It was around 4:00 in the morning on New Year’s Day in either ’69, ’70 or ’71. We were still up from an all-night party of nothing but listening to album after album after album. My girlfriend had to be driven home by a leering horndog because I was in no shape to drive. The six or seven people still left in the small Newark, NJ apartment of my best friend were all laying down on the couch and the floor. The music was soothing. The walls were turning colors. When silence erupted and broke the spell, I stumbled to the record player, put on Ten Wheel Drive and cranked that sucker up. It split the air with a meat cleaver and everybody popped up and said, “Whoa!”
They ultimately made me turn it off because it was just too ballsy and brassy for that particular time so later, after everybody left, I played it for just myself and marveled at this big horn jazz-rock fusion band with the sexy lead singer, Genya Ravan.
Genya Ravan is now 72 and she’s still making people jump up and say, “Whoa!” In the ‘70s, she produced Ronnie Spector as well as the seminal punk album, Young Loud And Snotty, by The Dead Boys. She headed up Hilly Kristal’s CBGB Records and wrote an autobiography, Lollipop Lounge, in 2003. She’s played with Ian Hunter and Lou Reed. You can hear her on Joey Ramone’s posthumous New York City. She’s survived the Holocaust, lung cancer and addiction. She’ll be larger than life as a character in the upcoming CBGB movie. Her Sirius/XM Chicks And Broads radio show is part of “Little Steven’s Underground Garage.”
When I recently referenced her in a review of Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds, she got in touch. When I listened to her current album, Cheesecake Girl, I was struck by how she’s still over the top in so many ways: strong, soulful, a hot rockin’ mama who refuses to quit belting out songs with a primal ferocity. This is what Janis would have been had she lived.
They call it roots rock, the harder edge of the Americana genre. Fluoxetine may never become a household name (mostly because it’s hard to pronounce) but their Sleepless Nights Water Rights album is a stone delight. This Austin band features singer/songwriter/instrumentalist Ryan Morris and a drummer with four names, Ronny Michael Groover Haas, with guitarist Landis Armstrong and bassist Amy Hawthorne (who they met at breakfast one morning: she cooked their eggs at a restaurant called The Omelettry). Ryan and Ronny met at a Dylan concert before going their separate ways for many years. Ronny went to Paris, then returned to Texas to write his doctoral thesis (Fluoxetine is generic Prozac). Ryan wrote and wrote. As produced by John Bush, Sleepless Nights Water Rights, their second release, rocks large with rhythmic shuffles and satisfying curveballs of asymmetrical surprises. If the lyrics sometimes feel like you’re sitting next to a guy at a bar who’s constantly complaining, just go with it. After repeated listening, it makes more sense.
Elvis Costello’s new album, In Motion Pictures (Universal Music Enterprises), gathers up 15 songs that Hollywood used to augment specific scenes. Only four—“You Stole My Bell” (The Family Man), “My Mood Swings” (The Big Lebowski), “Sparkling Day” (One Day) and a cover of the popular Charles Aznavour song that Jeff Lynne also covers on his new collection, “She” (Notting Hill) have never appeared on any EC album.
On Pianoland (Blind Pig), Deanna Bogart plays up a storm. She sings! She writes! She tickles the ivories like a honky-tonk hero. (She even blows a mean sax… but not here.) She covers Erroll Garner’s “Boogie Woogie Boogie,” Willie Dixon’s “I Love The Life I Live,” James Taylor’s “Close Your Eyes,” even Harold Arlen’s “Over The Rainbow.” Backed by a hot guitar/drums/electric bass/acoustic bass (depending upon the track) combo, Bogart seamlessly meshes diametrically opposed genres into a seamless whole.