Reviews (albums, concerts)

Other music, TV, films and general interest
Buckeye Randy
Posts: 119
Joined: Tue Feb 11, 2020 7:09 am

Re: Reviews (albums, concerts)

Post by Buckeye Randy »

Artist: Todd Rundgren’s Utopia
Title: Benefit For Moogy Klingman
Released: May 1, 2020

We will start by telling you about Moogy Klingman. Moogy is a keyboardist (mostly) and is most commonly associated with Bette Midler and Todd Rundgren. Moogy has played with everybody from Jimi Hendrix, Lou Reed and Bob Dylan among many others. In an amusing side note he even performed with Andy Kaufman in high school at a civil rights protest that led to his expulsion from school.

Moogy was a founding member of Todd Rundgren’s Utopia in the mid ‘70’s and was on their first two albums (Utopia & Another Live). These two albums have aged very well and remain favorites to Rundgren fans and are cult classics to prog purists. Fast forward to 2011…Moogy was ill and Todd Rundgren put together some benefit shows.

This release is a box set (four discs and two DVDs) that includes two shows in their entirety. Discs one and two are from The Highline Ballroom in New York (17 tracks) plus a DVD. Discs three and four are from Peekskill Performing Arts Center (11 tracks) plus a DVD. The result is this lavishly packaged six disc box set that is selling for under $40 which is great bang for the buck.

The shows are noticeably different. Five of the eleven tracks on the Peekskill discs are not on the Highline discs so it isn’t like getting two nearly identical versions of the exact same show. I guess I mention that because many bands release nearly identical shows and I’m left wondering, “what’s the point”.

The two discs from The Highline Ballroom are a more rounded listen than the Peekskill performance. Nearly half of the 17 tracks are from different parts of Rundgren’s career and not just when Moogy was in Utopia. The Peekskill discs contain only songs from the first two Utopia albums except for the closer, “Just One Victory”.

Todd’s voice is in great shape on these performances. I’ve seen Todd Rundgren (with and without Utopia) 17 times and his voice is sometimes a little road weary. That’s not the case here though, it is strong and has the range he had in the ‘70’s. Same with Todd’s guitar playing, he is in top form.

Do you like longer songs that show off musical excellence? If so, you are in luck! Seven of the 28 songs come in at over ten minutes with one of the two versions of “The Ikon” coming in at 25 minutes. BTW, “The Ikon” took up the entire second side of Utopia’s debut and came in at 30 minutes so this 25 minute version is sort of like the single edit. (Smiling)

All the early Utopia favorites are here; “Utopia’s Theme”, “Do Ya”, “Heavy Metal Kids” and “The Wheel”. Utopia’s biggest hit in the States, “Set Me Free” is included and Todd’s trademark, “Just One Victory”. All essential for Utopians.

If you like Todd Rundgren or early Utopia then this release is a must have. I wouldn’t recommend this as an introduction purchase because of the $40 price tag. For me though, this is a great addition and I’m glad to have it. Well done!!

Buckeye Randy
Posts: 119
Joined: Tue Feb 11, 2020 7:09 am

Re: Reviews (albums, concerts)

Post by Buckeye Randy »

Artist: Sparks
Title: A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip
Released: May 15, 2020

The Mael brothers have been putting out albums since 1971 and are back with their 24th studio effort as Sparks. I’ve been listening to Sparks ever since being introduced to them around 8th grade which was the tail end of their glam trifecta in...(gulp)…1975. I quickly backfilled my collection and I consider their glam trilogy (“Kimono My House”, “Propaganda” and “Indiscreet”) absolutely essential. This does not mean I’ve been a fan of everything they have done since then. Quite the opposite because Sparks can be very challenging with their abrupt changes in musical direction.

Sparks have always been over the top. In the late 70’s, established rock icons like the Stones and Rod Stewart were releasing disco songs for a quick cash grab. Sparks one upped that and worked with Giorgio Moroder and released “Number One Song In Heaven” which still gets namechecked 40 years later as being influential in the development of electronic pop.

Like I said, I don’t like everything they’ve done and keeping up with the band in pre Internet days took some effort. I lost touch for a while but found them again in 2002 with the release of “Lil Beethoven” which is described as ‘chamber pop’ and is simply brilliant. That began a run of strong releases which included a 2015 collaboration album and tour with Franz Ferdinand.

I wasn’t happy about four of the tracks from the new release receiving early previews because only one was good. It turns out the best tracks were not previewed which means that either Sparks or myself is slightly out of touch. No comment needed!

The new release is not a new direction and is not drastically different than 2017’s Hippopotamus. It does seem to be crisper and the quirkiness is turned up just a tad which seems impossible for the band that defines quirkiness. I could do without the band dropping the ‘F-bomb’ in places but I guess all is fair in love and art. Regardless of being fair, “iPhone” with its’ chorus of “Put your f*cking iPhone down and listen to me” won’t be getting played with kids around. Neither will the final track, “Please Don’t F*ck Up My World”. A little disappointed but it doesn’t ruin the album.

Sooo…I didn’t like three of the four tracks that received early previews and I don’t care for the profanity. Well, that’s four of the 14 tracks. This obviously will not be a desert island disc for me but I’ll be OK because there are some prime slices of Sparks to be found.

“All That” opens the album with a distant dreamy sax being suddenly interrupted by an acoustic guitar. I swear that I can hear this track being sung around a campfire by nerdy outcasts. I love “Lawnmower”, this track will certainly make my playlist of favorite songs by Sparks.

“Self Effacing” was the one sneak preview track I liked and I still like it, strong material. “Onomato Pia” reminds me of the sort of track you might find on Indiscreet. It has nice snappy tempo and an oompah tuba keeping beat. There really isn’t enough tuba influence in rock music.

It appears the band is making commentary on current society with songs including the state of the world, calls to 911, iPhones, yardwork, religion and Alexa. I’ve always enjoyed the witty innuendos and play on words by Sparks. This album is a lyrically more direct than older material but without a lyric sheet in front of me I can’t say much more.

Overall? I guess it feels like “Hippopotamus” part II. Definitely not essential but there some really good tracks for old fans to dig into. It will be interesting to see if this album makes UK top 10 like “Hippopotamus” did.

Lawnmower, these guys are f*cking amazing.

Buckeye Randy
Posts: 119
Joined: Tue Feb 11, 2020 7:09 am

Re: Reviews (albums, concerts)

Post by Buckeye Randy »

Artist: Jetstream Pony
Title: Jetstream Pony
Released: May 22, 2020

A debut album, how exciting is that? I always find debut albums very exciting because it is a big hello to the world…even if the members have been around for years. A little googling tells me that members of Jetstream Pony are former and current members of Luxemburg Signal, The Wedding Present, Turbocat and Trembling Blue Stars.

While googling about for band info I find phrases like, ‘post punk’ and ‘indie pop’. Uh oh…that usually spells trouble for me! No worries, I’ll be open minded and give a listen.

I feel drawn in by the hazy dream like vocals over the basic guitar melodies. Hazy is the key word, there is nothing jagged about the sound, everything is soft and even cloud like. I think the song writing which is good can be easily overlooked with this blurry sound.

I can let this play as background music all day long but there is a problem with that. It’s great that there is nothing offensive but there is also nothing that grabs me and there is a sameness to some of the melodies.

The noisiest song is the opener, “It’s Fine” and it has a pretty catchy bass line plus the back and forth female/male vocals on the chorus work nicely. I think “Gone To The Ground” has the best melody and the distant dreamy vocals remind me of the band It’s A Wonderful Day and the song “White Bird”. The punkiest (I use the term loosely!) is “Half An Idea” and it actually sounds menacing at times.

This isn’t the sort of album I would highly recommend but it has a late night quality that can’t be ignored. I’ll be listening to it again.

Mona Lisa
Posts: 76
Joined: Wed Mar 25, 2020 12:50 am

Re: Reviews (albums, concerts)

Post by Mona Lisa »

I also liked the last Sparks album.... they are always slightly too much repetitive for me, but nevertheless it sounds really great. In the song Onomato Pia, the vocals are brilliant! They are a mix of old and modern.

Mona Lisa
Posts: 76
Joined: Wed Mar 25, 2020 12:50 am

Re: Reviews (albums, concerts)

Post by Mona Lisa »

Very short review....
Joe Jackson: "Fool" January 2019


Great album, great band.... 'The Duke', 'Fast Forward' and 'Fool' make a perfect trilogy, as different albums as they are. The contemplative JJackson never fails to bring you to new territories, and the originality of his music has a lot to do with the sounds, rhythms and colors which make him unique. A simple song like "Dave" tells the story of someone who never travels and has his own world around him; Joe Jackson is a great observer and that's what gives the value, and I believe the richness to his work.

Buckeye Randy
Posts: 119
Joined: Tue Feb 11, 2020 7:09 am

Re: Reviews (albums, concerts)

Post by Buckeye Randy »

Artist: The Reflectors
Album: First Impression
Released: May 29, 2020

The Reflectors are a four piece band from California who are releasing their retro sounding power pop debut. I love all the irony…a band called the Reflectors who are reflecting on a sound from yesteryear. A first album being a “First Impression”. I suppose it sounds a little corny but it also has a certain innocence and charm which is exactly what power pop should be all about. BTW, there is no song titled ‘Hit Single’ but it would not have surprised me.

The album cover looks as if it was designed by the same people that gave us k-tel albums in the ‘70’s. Go ahead, act like you don’t remember those cheesy albums being advertised on your favorite UHF channels. Anyways, the band works really hard to establish the retro vibe and I appreciate the honesty in advertising.

My first impression is power pop sound of the early ‘70’s in the form of Badfinger and The Raspberries. Nothing wrong with that, nothing whatsoever. However…upon a second and third listen I’m reminded of The Undertones and The Knack. One of the many good things about those bands was the quick hitting songs. That’s exactly what we have here, eleven songs clocking in at an even 30 minutes. That’s efficient!

Straight up, there is a sameness to the songs even after a few listens. There are no power ballads or riff monsters to break up the standard formula. All eleven tracks follow the similar path of being medium paced, hook laden songs dripping with pure pop honey. There is no angst, these are upbeat songs about kids being kids. They even make girl troubles sound upbeat.

“Situation Critical” is perhaps the most urgent rocker and has a desperate feel. “Storm and Thunder” has some guitar and melody that remind me of the Buzzcocks (RIP Pete Shelly). The closest thing to punk is the noisy “U Should Be My Girl”, this track has a live feel to it and you can see/hear the guys jumping about.

I’m fairly certain that these guys fell asleep listening to “Starry Eyes” by The Records and I wish more bands would have! This is a pretty darn good album and I wish the band much success. Well done!

Storm and Thunder

I promise you…I made my reference to the Buzzcocks before watching this video…that has the drummer wearing a Buzzcocks t-shirt.

Buckeye Randy
Posts: 119
Joined: Tue Feb 11, 2020 7:09 am

Re: Reviews (albums, concerts)

Post by Buckeye Randy »

Artist: Joe Wunderle
Title: Nowhere From Here
Released: May 31, 2020

Image

Just because somebody is releasing their first album doesn’t mean they are new to the business. Joe Wunderle has been a part of the Northeast Ohio music scene for several years. He has done everything from touring with death metal bands to performing in a John Prine Tribute. Joe is a gifted musician and it sounds like he has finally found a niche on “Nowhere From Here”.

I suppose I should start with some comparisons to put this in the proper context. I hear everything from early pioneers like Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly to more contemporary storytellers like Lyle Lovett and John Hyatt. There are no up tempo skip-a-longs. These are mostly slow paced ballads and laments mined from the soul.

I think the songs benefit by Joe not having a full time band at the time he made these recordings. Each song has tailored contributions from guest musicians which include upright bass, fiddle, mandolin and pedal steel. The result is a wide range of musical moods that complement the stories told from the shadows of a dimly lit corner.

“Keep The Rain” kicks off the album with an almost Dylan feel. The closest thing to up tempo is “No One Holds A Candle To You” which really benefits from the pedal steel. My early favorite is “Between A Full Moon And A Slow Train” which is happy ditty about shooting your woman. No, no, no…it is not happy! It is one of the most painful things I’ve ever heard. Joe has a gift for conveying this sort of emotion.

The vocals are consistent throughout and draw you in with a matter of fact style of story telling. I guess the exception would be the eleventh and final track, “Little Daisy”. Joe sings in a shaky, quivering voice that gives a very desperate feel to the song.

This is an absolute gem of a record. I’ll be listening to this on rainy nights or by the fire pit for years to come. Well done!

Buckeye Randy
Posts: 119
Joined: Tue Feb 11, 2020 7:09 am

Re: Reviews (albums, concerts)

Post by Buckeye Randy »

Artist: Dion
Title: Blues With Friends
Released: June 5, 2020

When talking about established artists…few are established quite as much as Dion. While he was with The Belmonts he gave us some iconic hits including “A Teenager In Love”. As a solo artist he gave us all-time classics like “The Wanderer” and “Run Around Sue”. In 1968 amidst racial riots he gave us "Abraham, Martin and John". Dion sang about getting sober in “My Own Backyard”, a song later covered by Mott The Hoople in 1971 when getting sober wasn’t all that cool. Dion was inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall Of Fame in 1989, his presenter was Lou Reed. Few careers are equal.

2020 finds an 80 year old Dion releasing a new album with some help from his friends. All of us have friends that will help us out if needed but few have friends like Dion. Included on the disc are; Joe Bonamassa, Brian Setzer, Jeff Beck, Van Morrison, Billy Gibbons, Paul Simon, John Hammond and Bruce Springsteen among others plus the liner notes are written by Bob Dylan. Nice group of friends.

It should be mentioned that Dion is no stranger to having a host of stars appear on his albums. In 1989 he released “Yo Frankie” with appearances by Paul Simon, Lou Reed, k.d. lang, Patty Smyth, Brian Adams and Dave Edmunds. Not a bad listen if you are looking for some fun music you haven’t heard before.

Back to the new release which is Dion’s 31st overall, “Blues With Friends”. This is not Dion’s first album dedicated to the blues, he has released a few different albums over the years zoning in on blues classics. This new album is different because these songs are mostly co-written by Dion and his guests. Honestly, these could just as easily be lost classics. The songs flow very freely and are like a warm and comfy blanket.

I am usually all about new releases being short and sweet. The main reason I prefer short albums is to avoid sameness. However…there is going to be sameness if you have a blues album with just two songs, right? (rimshot)

Dion has given us 14 songs taking up an hour but you know what, that’s OK since it is a star studded affair done with great performances. Actually, there really is some diversity in the styles and this music is fine for an afternoon BBQ with family or some late night shots with friends. I guess that defines diversity.

Favorites? It is going to depend mostly on the style of blues you prefer, Delta blues, Texas blues, Chicago blues, British blues and what do you call that folky sounding blues? Anyways, it’s all good but if I had to pick just one favorite it would be the Delta blues sounding, “Told You Once In August” with contributions by John Hammond and Rory Block. Uh…I might change my mind…it appears my favorite is whatever song is playing which is currently “Blues Comin’ On” with Joe Bonamassa. I’m pretty sure that everybody will have different favorite because it is all top shelf.

This album does not feel like most albums featuring appearances by big name stars. I think it is because the artists were involved with the writing of the songs plus they have known Dion for years. Regardless the reason why it’s so good…the bottom line is that it really is that good.

I recommend it and I can’t wait to try it out at my next backyard BBQ. Well done!

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