Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2010 - What Can We Expect?

After the strong showing at the end of '09, I'm rather optimistic about the upcoming year. There are rumors I'm hearing, and I also have some hopes in my own head.

My two favorite current rumors are that Mott The Hoople will do some shows upon these shores in 2010 (I've heard rumblings of the spring), and that Robert Pollard will reunite with former Guided By Voices Guitarist Doug Gillard, for at least a record (this was confirmed this morning by Pollard staff).

 Gillard and Pollard teamed for the 1999 record, Speak Kindly of Your Volunteer Fire Department, which many in GBVland refer to as the best album Guided By Voices never made. I'm in agreement to a degree, but I'd say that Speak Kindly, had it featured a full production (all instruments were played and recorded by Gillard on 4 track quite admirably, but I like full production and world class drummers) , may have been one of the greatest records ever, period. The pair recorded together as a team for many years and a return can only but be a grand thing. Gillard has been absent from any major attention for too long. He's a tremendous guitarist and deserves a much larger audience.

Pollard is coming off one of his best years and I'll assume that his trajectory will keeping going upwards. If you're not a Guided By Voices listener, change that, and change that soon. The band (and Pollard as well in literally a hundred other projects) has an amazing catalog that never received the listeners it should have.

A Guided By Voices reunion is probably too much to hope for, but I will anyway. They were on any given night the perhaps best live band in the world.

A reconvening of the two main players can only bode well for listeners. Robert Pollard is as good a songwriter as anyone. A talent for melody that may be unsurpassed when considered as a whole life's work. The man oozes inventive melody.

Then there's the continuing of Mott the Hoople. Having just written of them I'll keep this brief, but I do hope they make it to America this year, and I also hope that the recordings from their London reunion shows are fully released . The reviews on his web site's message board ( have been excellent, and if they weren't excellent, they wouldn't be reviewed as such. Hunter's fans seem to mirror their star, having slight time for bullshit or hypocrisy. Also, check out Hunter's Horses Mouth column, where he's been answering fan's questions for many years. Great stuff.

Elsewhere, there's much to hope and dream for. A return to rock by Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple, Rainbow) would be a great place to start. He's been doing fine with his minstral act for a long time, but the world could use a dose of Blackmore rock. This may be a problem though, as his old singers have had a rough time of late with David Coverdale cancelling shows with throat problems, Ronnie James Dio being ill, and Ian Gillan saying he has no interest in sharing a stage with Blackmore. Still, I'd love to hear him return to some rock.

Some new rock by Jimmy Page would be nice as well. Led Zep's reunion left all excited and none satiated. With John Paul Jones making big noises with Them Crooked Vultures, Page must be chomping at the bit after Zep's failed singer search. Plant's obviously not interested, but that never stopped Page from working before. I still consider the Coverdale/Page record to be anongst his finest work. Fact is, most people didn't give it a listen for the mere fact that Coverdale wasn't Robert Plant.

In other worlds, Flea is working with Thom Yorke (Radiohead), doing live shows, but I've heard nothing of a record. Recently I had a dream in which I saw Flea onstage with Chris Cornell, and Steve Vai, and I woke up smiling. All these fellas need to give up some rock product this year. Cornell made no friends with his latest solo record, and Vai hasn't worked with a good singer in too long. Last time he did big rock was with Coverdale in Whitesnake, and it was horrible, a bad match if there ever were, but Vai sounded great with David Lee Roth, and made his greatest record with Alcatrazz (Disturbing The Peace), way back around '85.

I hear my old friend Webb Wilder has released a new disc, More Like Me, on Blind Pig records. Webb's been making great roots rock, perhaps the greatest, since back in the mid 80s, and continues to toil in near anonymity, despite having one of the finest catalogs in existance. If you want to hear tons of great guitars, songs, and production, check out anything Webb's done. His recent live outing, Born To Be Wilder, is agood primer, featuring three great guitarists (George Bradfute, Tony Bowle, and Webb himself). Wilder is a great singer and entertainer, and has the best right hand of any rhythm player out there.

If the world ever figures out Robert Pollard and Webb Wilder, there might be hope yet, but, while I ain't holdin' my breath, I am crossing my fingers.

I could go on, but enough for now....I'm sure you've got wish lists of your own. Good luck with 'em.

Wrapping it up, I'll add that I hope to have a record ready for release by mid-March. I'll be recording in the guise of Tax Revlon, my old punk/glam rock moniker. I figure the world could use some loud, exhuberant rock. I've got some great help lined up, and will be discussing it here as it progresses.

Happy 2010.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cheap Trick: Can't Stop The Music

And I for one, hope they never do. I've just finished watching Sgt. Pepper Live, and I got blown away again. Cheap Trick have this great habit of reinvigorating themselves every few years, having done it over and over throughout their career. They've been knocked down and counted out more times than a crappy club fighter, but they never, never, never give up.

The Latest, their new studio release is another excellent release following in the footsteps of Rockford, giving them consecutive stunners.

Rick Nielsen has to be considered perhaps America's most gifted hard rock composer after all these years, and all those songs. Who's got a better track record? Who's even close? In fact, I'll go out on a limb (fairly confidently) and call Cheap Trick America's greatest hard rock band.

If one was to go about compiling a disc or Ipod collection of classic Trick cuts, it will end up being a rather lengthy document. You've got to pretty much include the whole of their first four records, the complete Budakon package, a surprisingly long list of 80s output that sounds much better on reflection (it became rather easy to ignore the band during that period), their next rebirth around the time of Woke Up With A Monster, the excellent live set Music For Hangovers, and then on to their superb showing at the end of this decade.

The entire band are state of the art at their jobs. Robin Zander remains perhaps the finest pure singer in all of rock, a tremendously underrated vocalist. His performance on Sgt Pepper Live is as great a live performance as I have ever heard. He nails the inflections and power of both Lennon and McCartney time and time again. He's lost very little in range and power over the years, which can be said of very few elder rock statesmen. He's managed to save himself from the rigors of the road and still sounds better than most singers half his age.

Tom Peterssen masterfully handles Sir Paul's complex and sophisticated basslines throughout the show, and his tones are never less than perfection. While he's always been an excellent bassist in and of his own right, his playing of this masterwork is stunning. There's about a hundred places on the Sgt. Pepper's record where McCartney plays unlikey, inventive licks, and Peterssen seems to have caught them all, and been able to replicate them, no mean feat. Try it sometime, it's a bitch.

Drummer Bun E. Carlos. What needs to be said? Bun E. Carlos. One of rock's best drummers and a rock icon. He's been the glue that's held the band together for 35 years. And he's a legendarily nice guy, and a reknowned musicoligist. He knows every band in every city, and has the records to prove it. When the rock and roll hall of fame gets around to inducting players, Bun should be among the first inducted. Again, the ability and ease with which he nails The Beatles's classics will convinve anyone who could possibly need convincing.

And we all know that Cheap Trick is Rick Nielsen's band. We know that, right. As much as The Who is Townshend's, and Guided By Voices is Pollard's, Cheap Trick is Rick Nielsen's baby. The man is a criminally under valued songwriter, who stands alongside Tom Petty as America's great rock writers. Then there's the matter of his axe handling. While not a shredder in the Van Halen, Vai sort of way, the man is a brilliant soloist, and a tasteful guitarist extraordinaire. The difficulty of covering all the ground he does cannot be overlooked. He may have done himself a great disservice with the whole Huntz Hall goofy guy routine. He's as iconic as Page or Beck in his own off centered way. Ain't that a shame that he's better known for his guitar collection than his awesome writing and playing.

Whether the band's image and look help or hurt, it's damned hard to say, but for whatever the reason Cheap Trick has been given short shrift in the eyes of the world at large. Yeah, they've done well, but they really dererve far greater respect than they have garnered.

They've got my vote as America's best hard rock band of all time.

Go buy both The Latest, and Sgt.Pepper Live. You won't be disappointed, and get the DVD of the Pepper show, you'll want to watch that one. It's truly amazing.

Cheap Trick: on tour soon (what's new?)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Redemption of Ian Hunter and Mott the Hoople

Ian Hunter is doing some of the best work of his life at 71. Nearly written off by the mainstream, He's never been left behind by the true. Now the mainstream will rush to rejoin as the man ends 2009 with two Huge victories. The only thing that could make me happier would be to be up and writing again, and I am.

Mott the Hoople reign as perhaps the number one punters of the people band of all time, long remembered and loved for great shows and superb records. In the aftermath of their acrimonious breakup in 1974, there was really only Hunter's solo career to follow for lovers of Mott. The band reconvened after Hunter split, as simply Mott. BIG mistake. On a new listen some 35 years later, Mott's debut record, Drive On, reveals itself as a wonderful, wonderful spin, sounding much like everything that was good about the bombastic hard rock that dominated the next decade. Cool tunes, great production, superb guitar work by Ray Majors, Nigel Benjamin's vocal histrionics, and surprisingly strong writing by Pete "Overend" Watts, Columbia Records should long rot in Dante's 7th level for making them use the Mott moniker, for this could have only did what it did which was alienate every Hunter loving fan in Mottdom, for this ain't Kansas, Toto. With another name this band and it's first great album would have done what Mott the Hoople never did do - break America. They were ahead of their time, but following their past they couldn't but stumble. Mott the Hoople lived for 35 years as a mythical legend for those lucky enough for having experienced "the great trip."

So after a career that looked so bright, yet ended with great disappointment, anger, and bad vibes, Mott seemed through. Decades came and went as we waited and dreamt of a return to our youthful hopes and dreams, 'cause that's what Hoople fans do, y'know.

When I heard there was to be a reconvening, my first thought was, "Thank God"; my next thought was, "Dear God." While it seemed a dream come true, so much water had passed under this bridge that I feared what we'd find. Hunter, while still doing excellent work, had long left behind the high drama we loved so dearly, replacing it wih great wisdom and grace as perhaps one of the few remaining visionaries from the '70s who'd not lost his way. His output has remained stellar, but few would term it Hoople-ish. The rest of the band had faded into what I had heard described as, "a comfortable British retirement," with Ralphs slowing down the pace considerably, to Watts running his store and doing no public music of which I'm aware. While the thought, the very possibility of a reunion made my heart flutter, I also considered the possibity of a disaster, which at this point in the match none of us can afford. It's one thing to watch America crash and burn, but to think of a Mott crashing was just too disconcerting and bothersome. At that point the whole thing may be irreparable.

I had forgotten how to dream. And that's my fault and my fault alone.

The shows could not have been a bigger success, with the usually bitter, vitriolic British press singing praises both unanimous and vigorous. The reunion got called "the best ever"; the shows were termed "perhaps in their own right, the best concert ever."

Go find the reviews yourself, I read great remarks in Classic Rock, Mojo, and Q, and I'm certain there are more. They read like a real life Rocky, yeah, as if Stallone were still pulling it off at 71.

Ian Hunter is not shy, not timid, and not afraid. In the face of his old band's reunion, he had the stones to put out a solo record almost simultaneously, an act either bold or crazy. Turns out that you could debate the two events 'til you were blue and maybe not ever resolve which stood tallest. I'm not going to write a review of Man Overboard but it'samongst my favorite new records in a very long time. Better with every listening. The title song is as great as anything the man's written, and this is not hyperbole. I've got to mention the production and the sound of Hunter's voice. Hunter, York, and Moshay made a record that sounds like a rock band playing as a rock band should play. Tasteful, well played, and smartly sophisticated. Hunter returns for the first time in a long while to the dramatic, elegant changes that marked his best writing with the Hooples. Key changes, intriguing musical interludes, and cool signature riffs mark almost every tune.

Go buy Man Overboard today, not tomorrow, but today. And go find a copy of the 3 disc set of the reunion shows that I hear are available in the UK. I need to scare up a copy myself.

In a world that seems so tenuous and fraught with instability, I offer these acts of Ian Hunter as proof that we're gonna be OK. Maybe not today, but we'll be OK.

For great pics from the reunion go to:

Peace, Love, and Loud Guitars.