Even though you might not recognize his name, you are more than likely familiar with the work of Chris Butler. While his studio work with Tin Huey, Richard Lloyd, the dBs and other bands might have passed some of you by, you will most certainly recognize his higher profile recordings with The Waitresses. Chris Butler was the guitarist and songwriter for the Akron, Ohio-based quirky New Wave outfit and was responsible for penning their hit single “I Know What Boys Like,” as well as their theme song to the cult TV series Square Pegs and the perennial holiday favorite “Christmas Wrapping.” What some may not realize is that while his most high-profile band may have split in 1984, Chris Butler has continued to create experimental music that is entirely unique and charmingly quirky.
Rockpile remains one of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s most respected but commercially overlooked bands. In terms of credibility, how could you go wrong with a band featuring Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds, Billy Bremner and Terry Williams? While Rockpile recorded albums that were credited to either Edmunds or Lowe, they only recorded one proper studio album under their collective name – 1980’s SECONDS OF PLEASURE – before the band split up. Nick and Dave continued their successful solo careers while Terry joined Dire Straits. The band’s secret weapon – guitarist/vocalist Bremner – also pursued a solo career as well as working with The Pretenders (that’s him playing lead guitar on “Back On The Chain Gang”), Shakin’ Stevens, and many others. He did appear on Lowe and Edmunds’ solo albums as well. While not as high profile as his former bandmates, Bremner has released four solo albums over the years and worked with a multitude of other artists. Often overlooked on his own merits, the best of Billy’s solo material has finally been compiled on the excellent SINGLED OUT collection courtesy of RPM/Cherry Red.
Much has been written about Yoko Ono over the years and, sadly, not all of it positive. However, if you look back over the 50 years that she has been in the public consciousness, she has always been a force for good. A superhero of sorts. From being a positive light that guided John Lennon out of his darkness to being an outspoken advocate against gun violence, Yoko has lent her name, her money and her time to many great causes over the years. Yet, the press has dragged her name through the mud so many times that their personal agendas have been adopted by the public as facts. While I’m sure it has been hurtful and confusing to Yoko, she has stood tall and continues to be a strong force in activism and art.
If you go to Wikipedia and look up ‘Honky Tonk’, you’ll find the following description: “A Honky Tonk is both a bar that provides country music for the entertainment of its patrons and the style of music played in such establishments. In the 1950s, Honky Tonk entered its golden age, with the popularity of Webb Pierce, Hank Locklin, Lefty Frizzell, Ray Price, Faron Young, George Jones, and Hank Williams.” So, given that description, it’s no wonder that singer/songwriter J.P. Harris is often referred to as one of the finest purveyors of Honky Tonk music in America today. As ‘modern’ Country takes up space on the charts, it is refreshing – and dare I say it, exhilarating – to experience an artist so in tune with the roots of the genre’s pioneering artists. Harris ain’t no Americana bandwagoneer – he is as Country as Country Music gets.
Forty years since the release of his debut album, ALIVE ON ARRIVAL, Steve Forbert remains one of the most honest and warm singer/songwriters in Folk, Rock and Americana. Unfairly declared ‘the new Dylan’ for a brief moment in the ‘70s thanks to that debut, Forbert proved himself to be more than just a guy strumming an acoustic guitar at the front of the stage. His hit single “Romeo’s Tune” (1979) became a Top 40 hit thanks to Forbert’s earnest performance, great songwriting and that incessant piano riff. But Forbert was not one to crank out formulaic Pop or Folk – he was always moving forward while still paying tribute to his past. With more than two dozen studio, live, and fan-club albums in his back pocket, Steve Forbert still remains a songwriter that finds inspiration in the every day. His Mississippi soul may have moved to New Jersey but this is one cat that understands and connects with every inch of America.
Here in the U.S., veteran British Punk band The Vibrators are not held in the same high esteem as bands like The Clash, Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks, and a few other of their contemporaries. And I must say that is an oversight that must be corrected. Is it because they were too British? Were they too raw? Did they challenge the listener with stylistic changes to their core sound? Were they too Pop to Punk purists? So many questions, so few answers…
If you’ve never heard Sailor, then I feel pretty confident that you’ve never heard a band quite like Sailor. One of the most unusual and original bands to emerge from the UK in the mid-‘70s, Sailor achieved great success in the UK, Holland and across Europe but never made much of a mark in the U.S. However, the band did attract the attention of American Rock and Pop legends like Bruce Johnston and Curt Boettcher (billed as Becher), both of whom produced their CHECKPOINT album. If you missed Sailor and their albums the first time around, 7Ts/Cherry Red Records is making it easy to catch up with a five CD set entitled SAILOR: THE ALBUMS 1974-78, a box that contains their first five albums including bonus tracks. Fans of band like 10cc, Deaf School, and City Boy should take note…
Why on earth didn’t anyone think of this sooner? While a collaboration between Robbie Fulks and Linda Gail Lewis may now make perfect sense, it took a hell of a long time for someone to figure it out. And the timing couldn’t be more perfect – the world has been waiting for a new dynamic duo and they’ve finally arrived. Like a musical time capsule that reaches all the way back to the mid-‘50s, Robbie and Linda’s 2018 album WILD! WILD! WILD! is everything the title of the album suggests… and a whole lot more. From Country & Western to Rockabilly, this is an album created by and artist who was influenced by it (Fulks) and an artist that lived through it (Lewis).
In the U.S., Mungo Jerry only scored one hit song – “In The Summertime” – and most Americans are under the impression that there wasn’t much else by the Mungos beyond that one single. My review of the Cherry Red Records five CD boxset MUNGO JERRY: THE DAWN ALBUMS COLLECTION may have surprised people unaware of those releases. But guess what? I’ve got an even bigger surprise – Cherry Red has released a second Mungo Jerry boxset containing five more full length albums from the British act! Entitled THE ALBUMS 1976-81, this set veers into Blues/Rock/Glam genres and generally avoids the jug band Folk of their earlier releases.
Australia has always been a country that takes influences from the U.S. and UK, blending them together and creating something new and interesting. This phenomenon has been happening for decades – most successfully in the ‘80s – and definitely sets bands Down Under apart from their American and British counterparts. Newcastle’s Trophy Eyes is no exception. Signed to Hopeless Records, the Punk-fueled Aussies fuse Punk-Pop, Emo, and Hard Rock together, sprinkling their musical confections with just the right amount of catchy hooks. The melodies soar, the powerhouse rhythm section pounds and the guitars slash and burn. While this might not be your grandad’s Punk Rock, it certainly checks all the boxes that inspired your older brother.