Friday, July 20, 2012

The Honeydogs What Comes After 2012

I had the pleasure of seeing The Honeydogs last week at the Beachland in Cleveland. Touring as a four-piece, they were great. Adam Levy is one of today's finest songwriters, and his singing and guitar playing are equally strong. Trent Norton is a killer bass player, and sings perfect harmonies on Levy's voice. Peter Sands adds flavor and nuance to everything he plays on keyboards. The drumming of Peter Anderson is metronome sharp and Ringo Starr perfect at all times. They are tight,  the arrangements are varied, and the band is smoking hot.

Naturally, they played much of the new record, which is as good as their best work. With the addition of another guitar, and a trombone and trumpet horn section (their usual 6-7 piece line-up), the studio recording is excellent, and the songs have the big sound and complex arrangements for which their records are known.

I wish I could find the right reference, but Levy's songs are both intelligent and melodic, with smart lyrics, great choruses, and catchy hooks. I can't find the right band for a comparison- maybe The Connells crossed with Clem Snide (and there is always a bit of Beatles in  there). Anyway, it's rock and roll for adults who can still dance and think at the same time. Smart modern rock. There's some decent audio over at Minnesota Public Radio. Check them out, they're brilliant.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Gomez Live Volume 3: Los Angeles 2011

So here's the deal. There's this band you maybe haven't heard, and they're so good in so many ways that you just have to hear them. If you knew they were as good as I'm telling you, you'd lay down some bucks for their products, but, hey, what do these bloggers really know?

Go to and download the free Live Volume 3. It's free, and it's twenty tracks, and it's killer. Go get it. It is only available as an mp3, which is a shame, but hey, it is free. You have to give them your email, but you can avoid "signing up". There's also Volume 1 and Volume 2, both available as greatly superior FLAC files, but they are not free, and I haven't heard them. The mp3 isn't really too bad, but if you have the gear to hear the difference, you will.

After you really dig the live gig, go buy one of their CDs. I'd suggest How We Operate 2006 or Whatever's On Your Mind 2011, but you can't go wrong with any of their material.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Kinks Face To Face 1966

The Kinks' Face To Face was their first record written entirely by Ray Davies, and it ushered in the period of their finest output. The string of records from here to 1972's Everybody's In Showbiz is enough of a catalog for any great band.

The Kinks hit the scene in 1964 with You Really Got Me, and for two years they continued to mine that hard rock sound with All Day And All Of The Night, Tired Of Waiting For You, and Till The End Of The Day. The three LPs from this early period are typical of the era, with singles and covers and album filler. They're good, but they are a different band than the one that essentially debuted on Face To Face.

By 1966, the singles A Well Respected Man, Dedicated Follower Of Fashion, and Sunny Afternoon were introducing a new Kinks, the product of Ray's suspicious examination of UK society and the class system that fascinated him and inspired the detailed vignettes that would become the hallmark of his unique talent.

And so when Face To Face was released, it confused the band's fan base, and sold less than any of their previous efforts. It is the place to begin an examination of this band's golden era.

The album opens with the rollicking pop-rock of Party Line, an early take on Davies' paranoia, which will surface repeatedly in later work. Dandy is another Dedicated Follower Of Fashion in cabaret swing mode. Too Much On My Mind is Ray's wish for simplicity and Session Man is an ode to the fifth Kink, Nicky Hopkins. Rocker House In The Country ends side one on a strong note, with a fine Dave Davies lead guitar break and Ray's lyrical bashing of middle class ennui.

Davies' disillusioned trip to the beach, Holiday In Waikiki is hilarious and sad. Fancy features a drone-like, almost Indian sound that predates similar work by The Beatles. Little Miss Queen Of Darkness features an unusual acoustic guitar and drums middle section and a country-cabaret sound that Davies will return to on Muswell Hillbillies in a few years. The slinky, bluesy rocker of You're Lookin' Fine sounds like early Stones (or early Kinks). The classic, melancholic Sunny Afternoon is just one of Davies' finest moments, all wrapped up in sadness and irony, and yet evoking the pleasure of leisure at the same time.

This is the beginning of the Kink's exploration of all thing English that will peak in 1968 and 1969 with The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society and Arthur (Or The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire). It is also the beginning of an impressive run of songwriting by Ray Davies. Everything was exploding in rock in the mid sixties, and young bands were finding a more mature voice. Nobody wrote smarter lyrics than Davies, or hung them on better songs.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Prince Sign O The Times 1987

I've always liked Prince. I know there are plenty of reasons not to, but his music is often compelling and funky at the same time. That's hard to beat around here.

Sign O The Times (and I'm not going to bother to replace the "O" with a peace sign, because nobody cared in 1987 either) is often heralded as Prince's best, and it certainly deserves to be in the running. It doesn't qualify as a perfect record, and really none of his records get there. There are lots of good ones, and they all have some great moments, but there are also a few weaker tracks. Prince reminds me of Todd Rundgren: a producer, writer, and performer that can't edit himself as well as another producer would.

It was originally released as a two-record vinyl set, and that's what I refer to here. There are three near-perfect sides, and Side Two. The record opens with the title track, and it is a spare funk that gives a snapshot of the ghetto amid the news of the day. Then Play In The Sunshine unleashes hot psychedelic pop that could have existed comfortably on Around The World In A Day (Prince's least funky record) or Purple Rain, with it's hot guitar break. Housequake follows and it is perfect James Brown/Funkadelic dance floor, not to mention the hilarious lyrics. Then The Ballad Of Dorothy Parker, a soulful, funky-pop slow jam cuts loose with a crazy lyric.

Then Side Two. It was really a stroke of genius to put all the weakest songs on one side. It (that's the song title) is an OK funk jam that isn't up to the dirty lyric. Starfish and Coffee is cute psych-pop a la Raspberry Beret. Slow Love is a hot slow jam with nice horn charts. While there is certainly nothing subtle about it, the Philly soul sound is commendable. Hot Thing is a basic dance beat that goes on a bit too long, and Forever In My Life can't save the side with it's percussion-dominated arrangement, and stellar Prince vocal.

The hot funk-rock of You Got The Look kicks off Side Three, with a great Shiela E duet vocal and percussion. It's almost Little Red Corvette. If I Was Your Girlfriend grafts a kinky lyric to a slinky soul jam, and you really need the album version that includes the freaky sex rap near the end. Strange Relationship is solid, with a spare arrangement topped with a multi-tracked vocal and great chorus hook. Then it is on to Prince nirvana: I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man. One of Prince's best lyrics ever, great driving rock beat, killer melody, hook-filled chorus, hot (but too short) lead guitar break- the edited single omits half of the song. Album track heaven.

Side Four is right there with One and Three. The Cross opens the side with the hymn accompaniment to Sigh O The Times, which Prince turns into a guitar-driven slow blues freakout worthy of Neil Young. The live It's Gonna Be A Beautiful Night (recorded in Paris with The Revolution) is a fine jam with solos for all, and it rocks, but it's long. The record closes with Adore, one of the greatest love songs of all time. I still crack up when Prince sings "You can burn up my clothes, smash up my ride (Well maybe not the ride)". Even with the comic relief, it is a great love song.

So that's at least six classics (Housquake, You Got The Look, Slow Love, If I Was Your Girlfriend, I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man, and Adore), and the rest is pretty solid. There's a bunch of good Prince out there, but this is one of his most diverse and quality outings.