Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Recent Releases of Note

  • ABBA - The Visitors [2-disc deluxe reissue]
  • ABBA - Voulez-Vouz [12" vinyl extended dance remix]
  • Beatles - Tomorrow Never Knows [iTunes exclusive compilation]
  • Beatles - Yellow Submarine [DVD reissue/Blu-Ray debut]
  • Billy Bragg & Wilco - Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions [3 CD/1 DVD] [first two discs are reissues; 3rd CD is previously unreleased material]
  • Phil Collins - Live in Montreux 2004 [2 DVD]
  • Crosby Stills & Nash - CSN 2012 [2 CD or 1 DVD live set, or sold as a DVD/CD combo]
  • Mickey Dolenz - Remember
  • Bob Dylan - Tempest
  • Duane Eddy - Duane Eddy [CD reissue of 1987 album, with 2 bonus tracks]
  • Electic Light Orchestra - Electric Light Orchestra [CD/DVD reissue of debut album with bonus cuts & video]
  • Art Garfunkel - The Singer [2 CD retrospective including two new songs]
  • Genesis - Spot the Pigeon EP [vinyl reissue of 1977 release]
  • Nanci Griffith - Intersection
  • George Harrison - Living in the Material World [documentary on DVD]
  • John Hiatt - Mystic Pinball
  • Elton John vs Pnau - Good Morning to the Night
  • Knack - Havin' a Rave Up: Live in Los Angeles 1978
  • Knack - Rock and Roll is Good for You: The Fieger/Averre Demos [previously unreleased demos recorded prior to the Knacks debut LP]
  • Gordon Lightfoot - All Live
  • Aimee Mann - Charmer
  • George Martin - Produced by George Martin [DVD documentary]
  • Paul McCartney - Ram [reissue, released as 1 CD, 2 LP, 2 CD, or 4 CD/1 DVD, each with more bonus material]
  • Willie Nelson - Heroes
  • Paul Simon - Graceland [reissue with bonus cuts & DVD documentary "Under African Skies"]
  • Paul Simon - Live in New York City [2 CD/1 DVD of 2011 concert]
  • Regina Spektor - The Prayer of Francois Villon [45 RPM single]
  • Regina Spektor - What We Saw From the Cheap Seats
  • Loudon Wainwright III - Older Than My Old Man Now
  • Joe Walsh - Analog Man
  • Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Americana
  • Neil Young - Waging Heavy Peace [book]
  • various - Quiet About It: A Tribute to Jesse Winchester [iTunes only tribute album, includes Elvis Costello]

Upcoming Releases
  • Beatles - Magical Mystery Tour [DVD reissue/Blu-Ray debut] [10/8]
  • Beatles - Box set of all original albums remastered on vinyl [11/13]
  • Beck - Song Reader [this new release will only be available in sheet music form; no audio] [12/11]
  • Johnny Cash - The Complete Columbia Album Collection [63 CD box set] [10/30]
  • Iris Dement - Sing the Delta [10/2]
  • Jeff Lynne - Long Wave [10/9]
  • Jeff Lynne - Mr. Blue Sky - The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra [new recordings of ELO hits] [10/9]
  • Paul McCartney - Live Kisses [DVD] [11/13]
  • Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Psychedelic Pill [10/30]
  • various - Holidays Rule [Christmas compilation of new music including Paul McCartney]

On Tour in the Tri-State
  • America - Carmel - 10/6; Newark - 11/15
  • Iris Dement - Cincinnati - 11/15; Nelsonville - 11/16
  • Stacey Earle & Mark Stuart - Eaton - 11/28; Barnesville - 11/30
  • Firefall - Columbus - 10/12
  • Fresh Beat Band - Cleveland - 10/13; Evansville - 10/24
  • Jim Gaffigan - Indianapolis - 11/3
  • Amy Grant - Indianapolis - 10/5; Cincinnati - 12/7 - 12/9
  • Indigo Girls - Cleveland - 11/1; Bloomington - 11/2
  • Huey Lewis & the News - Lexington - 10/19; Cleveland - 10/21
  • Aimee Mann - Columbus - 11/8; Cincinnati - 11/9
  • Monkees - Cleveland - 11/19
  • Moody Blues - Cleveland - 12/3; Indianapolis - 12/6; Louisville - 12/7
  • Leon Redbone - Cleveland - 10/19
  • Regina Spektor - Cleveland - 10/12
  • Bruce Springsteen & the E-Street Band - Louisville - 11/3
  • The Who - Louisville - 2/16; Columbus - 2/17
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic - Louisville - 10/14
  • Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Cleveland - 10/8

Guest Reviews!

I Was Just Trying to Help - Sit Down Servant!!
by Jim Bates

The blues has a long tradition of Saturday night music and Sunday morning songs.  Saturday night blues are all about the carnal pleasures of sex, drinking, and broken hearts; but Sunday morning blues are much more subdued and spiritual, time to repent for the activities of the night before.  Up until now, Gordie Johnson has focused on Saturday night music with his reggae-rock hitsters Big Sugar and his heavy metal blues band Grady.  But with Sit Down Servant!!, Gordie has found himself immersed in the gospel blues; of course, with some dub touches along the way.

The album is a mix of traditional spirituals and Johnson originals, featuring Johnson on guitar and lap steel and Stephane Beaudin on drums.  While the Black Keys and Jack White have found that they need a bass player, Gordie has done without, using Moog bass pedals to keep down the bottom end.

The album starts out with the traditional “In My Time of Dying” and both the dub and slide guitar are full force.  Rather than the Zeppelin force many expect, this song is languid and laid back...more a prayer than a demand.  “If You Think Your God Is Dead” rocks out with the funk and is both hugely enjoyable, with its “If you think your God is dead, try mine, he’s still alive” chorus a good life lesson.  Things get all slide guitar and bluesy with “Wrapped Up, Tangled All Up In Jesus.”  A spiritual experience indeed...  Things continue on with a cover of “This May Be The Last Time” and Gordie revisits “Motherless Children” and makes the original Big Sugar cover redundant.  The originals kick in with “Old Landlady Blue” which recounts two plights of the common man...paying the rent, and the worrying that his woman will only love him forever if he can keep it together.  “Blackbird Bakey Pie Blues” moves things to the secular side of the blues with a sexual plea.  (Look, even a man trying to walk the righteous path needs sex...)  We return to the spiritual with the dirge “Between Heaven And Dripping Springs” before Gordie revisits Big Sugar’s “Tired All The Time.”  Things close out with the slide guitar infused “Don’t You Miss Me When I’m Gone.”

Being both stripped back, and with lesser volume than normal, this project allows Gordie’s passion and slide guitar to shine.  That it also brings a sense of joy is an added bonus.  “I Was Just Trying to Help” once again demonstrates that traditional songs and music styles can still be appropriate in our modern world when treated as living and breathing organisms, and not just as museum pieces.

Big Moon Ritual - Chris Robinson Brotherhood
by Jim Bates

You have to pity the Grateful Dead-inspired jam bands; you know those groups that are so much better live.  When they do find the time to get off the stage and hit the studio, often the results are left wanting.  Sadly, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood’s first album is just another example of this phenomenon.  Maybe it is because I had seen the band play most of these songs in person, at four different shows, before I got the album, but the recordings leave me feeling lukewarm.  Honestly, I’d rather listen to them on the live albums.  This is not to say it is a bad album.  It actually is really is know...better live.

Listener’s Note:  There are seven songs on this album and the shortest is 7:08.  This may drive fans of three minute songs crazy.  The rest of us wish they were longer...

Things start out with “Tulsa Yesterday” and this is the major misstep on the album.  Cool song, cool jam, but what is the deal with the choice of effects on Neil Casal’s guitar for the solos?  Odd and really distracting  “Rosalee” is kick-ass trippy funk which asks the important question “Is the air getting thinner or am I getting high?”  The song is propelled by Adam MacDougall’s clavinet and is always a highlight of the live set.

Query:  How is a guy...Adam MacDougall...who seemed rather perfunctory playing keyboards with the Black Crowes, such a monster on this album? In fact, he is close to the highlight of both the album and the band.  He certainly deserves the keyboard wizardry tag of the liner note.

“Tomorrow Blues” is also driven by a MacDougall groove, this time on Moog.  Again, great song...better live.  Further proof of the curse is found with the evidence of “Reflections on a Broken Mirror” and “One Hundred Days of Rain.”  These are the two songs I had not previously heard in person and they are my two favorite performances on the album.  Really cool songs...but I wonder if I would have said they were better live, if indeed I had heard them live before I got the album?

So to sum it up, a damn good album by a really great band.  There are cool songs, cool jams, some really nice lyrics, cool grooves, and great vocals by Chris Robinson...but you know what?  I’d rather see them live...

Scott Lucas & The Married Men - Blood Half Moon
This album came branded with a big, red sticker that read something like “Rock music for fans of alt-country,” which isn’t too much of a stretch.  If that wasn’t enough to ease alt-country concerns, said sticker assured (or possibly warned rock fans) that the tunes contained within were backed with violin, accordion, piano and organ.  Rest assured, this second full-length album from Scott Lucas & The Married Men is a much heavier sound than the group’s debut -- “George Lassos The Moon.”

“Lover The Lullaby” gets things started with a catchy whistling melody, and while not exactly a lullaby, it sounds more like a pirate ballad for the Old West.  Once violin and all the backing instruments promised on our sticker show up, the album is off to a rustic rock & roll start that accurately sets the tone for what’s ahead.

The slow and thoughtful “Blood Half Moons,” which seems to suggest finding oneself in lonesomeness, and the cover of the traditional, apocalyptic and biblically injected “There Ain’t No Grave (Gonna Hold My Body Down)," are naturally the main highlights of the album.  The latter is an eight minute build that shouldn’t be played anything short of 11, and seems too short even for Lucas who continues the chorus long after the music stops.

“Steady Gaze” will snag most listeners right out of the gate and is probably the catchiest song on the album, with one of the best lyrics:  “tell the oft-told tale of girl and boy / where we wind up chewed up puppy toys.”

The promise to alt-country fans is fulfilled with an easy sway in “Old Worries.”  About halfway through, the “alt” kicks in and the sway seems to soar with a steady rock.

“Out Of The Boat” could easily be a criminally overlooked track, with a very slow, string-plucking melody that is ever so slightly reminiscent of good Neil Diamond.  The chorus is repeated enough early on that listeners won’t be able to resist tagging along for the latter half of the song, singing “You don’t know how to feel / you don’t know how to feel / you change your mind / you’re freezing time / it’s too real.”  After about four and a half minutes the song has sped up, gained the rest of the band’s vocals, and simply bleeds rock & roll for the last five.

Of course the elephant in the room is if this alt-country stuff will appeal to fans of Lucas’ other group, the alternative rock duo Local H.  Fair-weather H fans will likely be on board with Lucas’ songwriting and the casual hooks that could be hints to the frontman’s other hobby, but die-hards may not be hip to the “country” influenced sound that’s laced throughout the album.

Filled with songs suggesting darker subject matter, most of the melodies are upbeat and are very genuinely pop-rock, if not just as rustic.  The juxtaposition of tune to lyrics seem to suggest at times simply that “everything will be okay.” Likewise, listeners on the fence can accurately heed the sticker’s cautionary tale.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Neil Armstrong passed away on August 25th at age 82.  I don't think he and Caniff ever met, but their stories managed to intersect in other ways.  It's no surprise that this aviation legend would have connections to Milton Caniff, aviation's biggest booster and enthusiast.  Like Caniff, Armstrong was born and raised in Ohio.  Both were Eagle Scouts, and later each received the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award.  Above is the official portait of Neil Armstrong in the National Aviation Hall of Fame (NAHF).  I recommend a visit to the Hall in Dayton to see this and the other portaits of the enshrinees.  The majority of them are by Caniff, who did the portaits up until his death in 1988.  

The NAHF also annually dedicates the Milton Caniff Spirit of Flight Award to an organization that has made sustained, significatnt contibutions to aviation and the space program. In 2004, the award was given to the Aerospace Medical Association (AsMA), with Neil Armstrong as presenter.

Dr. Russell Rayman and Dr. Melchor Antunano of the AsMA with the award.

In 2009, the Spirit of Flight Award was given to the Apollo Astronaut Crews, resulting in a rare reunion of 12 Apollo astronauts, Armstrong included.

The Apollo Astronauts (Armstrong 4th from right)

This is one of my favorite pieces by Caniff.  It's an envelope cachet for the launch of the Apollo 11 commemorative stamp.  I've tried for years to get more information on the background of this piece, without much luck.  If any philatelists can clue me in, I'd love to hear from you!

Neil photo by Ron Kaplan
Drs. by John Shannon

photo by Robert Cunningham
Armstrong 4th from right
July 17, 2009

More information on Spirit of Flight