Three Kellers and a Record Store Day

11.29 RSD BF 2018

Two times a year, my boys and I have a morning that has been a bit of a tradition for the three of us. One day happens in April, on the third Saturday of that month, while the other happens on the Friday after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday. On these two days, independent records stores throughout the world join together to encourage record collecting enthusiasts and hipsters to show up at their favorite nearby store to wander in to check out the special (mostly) vinyl releases artists have put out.

11.29 Outkast - Rosa Parks

Over the years, the three of us have purchased among the items such as limited edition singles by The Rolling Stones, Talking Heads, Hüsker Dü, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, among many others, as well as albums and 10-inch and 12-inch EPs and singles by Cheap Trick, Big Star, Joan Jett, The Notorious B.I.G., Wu-Tang Clan, etc. Sure, we do it for the music, but mainly for us to spend a couple of hours together in a place that has always seemed a bit magical to us: The Record Store.

11.29 CT - The Epic Archive Vol. 2

And, I have stated on the blog several times how I used to take the boys into the record store in Oxford, Ohio, when we lived there in their youth. My older son remembers it well, while my younger one just takes my word for it. When we moved back to Indiana, I finally made the musical move from vinyl to CD, although I never got rid of my vinyl collection. The boys learned the correct way to care for their music so it would last longer, with the lesson being more emphasized on the vinyl collection, knowing they would inherit it. But, who could have predicted vinyl’s major comeback during the day and age of mp3s and streaming? As I age, I am so thankful vinyl is coming back, because I can read those liner notes so much easier on a vinyl album rather than on an insert from a CD. Plus, like most old people, I prefer the tangible objects that albums brings as opposed to owning these ethereal musical files on my hard drive or paying for online radio (streaming).

The irony of music collections would have to be its environmental impact. I should prefer the electronic versions, but I can’t help it. I want to hold the cover as the stylus interprets the engraved pits in the vinyl into sound waves that sounds like music to my ears. I simply prefer my musical experience to involve more senses than just my hearing. I have an intellectual curiosity that is stimulated by the information on the cover, inner sleeve and inserts of a 12-inch vinyl album.

11.29 VA - Big Star Small World

So, on this past Black Friday, my boys and a fraternity brother from the college days all rose early from our warm beds, only to drive up to an hour to our favorite record store, Village Green Records in Muncie, Indiana. We got there just a little behind schedule, only to discover that we were in a much better position in the line that was gathering that Friday morning a good hour before the store opened at 9 AM. Like I said, we got there 15 minutes before the doors opened and were all in the first ten people who got in the store.

11.29 TH - Remain in Light

Now, with every Record Store Day (RSD) event, the RSD website will release a list of upcoming special releases for those days about four to six weeks ahead of time. Like any good shopper, you peruse the list and choose those releases that you want and will fit in your budget. Additionally, that list will tell you how many copies will be released of that special Dio record pressed as a picture disc, so you can gauge the potential demand. This year, my number one target was a special release of Cheap Trick’s second volume of rarities and demos. The problem was the manufacturing number: only 1100 albums were printed. So, over the years, I have developed a backup plan for this situation in case it arises – I call my buddy in St. Louis, who always enjoys an adventure in record stores, even though he is not a collector. Immediately, I discovered that Muncie did NOT receive a copy of the Cheap Trick album. So, I called my buddy, who would wait until the lines go down there (the two stores he visited initially had lines with at least AN HOUR wait! See why we go to Muncie? Indy was turning into a madhouse by the fourth year of this event.).

11.29 Bangles.DreamSyndicate.3OClock.RainParade - 3x4

So, back in Muncie, I found the next three albums on my list: a vinyl release of a tribute album to Big Star called Big Star, Small World which was pressed on powder blue vinyl; a special Matthew Sweet album of new material that he promised he would NOT be releasing on CD entitled Wicked System of Things that was on clear marbled with blue vinyl; and a compilation of the four best bands from L.A.’s early Eighties Paisley Underground scene, titled 3×4, where one band recorded three cover songs of the other band’s music, with the bands being The Bangles (first known as The Bangs during their club days), The Dream Syndicate, Rain Parade and The Three O’Clock. Ironically, the latter album in my purchase was the one I was taking a risk purchasing yet has become my favorite purchase of the day. All three albums are top-notch power pop albums that just sound terrific on my stereo. My boys found what they were looking for, as #1 got a special red vinyl album of Talking Heads masterpiece Remain in Light, though he is still hoping for that four-album box set of The Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo, so he can finally hear how that album was supposed to sound with Gram Parsons’ vocals placed back in the mix. He did pick up a copy of the rare Repo Man Soundtrack (which, as he says, is more known for who is on it as opposed what is on it) and a vinyl-version of the album he got on cassette for his fifth birthday when we had, ironically enough, moved to Muncie: New Kids on the Block – Hanging Tough (he claims its for his daughter, but I would have tried to say that about an Archies album when he was little too.). And, #2 picked up the 12-inch single of “Rosa Parks” by Outkast but put back a copy of a live Rage Against the Machine album when he discovered a vinyl version of a favorite from his youth, Blink 182’s Enema of the State. And, finally, my frat brother got a Blue Öyster Cult live album on blue vinyl (pretty spot on!) and a special release by Stone Temple Pilots with their new lead singer, which he says cannot measure up to Scott Weiland. But, honestly, who can?

11.29 The Byrds - Sweetheart of the Rodeo

Once again, it was a day of great memories made. Lots of jokes between my boys, who seemed to have developed their own language over the years, with most of those jokes at the expense of their old man’s taste in music. And, honestly, that’s the way it should be. I still cannot think of a better place to hang out with my boys than a record store. It seems to be the one place where the three of us are just naturally us, with no social constructs or family hierarchy to adhere to.

11.29 The b52s - Cosmic Thing

Oh, by the way, my buddy found the Cheap Trick album at the SECOND store he went to. It’s always great to have a buddy crazy enough to help a brother in “need.” And, for the second year in a row, he came through. I guess I’ll have to finally call him “Clutch.” After all, he did sink a last-second shot during a basketball game our sophomore year in high school. Of course, he was supposed to pass the ball to me for that shot, but he made the right decision. Thanks Clutch! At least I did not have to go to my two backup albums: Madonna’s Ray of Light on clear vinyl and The B-52’s Cosmic Thing on rainbow vinyl, both of which I own. Though, those vinyl colors sound sweet!

11.29 Madonna - Ray of Light

Wait! We will ALWAYS have that first Phish concert together in Cincinnati! That was when a Phish-head said to us in an elevator, “A dad and his two sons…pretty cool! I wish my dad had taken me to a concert.” It’s always nice to feel a little envy.

I’ve Done It! Springsteen Albums Have Been Ranked.

11.28 Bruce & the Whole Band

I LOVE rock music.

Let’s just let that sentence float through the ether, allowing it to resonate, reverberate and, quite possibly, regurgitate.

Now, is this love the same “love” that I use for my wife. No. For my boys? No. For my daughters-in-law? No. For my granddaughter? No. Nor for my parents, extended family, in-laws and friends.

Is it an equal love for rock music that I once had for running or basketball or coaching or teaching? Simply, no.

Yet, I do find the study of the history of rock music quite stimulating, which when combined with my love of listening to this very inclusive form of music, stimulates endorphins in my brain that I interpret as love. And, few artists have impassioned me as Bruce Springsteen has. Perhaps, it is the inherent love of music that Springsteen expresses through his music that I have latched on to since this time of the year in 1975, when, as my family and I were decorating our Christmas tree when I heard “Born to Run” for the first time. For the first time, I heard someone who LOVE rock music has passionately as any human being could love an inanimate object or ideal. Yet, for that four minutes and 31 seconds of that rock & roll bliss, I was hearing the passion of a pastor for his savior. Or, was Bruce a shaman? Who cares! This was the sound of a man who was actually putting all of his money on the hand he was holding, and he was holding an all-inclusive version of rock & roll in his soul that he HAD to pass on to us.

11.28 Springsteen Live

Although I held onto my Kiss fandom a bit longer, that very day I heard the man whose music would one day help me survive the latter days of high school, college and my initial ventures into manhood. The only person whose passion for the gospel of rock music came close to equaling Springsteen’s was Tom Petty. Where Kiss, Queen and Cheap Trick were invested in entertainment nearly as equally as their music, Springsteen and Petty believed in the spiritual transforming quality of rock. They represented the gospel of rock music, with Bruce playing Peter to Tom’s Luke.

Now, I will NEVER claim to be an expert of any rock artist, specifically. Nor, am I like Dick Clark and know the flipside of every single he ever played, along with the running times for said songs. I am a generalist, though I do have way more books on Prince and Power Pop than any other artist or genre in my personal library. Quite possibly I have as wide-ranging of a rock music knowledge base as anyone who does not write for a major rock magazine. So, when I decided to celebrate Bruce Springsteen’s music today, I wanted to warn my Springsteen-fanatics that I have no personal relationship with The Boss, though I would love to shake hands with the man. And, I have no special tidbits to offer my Boss-fanatics. I simply want to rank his studio albums, according to my tastes in music. Certainly, I expect some blow-back from the Springsteenologists out there. Please remember that I am a simple man just attempting to rank this rock deity’s albums from my least favorite to my most favorite.

11.28 BS & ESB

So, Springsteen fans, let’s do this thing! Finally, I will honor the man that my wife and I saw back in October of 1985 put on one of the best concerts we have ever seen. Now, start the countdown!

11.28 20.Human Touch

20. Human Touch (1992). Back in the early Nineties, Guns N’ Roses released two CDs simultaneously, and the stunt was profitable for the band. So, Springsteen tried the same thing, releasing Human Touch and Lucky Town at the same time. Big mistake! This album was the weaker of the two, filled with nothing but substandard songs performed without his brothers in arms, the E-Street Band. Outside of the title song, this thing is a mess.

19. Lucky Town (1992). Here’s the other album Bruce released in 1992, and to me, it’s only marginally better. Unfortunately, Springsteen is still not using the E-Street Band, and the music is still flat like Human Touch. Let me add my voice to the litany of writers and fans who have said that maybe these two albums should have been pared down to one.

18. The Ghost of Tom Joad (1995). You know, this album is not that bad, it’s simply a statement about the great quality of Bruce’s catalog. Some have said this is his follow-up to Nebraska, but other than the folkie style, this album is a completely different statement, with The Boss simply trying to find his way through celebrity, which is what the Nineties seemed to be for the man himself.

17. Devils & Dust (2005). This is an intense and stark album musically and lyrically. I find this album to be a difficult yet rewarding listen. Until recently, I hadn’t listened to this album for a decade. Unlike the previous three, which I haven’t listened to since their releases, this album does have some great songs on it.

16. Tracks (1998)/18 Tracks (1999). Yes, Tracks is a box set of unreleased material, while 18 Tracks is the single disc distillation of the box. But, I love these songs. I just cannot believe many of these gems were left off the albums, but this box just proves how brilliant a songwriter Bruce is.

11.28 15.Working on a Dream

15. Working on a Dream (2010). Bruce catches hell about this album, but for some reason I just love it. I love the simplicity of the music and lyrics, as if this were created as a children’s record, although The Boss does drop an F-bomb during “Queen of the Supermarket,” a song so sweet that it just might be his most personal love song he has ever written. Plus, “Outlaw Pete” has become a children’s book, which reminds me that I gotta get it for my grandchildren to read at my house.

14. Magic (2007). This album was the bright light during a very dark time in my life. I was in the midst of battling physician after physician attempting to find a method of pain relief. And, this album of anthems of humans forcing their ways through life was one of my musical solaces from that time period. I couldn’t believe that I could still turn to Bruce’s music to help me through life just as he had since 1975.

13. Wrecking Ball (2012). Bruce sped through the first 15 years of the 21st century in what might have been his most creative streak of his career. Wrecking Ball represented the next-to-last album of the burst of creativity, and you could tell he had been saving up for his biggest statement to date as a reaction to the antics of the Tea Party. I sure hope Bruce’s next album is his statement against Trumpism.

12. High Hopes (2013). The last album of Bruce’s 21st century creativity run, High Hopes may have been an album of re-recording of a batch of his songs, but these versions nailed it. And what can I say about the addition of Tom Morrello’s guitar to the electric version of “The Ghost of Tom Joad” is a natural amalgamation of Bruce and Rage Against the Machine.

11. Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. (1973). Yes, I never heard this album until I had been a fan of Bruce’s for a decade. But, there are great songs on this album. No, Bruce had not yet found his groove, but you just knew the journey was going to be great just from the music on this album. Thank goodness Manfred Mann had a huge hit with “Blinded by the Light” because those royalties kept him alive during those rough days when he was trying to get his career under HIS control. “Growing Up” remains one of my favorite songs ever by him, as he just nailed what it meant to be changing from a child to an adult.

11.28 10.The Rising

10. The Rising (2002). This was the right album at the right time by the right artist. Finally, the nation could put 9/11 behind us just get back to being Americans in the world. We were changed, we would NOT forgot, but maybe we shouldn’t be lashing out with vengeance but turning toward each other and showing love. That’s a lesson that our society needs to remember.

9. The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle (1973). Bruce’s sophomore was no slump. His greatest song, “Rosalita,” is on this album. You would not believe how many parties in college during which this song became the highlight. And there was nothing like acting like The Boss as my roommate played The Big Man during this song. This album would be great if it were only “Rosalita,” but it’s not. And, that’s why it continues to stand the test of time.

8. We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions (2006). So, The Boss follows up the darkest album of his career, Devils & Dust, with an album of Pete Seeger songs performed as if he had just been appointed the new leader of The Band. Springsteen proved that these songs are strong and important and every bit as impassioned as anything he has written himself.

7. Nebraska (1982). I gotta tell you that I was NOT ready for this album when he dropped it my sophomore year in college. I was totally in my angry punk moment and thought I was beyond any kind of folkie record. Then, a little later I realized just how punk Bruce was actually being by making Nebraska. It has slowly been rising up this list of my favorite Springsteen albums. I love the subtle indignation he was showing the Reagan administration by using these songs at that very moment. Brilliant move with a brilliant album.

6. The River (1980). This album was the third album of my Springsteen journey. This was a sprawling ode to the frat rock sound of the early Sixties. Unfortunately, we began to lessen the use of Clarence Clemons sax solos for more reliance upon the previously underutilized use of Bruce’s guitar soloing. This was released during a year when two other double-album classics – London Calling and The Wall – had been released, making the trifecta for 1980.

11.28 5.The Promise

5. The Promise (1978/2010). This double album was the album that Springsteen almost released instead of Darkness at the Edge of Town. Darkness would not have been such a stark statement had The Promise been released as the segue between Born to Run and Darkness. Still, I am just glad that this album finally found the light of day. Plus, The Promise has two songs, “Fire” and “Because the Night,” that became hits for other artists (The Pointer Sisters and Patti Smith, respectively).

11.28 4.Tunnel of Love

4. Tunnel of Love (1987). This dark yet beautiful take on the underbelly of marriage and love is just beautiful. This is the sound of Bruce honestly telling us his relatively new marriage to actress Julianne Phillips was already falling apart, as Springsteen lyrically studied this dark subject matter. And, man, could any young couple who were struggling to hold their marriage relate to this album.

11.28 3.Darkness on the Edge of Town

3. Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978). This is Springsteen’s answer to punk rock. He tightened his songs, he pushed the intensity of the E Street Band’s playing and went after the punks with a passion that most punks only wished they had. Today, I see this album as being the telegram to the world that Bruce was ready to become the voice of a generation. It just took him a little bit longer than I thought it would before he ruled the world.

11.28 2.Born in the USA

2. Born in the U.S.A. (1984). Here it is – the album where the promise is finally fulfilled! This album must have been one of the best-selling albums for three straight years. The Boss had seven – YES! I did say seven! – hit singles. “Dancing in the Dark” became his highest charting song when it peaked at number two. But, this album was NOT the sycophantic statement for Reaganomics that many misconstrued it was at the time. As a matter of fact, it was the antithesis of that, showing the struggles of the everyday working man struggling as Reagan dismantled the manufacturing basis of this country in favor of shifting the power toward people who manufactured nothing but somehow created gold from lead, like alchemists in the Middle Ages. I just people would read the lyric sheet and digest them so they can finally stop voting against their best interests.

11.28 1. Born to Run

1. Born to Run (1975). The granddaddy of them all! Here, Bruce expands the lyrics of “Growing Up” and uses it as the album’s theme. Maybe it only truly speaks to my generation, where Born in the U.S.A. might reach across generations, still we all have to grow up and this album shows how to try to age gracefully, so we are ready as young adults to face the troubles of our country in Born in the U.S.A., and subsequently, as older adults with The Rising.

11.28 The Boss

So, Springsteen fans, let me have it! I want to see your lists. But remember, if you are a fan of The Boss, then we are “Blood Brothers.”

Christmas Music 2018

11.27 christmas-guitar-rock-feature

One of my quirks in my music collection, the one that drives my family crazy is my love of rock Christmas songs. Like it wasn’t enough that I love power pop in my boys’ minds, then November rolls around, and I start my quest to discover more unusual Christmas music. Back in the Fifties and Sixties, it seemed as though every pop artist was releasing Christmas music. The best Christmas album of all-time, A Christmas Gift to You from Phil Spector, was released the day President Kennedy was shot, so this brilliant album really never immediately found an audience. It was during the subsequent years that people discovered how magnificent this album was. But, in the mid-Seventies, Christmas music became uncool for artists to record. However, some of my favorite episodes of American Bandstand where those shows aired right before Christmas, where Dick Clark actually had the vision to play those Christmas songs that were popular in the U.K. That’s where I heard Elton John’s “Step into Christmas,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” The Kinks’ “Father Christmas” and Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime.”

11.27 A_Christmas_Gift_For_You_From_Philles_Records_cover

Slowly, in the Eighties, new wave artists began to throw the stigma of recording Christmas music aside. Some absolutely magnificent Christmas songs were released during this time, such as “Christmas Wrapping” by The Waitresses and Dan Fogelberg’s “Same Old Lang Syne.” Then, in 1987, the classic A Very Special Christmas was released, which kicked off a new golden age of Christmas music in the Nineties. Fast-forward to 2018, and we have had nearly 30 Christmas albums released this year.

Everyone from Eric Clapton to The Monkees have released Christmas music this year. So, in an effort to enlighten you, the reader, I am going to give you my favorites of 2018.

11.27 rodney crowell - christmas everywhere

10. Rodney Crowell – Christmas Everywhere. Sometimes, we all deserve our Christmas music bathed in Americana, and few have done it as well as the Americana guru Rodney Crowell.

11.27 aloe blacc - christmas funk

9. Aloe Blacc – Christmas Funk. The title alone says it all. We are talking about a truly funky Christmas party.

11.27 jd mcpherson - socks

8. JD McPherson – Socks. Maybe, in a decade or so, I will look back on this album more fondly than any of the others on this list. This album is a great slice of indie rock with songs about the Christmas holiday. Think Sufjan Stevens, only with a more rock soul.

11.27 ingrid michaelson - songs for the season

7. Ingrid Michaelson – Ingrid Michaelson’s Songs for the Season. Ingrid forgoes her indie pop background for a more traditional pop sound and comes up with a holiday album that fits perfectly between Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, making this album her most mature outing ever.

11.27 los straightjackets - complete christmas songbook

6. Los Straightjackets – Complete Christmas Songbook. I prefer my holiday music set to odd arrangements and nothing’s more odd than rockabilly versions of our favorite yuletide songs. And, nobody does this sound better than the masked foursome Los Straightjackets.

11.27 old 97s - love the holidays

5. Old 97’s – Love the Holidays. Old 97’s are the premiere alt.-country band, so you can just imagine my excitement when I saw they had released an album for the holidays. And, they have recorded a great collection of Christmas songs, both original and traditional.

11.27 mavericks - hey merry christmas

4. The Mavericks – Hey! Merry Christmas! The Mavericks bring their fun Tex-Mex country sound to the Christmas world, making a great party record for that crazy Christmas party you are planning.

11.27 eric clapton - happy xmas

3. Eric Clapton – Happy Xmas! A few years ago, the rock world was shocked when Bob Dylan released his now classic Christmas album. This time, Eric Clapton is catching a little hell about doing this album, but, when done right, Christmas songs are perfect for the blues. Once the purists get over their selves, this album will be considered a holiday classic, much like Bob Dylan’s album.

11.27 kc & the sunshine band - a sunshine christmas

2. KC & the Sunshine Band – A Sunshine Christmas. In my mind, very little music is as joyous as disco and Christmas musics. And, when the two are combined, you’ve got potential slice of heaven. And no disco artist has made a holiday album as good as KC has. This one is definitely ready-made for your office party.

11.27 monkees - christmas party

1. The Monkees – Christmas Party. The Monkees followed a similar gameplan as they did on their magnificent comeback album in 2016. So, they have newly penned Christmas songs by Andy Partridge (XTC) and Rivers Cuomo (Weezer) to bring the 60s styled pop to their yuletide celebration. Who knew The Monkees would not just make one great album in the 21st century, but two?

11.27 rock-and-roll-christmas

And there you have it, my top ten Christmas albums of 2018. As stated earlier, there have been nearly 30 Christmas albums released this year. Artists such as Martina McBride, John Legend, Mike Love of the Beach Boys and Diana Ross have all released good quality Christmas albums this year. Still, my Top 10 are the albums that I consider to be the best.

The Thanksgiving Playlist 2018

11.21 Thanksgiving2015

Thanksgiving is tomorrow here in the States. I really don’t know if I’m shocked or excited. There’s no time for that, as we are hosting my side of the family here, with my granddaughter, Son #1 and his wife, Son #2 and his wife, my dad and stepmom, my stepdad and my aunt, who is the sister-in-law of my mom. For my little family, this is an event that is bursting at the seams. And, just wait until my boys have even more children, but that’s down the road a bit…I think.

11.21 WKRP - Turkeys Away
“And behind the helicopter is a banner. And it reads ‘Happy Thanksgiving from W……….K……….R……..P!’ From WKRP folks!

For Thanksgiving, I have a couple of weird traditions. First, I will watch the famous WKRP in Cincinnati episode entitled “Turkeys Away,” perhaps the funniest twenty minutes in TV history, all the while wearing my “Turkey Drop” T-shirt. Then, I will follow the WKRP episode with The Band’s The Last Waltz on DVD, since it was recorded on Thanksgiving Day way back in 1977. Though the movie and album and album have little to do with Thanksgiving, it is a very important piece of rock history and is quite enjoyable to watch and listen.

11.21 The Last Waltz film11.21 The Band - The Last Waltz

Likewise, I love to call attention to much of the artwork that combines Thanksgiving and rock music, for some whimsical fun. Which leads me to the cherry on top, so to speak: The Playlist. I started this thing back in the Nineties when my late mother-in-law wanted a CD of “nice” music to be played during the festivities. In the pre-iPod days, that meant this was limited to 20 songs. Now, thanks to streaming, I have 65 songs! Yes, it IS a bit OCD, but what can I say…I just may have some deep psychological issues. But, if you think that’s bad, well, you wouldn’t believe that total number of Christmas songs I have on my “music” computer. Let’s just say that I have about two weeks worth of songs, though most do not really warrant any replays EVER.

11.21 thanksgiving stones logo11.21 Gene Simmons serves Thanksgiving

Now, after that introduction, here’s my 2018 Thanksgiving Day (and I emphasize day!) Playlist. I hope you enjoy it (or at least you can cherry pick the songs you prefer).

  1. Adam Sandler – “Thanksgiving Song” (1993)
  2. Alanis Morissette – “Thank U” (1998)
  3. Andrew Gold – “Thank You for Being a Friend” (1978)
  4. Ariana Grande – “Thank U, Next” (2018)
  5. Arlo Guthrie – “Alice’s Restaurant” (1967)
  6. Ben Harper & the Blind Boys of Alabama – “Mother Pray” (2004)
  7. Big Country – “Harvest Home” (1983)
  8. Big Star – “Thank You Friends” (1975)
  9. Bill Withers – “Family Table” (1975)
  10. Billie Holiday – “Autumn in New York” (1934)
  11. Bing Crosby – “I’ve Got Plenty to Be Thankful For” (1947)
  12. Bob Dylan – “Turkey Chase” (1973)
  13. Bob Marley & the Wailers – “Give Thanks & Praise” (1983)
  14. Boz Scaggs – “Thanks to You” (2001)
  15. Brian Wilson – “Roll Plymouth Rock” (2004)
  16. Descendents – “Thank You” (1996)
  17. Devo – “I’m a Potato” (1979)
  18. Don Henley – “My Thanksgiving” (2000)
  19. Drake – “Keep the Family Close” (2016)
  20. Drive-By Truckers – “The Thanksgiving Filter” (2011)
  21. Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes – “Home” (2009)
  22. Ghostface Killah – “Food” (2015)
  23. Graham Parker – “Almost Thanksgiving” (2004)
  24. Green Day – “Macy’s Day Parade” (2000)
  25. Greg Kihn Band – “Family” (1982)
  26. Hank Williams Jr. – “Family Tradition” (1979)
  27. James Browne – “Mashed Potatoes” (1959)
  28. Jellyfish – “Family Tree” (1992)
  29. John Mellencamp – “Check It Out” (1987)
  30. Johnny Cash – “I Am a Pilgrim” (2003)
  31. Kacey Musgraves – “Family Is Family” (2015)
  32. Kanye West – “Family Business” (2004)
  33. Kendrick Lamar Feta. Big Pooh – “Thanksgiving” (2009)
  34. Lady Gaga – “Orange Colored Sky” (2011)
  35. Led Zeppelin – “Thank You”
  36. Loudon Wainwright III – “Thanksgiving (live)” (1993)
  37. Louis Armstrong – “What a Wonderful World” (1967)
  38. Love – “Be Thankful for What You Got” (1974)
  39. Mary Chapin Carpenter – “Thanksgiving Song” (2008)
  40. Mary J. Blige – “Kitchen” (2009)
  41. My Morning Jacket – “Thank You Too!” (2008)
  42. Natalie Cole – “Be Thankful” (1977)
  43. Nate Rateliff & the Night Sweats – “Thank You” (2015)
  44. Neil Young – “Harvest” (1972)
  45. Ohio Players – “Jive Turkey” (1974)
  46. Paul Simon – “Mother and Child Reunion” (1972)
  47. Phillip Phillips – “Home” (2012)
  48. Phish – “Farmhouse” (2000)
  49. Ray Charles with James Taylor – “Sweet Potato Pie” (2006)
  50. Ray Davies – “Thanksgiving Day” (2005)
  51. REO Speedwagon – “Flying Turkey Trot (live)” (1976)
  52. Rumer – “Thankful” (2010)
  53. Sam & Dave – “I Thank You” (1968)
  54. Shonna Tucker & Eye Candy – “A Family Dinner” (2013)
  55. Simon & Garfunkel – “Homeward Bound” (1966)
  56. Sly & the Family Stone – “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” (1970)
  57. The Band – “King Harvest (Has Surely Come)” (1969)
  58. The Christians – “Harvest for Home” (2002)
  59. The Cranberries – “Ode to My Family” (1994)
  60. The Hollies – “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” (1970)
  61. The Isley Brothers – “Harvest for the World” (1976)
  62. The Shins – “Young Pilgrims” (2003)
  63. Vince Guaraldi Trio – “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” (2012)
  64. XTC – “Harvest Festival” (1999)
  65. ZZ Top – “I Thank You” (1979)

Guitar turkey

Happy Thanksgiving everybody! Don’t forget about the big event scheduled for Friday: Record Store Day Black Friday! Lots of great limited releases scheduled. I better not lose out on a couple of my choices to some college-aged hipster since I have been living and dying with many of these artists since the Seventies. Oh well… See you next week!

Forget Journey, Steve Perry’s Back with ‘Traces’

32nd Annual Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony - Show

Sometimes, when an artist leaves the spotlight of rock & roll fame, you begin to forget just how good that person was to begin with. And, when that artist takes nearly a quarter of a century to create new music, many have forgotten about his talent altogether. Oh sure, some of his songs are still gathering massive amounts of radio airplay, especially when one of his songs becomes something of a national anthem, you just stop listening to the song. Yes, the millennials kept that song alive after seeing hearing at the end of the Sopranos series finale or watched as the Glee “kids” performed it several times during the course of that show. That song was released shortly after I graduated from HIGH SCHOOL in 1981, it’s popularity really has never waned with the public, although it did only peak at number nine. “Don’t Stop Believin'” has kept Journey afloat for nearly 40 years, as they now have a near-soundalike as their lead singer, but that song has kept original lead singer financially secured with royalties that he was able to walk away from everything in order to find himself. Of course, I am talking about THE voice of Journey, Steve Perry.

11.20 Journey - Infinity (1977)11.20 Journey - Evolution (1979)11.20 Journey - Departure (1980)

Back in 1976, Journey was playing very competent jazz-fusion rock but sales were eluding the band. Enter singer Steve Perry. From the moment the Sam Cooke fan entered the fray, Journey’s fortunes soared with Perry’s incomparable voice. Their first album together was 1977’s Infinity, which garnered strong sales, and subsequently a strong concert following. More albums followed: Evolution (1979), Departure (1980) and the double-live set Captured (1981). And, along with them came the supporting tours, their audience grew. By 1981, they were quietly beginning to eclipse Styx as my generation’s favorite band.

11.20 Journey - Escape (1981)11.20 Journey - Frontiers (1983)

Yet, it was the next two albums that sent Journey’s popularity into places that few artists EVER experience. First, 1981, the band scored a number one album with Escape, and it’s pre-Thriller run of big hits such as the aforementioned anthem “Don’t Stop Believin'”, as well as “Stone in Love” and the Prom ballad of 1982 “Open Arms.” The explosion in popularity was followed in 1983 with the cheesy video-driven Frontier album, which spawned memorable hits like “Faithfully”, “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” and “Send Her My Love.” The band toured stadiums, released a coveted pinball machine with their image emblazoned on it, and constant radio play. Then came a small and well-deserved break.

11.20 Steve Perry - Street Talk (1984)11.20 Journey - Raised on Radio (1986)

In 1984, Steve Perry released his first solo album, Street Talk, which turned the heat up on the singer. Hits songs were plentiful, especially his fantastic “Oh Sherrie” with its fantastic video parody of the overblown nature of videos at the time. One thing that Perry’s voice has that his replacement in Journey lacks is that touch of soulful emoting that only came from growing up listening to old soul masters, especially his hero Sam Cooke. But, the cracks in the band were forming. Guitarist Neil Schon and keyboardist Jonathan Cain, two-thirds of the writing team in the band, wanted to keep pushing on, while Perry wanted to rest. A compromise was reached, and the band released what I consider to be their most soulful album ever, Raised on Radio, in 1986. The band toured and had a strong year, but not like just three short years before.

11.20 Steve Perry - For the Love of Strange Medicine (1994)

Then came the break. Schon and Cain started a Journey-wannabe group with former Babys lead singer John Waite, and even scored a couple of hits in 1989. But, Perry withdrew. Finally, in 1994, Perry released a tired and weary album of new material to tepid response. That album was For the Love of Strange Medicine. Unfortunately, that music was not the soup of the day, so it died a relatively quick death during the era of grunge and alternative rock. Finally, it seemed as though Perry was done.

11.20 Steve Perry with a broken heart

Except, 1998, Journey came knocking again. This time Perry jumped in only for an album, not for a tour. The band recorded their weakest Perry-sang album ever, even though the album sold well. Of course, the band wanted to tour, but Perry couldn’t, as he needed hip replacement surgery. Delays kept piling up until the band and Perry went through a divorce. And Steve Perry, arguably the greatest singer voice of my generation, went quiet. Journey carried on, and Perry went into seclusion.

"Five" New York Screening - Inside Arrivals

Eventually, Perry was pulled out by his new girlfriend, Kellie Nash. Unfortunately, when the couple met, Nash was suffering from cancer. And, although they spent a short time together, it was a promise that Perry made to Nash as she was dying that he would record new music. Unfortunately, Kellie passed in late 2012, and that’s when Perry began writing again. Then, for the next six years, Perry was in and out of studios, writing songs slowly, until he was happy with his new album, his first in 24 years. The title is Traces. The music is strong, but it is the voice that carries the day. Although he claims to have not sung in a long, long time, his voice sounds just like it did in the Seventies, though he no longer has to soar against the guitar wailing of Schon’s brilliant playing. On Perry’s new album, you can truly appreciate that soulfulness in his voice that you may have forgotten about since the phony lead singer of Journey lacks it. And, it is during those subdued moments in the music when you actually hear the depth of Perry’s voice touching your heart.

11.20 Steve Perry - Traces (2018)

Thank goodness that Steve Perry has released this new album, Traces. Now, everyone can bask in the glory of his magnificent voice within the confines of some of his most brilliant songs he has ever given us. I guess none of us should have ever stopped believing.

Workaholic Ken Sharp’s New Album Is a Dream Come True for All of Us

11.19 Ken Sharp - Beauty in the Backseat

We are now in the homestretch of 2018. We just completed a ten-week chunk of time during which many good albums were released. I have been struggling to listen to all of this new music from the likes of Paul Simon, Paul McCartney, Paul Weller and a bunch of non-Paul rockers, such as Elvis Costello. Posthumous releases from Chris Cornell, Prince and Tom Petty have delighted me to no end. Pretty good Christmas albums have been released by Eric Clapton and The Monkees (the best one of the year!). After several months of listening to them, Kai Danzberg’s and Lisa Mychols’ latest albums are still getting heavy play on my stereo [FYI: These two have just released their new duet single on bandcamp.com, and it’s awesome!]. And, Chic has even released a comeback album! Yet, one album has been getting more run lately than the others is by rock’s second-foremost renaissance man (behind Todd Rundgren) is the latest by rocker/author/journalist Ken Sharp called Beauty in the Backseat.

11.15 Play On! 111.19 Play On! 211.19 Play On! 311.19 Play On! 4

After spending several years writing a brilliant four-volume set on power pop music known as Play On! Power Pop Heroes (Hey Ken! If you ever read this, I can’t wait for Volume 5!!!), Sharp released a great new album in 2016 called New Mourning. The album was definitely one of my favorites that year, but 2018 has been something of a watershed year for the man, at least musically speaking. This tour-de-force began in December 2017, when, shortly after David Cassidy’s untimely death, Sharp released a fantastic single called “I Wanna Be David Cassidy,” a fantastic slice of ’70s AM radio rock that be honored the man in the title and lyrically expressed what us kids were thinking of Cassidy when we lived to watch David on The Partridge Family. I was a seven-year-old boy who totally understood what being David Cassidy might have meant to the girls.

11.19 I Wanna Be David Cassidy11.19 She Hates the Beatles

Then, earlier this year, Ken followed that single with another called “She Hates the Beatles,” after his producer dared him to write a song with that title. Now, no man of our age would consider a woman to play a major role in our lives who hates the Beatles, yet, once again, Sharp hit another round-tripper with this single. Then, in a short space of time, when his favorite band, Todd Rundgren’s Utopia, announced a reunion tour for the spring, Sharp used his excitement to create a near-perfect tribute to the band with his THIRD single of the year called appropriately enough “Utopia.”

11.19 Utopia

All of this happened in rapid machine gun fashion, when Ken quickly announced that he was releasing a new album called Beauty in the Backseat. Of course, the man actually saved the best for last! This album is stuffed full of songs with melodies, which reminds me of how much I love the sound of Todd Rundgren’s music played by the AM radio station in my dad’s Buick. That’s what this album reminds me of. Those summer days when my parents would take my brother and me to the country club swimming pool and hearing Badfinger and the Raspberries hit songs on that car radio. Those were care-free days, full of fun and great pop music that rocked. And, Mr. Sharp, this new album is of the 21st century yet takes me back to my youth as if I were living to new that new song by Bread on my little AM radio in my bedroom.

11.19 Ken Sharp - New Mourning

Yet, nostalgia is NOT this album’s strength, not by a long shot! No, this is the type of album that millennials NEED to hear, digest and allow to become an influence on their music to remind them that the best beats are actually played by musicians and not manufactured on your phone. Additionally, Sharp has given the world a lesson on writing timeless melodies, the kind which borrow into our brains and remain there for hours after listening to that song. Unfortunately, Sharp has left off this album two of his three fantastic singles, only giving us the David Cassidy song. Yet, there is no letdown of the quality of songs that Sharp has created. From the Raspberries-like opener “Rock Show” to the his brilliant “Pull the Strings,” which sounds like a long-forgotten hit on a Time-Life ’70s AM Gold compilation. Throughout the whole album, Sharp tells us this is HIS music, take it or leave it, and he is comfortable in his own skin. Even his homage to the late great David Bowie is fresh and heartfelt (“The Day That David Bowie Died”).

11.19 Ken Sharp

I think with all things have been said, this album is ultimately a tribute to Eric Carmen, as it sounds like the follow-up to Carmen’s 1976 debut album. Still, this is more than a simple tribute album, since there are additional nods to Jeff Lynne and ELO and even Magical Mystery Tour-era Beatles. But, for the duration of an album, Ken Sharp has channeled Eric Carmen to give us a fantastic power pop album for the ages.

11.19 ken sharp and kiss
Author Ken Sharp poses with his book about KISS entitled ‘Nothing to Lose’ between Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, half of the subject matter in the book

See folks? Power pop is alive and well! Three of my favorite albums this years are all from this genre. And, during these stressful days of Trump, don’t we deserve some music that will give us a break from that crap?

I Am NOT Kidding! Day 2 of Maroon 5: My Top 20

11.16 Maroon 5 Group Photo

Yesterday, I came out as a Maroon 5 fan at the ripe old age of 55. And, my new found love of the band has NOTHING to due with Adam Levine’s major role on that silly TV singing show on NBC, The Voice. As I have said earlier, I find those shows to be especially contrived with fake drama and writing that appeals to the lowest common denominator which has little to do with musical talent and only audience manipulation. Let’s face that if Jennifer Hudson, an Oscar-winning actress with the most powerful voice this side of Whitney and Mariah, cannot win American Idol, then something is innately wrong with these programs. Throw in the fact that few of these contestants actually have hit songs, then there may be a problem with the shows. Plus, I know for a fact that two-big voiced singers from this area went to an American Idol cattle…er…casting call, only to be sent home because they were NOT sitting in the correct area of the stadium. It’s as though the producers reject fifteen-sixteenths of the potential contestants BEFORE the auditions ever begin.

11.16 Maroon 5 Legos

But, this blog entry is NOT about those stupid shows. No! For I have come to sing the praises of Maroon 5, the latest artist to mine the lucrative field that straddles the pop, rock and R&B worlds so effortlessly that I have place them alongside Fitz & the Tantrums as my heirs to the Daryl Hall & John Oates popmeister throne. What is unique about Maroon 5 is that they have taken the Chic guitar sound and combined it with some rock sounds and hip hop flourishes to concoct a unique and valid pop sound for the 21st century. And, as I said yesterday, where Rob Thomas dropped the ball during the previous decade by making solo albums and walking away, however briefly, from Matchbox 20, left the pop/rock vein wide open for someone to grab the mantle. Briefly, I thought Fitz might take it, but they decided to slow down the fast train of stardom, just as Maroon 5 began to hit their creative stride, especially since Levine apparently learned the Thomas lesson by sticking with his band no matter how many people are telling him to go solo.

11.16 Maroon 5 concert

Honestly, I thought Maroon 5 was done after their second album, which has aged better than I thought it would since I felt it was a major disappointment upon its release. Then came Levine’s artistic renaissance via The Voice, as he began to learn the advice that he was actually giving his contestants, allowing him to grow as a singer, performer and, most importantly, a songwriter, even though the band has turned toward “song doctors” to help them make hit songs. I really don’t have a problem with this relationship. At least the label is NOT telling the band that their songs are crap, and they need to record other songwriters’ songs, as has happened to a great number of artists, such as Cheap Trick, Heart and Chicago, to list a few.

11.16 Maroon 5 Dorbz

So, today, I bring you my Top 20 Maroon 5 Songs, which I believe to represent the sound of a band at the top of their collective skills. And, just because many of them have been hits does NOT neglect this band’s talent! Not everyone has to be angst-ridden and noisy when making art. Some musical geniuses actually have hit songs, right Blondie? Well, let’s stop pimping this countdown and just get to it!

11.16 Maroon_5_Live_in_Hong_Kong_27

  1. “This Summer’s Gonna Hurt like a Motherf***er” (V, 2014)
  2. “Moves like Jagger (Feat. Christina Aguilera)” (Hands All Over, 2010)
  3. “What Lovers Do (Feat. SZA)” (Red Pills Blues, 2017)
  4. “Sunday Morning” (Songs About Jane, 2004)
  5. “Girls like You (Feat. Cardi B)” (Red Pills Blues, 2017)
  6. “Don’t Wanna Know (Feat. Kendrick Lamar)” (Red Pills Blues, 2017)
  7. “Payphone (Feat. Wiz Khalifa)” (Overexposed, 2012)
  8. “Sugar” (V, 2014)
  9. “She Will Be Loved” (Songs About Jane, 2004)
  10. “Makes Me Wonder” (It Won’t Be Soon Before Now, 2007)
  11. “If I Never See Your Face” (It Won’t Be Soon Before Now, 2007)
  12. “Harder to Breathe” (Songs About Jane, 2004)
  13. “One More Night” (Overexposed, 2012)
  14. “Misery” (Hands All Over, 2010)
  15. “Maps” (V, 2014)
  16. “Daylight” (Overexposed, 2012)
  17. “Animals” (V, 2014)
  18. “Wake Up Call” (It Won’t Be Soon Before Now, 2007)
  19. “Wait” (Red Pills Blues, 2017)
  20. “Love Somebody” (Overexposed, 2012)

11.16 Maroon-5-Logo

Sure, most of the band’s best songs have been major hits, but when a band has had as many Top 10 songs in their career as Maroon 5 has, then it should be no surprise that their best songs were released for radio play and individual sales.

11.16 Maroon 5 Minions

Don’t take my word for it! Listen to the band’s music and I think you will become a believer. Maroon 5 is a first-rate pop/rock band!