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


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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The definition of a solo singer/songwriter has gone through many transformations throughout the years. Typically, one might think of a singer/songwriter as a lone troubadour/trobairitz armed with nothing more than an acoustic guitar and a catalog of sensitive, self-penned Folk-influenced songs that he/she is eager to share with their audience. From Woody Guthrie to Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, singer/songwriters were proof that you could converse with your audience through music and teach them something in the process. As music has evolved, we have come to realize that a singer/songwriter cannot be defined by a genre… or an instrument. Thanks to social media, singer/songwriters can reach well beyond their local coffeehouse. From South Korea to North Carolina, anyone with a computer or smart phone can have instant access to musical messages that just might change their lives forever.

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Fourteen years after she released her handmade debut CD-R, singer/songwriter Sharon Van Etten is finally receiving the critical accolades that she has always deserved. While the long journey may have destroyed a more impatient artist, Van Etten has taken it all in good stride. In fact, she’s enjoyed the ride. “I’ve always been a fan of the slow build.” Sharon says. “Whether it be with my career, or my songs, or life.” Along the way, music hasn’t been the only thing on her plate – Van Etten has also pursued an acting career that landed her gigs on Netflix’s THE OA and on David Lynch’s TWIN PEAKS revival.  In short, Sharon Van Etten has not been idle in recent times, she’s just been very, very patient.

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An EXCLUSIVE Q&A with DANA FUCHS: Love Lives On!

STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: LOVE LIVES ON is now available. How are you feeling about the way the album turned out and the reaction to it so far?
DANA FUCHS: I’m really thrilled with the way the album turned out! I was nervous about going in with an 11-day time frame and working with people I hadn’t met yet but it was the easiest and most pleasant studio experience I’ve ever had, and musically surpassed all of my expectations. The fan response seems to be overwhelming positive. Even those who like the tougher side of my Blues Rock edge are liking the whole Memphis and horn vibe!

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Bernard Allison made his recording debut on GONNA BE A LIVE ONE IN HERE TONIGHT, a 1979 live album by his father Luther Allison. Recorded live in Peoria, IL when Bernard was only 13, this set was an auspicious debut for an artist that has continued to mine the soul of the Blues for over forty years. In the early ‘80s, the young guitar slinger became a member of Koko Taylor’s band as well as continuing to work with is father. While it took another 11 years before he released his first official solo album (1990’s THE NEXT GENERATION), Bernard has certainly made each release count. He may have inherited his father’s talents but Bernard has taken the Blues in new and exciting directions.

LOS STRAITJACKETS/What’s So Funny… review!

     A few years back, it wasn’t a shock to see that British  singer/songwriter Nick Lowe would be touring with American instrumental Rock  combo Los Straitjackets.  Both Nick and  the ‘Jackets occupy the same musical universe although they are on opposite  ends of the galaxy.

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KASHIF/Help Yourself To My Love: The Arista Anthology review!

Kashif Saleem – formerly a member of Funk giants B.T. Express – was at the forefront of synth-fueled smooth R&B in the early ‘80s. He was one of the first artists to embrace modern technology when it came to creating Soul and Funk music yet he still managed to make it sound human and heartfelt. While his name may not be as well-known as many of his technology-loving contemporaries like Stevie Wonder, Kashif helped usher in a new kind of sound that changed the course of Soul and HELP YOURSELF TO MY LOVE: THE ARISTA ANTHOLOGY is all the proof that you need. Spanning the years 1983-89, this is ‘80s electronic Funk/Soul/R&B at its finest.

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LORETTA LYNN’s 2017 album Wouldn’t It Be Great!

Wouldn’t It Be Great, the new album from Loretta Lynn, highlights The Queen of Country Music’s original songwriting, as sharp as ever since her early days as a musical trailblazer in the 1960s. This third volume of recordings produced by Patsy Lynn Russell and John Carter Cash and recorded at the Cash Cabin Studio in Hendersonville, Tennessee features 13 tracks all written or co-written by Loretta.

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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.

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John Watts is one of those rare gems in the music business – a singer/songwriter who continues to reinvent himself with each release and yet manages to retain his unique musical vision. Like any good art, his past releases still ‘feel’ contemporary even though they were created at another moment in time. Best of all, his musical output has continued to reach new heights with each album – he’s never released a bad full-length in a nearly forty year career. Whether he is operating under his own name or the Fischer-Z moniker, John Watts is undeniably the most under-rated artist to emerge from the Post-Punk/New Wave era of the late ‘70s.

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