KICK OUT THE JAMS! An EXCLUSIVE Interview with Director Tony D’Annunzio and MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer

The Detroit Rock ‘n’ Roll scene in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s was unlike anything else happening in the world at the time. New York was certainly tough, but there was an artistic flair that added a touch of respectability to it. The West Coast scene certainly had its moments, although the hippy-dippy flower-power movement took away some of its thunder. But Detroit? It was a hotbed of unbridled energy, attitude, and bravado. While Motown was in many ways the soul of Detroit, the Rock ‘n’ Roll rumble in the streets was loud and often frightening. But it was also invigorating and electrifying. It was raw and pure. It was Garage Rock with the power of Punk and Metal (neither of which were musical genres at the time!) yet it could also be artsy like the East Coast, and hippy-dippy like San Francisco and L.A. It was a melting pot of attitudes and ideas. And it was where the Grande Ballroom was born.
Unlike any venue before or since, the Grande was not just a concert hall – it was a meeting place for creative minds, disenchanted youth and people of all race, class, and creed. It may have promoted shows by local and touring bands, yet it also embraced the sexual revolution, psychedelia, the drug culture, and, most importantly, freedom of expression. The club Detroit bands like MC5, The Stooges, The Frost, The Third Power and SRC were regulars, while The Who, Pink Floyd, B.B. King, Led Zeppelin and many other major bands would always play there while on tour. The Grande became THE venue to play for every major Rock band once they had already conquered the East and/or West Coast. For some, it was even more important! The Grande was the brainchild of Russ Gibb, who some remember as one of the instigators of the ‘Paul Is Dead’ hoax of the late ‘60s (or was it a hoax?). Along with controversial counter-culture figure John Sinclair, they turned an old 1920s dancehall into something truly mind-blowing. Although the Grande shut its doors more than four decades ago, it remains one of Rock’s most iconic venues.
The power and glory of the Grande Ballroom may be part of Detroit’s – and Rock ‘n’ Roll’s – history, yet the larger-than-life venue’s tale remained largely untold. Director Tony D’Annunzio has addressed that situation with Louder Than Love: The Grande Ballroom Story. An emotional rollercoaster-ride of a documentary, Louder Than Love opens up the doors of the Grande and allows the main players to tell their story with passion and honesty. This is not just a documentary about a Rock ‘n’ Roll venue; this is a film about how music and art can make a difference in the world. Alongside members of the Grande’s inner circle and Detroit icons (Russ Gibb, John Sinclair, MC5’s Wayne Kramer, Alice Cooper, The Amboy Dukes’ Ted Nugent), there are also interviews with legendary artists like Roger Daltrey (The Who), Lemmy (Hawkwind/Motorhead), B.B. King, Don Was and many others. This is a story that needed to be told and Louder Than Love is a triumph in every way.
Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to chat with director Tony D’Annunzio and MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer about Louder Than Love and the Detroit Rock ‘n’ Roll scene…
 

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An EXCLUSIVE Q&A with PETER BJÖRN AND JOHN’S Peter Morén

Swedish trio Peter Björn and John have created a musical universe that is constantly evolving. However, they’ve managed to retain their unique charm that made them press darlings a decade ago with “Young Folks”. What many didn’t realize is that that hit’s parent album, Writer’s Block, was the trio’s third in a career that has seen them stretch the boundaries of Pop music. While Top 40 radio’s Pop guidelines are pretty rigid, Peter Morén, Björn Yttling and John Eriksson treat them like elastic rubber bands, bending and twisting those guidelines into new and exciting aural avenues. They’ve even managed to carve out musical careers outside of PB&J while never lowering the quality control level on the albums they record together. And can you believe they even collaborated with Canadian hip hopster Drake a handful of years before he became a musical sensation?

Breakin’ Point, their first album in five years, finds PB&J offering up a collection of songs that are so instantly lovable that you’ll swear you’ve been in love with them for years. Every track on the album is a potential hit single – the melodies leap out and grab hold on the first spin. Their songwriting is based in classic ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s Pop/Rock, but the production, arrangements and inventiveness is thoroughly modern if not outright forward-thinking. They’ve sidestepped the experimental moodiness of some of their past albums and embraced their more playful side. This isn’t an album that tries to revisit their past glories – it creates new ones.

Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to track down band member Peter Morén, who kindly took time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about Breakin’ Point, PB&J and more…

 

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THE MONKEES’ Good Times: The SPAZ Review

It is 2016 and The Monkees are celebrating their 50th Anniversary the very same year I celebrate my 50th Anniversary as a Monkees fan. Way back in 1966 when the TV show first aired and the band had their first hit single (‘Last Train To Clarksville’), I was coming up on my third birthday and my brother was nearing his fourth. My parents sat us down in front of the television and introduced us to a quartet that instantly became our second favorite band (after The Beatles, of course). Mom and Dad often said that the thirty minutes The Monkees were on was the ONLY time during the week when they didn’t have to worry about us getting into any trouble – we were glued to the tube and thoroughly enjoying their zany antics and great songs.

Flash forward five decades, and if my folks were still around they’d be happy to know that I predictably spent 30+ minutes glued to my CD player as I threw on Good Times, The Monkees’ first studio album in twenty years. And then I went back and listened again. And again. You see, I wanted to give this an honest review and not base my opinion on one listen. So, I listened to it a fourth time, a seventh time, etc. And so, here goes…

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ALLIANCE ENTERTAINMENT ACQUIRES ANCONNECT RETAIL MUSIC BUSINESS!

 In a transaction signed on May 18, 2016, Alliance Entertainment Holding Corporation (“AEC”) and ANconnect, LLC (“ANC”) have entered into a purchase agreement whereby AEC will acquire the ANC retail music assets and business.

AEC, the largest wholesale distributor of physical home entertainment audio, video and software in the United States and best-in-class distribution solutions, provides a high level of service in various disciplines including; mass merchant retail and wholesale distribution, consumer direct services, vendor managed inventory systems and independent music store fulfillment.

The transaction brings an expanded assortment of products to ANC customers, which includes product lines of CD, vinyl music, and electronic products from AEC’s current 480,000 in stock SKU base.

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TRAIN Does Led Zeppelin II: Available June 3rd, 2016!

TRAIN

Does Led Zeppelin II

 

Available on CD and Vinyl LP

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Train, the San Francisco-based Rock/Pop band led by Pat Monahan, will release Train Does Led Zeppelin II (via Crush Music/WEA) on June 3rd , 2016. On this release, Train performs the entirety of the 1969 sophomore album by Led Zeppelin, one of Rock’s greatest quartets. The Train album’s nine-song track list mirrors the original Zep release from first track to last.

This bold artistic move will present Train in a new musical light as well as introduce their audience to a classic album that wrote the blueprint for Blues-influenced Hard Rock.

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TRACK SEQUENCE:

  1. Whole Lotta Love
  2. What Is and What Should Never Be
  3. The Lemon Song
  4. Thank You
  5. Heartbreaker
  6. Living Loving Maid (She’s Just a Woman)
  7. Ramble On
  8. Moby Dick
  9. Bring It On Home

Rovi Acquires TiVO!

     While it is not a complete surprise, many were flabbergasted to hear that Rovi, a company known for creating personalized and data-driven ways for viewers to discover the right entertainment and for providers to discover the right audiences, has acquired TiVo, the global leader in next-generation television services. If you think for a moment that you will no longer be able to easily record episodes of Dancing With The Stars and Dr. Phil, think again. In a nutshell, this means that, for the average user, TiVo will only get better.

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   Here is a small portion of the official press release.  Hopefully, it helps you in understanding this unique and very exciting acquisition.  The entertainment world is continually changing so you better get with the program.  Or you can just TiVo it and get back to it later!

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NBCUniversal Announces DreamWorks Animation Acquisition!

NBCUniversal has just upped their game by acquiring DreamWorks Animation. This major acquisition builds on NBCUniversal’s presence in family and animation space. DreamWorks Animation is set to become a unit of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group. Is NBCUniversal/DreamWorks now primed and ready to go head-to-head with Disney in the family film/animation market? Grab a bucket of popcorn, folks, because this is about to get real!

Here’s what the press release says:

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HAIRCUT 100: An EXCLUSIVE Q&A with guitarist GRAHAM JONES!

 

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Favorite Shirts:

HAIRCUT 100 Revisited

Haircut 100’s debut album Pelican West remains one of the truly great albums of the ‘80s. Inspired by everything from Jazz and Latin music to ‘60s Pop and Post-Punk, the 1982 album was a breath of fresh air at a time when pretentious ‘Popstar’ posing was more important than making music. From Bob Sargents warm and crisp production and singer/guitarist Nick Heyward’s Pop smarts, to the inventive horn arrangements, Pelican West was an album inspired by many styles embedded in the past, yet sounded modern and fresh. The band’s ability to embrace their influences while also creating their own unique sound is what makes Pelican West a timeless album. It is not rooted to a particular time period, so you can still play it thirty four years later without feeling that the album has dated itself. You can’t say that about other career-defining albums from this time period including The Human League’s Dare, Culture Club’s Colour By Numbers, Duran Duran’s Rio or any number of so-called New Wave classics.

Initially lumped in with the British Jazz Funk movement, Haircut 100 were a true musical phenomenon formed by Heyward and bassist Les Nemes. Guitarist Graham Jones completed the original trio. The band grew into a sextet with the addition of percussionist Marc Fox, drummer Blair Cunningham and horn player Phil Smith. The band’s first three singles – “Favorite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl),” “Love Plus One,” and “Fantastic Day” – became radio hits all over the world, and even earned airplay on the then-still-fresh MTV. To many, this fresh and seemingly wholesome band came out of nowhere and became a sensation. They may have been treated like teen idols in the UK, but other countries – including the U.S. – focused on the music. The album itself was filled to the brim with great songs, many of which could have easily been a hit had they been released as singles (I’m looking at you in particular, “Lemon Firebrigade”!). When the band released the Pop-tastic post-album single “Nobody’s Fool,” it was obvious that Heyward’s songwriting skills were still top notch.

However, the band’s massive success proved to be their downfall. Faced with the enormous pressure of writing a follow-up album, Heyward quit the band in the midst of recording sessions. Nick pursued a solo career (the lushly-produced North Of A Miracle contained a few of the songs the band had been working on prior to his departure) while the rest of the band soldiered on. By the time the sorely overlooked and quite wonderful second Haircut 100 album Paint And Paint was released, the band was down to a quartet (Cunningham had also left the band). The band quietly broke up a short time later. Though they have reunited in some form or another over the last decade for live shows, no new recordings have emerged.

Now, with the release of the Deluxe 2CD Edition of Pelican West – featuring additional non-album tracks and remixes – being reissued on Cherry Pop, Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to catch up with H100 guitarist Graham Jones and send him off a few questions in hopes of discovering more about this classic album…

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PET SHOP BOYS: Spaz reviews the album SUPER!

   Super, the 13th studio album by British duo Pet Shop Boys, is a prime example of why the Electronic/Dance act will never be part of a nostalgic ‘80s package tour – they are too busy moving into the future to live in the past. When they scored their first big hit 31 years ago with “West End Girls,” PSB were a delicious mixture of smarmy Pop and then-modern Electronica. Vocalist Neil Tennant’s deadpan (and slightly campy) vocals and Chris Lowe’s melodic, percolating Euro/Electropop backdrop made for some exciting records back in the day, earning them worldwide success and hits in every corner of the world.  By the ‘90s, their star had faded a bit in the U.S. although they still released innovative and exciting albums that were snapped up by audiences In vastly different time zones than the States. Thankfully, PSB have continued to make fresh, forward-thinking records over the years. They’ve kept on top of Dance and Electronic music trends and have embraced them wholeheartedly.  You’ll still find elements of their ‘80s and ‘90s sound on Super but you’ll be sorely disappointed if you’re looking for “West End Girls 2016” because Neil and Chris have moved on.

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STEVE FORBERT: Romeo’s Tunes

 

Stephen SPAZ Schnee takes a stroll through some of the singer/songwriter’s best catalog releases

 
     Ah,  Steve Forbert…  38 years ago, he was lauded as ‘the new Dylan‘… which was a ludicrous tag to shackle anyone with.  First off, there had already been roughly 314 ‘new  Dylans’ since the old Dylan released his debut album in 1962.  While a few of them (Donovan in particular) had achieved a certain level of success, the others were swept aside when the next  ‘new Dylan’ came along.  It seemed that every singer/songwriter who played  an acoustic guitar and blew into a harmonica was destined to be labeled as the  next ‘new Dylan’.  And how many guitar-led bands were saddled with ‘the  new Beatles’ tag over the years?  Even the Bay City Rollers were once  called ‘the new Beatles’ but we all knew that they were really ‘the new 1910 Fruitgum Company’!
      As for Steve Forbert, he deserved to be called ‘the new Forbert’ and left to his own devices.  Judging by his recorded output, he was (and  is) an extremely gifted and unique artist who unfortunately spent the first  part of his career trying to shake the ‘new Dylan’ tag and move on. It wasn’t  his fault that misguided critics decided to slap a label on him but thankfully, he moved beyond that and has forged a successful career – his 2015 album Compromised is proof that he hasn’t lost any of his charm. Ever since he released his debut album, Alive On Arrival, in 1978, he has managed to release a series of albums that sound like no one else. His songs come from the heart.  Whether he is singing from experience or writing from another person’s perspective, he continues to hit the nail on the head each time. He still travels the Folk road that he began his journey on so many years ago, but he has no problem injecting Rock, Soul, Pop, Latin, Bluegrass and Zydeco into his songs. His music is now referred to as Americana but that’s just another attempt to label him.  If you need a simple description, I suppose American IS appropriate but there is so much more to him than one word can describe.
     While he continues to record and tour, his most commercially successful period was when he was signed to Nemperor/Sony in the late ’70s and early ’80s. He released four albums (and recorded a fifth) for the label before he moved on. He’s recorded for several labels since leaving Nemperor some 30 years ago yet the majority of his output remains just as riveting as the albums recorded during his so-called ‘heyday’.  Thankfully, he also releases exclusive titles through his own Rolling Tide Records imprint, which has been a great output for rare recordings and reissues. Now that a handful of those titles are now available via retail outlets, I thought it would be a perfect time to tell you about some of them…

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