Saturday, July 31, 2010

Mo Width...Mo Problems

So now I’m pissed that I gave Jim DeRogatis some online love after he was so unceremoniously ripped apart for a recent diss of Panda Bear’s performance at the Pitchfork Music Festival.

It’s now moved on to some vicious attacks against Jon Spencer, first with barbed tweets and now with another jab of “blackface parody” complete with a full-on repost of a Penthouse article DeRo did on Spencer back in 1997 where he started the whole blackface reference.

In other words, he hasn’t updated his attack thesaurus in over a decade.

To bring up the article-even if it adequately addressed DeRo’s real issues with the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion-and to use it as ammunition for his performance during a time that seems like a lifetime away from the band’s heyday is just lazy.

I never viewed the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion as a blues band and I never thought of a guy like Jon Spencer and my tour guide to anything blues related.

Unlike DeRo, who apparently loved Pussy Galore-Spencer’s first foray into music notoriety-a band that I actually had issues with. So I think it’s weird that he can find so much to appreciate with them and so much to attack the Blues Explosion.

I remember Pussy Galore sounding like a pretentious group of spoiled brats who happened to fall on enough good fortunes with their limited musicianship, a stereotype that was reinforced when it was discovered that Spencer didn’t actually come from the dirty mean streets, but the clean confines of suburbia.

That and his almost ridiculously simple attempts to rile and shock his underground comrades seemed so disingenuous that I completely ignored much of their output.

What’s weird is that I loved his next project, Boss Hogg. It retained the same limited musicianship, but it sounded like the real deal. Gone were the jokey PMRC baiting tactics and they were replaced by a sense of just finding a groove and rocking the bajeezus out of it.

It didn’t hurt that it featured a naked picture of his old lady on the cover.

JSBX appeared to be an offshoot of that direction, only with more testosterone. Like I said, not one did I take Spencer’s word that the band was part of the blues or a beacon to lead me to that holy genre.

It was raw. Basic. A common element during the grunge era, for sure, but it sure seems like there isn’t much music that resembles that raw nerve in this age of white world music, Brian Wilson worship, and new wave revival. Spencer sounds out of place in today’s environment, and he sounds like a welcomed bit of nostalgia because of that.

Meanwhile, DeRogatis sounds like a tired relic, a man too exhausted from Pitchfork’s heat to muster the energy to compose any new prose to attack Spencer so he dips into the hard drive to pull up a polarizing article from a soft-porn mag that was long on words, but short on content.

How did Spencer respond? With quick retorts of “fucking asshole” and calling him a “square,” this seemed to please DeRo who immediately linked it on his blog and, once again, reminded us on his Facebook page that ties the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion to some kind of unfounded racial explotation.

According to those in attendance-the real test of worthiness-JSBX was one of the memorable performers of the Pitchfork festival. And while I may have agreed with DeRo on his assessment of Panda Bear’s set and defended his right to dislike it, if watching the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion only prompted him to dig up an old article, then it speaks less of what he thought about the performance and more about some other issues that DeRogatis still has against Jon Spencer personally.

Maybe it’s because he can’t rock a pair of rubber pants like Spencer can.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Since You're Gone: The Cars Fuel Reunion Rumors

I discovered what it meant to be the first with new music on a Friday afternoon in the 5th grade.

On Fridays, we devoted our music class to playing a song from our own record collection. Most people brought singles, but on one particular day, I brought The Cars first album.

It was a new release, new to the point where my music teacher didn’t own The Cars yet, but you could tell that she liked it. She went over the cover, the song credits, the liner notes and the track listing.

She wasn’t a schoolteacher on that day, she was a fan.
And I was turning her on to the new Cars record.

I felt cooler than any other 5th grader in that room.

I still like the Cars’ debut, but I liked Candy O even more. The lead single “Let’s Go” was a perfect call-to-arms declaration for the weekend. Not that there was much for me to do in 6th grade for the weekend, but if I did have plans, that would have totally been my anthem.

I liked it more because it didn’t have as many recognizable songs as the debut. That’s really my only complaint about The Cars-the rock stations played nearly every song on it. Take a look at the track listing and you’ll recognize almost every song on it except one, “I’m In Touch With Your World.”

Candy O didn’t have that kind of saturation-still doesn’t-even though the album is full of great songs. I played it the other day and was amazed how it only managed to spawn one hit single, and how A.O.R. stations ignored the plethora of hooky tracks that were perfectly suited for rock radio playlists.

By album number three, The Cars were getting weird. Personally, Panorama doesn’t rank as high for me as the first two, but not by much. I loved the weirdness and the possibility that The Cars could turn into an art-rock new wave band and still manage to deliver memorable moments.

Nobody else felt the same way-the record stiffed-and for the new two albums, the band courted the mainstream with overwhelming success.

Then, they promptly disappeared.

I always viewed The Cars’ break-up with a sense of disappointment. Disappointment that they didn’t end on a note that acknowledged either the band’s more arty moments or their earlier rock moments. I didn’t even buy Door To Door, which sounded like it was merely an afterthought according to the reviews. I even didn’t bother with Heartbeat City, mainly because everyone else had it.

It seems that when they made the decision to move to a commercial center is the moment that I lost interest. The fact that each one of the primary band members released forgettable solo records after the break up also contributed to the fact that their absence wasn’t as devastating as some of their peers. Even when you started to notice The Cars’ contributions in other, newer band’s output, there wasn’t a sense of revitalized interest in them, particularly in regards to reunion.

The loss of Benjamin Orr from pancreatic cancer in 2000 was devastating for many reasons, but the biggest one for me was the fact that a real Cars reunion was now impossible. It almost prompted an immediate sense of finality for the rest of the band, with Greg Hawkes and Elliot Easton suddenly pressing for a reunion with David Robinson-one of the most underrated drummers of the past quarter century-staying put in his new career and Ric Ocasek pointing out the obvious that one of the primary voices of the band is permanently silenced.

The two started the New Cars, which from what little I heard, sounded like an eerie tribute band playing a weird mix of nostalgia and cash grab. I almost applauded Robinson and Ocasek’s stubbornness, which makes the rumor that the four surviving members are rehearsing for another go even more disappointing than the news of their break-up.

Here’s the picture of the surviving members in some rehearsal space practicing.

Maybe it’s for a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame gig.

Maybe it’s just an Ocasek solo album.

Maybe it’s for a reunion tour, a final jaunt that fills the bank accounts of the remaining members one last time.

I just hope that they’re not seriously considering a full-fledged return when a major voice of the band is not around to truly make it a reunion. I’d like to think that Ocasek understands this and he’s even taken a few swipes at Hawkes and Easton for their New Cars fiasco. But it is strange that a band that hasn’t played a note together since 1987 is photographed practicing with some wide grins, looking like the moment together was just what they needed.

Iggy and the Stooges Prepare Live DVD

Normally, I don't like using this blog for shameless product promotion, but there was an intriguing dvd in the works that sounds like it could be worth checking out and the idea is kind of novel too.

A few years ago, the Beastie Boys created a live dvd that was shot entirely by the fans and the results were pretty, ahem, awesome.

MVD Entertainment Group is taking a bit of that very idea and turning it into what could be a series. Here's some of the information I received in my inbox:

On Friday, September 3rd 2010, Iggy and the Stooges are putting themselves IN THE HANDS OF THE FANS...

MVD Entertainment Group has launched the site to offer fans a once in a lifetime opportunity to film and interview Iggy and the Stooges performing the seminal punk rock masterpiece RAW POWER at the All Tomorrow's Parties Festival on September 3, 2010. Six lucky fans will be chosen by way of a video submission contest to join director Joey Carey on location at the Stardust Theater at Kutchers' Country Club in Monticello, NY. This marks the reunion between Iggy Pop and powerhouse guitarist James Williamson as well as original Stooges drummer Scott "Rock Action" Asheton. Also featuring Mike Watt on bass and Steve Mackay on saxophone.

The contest is based on fans submitting short high definition video segments asking Iggy and the Stooges interview questions, or demonstrating why they should win the contest. Winners of the contest will film and interview Iggy and the Stooges at All Tomorrow's Parties. This fan shot footage, along with the contestant video submissions, will be crafted into a high definition longform program, which will be part concert film and part reality TV show about the journey of the fans.

So who knows, like the Iggy and the Stooges reunion itself, it could be awesome or it could be a complete bust. One has to think that James Williamson's involvement with this whole reunion lends more potential than the involvement of the Asheton brothers.

Not that there's anything wrong with the Asheton brothers, it's just that they're from Michigan and there's something about the Wolverine state that breeds some pretty strange cats.

Iggy Pop included.

In other Stooge news, newcomer Mike Watt is fresh out of knee surgery and posting his thouroughly entertaining spiels again at is Hoot page.

I can't believe a guy as good as Watt still gets down on himself when he thinks he isn't giving Iggy his best performance on each and every night. What a stand up dude.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Daniel Schorr R.I.P.

Daniel Schorr died today.

He was 93.

I knew he had been around forever, but since he still gave relevant essays on N.P.R. and delivered them with such intelligence that the coherency belied his advanced years, I could have sworn he was twenty years younger.

The dude was hand-picked by Edward R. Murrow, got thrown out of Russia for not adhering to their strict sense of editorial review, was threatened with jail time for not revealing his sources, and was one of the key members of the press during Watergate.

In fact, when news divisions got a hold of the Nixon Administration’s “Enemies List,” he began to read it aloud on the air and paused ever so slightly when he got to name #17.

The name was his own and the reason for his ranking was because he was considered “A real media enemy.”

But the best Daniel Schorr story-the one that enables him to reach such a pathetic blog like this one-is the time when he joined Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention on stage.

Zappa was trying to get young people to vote, and who better than to relay that message than Daniel Schorr. Nothing screams hip quite like an old Jewish dude with an encyclopedic memory.

The true test of Schorr’s hipness was after he gave his little speech when Zappa teased him with a question.

“Would you like to sing something?”

He agreed.

Schorr through Zappa a curve by singing a few bars of “It Ain’t Neccesarily So” from the Gershwin musical Porgy & Bess.

Frank and the band tried their best to try and find the correct chord progression to the song while Schorr himself tried to find the right key.

You can hear a bit of that event at the ten-minute mark, but do yourself a favor and check out the complete NPR story below.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Speaking Of Bros

Hey dude, wanna play Madden?

Up The Irons, Take A Chill Pill, and Pass The Coin

In an indication that there are too many artists named after bears, I totally spread misinformation by suggesting that Iron Maiden was badmouthing my man Panda Bear. First of all, let me say that I love both, what with “Bros” hovering around as one of my top ten played tracks according to and the fact that I had a dream about Nicko McBrain just last night.

I’m not kidding.

I gave him a cherry pie.

But the truth is that Iron Maiden supposedly bad-mouthed Grizzly Bear, which turned out to be some weird rumor and not true at all. All I can say is that it would have been awesome if Iron Maiden did in fact bad mouth either one of those bands, and it would have been even awesomer if the next slam-this time directed at Metallica-was also part of this make believe press release.

You can read about the “incident” here and you can believe every word of it even it is a total lie.

While I was upping the irons at the Maiden show in Chicago on Sunday night, the hipsters arrived for the Pitchfork Music Festival, which included a shitty performance by Panda Bear, according to the bros at GloNo and the chubby guy that used to write record reviews at the Chicago Sun Times.

Panda Bear fans attacked DeRogatis with a level of such intensity that you could almost see the sand in their vaginas. The comments usually incorporated the words “fat,” “old” and a bunch of cute internet abbreviations that unsuccessfully masked the reality that they truly didn’t know how to spell.

And they didn’t acknowledge the idea that maybe DeRogatis was right. I mean, since Jim is considered an old dude, one has to admit that he’s probably been around long enough to know a shitty show from a decent one, and since when has it become a crime to let others know about a bad concert? Never mind the venue in which he does it, or how poorly his choice of words may have been, if the dude thought the show sucked then he has a right to voice his opinion.

My money is on DeRo, Jake Brown ("Play 'Bros, hippy!") and any other honest attendee that had the balls to admit that Panda Bear’s set sucked. My money is also on that every person who got bent out of shape over an honest opinion is probably pale, skinny, and too much of a pussy to ever admit that Panda Bear didn’t deliver.

The same could not be said for the Iron Maiden show.

Sure it was hot, filled with dudes who hydrated themselves with $9 beers, but everyone was cool and I didn’t notice one bit of hassling-unless you call the 19 year-olds patrolling the parking lot and telling the tailgaters to head into the venue for said $9 beers an example of “hassling.”

While we watched this, we concluded that it was things like not being able to hang out and get drunk before a heavy metal show that is directly contributing to how uptight our nation has become. Sure, we get that there are things like liability involved and the need to turn a profit, but there was also a time when live music made memories-and sometimes those best memories came before and after the performance, particularly if the show sucked.

Luckily, Maiden was good enough to create some nice memories, but it burns me a bit that my son or daughter will never be able to really experience a live concert the way I have. Now I’m not suggesting that it would be ok for my daughter to get loaded before a show and become one of those obligatory boob flashers. What I am suggesting is that I would rather that she has a good time and let the event provide her with some release where she could escape from the rules and regulations of everyday life for a few hours whenever a band comes to town.

Because if she doesn’t, she’s more inclined to suppress it and let it come out in other, more dangerous situations.

I’m also willing to bet that if she finds the right music, she’ll want to experience it without the help of substances. I can tell you of countless shows that I purposely went without as much as a drop to drink (or anything else) because I wanted that event to be clearly burnt into my mind for years of reflection.

And then there are nights like before an Iron Maiden show where the bonding and building of the community entails sharing a bottle or offering a cold beer to the dudes in the Focus next to your car in the parking lot.

But Live Nation doesn’t care about our collective experience. They only care about the bottom line.

The fear is that this and future generations will grow up believing that going to a live show means walking into another location of crass commercialism instead of place of worship. The fear is also that they’ll walk away from that live show with little leftover in their pocketbook and with the only memory being “How am I going to pay for this?”

On that topic, I wanted to offer an epilogue on the challenges that my cousin and I experienced in trying to get these tickets.

Firstly, let me say that the seats we ended up getting were awesome. We paid a price for them, of course, and that price totally eliminated nearly any possibility for a similar show for the rest of this year.

You may recall, the story ended with a positive letter of explanation from Ticketmaster/Live Nation and a vague offer from a contact within that organization to call the venue and see if there was a possibility to get a hold of some decent seats at the face value. The gentleman committed to looking into it-no promises, and none expected either-with the understanding that he would get back to me. I believe the conversation ended with a declaration of “Let me know, either way.” On my part, suggesting that I would take it up the ass and pay scalper prices if he was unable to deliver.

We had the tickets as soon as we discovered that Live Nation was ass fucking us on the same day tickets went on sale. That should show how much faith we had in getting any sort of progress from a company that is regularly ranked as one of the worst companies in America.

But still, I thought that a follow call, email, or letter (they had all of those contact options) would have been the stand-up thing to do, to again, let me know either way.

Live Nation/Ticketmaster is not a stand up company. I received no correspondence whatsoever, another example of how that company does not believe in the power of music or the passion of its customer. Hell, it doesn’t even believe that this power and passion that I’m speaking of is significant enough that it could build such an unbelievable relationship with its customers that it could easily be ranked as one of the best companies in America instead of ranking down in the cellar.

Let me give you an example of how this could be done.

First Avenue in Minneapolis will always be one of my favorite venues of all time, and a lot of that reason has nothing to do with the layout, the bands that stop by, or the venue’s history. Sure, all of that is important to some extent, but one of the things that I will always remember about it is how I was treated there.

There were several times when I went to First Avenue to see a band, and even a few when I just went there to have a few drinks and hang out. I’d go up to the bar, order a drink, not act like an asshole and tip the bartender when my drink arrived. That simple act of respect would often lead to a “Hold up…” while the bartender would go and grab a complimentary ticket of a mid-week show that maybe wasn’t selling as much as they’d like. At the time, I lived about three hours away, so I wasn’t able to attend most of these shows-even though some of them featured well-known national acts and I would have totally checked them out had I lived a little bit closer.

The point is that my little offering, that little bit of investing in their business wasn’t taken for granted-and with their little offering to me, I would be as loyal as I could to this venue because of how I was treated.

I understand that there was a financial incentive to do this-more people=more drink sales=more profit-but the way in which they set out to make that profit was completely different than the reaming that I received from Ticketmaster/Live Nation.
Finally, there’s another thing that Ticketmaster/Live Nation is doing that I saw as plain as day during the Maiden show. It kind of relates to my First Avenue story, but it doesn’t amount to any comp tickets.

Instead, I notice a couple of Live Nation staff members walking around the merch and food area with signs offering Ozzfest tickets for $10 and other shows of interest at dramatically reduced pricing.

Great, huh?

But imagine how pissed you’d be if you’d already shelled out $60, plus all of those bullshit service fees, and after you’ve paid all of this you learn that your seats are kind of crummy because the douchebags sold all the good seats to a ticket broker that’s probably on the Ticketmaster/Live Nation payroll anyway.

I’d be pissed.

I’d also learn to never fall into the same trap again (unless it’s an act that I simply must see, regardless of the price) and I will condition myself to wait until those prices fall so that I can get to the show on the cheap.

Which is exactly what I plan on doing when the Scorpions roll through the area for their final show.

After all, I’m too broke to pay full price after the Maiden ticket fiasco and I’ll be damn sure if I even consider a $9 beer if I do end up going.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Big Boys Don't Cry: The Making Of 10cc's 'I'm Not In Love'

It’s been posted elsewhere, but there’s a great documentary piece concerning 10cc’s “I’m Not In Love” floating around the internets today that shows how labor intensive audio recording was before samplers, particularly when you felt the need to have layers upon layers of vocals.

It’s one of those songs that’s hard to dislike because it brings you back to a point in your life even if there isn’t a point in your life where it was present. What I mean is that “I’m Not In Love” sounds like it was made to fit a moment even if it hasn’t occurred yet.

There’s more detailed information concerning the making of “I’m Not In Love” at Sound On Sound, which you’ll probably visit after watching the awesome CliffsNotes version of the documentary below.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Doors - When You're Strange

It’s true, there comes a point in every rock fan’s life where you discover The Doors and become absorbed in the myth of Jim Morrison. For me, it was right around the time of Rolling Stones’ cover feature on Morrison-you know, the one with “He’s hot, he’s sexy, and he’s dead”-which just happened to coincide with my first reading of the biography No One Here Gets Out Alive.

When I say “first reading,” it’s because I read that book religiously, resuming the story with every purchase of their small catalog.

I tolerated everything that appeared in print under the guise of “poetry,” mainly because I didn’t know any better.

I bought the American Prayer album, an embarrassing addition to The Doors catalog almost on par with Full Circle and the other album The Doors’ recorded after Morrison died. Let me be clear, however, and confess that I thought Jim’s words at the time were great, but the surviving Doors members sounded like a shell of their former self, devoid of danger and sounding like a bunch of middle age men cashing in on their frontman’s corpse.

Which they were.

My Lizard King spell ended with the book of Morrison’s poetry Wilderness, a posthumous compilation of his work that I found to be weak, particularly when compared to the Beat stuff that I had discovered around the same time.

I now feel that the Doors debut album is rightfully considered as a classic, deserving to be in any rock fan’s collection. Beyond that, though, is a matter of preference. I still rank Morrison Hotel pretty high and half of Strange Days and L.A. Woman. The rest is nowhere near the high of their debut and can only really be appreciated when you’re in full Jim worship.

I can’t dispute the band’s importance in my upbringing, and I’ve had to remind myself of their spotty history during moments of re-releases and rarities. I don’t think you can find a better live Doors document than Absolutely Live, can you? And if you can, I don’t think it would be very revelatory to me.

Which is what I felt about the new Doors documentary When You’re Strange; would there be anything new to be learned from it?

The answer was “No,” but what surprised me even more was how little the documentary was able to add to someone’s Doors knowledge, particularly after they’ve read No One Here Gets Out Alive.

The film is narrated by Johnny Depp in some utterly embarrassing prose that was no doubt written by someone hired to regurgitate the myth.

One of the most frustrating things for me was how the director would use footage from an era of the band that was obviously not from the time of discussion. I like my documentaries about musicians to follow linear timeframes, and I like the footage to be from the same period as the discussion.

Still, the inclusion of Morrison’s short film HWY is awesome as I’ve always been curious about it. They use some of the footage to suggest the obligatory “He’s alive!” myth, which is somewhat annoying-but to be able to finally see the footage of Jim in his beard, tearing around in his Ford Cobra Mustang is pretty great.

Speaking of annoying, Ray Manzerek has very minimal opportunity to let his piehole ruin the proceedings with another tale of how Jim was a shaman and what a great poet he was.

Of course, no documentary is going to dispute it if you happen to believe that Jim was a shaman, a poet, or the reincarnation of some Dionysian god. If you can stomach all of the story building and dippy praise, When You’re Strange isn’t a bad place to start when considering the Doors’ place in rock history.

After a few views and after a few more plays of their catalog, you’ll begin to notice the cracks in the impeccable façade that the band and their managers have created over the years.

The funny thing is, the documentary hints that Jim noticed those cracks too. And as much as he tried to dismantle the myth that he himself tried to create, he discovered that it was much harder to do-particularly when everyone around you is working overtime to build it back up or to enable your every whim.

And in that regard, When You’re Strange makes sure The Doors’ exaggerated relevance beyond the music they created is still in tact for another generation of young mope seekers.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Serena-Maneesh - SM2: Abyss In B Minor

Quite possibly, the most accurate interpretation of My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless since Kevin Shields submitted the invoice to Creation Records for the recording fees from that landmark album.

Yes, I’m aware that I’ve penned a number reviews that active use Loveless as a handy reference point, but Serena-Maneesh’s second album, SM2: Abyss In B Minor, is such a spotless reinterpretation of Shields’ shoegaze classic that I’m inclined to tell everyone waiting for a My Bloody Valentine reunion album to pitch the idea and lend your support behind these Norwegian sound manipulators.

Forged in a cave (literally), the band took their underground recordings to Nick Terry (Primal Scream) Rene Tinner (Can) for some additional tinkering and handed the final results to Ray Staff, the same dude that mastered some of those classic English albums that are sitting right now in your record collection. All of this is just a fancy way of saying that Serena-Maneesh take their guitar whitewashing very seriously, and even when they’re pumped through the compressed confines of your shitty earbuds, the results are incredible.

Opener “Ayisha Abyss” builds from an atmospheric wind-up into a distorted bass groove, and for over seven minutes, listeners are thrown creepy piano phrases that never manage to find the proper pitch, cheap keyboard rhythm breaks, and disjointed vocals that seem to be muttering, “take it there” underneath all of the echo treatments.

By the second track (“I Just Want To See Your Face”), the Belinda Butcher vocals start to creep in, but they don’t stop with just easy MBV member comparisons. I’ll be damned if S-M frontman Emile Nikolaisen doesn't sound like he wants to wipe Shields completely off the shoegaze family tree.

Not content with living within a wall of fuzz, Serena-Maneesh take matters a step further-a bit of Sunn 0))) doom metal here, a bit of Swans brooding there-all mixed together in a such heady barrage of sound that it took over a week to mix each track.
The dedication has paid off, as Abyss In B Minor is one of the year’s most welcomed surprises. It’s a meticulous document that could be the bastard son of Loveless, for sure, but more importantly, it could be the album that steers your heart towards a new source of beautiful eardrum mayhem.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Baker's Dozen Best Bassists Ever

I think it’s time for another list to stir up endless comments, disputes, and general name-calling towards yours-truly. Here’s a Baker’s Dozen of the Greatest Bass Players that ever walked the rock ‘n roll landscape. The criterion was simple: it’s a list of bassists that I’ve heard over the years and gone “that dude is a fine fucking bass player.” I’ve missed a bunch, which is where your comments come into play.

I use the word “dude” affectionately, because there might be some chick bass players out there that would qualify as both a “dude” and a “great bass player,” but I’ll be damned if I can name one right now. I’m just sayin’…

At the end, I’ve put together a few honorable mentions, because narrowing it down to just 13 is hard enough. And then I’ve thrown together a quick list of bassists that I think are totally overrated. You know, the kind that gets name-checked or mentioned in some circles without really demonstrating what makes them so great at their craft.

Disagree with the results? Speak up and comment or get your own website and make your own fucking list.

Here are my favorite thunder-broomers that tickle my anus.

1.) John Entwistle

You know, I had reservations with this one, but not because I doubt John’s worthiness on this list. If you may recall, I placed Who drummer Keith Moon at the top of the rock drummers list last year, and Entwistle’s inclusion here means that the entire rhythm section of The Who is the best rhythm section ever. Not really. When you look at both Moon and Entwistle’s playing, they hardly qualify as a traditional rhythm section since both parties seem to be playing whatever the goddamn please. Somehow, this weird algorhythm of soloing manages to blend together in a very unique way, but it’s the duo’s individual contributions that are both easy to hear and admire. There’s an extra feature on The Kids Are Alright DVD that enables you to isolate Entwistle’s playing and if that demonstration doesn’t turn your head in admiration, then you probably have no respect for the instrument itself and what Entwistle can do with it.

2. Paul McCartney

Have you heard this guy? I mean heard his playing on those old Beatle records? Sir Paul doesn’t just plod along, laying down simple 4/4 notes, he’s all over the frets. While Entwistle may be coming up with more technically proficient licks, McCartney uses for creative use of the low-end that manages to both complement Ringo Starr’s drumming and sound perfect for the song itself. Those “songs,” by the way, may just be some of the greatest compositions in rock history, so to fit in so wonderfully and be as complex as they are is amazing. People tend to forget that McCartney spent a number of years playing two/three shows a night gigs that helped him become intimately familiar with his instrument.

3.) Jaco Pastorious

I thought about removing Jaco from the list because he really didn't fit the rock mode. But he probably influenced more rock bassists than jazz ones, and like a lot of other players on this list, he was so good that he transcended most genres.

4.) Steve Harris

I believe that if it weren’t for Steve Harris, there wouldn’t have been a Cliff Burton. There wouldn’t have been a lot of high-profile metal bassists for that matter. Not only did he increase the visibility of the instrument, he raised the bar in terms of its performance.With three guitar players competing beside him, Harris’ lightening fast fingers put it at a level of any hot shit six stringer and it helped place Iron Maiden at a different level than most heavy metal bands. While most bands may have been content with one or two top-notch guitarists, a notorious front man, or a stunningly quick drummer, Harris was a part of a band that had greatness around every corner, occasionally stopping people dead in their tracks before they had a chance to admire anything else.

5.) Mike Watt

The story goes, D. Boon’s Mom was the one who suggested Watt take up the bass after noticing her son wasn’t really showing proficiency at it. The thing was, Watt didn’t know how to play it either, so he approached it like a regular guitar-albeit with two less strings-and he got good. Really good. He played with his fingers, emulating both funk and jazz while being fueled by punk, a genre that praised those who couldn’t play their instruments. It was hard to hate someone like Watt who practiced what he preached when he wasn’t practicing his instrument. And every time a roadblock was thrown his way, Watt picked up his thunderbroom and moved on, picking up new friends, new admirers and new techniques every step of the way.

6.) Peter Hook

Hook played with a pick. He played high on the neck. And he usually provided the melody in a band that was too bummed to worry about things like melody. The “riffs” he came up with were awesome, and when the lead singer killed himself, he took his riffs, applied them to electronic beats and-surprise-kept on winning. I think a lot of gearheads would find Hook's inclusion arguable, but for me I love his style so much that every time I pick up a bass guitar, I end up playing like Peter Hook.
For a visual reference, here's a picture of me "playing" the bass over two decades ago from a flier from my band's 1987 "Steaming Weenies World Tour."

The joke of that picture is not the long hair, but the fact that I don't play bass.

7.) Bootsy Collins

When a guy manages to lend jobs with both James Brown and George Clinton, you know he’s pretty decent. Such is the case for Bootsy, one of funk’s premier bass players and a performer that has created such influence that his style transcended his confines of his genre. He’s a man so good at what he does that you can stop with only his first name and people know exactly who you’re talking about and what he does for a living.

8.) John Paul Jones
My guess is that John Paul Jones is probably so talented that he could probably take any instrument, master it in a few hours, and end up being able to teach a newcomer that instrument in a matter of days. With that being said, he shows an enormous amount of respect for his primary instrument and is wise enough to know when to play and when to lay off. It makes him somewhat invisible in a lot of Zeppelin’s material, but when he turns it on, he’s as good as anyone on this list-and probably better. Take a listen to “Immigrant Song” and pay attention to what he’s doing. It’s a great example of Jones playing what’s required-until the “On we sweep with threshing oar” part where he just destroys the bottom end. He’s also the kind of person that is smart enough to know that the bass is a vital part of any band.

9.) Robbie Shakespeare

If you’ve ever heard a reggae song, there’s a good chance that Robbie Shakespeare plays on it. Seriously, at last count, he’s been on probably 200,000 songs and during that prolific output, he (along with drummer Sly Dunbar) changed the face of reggae music a few times in the process. His playing is slow, deep, and sexy-but that’s just one of his many styles of playing. In others, he’s quick with pops and grooves. More than anyone else on this list, Robbie Shakespeare is probably responsible for how an entire genre sounds and his impact on that genre is hard to measure. One thing is for sure, without him, Reggae as we know it wouldn’t exist.

10.) Cordell “Boogie” Mosson
What does George Clinton do after his bass player-one who happens to be one of the greatest bassists in the world, mind you-decides that he’s big enough to go solo? He goes out and finds another bassists who just happens to be almost as good as the man he’s replacing. The way that Clinton is able to recruit talent is amazing, but the real amazement is with the player’s own performances. Collins and Mosson did double duty on the low end for many years, but Mosson’s parts are often overlooked or assumed to be by Collins who was the more flamboyant performer. Make no mistake, though, Cordell “Boogie” Mosson was “the bomb” is a line-up already filled with weapons of mass destruction.

11.) Cliff Burton

The argument could be made that when Cliff Burton died, so did the metal spirit of Metallica. It would have been interesting to see where the band would have gone if Burton would have lived. I’m not suggesting the band didn’t release anything worthy after Burton passed, but I don’t think the released anything as good as when he was alive. His playing was aggressive, fast, and complex. He played with his fingers, giving the instrument and even deeper sound as well as a unique one since metal players generally played with picks. One thing is for sure, Cliff Burton was probably the most talented musician in Metallica and when he passed there was nobody left in the band to challenge the authority of Ulrich/Hetfield. When Burton was alive, the only higher authority was the genre itself.

12.) Colin Moulding
Clearly from the school of McCartney, XTC’s Colin Moulding could recreate Macca in his sleep, but he also brought that deep reggae tones to the mix and complex rhythms to hold down the band’s frequent left turns. You’ve heard of playing in the pocket? Moulding is so far down in the groove that he’s covered in lint.

13.) Geddy Lee

There’s a theory that power trios are essentially three dudes with an ego problem and I could probably see that if we’re discussing Cream. But Rush always seems like three very talented guys who get off on playing together and when you’re in a band like Rush, you’ve got to be really good at what you do. He made Rickenbacker basses cool to metal kids and he got so good at it that he began playing keyboards while playing the bass at the same time.

Honorable Mentions:

• Jack Bruce
• Billy Cox
• Geezer Butler
• Les Claypool
• John Deacon
• Sting
• Flea

Most overrated:

• Gene Simmons
• Nikki Sixx
• Noel Redding
• Glenn Hughes
• John Myung
• Jason Newstead

The worst bass solo of all time:
• Michael Anthony

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Superstar Sighting In Omaha

Speaking of stars, there’s a curious talent from Omaha that has been unleashing strange You Tube videos of his work-work that I wasn’t aware of if not for the internet monitoring efforts of a friend.

The link intrigued me to a point where I researched the artist known as Superstar and his wife simply identified as “Star.”

The story, according to an interview on a UPN station in the Omaha area, finds the Trinidad born Superstar finding the love of his life on a train in New York City where he was performing in clubs with the likes of Notorious B.I.G.

After marrying the girl on the train, the two moved back to her native Midwestern roots and settled in Omaha. The couple married, gave birth to a daughter Nikki, and he continued to work on his original material which he identified-according to an ad they purchased on the local network affiliate-as “a blend of pop and soul with a carribean flavor.”

Superstar also reminds would-be fans that his music delivers a “positive message: life is worth living.” It’s quite apparent from his dozens of homemade videos that he’s having a great time with his own life, one that has him residing in a split-level home with a room that’s evidently designated for Superstar’s recording and video studios where he keeps a keyboard with a databank of hundreds of rhythms and synthesizer parts.

You might think of elaborate when I say “recording and video studio,” but Superstar is working on a limited budget. His wardrobe is the same as it was from the Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em era, and his moves are a weird blend of the running man holding out his hand, which are covered by Isotoner gloves.

He uses his wife and daughter as video props, uncomfortably positioning both parties while the video is recording. There’s a definite pattern to what he wants them to do: start on the left, move to the right, and repeat. His daughter seems to have a hard time following this and she seems woefully clueless during the proceedings, her eyes asking “Why do Mommy and Daddy make me do this?” to the camera. Her mother seems intent on making sure the daughter knows her place, making sure that she is standing next to Superstar while her daughter finds her spot in the back, behind the two performers.

Superstar’s music is a weird mix of pre-programmed Casio loops, where he dutifully layers his monotone voice in a bunch of reverb. It’s hard to understand a word he says, and it’s hard for Superstar to find a melody to work with.

It’s obvious that English is Superstar’s second language and quite apparent that he’s clueless about his limited talent. And yet he presses on, loading up the wife, kid and video equipment to the park, the picnic shelter, or just to the front driveway where he seems to be lip-syncing to his songs, even though his lips seldom match the barely audile lyrics of his songs.

What’s most telling are the comments to his videos, where he admits his music has created stife in his life-causing members of his family to deem it as “ungodly.” The comments also encourage us to buy his cd because they are “going like hot cake (sic)” and that if the song makes us cry, “That o.k.”

The only tears I can shed are knowing that I don’t have the balls doing what Superstar is doing. Whenever I see him performing, the first thing I think of is “There’s someone in the background who can see him doing this!” or “I wonder if cars are driving by and then slowing down wanting to get a glimpse of the weirdo in the jumpsuit.”

The only thing you’ll see me doing in my driveway is washing my car.

The only thing you'll see in Superstar's driveway is a white Ford Focus.

But make sure that-if you do decide to buy a Superstar cd or dvd-that it is not a fraud release. There is a huge market of bootlegged Superstar material out there, so be sure to call Superstar before you buy.

Monday, July 5, 2010

My Issue With Jeffree Star

A few months ago I got sand in my vagina and wrote a 1000 word diatribe against Jeffree Star, a gay cross-dresser who makes a living...well, to be honest I'm not sure how he makes a living.

Jeffree Star was scheduled to play in Des Moines last month along with the even more curiously popular Brokencyde and I threw a hissy fit. I dropped the following critique a few months ago, calmed down a bit, and promptly forgot about it.

Now, I offer you this strangely angry assessment of Jeffree Star from the archives.

Is it a sign of getting old when you become frightened of things that don’t make any sense?


What confounds me is how people can pretend to be a star, or a celebrity, or even a musician, and in some cases, they’ll actually become what they pretend. Whether or not that truly qualifies them as becoming what they project is a matter of debate, but what frightens me is that there are people who are willing to believe it and they foster the ruse with their (or their parent’s) hard earned money.

Take Jeffree Star, a talentless gay man who dresses like a woman and has parlayed a franchise from just repeating the words “I am a star” over and over.

I’m being mean, of course, but there really isn’t a lot more substance than to my flippant opinion of a man who parades himself around like a celebrity without any real resume to prove it.

And yet, for some people that is enough.

The karma comes from knowing that their curious surge in page hits, video views, and song streams will come to an end and that their contribution to pop culture will be quickly forgotten. You will find Jeffree Star dead in a few years, or working in retail or some other position where the reality of life has finally lay its harsh hand on his existence.

Knowing this, I feel this unbearable urge to tell people like Star to take it easy, be nice, and try leaving something good for those dipshits that fork over their cash so that you can get loaded tonight and try to sleep it off in the next town that you’re looting.

The town tonight will be Des Moines, and it will feature another pockmark of music-Brokencyde-that is probably more culturally damaging and even more inexcusable than Star is.

Brokencyde sings about getting drunk and getting into chick’s pants. Nothing new, I suppose, but they do it with such a complete disregard for musicianship and total lack of talent that it makes you feel dirty listening to it. And not “dirty” in the sense of anything sexual, I mean dirty in the sense of mowing the lawn in 100-degree heat with 90% humidity followed by a shower of hot cow diarrhea.

Star, on the other hand, is a gay glitterati with so much past trauma that he builds a façade of femininity on with his clothes and covers the skin underneath it with permanent tattoos of Sharon Tate, Jean-Benet Ramsey, and I thought I caught a Breakfast at Tiffany’s era Audrey Hepburn somewhere on him.

There’s some symbolism there, I suppose, but it’s mixed with some weird pan-sexual gay/girl power mantra that’s a beacon for confused teenage girls and gay teenage boys (the ration seems to be about 75/25 female/male) who have no idea who’s portrait is on Star’s skin, but they know it’s “empowering” when he says the word “cunt.”

It’s that sense that Star has come from something troubled that gives one pause when dishing out criticism, but make no mistake, there is little inside him that qualifies this hot-pink twenty-something to have a record company that’s distributed through Warner Brothers.

As far as I can tell, his music is merely pre-programmed electronica with a few provocative catch phrases repeated over and over. The entire project probably took a week to create, and it shows. The rest of the time, Star has someone videotaping him while he yells profanity at anyone he thinks has ridiculed him, allows his dog to shit on the neighbor’s yard, or while he walks around with his equally foul-mouthed entourage like he’s someone important.

Other times, he looks provocatively into the camera lenses while he lip-synchs to rap songs and shows us that it takes an infinite amount of time to become the plastic figurine that he’s desperately trying to become.

Sure, there’s a clothing line and a fragrance coming to a Hot Topic near you, but don’t let that distract you that he’s just released his sixth single, one that’s sure to fail miserably like the previous five.

To hear Star, or Brokencyde, or any number of the “I’m a star cuz I say so” contingent, the sales don’t matter, neither do the critics (aka the “haters”) or the other musicians who are forced to share the stage/backstage with a bunch of shithuffers who’ve never loaded their own gear, let alone learned how to play it.

Yet the promoters of the Warped tour, a traveling sideshow of mediocrity and marketable angst, felt the need to include the tripe just mentioned on last summer’s line-up, which should have caused any self-respecting musician to bow out of the tour completely.

But because fame is so fleeting and because success doesn’t require you to have any real talent, they all stayed to collect a paycheck while occasionally lashing out at artists like Brokencyde or Jeffree Star, after they’ve collected their own paycheck, of course.

Even Brokencyde and Star seemed to hold some contempt for one another, with one of the Brokencyde “singers”-the one with the bad case of facial rosacea-stated that they didn’t “get along” with Star.

Yet here they are, touring together, because they know a package deal would sell more tickets than one headliner.

Fans can be so fickle, especially when they figure out the bands they’re supporting are too fickle to even invest the time needed to actually play an instrument.

What’s sad is that music provided both Brokencyde, Jeffree Star, Attack! Attack!, and any number of their ilk an opportunity to move away from the confines of their town, their past and situation. And since none of them have managed to pay a modicum of respect to their respective tickets out of those predicaments by investing in getting better, learning their craft, or giving back in some basic way, their fall-which is assured-will be swift and just as damaging as the situations that brought them here.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Blowed Up Real Good

Here’s a glimpse of the fireworks booty we’ll be setting off tonight in our back yard.
Front and center is “Robot Attack” who declares “Must destroy humans,” so you light his fuse and blow him up.

Purchasing fireworks is such a visceral experience-it’s eye candy for humans, particularly males, who find the brightly colored packaging enticing, probably because we know it will explode in a stunning array if we combine it with one of our other favorite forms of eye candy: fire.

There were many choices for those popping things that snap when you throw them against concert. I loved them when I was a kid, so I bought a few boxes for ours to throw at each other. I bought the “Pop Pop” brand, because it reminded me of a Rickie Lee Jones album.

“Should we buy some “Whistling Petes?” asked my wife.

“Hell yes, we should buy some!” was my immediate response.

I got a couple of planet Earth replicas with the name “World Peace” because I thought it was hilarious that the Chinese firework manufacturer felt the best way to display world peace is by creating a cardboard Earth, fill it with black powder, and have people blow it up.

I’m totally singing Genesis’ “Land Of Confusion” when I light it.

Yes, some of the packaging is so awesome that it will be hard to destroy it. But then I would be depriving my children of the privilege of staying up late on our country’s independence day to watch me make them blow up real good.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Love Is All - Two Thousand And Ten Injuries

I’m a complete sucker for these guys, specifically the bi-polar projection of vocalist Josephine Olausson’s cutesy pop against the band’s art punk racket. I love how lyrically they don’t stray too far from the trials and tribulation of love in your late twenties. I love the artwork that each record presents; an old fashion cut and paste job with an X-Acto knife and retro fashion photography.

Enough already-I love these guys completely, the total package.

Love is all, indeed.

The band’s third album, Two Thousand And Ten Injuries, finds them in front of a real 24-track studio while still sounding like they’re bashing out their sweet curio in the basement of some college town rental home. They’re using the studio as a band member now, with interesting vocal treatments and infectious rhythms bouncing around the mix. The bass is a little deeper and the mix a bit wider, but there’s no doubt that it’s still the same band I grew infatuated with on the raw punk/pop of Nine Times The Same Song.

Two Thousand And Ten Injuries shows the band growing a bit with their jump to a new label, offering Love Is All a better opportunity for potential and not just with becoming a record reviewer’s unknown pleasure.

So here is your chance to play catch-up; Two Thousand And Ten Injuries is as accessible as all get out while managing to keep those cute distorted vocals and post-punk worship that recalls a time when bands added a saxophone to the mix alongside afro-beat rhythms without knowing what “afro-beat” even meant.

It’s a record that will eventually land a song or two in some commercial or movie soundtrack; so impress your friends now before some geeky music consultant secures the rights.

The star is-and has always been-Olausson who is the ultimate optimist, bouncing from one failed relationship to another without sounding like a Debbie Downer, pulling you towards the pity pot while she recites the drama of her latest break-up.
She’s a master at self-deprecation and she’s brave enough to relate her faults with such easy-going attitude that you’ll want to hit the bars with her to help find her next mistake.

But understand that this optimism is nothing without the band’s aerosol bursts of quirky rhythms, guitar stabs, and those goose honking saxophones that everyone from Madness to INXS seemed to incorporate in the early 80’s.

It’s enough to make you grab whoever is near and work on making some bad decisions together, something that Olausson knows all too well, according to Two Thousand And Ten Injuries.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Concrete Blonde - Free

I’m not sure what the significance of the 20 years is, since Concrete Blonde were around more than twenty years ago and they broke up more recently than then, but the band recently regrouped and gave a worthy reunion gig according to a recent review.

Maybe it’s the twentieth anniversary of their breakthrough-and only chart entry-Bloodletting, the album that features the song “Joey.”

But Bloodletting isn’t my favorite album by Concrete Blonde. Mine is the one before it-Free-the one that found them settling into a notable sound and a commitment to make an impact.

When I first started in radio, they put us in a small closet-sized studio and told us what to play. I thought it was strange how the records we could play were all confined to one simple row, meanwhile, the rest of the records in the studio were sitting in scattershot around the other shelves. They were carelessly categorized with a bunch of 12” singles and other promotional copies littering the full-length records.

There was another studio, which had a full wall of records-again, categorized without reason and locked up behind this thick vinyl curtain. I’m not sure why these records deserved special attention, to the point where they were separated from the albums in the main studio. But on a few occasions, the staff at the station from the daylight hours would forget to lock these curtains, and those of us who patrolled the airwaves during the 9 to midnight shift could see the secrets they contained.

One of those records was a promotional copy of Concrete Blonde’s “True” b/w “Still In Hollywood,” two songs from the band’s first album. I played both a bunch on my airshift, even though “Still In Hollywood” contained the line “He doesn’t give a fuck,” something that I’m sure the program director wouldn’t appreciate had they ever been listening.

Later on, I became the program director of that station, an event that occurred because I finally got tired of being told what to play on my airshift and not having any real records to cheat the playlist with. I began calling record labels during the day, asking for free records and promising to promote them in trade magazine playlists. I became friendly with many promotional people within the label, one of them being Lori Blumenthal from I.R.S. records-the same Lori Blumenthal that was later ridiculed by Green Day in the liner notes on one of their earlier albums.

I.R.S. sent me an advance copy of Concrete Blonde’s second album Free, a harder-edged released when compared to their debut. Its tougher sound is augmented with tight arrangements, giving singer Johnette Napolitano a newfound role as a hard rock vocalist on par with Ann Wilson or Chrissie Hynde. She sings with such authority that their cover of Thin Lizzy’s “It’s Only Money” takes on a new, fresh and sexy direction.

She builds compelling character studies during some of Free’s slower and quieter moments like “Happy Birthday” and “Scene Of A Perfect Crime.” Those moments also allow underrated guitarist Jim Mankey to shine, putting his distinctive tone front and center.

What makes Free such a success though is the harder number; none that are more memorable than the opener and minor hit “God Is A Bullet. It’s one of those songs that should have been the first track that made everyone aware of Concrete Blonde, but as the story panned out, they’d have to save their success for the ballad “Joey” from Bloodletting.

For me Free remains as the Concrete Blonde album that wonderfully displays the band's most enjoyable moment, and it also displays Johnette's growth as a vocalist and lyricist in a way that no other Concrete Blonde record has managed to do since.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Jimi Hendrix - Valleys Of Neptune

Let’s be honest, we’re gaining nothing new from a “new” Jimi Hendrix record. At this point, we are only able to piece a day-by-day audio picture of the man, cobbled together occasionally in some semblance of a record. There’s a part of me thinks that the man, himself a perfectionist who would record endless takes of a track until he found the right one, would be rolling in his grave at the thought of us still releasing albums from his audio demos, rehearsals, and alternate takes. He died too young to give a clear indication of where he wanted to go next, and judging from what I’ve read, his passing came during a time when different factions in his life were pressuring him to do more with his notoriety. More shows. More money. More responsibility. And all the man really wanted to do was to play his guitar.

I understand why we’re still fascinated by Hendrix because I’m caught up in it as well. The first rock image on my wall was a framed picture of a Jimi Hendrix drawing that one of my Dad’s students gave him after he transferred from their high school to another across the state. My Dad told me the story of Jimi Hendrix-how he could play behind his back and with his teeth and that he died too young, causing some of his students to feel sad-and he let me hang up his gift in my room.

We didn’t have any religious artifacts in my house growing up, so I guess you could call Jimi my first deity that I ever knew.

In kindergarten, we were given a chance to bring a record from home for music time. I brought a “Back To Back Hits” single that Reprise records released featuring “Purple Haze” on one side and “Foxy Lady” on the other. I asked the teacher to play “Foxy Lady” because I thought that Jimi would do a better job at letting Kris Stevenson know that I thought she was foxy looking.

Then she lost her front two teeth later on in the school year and she wasn’t quite so good looking then.

In high school, I almost got into a fight with a guy when he said that Randy Rhoads was the greatest guitar player of all time, a claim that he perpetuated shortly after Rhodes died. Rhoads is a fine guitar player, but what the dipshit couldn’t understand was that there would be no Randy Rhodes without Jimi Hendrix.
Instead of punching him, I told him to check out Jimi’s solo on “Red House” and tell me what he thought. He never brought up the subject again.

The point is all of this made Hendrix a part of me in some way. He asked if we were experienced, but to me, Jimi was a part of my collective experience while I grew up. He was teaching me something and indeed, there’s a lot to learn in the man’s brief catalog during his lifetime.

But there’s very little to learn from his posthumous studio records. For the curious, there are hints of where he may have taken his career-a direction best detailed with the first posthumous release Cry Of Love. But that album is no longer available; instead it’s replaced with the bloated First Rays Of The New Rising Sun, a supposedly more accurate record as it attempts to recreate the (double) album that Hendrix was trying to finish after Electric Ladyland. And since it was released under the direction of two of the album’s original participants-drummer Mitch Mitchell and producer Eddie Kramer-New Rising Sun does remain as Hendrix’s most legitimate posthumous offering.

Valleys Of Neptune is primarily pulled from recording sessions during this same time period. None of the material was intended (as far as we know, anyway) for any proper album-so the sixty-minute collection is just that: a random collection of material from February 1969 to September of that same year. There is one track (“Mr. Bad Luck”) from a 1967 session, and the difference between that track and the others is sonically obvious.

The 1969 sessions are notable because they feature two distinct rhythm sections. The early ’69 sessions feature original Experience member Noel Redding on bass guitar. The bassist and Jimi had clashed a bit during the Ladyland sessions and those creative differences rose again during the recording sessions for Neptune. By the Spring, he was gone, devoting his time (as a guitarist) to his band Fat Mattress who released their debut album later in the fall.

Enter Jimi’s old friend Billy Cox who brings a distinctive and more effective role to the low end of the band. Cox can be heard on Valleys Of Neptune’s first three tracks and they are by far the album’s tightest moments.

Hendrix himself delivers some wonderfully impressive soloing, particularly during “Hear My Train A Comin’” and “Ships Passing Through The Night” with a shit hot version of “Red House” that inexplicably fades out after Jimi delivers an amp destroying solo.

Mitchell and Redding slop through their parts throughout the album with Mitch missing fills and hesitating at inappropriate times while Noel is content with doing repetitive runs with little effort or character. Their performances remind you that Valleys Of Neptune is comprised of leftovers. They’re hardly a discovery, but just a focal point of the latest batch of reissues and commercial tie-ins with the obligatory Rock Band offering.

Yes, Valleys Of Neptune is the debut album of the Hendrix estate’s new executor, stepsister Janie Hendrix. One could easily draw a cynical view of her role and of this release in general, but considering how his legacy was the subject of such morally questionable releases (Crash Landing, Voodoo Soup, Midnight Lightning) and under the direction of a morally deficient executive producer (Alan Douglas), it’s become clear that Jimi’s catalog is best represented under the watchful eye of a family member. For over twenty years, Douglas desecrated the Hendrix name and he failed to understand that to build the Hendrix brand (and yes, that is exactly what it turned into when he passed), you must make sure there is consistency with each new product. Through the effort of Jimi’s late father Al and now with stepsister Janie now at the helm, we have seen his catalog treated with respect and his unreleased material compiled with careful consideration.

That is true with Valleys Of Neptune.

Even with its faults, it doesn’t diminish Hendrix’ allure and it won’t turn long-standing fans away. Sure, the obsessive completists will bitch about technicalities and song choices, but they’d do that anyway, regardless of what is released.

For them, the money shot is the last two songs, “Lullaby For The Summer” and “Crying Blue Rain,” a pair of intriguing instrumentals that are rare enough to make those completists smile and those long-standing researchers like me consider “I wonder where he would have taken this?”

There are rumors that hours of additional material remain in the vaults and that we will probably continue to see additional releases authorized. Prior to Valleys Of Neptune, I would have been concerned with that claim. And while I don’t think that such Hendrix releases will be able to move me like Cry Of Love did or even a good live document would, I’m at least more comfortable with the idea. They’ve done a good job of selecting material where the arrangements are similar and from the same recording period (aside from “Mr. Bad Luck,” which is good, but just out of place here) and I’m finding myself coming back to Valleys Of Neptune more than I expected.

What the album provides is a glimpse of Hendrix work ethic during the first half of 1969, a time when his recording patterns intensified and his relationship with Noel Redding strained as a result. Regardless of any strife he may have been facing personally, Neptune shows ability to put it behind him as soon as the guitar strap went on.

While Jimi’s original quartet of albums released during his lifetime are still the only thing you’ll need to get you to cover your walls with Hendrix posters, Valleys Of Neptune is good enough to ensure that you’ll be able to keep the memorabilia hanging proudly.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.