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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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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.
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AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: BRUCE COCKBURN/BONE ON BONE

BONE ON BONE is the highly anticipated 2017 album from Canadian singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn. The album is his first in six years and is the follow-up to 2011’s SMALL SOURCE OF COMFORT. His 25th studio album overall, BONE ON BONE finds Bruce Cockburn at ease as a musician but ill at ease with the world. For those familiar with Cockburn’s work over the years, this may seem like nothing new. However, BONE ON BONE finds Bruce at the top of his game. And for an artist that has been releasing albums for nearly 50 years, this is quite a feat.  Mixing Folk and Blues, the album is warm, intimate and filled with songs that are destined to become Cockburn classics. Amongst the Folk Blues stomp of songs like “States I’m In” (the first single) and “Café Society” is “Forty Years In The Wilderness”, one of the loveliest songs he’s ever written.

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MODERN ENGLISH/Take Me To The Trees review!

If your only encounter with Modern English is “I Melt With You,” then you need to sit down, kids, because there is more to this British outfit than meets the ear. The band’s moody and artsy Post-Punk beginnings were a perfect match for 4AD, the label that released their first three albums. However, by the second album, 1982’s AFTER THE SNOW, the band had matured and were writing better songs, moving away from their dark past and gaining a lot more confidence in the process. That second album contained some of their best moments to date including “Someone’s Calling,” “Life In The Gladhouse” and, of course, “I Melt With You.” The latter song became one of the tracks that truly defined the ‘80s and became a blessing and curse for the band. Modern English next album, RICOCHET DAYS, was nearly as good as AFTER THE SNOW but did not contain a hit like “I Melt With You” and the band found itself falling out of fashion. Another album – STOP START – came and went and the band split. Over the years, vocalist Robbie Grey and various line-ups of the band have recorded and toured as Modern English, even releasing some very fine albums along the way, In 2010, four of the five original members – Grey, Gary McDowell (guitar, vocals), Michael Conroy (bass, vocals) and Stephen Walker (keyboards – reunited for a few tours and received a hero’s welcome by fans. Seven years on, have finally delivered TAKE ME TO THE TREES, the first studio album since 1984’s RICOCHET DAYS to feature these four core members. While the band wisely continues to avoid attempting to re-write “I Melt With You,” they certainly haven’t lost the desire to re-explore dark places with melodic flair.

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SAD LOVERS & GIANTS/Box set reviewed!

WHERE THE LIGHT SHINES THROUGH: THE BIGGER PICTURE 1981-2017
     If you are familiar  with veteran UK band Sad Lovers &  Giants, then I am confident that you are already a fan. For those who have  yet to experience SL&G, then pay close attention – they are soon to become your  favorite new/old band. On May 5, 2017, the always-amazing Cherry Red label will be releasing WHERE THE LIGHT SHINES THROUGH: THE  BIGGER PICTURE 1981-2017, a five CD set that is a must-have if you are  a fan of SL&G and ‘80s Post-Punk and New Wave music in general. The band’s  legacy is celebrated in this set which contains pretty much all the tracks from their  albums EPIC GARDEN MUSIC (1982), FEEDING THE FLAME (1983), THE  MIRROR TEST (1987), HEADLAND (1990), TREEHOUSE POETRY (1991) and MELTING IN THE FULLNESS OF TIME  (2002) plus singles, EP tracks, radio sessions and  rarities. A  stunning set to say the least.

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ROGER WATERS’ Is This The Life We Really Want? set for global release Friday, June 2

Roger Waters, the creative power and songwriting force behind Pink Floyd, announces his first rock album in 25 years, Is This The Life We Really Want?. The album will be available for pre-order on April 21 and released globally on Friday, June 2 on Columbia Records.

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GLEN CAMPBELL says ADIÓS with final studio album

Los Angeles – April 14, 2017 – Legendary singer and guitarist Glen Campbell’s final studio album, ADIÓS, , will be released June 9 on UMe, capping off an extraordinary career that has spanned more than five decades and 50 million albums sold. The album will be released on CD, vinyl and digitally and is available for pre-order beginning today.

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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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ROBYN HITCHCOCK: An EXCLUSIVE interview!

Always Pistachio:

STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: Your self-titled album is about to be released. How are you feeling about the journey to make this album and the reaction to it so far?
ROBYN HITCHCOCK: Well, the people that normally like my records like this one, so far. And that’s it really – if you like this one, you’ll probably like the others. If not, I’m not your flavor. That’s why the record is simply my name. The journey? Well it was the lucky coincidence of my moving to Nashville at the same point that Brendan Benson was getting in touch, asking if I’d like to come and record with him there.

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