Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Have You Ever Heard of Terry Reid?

The fun thing about being a music fan is that no matter how much music you have, there is always more great stuff out there to discover. I have recently gotten into the great lost works of Terry Reid. To most rock historians Reid is a footnote, notable for turning down Jimmy Page's offer to join his new group Led Zeppelin. The famous story goes that as Jimmy Page was putting together the line-up for his new group (at that time called The New Yardbirds), he and bassist John Paul Jones approached Terry Reid to offer him the vocalist spot. Reid, on the verge of breaking through as a solo act, declined, but suggested to Page that he go check out a group called Band of Joy, featuring singer Robert Plant and drummer John Bonham. You know the rest of that story. Later Reid was offered the lead vocal spot in Deep Purple, an opportunity he also passed up.

In the liner notes to his re-released 1978 album Rogue Waves, critic Roger Dopson has this to say of Reid's career: "Terry Reid's story is a catalogue of lost/missed/squandered opportunities, tempered with ill-luck and frequent dashes of poor judgment - culminating in a serious case of underachievement." Ouch. And that is in the liner notes to his own record.

Reid started out with much promise (obviously). Most would agree that on vocal talents in the late 60's, he was on par with other great British rock vocalists like Robert Plant, Roger Daltrey, Steve Winwood, Rod Stewart, etc. He had (has) an impressive range, but his signature sound is a full throttle raspy belt that, to me, sounds like the perfect blend of Plant and Stewart. He was also a good songwriter, penning many great tunes, and one minor classic in "Without Expression." Also a very good guitarist, one wonders what a duel guitar, Reid-voiced Led Zeppelin would have sounded like.

Reid's recording career is one of fits and starts that never could capitalize on momentum. The British and American music press both predicted huge things for Reid at various times, but it just never happened. Powerful music producer Mickey Most (Donovan, Yardbirds, Jeff Beck) took control of Reid's career in 1968, and after releasing the rushed Bang Bang You're Terry Reid and the now revered 1969 release Terry Reid, Reid and Most had a prolonged falling out that prevented him from recording for three crucial years, grinding his upward momentum to a halt. After finally getting out from under Most, Reid's career again seemed to have great promise. Signed to Atlantic, he inexplicably only released three records for the rest of the 70's. He just didn't seem to have a vision of where his music should go, although all three of those records have some outstanding music on them (surrounded by forgettable filler). Since the 70's, Reid has only released one other studio record, instead concentrating on session work for a laundry list of other artists, sunbathing on California beaches, and playing the occasional live gig to appreciative audiences. As Dopson states in a snarky comment in the above quoted liner notes, "That magnificent voice is still intact - let's face it, he's hardly worn in out; just half-a-dozen albums in 25 years" (now close to 40, as those notes were written in '92).

Rock history is littered with coulda-been-a-contender types. Those Alex Chilton or Roky Erikson's who should have been much bigger than they were. Add the great Terry Reid to that list.

Anyway, here's some Terry Reid to check out for yourself.

ABOVE: This is probably my favorite Terry Reid song, a Neil Youngish tune called "To Be Treated Rite" from his 1975 record Seed of Memory. Beautiful acoustic tune, but check out when he really gets going (vocally) at the end. Powerful set of pipes.

ABOVE: Great rocker, "Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace." Sounds quite Cheap Trickish, who did a cover of this song.

ABOVE: His most famous song, "Without Expression"

ABOVE: Terry doing "Rich Kid Blues" on German TV in 1969. What a great rock vocalist.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Dez Reviews Duran Duran's ALL YOU NEED IS NOW, 2010/2011

To this day it is difficult to get casual music fans to take Duran Duran seriously. After nearly 30 years and 100 million records sold worldwide, they are still inextricably linked with 80's synth-pop. But Duran was always more than that. Heavy on the synths for sure, but in Andy Taylor they had a fantastic guitar player, in John Taylor one of the smoothest bass players of the 80's, and in Simon le Bon the perfect New Romantic vocalist. Their records have always been mixed affairs, even their best ones have some filler on them, and they have released some admittedly bad albums over the years. But they were also responsible for Rio, a dance-pop masterpiece of the 1980's that sounds as fresh and daring today as it did when it was released in 1982. Which brings us to 2010's All You Need Is Now.

The band and producer Mark Ronson have made no secret of the fact that they wanted to recapture that Rio-era magic. Not surprising, since it was their most successful period as a band and also their most critically acclaimed (if mostly in retrospect, as often happens). What is surprising is how they have completely succeeded. This is the best Duran Duran record in a long, long time. Actually, I will say that it is their best effort since Rio. At least it is their most consistent effort. There is not a bum track here, it is packed from start to finish with top notch dance-pop music that is spilling over with melody and groove. This record is ridiculously good. On their not so good previous effort, 2007's Red Carpet Massacre, they made the mistake of trying to fit in with the times, dueting with Justin Timberlake and pulling in Timbaland to produce some tracks. Here, Ronson wisely forces Duran to be Duran. Hell, they were one of the pioneers of modern dance pop music, why do they need to fit in with the times? They should help to define the times. Most of these tracks will get many butts on to the dance floor of any club.

ABOVE: Duran Duran may be a little old to still be pin-up boys, but they still have style

AYNIN is currently available exclusively on iTunes, they will release a CD version with additional tracks in February of next year. Four of the original members are present, with estranged guitarist Andy Taylor missing (which is a shame, because he is so good).

Comparisons to Rio? Absolutely. From Nick Rhodes's rhythmic synth stabs to John Taylor's silky bass lines to Roger Taylor's drum beats and programming, Rio is referenced all over the place. What is great is that this sounds like it is referencing Rio, but it also sounds quite modern at the same time. "Leave a Light On" is the anthemic ballad in place of "Save a Prayer," while gorgeous closer "Before the Rain" is an update (using the same drum programming, even) of Rio's icy closer "The Chauffeur" (and it equals the power of its storied predecessor.) Another similarity with Rio lies with Simon le Bon's vocals. I don't know what he has done, but his vocals are especially strong on this record, sounding like he was transported, vocal prowess intact, from the mid-80's to here.

If you appreciate masterful dance-pop music with some substance, you can't go wrong with All You Need Is Now.

Rating: **** out of *****

ABOVE: Check this tune out, "Girl Panic!" All of the songs are this catchy and this good. Classic Duran Duran sound, and how about John Taylor's bass!

ABOVE: Give a listen to closer "Before the Rain." Rio fans will note its close relation to "The Chauffeur."

Saturday, December 18, 2010

"Always searching, never perching"

My buddy JMW over at ASWOBA posted an unintentionally hilarious music video from the late 70's by one Dennis Parker here. Watch it. I enjoyed it so much that I went to YouTube to find some more Dennis, and evidently he made several videos for his "hit" disco classic. I actually prefer this one to the one John posted, I'll call this the "night version." He was also a porn star in the 70's. Really.

Latest Cuteness

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Today it is official, the Class of 2011 in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will be what I leaked over the weekend. In addition to Alice Cooper, Neil Diamond, Dr. John, Darlene Love and Tom Waits being inducted in the main Performer category (discussed in the post directly below), Leon Russell will be inducted in the Sidemen category and Art Rupe (founder of the legendary Specialty Records label) and Jac Holzman (founder of Elektra Records, a great induction) will be inducted in the Non-Performers category. Congrats all.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2011 (leaked)

The official announcement is not due until Wednesday, but as has happened in recent years, this year's Class has been leaked by credible sources (at least the main Performer inductees). Recall back in September I revealed the nominees here. For the record, in predicting the 5 inductees from the list of 15 nominees, I got three out of five correct. Not bad at all. Better than many other prognosticators out there.

My main observation regarding this class is that out of the five inductees, I think that only one is really rock and roll. That is not to say that I am not a fan of the others, I like them all actually. But one has a clear line all the way back to Brill Building pop (literally, he was a writer there in his early days), one is R&B and pop and two are iconoclastic songwriters who primarily perform in genres and with influences that pre-date rock and roll. But then we get into the argument that cannot really be settled, and that is "what defines rock and roll?" All of these five artists have been influential on rock and roll at least, and perhaps that is enough. While none of these jump out immediately like a Zeppelin or Stones (there aren't that many of those obvious choices left, and since the Rockhall has decided to ignore the 80's), when thinking about this class I rather like it. And Bon Jovi didn't make it.

The Class of 2011...

Alice Cooper: The only real rock artist here. Very influential in the shock rock / glam rock genres. A pioneer for shock tactics onstage. Bands from KISS to Marilyn Manson trace their roots back to Alice Cooper (the band is being inducted, not just Vincent Furnier). But some of the music is quite good too. "I'm Eighteen" is one of the best teen angst tunes ever written, and "School's Out" is required listening whenever June rolls around.

Neil Diamond: I can already hear the howls of protest from rock purists on this one. But Diamond is one of the most successful songwriters in the modern era. His rock credentials are a bit suspect, but he has earned the respect of many rockers over the years. The cheese factor is huge here (and folks who may ask incredulously "Neil Diamond, but still no [insert egregious snub here]?" will have a valid point), but Neil has stood the test of time with a slew of hits, not only his but great pop songs that were big for others ("I'm a Believer" for The Monkees, "Red, Red Wine" for UB40, etc.) And if you dig deep enough in his own catalogue, there is some legitimately great rockish stuff in there, like "Solitary Man" and "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon." On this one, I go both ways. I acknowledge the complaints, but for some reason his induction still does not bother me.

Dr. John: Now this one surprised me. I love the Doctor, especially his early Night Tripper period, but...I don't know. He is one of the most important New Orleans musicians, and New Orleans music is certainly one of the strongest roots of rock and roll, and his first several albums were heady blends of voodoo psychedelic gumbo greatness, but his career since the mid-70's has veered away from rock and roll and he has been more of a traditionalist of New Orleans R&B. I have always thought a better way to slip him into the Hall (because he does have a place there) was as a Sideman, since he played piano, guitar and a host of other instruments as a sessionman on many other rock artists' records (which may explain his induction, since many of these artists whom he backed up are also voters). But I guess they thought that bringing him in as a Sideman would somehow diminish his own very successful solo career. Hard to get too angry here, because I really am a fan.

Darlene Love: As someone on the Future Rock Legends website said, "Little Baby Steven Van Zandt gets his bottle once again." Last year Little Steven pushed The Hollies through, and this year Love was his pet project. Bruce Springsteen has also been whining loudly for years that Love needed to be inducted. So they get their way. Again. Look, Darlene Love is hugely talented, and she was a crucial piece in Phil Spector's Wall of Sound. But like Dr. John above, she would be more properly placed in the Sideman (er, Sideperson) category as opposed to the main Performer category. She sang back-up on many huge hits. Her actual solo career was, well, not Hall-worthy.

Tom Waits: Love this one. Not sure he's rock and roll, but he is an iconoclast in the true sense of the word and a brilliant songwriter. His music may not always be rock and roll, but the spirit often is. And that is what counts lots of the time. He just makes sense here. He has been influential on many rock artists as well, with Rod Stewart, Bruce Springsteen and Shawn Colvin all covering his tunes, while albums like Swordfishtrombones and Heartattack and Vine are just awesome and totally unique in mainstream music.

So there you have it. These will be confirmed on Wednesday, but I would be shocked if this information is incorrect. I will update you on other smaller categories, as those have not leaked.

Thoughts? Comments?