The Volume is a Little Lower: Goodbye Glenn Frey

DSCN8002

Identity and youth is such a strange thing. What one is willing to grasp on to in order to fill a void can seem like a whim but have implications that last a lifetime. For whatever reason, the music of the Eagles was what attached itself to me, and I in return, clung to them for more years than they themselves remained together in their initial run.

I remember hearing them from the crackling transistor AM radios that my older siblings owned and through the fuzz of the car stereo on the trips up north as a child. There was something that made them stick. I wasn’t even 10 when Hotel California was released, but it was the first album that I didn’t just want to buy, but somehow be a part of. More than the Beatles or the Stones, the Eagles were who I identified with. Of course, as a kid it was an oversimplified Scooby Doo type community I craved, but at that age you’re allowed to project those desires into your favourite tunes.

As I became a teen, my notebooks and textbooks would have the lyrics of their songs hand written into the covers. I knew that J.D. Souther was a frequent collaborator and that Jackson Browne had co-written “Take It Easy.” I was familiar with previous bands too; that Randy Meisner had once been in a band called Poco, that Bernie Leadon had been a member of the Flying Burrito Brothers, that Joe Walsh had opened for the Who as a part of The James Gang and mostly, that Glenn Frey and Don Henley were members of Linda Ronstadt and ultimately the masterminds behind my favourite band.

This wasn’t in the days of Google and Wikipedia. Every bit of information you got about the artists you loved was from careful study of an LP’s liner notes; gathered from magazine articles you were lucky enough to have picked up; or even books you searched for in the library… which was strange, because I only seemed to be there for this very reason. I learned about these artists from the radio itself. For years, I was tuning into Q107’s Six O’Clock Rock Report to get any little scrap of information about all my favourite bands. Before I even hit high school, I was a huge music fan with a doctorate in The Eagles. I could wax poetic about tons upon tons of rock bands; bore you with details about groups from the Beatles to Barnstorm, but the kings of the Southern California sound were my first love.

To that end, the passing of Glenn Frey hits home and hits hard. No, I never met him, and to be honest, his image as seen through History of The Eagles is that of someone who is wrapped in arrogance… but that doesn’t mean much to me. What mattered was that he helped provide a soundtrack to my life. His music gave me a reason to socialize and interact in a world that I felt desperately alone in during those early formative years. When I later lost interest in their music, it was still that initial connection that drove me to take a further interest in the sounds of other bands. Even as a music journalist, I would hear artists through a lens, that for better or worse was established with the same enthusiasm I had for The Eagles when I was child. As an adult now, I can both sing their praises and slam them in a single breath… but the truth is; every record from their debut to Eagles Live is sitting just a few inches from my turntable. In the basement, where an old stereo with a cassette deck is ready to resume work with a single button push, my old Eagles/Don Henley/Glenn Frey/Joe Walsh and James Gang cassettes wait to roll.

Earlier in the week, as I was discussing the death of David Bowie with an acquaintance, I said to him that “I’m hitting a crappy age.” It’s a time when the heroes, friends and mentors of our childhood start to disappear; a time when we seemingly attend more funerals than celebrations. Glenn Frey will live on through his family and his music… but platitudes seem rather empty at the moment. Today another part of my youth died, and no matter how much I wish for it, life will never sound the same. Still great sounding, but the volume is forever a little lower.

RIP Glenn Frey

Advertisements

The Sheepdogs – Future Nostalgia or Everything Old Is New Again…

shedogsfn

As the album title suggests, The Sheepdogs are a band lost in time. With absolutely no pretense to suggest anything else, they are what they are, and you can accept it or move along. The choice is yours.

So here is Future Nostalgia, an album that sounds like it was recorded at Muscle Shoals during the studios glory days. Opening track “I’m Gonna Be Myself” is instant proof as you get the Skynyrd riffs and Boz Scaggs vocal styles that were so recognized from the legendary southern studio.

Of course, if you are going to play with the sounds of the classic rock era, you might as well be as expansive as possible. “Downtown” throws in some Eagles harmonies and references them again on “Bad Lieutenant.” The swampy Bernie Leadon like guitar lead is reminiscent of the 1972 classic “Witchy Woman.” From there you get another Eagles guitarist, Joe Walsh, being reflected in The Sheepdogs “Take A Trip.” If you add the easy listening, Michael McDonald era Doobie Brothers sound, coming off “Jim Gordon”, and add in riffs that could come from rock stalwarts like Spirit, Free, Rick Derringer, James Gang and even Canada’s own Lighthouse, you have a pretty insane package.

The thing about the Sheepdogs is they’re not so much influenced by “classic rock” as actually sounding as if they stepped off a time machine from the era direct. If most any other band on the planet tried this, I’d be tossing out tired accusations of being poseurs. However, the songs are just too damn catchy for me to get a hate on for them. Yes you could slip them into a 70’s rock mix and someone could confuse it as a deep cut from an unknown, yet awesome, band from back in the day; but rock ‘n’ roll is nothing if not one giant recycling project.

So, how does that saying go? “Everything old is new again!” It’s kinda hard to argue with that when Future Nostalgia is spinning.

A Glorious Bit Of Ragged String Bending or Foo Fighters – Medium Rare

foomediumrare

Foo Fighters have always enjoyed putting out limited and rare b-sides for their hard core fans, but finding them all can be a big frickin’ problem. To solve this minor dilemma, they compiled the whole lot of cover songs as an album for Record Store Day 2011 and dubbed it Medium Rare. The vinyl included thirteen songs from various EP’s, singles and soundtracks. The CD version, which was released as a companion to Q Magazine subscriptions, was missing the Prince cover of “Darling Nikki.”

As cover albums go, the songs are over the spectrum including numbers from Prince, Joe Walsh, Husker Du, Paul McCartney & Wings, Cream, Gerry Rafferty and few others. The whole album sounds great and gets held together by the Foo Fighters enthusiasm for the material. Taylor Hawkins vocals sound stellar on “Life Of Illusion” and the guitar solo on “Baker Street” is a genuinely glorious bit of ragged string bending.

foomr2

Thing is, trying to get a copy.

Record stores sold out of this a very long time ago and I’ve only seen one copy in the used bin of my favourite record store (or any other for that matter) once in the last four years. Discogs seem to have the most reasonable prices in the resale market with asking prices in the $100.00 range for either of the CD or vinyl.

On the other hand, e-bay resellers have sealed copies with asking prices that balloon to nearly $250.00 for a CD copy and over $500.00 for the vinyl. However, those high prices are by no means an average, and if you have your eyes open you should be able to snag a copy for under $100.00.

I think the best bet might be to hope for a limited re-issue at some point. The market is certainly there for it, let’s hope Grohl and co. decide it is worth doing.

Playlist March 15/15

Here it is… A Playlist out on the Day I planned for…

Playlist #3 – March 15/15

Enjoy!

  1. “FOH” – Superchunk

I wrote about them and this song a couple weeks back. It’s the kind of tune that has such a good ‘riff’ that the lyrics cease to matter, which isn’t a bad thing considering it is a bit of an inside nod to music techs (roadies) and crews. Still, you just gotta love that fan made video.

  1. “Have Love Will Travel” – The Sonics

Was reading Paste (I think) a while back, and there was this playlist for the 50 Best Garage Rock Songs ever. This was the number one song on the list and they put forth a really damn good argument for this being the first punk band ever. Regardless, I’m looking to by this stuff on vinyl now.

  1. “Happy Ways” – Joe Walsh

While this song appears on a Joe Walsh record, it is actually the band Barnstorm and doesn’t feature Walsh on vocals at all. It also stands way outside his usual work in terms of song construction. Each piece of the band has stand out moments in this tune that was said to be influenced by music coming north from Mexico to California.  To my ears, this song stands out as rather timeless and I always imagine it being covered by an eight or ten piece band with horns.

  1. “Evangeline” – Matthew Sweet

Like everything on Girlfriend there is a sense of playful desperation hidden within this quest for love. Sweet’s characters never quite get it right, but remain optimistic somehow. Perhaps it is naivety that keeps things light, or just the nature of this record, but a couple decades after its release it still seems to hold its youthful soul.

  1. “Rhiannon” – Best Coast

Somehow Best Coast manages to sweep away the entire ethereal mystic evening nature of this song and turn it into a Sunday stroll on the beach. Weird thing is, it actually works. Rather than ‘Rhiannon drifting into the sunset, she seems to skip away to play in the waves. It’s a different interpretation unlike anything I would have expected. Very Cool!

  1. “Over at the Frankenstein Place” – Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick & Richard O’Brien

Despite being an important part of a large picture, I love this song as a standalone piece. It captures my imagination and just makes me all warm inside. Buy vinyl here.

  1. “Fade Into You” – J. Mascis

A most amazing cover of the Mazzy Star classic, it was the single that got away last Black Friday/Record Store Day.  Having never given up on it, it may make it into my collection at some point… soon.

  1. “Hannah & Gabi” – The Lemonheads

The first cover song I learned how to play on my beaten up old 12 string a few years back. Just a simple little song about loves lost and the confusion found as relationships end. Honest in that it really finds no resolution.

  1. “Brill Bruisers” – The New Pornographers

Saw these guys do a quick set down at Sugar Beach in September. They did an awesome cover of ELO’s “Sweet Talkin’ Woman” along with the title track from their amazing record Brill Bruisers.

  1. “California Sun” – The Ramones

What can I say, my kids were Watching Curious George (sequel) the other day and this song was a big part. Besides, I’ll use any excuse to include the Ramones on every mix I do.

  1. “Baby Six String” – Dressy Bessy

Dressy Bessy is on my bucket list of bands to see before I go the way of the Dodo. All it took was one listen to their debut Pink Hearts, Yellow Moons back in 1999 to make me a forever fan. “Baby Six String” is from their 2003 eponymous record, and rumour is, a new album and tour will be happening soon. Check them out.

  1. “The Root” – Kim Deal, Morgan Nagler

Something about Kim Deal has always screamed “coolest person on the planet” to me. Doesn’t matter if it’s the Pixies, the Breeders or her solo stuff, there is always an element of some twisted riff that makes you want to pogo all over the dance floor. Love that she’s selling vinyl singles from her own web site.

  1. “Hailing A Cab In Hell” – Viva Viva

Couldn’t resist putting these guys on after Kim Deal… I mean come on, they have an ep called What’s The Kim Deal?, how could I resist? Besides, they’re heavy garage ‘riff-age’ gets me throwing my hair around every time.

  1. “Whenever You See Me” – Kitty, Daisy & Lewis

When three young brits sound both out of time and modern at the same time, you have a pretty awesome combination. Style jumping and instrument swapping can make them a little hard to pin down, but it sure is fun to try.

  1. “(Ghost) Riders In The Sky” – Johnny Cash

My dad and I didn’t agree on much… pretty much nothing… except that Johnny Cash was frickin fantastic.

  1. “10 Million” – Gina Villalobos

Another artist on my bucket list, I became a fan the first time I heard her play this song. Ever since I’ve been ordering stuff direct from her sight – here.

  1. “I’d Run Away” – The Jayhawks

‘Alt-country’ before the term went both in and out of style, this song is from their best album Tomorrow The Green Grass. Oddly they were Minneapolis peers of Husker Du, Soul Asylum and the Replacements.

  1. “Skyway” – The Replacements

Just a beautiful song for a cloudy day, by a band that helped create the whole ‘alt-rock’ movement of the 90’s. Legendary!

  1. “Committed” – Jenny & Jonny

A fun album of duets by the boyfriend/girlfriend combo… it doesn’t feel like duets at all, but rather a bunch of great songs with two individual vocalists having a great time doing harmony together.

  1. “Thorn In Her Pride” – King Khan and the Shrines

As far as I’m concerned, this would be the band I’d want to play at a very large party. They rock, they swing, and they make you want to dance.

Eagles Live – Musical Memories

“Two chewed, one stolen, leaving this one running strong – Eagles Live IV – Winnipeg, Manitoba”

cracker ticket256

eagles live 4257

Recently I found these words that I had written in my cassette copy of Eagles Live. I purchased it as I waited for a train to take me to Portage La Prairie a very long time ago… (1985). It was the beginning of a journey that saw me through most of my 18th year – Katimavik.  It was a youth volunteer program that saw participants doing work throughout the country and even had a military option, which I was chosen for.

I walked up to the counter at the train station and in my best (which was horrible) French accent asked for a ticket to Portage La Prairie, a city that until only a couple days previous I had never even heard of. The guy behind the counter snickered at me as if I was from Mars – “You mean Portage?”

Me – “Sure.”

Him – “Here”

Me – “Could you tell me where the nearest record store is?”

Him – “It’s out there” (pointing at the door)

Me – “Um. Thanks. That’s very helpful.

Him – “You’re welcome”

Somehow I seem to just bring out the best in people.

Fortunately, the people outside were more helpful and I found my way to the record store. My copy got chewed in my Walkman during the flight from Toronto to Winnipeg, and not having it would be like a three year old having his Teddy confiscated… all, my security in the world just gone. This wouldn’t do.

While I didn’t realize it then, the Eagles in general and more specifically Eagles Live was like a lifeline to social well being. Nobody I knew hated the Eagles. Every teen and adult and… well, everybody liked them. During my “oh woes me” – “teenangsty” – depression filled adolescence, they gave me a social tool to talk about something other than my lack of a meaningful life. So damn, I began to know this band inside out. I owned the James Gang and Walsh solo material. I had seen Henley, Frey and Walsh on their own tours and knew who was backing them on the stage. I could tell you their past bands, who co-wrote what songs and their earlier influences… let’s face it – I was an Eagles geek. Sure you could find a lot of other music with me. I was a big music fan and could be found pontificating about the finer points of Van Halen, or Springsteen; maybe waxing poetic about Hendrix or the depth of the Beatles, but at this point in my life, the Eagles were my favorite band.

This cassette saw me move from November frost bite in Manitoba to a food poisoning Christmas in Quebec and finally rappelling of cliffs outside Victoria, British Columbia. It was my personal soundtrack to entertain myself as I got stuck doing ‘kit musters’. Yep, as a part of the Canadian Armed Forces – Naval Reserves, I found myself in minor trouble on a few occasions and ‘kit musters’ were the punishment. This involved your superior ripping apart your locker and bed and then you had to fix it and stand at attention while it was inspected and ripped apart again.

Much to everyone’s delight, I would put Eagles Live on the little tape deck, and go about my punishment with a smile, shutting it off only a few seconds before inspection. It was a little dance played out numerous times. The last few notes of “Life’s Been Good” would ring and I’d shut the deck off and a second or two later someone would arrive. They would leave, side two would start and by the time “Take It Easy” let out the last chords, it was time for another inspection.

Even at the end of the program, as I took a bus from Victoria to Toronto, it was the music of these guys that got me through. Walsh’s The Smoker You Drink The Player You Get and Barnstorm, Henley’s Building The Perfect Beast, The Souther Hillman Furay Band, Jackson Browne’s Running On Empty and the Eagles.

Like the three year old in need of the teddy, I eventually stopped my obsessive need to use the Eagles as a crutch as I found other music and artists. Actually, I found a whole lot more music and artists. The Eagles became more of a name amongst many in an ever growing music collection… but recently, I started looking back. So when I spotted used copy of Eagles Live on vinyl the other day, I couldn’t resist. An old familiar friend just leapt out my speakers and put me on memory lane… which is a pretty cool place to be for a few hours. Now if I could only get that picture disc vinyl edition of The Smoker You Drink, my life would be complete. (Yep – still a music geek)

manitoba

Thank You Eagles

Where To Buy Shi… Stuff #2 – Let Them Eat Vinyl

Birthdays are awesome! Or at least, my birthday is pretty awesome. There is people you love and food and if you’re lucky, cool presents too. Sometimes the gifts can even surprise you. For instance, one of my most awesome sisters gave me the gift of records – which I love, AND, it was one I didn’t even know existed – even cooler!

Which brings me to this edition of Cool Places to Buy Sh… Stuff…

LETV049LP

The gift I got was the Ramones The Cretin Hop manufactured by the good people at Let Them Eat Vinyl. The Cretin Hop itself is a bootleg taken from a 1979 radio broadcast with a couple tunes added on from appearances on Letterman and the Tonight Show. This printing is a 180 gram yellow translucent double album housed in a pretty cool gatefold sleeve and limited to 1000 copies with further albums to be made in black vinyl thereafter. The quality of sound is exactly what one should expect from a live show. It is rough around the edges, but sounds exactly like a Ramones concert should be without the frills and clutter of overdubs and tinkering sounds that plague most major artists live albums. (Honestly, if you flub a part, leave it or pick a different night.)

 DSCN7563

It also seems to be part of a loosely based series of albums taken from various radio broadcasts of different acts in their prime. Along with the Ramones you’ll find Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Flying Burrito Brothers, Pixies, Patti Smith, Lemonheads and many others all in similar black and white gatefold sleeve covers. In addition to the Ramones I also have Joe Walsh’s All Night Long which is on 140 gram vinyl and limited to 500 copies. The sound on this one is great, and seems to be a pretty perfect example of Walsh live. (Oddly, whoever wrote the liner notes for the Walsh album needs to Google a little more often as they mix song appearances from the movie soundtrack of The Warriors.)

LETV160LP_JOE_WALSH_COVER.indd

The story doesn’t end there. Besides putting out some quality bootlegs, Let Them Eat Vinyl has been responsible for putting the Ramones re-issues out on vinyl for a few years now. It looks like their first wave was all 180 gram limited edition coloured vinyl while the further editions were released on the more standard 180 gram black vinyl.

If you are looking for some quality bootlegs from an assortment of great artists, you should check out the Let Them Eat Vinyl catalogue. You might find something you like. (Can’t wait for my birthday this year.)

http://www.letthemeatvinyl.com/catalogue.htm

Where To Buy Shi… Stuff #1 – Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab

Ok, you have started a vinyl collection and you want to get a few of those classic records you loved so much back in the day. Unfortunately, the used copies you found sound like crap and you don’t know where to turn. Well, first place to stop is… http://www.mofi.com/Articles.asp?ID=255

Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab has been around (with a brief absence) since 1977 and are known for making the best quality vinyl on the market. All their vinyl is put together using the original master tapes and then recorded onto the vinyl at half speed to make sure the music is recorded with “greater precision”. Essentially, Mobile Fidelity are the biggest name in the audiophile vinyl market. Actually they have done similar things with CD’s, and over time I’ve come to own a few of their products. You’ll pay a bit more than the standard vinyl and CD prices, but the end result is worth it. 

For the collector out there ‘mofi’ does all of their vinyl in limited edition quantities of 5000, and once an album has ‘sold out’ you’ll see people asking for huge dollars in the re-seller market. (see Joe Walsh/e-bay links below) 

While my first foray into mofi was a ‘silver’ or  CD copy of Joe Walsh’s Barnstorm,

barnstorm

http://www.ebay.ca/itm/JOE-WALSH-MFSL-SILVER-CD-BARNSTORM-Sealed-/360689034658?pt=Music_CDs&hash=item53fabde5a2 

http://www.ebay.ca/itm/Barnstorm-by-Joe-Walsh-CD-1990-Mobile-Fidelity-Sound-Lab-MFCD-777-/130847271833?pt=Music_CDs&hash=item1e771aeb99

it was my quest to find the first B-52’s record on vinyl that got me into discovering the lengths Mobile Fidelity goes through to release a quality record.

b52

As it stands, I managed with only a bit of work to get my hands on a copy. Ordering direct from Mobile Fidelity in Canada is costly. The shipping is almost the price of the vinyl itself. However, if the album is still in print, it can be ordered from your local record retailer, or can be found by online retailers within your country of choice. I got mine from Northern Volume and the shipping was free as my order was over $60. (http://www.northernvolume.com/the-b-52s-self-titled-silver-label-audiophile-vinyl-lp-record-from-mobile-fidelity/)

Overall, when the vinyl is put up against the CD copy I own, the vinyl wins hands down. One listen to the opener “Planet Claire” is proof enough. The keyboard/synthesizer is warm and more present within the mix while the guitar seems to hum with slightly more depth. The result is a record that slaps you upside the head with just how damn fine it is – all over again.