Friday, August 7, 2020

Back pages: Roger Glover talks bootlegs with L!MR’s Dave Thompson (October 1998 issue)

  • Roger Glover, left,  performing with Rainbow on 1979 US tour (photo credit: Stephen Wunrow)
  • [Deep Purple have a new album out and a planned continuation of their The Long Goodbye tour. Whether that actually happens is anyone’s guess, but we’ll be honoring the occasion with a series of Deep Purple-related articles, both old and new.]Bootlegs have been held responsible for a lot of things over the years, and they’re probably guilty of a lot more. Mention them to Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover, however, and his response could almost be a tabloid headline – something along the lines of “Bootlegs Saved My Life.”
  • Or at least, they changed it beyond all expectations.

“I could never understand our success.” Midway through Deep Purple’s 1998 American tour, Glover looked back over close to 30 years of Britain’s most enduring Heavy Metal institution and shrugged. “I could never understand why so many people bought our records, because they were so full of flaws.”

“So when we first started talking about a reunion in 1984, I didn’t know if I was in favor of it or not, if we should just let sleeping dogs lie. And then I started listening to bootlegs and to what we really were, and I came to reassess the whole thing.”

There are as many Deep Purple bootlegs as there are Deep Purple classics, with the 1998 tour doing as much to swell that canon as any other. Glover admits, however, that that not everybody in the band shares his enthusiasm for the things, with guitarist Steve Morse positively bristling every time such things are even mentioned.

“Steve is adamantly against them. He believes that when he’s doing a live performance, it is for the moment, and when he’s soaring away and he sees a little red light light of a video camera, he freezes up. Because he knows it’s going to be dissected later, and it takes away from his performance. His performance is one time only, it’s not to be pored over and dissected, and that’s why he resents it. And there’s the financial point of view – Steve is… how can I say this… financially very careful.”

“But I had a meeting with some bootleggers many years ago in Germany. We had a big discussion about bootlegs and they said ‘listen, bootleggers are not ripping you off. You’re not losing money because of bootlegs. The fact that other people are making money from your music is indisputable, but you’re not losing money – it’s not money out of your pocket. In fact, the people who buy these things have already bought your albums probably two or three times already‘”

“And this was a potent argument, and I sympathize with that. Besides, they presented me with something I’d not heard in years, which was a recording of us doing ‘In The Morning’ for a BBC session. It was a song that was written on the spur of the moment, just a blues, very fast, and it’s great. I love it. But it was never formally written and recorded, that’s the only version of it. And I said, ‘Wow, it’s so wonderful to hear this. I’d forgotten all about it.’”

"So it’s through bootlegs, or at least bootleggers, that things like that even exist.”

If you want to take things further, it’s through bootlegs that Deep Purple still exists. Back to Glover, pondering whether the should reform, and digging through some old vinyl to help the mental juices flow…

“Listening to bootlegs from 1971, 1972, and 1973, I realized what a dangerous band we were – how exciting it was not to know what was going to happen next. We walked a very thin line between chaos and order, and that was the magic. That was why people bought our records. I came from a pop band, and when you’re a pop band you learn a song and you play it the same way every night. And now there’s this band veering off and suddenly the solo’s in E when it should be… hey, what’s happening here? That’s the magic. And that’s what I set out to recapture.”

Fourteen years on from that initial reunion, with a new album, Abandon, proving Purple’s best in two decades, it would appear that he’s accomplished it.

(Dave Thompson)


Friday, July 31, 2020

Vinyl review: A Year in the Life of Eric Burdon & The Animals

The Animals: Live in the Sixties (London Calling LC2LPC5012)
(review by Bill Glahn)

Venue: various broadcasts from 1966 and 1967 (see track listing)
Cover/Presentation: Nice glossy gatefold two-pocket jacket with period photos. Track listing on back with sources, with articles from Teenset (March 1967), Beat Instrumental (July 1967), and Record Mirror (12/16/67) reprinted inside gatefold to serve as liner notes. Combined with the interviews that appear on the records, this gives a fantastic picture of a transitional period in the history of The Animals. 180g orange vinyl records.
Sound Quality: As with most multiple source compilations, it varies. B overall, mastered a little hot in spots. Mono
[side A] See See Rider (French TV, 1966)/ The Same Thing/ Interview>Paint It Black/ Jailhouse Rock/ Lawdy Miss Clawdy (BBC radio, November 1966)/ Roadrunner/ See See Rider/ Tobacco Road (Bremen, Germany TV broadcast, December 1966)/ White Rabbit>Tobacco Road (segment, French TV 1967)
[side B]: If I Were a Carpenter/ A Love Like Yours/ Connection/ McCulloch’s Blues/ Shake, Rattle and Roll/ When I Was Young (BBC January 28, 1967)/ See See Rider/ A Love Like Yours/ Shake, Rattle and Roll (Bremen, Germany TV broadcast, February 1967)
[side C]: See See Rider/ When I Was Young (Mike Douglas TV show February 21, 1967)/ San Franciscan Nights/ When I Was Young>interview (Hollywood, Ca Shebang TV show, June 24, 1967)/ San Franciscan Nights/ All Night Long/ Good Times (BBC radio, August 1967)
[side D]: Interview>I Get So Excited/ Yes, I am Experienced (BBC radio, August 1967)/ Hey Gyp (Woburn Abbey Festival, August 27, 1967)/ It’s All Meat (BBC radio, November 1967)/ Anything/ Monterey (BBC radio, December 21, 1967) Hey Gyp (Olympia Exhibition Hall, London, UK, December 22, 1967)

Going by the title of this 2LP release, one might expect a representative collection of live recordings from throughout the band’s inception until the end of the decade. Not so. In fact, by the time of these recordings the original group had disbanded and records were being released under the moniker “Eric Burdon & The Animals” with a whole new lineup of musicians.

The good news here is that, for fans that have followed Burdon’s entire career (count me in), this transitional period gets an outstanding overview with both 90+ minutes of quality live music and 3 rarely seen magazine articles that appeared during the same time frame.

Most likely the line-up on the first track is the last remnants of the original Animals, which lasted until September 1966: Chas Chandler on bass, Hilton Valentine on guitar, Dave Rowberry on organ, and Barry Jenkins on drums. Jenkins would be the only one to make the transition to the new Eric Burdon & the Animals band. For the rest of the material on this album, the line-up would be Jenkins, Vic Briggs (guitar, piano), John Weider (guitar, violin, bass), and Danny McCulloch (bass), although there may be supplimental musicians on the November 1966 BBC tracks (Hammond organ and piano). Gone the signature organ sound so familiar to the band’s early recordings. New was a sound firmly rooted in a blending of blues-derived rock with an increasing trend toward psychedelic overtones.

Although American music had always been Burdon’s major influence, it was during this period that Burdon became enamored with American recording processes and culture, specifically that from California. He told Teenset magazine, “Groups like the Mamas and Papas and the Beach Boys work the right way. They go into the studio for days purposely to make a record. They record and put the tapes away for awhile, and then come back and listen to it with fresh ears. They chop the tape and shape it, and if they don’t like it, that’s it, they don’t use it. That’s the only way to work.” Burdon had plans for his new group that didn’t include the “bang it out live in the studio” methods used of the past.

The line-up on Live In The Sixties produced 3 studio albums, Eric Is Here, Winds of Change, and The Twain Shall Meet, each one moving further away from the roots music purveyed by previous line-ups. In fact, despite a potent slice of high velocity, inspired rock ‘n’ roll in “Monterey,” The Twain Shall Meet was so drenched in acid as to be unrecognizable as the same band. Zoot Money was added to the line-up in 1968 and the band went on to record two more albums in the same style, Every One of Us and Love Is, before calling it a day. When The Animals would reappear it would be with 1977’s Before We Were So Rudely Interrupted it would be the original band that gave fans the much acclaimed r&b influenced music of the early ‘60s.

What, pray tell, was the interruption? There may have been a few. In 1968 Mike Jeffery was fired as the band’s manager. I don’t know the details of the separation, but it must have cost the band money they didn’t have. This is the same Mike Jeffery that left the Jimi Hendrix estate penniless upon his death. As far as management agreements went, Jeffery made Allen Klein look like a philanthropist. Pure and simple, Jeffery was a thug and money launderer with none of the imagination of Klein. Jeffery wasn’t interested in keeping the lion’s share of the band’s income. He wanted all of it. Eventually he and Klein would find each other when Klein would offer $10,000 to get an Animals song on the movie soundtrack of Get Yourself A College Girl. Klein also convinced the Animals’ manager (and producer, Mickey Most) that it would be more profitable to sever the British publishing rights from the American rights in order to capitalize on a higher mechanical rate. And that’s how Klein gained control of The (early) Animals catalog in the U.S. Their losing streak in business partners would continue when they regrouped in 1977 by signing with Jet Records, a label owned by another ruthless and feared character named Don Arden.

But I digress. Another interruption was one of Burdon’s own choosing. For culture, he looked northward from the studios of Los Angeles to the Summer of Love in San Francisco. Burdon was not only captured by the idea of “free love,” he also developed a fondness for psychedelic drugs, going so far as to encourage other Brits that this was the country to be in. But psychedelic drugs are not always conducive to making great music and the albums became more and more uneven. Not that they didn’t contain a substantial hit or excellent album track now and again.

Live In The Sixties has its limitations. While most tracks seem to be from very good first or low generation sources, the BBC program from January 28, 1967 suffers from level fluctuations and a dastardly early fade-out on a promising cover of the Rolling Stones “Connection.” Only “When I Was Young,” coming from a later re-broadcast, gets a solid B grade. The version of Ike & Tina Turner’s “A Love Like Yours” from the same broadcast sounds utterly uninspired. And the 9-minute version of “Hey Gyp” which closes this collection would have found a better home on a Grateful Dead record, lifting the melody straight off “Turn On Your Lovelight.” The added percussion and trippy flavor do nothing to enhance what is supposed to be a rocker, Unless, of course, you think The Dead did Bobby Bland justice. And if you do, you’re tripping.

But there’s a lot of good stuff here, too. In the November 1966 BBC performances, after professing his love for Elvis Presley in an interview, Burdon gives inspired vocal interpretations of a couple of Elvis Presley tunes. The two portions from German TV also capture fine performances by Burdon and the band. The recordings from the two American TV shows are surprisingly well recorded and Burdon excels in selling his current singles, “Monterey” (which was not released as a single in the UK) and “When I Was Young” (a GREAT song!) to a more mainstream audience. And, yes, that is Casey Kasem doing the interview on Shebang, one of his earliest ventures in the move from radio DJ to TV personality.

The jewel of this collection comes near the end, with a jaw-dropping BBC performance of “Monterey,” a song Burdon wanted released as a single in his home country but was over-ruled by management because “it would be an insult to English people to release a song that praises an American event.” The performance here, surpasses the released version, which was already a powerful force that reached #15 on the American charts and #3 in Canada.

In summation, Live In The Sixties takes a unique approach in compiling a time capsule of a year in the life of The Animals, rather than a representative document of a decade. It’s a must for the kind of music scholars and serious fans that buy bootlegs and other recordings of indeterminate origin. But if you’re looking for a live compilation of their more popular hits, you should probably take a pass. There have already been attempts at that from bootleg producers with varying degrees of success. But still no authorized compilation of BBC (or other) recordings which remain the purview of the public domain specialists in Europe and totally unreleased in the States.

1967  bonus tracks (not on album)

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Byrds Bonanza! New Byrds Vinyl Bootleg! Vancouver 1971 (and some back pages)

Across the Borderline

(RetroRock Records, limited edition of 310 vinyl records)

PNE Gardens; Vancouver, British Columbia; November 26th, 1971
SOUND QUALITY: Not too shabby, I’d say, provided the antique vintage of the recording…it says ‘stereo’ on the cover, but I’m not too sure. There’s very little separation coming through my speakers and one channel is definitely weaker-sounding than the other. So we’ll call it “jazzed up” stereo, possibly a first-generation soundboard, which is an incredible find in this day and age. The vinyl suffers from a little distortion on side three, but nothing that turning up the volume won’t fix. Overall, an upgrade of a tape that’s been available in very limited circulation among Byrds fanatics.

Cardboard sleeve with a colorful, ‘psychedelicized’ picture of the band against a blue sky, a bird on one bandmember’s head. Different band photo on the rear cover with similar psychedelic effects photoshopped in, the bird in flight, track listing, etc. Robust, waxy inner sleeves house two thick slabs o’ shiny 150g black vinyl.
Side One
Lover of the Bayou • So You Want To Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star • Mr. Spaceman • Bugler • I Wanna Grow Up To Be A Politician • My Back Pages • BJ Blues/Baby What You Want Me To Do

Side Two
Soldier’s Joy/Black Mountain Rag • Mr. Tambourine Man • Pretty Boy Floyd • Rollin’ In My Sweet Baby’s Arms • Chestnut Mare

Side Three
Jesus Is Just Alright • Eight Miles High • Hold It • I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better • Roll Over Beethoven
Thanks to the vagaries created by loopholes in international copyright law, it seems that live music from the 1970s – particularly FM radio broadcasts – are fair game for release on CD and vinyl by dodgy European labels. The situation is a godsend for rock ‘n’ roll fans, who now have access to budget “copyright gap” recordings by their favorite artists that were only previously available as higher-priced bootleg titles. This album, however, doesn’t seem to be one of those…Across the Borderline documents a 1971 Canadian performance by the Byrds, and although the show doesn’t appear in my tattered old Hot Wacks guide and it’s not listed on the Bootlegpedia or Bootleg Zone websites, it’s been circulating in limited trading circles for years. Its relative obscurity doesn’t matter, ‘cause the album captures a fine performance that will certainly appeal to any old-school Byrds fan.

The band line-up for Across the Borderline comprised singer and guitarist Roger McGuinn, guitarist and mandolin wizard Clarence White, bassist Skip Battin (who doubled on piano), and drummer Gene Parsons (a multi-instrumental talent who also played harmonica, banjo, and pedal steel guitar). This is the same line-up that recorded the 1971 albums Byrdmaniax and the underrated Farther Along, which was released roughly a week before this concert. Oddly enough, the performance includes only one song from the former and two songs from the latter, but it does feature four songs from the previous year’s Top 40 LP Untitled, starting with an appropriately ‘swampy’ take of “Lover of the Bayou” with ringing guitars and a black cat moan. “So You Want To Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” features a soaring arrangement with jangly fretwork, solid rhythms, and an overall psychedelic vibe while “Mr. Spaceman” provides a jaunty sonic trip through the cosmos and Bob Dylan’s “My Back Pages” is given a gorgeous, chiming performance.

“I Wanna Grow Up To Be A Politician” is an upbeat, bluegrass-tinted tune featuring Parsons’ spry banjo plucking. A mash-up of the band’s original “B.J. Blues” with Jimmy Reed’s “Baby What You Want Me To Do” closes out the side with a bluesy instrumental jam. Side two opens with a twangy, pickin’ ‘n’ a grinnin’ medley of the traditional “Solder’s Joy” and “Black Mountain Rag” that leads into another gem plucked from the Dylan songbook, the magical, effervescent “Mr. Tambourine Man.” Side two also includes a rowdy cover of Woody Guthrie’s outlaw ode “Pretty Boy Floyd” that is turbocharged by Parsons infectious banjo licks. McGuinn’s “Tiffany Queen” may be the best song from Farther Along, a guitar-driven locomotive that is almost punkish in its intensity. The side closes with my personal fave from Untitled, “Chestnut Mare,” a brilliant story-song with subtle instrumentation and an overall yearning ambiance.

The third side opens with a foot-shuffling, up-tempo reading of Arthur Reid Reynold’s gospel standard “Jesus Is Just Alright,” which the band originally recorded for its Ballad of Easy Rider LP two years previous. The heartbeat of the concert, however, is the lengthy, extended version of the band’s signature “Eight Miles High,” which showcases the band’s instrumental prowess with psych-drenched passages, a lively bass/drum solo, and McGuinn and White’s dueling fretwork. After a short boogie-rock instrumental vamp (“Hold It”), the side closes with a charming take of Gene Clark’s folk-pop gem “I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better” and a raucous cover of Chuck Berry’s classic “Roll Over Beethoven.” Side four? Well, it has grooves and breaks so that it resembles a regular album side, but it’s blank, as empty as a politician’s promise. Nevertheless, Across the Borderline provides over an hour of great music and while it duplicates a number of songs from the legit release Live at Royal Albert Hall 1971, it compliments rather than competes with that set. Grade: B+ (Rev. Keith A. Gordon)

Back Pages [A few CD reviews from the old print issues of Live! Music Review, available online for the first time.]

THE BYRDS Cooped Up (Groove Master GRMA oo6, 74:24)
[review by Sid Griffin, October 1999 issue of Live! Music Review]

Venue/Sound Quality: outtakes of studio demos, various live recordings from radio and audience recordings, generally 8 on a 10 scale)
Cover: full outtake shot from the first CBS album photo shoot in Griffith Park, rear is b&w of Mcguinn and Crosby harmonizing in studio during first LP sessions.
Tracklist: You Showed Me/ Here Without You/ She Has A Way/ The Reason Why/ For Me Again/ Boston/ You Movin’/ The Airport Song/ You Won’t Have To Cry/ I Knew I’d Want You/ Mr. Tambourine Man/ All The Things/ You All Look Alike/ You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere/ I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better/ It’s No Use/ The Only Girl I Adore/ The St. Louis Browns/ Cobras/ Rock & Roll Time/ Tiffany Queen/ Precious Kate/ BB Class Road/ Chestnut Mare/ So You Want To Be A Rock n Roll Star/ Rollin’ In My Sweet Baby’s Arms/ We’ll Meet Again

A worthwhile but ultimately not indispensable addition to the Byrds’ canon.

Best thought of as a noble companion to Raven’s fine release of Byrds Parts 1964-1980 last year, this is one every dead serious Byrds freak will have to have, but which other, more casual fans can let go by. Dig; tracks 1-11 are merely the CBS remastered versions of the Preflyte material, different takes much of it, but so what? Remember the differences in these recorded versions are minimal and the entire Preflyte sessions have been available on cassette for some time. To wit, who needs all 14 versions of “She Has A Way?” Besides me, I mean.

The next two cuts are “All The Things” and “You All Look alike,” two fine songs from the last great Byrds album, Untitled. Rarely ever performed live, they are worth hearing by anyone and worth having by any Byrds freak. Skip Battin sings that latter pretty darn well and McGuinn is reduced to a backing role, but Clarence White shines per usual. It will be interesting to compare these versions to the outtakes coming forth shortly on Sony’s reissue of Untitled.

Next up is an FM broadcast of an overheard song, “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.” Ho hum. The CD says this is from 1970 but no way., not with that piano solo and the very Rick Vito sounding lead guitar. I’s say it is from the middle of Roger McGuinn’s solo years. 

Then up to bat are outtake versions of “Feel A Whole Lot Better” and “It’s No Use,” each allegedly with different vocals. The first sounds just like the version found on the Sony reissue of the first album where Gene Clark’s vocals are up high (though the stereo separation sounds awesome) and then it falls apart with producer Terry Melcher cutting in to ask “who sings the high part?” That would be you, David. The latter sounds like a slightly earlier version or simply a different mix with the vocals up high. Note how McGuinn detonates a killer solo, the first acid rock solo on record ever.

“The Only Girl I Adored” is next. Y’all remember it from the Together Byrds flotsam & jetsam of 1969. It’s the same old late 1964 post-Beefeaters demo we’ve known and loved all these years.

Two cuts follow from a Skip Battin solo album, “The St. Louis Browns” and “Cobras.” I remember Skip’s albums and although “Captain Soul” did have McGuinn and company him up, I sure don’t remember them backing him up on these two relatively undistinguished cuts. But maybe McGuinn ain’t around and Gene Parsons and Clarence were. Still, these are not the greatest ex-Byrd cuts by a long shot.

1975 saw McGuinn a charter member of Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Review and, rejuvenated, he formed a band called Thunderbyrd with David Bowie’s guitarist, Mick Ronson who was also on that tour. “Rock n Roll Time” is Thunderbyrd in the studio slamming through a song McGuinn wrote with Bob Neuwirth and Kris Kristofferson, but alas, the powerful backing is lost as McGuinn’s tough guy, angry vocal is silly. Anger and menace are simply not Roger McGuinn calling cards.

Next are three cuts alleging to be the only true stereo versions of songs recorded from the last Byrds album for CBS. The sound quality and stereo separation are impressive but except for “Tiffany Queen,” none are Byrds classics. So what’s the big deal? Again, it will be interesting to compare this stuff to the original and outtake material on the upcoming reissue of that album. 

German TV supplies the poorest sounding cuts on the CD, flat lo-fi versions of “Chestnut Mare” and “Rock n Roll Star.” The band sounds tired and not that involved in their performance. You have to wack the volume way up to even hear them and what on earth is that German gal saying with her voice-over. Ouch.

A fine acoustic lo-fi TV version of “Rollin’ In My Sweet Babys Arms” follows and though the sound quality ain’t there the performance is… wow. Who is that on mandolin?!! Cooped Up then ends with a different vocal performance over the same backing track of “We’ll Meet Again” from the first album, Melcher again heard on the talk back, the vocals up nice and loud. A nice touch to a messy, if unique, hodgepodge of Byrds music from here and there.

Gene Clark & Friends: A Star for Every Stage (Massive Attack Discs CD-R 990105, 69:41)
[Review by Sid Griffin, September 199 issue of Live! Music Review]

Cover: Two panel insert featuring a slightly blurred b&w photo of Gene Clark and Rick Danko performing. The inside panel is a backstage photo of the entire band with tracklist
Sound Quality: A pretty clean board tape (10)
Tracklist: It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue/ Old Paint/ Honest I Do/ The Rumour/ The Shape I’m In/ Shake Your Ass/ Why Did Yoy Leave Me/ Silver Raven/ Feel A Whole Lot Better/ Chimes Of Freedom/ Sail On Sailor/ So You Want To Be A Rock n Roll Star/ Eight Miles High/ Turn Turn Turn

The band is actually the Twentieth Anniversary of the Byrds troupe put together by Gene Clark and Michael Clarke playing in some club in southern Indiana. How Messers. Clark, Clarke, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel, Blondie Chaplin, John York, and Rick Roberts must’ve reflected on how their stock had fallen to A)/ have to band together like this, B)/ go out as “The Byrds” since this is how unscrupulous club owners billed them and C) to be playing bar band versions of their hits in dives like this is a thought too painfully cruel to dwell on for more than a few moments.

All that talent and this is the best show they can come up with? Ouch. John York starts it off earnestly enough with all the charisma of a sofa, a permanent Byrd wanna-be who was actually in the band! Wow, go figure that one. Then Rick Danko stumbles through a fairly bluesy Jimmy Reed take of “Honest I Do” which ain’t bad before the late, and we do mean great, Richard Manuel joins him for a fine version of “The Rumor.” Hey, is that actually Michael Clarke playing drums on that? Nice one, Michael! Then more of the guys come on to blast through a decent “The Shape I’m In," Richard Manuel singing all the best he can, before the real rot sets in.

Why on earth these talented musos wrote and performed (prostituted?) a whore’s dinner of a song called “Shake Your Ass” is beyond at least one Byrds fan and though it does rock, man, this is bar room Bad Company/Bachman Turner Overdrive bluster at its finest… meaning it is far, far beneath their talents – much less attention of the kind of people who gave us “She Don’t Care About Time” or “King Harvest.” It’s bar room crap from middle-aged members of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame who oughta know better. It’s clumsy too, so naturally the audience digs it and cheers lustily.

Next up is a wobbly Gene Clark singing “Why Did You Leave Me?” with a slur in his voice and more than his share of flat notes. Heartbreaking. If he was sober when he sang this, then I am the Pope and mass is now Tuesday evening. His classic “Silver Raven” is next, delivered in a haunted vocal which reminds all just what the fuss about Gene Clark is all about. If not pure dynamite, then still fairly explosive and proof Clark wasn’t finished just quite yet despite all the bad things he was doing to himself.

From here on out, the hits are plowed through in a manner fairly acceptable for a bar room but disappointing for playback later. Michael Clarke takes “Feel A Whole Lot Better” too damn fast, “Chimes of Freedom” has York imitating McGuinn and some fool plays a Hendrix styled solo (!) on it. “Sail On Sailor” is pretty well well handled by all with Blondie’s vocal not too shabby. “So You Wanna Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” is again too damn fast and the vocal far too gritty. “Eight Miles High” is messy if earnest and not all that bad and “Turn Turn Turn” is sung off key.

In summation, no doubt the kind folks at Massive Attack thought they were pleasing Byrd fans with this release but it is, upon serious reflection, easily one of the most disappointing releases in the Byrd family’s vast back catalog.

Roger McGuinn: Flying Alone (Main Street 103, 66:41)
[review by Bill Glahn, July 1995 issue, re-edited]

Venue: My Father’s Place, Roslyn, NY July 12, 1975 
Sound Quality: low generation recording from WLIR broadcast, excellent
Tracklist: Flow River Flow/ Wasn’t Born To Follow/ Mr Spaceman/ So Long/ My Back Pages/ The Lady/ Chimes of Freedom/ My Driving Wheel/ Goin’ Down The Country/ You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere/ Chestnut Mare/ Lover of the Bayou/ Lisa/ Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door/ Mr. Tambourine Man/ Somebody Loves You/ So You Wanna Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star/ Eight Miles High/ Take A Whiff On Me

Don’t let the title of this one fool you. This is a full band performance of the tour to promote McGinn’s Roger McGuinn & Band album, released just a month earlier. McGuinn was still trying to establish himself as a solo artist after years of leading the Byrds.  RM&B was his third record without using the Byrds moniker. His previous album, Peace On You, had been his first to crack the Billboard top 100. There would be no such success this time around. Assigned a company producer and session band by Columbia Records, RM&B just wasn’t an album that was going to set any Byrds’ fans on fire. McGuinn was wise to avoid too much material from his current album in the setlist. Fans of the final years of the Byrds, where McGuinn’s nasally and distinctive voice was the focal point of the band (along with the picking of by-this-time deceased Clarence White) will find this to be an extremely attractive release, far more so than the album he was promoting. The stylistic differences in his live set were almost non-existent to late period Byrds.

There seem to be a few edits, possibly to cut out radio station announcements. The length is typical for a WLIR broadcast, which usually allowed an artist an hour plus encore time. I will assume this is complete.

The band is extremely tight, Roger is in fine voice, and some of the recent songs surpass their studio counterparts. “My Drivin’ Wheel” brings across the melancholy of the song’s protagonist in a way not heard since Tom Rush recorded the song. Other highlights include “Somebody Loves You,” “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door,” and “Wasn’t Born To Follow.” There aren’t any low points – it’s a hoppin’ show from start to finish.

With a history as rich as McGuinn’s, I would think some enterprising bootlegger would do a two or three disc retrospective. There’s great tapes in circulation from the Byrds, McGuinn solo and band, McGuinn Clark and Hillman, etc. McGuinn is too important an artist to be overlooked by the underground industry. This disc is a great start to rectify things. 

The Byrds: All American (The Third Eye DE 1007; 72:36)
[review by Bill Glahn, May 1996 issue]

Venue: American University, Wash., D.C. April 18, 1970
Sound Quality: the pits, bottom of the barrel bootlegging
Cover: unimmaginative

This is a highly circulated soundboard recording, a more complete version of the show featured on the Retrorock syndicated radio broadcast. Unfortunately, the bootlegger seems to have been at the bottom end of the circulation chain. There’s a whole lot of hiss, tape warble, drag, level drops, and just about anything else that can ruin a (once) fine quality recording. Evidently the manufacturers aren't Byrds fans at all. Songs are misidentified in the track listing - I mean, does “You All Look Alike” sound anything like “Well Come Back Home?” Sheesh.

Although I think this is the strongest live line-up of the Byrds, and I’d love to see more material from this period, this is not a good place to start.  

Roll The Tapes [What's circulating in the taper's community.Reprinted from the pages of Live! Music Review] 

ARTIST: McGuinn, Clark and Hillman
VENUE: The Bottom Line, New York City 02.24.79
SOURCE: 60 min FM broadcast, performance (9), quality (8)
TRACKLIST: Sad Boy/ Long Long Time/ Little Mama/ Don't You Write Her Off/ Release Me Girl/ Turn Turn Turn/ Surrender To Me/ Chestnut Mare/ It Doesn't Matter/ Feeling Higher/ You Ain't Going Nowhere/ Ten Feet Away/ Stopping Traffic/ (So You Want To Be A) Rock & Roll Star/ Mr. Tambourine Man/ Eight Miles High/ Feel A Whole Lot Better/ Bye Bye Baby

COMMENTS: By the late seventies, various incarnations of the Byrds had run their inevitable course, notching out a place in rock & roll history. For Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark and Chris Hillman – arguably the creative heart and soul of the Byrds – life did not begin and end with that legendary band. The threesome got together to create a handful of albums during the period surrounding the change of the decade, and if none of it is as memorable, in retrospect, as the Byrds' material, well it ain't half bad, either!

As shown by this FM broadcast from New York's famous Bottom Line, the trio of McGuinn, Clark and Hillman had a few musical tricks left up their sleeves. The performance dates from around the time of the release of their self-titled first album and, in fact, includes much of the material from that underrated LP. The first part of the show kicks off with songs like Gene Clark's soulful "Little Mama," "Long Long Time," "Release Me Girl" and "Sad Boy," all from their debut. The rollicking, popish "Don't You Write Her Off," the album's single and a minor charting hit for the band, features some fine harmonies from the trio, the choruses a joyful interplay of vocals and instrumentation.

After warming up the crowd with their new material, McGuinn, Clark & Hillman throw a few musical bones out for the audience and listeners at home. Performing classic Byrds sides like "Turn Turn Turn," "Mr. Tambourine Man," "Eight Miles High" and one of my personal favorites (from the Byrds' Untitled LP), "Chestnut Mare," the trio successfully pulls off new interpretations of their old songs, much to the audience's satisfaction. They close the show with the closing track from their album, "Bye Bye Baby," leaving the crowd wanting more. One of the most overlooked collaborations in rock, McGuinn, Clark & Hillman performed pop-influenced, country-tinged rock in a fresh new vein rather than resting on their considerate laurels as artists. There's very little live music by these guys that I can find circulating in trading circles. If you're a fan of the Byrds or any one of the member's solo work, I'd recommend tracking down this or any other show you find. You'll be glad that you did.  (Rev. Keith A. Gordon)

YouTube Bonus:

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Lady Antebellum, Daughters (and sons) of the Confederacy

Rambling Notes, July 8, 2020
(by Bill Glahn)

Anyone with a brain and a sense of racial inequity knew what Lady Antebellum was and what their name represented. When it was feasible, the group of no-talent, pop/country schlock artists chose a name that sat well with the more conservative (and racist) Nashville music production line and the fans of that particular brand of country music. And they stuck with that name until the massive Black Lives Matter protests of this year, whereupon they decided on the more politically correct name of Lady A.

One problem, as any capable music attorney could discover with a simple one minute Google search: there was a performer who had already released 4 albums under that name dating back to 2010. I’m sure Lady Antebellum has capable attorneys. I’m positive they checked.

Are Lady Antebellum racists? Well, sure they are. How could any band that would take a name that glorifies the traditions of the old south and slavery not be? And continue to do so for 15 years. Do they believe in white supremacy? Read on and draw your own conclusions.

Does Lady Antebellum have clout? A quick check of Wikipedia now lists them as Lady A. Yes, they have clout. Star power gives you that. How you use it determines what kind of human you are. They can call themselves Lady A if they want to. That’s a question for the courts. I’m still calling them Lady Antebellum.

The courts you say?

The real Lady A (Anita White) played in the Motown group, Lady A and the Baby Blues Funk Band for 18 years before going solo under the name Lady A in 2010. I don’t know if she ever filed a trademark for that name. But, for certain, there is an implied one. The ticklish problem for Lady Antebellum are the four copyrighted albums by Lady A that establish that.

George Floyd is dead. Let the negotiations begin.

Lady Antebellum approaches with the tried and true music industry approach of the rule of gold. Those with the gold rule. Anita White supplements her musical career with a job at the Seattle Public Works. To Lady Antebellum, a 4-time Grammy nominee (1 time winner) with multiple platinum and gold record awards, Lady A was just another struggling black woman to be trounced. They didn’t even bother to notify her of their new trademark.

Another problem for Lady Antebellum: Lady A is not only a performer, she is a performer with a sense of activism when it come to Black lives. According to Wikipedia: “Her own music's subject matter has included racial activism such as about the shooting of Trayvon Martin and the killing of George Floyd.”

Lady Antebellum feigned innocence. It was just an innocent mistake, they claimed, while refusing to relinquish their new trademark. They approached White, who was willing to co-exist as Lady A. But when Lady Antebellum sent the contracts, it contained a different solution. As stated by Lady A to Pitchfork, "Their camp is trying to erase me ... and I no longer trust them.” Lady Antebellum sued.

It’s not like Lady Antebellum’s name hasn’t been the subject of controversy for over a decade. They chose to ignore those criticisms. It’s too late now. I suggest another name change where they can retain their identity: New Antebellum. Or maybe The Daughters of the Confederacy. Oh, yeah. That one is taken too.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Mark Insley's Redemption, A Dime at a Time

(photo credit: Katie Bolger, review by Bill Glahn)

Mark Insley; 10 Cent Redemption (limited independent release, no label or catalog number listed)

Recorded on an ultra-low budget using primitive recording methods, Mark Insley has delivered a surprisingly fine album. Recorded live in the studio to 2-track analog tape with no overdubs over 5 hours of available studio time just before the shutdown, this is a CD that breaks no musical ground, but rather, lives or dies on the quality of its songs. Mark Insley has always been a great songwriter, and this CD is no exception.

More reminiscent in style of Insley’s first album, Good Country Junk, 10 Cent Redemption adds to his song writing credentials with songs reminding one of the masterpieces found on Tucson (2001) and Supermodel (2003) – two albums on indie Rustic Records that had strong national distribution. Unlike those records, Insley finds himself recording this time on his own dime. Don’t expect a flawless recording. It’s recorded live – no overdubs, after all. But also remember that the recording methods used for this CD are the same ones used by the Beatles on their first couple of albums, although the fab four had a lot more studio time compliments of EMI/Parlophone. You won’t be offering this one up at a yard sale 5 years down the road, either.

Insley revisits some of the same themes from Tucson and Supermodel, songs about unrequited love (Tucson’s “Alchemist Heart” is brilliant as is Supermodel’s “Heart Out In The Snow” – a song that Insley reprises on 10 Cent Redemption). Added to the mix are “The Good Old Days Again” and “Sleeping With Your Memory.” Love is a tough nut to crack. Songs about backsliding  (Supermodels’ “The Devil's Knockin’”) get an update with the title track.

But after a 17 year hiatus, Insley has added a couple of new twists. “Circle of Stones” tells, in narrative form, the ultimate fate of a drug runner, “Death On Layaway” delivers an ugly truth. “My First Car” and “Ball Peen” add some John Prine-type humor,

Insley made an escape to the desert 17 years ago. 2 years ago he walked out of the desert and began mixing with humanity again, playing steady gigs in the Tucson area, fine-tuning these songs in a variety of settings. In the last year he has given up drinking and taken up camping.

The sequence comes to a conclusion with the final two songs. “Ball Peen” is a story of a flawed romance with a happy ending. A solo cover of the chestnut “Amazing Grace” is riveting.

10 Cent Redemption finds Insley in a good place this time out. The result for music lovers is a win.

10 Cent Redemption is very limited – 100 numbered copies. He who snoozes loses. Available at It's not available in any streaming or downloadable format, so we'll leave you with this...

Bonus round:
[In 20018 I interviewed Mark Insley on the eve of his first performance with a band in years. It is reprinted below from the It's A Highway Song blog

Toll Road To Redemption - Mark Insley Ventures Out of the Desert
by Bill Glahn

There’s a road on the outskirts of Tucson in serious need of repair called Old Spanish Trail. To the east of the road is Saguaro National Park, home of America’s largest cacti - a beautiful, yet harsh landscape. To the west is a maze of sand and gravel roads that get narrower and ruttier the further in you dare to venture. This is where Mark Insley hangs his hat. He’s been hanging it there for the last 16 years. He hasn’t made any new music in the last 15 of those years.

Mark Insley might be the best-kept secret in Americana music. After three critically acclaimed CDs around the turn of the century, Insley seemed to vanish. In terms of musical output, he went mute.

Insley’s first release, Good Country Junk, was the result of his well-received stage act at the Palomino in Los Angeles. He enlisted members of Dwight Yoakam’s band (Scott Joss, Taras Prodaniuk, Pete Anderson), among others, and if there is one minor complaint about Good Country Junk, it’s that it was, stylistically, a bit too close to Yoakam. That’s not a bad thing as far as making a record, but it really didn’t offer anything fresh. That would change drastically with Insley’s sophomore album, Tucson.

Tucson featured another great support cast of players – Dave Alvin, Albert Lee, Tony Gilkyson, and some jaw-dropping organ contributions by Danny McGough. But the thing that makes Tucson a solid five-star record is not the players, it’s the songs. To borrow a phrase from Willie Nelson, these are the kind of songs that keep the jukeboxes playing - songs written by a man that feels things deeply, songs that cut to the bone and are delivered in a voice that reflects every note of that.

Insley’s third and final CD, Supermodel, carries that forward, including a remake of “The Devil’s Knocking” from Good Country Junk that is stunning in its transformation. These are the sounds of a man on the verge of breaking. And they are the last sounds the world has heard from Mark Insley.So what happened? Insley’s pretty open about the last 15 years.

“Oh man, it’s not a pretty story. I had a couple of failed marriages. I had a good little run for a couple of years. I was hosting this thing downtown called ‘Arizona’s Most Wanted.’ I had bands coming in from all over the country – very few from Arizona. That didn’t really endear me to the local vox populi. That went away.

“You know, I fell in with a group of guys that were on the unsavory side. I was doing more drugs and alcohol than any man should live to tell about. I had this little run-in with the police for possession with intent to distribute and illegal possession of an automatic firearm. I ended up selling everything I had to hire the best criminal attorney in the state. And we beat all of that.

“You’d think I’d have learned my lesson but I just kept at it. So finally, a couple of years ago I got drunk and decided to go out for a motorcycle ride. I ended up in the hospital with a motorcycle handlebar puncture wound in my small intestine and third degree burns all over my legs.

“I kind of took stock of my life. Asked myself, ‘Do you want to die like this or live a little bit longer?’ I quit most of my bad habits and started working on my craft – my writing.

“I was doing a weekly gig at a BBQ joint and then that went away [a place on Old Spanish Road outside of the city, which went out of business]. I had another slow period and then in the last year I started sticking my toe in the water and seeing how it felt. And audiences seemed to respond. They like it. I like it.

“That’s what I do. So that’s what I want to do. I have enough songs to make an album. My plan is to go out to LA and record with some of my old cohorts. Some won’t talk to me anymore, but the ones that will – they seem interested.”

At 61 years of age, Insley has a different approach to his songwriting. Rather than in-the-moment songs of heartache, songs he refers to as “written under duress,” Insley is both reflective and forward-looking with some of his new material.

“About once a month I come into town and play this little joint called the Royal Sun. The gal that runs it is the one who actually coaxed me out of - I don’t know what you call it – semi-retirement? I went in there one time and she asked ‘You want to play here, don’t you?’ I thought, ‘Fuck no.’ But that started it. She just wouldn’t leave me alone until I said yes. And I’m glad she did. She’s a nice gal.

“Damon Barnaby – I’ve been playing with him for years. We like to do this duo thing there.”

It’s in these acoustic settings that Insley performs some of his recent tunes.

“My younger brother (Austin-based songwriter Dave Insley) has written songs about parents and family for years and I always thought, well, nobody really gives a shit about that stuff. But it’s just been within the last few years that I’ve begun to embrace these aspects of life. You realize you’re not immortal.”

But being reflective doesn’t have to mean losing your edge. Insley pulls a guitar out of its case and, in an interview setting, gives me an example of a new song from his days growing up in the farming community of Chapman, Kansas.

Called “My First Car,” it begins with a description of one of the ugliest and coolest (in a funky sort of way) cars Dodge has ever produced. Slant Six motor. Push-button automatic. By the time the song is over it’s a back-door murder ballad (the previous owner had murdered her husband and put the body pieces in the trunk).

And Insley describes the song as “absolutely true”. This is a new twist for Insley. It’s dark but it’s dark humor. It’s a great story delivered in a talking folk/blues style. It’s the kind of song that will go a long way in entertaining an audience, but not one that’s going to knock them off their bar stools.

“Now I’ll play you a song about the future.”

The future Insley is talking about is the same one we all face - death. And this one will knock you off your barstool. Lyrically it’s one of the most provocative songs Insley has ever written. Called “10-Cent Redemption”, Insley delivers with conviction. This isn’t just story telling. It’s confessional story telling with a vengeance. Pollyanna doesn’t live here.

I’m over-churched but I keep on sinnin’
I claim the good lord’s work but the devil’s winnin’
On June 20, Insley played his first gig in five years with an electric band. They didn’t play any new songs. “We’ve only rehearsed songs that the band knows from recordings.” When asked afterwards how it felt, Insley responded, “It felt great!” Insley hopes to enter the recording studio before the end of summer. The process will be a lot different this time. “I’ve never had to pay for recording a record.”

Insley still prefers the isolation of where he lives. “Nobody ever finds it. That’s why I live out there.” And there are tolls to be paid to travel out of those sand and gravel roads. Mark Isley is paying them a little at a time, but he’s paying them. And that gives fans of his old records something to hope for.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Slobberbone: Two Brent Best Interviews From The Early Days

[While y'all were celebrating America over the weekend, editor Bill Glahn and contributing editor Rev. Keith A. Gordon were busy digging into the archives to celebrate one of Americana's greatest bands, We came up with, not one, but two, interviews with Brent Best conducted during the Barrel Chested tour. The first is from the pages of the March 1998 issue, the second from the good Reverend's Nashville-based blog. And as if that's not enough, we've added a Roll The Tapes review of a show from the tour.]

The Live! Music Review Interview

Bill Glahn: The first four lines of “Barrel Chested” are very much the voice of experience. That song sets the tone for the album.

Brent Best: The song sets the tone for the album in that it’s an expression of what was going on thematically on the last album (Crow Pot Pie). But it’s a progression from that. So for me, personally, it was a good way to start the new album and as it turned out, after we got into the recording part of the album, it clicked pretty quickly. As soon as we laid that one down, we knew it would set the tone.

BG: Was that one of the earliest songs recorded for the album?

BB: Yeah, I think so. It was one of the earliest written for the album. And it feels like a leadoff track. It has thay big chugga-chugga guitar.

BG: How does it fit in the live set?

BB: We play it pretty early on. It changes some nights. When we’re back home where everybody knows it, we play it earlier in the set just to get it out of the way and piss everybody off. It varies but we usually do it pretty early – it’s a good rocker.

BG: “Barrel Chested” has a sort of downtrodden feel to it. A lot of character development. Does that come from your own experience?

BB: Crow Pot Pie had a lot of that. Most of the songs were written when I had a kind of crappy physically-based day job and at night I just drank. So that’s where a lot of those songs came from. What I realized is that, as the band got going, all these things that I had hoped for… those things alone can’t pull you out of that mentality. You just can’t rely on something else to get you to a different place mentally or emotionally. The new songs are coming from that same place but it’s more about where you slap yourself in the face a couple of times an say, “OK, you’ve gotta do something,” You’re still there, but at least you’re looking forward to something else.

BG: One of the things I like about the new album is that the songs are more developed. “Billy Prichart” could have been a movie script. Do you feel you’re becoming a better songwriter?

BB: I don’t know, That was really written awhile back. I’ve really got a backlog of those story-type songs. I think those, as I bring those out more, people tend to think of me in terms of a songwriter instead of just a rock musician. A lot of my favorite songwriters… Peter Case – when I listen to an album I like to feel like I’ve been somewhere by the time I’m done. I’m not saying that you need a whole album of narratives. That would probably suck. But I like the idea of being grabbed by an album and being pulled through, whether it be from the story, or musically or whatever. I first got into him [Peter Case] on his first solo album somewhere around 1986.

BG: That was a great record, very similar in style to Steve Earle.

BB: Very Steve Earle. Kevn Kinny [Drivin N Cryin vocalist] has done some solo albums like that. I saw Peter when I was 16. That’s when I started writing. I’d been in bands but I knew I wasn’t that good of a guitar player. But I realized early on that’s the only reason I play guitar – to write songs. And he exemplified that. When I first heard him and that guitar and everything he played was a great song. It totally gave me goosebumps.

BG: I think that first album tour was the first time he ever played with just an acoustic guitar. I love that record.

BB: Yeah “Walk In The Woods” – that song floors me. The early ‘80s is when I started writing. I was into REM around their 2nd or 3rd album. Fables of the Reconstruction was a big album for me because it kind of opened my eyes to something different. At the same time it could rock, but it was real mysterious and there were lots of stories going on – lots of layered images.

BG: Are you hip at all to that L.A. Paisley Underground scene that was happening at the time. Green on Red? The Long Ryders?

BB: I was a huge Long Ryders fan around the same time that we’re talking about

BG: Sid Griffin is one of our contributing writers.

BB: Really! He’s my hero. I saw the Coal Porters a couple of years ago. Is he still in England?

BG: Yeah. He’s doing some writing for magazines like Mojo and I think a book now and then. I think his musical career has become a struggle. Touring [in the States] can be difficult. He’s a guy I consider to be one of the great songwriters of our time who struggles to get 50 people into a club here.

BB: That’s the way it was at SXSW last year.

BG: Were you there? I went to see that show!

BB: The one in the beer garden (Maggie Mae’s West)?

BG: Yeah, and there was some heavy metal band playing next door and the noise was bleeding over.

BB: Yeah, I was there. He rules. Man, he’s great. All those Long Ryders albums were just… I saw them first in Dallas with The Alarm. That’s when I got really turned on to them. And then they came back through and I got to see them again and I was floored. I was heavily into Dream Syndicate for awhile, but not near as heavily.

BG: Are you aware of the Danny & Dusty record? It was a collaberation between Dan Stuart of Green on Red and Steve Wynn with members of the Long Ryders.

BB: Really? We actually did a show with Steve Wynn. I like his new record. You didn’t hear a lot about that music where I was from in Texas. When I found out and started listening I was like “WOW!”

BG: During that period I think big labels weren’t so much trying to develop artist themselves, I think there may be a return to that now. [editor’s note: in reality the majors were letting small labels develop acts, giving “seed” money to some,  and if the small labels were successful, the majors would buy the smaller labels up. Slobberbone finished their recording career on New West Records, a large Nashville label with an impressive roster of talent.]  Have you guys had any major label interest?

BB: Yeah. After signing with Doolittle Records, we did SXSW a couple years ago and it got pretty crazy. It was pretty ridiculous, actually. That was right on the cusp cusp of the big country-rock explosion and the alternative country bullshit. I just never felt comfortable talking with any of those people. Not to say we went in predisposed to feeling uncomfortable. Universal [made an offer.] Mercury was pretty arrogant about it because both of Doolittle’s previous acts had gone to Mercury. After awhile Mercury started feeling that Doolittle was a farming ground for them.

BG: You weren’t in awe of tham as a major label?

BB: Yeah, that’s almost like they expect you to be.

BG: There’s a lot of powerful egos out there.

BB: Yeah, but you can’t talk to them about making an album. You can only talk to them about making money.

BG: What artist has Mercury broken since Rod Stewart? And he had already established himself in the Jeff Beck Group.

BB: I know! I can think of a lot of people they’ve screwed but I can’t think of any they’ve…

BG: How’s Doolittle as a label/

BB: Great. They’re a small indie label with a lot more muscle… investors with money who are really into music and liked the idea of doing it just for the sake of doing it.

Jeff Cole produced Barrel Chested didn’t he?

Yeah he produced it with us. With this one, there were some things I heard for the album and things I knew I could get and Jeff had an electrical engineering degree out of UT (Austin) and Berkeley (Boston). I knew on this album we could get the sounds I was hearing in my head.

BG: Has Slobberbone always had the same band members?

BB: No. There’s been a lot of change. We’re from Denton (college town north of Dallas) where there wasn’t much of a club scene but lots of parties. For the first three and a half years, I just viewed it as something to do for fun. Members came and went for various reasons. Not everybody has the same intentions. But when (bass player) Brian Lane joined, it became obvious to lots of people that had been coming and seeing us for awhile, things were really on. That kind of coincided with a big burst of songwriting from me and it just went from there. (Guitarist) Mike Hill left after the first album because we’d been touring for almost a year constantly and it didn’t agree with him. He came in to do some of the guitar parts on Barrel Chested but I did most of the basic parts and most of the overdubs myself. Jess Barr joined right after Barrel Chested was made. He’s been coming to our shows since he was 16, so it’s cool having him on the tour now.

BG: I was surprised to learn that “Haze of Drink” was left over from the first album. It’s such a great song.

BB: Yeah. So was “I’ll Be Damned.” We knew “Haze of Drink” was a balls out rock song and it just wasn’t coming across that way. And it was because we were just trying to do too much. This time I just went in and cut it.

BG: “Haze of Drink” sounds like something made for the stage. Have you played it all along?

BB: Yeah, we’ve been playing it a long time.

BG: Set closer?

BB: Yeah, exactly. We’ll probably close with it tonight. It’s just a big three chord rock song.

BG: So how often do you get lost in the haze?

BB: (laughing) A lot less than I used to. But I have found that drinking and alcohol in and of itself is a great metaphor for a lot of different things. For anything compulsive. On that first Peter Case album that we were talking about before, I remember the liner notes said something like “all these songs are either about sin or redemption.” Every great story is about that and it kind of falls in line.

Bonus round

[Keith A. Gordon, a frequent Live! Music Review contributor and editor, was Nashville-based at the time and caught up with the band on the same tour. Here is an interview he did with Brent Best for his blog that often featured area musicians, but also touring musicians travelling through.]

By the Rev. Keith A. Gordon

Roaring out of the Texas badlands like the horsemen of some sort of musical apocalypse, Slobberbone have begun to carve a bloody path through the fringe of alternative rock & roll. In an age where the airwaves are filled with sensitive, angst-ridden losers wailing about the injustices of life, Slobberbone's Brent Best straps on a guitar, calls up the ghosts of Hank and Elvis and tears into some real shit-kicking songs. The best punk band south of the Mason-Dixon line since Jason & The Scorchers first began blazing across the rock & roll horizon like Sherman marching to Atlanta, Slobberbone kick out the motherfuckin' jams, country-styled, with enough twang to appeal to the redneck rocker and enough white light and white heat to pacify even the most hard-core punk aficionado.

With the release of Barrel Chested, their second album for the Austin-based Doolittle Records, Slobberbone are one of the more high-profile indie bands plying their trade in the music world today. Continuing where their debut, Crow Pot Pie, left off, Barrel Chested is an electric collection of loud and rowdy rock & roll, raucous songs with a churlish attitude and plenty of reckless country soul. Pounding out razor-sharp riffs with careless abandon, guitarist and songwriter Brent Best sings with a distinct Texas drawl, writing working-class poetry that stands tall alongside Lone Star scribes like Steve Earle and Guy Clark in terms of passion, lyrical depth and brilliant imagery.

Best began writing songs while in high school, playing in various bands. “The stuff that I was writing at home pretty much had nothing to do with the bands I was playing in,” says Best, “they were all coming out kind of countryish.” The country influence on his material came natural. “It was always kind of there. I grew up hearing Willie Nelson, those kind of guys. If you grew up in Texas in the seventies, you heard that stuff. It always seemed a real natural thing.” Playing, at the time, in a couple of “loud-ass guitar bands –  which is what I was into,” Best eventually inherited the remnants of one of the bands. “I decided that it could be the same band, playing the music that I like to play,” says Best. “I had all these songs that I'd been sitting on, these country songs, and I decided to take those songs that I'd been playing in the bedroom, amp up and show them to the band. They'd either like them or tell me to go to hell.” Thus was Slobberbone born.

The original incarnation of the band got together in 1992 in the unlikely musical hotspot of Denton, Texas. “At the time there were a lot of bands,” says Best of Denton, a college town north of Dallas, “but there weren't a whole lot of places to play, clubs and stuff, so you had a lot of bands playing at restaurants and parties, that kind of thing. So we played gigs for beer, basically, for two or three years before we played a paying gig.” Playing steadily throughout the area, the band won a legion of fans on the strength of their enormous live performances, which tend to be equally part Ramones and part George Jones.

The band received further recognition after the 1994 self-release of their Crow Pot Pie CD.  “We got a really good response, critically, from different papers. That's when things started taking off and we started playing a lot more outside of Denton,” says Best. An inspired mix of traditional country, roots rock and punk energy, Crow Pot Pie brought Slobberbone to the attention of Doolittle Records. “It was an extension of the press we got from that first Crow Pot Pie,” says Best. The album was receiving local Texas airplay and creating a buzz throughout the state. Doolittle became interested in the band. “At the time we didn't have any notions about signing with anybody,” says Best, “we just wanted to play some shows and make a little money. I had several friends who were in bands around Dallas who had been signed, even to major labels, and they all had a bad taste in their mouth.” After a brief courtship, though, Doolittle signed the band to a deal and released a new version of Crow Pot Pie that the band had been working on before beginning their relationship with the label.

If that first album was “done by the seat of their pants,” the band had more time to think about the making of Barrel Chested. Almost two years of playing live and touring across the Southeast served to age Best and the band a bit. “Going into this record,” says Best, “I knew exactly what I wanted to do. Most of the material is new. There's a couple of songs from the original Crow Pot Pie that we had recorded a couple of times, but this record, I let it come together on its own. Thematically, a lot of the new stuff that I had been writing all had a similar theme. It's kind of a variation from the first record.” The band was stripped down to a three-piece line-up from its previous incarnations with a variable number of members and instruments, “so there weren't any crutches for us to lean on,” says Best.

The band has received their share of interest from the major labels, but they're not too interested in that avenue of career development. “It goes back to how we felt when we were talking to [producer and label head] Jeff Cole,” says Best. “It's just not something that I'm comfortable thinking about right now. It's weird enough being on a small label. At least Doolittle I can call up and talk to the President, the guy who makes the decisions.” The experience of other musicians affects Best's opinions, as well. “It goes back to watching friends being signed to labels and, from day one, realizing that they're not going to do everything that they say they're going to do. It's not something I rule out, but right now we're more concerned about making really good records. I'm sure that it's easier to do that where we are now, at this label, then it would be at a major label.

Back pages, Live! Music Review Roll The Tapes column, February 1998 issue

Review by Keith A. Gordon
Artist: Slobberbone
Venue: JR’s Ballroom, Fayetteville , AR 10/24/97 opening set for Buick MacKane
Source: 30 minute DAT recording, good sound with some echo
Tracklist: Sober Song/ No Man Among Men/ Barrel Chested/ Engine Joe/ Your Love Is Waning/ Whiskey Glass Eye/ I’ll Be Damned/ Your Excuse/ Haze of Drink

Relative newcomers on the alt-country scene, Slobberbone hail from Denton, Texas and perform a high-octane musical hybrid of country and rock – sort of like the bastard stepchildren of George Jones and the Ramones. Guitarist/songwriter, Brent Best crafts deceptively mature songs that showcase more passion and anger, death and destruction than a half-dozen flannel clad grunge monkeys or died-black Goth-rock poseurs.

Raised on Willie Nelson and weened on Jason & the Scorchers, Slobberbone kick out the proverbial jams with this brief opening act performance. Showcasing songs from their second indie release, Barrel Chested, the band rips up the rules and rocks the admittedly small crowd with songs like “Whiskey Glass Eye,” “Haze of Drink,” and “Your Excuse.”

A tantalizing short set, Slobberbone nonetheless bring the same sort of chainsaw style, boundless energy and rough-edged abandon to their live performances that the Scorchers did in the ‘80s. Unlike the Scorchers, maybe we won’t have to wait 15 years to get a live CD from Slobberbone. [editor’s note: unfortunately, a wish unfulfilled. Brent Best has, however, given permission to host live recordings by his post-Slobberbone band, The Drams in their live music archive.]

A search of YouTube yielded this full performance from later in the Barrel Chested Tour. Minneapolis was always a strong supporter of Slobberbone.

We'll leave you with a live tune from the Everything You Thought Was Right Was Wrong Today tour, a very special performance. Neil Young songs are best left in the capable hands of Slobberbone.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Culture, Not Commodity

One of the things that Live! Music Review helped institute in the public perception was the idea that music had more value in its cultural relevance than in financial rewards - financial rewards which were, more often than not, reaped by music industry executives instead of the actual creators. Soon, even the mainstream press was giving bootleggers a sympathetic ear. Music critic and historian, Dave Marsh, probably put it best when interviewed for an article in the Orlando Weekly:

 "That’s precisely the problem," says Marsh. "To the RIAA this stuff is just property, where to the rest of us it’s culture," he says. "Anybody who would reduce Bob Dylan live in Manchester in 1966, or Bruce Springsteen at the Bottom Line in 1975, or various blues and gospel records which for years could not be had in any other way, to the same level as ... Triscuits is a person who ought to be fired summarily if the industry in question has any self-respect. Of course, it hasn’t," he adds. "It has a gaping need for profits and doesn’t know the value of its own commodities. That’s one reason why viewing it as a commodity is a disaster." 

Marsh was responding to this quote from Frank Creighton of the anti-piracy division of the RIAA: "People decide when to release it, how to release it, what price they’re going to release it at, etc., etc. Nobody’s sitting there screaming at the fact that Triscuit has not come out with a new cracker yet -- hasn’t released a sour cream and onion cracker."