Wednesday, September 29, 2010


For those of you who are new to No Expiration, I am an occasional contributor to SIRIUS XM's Catholic Channel, on the very cool Busted Halo show. Tomorrow night is Father Dave Dwyer's birthday (I think he's thirty-something) and since he once mentioned to me that he really enjoys Annie Lennox, I figured I'd feature her music for the show. Plus, I figured that would make this episode 33% easier to prepare for than the usual epsodes - it is a no-brainer that I had to include "Why," which I think is her finest moment (in a career of many, many great moments).

As No Expiration readers know, I really love watching great artists grow up in a way that makes sense. Meaing that I like young artists addressing youth, and older artists addressing what it means to grow old (Bruce Springsteen is especially good at this, and John Lennon was as well). I love looking at the below album covers together: The Eurythmics' Touch from 1983 and Annie's Bare from 20 years later, 2003. No more hair dye, no more mask, she's looking straight at you and saying, "this is the deal."Annie had such a distinct and inconic look, sound and vibe in the '80s with her group The Eurythmics, and she could easily have fallen into the "I Love The '80s" category. Instead she kept developing as an artist and as a person, and she has sort of created her own genre.   Maybe not her own genre, but she is certainly unique. I've selected a bunch of songs (not all of them famous songs) but call in and tell us about your favorites.

By the way, one of the songs will be "Sing," which is her song about the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa.  The song features lots of great guests (all female) including Sarah McLachlan, P!nk, Faith Hill, Celine Dion, Shakira, Isobell Campbell, Beth Gibbons, Beth Orton, Gladys Knight, Joss Stone and even Madonna. You can learn more about Annie Lennox's activism, and find out what you can do, at Annie Lennox Sing.


Well, it's that time again!  The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has announced the artists that are on the ballot this year, and they include:

Alice Cooper - and judging by the photo at the Hall's website, they are referring to Alice Cooper the group, not just the frontman. That includes guitarists Glen Buxton and Michael Bruce, bassist Dennis Dunaway and drummer Neal Smith. Rightfully so: the music wasn't as good once the original band split up. But the stuff that the original band did was incredible and influenced not just hard rock and metal, but punk and glam. Alice happily "sold out" years ago, and did so before everyone else was OK with being in commercials and on TV shows, but that has caused people to take him less seriously (in my opinion). But the band's early music is just incredible.

LL Cool J, one of the first artists on Def Jam, and he's still there today. I don't know if he is still considered relevant, but he was relevant longer than anyone else in the genre. And if you get him mad at you, you don't want him taking to the mix tape circut, he maybe be a Hollywood actor these days, but he will hand you your head. Obviously I'm not one of those people who think "rap isn't music" or "hip-hop shouldn't be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame." To me, LL is more rock and roll than lots of inductees.

The Beastie Boys is one of my favorite groups of all time, although they can be jerks. But they definitely deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. Their evolution has been amazing - from hardcore punks to Run-D.M.C. type hip-hop to a new kind of hip-hop on Paul's Boutique to playing hard rock and instrumental funk. And even their evolution from punky brats to semi-responsbile activists who retain a sense of humor... there's never been anyone like them, and they have at least four classic albums.

I've said this before, but Tom Waits is weird and "weird" belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I would have voted him in way before Leonard Cohen.

Also on the ballot: Dr. John, The J. Geils Band and Darlene Love, who I have no objection to. Bon Jovi, Neil Diamond and Donovan who I do have objections to. And also Chic, Laura Nyro, Donna Summer, Joe Tex and Chuck Willis. I would argue that the ballot should include KISS, The MC5, The New York Dolls, Motorhead, Warren Zevon, Emmylou Harris, Rush and The Red Hot Chili Peppers.


Longtime No Expiration readers know that I am a huge fan of Rancid, but I haven't really written about Rancid frontman Tim Armstrong's great 2007 solo album A Poet's Life. I thought about it the other day when Stephen King wrote about the single "Into Action" in his "Pop Of King" column in Entertainment Weekly (unfortunately, they haven't been posting his columns online since March, hence no link to!). He basically was discussing the "rush" you get from great music, and actually compared hearing this song to when he first heard Jerry Lee Lewis' "Great Balls Of Fire."

Now, obviously, Tim's song doesn't have the cultural impact that The Killer's did. But Stephen King isn't having the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame fact check his stuff. He's talking about music on a visceral level, and I'm glad he pointed out this song (I enjoy his EW column and I think he has great taste in music).  Coincidentally, SIRIUS XM's E Street Radio recently rebroadcast Bruce Springsteen's guest DJ program, and Bruce played this song also, saying that he thought it should have been a huge hit. So anyway, check out A Poet's Life, and here's the video for "Into Action" (the female singer on this is Skye Sweetman).

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


That headline may be an assault on grammar, so I apologize for that. But tomorrow morning on SIRIUS XM OutQ's The Morning Jolt with Larry Flick (featuring co-host Keith Price), I'll be talking about the latest releases from original Genesis singer Peter Gabriel and the guy who took over after Peter left the band, Phil Collins. They have both released new albums this year, both "covers albums." 

Phil Collins' Going Back sees him revisiting some of his earliest influences, namely Motown (or mostly Motown).  He's not trying to prove anything - he has nothing to prove to anyone.  Between Genesis and his solo career (not to mention the other artists he has produced and drummed for), the dude has sold more records than nearly anyone. A couple of years ago, he went on what he called "The First Final Farewell Tour," and then he did the Genesis reunion, which was pretty much a one-off deal. He's been pretty public about saying that he is happy to sort of finish his music career (in my mind, the dude pays way too much attention to his many critics). I kind of felt like this album, while being a labor of love, was likely prompted by his record label. I bet he had another record left on his deal, and they figured he could do a Rod Stewart "Great American Songbook" type deal. (I've heard that Elton John's label asked him to do that, but he wouldn't.) Famous adult-contemporary singer + songs that everyone knows and loves = $$$! I guess that could happen here, but whereas Rod did famous songs, Phil mixed some very famous Motown songs ("Heatwave," "Uptight," "Papa Was A Rolling Stone") and lesser known ones ("Blame It n The Sun," "In My Lonely Room"). It's not "hits" from start to finish. The album is enjoyable, Phil sounds like he is having fun, and The Funk Brothers (bassist Bob Babbitt, guitarist Eddie Willis and guitarist Ray Monette, who played on many original Motown tunes) are having fun also. They don't really add anything to the originals, but I don't think Phil was trying to make a Big Statement, he was just having a great time and paying tribute. It's a nice album without any pretentions.

Which brings me to Peter Gabriel's Scratch My Back, which I've written about before, and we have talked about it before on Larry Flick's show. I'm a huge Peter Gabriel fan, but I didn't like it (the first time I didn't enjoy a non-soundtrack album from Peter). I wanted to revisit it because (a) I felt guilty about kind of slamming it, (b) I thought it made an interesting contrast with Phil's album and (c) I wanted to talk about some of the I'll Scratch Yours covers of Peter's songs by other artists. The album features Peter doing no guitar/no drums covers of NPR and hipster approved acts. Peter's plan was to have everyone who he covered, cover him. A few of them flat out said no, including David Bowie and Neil Young. And supposedly Radiohead doesn't want to scratch his back, either. Peter is very much "too hip for the room," so it is interesting to see him get dissed. Anyway, as much as I try, I really can't get into the album, except for two songs: his cover of The Magnetic Fields' "The Book Of Love" and Lou Reed's "The Power Of The Heart." They are both such lovely songs. I have heard the original "Book Of Love," and I think Peter's version is an improvement. I hadn't heard "The Power Of The Heart," I think it is a semi-recent Lou song, but Peter does such a beautiful version of it. I'll Scratch Yours has been coming out one single at a time, and some of my favorites are Stephin Merritt's "Not One Of Us" (he is the leader of Magnetic Fields) and Paul Simon's "Biko," which sounds like it was written for him.

I also wanted to revisit Santana's Guitar Heaven, even though we talked about it last week. Last week, I'd only heard "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" with india.arie and Yo-Yo Ma. This week I went to iTunes to get "Whole Lotta Love" with Chris Cornell and "Little Wing" with Joe Cocker. "Whole Lotta Love" is all right, but there's no vibe. It sounds like a studio band recorded the track and emailed it to Carlos for some leads and Cornell for vocals. I think it would have been cooler if it were Chris backed up by Carlos and his touring band, live in the studio. This sounds like something recorded for Transformers or some other summer popcorn flick. Which is fine, but it could have been so much better. I'm not a huge Joe Cocker fan, I think he oversings a lot, but I think he does OK on "Little Wing," but he is a really good song interpreter (by necessity, as he doesn't write songs). I haven't heard anything else from the album: I really don't want to hear singers from Bush or Stone Temple Pilots or Train or Daughtry.

I also want to bring up some older "covers" albums, and one of the earliest ones that I am aware of is David Bowie's 1973 album Pinups. Bowie had retired his "Ziggy Stardust" persona but was still working with guys from The Spiders From Mars, and this album was a tribute to the garage rock that all of those guys loved: The Kinks, The Who, The Pretty Things, Them and The Yardbirds. Fun stuff.

Maybe my favorite covers record ever is Chris Whitley's 2000 album Perfect Day. I've talked about Chris recently, but we focused on his classic debut, Living With The Law. Recorded on March 28 and 29, 2000 (just two days) to tape (not harddrive) with Billy Martin and Chris Wood of the jazz trio Medeski, Martin & Wood, it is unbelievably beautiful. I got to interview him when it came out, and we both marveled over the first song on the album, Bob Dylan's "Spanish Harlem Incident." He said that that song was so perfect, it almost made him want to quit. I'm not the dude who says that everyone does Dylan songs better than Dylan does, but I like Chris' version of that song best. The title track is a Lou Reed cover, which I believe Susan Boyle has covered for her next album. Good for her, people should hear Chris' version.

The Ramones' Acid Eaters was their second to last album. It seemed kind of weird: they were covering lots of '60s stuff, lots of it affiliated with hippie music, which The Ramones supposedly helped to destroy with punk rock. Well, that's the way history was written, but The Ramones made history, they didn't write it. They loved bands like Love and The Jefferson Airplane, and they paid tribute to the songs, Ramones-style.

Finally, Metallica's Garage Inc. One disc was a collection of their previously released covers, the other were new ones. They've always done a great job at putting their own spin on songs, and there's no better example of that than their cover of Bob Seger's "Turn The Page." But the whole collection is awesome.

This only hits the tip of the iceberg as far as great cover albums, but these are some of my favorites.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


For those of you who are new to No Expiration, every Wednesday morning at about 9 am ET(ish), I can be heard on the SIRIUS XM OutQ channel show The Morning Jolt with Larry Flick, co-hosted by comedian Keith Price. Every week I go on the show and talk about music, and this week I have some great records to discuss.

First off is the new Robert Plant album, Band Of Joy. I recently saw Robert Plant with his new group (also called Band Of Joy, featuring Buddy Miller and Patty Griffin) and was blown away. The album, which is sort of a continuation of his Alison Krauss collab Raising Sand... only without Alison and without producer T-Bone Burnett. And it is a little more rocking. I love the album, I don't know if I love it as much as Raising Sand yet.

Jamey Johnson is one of the best country artists out there today. It's too easy to say he's more "authentic" (or something) than the big Nashville stars. He gets played on many of the same stations, and the first single from his double(!) album, The Guitar Song, "Macon," features members of Little Big Town. Still, dude is a badass, and this is a great album, although it's a lot of sad songs.

Richard Thompson is a great artist who I should write about more. His music is more like wine than beer, if you know what I mean. At first it may taste weird, but after a while, you grow to love it. There's a reason why so many people cover him - Los Lobos, X, Bonnie Raitt, The Neville Brothers and even Robert Plant on his new album. Thompson's new album Dream Attic was recorded live in concert, but it's all new songs. He's a great songwriter and a great guitarist (although he probably cringes at the term "guitar hero") and this album shows that off. "A Brother Slips Away" is just so sad and will probably be used at funerals of NPR listeners for decades to come. I don't even mean that as a joke, it's just that not many people know who Richard Thompson is!

JP, Chrissie & The Fairground Boys is Chrissie Hynde's first non-Pretenders band. She's a company woman, so to speak, but she's taken a holiday from the day job to work with a younger dude who compliments her quite well. I dig the album.

Finally, I gotta represent for the Jeerz. Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes have a new album, Pills and Ammo. Southside is really underrated, (I guess being the *second* biggest artist from the '70s Asbury Park scene is a tough burden) but he is a great singer. "Lead Me On" is one of the best songs I've heard this year. Someone who is more marketable could have a big hit with this one. Of course, *you* don't need to be marketed to, that's why you're here. Check the song out on iTunes, and maybe pick up the whole album!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


For those of you who are new to No Expiraton, every Wednesday morning at around 9 am ET-ish, I go on the SIRIUS XM OutQ channel's The Morning Jolt with Larry Flick (also featuring co-host and professional comedian Keith Price) to talk about music. This week, I'm going to be talking about a bunch of albums that are filled with "star studded" guests.  Sometimes these albums kind of work: Santana's first foray into this, 1999's Supernatural, obviously connected with a lot of people and achieved that ever-elusive goal of "introducing an icon to a new generation." Ray Charles' 2004 Genius Loves Company seemed to be very successful as well. Last year, one of my favorite albums was N.A.S.A.'s Spirit of Apollo, which had guest stars galore. What's more, I bet none of them were in the same room when they were recording.  Generally, I think people should be together when they record together, it provides a "vibe," for lack of a better term.

Jerry Lee Lewis just released Mean Old Man, his second album in a row of "all-star collaborations." 2006's Last Man Standing featured some cool collabs and this is like the sequel. I don't get the sense that too many of these were done in the same room (most of the songs credit an "overdub engineer") and many of them sound like they were literally phoned in. But there are some great moments. Kid Rock (sounding like Steven Tyler) and Slash are both on "Rockin' My Life Away," which is pretty rockin'. If Kid wants to join a band, he could make everyone forget about Weiland if he joined Velvet Revolver. I generally don't like updates of songs featuring the original artist, but on Jerry's last album, he did Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll" with Jimmy Page, and I dug it. This time around he takes on two Rolling Stones classics: "Dead Flowers" with Mick Jagger and "Sweet Virginia" with Keith Richards, both of which work (but I like "Dead Flowers" better). Another great moment here (available only on the deluxe edition) is the spiritual "Railroad To Heaven" with Solomon Burke. There are great moments with Gillian Welch and an interesting take on "You Are My Sunshine" with Sheryl Crow. This album isn't where I'd start out if I had no Jerry Lee in my collection, but it's fun.

Ronnie Wood was originally going to do an album of duets with the likes of Eddie Vedder and Amy Winehouse. But his new album, I Feel Like Playing, doesn't feature any duets. Amy is nowhere to be found, and Eddie Vedder co-wrote "Lucky Man," but doesn't actually sing on it. Not to say that there aren't a lot of guests here: Slash, Flea, Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, Bobby Womack and Ian McLagan of The Faces are some of the guests who help out. "I Gotta See" is a sweet soul ballad that prominently features the vocals of Bobby Womack. I think Ronnie is really underrated as a songwriter, singer and frontman, but I guess that's what happens when you are in bands with Mick Jagger and Rod Stewart!

Herbie Hancock's The Imagine Project is his third Supernatural type collaboration album in a row, after 2005's Possibilities and 2007's The Joni Letters, which shocked everyone by winning the Album of the Year Grammy Award. The Imagine Project is all covers and collaborations. I checked out his take on the Peter Gabriel/Kate Bush classic "Don't Give Up" by John Legend and P!nk. It's nice, but isn't classic (the best version I've heard other than the original is a Willie Nelson/Sinead O'Connor duet version). Much more interesting is "Timitant Tillay/Exodus." "Timitant Tillay" is a Tinariwen song, and "Exodus" is the Bob Marley classic. It features Tinariwen, an amazing band of nomads from the Sahara Desert. I need to write a bit more about them, they're excellent. It also features K'naan, a Somali-Canadian rapper and also Los Lobos. Really cool.

The idea of David Byrne and Fatboy Slim collaborating on an album interested me: Byrne is a contrarian from the rock/pop world, while Fatboy Slim (alias Norm Cook) comes from the supposedly hipper world of electronic dance music, but loves to make music for football stadiums. Here Lies Love is a double album about former First Lady of the Philippines, Imelda Marcos, and features lots of guests including Florence (of + The Machine) Tori Amos, Sharon Jones, Steve Earle and Cyndi Lauper. It is interesting, but as is often the case with concept albums, the songs often get weighed down by the lyrics and the storyline. There are some cool parts, especially Sharon Jones' song, "Dancing Together."

Dark Night Of The Soul is a creepy and sad album. It is a collaboration between Sparklehorse and Danger Mouse. Sparklehorse, aka Mark Linkous, was most likely experiencing that around the time of the album. Tragically he committed suicide soon after recording the album. The album was sort of a collaboration between both musicians and film maker David Lynch, who put together a book of photos to accompany the album. In fact, they released the book first, due to problems with the record label - and included a blank CD with it ("someone" leaked the album online). Guest on the album include The Flaming Lips, Frank Black, Iggy Pop and Lynch himself.

Mark Ronson's solo albums are always guest-star packed affairs. He's a great DJ, producer and musician, but he doesn't sing. His albums are always really interesting, but on this one he seems to be more influenced by '80s new wave than horn-covered '60s and '70s soul. The one song I've heard is "Bang Bang Bang" featuring Q-Tip (who has been on both of Ronson's prior albums) and Amanda Warner from a new group called MNDR.

Santana is about to release his fourth guest-star-studden album in a row. This one, Guitar Heaven, features him covering some of Rolling Stone magazine's "greatest guitar songs ever" with guest vocalists. The only song I've heard is The Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" with Yo-Yo Ma and india.arie. I really like thier take on it, but most of the album is taken up by guys who I am not a fan of: Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots, Gavin Rossdale of Bush, Scott Stapp of Creed. I am kind of looking forward to hearing Chris Cornell's take on "Whole Lotta Love" and Joe Cocker's "Little Wing."

Next week: some great new records from dude singer/songwriters.


People were surprised at the news that Robert Plant is doing another “solo” album, instead of following up the success of his six time Grammy winning Raising Sand with Alison Krauss. But the thing is, when he started touring with Krauss, people were surprised that he opted to do that instead of a Led Zeppelin reunion tour, which he would have made way more money for. The thing is, Robert Plant doesn’t do anything he doesn’t want to, and he definitely isn’t doing anything for the money. It turns out that, in his mind, the second album with Krauss (which they did start sessions for) wasn’t happening for whatever reason. In his mind, it wasn't working... so it was time to move on to something else.

So, he moved on, as he has done several times in recent years: he’s left Jimmy Page, he left his bands The Priory Of Brion and The Strange Sensation, and now the Alison Krauss project. But he wasn’t done with Nashville. He called up the great Buddy Miller, who played guitar on the tour with Alison, and asked Buddy to put together a band and produce a new album. The band includes the incredible singer (and songwriter) Patty Griffin.

This long introduction kind of explains, for those of you who aren’t familiar, the band I saw on Sunday night at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City. They had chemistry, and they had mojo. The show was incredible: they did stuff from their Band Of Joy album (which comes out today) – including covers of Richard Thompson’s “House Of Cards,” Los Lobos’ “Angel Dance” and Townes Van Zandt’s “Harm’s Swift Way.” They did some stuff from Raising Sand, “Rich Woman” and “Please Read The Letter.” Some real obscure stuff from Robert’s career – “All The King’s Horses” (from 2005’s The Mighty Rearranger) and “Down To The Sea” (from 1993’s Fate Of Nations).

Amazingly, Robert was happy to back up the other members of his band. He went to the back of the stage to play harmonica when Buddy took the mic for one of his best songs, “Somewhere Trouble Don’t Go.” He sang backup when Patty sang “Move Up” (from her recent Buddy Miller-produced album Downtown Church from earlier this year) and also when his other guitarist Darrell Scott sang “A Satisfied Mind.”

And yes, they did mine the Led Zeppelin catalog, and to great effect, without making it a “Zeppelin Gone Country” show. “Misty Mountain Hop,” “Houses Of The Holy” (which is one of my favorites, and a totally underrated song, as far as Zeppelin songs go), “Gallows Pole” and even “Rock and Roll.” Patty Griffin looked like she was having a great time rocking out – moreso than she does at her own performances! The show was just about an hour and a half, and most of the crowd greeted everything ecstatically (admittedly, the Zep songs got the loudest reactions, along with Robert’s solo hit “Tall Cool One”).  I’m sure when they do a proper tour, the shows will be longer, and I totally recommend you check out the album and the tour when it comes to your town.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


For those of you who are new to No Expiraton, every Wednesday morning at around 9 am ET-ish, I go on the SIRIUS XM OutQ channel's The Morning Jolt with Larry Flick (also featuring co-host and professional comedian Keith Price) to talk about music. Labor Day got me thinking about some great artists who work (or worked) really hard without getting thier due props.  Artists like the great Chris Whitley, Joan Osborne, Joan Jett, de la soul, Los Lobos, and a few others who I will be writing about later this weeek. Call in if you feel I've missed someone!


de la soul was the first hip-hop group I ever saw in concert. I've written about this before: they opened for Living Colour at The ("New") Ritz in New York City, this was probably about 1989.  They weren't that great, but I don't feel bad saying that, they know that their first shows weren't great.  When I interviewed them a few years ago, I told them about that show and they were like, "oh no!" But I've seen them about ten times since then, and they are always great.

When hip-hop first came out, it was so radical.  But in many ways it was pretty conservative (and these days, I'd argue that it is very conservative). But even back in the late '80s (the heyday), mainstream hip-hop didn't know what to make of these guys, and that has sort of followed them through their career. In my mind, they should have been huge, but it didn't happen.  Still, I rate them over almost any group (hip-hop, rock, whatever) in any genre. I recently noticed that they are going to be playing Madison Square Garden soon.  I was like, "WHAT?" It turns out that they are performing with Gorillaz, with whom they have collaborated twice. It would be great if people realized how great de la is and they got to headline a place half that big.  I am not a huge fan of head Gorilla Damon Albarn, but I give him lots of credit for putting de la on his albums.
  • The Classic Album: hell, there's like three... 1989's Three Feet High and Rising, 1991's de la soul is dead, 1993's Buhloone Mindstate
  • Other Great Ones: 1996's Stakes Is High, 2000's Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump
  • The Compilaton: 2003's Timeless: Singles Collection
  • Look For:  Their Tom Petty sampling collaboration with Teenage Fanclub, "Fallin'," from the 1993 Judgement Night soundtrack.


It's really a bummer that some snide and cynical folks will write off Joan Osborne as a '90s artist.  Yes, her major label debut, 1995's Relish, was a classic (and was WAY deeper than the huge hit single, "One Of Us"). But she worked hard to keep her integrity and sense of indentity in an era where few artists were doing that. It took her a really long time to follow up - Righteous Love came out in 2000, and by then pop culture and the media had moved on.

Well, I'll admit that Relish is still probably my favorite album by Joan, but she's done so much great stuff since then! Righteous Love was amazing (she does a great cover of Dylan's "To Make You Feel My Love," a great follow-up to Relish's "The Man In The Long Black Coat") -- "Safety In Numbers" is one of her finest moments, and there are lots of other great tracks on the album. People don't realize how prolific Joan was in the past decade: she released five regular albums, plus a Christmas album, toured on her own, as well as part of The Dead (and I think as part of Phil Lesh & Friends).

I especially love 2002's How Sweet It Is, a covers album.  Joan is a great writer, but she can interpret classics like few other singers.  She never sounds intimidated, and she shouldn't: she not only has the skills, but also the know-how to make a song her own. I think 2006's Pretty Little Stranger was sort of supposed to be a "country" album, as part of it was recorded in Nashville - I wish she went a bit further in that direction.  Still, it's a great album, and the title track and "Who Divided" are among her best songs. I also love 2007's Breakfast In Bed, another covers album that really worked well. Joan still tours and if you don't care about trends but you do care about soul, you'll catch one of her shows. 
  • The Classic Album: 1995's Relish
  • Other Great Ones: 2000's Righteous Love, 2002's How Sweet It Is, 2007's Breakfast In Bed
  •  The Collection: 2005's One Of Us is good for starters, but there really isn't a great Joan compilation
  • Look For: lots of stray Joan tracks, like: Joan and Jackson Browne's cover of Dylan's "My Back Pages from the soundtrack to 2000's Steal This Movie, Joan and Bob Dylan himself doing Bob's "Chimes Of Freedom" from the soundtrack to 1999's The '60s, Joan and The Holmes Brothers doing "Nobody's Fault But Mine" from the 2003 album Shout, Sister Shout! A Tribute to Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and Joan's two collaborations with The Funk Brothers on the 2002 soundtrack to Standing In The Shadows Of Motown ("Heat Wave" and "What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted").


It's not that Joan Jett isn't well know, of course everyone know who she is. I just don't think that she gets the credit she deserves, as one of the best garage rock acts of the past few decades.  Part of it is probably because she hasn't been very prolific, and she seems to have as many complilaton albums as albums of original material.  Her last album, 2006's Sinner, was really good, she did an awesome cover of "A.C.D.C." by The Sweet. She does do a lot of covers - but no one complains that Aretha does lots of covers.  Joan is unique, I don't care if she wrote a song or not, when she sings it, it is hers.

She tours year after year (doing lots of shows for our armed forces via USO), but I've never seen her: I've got to catch one of her concerts one day.  I wish she still did her SIRIUS radio show (on The Underground Garage), she was a great host. She has great taste, she can roll with The Dave Clark Five and also Minor Threat.

Anyway, after the release of the Runaways movie earlier this year, she put out a new 2 CD Greatest Hits set, which is probably what you need to get if you don't have any of her records.

  • The Classic Album: 1981's I Love Rock 'n' Roll
  • Other Great Ones: 1980's Joan Jett (reissued in 1981 as Bad Reputation), 1983's Album,  1988's Up Your Alley, 1993's Flashback has some great rare stuff, 2006's Sinner
  • The Collection: The aforementioned Greatest Hits, released earlier this year.
  • Look for: a new album!


Chris Whitley's debut album, 1991's Living With The Law, is one of my favorite albums ever. It is definitely safe to say that I've never been so blown away by and artist or an album upon first listen.  I mean, I don't remember exactly when I first hear Dylan or The Beatles. 

In 1991, I had tickets to see Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers on the tour for Into The Great Wide Open. Chris Whitley was the opening act.  I had never heard of him, which was weird: Petty tended to have fairly well known openers (I'd seen 'til Tuesday, The Replacements and Lenny Kravitz open for him by that point). One day while going into one of the many used CD stores on Long Island that I used to frequent, I was paying for some stuff, and I saw the store's promo copy on the counter for (maybe) six bucks.  I decided to give it a try, since I had tickets to see him with Petty.  I have no other way to put this: I was blown away by the album.  It's an overused expression but it's accurate.  I played it for everyone I knew who liked music. My brother loved it, and years later, wrote a play named after one of the songs on the album.  And after that album, a drought.  He released the "Poison Girl" EP (with live versions of songs and one new song) and collaborated with Rob Wasserman and Les Claypool on "Home Is Where You Get Across" from Wasserman's Trios album.

It took four years before he followed up with the much more raw Din Of Ecstasy.  Some people preferred it: I didn't mind the raw production and heavy sound, but the songs just didn't stick with me. But over the years, he had a lot of awesome albums. I loved 1997's Terra Incognita (his third and final album on Columbia), 2000's album of covers, Perfect Day, was breathtaking. Rocket House, released on Dave Matthews' ATO Records label in 2001, was a more electronic album (he used to be in early proto-techno-industrial bands when he lived in Europe).  His final album, a 2006 collaboration with a guy named Jeff Lang called Dislocation Blues, was incredible. I got to interview him twice, and it was... sad. You could see the guy was haunted.  One time, the interview included him playing a few songs on his guitar.  It was him, me and my friend in a tiny room. I didn't know where to look, what to look at.  It was pretty amazing.

He died in November of 2005, from lung cancer. What a sad loss to the music world, and it really is too bad that more people didn't know about his incredible body of work.  Do yourself a favor, and check this guy out.

  • The Classic Album: 1991's Living With The Law
  • Other Great Ones: 1997's Terra Incognita, 2000's Perfect Day, 2001's Rocket House, 2003's Hotel Vast Horizon, 2006's Dislocation Blues
  • The Collection: Long Way Around 1991-2001 released in 2002 covers his first decade (and skips Perfect Day)
  • Look For: A documentary on Chris, Dust Radio, is supposedly in post-production, although the film's website hasn't been updated since February. 

Friday, September 3, 2010


I talked about Trombone Shorty's Backatown a few weeks ago on The Morning Jolt with Larry Flick, but I haven't really had the chance to write about it here.  Trombone Shorty is so named because he iis a kazoo virtuoso.  Ha ha.  But really, besides playing the 'bone, he also also plays trumpet, keyboards and drums, as well as sings.  He reminds me a bit of Robert Randolph (a sacred steel guitar prodigy), in that he plays very rootsy music and specializes in an instrument that isn't often used in pop or rock music. To me, his music sounds influenced by New Orleans hot jazz (he's from there) and also marching band music. But the guitar (played by Pete Murano) is pretty hard rock influenced... all and all the thing has a pretty distinct sound. 

"Hurricane Season" leads off with a very drumline/hip-hop kind of thing, I can see that being an anthem at high school and college sports events. It's instrumental besides a bunch of "HEY!"s.  Shorty (aka Troy Andrews) wrote or co-wrote the entire album, except "On Your Way Down," which is by New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint (who plays piano on the song as well). But the whole thing swings and is very funky and doesn't sound like anything else out there today.  There aren't that many artists with too distinct of a sound these days, but Shorty has got his own thing going.  I definitely recommend this if you're looking for something different and you're in the mood for some New Orleans music.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Every time Los Lobos puts out a new album, it's kind of an "oh yeah..." moment.  Meaning, "Oh yeah, EVERY TIME they put out a new album it is really good/great." I talked a bit about this on The Morning Jolt with Larry Flick recently, how people take them for granted.  I guess that, in a way, I am guilty of that also.  I have never seen them in concert!  I remember a couple of years ago they co-headlined with The Chieftans, I wanted to go but couldn't. I've got to catch them next time around.

On Tin Can Trust, they supposedly got back to basics by recording in a no frills studio situation in L.A.  I never think that their sound is too "frilly" anyway, even when they were recording with Mitchell Froom and Tchad Blake.  But they produced this one themselves (that must be interesting, the band has numerous songwriters, I'm sure they all have ideas about production as well). But they are tight as hell, and this album has all the elements that make them great: the garage punk sound, some real weird sounds (very weird solo on "Jupiter Or The Moon") and the traditional Mexican stuff.  They are one of the only bands I can think of who could tour with The Dead (or Furthur, or whatever they call themselves these days), Social Distortion and even someone like Tom Waits.

The songs are great, it isn't just about the sounds.  The first song, "Burn It Down" (with backing vocals from Susan Tedeschi) should be the opening sequence of a movie. I have no idea what "Yo Canto" is about, but it makes me want to dance.  "All My Bridges Burning" (featuring lyrics by The Grateful Dead's Robert Hunter) is great... and their cover of the Dead's "West L.A. Fadeaway" beats the original.  I have lots of Los Lobos albums, but I don't listen to them enough ( and I still don't have their box set, Mas Y Mas). Listening to Tin Can Trust reminds me that I need to amend both situations.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


The new issue of Rolling Stone (True Blood cover) has a great feature with Chuck Berry. That, in itself, is sort of news.  Chuck famously doesn't trust journalists, and rarely grants interviews.  So this is the rare chance to read a new interview with the man who pretty much created rock and roll. 

But even more notable than that is that he didn't come off the way I thought he would in the interview. He has a reputation for being difficult and bitter and edgy (even the writer noted this at the beginning of the piece).  He wasn't any of those things, and the writer even mentions that it seemed that Berry forgot he was giving an interview during some of the conversations.  I don't want to give anything else about the article away, but definitely check it out.

I've written about Chuck Berry before. Whenever I listen to The Great Twenty-Eight, I'm always blown away by how incredible it is. I listened to it again today while reading the article, and was still knocked out. You can't really seperate Chuck's music from its context anymore - but it isn't so awesome because of its history (although that certainly adds to it), it is awesome because it gives you the feeling of being young, in a convertible car, driving fast with life ahead of you. It is fun, good-hearted and yet badass at the same time.  I'll never get tired of it.