R.E.M. at the BBC

  The British Broadcasting Corporation always did love that little old band from Georgia, REM. Active from 1980 to 2011, you could make a convincing argument that Michael Stipe, Bill Berry, Peter Buck and Mike Mills were the first alternative-rock band. Their hovering influence remains indelibly etched even today. Now, with the release of the 9-disc boxed set R.E.M. at the BBC (Craft Recordings), their fans have something to celebrate. The rare studio and live recordings take in 24 years of controlled chaos, many of the 133 tracks (disc No. 9 is a DVD) never-before-released.

French Rockabilly

  The Hoodoo Tones are Here To Stay on their new Rhythm Bomb CD. This French guitar/bass/drums trio makes an unholy racket, sublime in execution and satisfying to the soul. The all-original roots-reverent rockabilly done ‘50s/’60s style sounds just great, produced with crystal clarity where the trebly hi-hat drum sound tickles the ear and the jump-back bass will flatten your stomach. They’re tight, energetic and slap-happy. Vocalist/Guitarist Kevin B has his hiccups down pat and his electric solos take from punk and prog. I bet Ben D Driver can stand on his double-bass just like Lee Rocker of the Stray Cats. Drummer Michael is a force-of-nature, a non-stop machine of human excess. Highlights include “Hair,” “Rink Rage,” “Ernie The Virgin” and “Suicide Boogie.”

Mash-Up City

  Welcome to Mash-Up City Round No. 2 where on The Essentials II (Concord) Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox has Soundgarden’s ‘94 grunge masterpiece “Black Hole Sun” as a sexy torch song showstopper…where Bowie’s glam ‘77 “Heroes” is a cabaret ballad…where Ozzy’s ‘80 metal anthem “Crazy Train” is Detroit Soul…where Aerosmith’s ‘73 power ballad “Dream On” starts with a classical string quartet…where Michael Jackson’s ‘82 “Thriller” stands alongside “The Final Countdown” (that cheesy ‘86 song by Europe), Metallica’s ‘92 “Nothing Else Matters,” Britney’s ‘03 “Toxic” and, again, Meghan Trainor’s ‘14 “All About That Bass” (reprised from the first PMJ CD) is a 1930s swing-jazz gem. It all works beautifully, amazingly and righteously valid.

British Rockabilly

  Ruzz Guitar’s Big Band Blues Revue has pulled off The Heist on Rhythm Bomb Records. It’s an amalgam of totally rockin’ jump blues, white-Euro R&B and Tennessee rockabilly with classic rock flourishes. Ruzz writes. He shreds. He sings. He crawls on his belly like a reptile. His trio with hotshot upright bassist Joe Allen and steamroller drummer Mike Hoddinott is augmented here with a joyous Louisiana-styled three-piece horn section. Highlights include “Juke Joint Shakedown” and “High Stakes Hustle” but all 10 originals sizzle like grease in a frying pan.

Credit – Chad Edwards

Native Americana

  Born into the Crow Indian tribe in Montana before settling in Colorado, Cary Morin has astounded international audiences for years with the dexterity of his complex acoustic finger-picking style on guitar, compositional chops and unforgettable voice. When I Rise (Maple Street Music) is his sixth, its 10 originals and two covers (Grateful Dead’s “Dire Wolf” and Duane Allman’s “Little Martha”) — bound by his own pedal steel plus a cast of drums, percussion, electric guitar, backing vocals, piano, bass, clarinet, harmonica and flying fiddle, is a primer in all that’s truly righteous about Americana music.


Courtesy of Lydia Liebman

He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands

  Chord-less jazz bands walk a high wire with no net. Without the glue of either guitar or piano chording, the musicians have to weave their notes in and around each other creating a cohesive 
whole. On the mystifying, circuitous, complex, satisfying and wholly entertaining Night (Fresh Sounds Records), Brazilian/Israeli New Yorker Eden Bareket plays a dazzling baritone saxophone and a sinewy clarinet. His originals blur the line between improvisation and composition. Armed with bassist/brother Or Bareket and Chilean drummer Felix Lecaros (who are both totally attuned to his every tic, wiggle and percussive thump), he takes us on a nine-track trip through accessible avant-garde. “Canadian Sea Monster” is the highlight. Call it post-post-bop if you want. I just call it brilliant.


Credit – Liquid Therapy Media

From Alaska To Hawaii

  Taumei “Big John” Akapo comes straight out of Hawaii (after growing up in Alaska) to rock your world on his debut with his specialized brand of Paradise Blues (Mensch House Records). He’s a hip-hop producer and a singer/songwriter/guitarist. He wrote seven and arranged three sterling covers:  Tommy Johnson’s 1928 “Big Road Blues,” Robert Johnson’s 1936 “Rambling On My Mind” and Muddy Waters’ 1958 “I Can’t Be Satisfied.” Originals “Little Lani,” “Maui Drive” and “Caramae Blues” lean on his Samoa culture, thus the result is an exquisite individualized take on the blues that is as refreshing and soulful as it is valid and entertaining.


Courtesy of Ernesto Cervini

Searching For That Jelly Roll

  Venture Way North and you’ll find four individuals — trumpeter Rebecca Hennessy, tenor saxophonist Peter Cancura, bassist Michael Herring and drummer Richie Barshay — who steadfastly remain Fearless and Kind on their second CD together. The promise of their Kings County debut has now been realized (adding street beats and dance rhythms). The three Canadians are bolstered by American drummer Barshay who knows a little something about keeping the beat because he did so for none other than Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock. Formed in 2014 Brooklyn, Way North goes beyond the usual parameters for such an endeavor. Their Jelly Roll Morton medley (consisting of “Buddy Bolden’s Blues” and “King Porter Stomp”) is, in a word, delightful. They all write and they all play circles around each other, chasing each other’s tails in a most enduring, fitful, irregular and complex way. Heartily Recommended.

Retirement? No Way!

  With the announcement of the Rolling Stones 2019 “No Filter” 13-city American tour starting in Miami April 20 and finishing in Chicago June 21 (local dates June 4 in Philly and June 13 in East Rutherford), the time is right for fighting over good seats. Meanwhile, one can revel in some supreme moments on the three-disc 1994 Voodoo Lounge Uncut (Eagle Vision).

  With 10 never-before-seen Miami performances (the third disc is a DVD) and five bonus New Jersey tracks from Giant Stadium…with guests Sheryl Crow, Robert Cray and Bo Diddley…with a stripped-down three-song acoustic spot, this, the largest grossing tour in rock ’n’ roll history up to that point (134 shows over six continents for 6.5 million fans, their first without bassist Bill Wyman) contains some real magic. Opener “Not Fade Away” is deliriously orgasmic. Robert Johnson’s 1937 “Stop Breaking Down” is majestic royalty. “Monkey Man” is a rare inclusion. Bobby Womack’s 1964 “It’s All Over Now” never sounded better. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. To paraphrase what Kris Kristofferson wrote about Hank Williams, if you don’t like the Stones, you can kiss my ass.