Here are selected reviews from Goldmine’s February 2017 issue:
Universal Music (5-CD, 3-LP or 2-LP Box Sets)
This reissue of The Who’s explosive 1965 debut album, “My Generation,” is quite spectacular. It captures the Shepherd’s Bush-based quartet as they were morphing from an R&B cover band to the Mod band performing songs written by their guitarist, Pete Townshend, and sung in swaggering, tough-guy fashion by lead vocalist Roger Daltrey. As a result, the album is a mixture of blues covers (James Brown’s “I Don’t Mind” and “Please, Please, Please” and Bo Diddley’s “I’m A Man”) and Townshend originals (“My Generation,” “The Kids are Alright,” and “A Legal Matter” among others). Townshend’s snarky lead vocal in “A Legal Matter” stands in stark contrast to Daltrey’s vocal style. The album closes with the rollicking instrumental “The Ox,” which seems to be a four-way battle between Townshend, bassist John Entwistle, drummer Keith Moon, and pianist Nicky Hopkins. Taken as a whole, “My Generation” is a stellar starting point for The Who. Still, The Who as they were on this album seem an altogether different band than the one that produced “Tommy” only four years later.
The 79-track, 5-CD box set features the “My Generation” album in both the original mono and a 2014 stereo mix that was done by Townshend using the same guitars and amps that he used in the original recording and Daltrey using the same type of microphone. The other CDs in the set feature mono and stereo mixes of bonus tracks (including Townshend’s “I Can’t Explain” and “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere” and a cover of Martha Reeves and the Vandellas’ “(Love Is Like A) Heatwave” and Townshend’s demos. Some of the bonus tracks and demos have been released previously on other compilations, but there are several that have never seen the light of day before.
The box set also includes an 80-page color book featuring photos from around the time that “My Generation” was recorded, notes about the album by Townshend, and replicas of flyers and posters for gigs of the period.
The re-release of “My Generation” will also be available in LP format in two different compilations. The three-LP set will feature the “My Generation” album in a mono mix, mono mixes of bonus tracks, and demos. The two-LP collection includes the stereo mix of the “My Generation” album and stereo mixes of the bonus tracks.
While The Who have sometimes been criticized for the numerous compilations of their work that have been released over the years, this re-release of “My Generation” will surely be of interest to anyone that is a fan of the band’s early work.
— John Curley
The Rolling Stones
“Blue & Lonesome”
Interscope Records (CD, LP or Deluxe Set)
Brian Jones originally formed The Rolling Stones for one singular purpose: to hip Brits to the blues. To that end, their self-titled 1964 debut featured covers of Willie Dixon, Jimmy Reed, Chuck Berry and Rufus Thomas. He taught Mick Jagger how to play harmonica and, once famous on the other side of the Atlantic, demanded that the producers of NBC-TV’s Shindig include an appearance by Howlin’ Wolf. I was one of those kids whose life changed at 14, when in ’65, I saw the towering Howlin’ Wolf belt out his blues. I haven’t stopped listening since.
Fast-forward 52 years and the Stones are back to being nothin’ but a little blues band again covering their idols. And it works. Famously. For it is here where Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, their new guy Ron Wood (who joined in ’75), plus bassist Darryl Jones, piano player Chuck Leavell and lead guitarist Eric Clapton (on two tracks) rock the blues the way it’s supposed to be rocked.
Jagger, 73, is older now than the blues greats he interprets when they recorded such gems as Little Walter’s 1960 “Just Your Fool,” Magic Sam’s 1967 “All Of Your Love,” Little Johnny Taylor’s 1971 “Everybody Knows About My Good Thing,” Lightnin’ Slim’s 1958 “Hoo Doo Blues,” Otis Rush’s 1956 “I Can’t Quit You Baby” and seven others. His voice has seasoned into a weathered blues yelp and I dare say his harmonica playing is right up there with Little Walter himself.
The two best tracks on “Blue & Lonesome” are the ones with Clapton, who adds his sting to the Taylor and Rush covers. Boomers who are so used to the dinosaur stomp of Led Zeppelin’s version of “I Can’t Quit You Baby” should revel in the rootsy moving execution of a song already ingrained in our DNA. The rest of you will now know the true essence of this band, stripped of extraneous rock star glory, and pounding the blues for all the right reasons.
Thank you, Brian Jones.
— Mike Greenblatt
“Thin Red Line”
Varese Sarabande (CD)
Originally released on Richard Perry’s Planet Records in 1980, The Cretones’ “Thin Red Line” finally sees its initial CD release more than 35 years later. Although they were lumped in at the time with the flood of major label power pop acts that attempted to follow in the commercially successful footsteps of The Knack, in retrospect the Cretones now seem more like an unholy alliance between yacht rock, power pop and new wave. The 10-song affair had the requisite snappy pop melodies and some lush vocal harmonies, but also featured a smooth, glossy production sheen and ample doses of keyboards and singer/songwriter Mark Goldenberg’s slightly edgy lead vocals.
Goldenberg’s tunes are pretty solid all the way through and as the informative liner notes explain, he had a like-minded foil in bassist/producer Peter (Son of Elmer) Bernstein. Together they crafted an easy-to-like record that is probably best known for containing three tunes that Linda Ronstadt covered on her platinum selling “Mad Love” LP, which was released within weeks of “Thin Red Line.” Ronstadt’s versions of “Mad Love,” ”Justine” and “Cost of Love” borrow the Cretones’ arrangements to the letter and while it no doubt bolstered Goldenberg’s bank account, the Ronstadt connection didn’t do much to further the Cretones’ career. (After 1981’s sophomore effort “Snap! Snap!,” the band was finished.)
Although “Thin Red Line” didn’t crack the album charts, the catchy, keyboard-dominated single “Real Love” did manage to make it to No. 79 on the Billboard Hot 100. Other key tracks that still sound fresh include “I Can’t Wait” (which Goldenberg co-wrote with Andrew Gold), the forceful “Here Comes the Wave,” the bubbly title track, and the new wavey “Mrs. Peel,” which is strongly reminiscent of Elvis Costello’s “Less Than Zero.” Three previously unreleased bonus tracks are appended to the disc, the best of which is 1981’s “Taking the World With Kisses.”
— John M. Borack
“Before The Dawn”
Fish People/Concord Records (3-CD, 4-LP Box Sets)
Given that Kate Bush hadn’t performed an extended run of shows since her 1979 “Tour of Life,” her 22-night residency at London’s Hammersmith Apollo in 2014 naturally generated much excitement. Though two nights of the show, “Before the Dawn,” were filmed for possible DVD release, Bush ultimately decided to only make the show available on an album.
Bush could having easily satisfied her devoted following by putting together a set list of hit singles, some choice album cuts, and a few new numbers. But if it were that simple, she wouldn’t have taken 35 years to stage a new show. Bush wanted to take her audience on a journey, and so drew on two thematic pieces for the bulk of the production. Nonetheless, as the three discs make clear, “Before the Dawn” has its more conventional elements as well.
Disc one covers the show’s opening sequence, immediately revealing that Bush’s voice has become stronger and more robust over the years; just listen to the wailing blues of “Lily.” Disc two presents the “Ninth Wave” song suite, side two of 1985’s “Hounds of Love,” depicting a woman in the throes of drowning. This section isn’t quite as strong, as the special effects the live show featured added so much. But disc three, the “A Sky of Honey” song suite from 2005’s “Aerial,” is as mesmerizing as the album version, and might even surpass it; such is the excitement generated by Bush and her superb musicians and singers (including her son, Albert McIntosh). As a bonus, there’s also a previously unreleased track, “Never Be Mind,” that was cut from the show.
Need it be said? If you’re a Bush fan, this is essential.
— Gillian G. Gaar
“The Very Best of The Searchers”
Varese Sarabande (CD)
The first stateside Searchers compilation in several years, “The Very Best of The Searchers” is a stellar, 18-track collection of nearly all of the band’s U.S. and U.K. chart singles from the ‘60s, along with two album-only cuts. All of the Merseybeat pioneers’ Pye (in the U.K.) and Kapp (U.S.) charting A-sides are present and accounted for; the only thing missing is their 1963 cover of Brenda Lee’s “Sweet Nothin’s” that topped out at No. 48 on the U.K. charts.
Led by the fantastic 1-2 pop punch of 1964’s “Needles and Pins” (which hit No. 1 in the U.K. and No. 13 stateside) and Jackie DeShannon’s “When You Walk in the Room” (which rose to No. 3 in the band’s native England and, inexplicably, only made it to No. 35 in the U.S.), the majority of the cuts on “The Very Best of The Searchers” are first-rate interpretations of material from outside songwriters. (The only original included here is the Chris Curtis/Mike Pender-penned “He’s Got No Love” from 1965, which sounds not unlike a Phil Spector-produced cousin/precursor of “19th Nervous Breakdown.”)
Some of these covers that struggled to make the lower reaches of the charts are among the finer moments on this collection: PF. Sloan’s “Take Me For What I’m Worth” and Bobby Darin’s “When I Get Home” deftly straddle the line between beat music and folk rock, while The Searchers’ readings of The Hollies’ “Have You Ever Loved Somebody” and The Rolling Stones’ “Take It Or Leave It” are sublime.
Of course, The Searchers’ biggest US hit, “Love Potion Number Nine,” is here, as is one of the band’s similarly novelty-oriented (and rather dismal) U.S. follow ups, LaVern Baker’s “Bumble Bee.” Faring better are the rollicking “Someday We’re Gonna Love Again,” the gently folky “What Have They Done to the Rain,” and another sparkling Jackie DeShannon cover, 1965’s “This Time,” which inexplicably was never released as a single.
The liner notes attempt to make some sense out of The Searchers’ confusing singles discography (which varied wildly from the U.S. to the U.K.), and also provide a capsule history of the 1962-1966 incarnation of one of the more underrated British singles acts to hit the charts in the wake of The Beatles.
— John M . Borack
“Dear Jerry: Celebrating The Music Of Jerry Garcia”
Rounder (2-CD Set)
On May 14, 2015, at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia Maryland, this “once-in-a-lifetime” concert honored the Grateful Dead’s guitarist/singer/songwriter Jerry Garcia (1942-1995). I dare say the 20 songs on two CDs, besides being one the best live albums of the year, is probably better musically than the Grateful Dead itself ever was.
It’s all here: “Uncle John’s Band,” “Sugaree,” “St. Stephen,” “Touch Of Grey,” “Ripple” amid a few surprises like “The Harder They Come” (as performed by Jimmy Cliff, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann) and “Get Out Of My Life, Woman” (as written and performed by the late Allen Toussaint).
The house band is one from hillbilly heaven. Bassist/producer Don Was, guitarist Buddy Miller and Nashville legend mandolinist/fiddler Sam Bush might be the stars but the sound of Hammond B-3, accordion, pedal steel and three female background vocalists make these songs come to life.
Participating artists include Phil Lesh, David Grisman, Peter Frampton, Jorma, Bob Weir, Disco Biscuits, MOE., O.A.R., Los Lobos (with Weir jamming on “Bertha”), Trampled By Turtles, The Yonder Mountain String Band, Grace Potter (who, with Weir, nails “Friend Of The Devil”), Eric Church and Widespread Panic.
By the time the full ensemble comes back for a tear-stained “Ripple,” one has to marvel how this music will, indeed, stand the test of time and be played hundreds of years from now as our folk music — but not as dexterously jam-happy as this — and certainly not by these wonderful musicians.
— Mike Greenblatt
“Spider From Mars — My Life with David Bowie”
By Woody Woodmansey
St. Martin’s Press (Hardcover)
You know the rudiments of the story… Woody Woodmansey, once of Mick Ronson’s Hull-based band The Rats, spirited to London to join an up-and-coming singer-songwriter, and alongside him as he both upped and comed.
Vivacious across four of David Bowie’s most crucial albums, the 1970-73 run of “The Man Who Sold The World,” “Hunky Dory,” “Ziggy Stardust” and “Aladdin Sane,” Woodmansey and his fellow Spiders were the bedrock upon which Bowie’s entire career was born, before being carelessly dropped (Woodmansey was fired on his wedding day) at the end of that span.
He shows little bitterness… he and Bowie reconciled later, and explanations were given. But more than that, Woodmansey knows what he and his bandmates contributed to the story; and, as the last of the quartet left alive, knows the tale that he tells here can never be repeated.
Bowie is, of course, one of rock’s most over-biographied figures, but Woodmansey tells Goldmine that those other tomes were of very little use to him. “They were only instrumental in helping me decide to write my memoirs, (ranging) from pseudo-intellectual journalists who apparently ‘knew more about our motivations and creative processes’ than we did, they even professed insight into Bowie’s psyche… to fans who obviously gathered together second hand information from people who were never actually present. I felt most of them belonged in the ‘myths & legends’ section!”
“My Life as a Spider” sets the record straight in direct, but nevertheless entertaining style — Woodmansey writes with easy skill, retelling an adventure that begins as a wannabe drummer, hoping against hope to convince his parents that he can make it as a pop star, and wryly remarking that his father, at least, never seemed that convinced even after he’d done it.
His post-Bowie years, too, fascinate, as he floats between his own bands (a revamped Spiders, the excellent U-Boat) and hired gigs that included a stint with Art Garfunkel. But it’s his time with Bowie which fires this book, and observations that are second to none.
“I guess he was hungry for recognition and was very focused on demonstrating his unique ability to write,” Woodmansey explained to Goldmine. “Every song he wrote had, during the early period of his career, something special about it.”
That something special is still evident as Woodmansey leads his new band, Holy Holy, round the circuit, playing full sets of Bowie oldies; and that story tops and tails his memoir. It’s a fabulous tale, though, and as our first truly ground-zero view of the true rise and fall of Ziggy Stardust, it belongs at the top of every Bowie fan’s reading list. None will be disappointed.
— Dave Thompson
Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow
“Memories in Rock – Live in Germany”
Eagle Rock Entertainment
Ending his self-imposed exile from hard rock, Ritchie Blackmore led a reconfigured Rainbow through three shows in Europe in June of 2016. Vivid, high-definition footage from outdoor performances in the German locales of Loreley and Bietigheim comprise this lavish memento of those occasions.
Packaged with extensive liner notes and colorful photos, “Memories in Rock – Live in Germany” is a 2CD/DVD spectacle that finds Blackmore and company dusting off a fairly predictable litany of Deep Purple and Rainbow classics with utter panache. To the unwashed horde of enthusiastic attendees, so out of place in these lovely, summery venues, the return of Blackmore’s Rainbow — in whatever form — was cause for celebration.
Superb camera work captures their sheer delight, while paying keen attention to band dynamics and the legendary guitarist’s still vigorous and fluid fretwork. Just as rich and immaculate as the imagery, pristine sound enhances pieces like “Mistreated,” the song’s slow, bluesy burn roughed up by powerhouse singer Ronnie Romero. Though tired, dragging versions of “Since You Been Gone” and “Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll” lack conviction and a pulse, the rest of “Memories in Rock – Live in Germany” is rather heady stuff.
Blackmore’s ripping leads on a turbo-charged “Highway Star” are the stuff of legend, while the growling riffs and crunchy stomp of a wickedly infectious “Man on the Silver Mountain” never sounded so satisfyingly evil. Exotic mystery is coaxed out of “Perfect Strangers.” The cosmic atmospherics of “Catch a Rainbow” are expanded in mesmerizing fashion. And before giving way to playful, interesting solos by drummer David Keith, bassist Bob Nouveau and keyboardist Jens Johanssen — making dark, gothic organ sounds — Blackmore’s nimble fretwork leads the frenetic charge through an otherwise jaunty “Difficult to Cure (Beethoven’s Ninth).”
Rainbow has risen once again.
— Peter Lindblad
SHOCK AND AWE
Dey St. (Paperback)
Genre: Music history
Summary: This engagingly written book examines the length and breadth of “glam rock and its legacy,” as the book’s subtitle puts it, from Marc Bolan and David Bowie to “Rock Follies” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” with nods along the way to Queen, Wayne County and Iggy Pop, among others. An extended “Aftershocks” section covers the “legacy period,” from Poly Styrene’s “glorious” music to Nirvana covering “The Man Who Sold the World.”
I’M LOOKING THROUGH YOU
Overlook Press/Omnibus (Hardcover)
Genre: Music History
Summary: Do you miss “The Beatles Book” fan magazine? Then waste no time in picking up this book. It’s a loving tribute to the only magazine the group ever authorized, drawn from a truly impressive archive of photos — many never before published. An invaluable visual document of Beatles history in the ‘60s.
UNDER THE BIG BLACK SUN
Da Capo Press (Hardcover)
Genre: Oral History
Summary: John Doe anchors this collection of memories from those who survived the L.A. punk scene (including Henry Rollins, Mike Watt, and Jane Wiedlin and Charlotte Caffey of the Go-Go’s). A scene often overlooked in punk histories that focus on New York and London. Not a narrative history, it’s like listening to a group of friends reminisce.
HENDRIX AT HOME: A BLUESMAN IN MAYFAIR
Handel House Trust Ltd. (Paperback)
Genre: Music history
Summary: This booklet is an illustrated guide to one of Jimi Hendrix’s residences in London at 23 Brook St., next door to where classical composer George Handel lived. Both homes are now open to the public, and this guide gives you a good idea what life was like for Hendrix during the period that he lived there. If you can’t visit in person, order through the website, handelhendrix.org.
— Gillian G. Gaar
Journey of Dreams
MVD Visual (DVD)
Summary: A beautifully rugged documentary on a beautifully rugged band. Morphine was easily one of the best groups to gain acclaim in the ‘90s. But tragedy struck at the end of the decade: the vocalist/bassist Mark Sandman died of a heart attack, and in turn the band’s demise came way too early. It makes for a poignant film with guest admirers Henry Rollins, Steve Berlin and Joe Strummer to help round it out.
Growing Up Live & Unwrapped + Still Growing Up
Eagle Rock Entertainment (2-Disc Blu-ray)
Summary: After the release of his 2002 “Up” album, Gabriel went on tour to support it and, as always, put on a tremendous theatrical show. It’s all covered on this reissue of “Growing Up Live,” on Blu-ray for the first time. Hit tracks “Sledgehammer,” “In Your Eyes” and “Solsbury Hill” are given their due, but much from “Up” is brought into prominence here. It’s certain to be a pleasurable experience for the loyal Gabriel fan, and for those unfamiliar with “Up,” this live show may be the best introduction. This set also includes “Wrapped,” with its look behind the tour, and “Still Growing Up,” which covers the 2004 expansion of the tour into more intimate venues. It’s a nice addition for an already decent retail price.
Gary J. Jucha
The Clash FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the Clash City Rockers
Backbeat Books (Paperback)
Summary: A new release in Backbeat’s FAQ series is one of its best. Jucha’s honest, passionate style about one of his favorite bands helps the flow of facts in The Clash’s unique storyline. It feels fresh and fun, which is hard to pull off in the crowded field of music history.
T.A.M.I. Show/The Big T.N.T. Show
Shout! Factory (Blu-ray)
Summary: Artists who defined a generation are on display again but now in Blu-ray splendor (a step up from “electronovision”). The T.A.M.I. Show (1964) and even the follow-up of The Big T.N.T. (1966) captured American popular music and the British Invasion in an exciting way. An enjoyable Beach Boys’ set and a Stones performance of Chuck Berry’s “Around And Around” emphasize that perfectly.
— Patrick Prince