Archive for the ‘What’s The Rockbrat Listening To Today ?’ Category

R-1127520-1439560433-2587.jpegQuite possibly the most contrived record to ever be released in Oz rock history. Rank with artificiality, this lot couldn’t pull the wool over my eyes when they first burst on to the scene back in the late 80’s with their try-hard antics and wanna-be rock star shenanigans – and all these years later this smells as fetid as it did back then. Except worse. The songs have not aged well. Forgettable, bland, AOR, keyboard heavy, middle of the road babble that paradoxically, sounds sonically superb. Yet a first rate production, with Mark Opitz twiddling the knobs, still couldn’t save it. Put lipstick on a pig… it’s still a pig. Songs with zero-originality that are a direct carbon copy of all the worst of the LA Sunset Strip poseurs.  They even had a tune called “Bad Boys” (need loving too). Cringe. Puke.

In spite of having paid no dues, yet with Molly in their corner, Roxus were gifted with opening slot supports to international visitors Bon Jovi, Warrant and Poison in 89 and 90. Yet Australian audiences could smell a rat, and didn’t take to them – instead warming to the legitimate international sounds of Bon Jovi, Def Leppard and Guns n Roses – denying this country of its own late 80’s hair metal home grown hard rock heroes.  If Roxus was the best Australia could come up with – that speaks volumes.

Roxus had a nauseatingly insipid power ballad called ‘Where Are You Now”, which Molly must have thought was destined to go to the top of the charts – both here and in North America – yet you can’t sell ice to eskimos – they already had enough Mr Bigs, Bad Englishes, Damn Yankees, Bon Jovis etc in the charts and didn’t need any D grade deceivers from the antipodes.

As the old saying goes, one swallow does not a summer make – and by 1993, with the Seattle bands having restored a sense of much needed order to things by killing off the bloated hair metal genre, bands like Roxus were rowing a boat with one oar.

The long hair, volume, cowboy boots and bandanas couldn’t hide the fact that Roxus were spurious with a capital S, and every bit as manufactured as New Kids On The Block, Backstreet Boys or any in the Stock Aitken Waterman camp. They should be gratified they had their Warhol moment –as brief as it was. Backstreet Boys, Nightstreet Boys. Yep.

When granted with such big name touring supports, it’s easy to see how the boys thought they were hot patoots –with the front man Juno Roxas in particular having a way over inflated opinion of himself and his singing abilities. So much so that Juno had another roll of the dice in 94 with the release of his ‘long awaited’ solo album called ‘Far From Here’, which came and went like a fat kid chasing an ice cream truck – and sunk faster than the Lusitania. Roxus did make an appearance at the Mushroom Records 25th anniversary concert in 1998 and in 2006, Juno Roxas performed with the Pat Cash All Star Band at the Australian Tennis Open. And here I was thinking his music career had faltered after the demise of Roxus. Where Are You Now ? Far From Here? Words never so prophetic.  Next!

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denim5When you cast the magnifying class on 70s punk – the focus tends to be placed on the UK and the US.  Today I wanna hip you to a band from Turku, Finland who released one of THE long lost punk/hard rock albums of the mid 70s. This long lest gem sat long forgotten – certainly for those outside of Finland, yet it was given a re release on CD in 2014. If you dig Cream, ZZ Top, Mountain, Joplin,  Blue Cheer or the Ramones – Dead End 5 may be for you. The album opens with a blitzing cover of BOC’s ‘ME262’, and KISS’ – Let Me Go Rock N Roll’. The singer,  Annika Salminen went onto a successful solo career in Finland, and released a couple of solo albums under the name of Annika Andersson. The video below of a tune from the album, ‘Liekinheitin’ is a great example of the Dead End 5 sound. The album is recommended. And you thought Hanoi Rocks were the only hard rock band to come out of Finland ?

dirtyrhythmbandIn 1992 and even into 1993 – some bands just failed to recognise that the good ship hair metal had sailed, the gate had closed, and Kurt, Eddie and others had killed off the bloated hair metal excess that had reached its peak in 1991 with Guns n Roses’ overblown and over indulgent “Use Your Illusion” extravaganza. Like kids hanging on to the previous years out-of-fashion toys, there were a ton of bands in this period who still assumed that by donning the Cowboy boots, skintight jeans, flowing locks and open shirt – and singing about chicks and their dicks – guaranteed their ride to rock stardom. Bewilderingly, major labels were still throwing cash at these bands and rolling a thousand to one shot that one could still be the next G ‘n’ R. Snake eyes only.

These second or third wave bands including such names as Bangalore Choir, Casablanca, McQueen Street, Roxy Blue, Heavens Edge and the subject of today’s post – Dirty Rhythm. Dirty Rhythm hailed from Portland, Oregon and released their debut album, ‘Hard As A Rock’ in 1992. 26 years after its release, I’m sure plenty of people who look to be offended will find the album cover offensive. A well endowed blonde in denim shorts. In 2018, the rainbow types will tell you that this image objectifies women – yet in the age of 80’s big hair rock n roll – it was more about exalting the virtues of attractive women – note the distinction?

Having said that – the song is derivative and lacking originality. It has a guitar that squeals and an annoying widdly widdly solo – and he’s singing about his dick. Yawn. Check the lyrics. “I bet you give good loving, I bet you give good” ….and “Roll me over baby”, Hard as a rock, give it everything you got”. Dylan eat your heart out. Let me sink you with my pink torpedo.

There were bands like this on every street corner, plying an insipid flavorless style of hard rock, and reading off a blue print that had been copied dozens of time before hand. Sorry dudes.

I read somewhere that the album stiffed (ahem) due to zero promotion, and “had the label actually invested time and energy into this band they would have been as big as Slaughter or Fire House.” The big ones! I think Bullet Boys also had a song called ‘Hard As A Rock’ which was better, marginally.

 

R-559528-1291139237When it comes to listening to music, we live in an age where people have shorter spans of attention, and music is something that you download and digest quickly. Its brightly coloured, sweet, and of no intrinsic value. Yes – I could also be talking about fast food, the analogy is the same. If you are a younger person reading this, go buy this Leon Russell album and turn the damn phone off, sit down (be still), and listen to the album in its entirety. It’s music that has been crafted, created and endures, 45 odd years after its release. I doubt you will be able to say the same about the Taylor Swift’s and Katy Perry’s that are so wantonly consumed by today’s youth without much thought about what they consume musically (disparaging old man – ED).

Leon Russell passed away in November 2016 aged 74. The man left behind a stack of enduring music across a wide range of genres- from country, pop, rock, gospel, surf, folk and blues and all points in between. You could dive right into any of his albums and pull up gold, yet if you have never heard the man, let’s go with a classic, 1971’s, Leon Russell and the Shelter People. Many astute rock fans associate Russell with Joe Cocker, as Russell orchestrated and performed with Cocker as part of the mega “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” tour in 1970. ‘The Shelter People’ is his second LP, following on from his equally classic debut LP from 1970, an album which included Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr and George Harrison and spawned the monster hit, “A Song for You”, a tune that has been recorded by over 200 artists. Yet I digress.

I’m a big fan of Claudia Lennear (a smoking hot singer who was the inspiration for both the Stones’ ‘Brown Sugar’ and Bowie’s ‘Lady Grinning Soul’. Lennear was back up singer for both Leon Russell and also on Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen’ tour and live album. She also sung at the Concert for Bangladesh in 1971 along with Harrison, Dylan and Eric Clapton – as did Leon Russell. A lot of linking going on here – but her back-up vocals on Leon’s second album really add to the distinctive quality of the tunes. 1970-1973 she had it all going on (including the release of her one and only solo album, “Phew”, only to ditch the music biz altogether to become a high school teacher of French and Spanish! Not many school teachers could claim to have songs written about them, by the Stones and Bowie no less. Having to stay back after school with the teacher must have taken on a whole new meaning. Further deviation sorry – back to the album.

Top to bottom, ‘Shelter People’ is a classic. Part of the record was recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios with Russell handling all the production. The album climbed to number 17 on the Billboard charts, which says more about the calibre of albums being released at that time than anything else.

“Stranger in a Strange Land”, “Crystal Closet Queen” , the lyrically evocative The Ballad of Mad Dogs and Englishmen” and “Home Sweet Oklahoma” all fit well together. Dylan’s “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry” is a pure blues indulgence (yet not overblown) highlighted by sax and Lennear’s back-up vocals. The great Jesse Ed Davis on guitar too. I must admit that I thought ‘Alcatraz’ from Nazareth’s ‘Razamanaz’ LP, was a Nazareth tune. Nope. It’s a Russell tune and appears on this LP, great rock song highlighted by Leon’s vocal and some catchy lead guitar. Russell’s take of George Harrison’s ‘Beware of Darkness’ is done with a lot of conviction, feverish piano, and pretty true to the original. Top to bottom – this is a great album worthy of your attention. Alternatively, pick up his debut as a starting point. In an age where the younger people tell me that Ed Sheeran is a once in a generation songwriter, you could do a hell of a lot worse.

right-back-where-i-started-cd-frontIn an age when rock ‘n’ roll ain’t at the top of the heap no more – its only right and just that you get down on your knees and give thanks that artists of the calibre of Warner E. Hodges are still out their making bona fide rock ‘n’ roll – and truly great, original rock ‘n’ roll at that.

You can also forget the mandatory descriptors that readers look for in a review that help determine whether they purchase or not – all you need to know is that this is one MONSTER of a rock album – and one of THE releases of 2017 – or any damn year in fact.

The good folks at Mayfair Grand Music (MGM) forwarded this new Warner E. Hodges album to me a couple months back.  I’ve had a whole lot of life stuff get in the way – resulting in a way overdue review.  Yet unlike other albums, which I may have reviewed after only a couple of spins – ‘Right Back Where I Started’ has been on unending rotation with me these past few weeks – I know these ten tunes backwards – so without any further hindrance – let me say right off the bat that this is pretty much THE consummate rock/guitar album – and without a doubt the most rock solid, indeed accomplished solo album Hodges has released.

As early as April, I shrewdly selected Dan Baird & Homemade Sin’s ‘Rollercoaster’ and Baird’s solo album ‘So-Lo’ as the albums of the year. A big call with only a quarter of the year done, but I was proven right.  ‘Right Back Where I Started’ sits comfortably alongside those couple and easily makes my top 5 for 2017.

There are ten tunes on ‘Right Back Where I Started’ and no sign of filler. Top to bottom – this is one solid outing. Thematically – the title tune sees Hodges looking back at his life in rock ‘n’ roll – and how he’s come full circle. It’s a foot to the floor, raucous rocker that swaggers and rocks a plenty. Rippin’ solo too. ‘Where Did You Go’ follows a similar theme – with Hodges asking where did rock rock ‘n’ roll go ? Purists like us also ask the same question – yet with cats like Hodges, Joe Blanton and Dan Baird around – I’m here to tell you that there’s life in the old girl yet.

With its sing-along chorus, ‘Ghost On The Road’ grooves along nicely. This is a great song highlighted by some distinctive drum fills, likeable solos, layered vocals and even some subtle organ. If you turned on the radio you’d be forgiven for thinking this was Skynyrd. Top shelf.

The blue denim shuffle of ‘Waiting On Me’ rocks and rollicks – highlighted by a searing Hodges solo and a vocal that sees Hodges pushing himself and singing his heart out.

The hard rockin’ ‘Sick Of Myself’ hits you in the gut like a great rock song should. Bitchin, dog eared tune that reminds me a lot of Mick Taylor era Stones and, if I’m pressed, my personal fave off the album.

There’s a multiplicity to the songs on this album that reflect the sheer quality of song writing on display. ‘I’m Never Alone’ is a great example of this – and a great example to all of what a melodic pop song should be. Mid-tempo highlighted by a memorable and unique riff, plaintive and strong vocal delivery on the verses and then into a super catchy chorus, a lot of instrumentation and layered with harmony vocals. Super production too. Man, this has ‘hit’ written all over it. Radio programmers are you listening?

Talking of hits, check out Hodge’s country duet with Elizabeth Cook on ‘Worst Time For Love’. You may know her from her tune of a few years back, ‘El Camino’. Again, super strong chorus with Cook’s vocal contrasting neatly with Hodges, and further evidence of rich song writing diversity.

The album closes with the Faces/Stones/Quo groove of ‘Dirt’, another winner. Penned by Otis Gibbs (who also has a great podcast by the way) this rocker (complete with rock n roll piano) is a great album closer – and rounds out proceedings nicely. Last orders please!

Although this is a Hodges solo album – the other two main songwriters/contributors to the project are Dan Baird and Joe Blanton. All three bring different parts to the table – yet all contribute songs, their talent as musicians, producers and in Blanton’s case – engineering skills. (How is that solo album progressing Joe?) All three are rock n roll with a capital R and with ‘Right Back Where I Started’ have created a ‘classic’ rock record that will sound great in 5, 10, 50 years.

Cheap Trick’s Tom Peterson adds his individual bass sound to the album with Brad Pemberton (Steve Earle’s band) hitting hard on the drums. Great drummer (as anyone who as seen him perform live will attest).

I must also make mention of the amazing cover art, an outstanding photo (by Trudi Knight) which captures Hodges at one with his Les Paul. Great moment captured on film and as an album cover, it makes a defining statement.

If you want to hip a musically unsophisticated younger person to what real rock n roll is – or you are an older rock fan that needs a rock n roll rejuvenation – give ‘em the gift of Warner E. Hodges rock n roll. Ten out of ten.

Right Back Where I Started is out now. For more information go to Warnerhodges.com or Jcplmusic.com

 

 

 

Well it’s a few days out from Christmas and I find myself listening to the decidedly anti-festive sounds of GG Allin. Maybe its cos he was born with the birth name of Jesus Christ Allin (I think his Mother sensibly changed his name to Kevin just before he started school). He’s a fascinating, and somewhat divisive individual is GG. Not one for the kiddies – but intriguing nonetheless. From what I understand, off stage he was a quiet individual, yet when consumed by GG, he was one angry ant. There’s a bunch of footage of GG on Youtube and I was watching his last interview from June 1993 on US TV chat show, ‘The Jane Whitney Show’. Dressed in his leather jacket and WWII-era German helmet, GG rants and raves and is one ball of blazing anger – yet when asked by the interviewer, GG, almost pathetically, can’t really articulate why he is so angry, or why the kids of the world should ditch their parents and follow him. The irony is that from the mid to late 80s onwards he was more of a curio artist than a punk rocker, hell bent on self-destruction. People turned up to see the violence, to see him assault himself, others, to see the blood, to see the show. People were drawn to his show to see the freak, who may die on stage (as he once self-prophesized). He spent all of 1990 incarcerated, and thematically, his music was even darker upon his release. Many of his better tunes are lost among the man’s myth – and that’s a shame, cos there are some pretty good tunes there if you separate the cream from the, ahem, crap. The Murder Junkies album he did with Antiseen is often regarded as his best work, and indeed, there are some good moments on this album. The album consists of spoken word by Allin, interspersed with musical tracks featuring Allin on vocals backed by Antiseen. Jeff Clayton, lead singer of Antiseen has stated that Allin was very professional during the recording of the album, and he wondered how much of Allin’s stage act was real and how much of it was “for the marks.” When you consider that Allin had a partiality for non-mainstream outlaw country artists Hank Williams and David Allan Coe – one wonders that if Allin could have ditched the obsession with violence and self-destruction, his output, career and legacy could have taken a whole different route. He did a tune called ’Bite it You Scum’ which was probably one of his more melodic moments from the latter part of his career. People are attracted to Allin the way some are fascinated with serial killers. For someone who preached about such uplifting themes as violence, death, murder, rape, anarchy etc – there’s not a lot of redeeming features left over, yet if you get past that, some of the music, (certainly up to 1985) and his early work with The Jabbers sounds as good as a lot of the other first wave punk peers of the late 70s. Check out GG’s debut solo album from 1980 ‘Always Was, Is and Always Shall Be’ for proof of this. This is a WAY underrated punk album and on par with anything The Dead Boys released. The music is of much higher quality in terms of both sound recording and playing than Allin’s later output – with GG’s voice sounding great and markedly different to the growl he developed in latter years. The heavily New York Dolls / Stooges-influenced album is a catchy mix of power pop and hardcore punk, like most of Allin’s early material up until the mid-1980s. (and the album was produced the Lower East Side’s David Peel). Thematically, while the lyrics are often intentionally lewd and snotty, these songs do not represent the extreme antisocial and violent tone of his later releases from the mid-1980s onwards. Steve Huey, reviewing for AllMusic, accurately said of Always Was, Is And Always Shall Be “Amazingly enough, the violent hatred, sexual and psychological degradation, and staggering stupidity only hint at the heights (or depths) Allin would reach later.” True enough. This is a great punk record that not enough people know about. Go discover.

 

solo-elektro-cover“A post psychedelic Phil Spector style wall of sound. Solo Elektro flies the flag for a psychedelic indie blues artist who is only truly happy when he finds new exciting outlets for his oeuvre. It’s an album shot through with raw, brash, kick ass stoner rock with a blues heart’ Pete Feenstra – ‘Get Ready To Rock’ 

Solo Elektro is aware winning guitarist Gwyn Ashton’s new lo-fi garage one-man distort blue rock album. Full of chord crunching fuzz guitar, dirty octave dividers and slamming kick drum, it’s a 100% recorded in one take recording – sounding retro with a modern evolution.

I couldn’t have said it any better myself. At Rockbrat, we have long considered Gwyn to be one of Australian rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest treasures, and with Solo Elektro, he has released one hell of an innovative blues/rock album bursting with an originality that is bound to re-energize even the most jaded of rock fans who thought they have heard it all before.

For those that weren’t paying attention the first time – here’s a quick intro, although fans of blues guitar greats like Junior Wells, Rory Gallagher, Steve Morse and Albert Lee can skip over this part as they are no doubt familiar with the highly respected Gwyn. Over the years Ashton has played onstage with everyone from Mick Fleetwood, Hubert Sumlin, Marc Ford to Canned Heat and has opened for Rory Gallagher, Ray Charles, Robin Trower, Vanilla Fudge, Wishbone Ash, Van Morrison, Jeff Healey, Tony Joe White, Johnny Winter, Mick Taylor, Peter Green, John Hammond and Pat Travers to name but a few.  Just pause for a second and read over those names again. I’m here to tell you, Ashton is every bit as good any of those guys. Musical prowess aside, one of Ashton’s most endearing features (not including his humility – as he is one of the most unassuming, down to earth guys you could ever hope to meet), is that he breathes rock ‘n’ roll and it is his lifeblood. He is one prolific guy, who makes things happen for himself. He has never been one to sit around and wait for opportunity to come a knockin- instead – in true troubadour style, he takes his music to the people – all over the globe, and has done for years. He is always on the road. He has a bunch of albums out – all worthy of your attention. Prohibition, Radiogram, Fang It! and Heat to name but a few. Throw a dart at any of those and you are guaranteed to hit a bullseye.

Which brings me to the new album, Solo Elektro. Gwyn gives new meaning to the phrase – one man band, as he often performs solo – armed only with voice, guitar and bass drum. Solo Elektro features just those core ingredients – and it comes up trumps. Whilst he still maintains a blues backbone – he continues to push beyond any traditional musical confines, exploring new possibilities and sounds. This is one truly progressive artist who musically, cannot be pigeonholed.

Prior to the recording of this album, Gwyn came into possession of the bass drum used by Bill Ward to record Sabbath’s eponymous debut album. More than a fun fact, Gwyn uses this bass drum on the recording of the album, channeling Ward, and more than a little Iommi in fact – into the whole melting pot.  So in the midst of a Central European tour, Gwyn sets up his mobile recording equipment in a room in the Czech Republic and hits the record button. With the aim of capturing his live sound to disc, without any overdubs, he painstakingly spent each day experimenting and recording each song until the performance, timing and inspiration met to produce the ‘magic’ take.

The album opens with the stunning ‘Metaphysical Journey’, a psychedelic epic that would make Allen Ginsberg proud. Lots of effects – but the key is the intertwining of the vocal over each guitar note. What a trip. Great tune.  There’s also the riff heavy crunch of ‘She Won’t Tell Me’ – resplendently melodic and super catchy. ‘Dawn Of Tomorrow’ is evocative, spacious and dreamy – with a Rick Parfitt riff mid song. Love it. Blues pedants will dig ‘Please Allow Me’ whilst hard rock fans will be won over by the rifforama and rawness of  ‘In Your Blood’. Broad appeal people. 11 tracks and something for even the most discerning rock fan. There’s enough flanging, phasing and fuzz effects to appease fans of 60s Brit pysch and blues rock fans alike, yet if I’m forced to pick, I’ll go with ‘Shine Lover Shine’ as the album’s plumb. I dig the energy and full on approach to this tune. It’s got a ballsy chorus and seductiveness in the slide playing that just does it for me. This smokes.

A ground breaking rock album in every sense of the world. Christmas has come early – THE Australian album of the year. 10 out of 10.

Solo Elektro is released October 20, 2017 on Fab Tone Records UK. For more details, go to gwynashton.com

Listen to an interview with Gwyn Ashton on The Australian Rock Show from March 2016 here