In keeping with our highlighting note worthy new music here's a sweet romantic ballad called "The Things That Make You Beautiful" by the second president of the United States, John Adams.
Wait, I'm sorry, it's a different guy named John Adams. Who would have thought there'd be two guys with the same name (there are actually two U.S. presidents with that name). I wonder if this one is any relation?
This is a beautiful piano song with heartfelt vocals that relays the message of undying love in yet another and unique way which is the trick in writing a new love song. How many ways can a man suck up to a woman that hasn't already been done? In this case he's telling her that although time make take away her physical beauty, it cannot diminish the aspects of her being that truly make her beautiful.
"The Things That Make You Beautiful" is President Adams (sorry if I'm running a bad joke into the ground. It's my way.) new single but if it tweaks your interest and you want to hear more of him or if you're curious to see John himself, here's a previous video. It's basically in the same style but will help give you a better idea of who this guy is. "Dandelion Wishes" is more of a bigger production with acoustic guitar and strings rather than piano but his vocal style is the same.
"Dandelion Wishes" video.
I really don't have much information on John. His producer is Lee House, the guy who shot his "The Things That Make You Beautiful" video is Rhys Davies, the dancer he videoed is Georgia Jones, the co-writers (I assume of the tune) are Andy Morgan and Ron Rogers with Andy Morgan also being the pianist. The string players are Nerys Clark and Christiana Mavron, the venue is The Official Craig y Nos Castle and the video funding was provided by BBC Radio Wales and Horizons / Gorwelion. But where he's from, if he has a live band or upcoming shows, what his sign is, if he's married or single and what kind of a tree he'd be if he was a tree, I haven't the foggiest idea.
Since I don't have a good press kit on John Adams and no samples of the other tracks on his new CD to which I can listen, I'm going to tell you about another song from a bygone era that I always liked and of which "The Things That Make You Beautiful" reminds me. It's another beautiful piano song with achingly beautiful melody and vocals from a guy named Tim Moore. It's called "Second Avenue" and if my links work you can hear it here.
Hear the similarities? I'm not saying John Adams copied Tim Moore, I doubt he's ever heard this song before, but the two songs are similar in their beauty, sincerity and literary prowess. I hope John has a longer and more successful career than Tim as I never heard of him after "Second Avenue". Singer songwriter types are essentially tragic romantic characters in the great novel of love songs. I'm a bit of a poet myself, aren't I?
I received a link to the new music from the Canadian act The Big East. They're from the Lake and Cottage area of North Toronto but to my Southern Californian ears they sound a whole lot more farther South. On the track "What Dreams May Come" they even have a line that refers to "California sunshine and Mississippi mud", not to mention the pedal steel backup and decidedly Country accented lead vocals. In fact, I'd say that if you're hankerin' for a new Don Henley solo album, Hungry Ghosts might fit the bill very well. The lead vocalist could easily front a Don Henley or an Eagles tribute band. He has the same smoky, Countryish quality. If you're looking for something to give you an Eagles fix you're out of luck since although this act seems to have some fine Country-Rock pickers, they're strictly background players.
They sound like a real band with real musicians as opposed to a duo consisting of James Jones and Kip Daynard being produced by Andre Wahl but those three are the only ones given credit in the press kit for The Big East's eleven song sophomore LP, Hungry Ghosts. LP? Does that mean it's on vinyl? Who are the other very fine musicians? On the video below they appear to have a live band.
The Big East - "The Wild Life" live.
Above is The Big East's video on Youtube for their song "The Wild Life". Notice that not only is there a live and very competent band but there is a guitar solo with not one but TWO lead guitarists. When listening to the recorded version I heard these guys jamming under the vocals and waited for the solo but it never came. I've noticed, and complained about, this a lot on the new releases I've heard. Is it a matter of airtime? I assumed it was a matter of musicianship but these guys can play and you can hear them playing great but mixed way down and under the lead vocals. Except for "Love Monkey" which does have a short but smokin' lead solo in the middle and some jamming out on the end of "Muskoka Time" but that's two out of eleven tracks. Someone please use the COMMENTS section at the bottom to explain this to me.
Hungry Ghosts is a play on the Buddhist saying which refers to human beings who are driven by emotional needs in an animalistic way. “We applied this concept to our intense need to create music” Jones asserts.I don't know how ZEN this CD comes across since I would classify it as soft Country-Pop. The instrumentation, playing style, and especially vocal style says Southern California Country Rock/Pop rather than Indie Pop which is what they claim. To me Indie is a term that means not a major label release and is typified by acts such as Beck, quirky and different. The Big East is familiar and comfortable and I'm not saying that to be insulting as I've already complemented the guitar work and saying a singer has the vocal quality of Don Henley is not an insult. Keeping our Eagles comparison going I would also say the production and sound quality is top notch and the songs that do have synth backing rather than guitars such as the title tune and "Across The Water" are moody and richly atmospheric.
I have been very impressed with the quality of releases I've been sent this past year and The Big East's Hungry Ghosts continues that winning streak. Lucky me.
There's this guy named Guy and he's a one man band in Santa Fe, New Mexico. If you've never heard of him it isn't for his lack of trying. Guy Grogan's new CD, "Glitter In The Gears", is his tenth self produced and self released album. Oh, that's why you've never heard of him; he's self produced and self-released. In other words he's an unsigned artist or what is sometimes referred to as an "Indie" artist.
It used to be an Indie label was a privately owned record company that had distribution through one of the several "Independent" record distribution companies. These companies got records into record stores while the major labels had their own distribution companies. Getting Indie distribution was tricky because you first had to proof you were getting promotion which in the old days meant radio airplay. To get radio airplay as an Independent you would have to pay an Indie Radio Promo Man The majors also had their own in-house radio promo departments but also utilized Indie promo guys until another payola scandal would close that up temporarily. Once you got on the charts or even some substantial airplay on "Indie" stations (the major market radio stations wouldn't play your record until you charted on the minor markets which included College Radio, specialty shows and under 50,000 watt stations), the Indie distribution companies would then agree to ship your records to the stores in the areas where you were getting heard. The trick is that unless your song became a big breakout hit it only stayed in rotation at these small stations a couple of weeks, sometimes not long enough for the distribution companies to get it in front of the buyers while still fresh.
But these aren't the Good Old Days (in a lot of ways) and "radio" can now mean iHeart Radio, Sirius XM Radio, Internet Radio, Youtube, Facebook and dozens of other ways for your music to reach ears. Now people like me can be exposed to people like Guy Grogan who has won songwriting awards from Indie International, The American Song-writing Awards and the UKSC and whose 2016 release "Dynamite Bouquet" received heavy rotation on College Radio.
Now comes 2017's "Glitter In The Gears" with Guy playing all the instruments but having Santa Fe musician and producer Dennis Jasso at Fw Studios mix and master the CD. If you're curious exactly what kind of music Guy makes, asking him won't help: "Knowing what you sound like is kind of like looking into the mirror," says Grogan. "You see yourself but you don't have a real sense of what you look like to the rest of the world." That's very true and theoretically people like me are the ones to tell you what he sounds like. The problem with that is that even as Guy sees Guy through a filter of his own, I'm going to hear him through filters of my own.
So keeping in mind my Classic Rock sensibilities let's take a listen to "Glitter In The Gears"...
Okay, Power Pop pops up first, New New Wave style The Romantics, Foo Fighters, I guess "Indie Rock" is the term. Bouncy, catchy, heavily layered guitars as opposed to heavy guitars, fast but not frantic drums and clear, non strained vocals with power but no anger. If you like The Smithereens or Fountains Of Wayne you'll probably like Guy Grogan.
His softer side is more power ballad than folksy and his harder side is still melodic vocals over a little meaner guitar riffs. Good stereo separation (a thing for me) and a clean and textured mix even on the "louder" tracks makes this a pleasant listening experience without being a wimpy one. There are even some guitar solos (another thing for me). I like this CD.
Now for the bad news, from what I can tell from his press kit there is no live act behind this CD so what sounds very much like a real Power Pop band only exists in my stereo speakers (or headphones, my preferred listening mode). Once again I'm left wondering how deserving acts like Guy Grogan ever get noticed. Without major label money to pay for radio plays the traditional promotion method was touring. If I saw an ad for a Guy Grogan show what would I get? Would it be Guy and his acoustic guitar doing a singer-songwriter thing which would be nice but if I'm used to his CD and wanted to rock out, or dance (I never want to dance) I might be pretty disappointed. I guess I can always watch his performances on his Youtube videos. Whoops, I just checked, no Youtube videos. If you're going to use the technology of today to be a "one man band" Guy, use ALL the technology and have some videos too.
Apparently there is, or was, a Southern Californian Psych/Surf band called Particle Wave and now its frontman, Greg Maeching, has recorded a six song EP titled Answer To Influence under the band name Greg And The Granules. I don't know if this is a side project or if he's moved on and his old band is history. This new EP was recorded in New Monkey Studios in Van Nuys with the help of Tyler Shields on the board and Maeching, who plays guitar and sings, and guitarist-keyboardist Nick Luca sharing the production duties. Joe Westerfield rounds out the band on drums and they give a credit to Amanda Brauer for design (CD cover?). I don't really understand the designer credit since their press kit was particularly void of design.
These guys are local to me if they're anywhere near Van Nuys, a suburb of Los Angeles, and where I used to go to cruise Van Nuys Boulevard on Wednesday nights back in High School and where I'll still go to get a Tommy's Burger if I'm anywhere in the neighborhood. My point is that I would like to have been informed if Greg And The Granules are going to be performing live in town any time soon.
Their press kit states: "Answer To Influence floats with ease through myriad layers of resonating expression to create a transporting experience of calmness and comfort for the listener." Somnolent is another term that might apply. Laid back also fits with the soft and vibrato vocals and overall vibe reminding me of early Barry Gibb. Vaguely Countryish guitar work with some Flyod Cramer piano gives this CD an ALT-Country sound and the in your face vocal mix but very soft, whispery vocals ala Elliot Smith, never really let loose but are atmospheric.
Although recorded in stereo it has a very restricted range of depth that almost approaches mono and even though the vocals are upfront and clear I completely mix the “concept EP” element since I have a very difficult time understanding the lyrics. To be fair I have a hard time understanding sung lyrics in general and would have liked to have had access to a lyrics sheet.
The songs are all pretty similar until you get half way through then there is a “Paxton’s Back Street Carnival” feel that brings back some of the sounds of the Psychedelic era of the 1960s, but for only one minute and forty-three seconds. The remaining two numbers pick it up a bit and the feel gets more rock.
According to Greg And The Granules; "The album brings forth an elegantly emotional concept EP centered on exploring the nature of reality. Through a lens of incredulous optimism, Answer to Influence offers a personal story of transition from the burdensome yoke of cynicism to the freedom of unwavering gratitude." They say it a lot better than I'd say, mostly because I wouldn't say it. Again, it may be my fault I couldn't follow their song lyrics since the vocal mix is a bit on the low end, EQ wise, and I may have lost some of those frequencies in my hearing over time (I did play guitar in a Hard Rock band for decades).
Overall the EP is a mellow, soothing, atmospheric sonic massage of the ears that if you can follow the story of the lyrics might actually take you somewhere other than Dreamland. Which, if that's where it does take you, is a pleasant way to go.
Last night I got in bed, put on my headphones and listened to the new CD from Marty McKay called "New York City Dreams". It was very nice. "Nice" almost sounds like damning with faint praise but it was soothing without being dulling, textured without being complex and dreamy without being sleepy. It was a good CD to listen to in bed with headphones because along with its layers of synths came some hard metal guitars.
I tried to think of a good comparison for the lead vocals which were clean, clear and although double tracked and with some background vocals were definitely that of the male frontman as opposed to a multi-vocalist harmony group. A rich and masculine baritone fronting what might be called a Metal band with power drums and crashing power cords over staccato repeating riffs but, as is common these days, without any substantial lead guitar solos. Marty's voice (I assume he's the vocalist since the only other credit I can find is for his co-producer Alberto Pistolera), reminds me of shades of Peter Gabriel and with a slight texture of Elvis Costello but maybe closer to the vocals of the band Toy Matinee. Intimate on the soft sections and soaring rather than screaming on the powerful parts. According to Marty himself (according to his press kit) he is actually most similar to Linkin Park (from my old neighborhood), Incubus and 3 Doors Down, so there's that too.
What kills me is that there are songs on the New York City Dreams CD that if released in a bygone era would have been Top Forty Radio hits (like Linkin Park, Incubus and 3 Doors Down) but now are gems left to be dug up from the mine of the Internet which is one gigantic hole in the ground. Music like this was once believed to eventually rise above the noise and gain the attraction of the masses by constant live shows and touring. Playing these songs to people standing in front of you, looking at you and forming a personal bond with you as you share a special moment in both of your lives. However, although Marty McKay played with Vanilla Ice in Berlin in front of a crowd of sixty thousand, there is no mention of an upcoming tour schedule, booked local shows or even any indication that there is an actual performing band behind these songs.
Maybe what we have today is an evolution of music that is in fact in sync with technology in that the "solo" artist that records on his laptop in his bedroom is creating music specifically for a "crowd" that exists one by one, also sitting alone in their rooms with a laptop, on the Internet. A fan base floating disembodied in Cyber-Space, communicating perhaps even more closely with their idols then the fans of past decades, through Facebook or the Comments section of Youtube.
This "International" aspect ("Inter dimensional" really) of Cyber-Space may also be the reason why so many of modern music's musicians claim to come, physically, from all over the world. Case in fact; Marty McKay, although sounding either English or American since so many American acts try to sound English and ever since The Beatles it has been traditional for English Rock bands to sing with American accents, claims that he's from, or is at least now based, in Zurich Switzerland. I don't think he's Swiss, although I probably wouldn't recognize a Swiss accent, but if he is I am disappointed he wrote a CD called "New York City Dreams". As an American New York City is not exactly exotic and I'd rather his music take me to some Alpine village than NYC. Maybe it's another case of being a big fish in a small pond that is making American and English musicians relocate to other, less musically competitive parts of the world.
Marty, if you happen to read this please tell us your own story in the Comments Section below.
Although billed as an "International touring guitarist..." Saul Losada's bio says he's from Hollywood. So that means he's a local guy, to me. Of course, most people "from Hollywood" originated someplace other than Hollywood (except me) but that's what he said and he's sticking to it. He certainly has been part of the Hollywood music scene having performed at the Hollywood House Of Blues, the Catalina Jazz Club and at Eastwest Studios. The "International" part includes Cafe Latino Jazz Festival in Spain and Carnaval On The Mile Festival in Miami (I know, that's still America but just about as far away from Hollywood as you can get and not get wet).
Losada is another Blues-Rock guitar God named Saul (Slash to you) and his years spent listening, and I assume jamming, to Classic Rock has payed off in his mastery of the styles of Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck as well as the more Trad Blues styles of B.B. (Blues Boy) King and jazz/pop king Les Paul.
Bold As Love (live).
Of the eight tracks on his Energy CD half are covers (maybe more but I only recognized four). Bold As Love, People Get Ready, Maybellene and The Thrill Is Gone are all excellent versions of songs written or made famous by the guitar legends of the past and it takes some guts to challenge comparison to the likes of Hendrix, Beck, Berry and King but Losada does hold his own and the gusty vocals from a very lovely but anonymous (according to his press release) female vocalist puts a new spin on the formerly all male material.
In fact, I've read his press release and went to his website (www.saullosada.com) and I can't find any musician credits anywhere. He obviously plays with other musicians but except for his producer and engineer, Don Blanck of Hollywood's Blanck Records, there's nothing listed. This is a pet peeve of mine being a sideman myself, but I suppose being an accomplished studio session musician Saul's used to the background players being invisible. Although you'd think that would make him sensitive to it when the time came for him to be the star. As an animator I never got to sign my name to any of the work I did for the studios and one day I realized I never signed any of my own artwork so I got up at 3am, pulled out my old portfolios and signed everything I'd done. I also feel a little cheated not being told what the beautiful singer's name is. Leave your comments about what a sexist pig I am in the COMMENTS section below and then you know what you can do.
One of the toughest things you can do in life is admit and own up to your prejudices and bigotries. One prejudice of mine that I've had for decades (besides Asians can't drive) and that I actually resent being given, for our prejudices are taught to us, is the believe that Country Music represents racist, uneducated, uncouth, ill-mannered, alcoholic, ill-tempered, even violent, rural white people (i.e., Trump voters). This is, of course, wrong both factually as well as morally but even when you know, intellectually, something is wrong it still makes you feel a certain way. And if you accept that you are wrong in your believe and attitude it still doesn't prevent you from feeling those bigoted feelings, it just adds guilt and shame on top of them.
When I was a kid I actually used to like Country Music. "Your Cheatin' Heart" (1964),The Hank Williams biopic starring George Hamilton (Crispy Col. Sanders) turned me on to the original Country star, Hank Williams, and on late weekend nights I'd watch "Cal's Corral", a live Country Music show hosted by local used car dealer Cal Worthington. The Beatles played Country songs on their early albums and "Beatles For Sale" is considered the Beatles' Country record with "No Reply", "I'm A Loser", "Baby's In Black", "Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby", "Honey Don't" and "I Don't Want To Spoil The Party" being very Country oriented. But over the years, especially in the 60s, the divide between the "cowboys and the Indians (Straights vs Freaks) became wider and wider and Country music came to represent the "other side's" music of choice. I found having to take sides this way sad but it was hard to not reject Country music when songs like Merle Haggard's "Okie From Muskogee" drew the line. Up till then John Cash had been a staple on AM Top Forty Radio alongside The British Invasion and Motown. To make matters worse, "New Country" sounded more like Rock & Roll than Rock & Roll ever sounded like Country and there was a lot about Country Music I really liked such as;
1. The Instrumentation. I'm a guitar player and Country Music is predominately a guitar driven sound. Unlike some rock and pop styles that will go unnamed (Punk), musicianship has always been of very high importance in Country. I also like most string instruments and Country also utilizes banjo, mandolin and sometimes in lieu of the string sections found in Pop and sometimes Rock, Country uses pedal steel guitar.
2. The Clothes. I'm a westerner and what red blooded American boy doesn't love Cowboys? I love Cowboy hats, bluejeans, boots, vests and other western clothes. Unfortunately largely because of the lyrics of a lot of Country songs, unless you actually work on a ranch, dressing like a cowboy makes you look like a huge tool.
3. The Women. I'm a Rocker but I have to admit that for my taste Rock & Roll women can't hold a candle to Country women. I'm not talking about the fans, necessarily, but the performers. There are more, MUCH MORE, strikingly beautiful woman performing Country Music than there are in Rock & Roll. Have you seen Britney Spears' Country video? OMG! I just love that style, on women... but not in music.
So now let us take a listen at the newest of New Country, Michael Van & The Movers' new full length CD, "A Little More Country".
Michael Van & The Movers' "A Little More Country" video.
As you can see by the video "A Little More Country", Michael Van is pretty traditional Country with a predominately acoustic sound, the soulful steel guitar backing and, this being a ballad, sad lyrics coming from a simple man. Certainly nothing offense here but with the mandatory "southern" accent from an act from the San Francisco Bay Area (even a guy from New Hampshire like Garth Brooks sings like he's from Texas), hearing this style of singing just makes me think a night out where this is playing isn't going to end well (i.e., bar fight, DUI, cross burning, etc.).
Okay, I apologize. Let me say I'm just kidding. But really, I'm not someone qualified to review a record like this. I simply don't like Country Music. Again, it's not for the music itself and this CD has first rate production, great (which is standard for most Country I hear) performances and songs I would probably like if done in a different style.
Michael Van & The Movers are Michael Van on acoustic guitar and lead vocals, Pete Ahonen on electric guitar, banjo and vocals, Alan Bond on mandolin, fiddle and vocals, Larry Lawson on bass, Bob Skye on drums and harmonica and special guests Mark Bernard Stevenson on pedal steel and Noah Duvernell and Paul Ohnemus on drums. The production, arrangements, mixing and mastering is credited to Michael Van and his band at Flying Monkey Studio.
This is one of those cases where I have to apologize to the band, they're a good band and made a fine record, but it's not what I do here at Rock & Roll Rehab (ROCK & ROLL Rehab). Please check them out for yourself if you like what they refer to themselves as,"Alt-Country". I don't know what makes this "Alt", it seems pretty trad to me although admittedly I didn't listen (because of technical reasons I don't understand) to all their tracks. Check them out here at Soundcloud. If you can't hear anything you had the same problem I did. I think my Flash must be outdated or something,. I don't know (what a pro!).
Before this recent presidential election I said that if the country elects a President Trump it will be a huge indicator of having crossed over into a parallel dimension, one of the infinite worlds that look like ours but have sometimes subtle, sometimes blatant, signs that we're not in Kansas anymore. These times are always a changin' but occasionally we make the jump between worlds in the multi-verse and times get absolutely bizarre.
Some of these signposts in the past may have been the JFK assassination, the John Lennon murder, the deaths of John Kennedy Jr. and Princess Diana and the marriage of Michael Jackson to Lisa Marie Presley. Not all the signs are ones of death. President Trump is certainly one. One way to tell if an event is a sign that you've crossed worlds is if the event was something that the National Enquirer should have predicted, but didn't.
Recognizing that the election symbolized my entering into a new reality I was optimistic that this new world would offer me personal opportunities the previous ones seemed to deny me. In a world where there is a President Donald J. Trump, I could be a rich and famous celebrity. Really, why not? ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE NOW.
One of the more subtler signs is that the new music I've been hearing lately seems to be a return to "my style". That is, guitar driven blues-prog-rock and the latest and among the greatest example of this return to Seventies Blues Rock ala Clapton, Gary Moore and Jimi Hendrix is the German band The Blue Poets. Once again (see previous review posts) good old American Rock & Roll is being imported from overseas. They've just released their first full length CD, 'The Blue Poets' on Triple Coil Music.
Led by blues-rock guitar master Marcus Deml, formerly of Errorhead and winner of American Guitar Player Magazine's Guitar Hero award, this quartet is fronted by lead singer Gordon Grey. Grey being Australian, is a native English speaker who sings with an authentic sounding American accent (a requirement for a truly Blues sounding band) while drummer Felix Dehmel and bass player Phil Steen I assume are German like Deml.
Marcus Deml has played with drummer Carmine Appice who I once asked to join my band not realizing his bona fides, Kingdom Come, which I believed included German singer Lenny Wolf who was in the band Stone Fury with my old friend Bruce Gowdy on guitar and Bruce's Grant High School classmates Steve Porcaro and Steve Lukather's bandmate from TOTO, singer Bobby Kimball. Small world.
Some online examples of The Blue Poets' music are 'WithYour Eyes', a slow blues with Hendrix ‘Little Wing’ style guitar flourishes and a bluesy, white boy lead vocal that is the extended intro into a full band instrumental hard blues/rock jam and 'Goodbye', another great example of The Blue Poets’ stab at being the successors to the late, great Stevie Ray Vaughn.
Deml has contributed to 300 studio productions and is the producer of The Blue Poets' first full length album where he wrote all the tracks except the cover of the Cream classic Sunshine Of Your Love.
Marcus Deml and The Blue Poets are endorsed by: Fender Guitars, Kloppmann pickups, D’Addario, Klotz cables, Glockenklang, Deeflexx High-end sound-deflection system, Rheingold, Stetson, Ruokangas and Harvest Fine Leather.