Thursday, February 24, 2011


I've been pestering Ted Haycraft for years to write guest reviews for my music report. This time he came through, and boy did he ever! I decided to make his "Sound Bit(e)s" a separate entry. Ted and I worked for rival comic book stores in Evansville, Indiana in the '90s. Our friendship started in 1996 when he invited me to co-write a comic book column for News4U, the local free entertainment monthly. Ted also had regular columns reviewing music and movies for News4U, and is the movie reviewer for WFIE-14, the NBC affiliate in Evansville.

the party ain’t over – Wanda Jackson
This the latest example of a younger producer of note producing an older musician of note, like Rick Rubin/Johnny Cash, Jack White/Loretta Lynn, Jeff Tweedy/Mavis Staples. The Party Ain’t Over’s combo is White (again) and the 73-year-old Queen of Rockabilly - Wanda Jackson. I always find these types of team-ups fascinating and a lot of fun, and this one is no exception. White starts out the proceedings with a searing “Shakin’ All Over” and the ‘party’ pretty much stays in high gear until the last cut. Jackson still has a lot of spunk in her voice and appears to be having a blast with the song selection that White has come up with. Of special note is a fast and furious cover of Bob Dylan’s “Thunder on the Mountain”, specifically picked by Bob himself (he referred to her on his radio show as “an atomic fireball of a lady”). My only reservation about the album is Jack’s enthusiasm almost gets the better of him with the instrumentation (especially the brass section) being a little too much in your face. In fact my favorite cut is the last one a nice low key cover of Jimmie Rodger’s “Blue Yodel #6” which brings the ‘party’ to a nice pleasant ending.

MONDO AMORE – Nicole Atkins
I recall Atkins’ debut album, Neptune City, getting a lot of critical buzz on its release but I was a little underwhelmed when I sampled it and skipped on purchasing it. But when sampling her latest one, it made enough of an impression on me to take it home with me. The album is chock-full of dramatic pop ballads, for the most part, with a lot of poetic, metaphorical imagery that will have you coming back again to soak in its meaning. Over on a Paste Magazine review of this album, it notes that, since her first releaase, Atkins “broke up with her boyfriend, her band and Columbia Records." This insight really helps to pinpoint the meaning and explain the mood of this particular collection of songs. I may now have to go back to Neptune City and give it another try!?!!

BELLA – Teddy Thompson
Okay, let me say right off the bat this is a tremendous album (his 5th release) and really deserves a lot more attention than it will probably receive!!! Here’s one of those albums lined up with songs dealing with the ups and downs of looking for, holding on (way too long), breaking up and relating to the opposite sex. Thompson’s overall mood with these subjects is melancholy and severely introspective, but it’s all cloaked in infectious songwriting with nimble arrangements projected beautifully with Teddy’s mournful, Orbison-like melodious voice. The album kicks off with the feet-tapping “Looking for a Girl” which, if there was any justice in this world would get a ton of radio airplay! “Over and Over” is an amazingly insightful song about one getting through life and “The Next One” will strike a chord with anyone fresh out of a relationship that has ended. This album was produced by David Kahne (Tony Bennett, Paul McCartney, Regina Spektor…) and includes contributions from Teddy’s father, the overlooked and underappreciated Richard Thompson – go out and buy this album NOW!!!

The always intriguing, always evocative, always artistically evolving Polly Jean Harvey is back with a haunting and mesmerizing album that takes a penetrating look at her home country of England. Heavy themes abound, mainly focusing on the destructive force of war. Three of the songs specifically deal with the Gallipoli debacle of WWI. There’s no missing the intentions of Harvey’s viewpoint, but as usual her singing and musicianship – very beautifully stark and spare - pulls you in despite its downbeat feelings and messages. She herself in interviews has acknowledged how, with this album, she’s looking outward into the world as oppose to her usual inner musings. For my money, Harvey is one of a handful musicians that rewards constantly with each new album release due to her need for artistic challenges and changes.

MAGIC FACES – The Toddlers
The Toddlers are a local Evansville, Indiana band that I have followed pretty much since their beginning. They write their own songs, which of course is a nice diversion to the multitude of cover bands that populate my home town. Typically, their songs contain a mischievous tongue-in-cheek mode, with this new release being no different. Some of the subjects contained on this CD are: dropping kids off at a martial arts class, making the mistake of evoking the name of a dead person at the breakfast table, and being served lukewarm Kool-aid at Sunday morning church. They also can tone it down and be serious at times like with a melancholy ode to graduation day. Their sound is pretty unique which I liken to sort of a ‘60s vibe channeled through an ‘80s minimalist, DIY style (?!). Actually when seeing them play live, I also tend to see some Loudon Wainwright III characteristics permeating through them, especially when Eric Ridenour is singing! If you might be curious to check them out, their CD is available at or in Evansville at Joe’s Records and Abyssco.

Beefheart on the Brain
Speaking of PJ Harvey’s "Let England Shake," it turns out that Captain Beefheart was a big fan of the album. As you may recall, the great Captain (aka Don Van Vliet) passed away on December 17th. I was disappointed by the one page nod that Rolling Stone Magazine devoted to this very sad event. Actually, though, I figured they wouldn’t spend that much space to his passing and figured the UK music magazines that I follow, MOJO and UNCUT, would more than compensate for this oversight. And boy, did they deliver! The March issue of UNCUT devotes seven pages to him and the March issue of MOJO contains a ten-page tribute. The MOJO tribute includes a guide to key recordings, an amazing full page epitaph written by Jack White, and comments from PJ Harvey. Harvey would send him her albums before releasing them to get his take on them! Certainly Captain Beefheart can be a very acquired taste, but if one is serious about rock and roll music and all of its vast tributaries, then you’ll have to confront the good Captain at some point. These two articles are an excellent starting point.

Bob Dylan at the Grammys
I hope none of you missed Bob Dylan’s wonderful, bouncy performance of “Maggie’s Farm” at this year’s Grammy telecast. He was backed by a phalanx of musicians consisting of his own road band, Mumford & Sons and The Avett Brothers. This whole thing of him standing stage front with only a harmonica & microphone in hand is something he’s been doing a lot more recently, and seems to be a rejuvenating factor on his Never Ending Tour. I’m just glad he didn’t trip over that bass fiddle that was laying directly in his path when he came out from behind the curtains!!!

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Recent Releases of Note

Apple Records - Catalog reissues [available separately or 17-disc box set] (read Matt's review)
Beatles - now available on iTunes
Phil Collins - Going Back
Phil Collins - Live at Roseland Ballroom [DVD]
Elvis Costello - National Ransom
Bob Dylan - The Bootleg Series Volume 9: The Widmark Demos, 1962-1964 (read Matt's review)
Bob Dylan - The Original Mono Recordings [6-CD box]
Electric Light Orchestra - Live – The Early Years [DVD]
George Harrison - All Things Must Pass [vinyl reissue]
Indigo Girls - Holly Happy Days
Jayhawks - Hollywood Town Hall [CD reissue]
Jayhawks - Tomorrow the Green Grass [2-cd reissue]
Jenny & Johnny - I’m Having Fun Now
Billy Joel - Last Play at Shea [documentary]
Elton John - Gnomeo & Juliet soundtrack
Elton John/Leon Russell - The Union
John Lennon - Solo reissues (read Matt's review)
Jerry Lee Lewis - Mean Old Man
Paul McCartney - Band on the Run [multiple reissue formats]
Monkees - Head [3-CD Rhino reissue]
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers - Classic Albums: Damn the Torpedoes [DVD]
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers - Damn the Torpedoes [2 CD reissue]
Ravi Shankar/George Harrison - Collaborations [3 CD/1 DVD box]
Frank Sinatra - Best of Vegas
Frank Sinatra - Concert Collection [7 DVD box]
Regina Spektor - Live in London (read Matt's review)
Bruce Springsteen - The Promise [2 CD] (read Matt's review)
Bruce Springsteen - The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story [3 CD/3 DVD]
Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band - Live at the Greek Theatre 2008 [CD or DVD, 7/27]
30 Rock - Soundtrack
K.T. Tunstall - Tiger Suit
Neil Young - Le Noise
Various artists - The 25th Anniversary Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Concerts [3 DVD]

Upcoming Releases

Johnny Cash - From Memphis to Hollywood: Bootleg Vol.2 [2/22]
Billy Joel - Live at Shea Stadium [2 CD/DVD][3/1]
Allison Krauss & Union Station - Paper Airplane [4/11]
Nick Lowe - Labour of Lust [reissue] [3/15]
Stevie Nicks - In Your Dreams [5/3]
Roy Orbison - The Monument Singles Collection [4/5]
Paul Simon - So Beautiful or So What [Spring]
Simon & Garfunkel - Bridge Over Troubled Water: 40th Anniversary Edition [CD/DVD][3/8]
Joe Walsh - TBD [May]

On Tour in the Tri-State

Abbey Road on the River - Louisville – 5/26-529
Dan Bern - Cleveland – 3/2; Dayton – 3/5
Elvis Costello - Cincinnati - 5/16
Stacey Earle & Mark Stuart - Wapakoneta – 3/17; Cleveland – 3/18; Barnesville – 6/17
Colin Hay - Cincinnati – 4/27
Chris Hillman & Herb Pedersen - Bean Blossom – 6/2
Davy Jones - Ashtabula – 3/27
New Pornographers - Indy – 4/22; Cleveland – 4/23; Cincinnati – 4/26
Robert Plant - Louisville – 4/8
Neil Sedaka - Cincinnati – 4/29
Jerry Seinfeld - Louisville – 3/11

JIM BATES of A Scale Canadian reviews LE NOISE by Canada's NEIL YOUNG...
At first blush, a Neil Young and Daniel Lanois collaboration sounds quite attractive, both being Canadians and all. Sadly, "Le Noise" doesn’t quite live up to what could have been. We start off with "Walk with Me" and "Sign of Love,” which are both sonically and lyrically connected. Slashing electric guitar chords and electronic atmospherics set off Neil’s whine about love and the passage of time. It isn’t till part way through "Someone's Gonna Rescue You" that it all becomes clear…these aren’t bad songs or performances…they just need a rhythm section. Neil has missed what the Black Keys and the White Stripes know…you can drop the bass, but don’t forget the drums. If only some of the electronic bleeps and blips were replaced with real percussion. "Love and War" rises out of the electric noise as a much needed acoustic respite. It also may be Neil’s most honest and autobiographical song in years. He sings “When I sing about love and war, I don't really know what I'm saying” over some vaguely “Eldorado” guitar. We return to songs in need of a rhythm section on “Angry World.” Not a bad song, and not a bad performance, but you can just imagine how much better it would be with Crazy Horse or Young and the Restless backing Neil up. Much the same can be said for the pharmacological travelogue "Hitchhiker." A very old song,…in fact part was cannibalized for use in “Like an Inca”…the version here is just muddled. "Peaceful Valley Boulevard" is another acoustic track that starts off as a Western allegory and then morphs into an ecological hymn without making much sense along the way. The album ends with "Rumblin'" another track in need of some percussion. This isn’t a bad album, but it sounds more like a sketch then a finished product. Neither great nor terrible, it is just another in a long line of average Neil Young albums. Maybe next time we’ll get another classic.

NEXT WEEK...Legendary Evansville reviewer TED HAYCRAFT returns to music criticism with SOUND BIT(E)S...

Thursday, February 10, 2011


A few weeks ago we reported on the 'Terry & the Pirates' teaser strip that sold for over $38K at auction. You can read about that here. Last month a significant 'Steve Canyon' Sunday page sold for 30,000 Euros at BRAFA, the Brussels Antiques and Fine Art Fair in Belgium. This was the first 'Steve Canyon' Sunday, as well as the first appearance of Canyon himself. Capitalizing on the hype surrounding the launch of his new comic strip, Milton Caniff used the six dailies leading up to Sunday to heighten the anticipation for the title character's debut. On January 19th, 1947, readers were not disappointed.

How this landmark original art ended up sold by a Parisian gallery at a Belgian auction is something of a mystery. I inquired to the gallery as to the provenance, i.e., where did it go after being returned to Caniff at his New York studio. The gallery responded that Caniff gave it to a "European friend", and that it has been on exhibit in Europe on several occasions.

Here is how the printed version appeared in color, as seen at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum's Cartoon Image Database.

This is a blowup painting of one of the panels by Caniff. It was on exhibt at OSU during the Caniff centennial in 2007.

Top photo of the original is courtesy of Galerie 9e Art, Paris

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


It's kind of rude to write about an art exhibit after it has ended, but this one popped back on the radar at the last minute. "Inside Peanuts: the Life and Art of Charles M Schulz" is a traveling exhibit created by the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, California. The exhibit focuses on Schulz's life and work as well as the Peanuts characters.

The exhibit also features memorabilia from the five decades of Peanuts. I like the added touch of the comic strip as part of the bag for the Charlie Brown figure. I've also always loved the Sally vinyl figure. She didn't stay a baby for very long, and it has a certain purity.

"Inside Peanuts" is one of five traveling Schulz exibits. The exhibit itineraries can be found here. The "Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown" exhibit is scheduled to appear at the Louisville Slugger Museum in November.