Nathaniel Rateliff & the Nightsweats – Eponymous

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Listening to Nathaniel Rateliff and the Nightsweats record, I’m carried back in time. Not quite as far as the music that is reflected in their sound, but soon after, in the age of banana-seat bikes strewn across the front lawns of suburban neighborhoods.

When I was about nine, my mom gave me a few Elvis Presley cassettes and one of those rectangular tape recorders with a single speaker and buttons bigger than my damn fingers. Even in the late 70’s, this thing was an antique. For several months, I immersed myself in the 1969 version of Presley, who was reaching for songs that filled his desire to take on a more soulful persona. The end result was an output that included the spectacular “In The Ghetto” and “Suspicious Minds.” The latter single being Presley’s last number 1 before his death in 1977.

Now while Rateliff’s label is the legendary STAX, and he certainly has steeped himself in their historical sound, he is more than a little reminiscent of the blue-eyed soul that became popular in the late 60’s. Van Morrison clearly comes to mind on “Wasting Time” and Rod Stewart’s output with the Jeff Beck Group is evident on “Trying So Hard Not To Know.” However, Rateliff is far grittier and less ethereal than that. His themes are far more relatable than Morrison’s “Into The Mystic” and hold a more universal appeal to fans of Memphis soul. That said, it would be hard to picture Stewart or Morrison dropping a line like “this shit don’t run well / it’s burned out as hell / and it’s trying so hard not know.”

To a certain degree this record is a bit of a time capsule. You wouldn’t be wrong if you suggested that the ghost of Sam Cooke was whispering into Rateliff’s ear during the recording of “Howling at Nothing” as Rateliff’s vocal phrasing is similar to the classic “You Send Me.” Then  you have his band that often come out with songs sounding as if they studied with Booker T & the MG’s.

Which brings me back to Presley…

It takes a special kind of musician to evoke a slew of soul greats and retain an energy and sound that is still their own. Springsteen did this by mixing Dylan, a preacher style intensity towards rock ‘n’ roll, a few classic soul influences, and concocted a sound all his own. Nathaniel Rateliff has taken the ’69 comeback version of Elvis, added southern rock themes and walked into a STAX studio to create a record that is instantly relatable. Of course, you would never have caught “the King” singing “son of a bitch / give me a drink” as Rateliff does on “S.O.B”. It just wouldn’t have been very, um… regal.

You may have heard the kind of sound this album produces earlier in your life, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t sound anything less than awesome in the present. Hell, I bet this record would even sound good off of a crappy one speaker cassette recorder… not that I have one handy…

 

How Superstitious Are You? Playlist April 5/15

  1. “Slipin’ & Slidin’” – Little Richard

I read somewhere once that Here’s Little Richard is one of the most ‘essential’ records of all time. After listening a few dozen times in recent weeks, I believe that I agree. There is currently a special limited edition of it at Newbury Comics.

  1. “Livin’ For The City” – The Dirtbombs

Love this record and love this band. I highly recommend you give them a listen. You can order stuff from here.

  1. “Superstition” – Stevie Wonder

After reviewing The Dirtbombs, I couldn’t resist playing something from the legend himself. Wish he hadn’t lost his political edge for a bunch of wedding played syrup, but still, when he was at his creative peak, he couldn’t be touched.

  1. “Your Touch” – The Black Keys

Earlier Black Keys, they just frickin’ rock – no matter what Mr. White has to say.

  1. “Hold On” – Alabama Shakes

Something about this band just leaves me wanting more; looking forward to getting the new stuff.

  1. “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs

A good Neil Young cover is always welcome around here. Besides it gives me another excuse to play something from those great cover albums by Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs.

  1. “Ballad of Big Nothing (Alternate Vocal)” – Elliot Smith

Another re-release from Newbury, … I love Smith’s music, I just wish it didn’t remind me of… well, less talk – more listen.

  1. “Punky’s Dilemma” – Simon & Garfunkel

Started writing a review that included a memory of this song; haven’t finished the review, but the song makes me smile all the same.

  1. “Blackbird” – Paul McCartney & Wings

Besides the recent re-master of Wings Over America, I actually have an old cassette copy I got back when I was about 15. Can’t believe this guy is still touring… can’t believe Kanye fans didn’t know who he was… actually…. I can believe that. Nevermind.

  1. “Magnet and Steel” – Walter Egan

Don’t own it on vinyl, but I really do love this song. For some reason I always thought this was a Buckingham – Nicks song and always pictured Lindsay & Stevie singing it together. For a billion years I’ve known the truth, but that image just never goes away.

  1. “Don’t Let Me Break Your Heart Again” – Turbo Fruits

Best Strokes sounding song not put out by the Strokes in a very long time; can’t wait to hear the whole record.

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

Kim Deal is so frickin’ awesome it hurts. Don’t want to picture the Pixies without her – so I don’t. She has her own web store where she is selling her singles and posting videos. This video is pretty cool.

  1. “What Ever Happened?” – The Strokes

No, I’m not paid to promote Newbury! BUT – they do put out some cool collectible vinyl!

  1. “Disarm” – The Smashing Pumpkins

It is getting hard to find this edition of Siamese Dream that is 180 gram vinyl with a gatefold cover. Get it soon or wait for the next significant anniversary.

  1. “Positive Bleeding” – Urge Overkill

Yeah… I broke down and bought it! Probably use it as an example of how the poor exchange rate makes buying from south of the border a little on the expensive side.

  1. “Until The Sun Comes” – Rival Sons

Love this song, I’m just not sure about the band yet. I’ll let you know later.

  1. “If Only We Were Dogs” – Juliana Hatfield Three

Soon to be sold out from her web store, if you are thinking about it… you better get on it.

  1. “I Ain’t Superstitious” – The Jeff Beck Group

It just made it across the Atlantic, and it already seems hard to get. Good Luck!

  1. “Communication Breakdown” – Led Zeppelin

No problem finding this gem any and everywhere.

  1. “John, I’m Only Dancing (Sax Version, 2003)” – David Bowie

This record has become “My Precious” he says in his best Gollum voice. This is a great version of the classic “John, I’m Only Dancing.” Why do I love it so much – the answer is in the song.

Just In Case You Forgot! The Jeff Beck Group – Truth (Mono)

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Back in the day, when young stoners would start discussions about the finer points of Led Zeppelin, someone would always stop the conversation with a single word – Truth. A small hush would hit the room as someone would explain that Rod Stewart was once cool… maybe twice ha ha… then tell the huddled few about the Jeff Beck Group. Discussion goes toward how Page ripped Beck off by showing him “this proto-type for Zeppelin” even going so far as to perform the same cover of “You Shook Me” on their debut. (Same Howlin’ Wolf song, but way different interpretations.) By this point I would drift away from all the “conjecture bullshit”, and find a good speaker to sit close to as the buzz wore off.

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I have never been one for conspiracy theories, and all the talk about Beck vs. Page has always kinda bored the crap out of me. If there is any talking to be done, it should be by the music itself. So here it is – Truth, the first Jeff Beck Group record, has been re-released on mono – exactly as it was recorded, and exactly how it should be heard.

I’ve had friends ask me about mono vs. stereo and all I ever say is this; what format was the album recorded for? In the late 60’s the switch was taking place, and it started with a bunch of mono records being transferred to stereo after the fact. That is a good portion of the reason that the Beatles have re-released sets in stereo and mono and each had to be re-mastered for the individual format.

Mono means that all music is being put out through a single channel. You could have multiple speakers but the same identical sound, with equal distribution, will come out. In stereo, music is going out multiple channels allowing different sounds to come from multiple speakers. Hence, you might hear a vocal out of the right side and a guitar out of the left.

Anyway, both are cool, and both have an impact on how you hear the music. My personal gauge is how the music was originally released.

For the longest time Truth has only been available in the stereo format, but this newest import has been re-mastered from the source tapes back to its original mono origins. Whew.

With all the Zeppelin re-issues going out, I thought that someone should mention that this classic record, which to me plays as almost a companion piece to Zep I and vice versa, is out there to be had.

But act quick! Amazon in Canada is nearly sold out. Northern Volume still has a copy or two, but it could get difficult to find in a hurry.