Back in the ‘glory days’ of Rock music – the ‘60s through the ‘80s – listeners were assaulted on Top 40 radio by ‘protest’ and ‘political’ music wrapped up in a good melody. From Bob Dylan to The Clash – just to name two of many – artists were inserting thought-provoking messages into those catchy tunes that you hummed throughout the day. Politics has weaved its way into lyrics for decades but when those artists became mainstream, their messages were embraced and understood by some while others remained blissfully unaware. And while politics has remained a hot topic in music ever since, there is very little that makes it into the Top 40 these days. But do people listen to radio anymore? Think about it – radio, the greatest platform for messages from the heart, has become a desolate desert of manufactured, mindless nonsense. Then again, people do like to feel safe and comfortable, so you can’t fault them for that…
On her debut effort, REVIVAL, Gillian Welch and her long-term sideman David Rawlings entered the recording studio under the production wing of trusted musicologist T-Bone Burnett. The album that would emerge in 1996 would go on to be nominated for a GRAMMY as the Best Contemporary Folk Album. Welch has since solidified her role as a steadfast champion of the modern day folk/rock scene. Gillian recently took time to answer questions regarding her latest release, BOOTS NO.1: THE OFFICIAL REVIVAL BOOTLEG, an archival set that documents the making of the very collection that put her on the map.
For 50 years, David Lindley has been one of the most respected – and commercially overlooked – musicians in Rock music. Sure, he made a name for himself with the completely original Psych outfit Kaleidoscope back in the ‘60s and he has been one of the most in-demand session musicians since the ‘70s (Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon, Rod Stewart, Graham Nash, The Youngbloods, Bruce Springsteen, Rickie Lee Jones, etc.) yet he has never received his due as a solo artist. However, his output has been so eclectic over the years that some of us are still trying to catch up! Do yourself a favor and read up on his career on Wikipedia or elsewhere on the ‘net. For now, I’m going to focus on a few of his ‘80s solo releases…
While The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who and The Kinks may have received more press coverage over the years, there is no denying that The Moody Blues are one of the greatest British Rock bands of all time. From their rough and raw R&B roots in the mid ‘60s to their Symphonic Rock masterpieces in the latter part of that decade, The Moody Blues reinvented themselves while also inventing Progressive Rock. Their continued success throughout the ‘70s, ‘80s, and beyond has ensured that new generations of fans have been able to experience their well-crafted Rock and Pop first hand. The simple fact that they are not in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame is an embarrassment to Rock Music itself.
One of the band’s driving forces, Justin Hayward, composed and sang the band’s biggest commercial hits (“Nights In White Satin,” “Your Wildest Dreams,” “Tuesday Afternoon,” etc.) and has managed to balance a solo career in between his Moody Blues commitments. Hayward remains an exceptional songwriter nearly 50 years after he scored his first Moodies milestone (“Nights In White Satin”) and is arguably one of the finest vocalists in British Rock/Pop history. Though not a prolific artist these days, Hayward’s solo material is just as emotionally powerful as anything he has released with The Moody Blues. Under-appreciated by mainstream press for too long, Justin Hayward certainly deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Ray Davies and Pete Townshend if not Jagger/Richards or Lennon/McCartney.
Released just weeks apart, there are two Justin Hayward titles that focus on his solo material… with just a pinch of The Moody Blues to entice you. The first, ALL THE WAY, is a CD that collects fifteen solo recordings and offers a great introduction into his non-Moodies catalog. The second release is a most excellent DVD, LIVE IN CONCERT AT THE CAPITOL THEATRE. Filmed in 2014 during Justin’s tour for his SPIRITS OF THE WESTERN SKY album, the DVD finds Justin in great form performing solo and Moodies hits with equal amounts of love and passion. Aided by guitarist Mike Dawes and keyboardist/backing vocalist Julie Ragins, this trio breathes new life into Hayward’s back catalog including some of his biggest and best-known tracks. To see an artist perform a fifty year old song with as much conviction as a new composition is inspiring.
Expertly captured by director/film-maker/composer David Minasian, LIVE IN CONCERT AT THE CAPITOL THEATRE is a warm and wonderful experience to behold. As an added bonus, the DVD features the video to the brand new song “The Wind Of Heaven,” which is also featured on the ALL THE WAY CD collection. The beautifully photographed “Wind of Heaven” music video, co-directed by David Minasian and Trinity Houston, is a prelude to an upcoming major motion picture by the same producing duo. The song itself is a rare collaboration for Justin who co-wrote the epic piece with David. Justin, who readily admits he’s never really been successful writing with other people, believes “The Wind of Heaven” to be one of the nicest things he’s ever done.
Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to spend some time chatting with Justin Hayward about the new DVD, The Moody Blues and more…
The Legal Matters personify the sound of Power Pop. Their music manages to include huge portions of Power Pop’s three key ingredients — melodic hooks, luscious harmonies and shimmering guitars. They also manage to squeeze in plenty of warmth, heart, and honesty. The band’s three members – Andy Reed, Chris Richards and Keith Klingensmith – are first and foremost music fans who just happen to be musicians. The three members have been making music separately for years (Andy as An American Underdog, Chris with The Subtractions and Keith and Chris with The Phenomenal Cats) but once they combined forces as The Legal Matters, they became arguably the finest indie Pop band in the U.S. Their self-titled 2014 debut album was damn near a masterpiece – a perfect blend of Beatles, Jellyfish, Teenage Fanclub and just about every other melodic Guitar Pop band you could think of. Add in some spine-tingling chord changes and lovely harmonies and it was a stunning tour-de-force-de-pop! But where do you go if you’ve already recorded one of the best indie Power Pop albums of the decade? Well, you’ll just have to ask CONRAD…
STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: PEACEFUL GHOSTS is just about to be released. How are you feeling about the journey to make the album and the way it turned out?
MATTHEW CAWS: It feels like a wonderful gift. An orchestral album is something we never would have imagined doing. When the offer came, we were right in the middle of finishing our most recent studio album, YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE, and didn’t have the bandwidth to focus on it. We learned that Calexico had been asked the year before, which led us immediately to asking our friend Martin Wenk – one of Calexico’s two trumpetists and a Nada Surf collaborator who has played on some of our songs and joined us on many tours – to produce the album for us. That entailed choosing the songs, choosing a composer/arranger and supervising the project’s development. It felt like a distant concept and then, all of a sudden, there we were in Vienna playing these songs for the conductor. Hours later the orchestra arrived. Two rehearsals after that the audience walked in!
The self-titled debut from the Jazz supergroup featuring Dave Holland
STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: The self-titled Aziza album is just about to be released. How are you feeling about the journey to make this album and the reaction to it so far?
DAVE HOLLAND: The whole process of putting together the music on this recording with these three great musicians has been a pleasure and truly inspiring. We’ve received an enthusiastic response from the audiences at our concerts and a very positive reaction from people who have heard the album.
Yes, the rumors are true: Meat Loaf’s voice is not what it used to be. Ravaged by health issues, age and time, the mighty bellower can bellow no more. On BRAVER THAN WE ARE, his distinctive and powerful voice is now a raspy rumble – more ‘Steve Forbert impersonating Leonard Cohen’ than the Meat Loaf of old. Many people are likely going to ask why Mr. Loaf decided to make this album in the first place. The answer, my friends, is passion and determination – you can’t keep an old Meat Loaf down. Remember, this is an artist that sold millions of copies of BAT OUT OF HELL (1977) a year or two after almost every label turned the project down. And then he did it again in 1993 with BAT OUT OF HELL II, an album that defied all the odds and became a huge success in the midst of the abysmal grunge invasion. In short, Meat Loaf doesn’t necessarily play it safe – he does what he does and we definitely pay attention.
TELL ME WHAT I DON’T KNOW:
“All rap music sounds the same.”
That is a statement uttered by the non-believers – those who don’t connect with the music and the messages found on the plethora of rap and hip hop releases that hit the streets throughout any given year. However, one listen to Danny Brown’s fourth album, ATROCITY EXHIBITION, will obliterate any notion that all rap/hip hop “sounds the same.” Released on the legendary Warp Records label and featuring guest appearances by Kendrick Lamar, Earl Sweatshirt, Petite Noir and B-Real (amongst others), this is one of the most original full-lengths of the year. While it may not sound like albums by acts like De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest, ATROCITY EXHIBITION is just as groundbreaking – an album that will appeal to all music lovers who like to live on the edge. On the surface, it will intrigue the listener but as they dig a little deeper, the depths of this album will lead to amazement. Peel away the layers and you’ll discover a cornucopia of musical ideas fighting for a chance to be noticed. This is an album to explore. It is a listening adventure. This is emotion in motion. It is hard-hitting yet loving and embracing at the same time. ATROCITY EXHIBITION – named after a Joy Division song! – is art for art’s sake.
Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to gather a few questions together and send them Danny Brown’s way. Danny was gracious enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer them…
Invaders Of The Art:
From Post-Punk to Dub to Jazz and back to Dub again, there are very few musical genres that have not been touched by the genius that is Jah Wobble. Born John Wardle – and christened with his stage name by none other than Sid Vicious – Wobble has defied the odds and has remained one of the most innovative and forward-thinking musicians of the Rock era. He first came to prominence in John “Johnny Rotten” Lydon’s post-Sex Pistols outfit, Public Image Ltd. After a few years of knocking about and causing musical mayhem with Lydon & Co., Wobble struck out on his own. Working with artists such as The Edge (U2) and Holger Czukay and Jaki Liebezeit (Can), he was able to expand his resume while exploring new sounds and styles. During this period, Wobble also put together his own band, Invaders Of The Heart. By the end of the ‘80s and into the ‘90s, he had become one of the most respected British musicians of his generation – entirely unpredictable yet always riveting. With Invaders Of The Heart, Wobble was able to combine World Music, Ambient, Folk and Electronica, creating a sound that was both unique and commercially successful – not an easy feat for any artist. Scoring a hit album, RISING ABOVE BEDLAM, at the beginning of the ‘90s, was a little surprising but very welcome and well-deserved. With a line-up that has evolved over time, Jah and his Invaders Of The Heart have become one of the most exciting and inspiring musical outfits in modern music. One of the most prolific artists of his generation, Jah’s work with Invaders Of The Heart is only the tip of the iceberg. As a leader or collaborator, Jah Wobble’s catalog is as deep as the music he plays. A visit to www.jahwobble.com will catch you up to date.
EVERYTHING IS NO THING, Wobble and the Invaders’ 2016 release, takes the band into an exciting dimension – Spiritual Jazz. Produced by Youth and led by Jah’s warm and emotional bass playing, the album takes the listener to new and exciting levels of ecstasy. Anyone looking for Ambient, Dub or Post-Punk will not find them here. However, the attitude and excitement of those genres can be found lurking deep within the grooves of the album. Wobble’s never-ending musical journey means that he never makes a bad record. Spiritual Jazz may not be the direction some fans of “Visions Of You” may be expecting, but open your mind and you’ll most certainly enjoy the ride. This is not music that you’ll just listen to – it is music that you will feel.
Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to toss a few questions over to Mr. Wobble, who kindly took time out to discuss EVERYTHING IS NO THING and much more…