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AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: AWAKENING BEYOND

     Tina Turner has been a crucial piece of pop culture since the late ‘50s when she began working with Ike Turner. Throughout the ‘60s, she was an electrifying performer, touring around the world and recording hit records. Her career calmed down in the ‘70s but by 1984, when she released the album PRIVATE DANCER, she became the worldwide superstar that she was always meant to be.  By the dawn of the millennium, she stepped out of the limelight and has not released a full-fledged Pop or Soul album since 1999’s TWENTY FOUR SEVEN.

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AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: BLOODSHOT RECORDS’ 13 DAYS OF XMAS!

     I’m either the right guy to be writing a review of a ‘new’ Christmas release… or I’m the wrong guy. You see, I’m a connoisseur of Christmas music and I’m extremely picky about the holiday music that I listen to.  I don’t care who performs the song or in what style – I’m looking for the FEELING of the season in the song. And for someone who loves Christmas music, there’s very little that has tickled my fancy since the ‘70s. There are exceptions but my favorites tend to be random singles (XTC, Band Aid, Status Quo, etc.) and very few albums. Sure, I appreciate the attempts to create a new classic Christmas album but it is very obvious to me when it is merely a cash-grab by the artist or the label. Or almost as worse – when an artist is only interested in celebrating their own voice and not the holiday they sing so joyfully about. So, sadly, I now approach every Christmas album with trepidation and fear. And suddenly, Bloodshot Records’ 13 DAYS OF XMAS landed in my lap and I needed to take some anxiety medication before I could even listen to it….

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LEWIS BLACK: An EXCLUSIVE Q&A

BLACK TO THE FUTURE
 
STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: BLACK TO THE FUTURE has just been released on DVD and CD. How are you feeling about the way the whole project turned out?
LEWIS BLACK: I am thrilled and couldn’t be happier, especially since this is the first time I’ve produced a DVD and CD on my own label.
SPAZ: Even though this show was taped before the election, I sense that you knew how it was going to turn out. As you imply during the show, the jokes write themselves. Did you realize just how crazy it was going to get?
LEWIS: I wish. I wish I’d actually began writing a book once he had started running. It would have been interesting to see if I could have really captured the crazy that was too follow. But I just didn’t have enough imagination to imagine it could really happen. Every step of the way I thought, “This can’t get more insane” and then it did.
SPAZ: Why do you think that humor helps people understand the way this world really works? Your humor is biting but your messages seem to stay with people.
LEWIS: I think it’s because it helps provide a framework for all of the nonsense and hoo-hah and B.S. that life throws at us. It allows folks to step back from the madness, as they laugh, even if it’s just for a moment and be able to realize that this too shall pass.
SPAZ: I believe that the reason you remain so relevant is that you never pretend you have all the answers because you seem just as befuddled by political shenanigans as the rest of us. Do you think that helps you to connect with your audience?
LEWIS: Yes, I do. I also think because as many folks have said to me throughout my career, “You’re just like my dad, only funnier.”
SPAZ: BLACK TO THE FUTURE’s bonus CD contains additional material that didn’t make it to the show. How much prep does it take to put together a show when you know it is going to be filmed for prosperity? And do you tend to cut a lot of material before that taped show?
LEWIS: Once I finish putting a special together and getting it filmed, I begin working on the next one. Sometimes, I already have new material that I have been working on and I start there. Other times, I am starting from scratch and so I set out trying to find what I want to basically yell about and find the arc of a story I can tell. Along the way I cut pounds and pounds of material and eventually when I feel I am getting close, I start to figure out where we will shoot the special.
SPAZ: A comedian’s stand up show must change and evolve at a rapid pace, especially when there’s so much inspiration for new material. Do you tend to tape your shows right before you set aside (or retire) certain material? People don’t realize how difficult it must be for a comedian to constantly have to change his/her act in order to survive in this industry.
LEWIS: Actually, there are many comics who don’t change their material, they continue to hone it, which would drive me nuts but which other comics find satisfying. I tape every single one of my shows, probably because I am crazy.
SPAZ: After the laughs subside and the audience heads home, what is the most important thing you want them to remember after the show?
LEWIS: That they had a good time.
SPAZ: You’ve been doing segments for The Daily Show. One of my friends said that you should have taken over from Andy Rooney on 60 Minutes. Is that something you’d even think about doing or would you feel uncomfortable having to edit yourself to fit into that show’s tried and true format?
LEWIS: They were interested in me, but I wasn’t interested in dealing with the powers that be at CBS or the limitations imposed by the show itself.
SPAZ: The recent political climate has ripped friendships and families apart like never before. There’s so much finger pointing, name calling and shit slinging… and that’s just from the White House! Do you think that social media is to blame?
LEWIS: God only knows. What I know is that social is social and media is media and maybe the two shouldn’t have met.
SPAZ: In regard to those that influenced you in your career, are there any artists outside the comedic field that inspired you along the way?
LEWIS: If you mean outside of comedians I would say, writers such as Kurt Vonnegut, Joseph Heller, Paul Krassner, and Herb Gardner to name a few. Then there’s the Marx Brothers, Madeline Kahn, Judy Holiday, Ernie Kovacs, Steve Allen and Sid Caesar and his crew. I could go on and on and on.
SPAZ: What’s next for Lewis Black?
LEWIS: Another special sometime down the road, when I get a grip on what is going on these days. Hopefully some more voice-over work and maybe a couple of nice acting roles. I’d like to write another book or play if I could find the time.
SPAZ: What is currently spinning on your CD, DVD, Blu-ray or record players?
LEWIS: I’ll be watching all of the DVD’s of films and TV shows that I am sent to try and convince that they should get some sort of award or another. I like to play the brilliant CD’s of Jazz artist Jane Ira Bloom.
Thanks to Lewis Black
Special thanks to Larry Germack, Clint Weiler, Tim Elliot and Dave Rayburn
LEWIS BLACK
BLACK TO THE FUTURE
(2CD)
LEWIS BLACK
BLACK TO THE FUTURE
(DVD)
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THE COUNTRY SIDE OF HARMONICA SAM: Introducing The Band

When one listens to contemporary Country Music these days, it bears little resemblance to the traditional sound that helped define the genre decades ago. When Hank Williams, Faron Young, Patsy ClineGeorge Jones and Johnny Cash sang, you could almost smell the beer-soaked wooden floorboards of the old honky tonks coming through your radio. Nowadays, when you listen to contemporary Country Music, all you can smell is the mall. For better or worse, Country Music has gone through many changes over the years and remains one of the most consistently popular – and profitable – genres of music in the U.S. However, while it has been pushed out of the limelight in the States, the traditional Country sound of the ’50s and ’60s remains hugely popular in Europe. Many iconic Country & Western artists that have long since been forgotten in their homeland are revered in countries they probably never set foot in. Ray Price, Marty Robbins, Don Gibson, Marvin Rainwater, Stonewall Jackson and Hank Snow are just a few of the pioneering artists that are seldom remembered by a generation of Americans who were born after the Urban Cowboy-inspired Country resurgence in the ’80s. We must now look to these European countries if we want deluxe reissues and box sets from these Trad Country acts, who seldom have more than a single disc ’hits’ collection available here in the U.S. of A.

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L7: An EXCLUSIVE Q&A with DONITA SPARKS!

L7: PRETEND WE’RE DEAD

(The Documentary)

STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: L7: PRETEND WE’RE DEAD is finally available. How are you feeling about the project and the reaction to it so far?
DONITA SPARKS: Well, I’m relieved it’s going out into the world because a lot of work went into it, especially from the producers Blue Hats Creative: getting the footage and photos together, interviews with the band members and guest stars, music clearances, etc. This has been years in the making. I’m touched by the reaction to the film by those you have seen it. It hits home with a lot of different people. In the screenings that I’ve attended there’s laughter where there should be, and complete silence during the heavier stuff. Musicians in particular relate to the ride.

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AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: BUFFY SAINT-MARIE/MEDICINE SONGS

When spinning  singer/songwriter Buffy Saint-Marie’s 2017 album MEDICINE SONGS, you’ll realize that the art of protest music is NOT dead – it was just waiting for Buffy to release a new album! Mixing her early stark, acoustic Folk roots with Native American rhythms and a contemporary sound, this is an album that demonstrates her ability to remain true to her roots while also moving forward as an artist.

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GENE LOVES JEZEBEL: An EXCLUSIVE Q&A with JAY ASTON

     Gene Loves Jezebel occupy a musical universe that is all their own. The distinct vocals of Jay Aston and the unique chemistry between his bandmates James Stevenson, Pete Rizzo and Chris Bell has led the band from the dungeons of Goth to the lofty highs of anthemic Rock and everywhere between. It doesn’t matter if they’re tackling a haunting ballad or a riff-roaring rocker, Gene Loves Jezebel remain one of the most riveting yet under-appreciated bands of our generation. And with DANCE UNDERWATER, their first studio album in years, it is time that you put that band back on your radar and pay attention.

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CHRIS SPEDDING/The RAK Years (4CD set) reviewed!

     Chris Spedding is a Rock ‘n’ Roll renaissance man. Ever since the British guitarist arrived on the music scene in the late ‘60s, he has been the personification of cool. He’s played (live and/or in the studio) with artists as varied as Sharks, Harry Nilsson, Roy Harper, Sixto Rodriquez, Roxy Music, John Cale, The Wombles and many others. His solo career started in 1970 but he didn’t make an impact until his fifth album, the self-titled debut album for the RAK Records label, was released in 1975. And that album is where the four CD set CHRIS SPEDDING: THE RAK YEARS begins. Containing his four albums for the label (including bonus tracks), this is an essential box set that will appeal to fans of Rock, Punk, Power Pop and most other guitar-fueled Rock genres.

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AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: BIG HEAD TODD & THE MONSTERS/NEW WORLD ARISIN’

In the world of Rock ‘n’ Roll, it is rare for a band to hit the 31-year mark with all original members intact. Big Head Todd & The Monsters is one of those rare beasts. Formed in Boulder, Colorado in 1986, Todd Park Mohr, Rob Squires and Brian Nevin (along with longtime member Jeremy Lawton, who joined the original trio in 2003) have achieved commercial and critical success, sold boatloads of albums, traveled the world and built up a huge, devoted following. And on their 2017 album NEW WORLD ARISIN’, they prove that they still have something to say.