It has been forty years since Neil Finn made his recorded debut on Split Enz’s 1977 album DIZRHYTHMIA. Although he only provided guitar and backing vocals to that album, he certainly
made his presence known. His own compositions started showing up in 1979 on the band’s FRENZY album. While his big brother Tim handled a bulk of the Enz’s material, it was Neil who penned their first global hit, “I Got You,” which was released in 1980 on the TRUE COLOURS album. Over the course of the next few Enz albums, Neil wrote more highlights including “One Step
Ahead” and “Message To My Girl.”
Singer/songwriter Charlie Parr has returned with an album that mixes his Folk roots with plenty of heart and soul. Although he may sometimes write as an observer, his songs put him square in the eye of the storm. Parr writes songs that are extremely personal yet universal at the same time. Listening to DOG, you’ll stumble across people that you feel that you already know, places that you are sure you’ve been and feelings that you most definitely have experienced. This is a world where both feet are firmly planted on the ground. You can feel the heat of the sun and smell the beer-soaked floorboards. This is an album that pulls no punches. Life is hard and then you die but in between, there is light in the darkness. However, that light may be only fleeting at times. But that is understandable because Charlie experienced some truly dark moments before making the album.
LET’S DO THIS:
Todd Rundgren talks about WHITE KNIGHT
Todd Rundgren needs no introduction. His ‘legendary’/‘iconic’ status is well-deserved. End of story.
WHITE KNIGHT, Todd’s 2017 release, finds Rundgren continuing to move forward, but this time he’s brought a few of his musical friends with him. While technically an album of collaborations, WHITE KNIGHT is most certainly not a ‘duets’ album… in the traditional sense, anyway. Every guest on the album – including Daryl Hall, Robyn, Donald Fagen (Steely Dan), Joe Walsh, Trent Reznor, Joe Satriani, Moe Berg (The
Pursuit Of Happiness), John Boutte and others – brings their own personality to the party, making each track feel different from the last. While Rundgren may be the name on the album cover, he allows every collaborator to make their presence known. Totally modern and relevant, WHITE KNIGHT still features Todd’s distinct musical thumbprint and is a pleasure from start to finish.
Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to track Todd down while on tour and have a chat about WHITE KNIGHT and the magic behind it…
While not the only lead vocalist in The Moody Blues, Justin Hayward is the most recognizable. His silky smooth voice can be heard on nearly all of their hits including “Nights In White Satin,” “Your Wildest Dreams,” “Tuesday Afternoon,” “The Voice,” and many others. One of Rock’s finest front men, Justin Hayward has also released a handful of fantastic solo albums over the years that have come and gone without much notice by commercial audiences. That is definitely a shame since Hayward always has something interesting to say and he has a lovely way of saying it.
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.
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!
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!
STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: STITCH OF THE WORLD is just about to be released. How are you feeling about the album and the journey you took to make it?
TIFT MERRITT: I’m feeling really proud of this writing, these performances. I feel really, really lucky to have worked with this cast of characters. Marc Ribot is my favorite musician and one of my favorite human beings. He’s plugged into the sun. And I am forever grateful to Sam Beam for his input and generosity. To be in conversation with him about songwriting gave me a new eye on lyrics, on what to look for in third verses, on countermelody. But honestly, I don’t know that I ever truly have perspective on my work. I just have the sense of having had a creative experience that hopefully opened me more and will inform my next creative experience. I think that is what it is all about.