MINDI ABAIR & THE BONESHAKERS: An EXCLUSIVE Q&A!



STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: Your 2018 album NO GOOD DEED is just about to be released. How are you feeling about the way the album turned out and the reaction to it so far?
MINDI ABAIR: This album is deep to me. It feels like the band has gelled … we complete each other’s sentences musically and play together so effortlessly at this point. We joined forces as Mindi Abair and The Boneshakers at the beginning of 2015, but I had played with Randy Jacobs for 20 years before that, and Rodney Lee has been in my band for 17 years. Third Richardson is from my hometown. I hear the camaraderie and the friendship and the sheer abandon we have playing together, and I love it. We chose songs we loved, whether we wrote them or someone else did, and we played them like only we would.

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AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: AURORA/A DIFFERENT KIND OF HUMAN (STEP 2)



Norway isn’t just the hotbed of Black Metal, you know. While that genre has kept a handful of Norwegian musicians gainfully employed, the country has also given us some artists who remain popular throughout the rest of the world. Mentioning Classical composer Edvard Grieg is a given, but many other influential artists hail from Norway including a-Ha, Jan Garbarek, Royksopp, Terje Rypdal, Jaga Jazzist, production team Stargate, and Anni-Frid ‘Frida’ Lyngstad, one of the two A’s in ABBA. With each passing year, Norwegian artists make their presence known outside their homeland and Aurora Laura Aksnes, who releases music under the name Aurora, is now making waves as she dances on the cup of international stardom.

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MICHAEL NESMITH/SONGS (12CDs) review: SPAZ explores the musical universe of Michael Nesmith!

THE LONG REVIEW:

Fifty-three years after he stepped into the limelight with the release of The Monkees’ debut single in August of 1966, Michael Nesmith remains a musical enigma. The story of The Monkees has been told so many times – perhaps TOO many times – so I’ll respectfully skip over most of the details. One thing I will mention is how Nesmith seemed slightly out of step with the Pop charts yet completely in step and confident of his own musical vision. While Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones handled the bulk of the lead vocals for The Monkees’ glorious hits, Nesmith added a sophisticated depth to the album tracks he wrote and/or produced. Although the most naturally gifted as a songwriter in the band, his lead vocals were not featured on a Monkees A-side until 1969, the year he graced the topside of two singles in a row!

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AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: APEX MANOR/HEARTBREAK CITY

It has been eight years since Southern California-based Apex Manor released their last album. Eight years is a long time between albums. In that same span of time, The Beatles wrote and recorded their entire catalog (not to mention making movies and touring). Fleetwood Mac was able to knock out everything from their 1975 self-titled release to their 1982 album TANGO IN THE NIGHT in just under eight years. Popular children’s music band The Wiggles issued nine studio albums, toured the world, and filmed a TV series within their first eight years of their existence. Wait… did I just mention The Wiggles? Oh, dear.  Let’s circle back to Apex Manor and the eight-year stretch between albums…

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AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: DIPLO/EUROPA!

Born Thomas Pentz, Jr., DJ and producer Diplo is a Grammy-winning man-about-town. Not only has he released music under his own name, he’s also a member of Major Lazer, LSD (with Sia and Labrinth), Silk City (with Mark Ronson), and Jack Ü (with producer and DJ Skrillex). He’s also known for his work with M.I.A., Gwen Stefani, Die Antwoord, Britney Spears, Madonna, Shakira, Beyoncé, No Doubt, Justin Bieber, Usher, Snoop Dogg, Trippie Redd, Chris Brown, CL, G-Dragon, Bad Bunny, MØ, Poppy, and Bausa. To say that Diplo is a prolific artist would most certainly be an understatement.

TOPIC RECORDS’ 80th Anniversary: An EXCLUSIVE interview!


In Celebration of Topic Records’ 80th Anniversary:

An EXCLUSIVE Q&A 
with 
Glen Johnson 
(Project Manager with Proper Records Ltd who oversees Topic Records)


STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: Topic Records, the world’s oldest independent label, is celebrating their 80th Anniversary in 2019. While the machinations of the music business have changed over the years, has Topic’s core musical focus remained the same?
GLEN JOHNSON: Ostensibly, yes.  The emphasis has always been on preserving the voices and songs which may have otherwise gotten lost and to create a space for those that hear those songs to make new recordings of their own.  So, there’s an archival element coupled with a curatorial one. 

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AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: RAHSAAN PATTERSON/HEROES & GODS


Remember when The All-New Mickey Mouse Club (1989-1994) gave us a new generation of young stars like Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, Ryan Gosling and others? Well, if you weren’t paying attention, the syndicated TV series Kids Incorporated (1983-1992) was introducing to the world to new talent as well. Some of the soon-to-be-stars that made their first national appearances on the show include Stacy Ferguson (AKA Fergie), Martika, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Mario Lopez, Eric Balfour and the subject of this blog entry, Rahsaan Patterson.

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AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: B.B. KING BLUES BAND/THE SOUL OF THE KING


THE B.B. KING BLUES BAND
THE SOUL OF THE KING
(Ruf Records)

5.10.19

Blues music has been a crucial part of American history for nearly 150 years. Originally, the Blues genre grew organically from Folk, spirituals, and African work songs. Since the dawn of recorded music, Blues has traveled around the world, inspiring millions of musicians in the process. The musical blueprint for the Blues remains virtually unchanged a century and a half later yet musicians find new ways to interpret it year after year. Much like an amusement park ride, the basic structure itself never changes yet it is experienced differently by each person that rides it. The Blues can be performed by down-trodden acoustic guitar player or a glitzy big band and have the same effect on the listener. The Blues informs almost every other style of music – from Rock ‘n’ Roll to modern Country and Jazz. The Blues is understood and misunderstood in equal measures. The Blues can make you sob but then turn around and drown you in joy. The Blues, in the hands of the right musicians, is magical.  And one of the greatest Blues musicians/magicians was – and remains – B.B. King.

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AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: NEW FOUND GLORY/FROM THE SCREEN TO YOUR STEREO 3

Regardless of what the Billboard charts might insinuate, Pop Punk – AKA Punk Pop – was not born in the mid- ‘90s. The roots of the genre first came to prominence in the late ‘70s thanks to bands like Ramones, Buzzcocks, The Dickies, and The Undertones. The blending of the raw power of Punk Rock and soaring, sing-a-long melodies reignited the Indie scene and made Punk more -for lack of a better term – consumer-friendly. Pop Punk was not watered-down Punk aggression – it was just more focused. Bands soon realized that they could get their messages across if they packaged them in tight, melodic musical blasts. Add a little bit of harmony here, a catchy hook there, and, voila, Pop Punk was born. Pop Punk was never about playing it safe – it was about communicating to their audience via raw and urgent Rock ‘n’ Roll and melodic hooks. The movement’s popularity weakened a little bit over the next decade but in the late ‘80s, bands like Descendents brought Pop Punk back to the surface. And then came the ‘90s…

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AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: THE MOUNTAIN GOATS/IN LEAGUE WITH DRAGONS

The Mountain Goats don’t seem like a band that celebrates anniversaries. However, if they did, they’d be celebrating their 28th year of existence in 2019. Let that sink in – 28 years! Singer/songwriter John Darnielle formed the Mountain Goats in 1991, the very same year as Operation: Desert Storm, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, and the death of Freddie Mercury. Time has marched on and, just like our lives, The Mountain Goats have evolved, matured, and experienced many changes. A lot of talented folks have passed through the Goats’ ranks as members or collaborators – including Kaki King, John Vanderslice, Annie Clark, Franklin Bruno, and many others – but Darnielle has remained the band’s only constant member. And like all of us, he has changed throughout the years. Much like every small town in any Smalltown, USA, the core foundations of the Mountain Goats’ sound remains the same while everything around it has changed. That is what we call life…

Initially from the college town of Claremont, California, Darnielle and the Goats ended up in Durham, North Carolina. With a stable line-up that includes Peter Hughes, Jon Wurster and Matt Douglas, this is a band that has continued to grow a dedicated fanbase while somehow remaining independent in almost every sense of the word. Bathed in the glow of critical success but dancing just out of reach of total world domination, Darnielle has the luxury of doing things his way and avoiding getting caught up in the trappings of the big music business machine. While Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, Bright Eyes, Bonnie Prince Billy, and loads of other bands have fallen in and out of favor on a regular basis with critics and absent-minded hipsters, the Mountain Goats have managed to continue doing what they want without losing any of their credibility. When it was rumored – and later confirmed – that the Goats’ next album would be inspired by Dungeons & Dragons, the nerd-centric role-playing game, nobody was surprised. Instead of eye-rolling and trolling the internet, the Goats’ fanbase immediately warmed to the idea and eagerly awaited the finished project. To have that amount of trust and respect from his fans, Darnielle must be doing something right.


IN LEAGUE WITH DRAGONS is the band’s 2019 release and, as promised, it is inspired by the previously mentioned role-playing game. However, it is something more than that. With warmth and intimacy, these are songs that might dip into reality more than you think, using the game as a metaphor for this troubling role-playing world of social media that we currently live in. Then again, it could literally be about Dungeons & Dragons. While Darnielle knows the truth, the listener will ultimately decide on what the album means to them. IN LEAGUE WITH DRAGONS is remarkably tender at times, often using haunting and spacious arrangements to enhance Darnielle’s intelligent wordplay. Other songs push those lyrics forward with a jaunty Americana-influenced glee that mixes timeless music with timely messages. Songs like “Possum By Night,” “Clemency For The Wizard King,” “Doc Gooden,” “Done Bleeding,” “Cadaver Sniffing Dog,” and “Waylon Jennings Live!” are highlights from an album that meets and exceeds all expectations. That is, if you had expectations. IN LEAGUE WITH DRAGONS is a thoroughly modern release that invites the ghosts of John Denver and Jim Croce to drink at the same bar as any of Darnielle’s Indie and Alt-Rock influences. A soundtrack to our role-playing lives, IN LEAGUE WITH DRAGONS is a triumph.

Keep on truckin’,
Stephen SPAZ Schnee

THE MOUNTAIN GOATS
IN LEAGUE WITH DRAGONS
(Merge Records)

4.26.19