While The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who and The Kinks may have received more press coverage over the years, there is no denying that The Moody Blues are one of the greatest British Rock bands of all time. From their rough and raw R&B roots in the mid ‘60s to their Symphonic Rock masterpieces in the latter part of that decade, The Moody Blues reinvented themselves while also inventing Progressive Rock. Their continued success throughout the ‘70s, ‘80s, and beyond has ensured that new generations of fans have been able to experience their well-crafted Rock and Pop first hand. The simple fact that they are not in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame is an embarrassment to Rock Music itself.
One of the band’s driving forces, Justin Hayward, composed and sang the band’s biggest commercial hits (“Nights In White Satin,” “Your Wildest Dreams,” “Tuesday Afternoon,” etc.) and has managed to balance a solo career in between his Moody Blues commitments. Hayward remains an exceptional songwriter nearly 50 years after he scored his first Moodies milestone (“Nights In White Satin”) and is arguably one of the finest vocalists in British Rock/Pop history. Though not a prolific artist these days, Hayward’s solo material is just as emotionally powerful as anything he has released with The Moody Blues. Under-appreciated by mainstream press for too long, Justin Hayward certainly deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Ray Davies and Pete Townshend if not Jagger/Richards or Lennon/McCartney.
Released just weeks apart, there are two Justin Hayward titles that focus on his solo material… with just a pinch of The Moody Blues to entice you. The first, ALL THE WAY, is a CD that collects fifteen solo recordings and offers a great introduction into his non-Moodies catalog. The second release is a most excellent DVD, LIVE IN CONCERT AT THE CAPITOL THEATRE. Filmed in 2014 during Justin’s tour for his SPIRITS OF THE WESTERN SKY album, the DVD finds Justin in great form performing solo and Moodies hits with equal amounts of love and passion. Aided by guitarist Mike Dawes and keyboardist/backing vocalist Julie Ragins, this trio breathes new life into Hayward’s back catalog including some of his biggest and best-known tracks. To see an artist perform a fifty year old song with as much conviction as a new composition is inspiring.
Expertly captured by director/film-maker/composer David Minasian, LIVE IN CONCERT AT THE CAPITOL THEATRE is a warm and wonderful experience to behold. As an added bonus, the DVD features the video to the brand new song “The Wind Of Heaven,” which is also featured on the ALL THE WAY CD collection. The beautifully photographed “Wind of Heaven” music video, co-directed by David Minasian and Trinity Houston, is a prelude to an upcoming major motion picture by the same producing duo. The song itself is a rare collaboration for Justin who co-wrote the epic piece with David. Justin, who readily admits he’s never really been successful writing with other people, believes “The Wind of Heaven” to be one of the nicest things he’s ever done.
Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to spend some time chatting with Justin Hayward about the new DVD, The Moody Blues and more…
The Legal Matters personify the sound of Power Pop. Their music manages to include huge portions of Power Pop’s three key ingredients — melodic hooks, luscious harmonies and shimmering guitars. They also manage to squeeze in plenty of warmth, heart, and honesty. The band’s three members – Andy Reed, Chris Richards and Keith Klingensmith – are first and foremost music fans who just happen to be musicians. The three members have been making music separately for years (Andy as An American Underdog, Chris with The Subtractions and Keith and Chris with The Phenomenal Cats) but once they combined forces as The Legal Matters, they became arguably the finest indie Pop band in the U.S. Their self-titled 2014 debut album was damn near a masterpiece – a perfect blend of Beatles, Jellyfish, Teenage Fanclub and just about every other melodic Guitar Pop band you could think of. Add in some spine-tingling chord changes and lovely harmonies and it was a stunning tour-de-force-de-pop! But where do you go if you’ve already recorded one of the best indie Power Pop albums of the decade? Well, you’ll just have to ask CONRAD…
STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: PEACEFUL GHOSTS is just about to be released. How are you feeling about the journey to make the album and the way it turned out?
MATTHEW CAWS: It feels like a wonderful gift. An orchestral album is something we never would have imagined doing. When the offer came, we were right in the middle of finishing our most recent studio album, YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE, and didn’t have the bandwidth to focus on it. We learned that Calexico had been asked the year before, which led us immediately to asking our friend Martin Wenk – one of Calexico’s two trumpetists and a Nada Surf collaborator who has played on some of our songs and joined us on many tours – to produce the album for us. That entailed choosing the songs, choosing a composer/arranger and supervising the project’s development. It felt like a distant concept and then, all of a sudden, there we were in Vienna playing these songs for the conductor. Hours later the orchestra arrived. Two rehearsals after that the audience walked in!
The self-titled debut from the Jazz supergroup featuring Dave Holland
STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: The self-titled Aziza album is just about to be released. How are you feeling about the journey to make this album and the reaction to it so far?
DAVE HOLLAND: The whole process of putting together the music on this recording with these three great musicians has been a pleasure and truly inspiring. We’ve received an enthusiastic response from the audiences at our concerts and a very positive reaction from people who have heard the album.
Yes, the rumors are true: Meat Loaf’s voice is not what it used to be. Ravaged by health issues, age and time, the mighty bellower can bellow no more. On BRAVER THAN WE ARE, his distinctive and powerful voice is now a raspy rumble – more ‘Steve Forbert impersonating Leonard Cohen’ than the Meat Loaf of old. Many people are likely going to ask why Mr. Loaf decided to make this album in the first place. The answer, my friends, is passion and determination – you can’t keep an old Meat Loaf down. Remember, this is an artist that sold millions of copies of BAT OUT OF HELL (1977) a year or two after almost every label turned the project down. And then he did it again in 1993 with BAT OUT OF HELL II, an album that defied all the odds and became a huge success in the midst of the abysmal grunge invasion. In short, Meat Loaf doesn’t necessarily play it safe – he does what he does and we definitely pay attention.
TELL ME WHAT I DON’T KNOW:
“All rap music sounds the same.”
That is a statement uttered by the non-believers – those who don’t connect with the music and the messages found on the plethora of rap and hip hop releases that hit the streets throughout any given year. However, one listen to Danny Brown’s fourth album, ATROCITY EXHIBITION, will obliterate any notion that all rap/hip hop “sounds the same.” Released on the legendary Warp Records label and featuring guest appearances by Kendrick Lamar, Earl Sweatshirt, Petite Noir and B-Real (amongst others), this is one of the most original full-lengths of the year. While it may not sound like albums by acts like De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest, ATROCITY EXHIBITION is just as groundbreaking – an album that will appeal to all music lovers who like to live on the edge. On the surface, it will intrigue the listener but as they dig a little deeper, the depths of this album will lead to amazement. Peel away the layers and you’ll discover a cornucopia of musical ideas fighting for a chance to be noticed. This is an album to explore. It is a listening adventure. This is emotion in motion. It is hard-hitting yet loving and embracing at the same time. ATROCITY EXHIBITION – named after a Joy Division song! – is art for art’s sake.
Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to gather a few questions together and send them Danny Brown’s way. Danny was gracious enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer them…
Invaders Of The Art:
From Post-Punk to Dub to Jazz and back to Dub again, there are very few musical genres that have not been touched by the genius that is Jah Wobble. Born John Wardle – and christened with his stage name by none other than Sid Vicious – Wobble has defied the odds and has remained one of the most innovative and forward-thinking musicians of the Rock era. He first came to prominence in John “Johnny Rotten” Lydon’s post-Sex Pistols outfit, Public Image Ltd. After a few years of knocking about and causing musical mayhem with Lydon & Co., Wobble struck out on his own. Working with artists such as The Edge (U2) and Holger Czukay and Jaki Liebezeit (Can), he was able to expand his resume while exploring new sounds and styles. During this period, Wobble also put together his own band, Invaders Of The Heart. By the end of the ‘80s and into the ‘90s, he had become one of the most respected British musicians of his generation – entirely unpredictable yet always riveting. With Invaders Of The Heart, Wobble was able to combine World Music, Ambient, Folk and Electronica, creating a sound that was both unique and commercially successful – not an easy feat for any artist. Scoring a hit album, RISING ABOVE BEDLAM, at the beginning of the ‘90s, was a little surprising but very welcome and well-deserved. With a line-up that has evolved over time, Jah and his Invaders Of The Heart have become one of the most exciting and inspiring musical outfits in modern music. One of the most prolific artists of his generation, Jah’s work with Invaders Of The Heart is only the tip of the iceberg. As a leader or collaborator, Jah Wobble’s catalog is as deep as the music he plays. A visit to www.jahwobble.com will catch you up to date.
EVERYTHING IS NO THING, Wobble and the Invaders’ 2016 release, takes the band into an exciting dimension – Spiritual Jazz. Produced by Youth and led by Jah’s warm and emotional bass playing, the album takes the listener to new and exciting levels of ecstasy. Anyone looking for Ambient, Dub or Post-Punk will not find them here. However, the attitude and excitement of those genres can be found lurking deep within the grooves of the album. Wobble’s never-ending musical journey means that he never makes a bad record. Spiritual Jazz may not be the direction some fans of “Visions Of You” may be expecting, but open your mind and you’ll most certainly enjoy the ride. This is not music that you’ll just listen to – it is music that you will feel.
Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to toss a few questions over to Mr. Wobble, who kindly took time out to discuss EVERYTHING IS NO THING and much more…
THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE:
First things first: regardless of what you may have read elsewhere, VAXXED: FROM COVER-UP TO CATASTROPHE is not an anti-vaccination film. However, it is a very important documentary that does raise some interesting and often alarming facts about the relationship between the MMR (Measles-Mumps-Rubella) vaccine and autism. While this subject may not be new to older readers, there is a new generation of young parents who are completely unaware that this was even an issue in the recent past. And why don’t they know? The answer to that question can be found in VAXXED, one of the most controversial and misunderstood documentaries in recent memory.
Before discussing the focus of VAXXED, let’s go back a few years. In 1998, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, a British gastroenterologist, was falsely accused of starting the anti-vax movement when he – and eleven other authors – published an article in UK medical journal The Lancet. The article, which linked autism with the MMR vaccine (and not ALL vaccines), caused outrage and panic in equal measures. For reasons more complicated than I can go into (Google it!), The Lancet eventually retracted the feature, ten of the twelve authors retracted their support of the article, and Wakefield was eventually barred from practicing medicine in the UK. Flash forward to 2013 when biologist Dr. Brian Hooker received a call from Dr. William Thompson, a Senior Scientist at the U.S. Centers For Disease Control (CDC). Thompson, as it turns out, led the CDC’s 2004 study on the link between the MMR vaccine and autism. According to Thompson, the CDC omitted crucial data in their final report that revealed a “causal relationship” between the vaccine and autism. Hooker then reached out to Andrew Wakefield and the seeds of VAXXED were planted.
VAXXED: FROM COVER-UP TO CATASTROPHE is a fascinating film from beginning to end. Directed by Wakefield and produced by Emmy-winning producer (THE DOCTORS) and medical journalist Del Bigtree, the film focuses on William Thompson’s astonishing revelations about the truth behind the CDC’s findings. Thompson does not appear in the film, although his voice and the documents he turned over as evidence do, and these documents are quite startling.
The passion, belief, concern and love that went into making VAXXED is evident in every frame. However, writing about this film doesn’t do it justice. Although a documentary, VAXXED plays out like a political thriller and the viewer is left with many questions by the time the film ends. That may leave an audience angry and confused after watching a film of fiction, but for a documentary like VAXXED, it leaves the viewer with a different perspective…and the desire to see changes made. For Bigtree, Wakefield and all of those involved with this film, that is the type of reaction they are looking for. Intrigued now? Well, you SHOULD be.
Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to chat with the film’s producer, Del Bigtree, and discuss the film’s goals, the controversy surrounding it and more…
Hide The Beer, THE FLESHTONES Are Here:
In 1976, a group of friends came together somewhere in New York to play primitive Rock ‘n’ Roll inspired by the sweaty, edgy underground Garage Rock scene of the ‘60s. They called themselves The Fleshtones and by 1980, they were signed to IRS Records. Their debut EP, UP-FRONT, introduced their musical mayhem to a young audience eager to feel the flames of true Rock ‘n’ Roll burning in their soul. The Fleshtones were instantly embraced by music fans and critics as the ultimate Garage Rock outfit – unpretentious, fun-loving and party-pleasing. Led by guitarist Keith Streng and vocalist Peter Zaremba, the band’s subsequent albums for IRS were the audio equivalent of the best frat parties you ever attended – sometimes unhinged but always memorable and entertaining. With their popularity rising and a few albums in their back pocket, frontman Zaremba was chosen in ‘84 to host THE CUTTING EDGE, an influential alternative music show that aired once a month on MTV until 1987.
By the latter part of the ‘80s, The Fleshtones had left IRS but were still a popular live band. Releasing a series of indie albums over the years and constant touring kept the band busy and their fanbase happy. With a line-up that has been stable for the last twenty six years – Streng, Zaremba, drummer Bill Hilhizer (since 1980) and bassist Ken Fox (since 1990) – The Fleshtones have released a series of albums that are still rooted in Garage Rock madness. However, the quartet are not merely one-trick ponies – they’ve expanded upon their sweaty Rock ‘n’ Roll foundation and dabbled in Soul, Pop, Psyche and whatever else floats their boat. This is most evident on their 2016 platter, THE BAND DRINKS FOR FREE. Normally, a band that is celebrating their 40th Anniversary would already be on automatic pilot and putting out the same album over and over. The Fleshtones, on the other hand, are actually better songwriters now than ever – the hooks may not always snag you on first listen but by the third spin, you’ll be singing along…probably with a beer in one hand and fist pumping the air with the other. With ten originals (written by Zaremba, Streng and Fox) and two cover versions, The Fleshtones have created a hook-filled fiesta for the senses. They may not possess the drug-fueled youthful energy of yore, but that doesn’t mean that they no longer have the passion – THE BAND DRINKS FOR FREE is proof that getting older doesn’t mean your albums have to start sucking. Let the party continue on…
Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to toss a few questions over to Peter Zaremba, who graciously took time out to respond.
The Turtles scored a handful of hits in the ‘60s – songs that are still played on oldies stations nearly fifty years later – yet they seldom receive the credit they deserve. As I prepared to write this review, I just could not figure out why they aren’t held in higher esteem by the public at large. Sure, us music guys love them to death but why do they get overlooked when people talk about the great bands from the ‘60s? I mean, come on, folks! “Happy Together” is an absolute classic and now that you’ve read that two word song title, that song’s chorus is bouncing around inside your head, isn’t it? If not, you need to stop what you’re doing and allow that song to careen down your cranial caverns and make you feel good all over before you continue reading…
To be fair, The Turtles do get some recognition but just not as much as they deserve. There seems to be two different tiers when people think about the most influential ‘60s Rock bands – the first is the Beatles/Beach Boys/Rolling Stones/Kinks/Who tier while the second tier consists of ‘everybody else’. And as you know, that second tier is definitely crowded: The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and many others are up on top of that level, enjoying constant reappraisal and critical attention. However, buried amongst those fighting for a chance to breathe are The Monkees, Herman’s Hermits, Dave Clark Five, The Four Seasons and especially The Turtles.