Monthly Archives: November 2012

Blind Pilot – 3 Rounds and a Sound / 2008

Is Blind Pilot a folk outfit playing indie rock or indie rockers playing folk music? Singer/guitarist Israel Nebeker and drummer Ryan Dobrowski operate out of an acoustic setting but their mellow yet hooky tunes have more in common with indie rock outfits than folky troubadours. This Portland, OR-based group winds up being something like Beck or the Shins doing easygoing folksy tunes or Iron & Wine with a poppier sensibility. Whatever genre equation you want to use to describe them, it’s easy to say that Blind Pilot have come up with a winning music plan. The opening tune “Oviedo” sets the course that they chart throughout the debut full-length. Against some laid-back guitar strumming and gentle drumming, Nebeker warmly sings his hazy but quirky lyrics, which seem like private language of personal confessions (“Four times is once too much for luck and that’s how many times the clock struck/I wandered home saying your name”). As the song easies along, the arrangement gets fleshed out with muted horns and banjo picking. Nebeker nicely doubles his voice at times, but his singing maintains his intimate, hushed tones. In “Paint or Pollen,” he builds a set of beguiling images (“Milk in your water, black in your primer, wood in your brush”) to express that “the best is upon us.” While having an interesting way with words, Nebeker isn’t one for direct sentiment. He is a bit more overt in his affection on the title track, where he sings “My eyes were dark ’till you woke me.” While “The Bitter End” deals with death, it doesn’t dip heavily in morbidity as Nebeker expresses his emotions through personal but semi-obscure references to “hounds-tooth coats and vitamins.” For all of its off-the-cuff musical vibe, Blind Pilot also exhibits a fine sense of craftsmanship. The vibraphone that weaves through “One Red Thread” subtly expands the song’s sonic landscape while subdued horns show up again to bolster the woozy melody in “I Buried a Bone.” “Two Towns from Me,” meanwhile, feels like an indie pop tune performed at half-speed but works wonderfully in its own right. 3 Rounds and a Sound is one of those discs where the whole is greater than its parts. They may not be creating something wildly innovative, but Nebeker, Dobrowski, and their crew, in their own low-key way, have fashioned an impressive amalgam of rustic folk-pop and indie rock. They definitely have Blind Pilot headed in the right direction.

This Portland band exploded onto scene on the strength of this record, which is now finally available re-mastered on limited 180gm vinyl. They toured the West Coast from Bellingham to San Diego via bicycle before hitting up all the big festivals in 2009. Dig the rustic folk-pop stylings!


The Story I Heard mp3



Tommy Bolin – Private Eyes – 1976

01. Bustin’ Out For Rosey
02. Sweet Burgundy
03. Post Toastee
04. Shake The Devil
05. Gypsy Soul
06. Someday Will Bring Our Love Home
07. Hello, Again
08. You Told Me That You Loved Me

Tommy Bolin — guitar, piano, vocals
Mark Stein — keyboards, vocals
Norma Jean Bell — sax, perc, vocals
Reggie McBride — bass, vocals
Bobby Berge — drums, percussion
Bobbye Hall — percussion
Carmine Appice — drums on “Someday Will Bring Our Love Home”
Del Newman — string arrangements on “Hello, Again”

Private Eyes was co-produced by Tommy Bolin and Dennis MacKay. MacKay had first met Tommy in October 1975 at Trident Studios in London during work done there to complete Tommy’s Teaser album. At that time MacKay had been instructed to help Tommy play back the 16-track tapes of Teaser basic tracks so he could hear the sound of Trident’s mixing room, and they had developed a connection during playback that led to MacKay working with Tommy in earnest, receiving credit as Producer for “People People” and “Marching Powder” on Teaser.


Post Toastee mp3



Bruce Springsteen — ‘Working on a Dream’ / 2009

Before recording his latest album, Working on a Dream, Bruce Springsteen must have combed through his record collection, studying 1960s pop music. No doubt he’s feeling good because Barack Obama won the presidency. Whatever it is, Working on a Dream, the third album this decade recorded with the E Street Band, sure sounds good, and makes you feel good, too.

KISS – Alive! / 1975

1. Deuce
2. Strutter
3. Got To Choose
4. Hotter Than Hell
5. Firehouse
6. Nothin’ To Lose
7. C’mon And Love Me
8. Parasite
9. She
10. Watchin’ You
11. 100,000 Years
12. Black Diamond
13. Rock Bottom
14. Cold Gin
15. Rock And Roll All Nite
16. Let Me Go Rock And Roll

Paul Stanley surveys the crowd. “I got a little question for you!” he shouts. “I wanna know how many people here tonight like to take a taste of alcohol!” The crowd, an arena’s worth of people from Detroit, or Cleveland, or Jersey, or Iowa, roar their approval. “I know you know it’s getting so hot outside, you always need something to cool you off,” Stanley adds once the crowd has died down. “There’s got to be some people out there who like to drink tequila!” A smaller–though no less vocal–portion of the crowd cheers. “I was talking to somebody backstage earlier that said that you people like to drink vodka and orange juice!” he shouts, to more screaming. “Well, I’ll tell you something: when you’re down in the dumps, and you need something to bring you up, there’s only one thing that’s going to do it the way you want it. What’s that?” he exhorts. The crowd yells something in unison, garbled by the building’s acoustics. “I can’t hear you!” he prods. The crowd yells again, louder. “Cold gin!” Stanley shouts, and KISS break into the eponymous 1974 hit.


Cold Gin mp3


Slade could rock in 1969 is proven, too, in their cover of Steppenwolf’s “Born To Be Wild”, which sounds more ferocious than the original to me.

When Holder wraps his tongue around lyrics such as “like a true nature’s child, we were born, born to be wild”, you believe him, as Powell’s drum kit explodes with energetic pounding and ringing high hat sounds, while Lea’s bass throbs with menace as Hill windmill slashes his guitar strings. Great stuff.

Tracks are:
1. Genesis
2. Everybody’s Next One
3. Knocking Nails Into My House
4. Roach Daddy
5. Ain’t Got No Heart
6. Pity The Mother
7. Mad Dog Cole
8. Fly Me High
9. If This World Were Mine
10. Martha My Dear
11. Born To Be Wild
12. Journey To The Centre Of Your Mind


Born To Be Wild mp3

Devendra Banhart – Cripple Crow / 2005

Cripple Crow was released on XL Recordings on September 13, 2005. It is the fifth album by psych folk acoustic rocker Devendra Banhart and his first for the label XL Recordings. The cover is reminiscent of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter album covers.

Devendra Banhart’s Cripple Crow. The Sgt. Pepper’s-esque set-up displays Banhart’s circle of collaborators and friends. I don’t know a lot about “freak-folk”, but I see Joanna Newsom in the picture, one of the other movement leaders.

Lazy Butterfly mp3

Buffalo Springfield “Mr. Soul” / 1967 single

Guitar players know why the song riff sounds like a couple of Rolling Stones songs (Satisfaction, Let’s Spend the Night Together), plus other near hits. It’s in E with a movement from B to C# to D, a classic blues boogie line. You can show newbies that trick and within a couple of minutes they sound like a blues man. It’s hard to get good on guitar (just listen to me play!), but it’s easy to get okay which explains why you see so many guitars in people’s houses.

Recorded in 1967 for the second of what would be a brief three-album tenure for Buffalo Springfield, Neil Young‘s “Mr. Soul” builds off the career-defining riff from “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” But it’s no Rolling Stones rip off.

No, this is too wild for that. At times, “Mr. Soul” is almost out of control, and every bit the predictor of the compellingly complex, sometimes confusing solo career ahead for Young. (He’s continued tinkering with it, too, as “Mr. Soul” has appeared a handful of times elsewhere, notably on Young’s techno-rock curio Trans and on the terrific concert memento Unplugged.)


MR. SOUL mp3


Frank Sinatra – Strangers In The Night LP / 1966

Strangers in the Night marked Frank Sinatra‘s return to the top of the pop charts in the mid-’60s, and it consolidated the comeback he started in 1965. Although he later claimed he disliked the title track, the album was an inventive, rich effort from Sinatra, one that established him as a still-viable star to a wide, mainstream audience without losing the core of his sound. Combining pop hits (“Downtown,” “On a Clear Day [You Can See Forever],” “Call Me”) with show tunes and standards, the album creates a delicate but comfortable balance between big band and pop instrumentation. Using strings, horns, and an organ, Nelson Riddle constructed an easy, deceptively swinging sound that appealed to both Sinatra‘s dedicated fans and pop radio. And Sinatra‘s singing is relaxed, confident, and surprisingly jazzy, as he plays with the melody of “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” and delivers a knockout punch with the assured, breathtaking “Summer Wind.” Although he would not record another album with Riddle again, Sinatra would expand the approach of Strangers in the Night for the rest of the decade.

Strangers in the Night (1966)
1. Strangers In The Night
2. Summer Wind
3. All Or Nothing At All
4. Call Me
5. You’re Driving Me Crazy!
6. On A Clear Day (you Can See Forever)
7. My Baby Just Cares For Me
8. Downtown
9. Yes Sir, That’s My Baby
10. The The Most Beautiful Girl In The World


Downtown mp3

Sufjan Stevens — Illinois / 2005

Illinois is an incredible album and without a doubt Sufjan Steven’s best. The second in his 50 states series, Illinois is an amalgamation of American folk and gospel with lush orchestral instrumentation. And maybe I’m biased because it’s my childhood instrument, but the trumpet hasn’t been better used in an album in years. I loved his Michigan installment partly for nostalgic reasons (I lived in Michigan between the ages of 3 and 9), but since I have no ties to the state of Illinois, I love this album for its music alone. To the frightening “John Wayne Gacy” to the folksy “Casimir Pulaski Day” to the Reichian “Out of Egypt.

An engrossing musical road trip, Illinoise takes you through ghost towns, grain mills, hospital rooms, and the City of Broad Shoulders, with guest appearances by a poet, a president, a serial murderer, UFOs, Superman, the goat that cursed the Cubs, and Decatur’s famous Chickenmobile. Along the way, Sufjan Stevens weaves variated musical styles (jazz, funk, pop, folk, and Rodgers and Hammerstein-like flourishes) and the textures of 25 instruments into a tapestry of persons and places famous, infamous, iconic and anonymous.


Casimir Pulaski Day mp3

The Seekers – Georgy Girl [7″ single 45] 1966

The Seekers were (and are) an Australian folk/rock group that remain extremely popular in their home country. From 1965-1967, they placed four songs on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart in the United States.

The group consisted of lead singer Judith Durhan, guitarist Keith Polger, guitarist Bruce Woodley, and stand-up bassist Athol Guy. They should not be confused with the pop group, The New Seekers, which Polger formed during 1970.

Their biggest hit in the United States was the theme song to the film “Georgy Girl,” starring Lynn Redgrave. It was a million seller and reached number two on the charts. It was also a song that received massive radio airplay.

It may have been different from The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Beach Boys, and other hits of the day but it was a welcome relief and remaines a good listening experience almost 50 years later.

“Georgy Girl,” written by Springfield and actor/composer Jim Dale (Barnum) for the film starring Lynn Redgrave, James Mason, and Alan Bates, was their biggest American success, released late in 1966 and reaching number two in early 1967. The group’s British album Come the Day, released late in 1966, was slightly reconfigured with the addition of the hit and released in America as Georgy Girl, probably the best of all their LPs, containing a stunning array of originals by Springfield and Woodley, and superb covers of songs such as Tom Paxton‘s “The Last Thing on My Mind.”

Georgy Girl mp3