Like any genre, Punk was never about just one ‘thing’ – it was a movement made up of many moving parts. Behind the torn jeans, mohawks, leather jackets and missing teeth (thanks, mosh pits), Punk was first and foremost about the music. Initially, a reaction against the overblown pomp of Progressive Rock and Disco (and any other musical movement that the Punk kids deemed pretentious and worthy of a kick in the gonads), Punk became the most influential movement in Rock history since Elvis had his crown stolen by The Beatles in 1964. In 1976, Punk Rock scared people. However, it wasn’t meant to destroy and move on – Punk was about taking Rock back to ground zero and rebuilding it from the ground up. Punk stole the blueprint from Chuck Berry’s safe and brought Rock ‘n’ Roll back to its basic foundation. Sex Pistols was the first band to gain international notoriety, but the whole of England was soon swarming with equally important bands like The Clash, Buzzcocks, The Jam, The Damned, et al. It was a beautiful thing. These bands knew how to write a cracking tune and that is why they are still remembered 40 years after Punk broke wide open.
Judy Collins is an American treasure. From her early Folk recordings – her debut album was released in 1961 – up through her brush with the Pop charts in the latter half of the ‘60s and into the ‘70s, she has possessed one of the most beautiful voices in Pop music. With hits like “Both Sides Now,” “Chelsea Morning” (both penned by Joni Mitchell) and Stephen Sondheim’s “Send In The Clowns,” Collins has built up a catalog of remarkably timeless recordings that never seem to age – much like the singer herself. Her gentle, moving performances have inspired generations of performers spanning all genres. Whether she is performing a song she composed or interpreting someone else’s musical creation, the song becomes Judy and Judy becomes the song. And fifty-six years after she made her recorded debut, Judy’s voice sounds better than ever. If you have ever fallen under the spell of Judy Collins, I’m fairly certain you are still hypnotized by her talent.
WHEN THE BULLET HITS THE BOX:
For over fifty years, Golden Earring has been Holland’s greatest Rock band, yet they have only scored two bona-fide hits in the U.S.: “Radar Love” (1973) and “Twilight Zone” (1982). While they’ve managed to maintain their popularity in other European countries, their unique brand of Rock ‘n’ Roll has largely been overlooked by American audiences. Their career trajectory closely followed that of the similarly-fated iconic UK rock band Status Quo: from flowery Psych Rock band in the ‘60s to Rock titans in the ‘70s (and beyond). However, the band has remained virtually intact throughout their entire career, in this way echoing the longevity of The Rolling Stones. These comparisons aside, Golden Earring has always done things their way. Staying largely out of the spotlight in the U.S. has allowed the band to travel their own path and create music without having to cater to the American market like so many other bands have been forced to do. Ironically enough, the music that these four gents create (Barry Hay, George Kooymans, Cesar Ziderwijk and Rinus Gerritsen) has always been exactly what America needs. Pure, honest Rock ‘n’ Roll that acknowledges but never gives in to current trends.
Those that are only familiar with their two American hits will be surprised to find out Golden Earring has released twenty-six studio albums alongside nearly a dozen live albums, as well as several compilations for those who only want to hear the hits. The four members of Golden Earring celebrate their huge catalog by playing all the favorites to their adoring fans, yet they seldom take the time to celebrate the many milestones that have paved their road to success. Although they are currently acknowledging their Silver Anniversary by hitting the road (again) this year, the band did not intend to put together yet another hit collection to commemorate the occasion. Instead, their record company worked behind the scenes and put together the ultimate tribute to the band: a twenty-nine CD box entitled THE COMPLETE STUDIO RECORDINGS, a glorious set that contains all twenty-six studio albums plus three CDs of non-album tracks. An absolutely astounding set, this release is an important part of Rock ‘n’ Roll history. Forget about biographies, Wikipedia entries or magazine articles. This box tells the real story of Golden Earring in the most honest and passionate way – through their music. Listen to it and weep, because it doesn’t get much better than this.
Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to chat with Barry Hay, who graciously took time out of his busy schedule to discuss the release of the box and other things Golden Earring-related…
Colin Hay is a rarity in the world of Rock ‘n’ Roll. He achieved great success out of the gate 35 years ago while leader of Men At Work (“Who Can It Be Now?,” “Down Under,” “Overkill”) but had to pursue a career as a solo artist once the band split in ’86. In 1987, he ventured out as Colin James Hay with the LOOKING FOR JACK album but struggled to maintain success. Next came the Colin Hay Band’s 1990 album WAYFARING SONS, which didn’t fare any better. In 1992, he released PEAKS & VALLEYS, the first in a series of solo albums that would slowly rebuild his career from scratch. Now, three and one-half decades after hitting #1 with Men At Work’s BUSINESS AS USUAL album, Hay is at his peak as a songwriter and vocalist and he shows no signs of slowing down. FIERCE MERCY is proof that he is one of this generation’s finest songwriters. While his hits with Men At Work may have been more ‘immediate’ on first listen, his songwriting is deeper, more passionate and better than ever on this 2017 album. Like his last release, 2015’s NEXT YEAR PEOPLE, this is an album filled with songs that are warm, intimate and emotional. Whether he is singing from experience or as an observer, Hay always connects with the subject matter and it all sounds so personal, which adds to the songs’ power. Lead-in track “Come Tumbling Down” is a sing-a-long that prepares you for the roller-coaster ride of emotions that weave in and out of the rest of the album. “A Thousand Million Reasons,” “The Best In Me,” “The Last To Know” and “Secret Love” are some of the best songs that Hay has ever written or co-written (with Michael Georgiades and others). “Two Friends” (written by Georgiades) features one of Hay’s finest vocal performances to date. Never one to live in his past, Colin Hay has creatively risen above his previous success and recorded what could be his finest musical work to date. Again, Colin Hay has proven that he leaves pretty much all of his contemporaries in the dust. FIERCE MERCY is a lovely, heartfelt album that will stand the test of time. If you stopped listening after the CARGO album, you’ve got a lot of catching up to do!
Independent distribution company AMPED™ is making major waves with significant repertoire and even more impressive sales. As artists and labels of all sizes look for new and innovative ways to distribute product, AMPED™ rolled out to offer an alternative distribution system that is having impressive results. Among those results are 13 Grammy nominations and 3 Grammy wins!
Congratulations to the AMPED™ Grammy winners!
Right Said Fred may be considered a ‘one hit wonder’ in the U.S., but I’m here to tell you that they are much more than that. Their worldwide hit “I’m Too Sexy” has become a slice of Pop Culture and is still used in advertisements, films and TV shows. The mere mention of the song title will inspire people to spontaneously sing a line or two out loud no matter who else is around. However, as I once wrote over at allmusic.com: “If you’ve never heard anything by Right Said Fred apart from ‘I’m Too Sexy,’ then you are missing out on one of the best dance-pop bands of this generation. To base your opinion of the band on that one song is like judging The Beatles‘ entire catalog on a song like ‘Yellow Submarine.’ Sure, it’s fun and catchy, but there is so much more to the band than that one piece of pop fluff.” In other words, if you haven’t heard anything else by RSF, then it is time to change that.
DAVE RAYBURN: The new album is titled WESLEY STACE’S JOHN WESLEY HARDING, and is your second record under your given name that you’ve reverted back to. I understand that, among several factors involved in choosing the title, there was a bit of a nod to Jeff Lynne in the mix. Can you elaborate?
WESLEY STACE: I can. My last album, SELF-TITLED, was the first released under my real name, Wesley Stace, but I felt the word didn’t quite get out, so I thought it was worth clarifying. Secondly, I happened to see the new version of ELO. For whatever legal reason, they are billed as “Jeff Lynne’s ELO”, presumably partly to differentiate it from any other rogue version of ELO. This reminded me that, though I had, in a sense, broken up John Wesley Harding, I didn’t want any interlopers touring under that name, playing my songs and pretending to be me, when I was elsewhere being me too, playing those same songs (better). With WESLEY STACE’S JOHN WESLEY HARDING, I am reminding you that this version of John Wesley Harding is the only version that counts. And finally, I wanted to differentiate myself, once and for all, from the Bob Dylan album of the same name. I have many times been mistaken for this album, due to a certain similarities between the name of this artifact, an LP from 1967 made of vinyl and cardboard, JOHN WESLEY HARDING, and my erstwhile performing name, John Wesley Harding. Obviously, it’s a ridiculous mistake, but still. So this isn’t Bob Dylan’s JOHN WESLEY HARDING; it’s Wesley Stace’s JOHN WESLEY HARDING.
There’s a hidden treasure in Haydenville, Massachusetts… and his name is Ray Mason. He’s been an active musician on the scene for more years than many of us have been alive, releasing solo albums as well as serving time as one-half of Americana duo Lonesome Brothers. Ray plays no-nonsense Rock ‘n’ Roll the way it should be played: fresh, exciting and littered with musical references from practically every genre you can think of. When throwing on a Ray Mason album for the first time, don’t be surprised if you hear a sad and sorrowful Country crier followed by a prickly rocker with a Punk edge to it. His music references everyone from Robert Johnson to The Beatles. His early influences can be found on records released by labels like Motown and Stax but don’t be surprised to find some inspiration from the Stiff and Chiswick archives as well. The best way to describe Ray’s sound is this: imagine Neil Young colliding with Nick Lowe while fronting NRBQ and performing songs telepathically channeled from David Lindley’s sideburns. If you are thoroughly confused, have no fear. Describing Ray’s charm is difficult. However, enjoying this unpretentious, humble and extremely talented man’s music is a much easier.
With over 20 albums to his name (including eight or so with Lonesome Brothers), digging into Ray’s back catalog is hugely satisfying. Normally recording with a few longtime friends as the Ray Mason Band, Ray does occasionally record albums with just his trusty Silvertone guitar. His latest plate-spinner, THE SHY REQUESTER, is one of those albums. Imagine walking into a bar, grabbing a beer, and then relaxing as you enjoy the night’s entertainment: a down-to-earth singer/songwriter plying his trade with songs that seem to reflect how you – a normal person – relate to this world. THAT is what listening to THE SHY REQUESTER is like. It is funny, sad and completely from the heart. It is also raw and loose, as you’d probably expect from an album with just voice and a Silvertone electric guitar with varying degrees of reverb. It may not shimmer and sparkle like what you hear on Top 40 radio, but Ray’s music has much more depth and honesty – even when he strips it down to its core.
And now, I’d like to introduce you to Ray… in his own words!