Rant ‘N’ Roll: The Rubinoos, Frank, Barry & Bowie

Barry Ollman’s What’ll It Be debut (Blue Colorado) is filled with gratitude for life itself as this longtime Denver stalwart almost went down to a heart attack during its recording. These 10 originals are a thing of beauty: pristine, evocative but not cloyingly sentimental. “Imogene’s Lament” is a duet with Graham Nash about photographer Imogene Cunningham, a song whose lyrics could be about Nash as well. “Painting The West” was inspired by an oil painting by Woody Guthrie that Ollman owns. (He’s the largest collector of Guthrie artifacts in the world.) “See Ya In Okemah,” with penny whistle by jazz legend David Amram, is about Guthrie’s hometown. James Raymond (Crosby, Stills & Nash keyboardist/Crosby’s son) lends his talent to “Almost Time” (which takes on new meaning considering his near-fatal event). Bruce bassist Garry Tallent is on four tracks including “Banker’s Holiday” which comes down hard on Wall Street greed. Ollman’s voice is warm and expressive and his compositions sting with truth.

The new CD by The Rubinoos, 45, has 13 self-produced songs and, in the words of The Jesus Of Cool himself, Nick Lowe, is most definitely “pure pop for now people.” Amazing to consider this Cali band has been around for four decades: you wouldn’t know it by their supple elastic harmonies and pogo bounce on such delights as “I Love Louie Louie,” where they pay homage to the National Anthem of Rock ‘n’ Roll, and the humorous “Does Suzy Like Boys.” Influenced as much by The Beach Boys as The Ramones (despite preceding them), there’s an inherent joy in these grooves. May they go ever on!

Fans of John Coltrane [1926-1967] would do themselves a favor by latching on to Love Supreme Collective (Ropeadope) by Chicago saxophonist Frank Catalano in which Smashing Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlin shows his exquisite jazz chops as does guitarist Chris Poland (Megadeth) and bassist Percy Jones (Brand X, Soft Machine). The sax man’s career almost ended prematurely in 2011 when a drunk driver crashed into the vehicle he was driving. The difficult recovery was aided by listening to ‘Trane’s A Love Supreme over and over. Here, he puts his classical training to good use by configuring the album as a contemporary classical piece with four movements. To that end, iTunes and other purveyors have been instructed only to sell the CD as one four-movement piece. As Catalano says, “it’s all or nothing. I didn’t want this work separated and fragmented.” How cool is that?

David Bowie is smart. His new three-disc Nothing Has Changed boxed set (Columbia/Legacy) is filled—and I mean filled—with rare and unbelievable sounds that totally transcend the concept of what a box usually is. The new “Sue” single is just the beginning. Disc #1 is chockfull of rarities which prove the timelessness of the music he recorded in the 1960s, music that has been overlooked and underrated for decades, music which stands up today in 2015 unlike so much of that era’s nuggets. It’s almost unfathomable that Bowie was making this kind of music in 1964! That’s right, when the Beatles were only wanting to hold your hand, Bowie was already revolutionizing rock ‘n’ roll (although nobody at the time knew it, including himself). To hear a track like “Let Me Sleep Beside You” (from the never-released Toy album) or “Your Turn To Drive” (previously available only as a download) or the 2001 re-recording of 1971’s “Shadow Man” outtake is to realize that even his scraps were beyond almost anyone else. “Love Is Lost” and the 2010 “Wild Is The Wind” remix is also new to CD. Wait’ll you hear the 2007 mix of “Young Americans” or the version of his own “All The Young Dudes” that he gave to Mott The Hoople. Then there’s the 2003 mix of “Live On Mars.” These 59 tracks, which, of course, includes all the hits, constitute the most satisfying Bowie box ever.