direction, just a continuation of the jambalaya of influences including the blues, folk and county intermixed with good old-fashioned rock and roll, which has been a staple since Southern Harmony.

The album opens with Goodbye Daughters of the Revolution a mid tempo rocker that is a Black Crowes signature. Chris Robinson spits out lyrics that appear to be almost a challenge to the conformity of American Society. In fact, that may be the theme of the album. We have become complacent in the millennial suburbs with out chain lives. It is time to wake up and fight for our utopia...whatever that may be. Walk Believer Walk is a song that so unifies the Crowes and the blues that it makes you wonder how wasn’t written and recorded for Amorica. Fire, brimstone, and guitars. If you aren’t on the bus, wake up and get off the bus. But then the album settles down with Oh Josephine. This song has been singled out by Chris and Rich Robinson as being one of their favorites on the album. What starts out as a folk ballad soon morphs into a jam and the clearly the lyrics “It's too late to play it safe, so let's let it all ride” have become a mantra of the band. In addition, Chris has never sounded better vocally. That being said, the chorus is slightly clumsy in the Chris Robinson way, and the jam and structure of the song does follow closely to Girl from a Pawnshop. Evergreen is nothing but a silly catchy rock song and it is an excellent example of such. We Who See the Deep is a psychedelic challenge to the non-believers and Locust Street is a beautiful country weeper that Gram Parsons could be proud of. In my opinion Movin' On Down The Line is both the centerpiece of the album and a huge shock. “It's all right, sisters, it's all right, brother, we all get down sometimes.” Life, depression, and the strength to hold on and keep moving. This song smacked me across the face and dared me to pay attention. A huge surprise and by far the strongest song on the album. Next up is an energetic bass drum fueled cover of Reverend Charlie Jackson’s God’s Got It. Sadly, we then reach the album’s only misstep. There's Gold In Them Hills is about finding riches in California...could that be the music business...set to an old west kinda tune. A cool concept, it just doesn’t work as a song. Another gold rush allegory Whoa Mule works. “Whoa mule, whoa mule, we're dirty but we're dreaming, whoa mule, whoa mule, we'll both get there someday” Pretty much that is life now isn’t it? The tune itself is a jaunty folk country song that was recorded outside in upstate New York. A very strong ending to a good album, it is another of my favorites on the album.

While they may never scale the heights of their early 90s success either in a musical or commercial sense, this is a better album then I expected from the Crowes in 2008. They continue to fight for what they believe in and while that makes them quite unique in the 2008 music business, it has been a long-standing trend for the band. Give it a spin with an open mind, you might find that you enjoy it.

P.S.: Hey Maxim, I listened to the album 100 times before writing this review. Thank you, that is all.

Monday, May 5, 2008


My introduction to Jack Benny may have been when Radar did an impression of him on “M*A*S*H”. The episode, ‘Movie Tonight’ from Season 5, originally aired in 1977. I probably saw it then, having to watch what dad or my brothers wanted to watch, or in the reruns as ubiquitous in my own life as they have been on television. Or maybe it was on local public radio station WVXU, which had a daily block of old-time radio shows for many years, and currently carries the syndicated program When Radio Was, but I don’t remember ever making a habit of it.

For awhile there in my early teens, I was interested in a line of old time radio shows on cassette (yes, I've been weird a long,long time). They came on a spinner rack that would turn up in an odd store here or there. One of those I had was a Jack Benny show. Benny's radio show was so popular that his personality quirks became instant laughs when even hinted at. He was notoriously stingy with money, was never older than 39 and fashioned himself a violin virtuoso (all the while playing up the screeches and miscues). Benny's comic legend was in his timing. He turned pausing into an art form, garnering howls for saying nothing.

writing all of this purple prose because a local PBS affiliate here is currently running episodes of his TV series, "The Jack Benny Program" from the mid-1950s as "The Best of the Jack Benny Show". I'm not sure how they're choosing which shows to run. The handful so far have been from 1955. This is about the time he's transitioned fully from his radio show (1932 - 1955) to his television show (1950 - 1965).

I guess I was just thinking about all the people who have no idea who Jack Benny is...and that bothers me. I was heartened by the blog of an apparently young woman who's crazy about Benny's fellow radio/TV pioneers, Fibber McGee & Molly. Here are a couple of examples of his show from YouTube.

First up, Benny disguises himself to win cash from Groucho Marx on "You Bet Your Life"...

next, Benny with series regular (and cartoon voice legend) Mel Blanc.