Friday, September 30, 2011

Aragon Ballroom Chicago, IL 3/14/1997

A bootlegged concert from the 1997 tour supporting the Beautiful World album. A good show.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Beautiful World

Strategem was an unexpected failure, delivered exactly at the moment when Big Head Todd and the Monsters could have broken into the mainstream. With its follow-up, Beautiful World, the group regained its musical strengths. BHTM jam with an expert grace throughout the record, particularly with guests John Lee Hooker and Bernie Worrell, and producer Jerry Harrison helps keep things focused

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


The sleeper success of Sister Sweetly held promise for this, second major-label release. So far, the group had sold to its fan base and to a sympathetic wider audience that responded to its neo-'70s sound. Singer/songwriter/guitarist Todd Park Mohr is a near soundalike for the late Quicksilver Messenger leader Dino Valente, and his band follows the cadences and blues-folk guitar lines of the San Francisco psychedelic bands and the Southern rock bands, especially Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sister Sweetly

With guitars remaining firmly in the forefront, Colorado's Big Head Todd And The Monsters ease into their album Sister Sweetly with a laid-back gait. The best of this loping stuff - like "It's Alright" - makes for catchy, radio-ready fare, as does the more rollicking "Bittersweet." Todd Park Mohr's vocals drawl smoky and inviting. But it's not until track 10 ("Circle") that the warmly glowing embers do more than wind hypnotically around a song, finally erupting into full, flaming guitars and vocal pyrotechnics. Along the way, Big Head Todd and the Monsters touch on breezy funk ("Groove Thing") and acoustic roots ("Soul For Every Cowboy").

Monday, September 26, 2011

Midnight Radio

Midnight Radio is Big Head Todd and the Monsters' second indie album. The group was inspired by listening to board tapes of their live shows and decided to record their second album at concerts. Midnight Radio is not a live album as much as it is a record that captures the band in their element. This album prioritizes Todd Park Mohr's guitar work more than the bass or drums, but it is his skills around which the band -- and its songs -- is based. The stark recording sounds a bit tinny at times, but the material and performances make this album one of the best of the jam band genre.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Another Mayberry

That big head of Todd Park Mohr's is full of country and folk guitar licks hat give his music a relentlessly familiar feel, even if he does get his riffs secondhand from REM albums. Similarly, his husky voice and slightly slurred enunciation evoke generations of rock singers. So, his band's debut album, while pleasantly recognizable on first listen, also has trouble distinguishing itself. After a while, though, the subtlety of his lyrics becomes more apparent, and while the result isn't as impressive as, say, the Smiths, Mohr's proves to have an individual world view beyond the chiming guitar chords.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Cheap Thrills

Cheap Thrills, the major-label debut of Janis Joplin, was one of the most eagerly anticipated, and one of the most successful, albums of 1968. Joplin and her band Big Brother and the Holding Company had earned extensive press notice ever since they played the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967. it shot into the charts, reaching number one and going gold within a couple of months, and "Piece of My Heart" became a Top 40 hit and helped to propel the LP to over a million sales. Joplin, with her ear- (and vocal cord-) shredding voice, was the obvious standout. Nobody had ever heard singing as emotional, as desperate, as determined, or as loud as Joplin's, and Cheap Thrills was her greatest moment. Neither she nor the band would ever equal it. Heard today, Cheap Thrills is a musical time capsule and remains a showcase for one of rock's most distinctive singers.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Big Brother and the Holding Company

The debut, self-titled album from Big Brother and the Holding Company is an evolving paradigm. Unfortunately for Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company, the respectable performances and all of the material on this disc are undercut by a weak production that sounds rushed. The album does contain interesting studies of future classics. It was the lack of product from superstar Janis Joplin which kept putting an emphasis on this release with little else available to satisfy rabid fans who couldn't get enough of Janis.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Back Where It All Begins: Live At the Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame

On September 29, 2004, Dickey Betts and the Great Southern performed at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, setting up material that would make this project. This DVD superbly captures the glory, and has lots of bonus features to boot that make it very appealing for the fan base. Outside of the obvious, that this material is absolutely redundant and something the hardcore Allman Brothers aficionado has heard and seen a zillion times, it's still a wonderful presentation and something a casual ABB fan will pick up on and not even realize it's not the original group.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Great Twenty-Eight

This is the place to start listening to Chuck Berry. The Great Twenty-Eight was a two-LP, single CD compilation that emerged during the early '80s. It has proved to be one of the most enduring of all compilations of Berry's work.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

St. Louie to Frisco to Memphis

A double album set from Chuck Berry. The first disc is the Live at the Fillmore Auditorium album, cut with the Steve Miller Band, which was always the highlight of Berry's Mercury library, and is beyond reproach here. The second disc is more uneven, drawn from his studio albums of the period. This is not a bad collection.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The London Chuck Berry Sessions

One-half of this album is a studio recording featuring Ian McLagan and Kenny Jones of the Faces. The other half is a live recording from the Lancaster Arts Festival in Coventry, England, featuring performances of "My Ding-a-Ling" and "Reelin' and Rockin'" that, in edited form, became the first hit singles for Chuck Berry in many years. ("My Ding-a-Ling" went gold and hit #1.) This gold-selling, Top Ten album represents Berry's commercial, if not artistic, peak.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Seven the Hard Way

Seven the Hard Way continues the slick pop approach of Tropico and is benefitted by a wealth of songs written by professional songwriters. At this point, Pat Benatar and her band weren't coming up with material as catchy or memorable as "Invincible" and "Sex as a Weapon," so the presence of the pro songwriters was a blessing, not a curse.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Live from Earth

One of Pat Benatar's most famed attributes is that she performs extremely well to an audience, and no album solidifies this more than Live From Earth, with tracks taken from her 1982-1983 American and European tour at the height of Benatar's career. Not only does Benatar sound amazingly intense and vibrant, but the choice of songs for the album couldn't have been better. Live From Earth does a good job at showing off Pat Benatar's aggressive yet tamed vocal style outside of the studio.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Crimes of Passion

With Crimes of Passion, Pat Benatar escaped the dreaded sophomore slump, thanks in no small part to the song that would become the most well-known song of her career, "Hit Me with Your Best Shot." The rest of the album is mildly hit or miss, with a few moments of filler. Thankfully, Benatar avoids the synth-happy trends of the early '80s and delivers a hard rocking ten-song session of power pop tempered with a few ballads for balance.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Shapes of Things

A compilation from Jeff Beck from his early days with the Yardbirds and the Jeff Beck Group...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Best of Beck

Ever restless as a musician and constantly changing directions and trying new things, guitarist Jeff Beck is difficult to reduce to a 14-track overview, although this set probably does as well as one could at sketching in the portrait, but for folks curious about this fine guitarist and wanting a quick sampler of his work in several of his various guises, this set works fine as an introduction.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


This triple-CD set was the first attempt to survey Jeff Beck's entire career. In actual fact, that would be a hopeless task, given the amount of anonymous session work that the guitarist did circa 1964-1966, but Beckology still manages to touch a few unexpected bases, even as it strings together all of the obvious and most of the important sides in Beck's output.

Monday, September 12, 2011

MECCA Arena Milwaukee, WI 10/22/1989

Recorded live from The Fire Meets the Fury Tour with co-headliners Stevie Ray Vaughan. What I have here is Jeff Beck's set including "Going Down" with Beck jamming with the late guitarist. Good show.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Jeff Beck's Guitar Shop

Guitar Shop represents guitar hero Jeff Beck's return to the scene following his 1985 pop/rock-based recording, Flash; an outing that featured his one time lead vocalist, Rod Stewart. Essentially, this 1989 release provides Beck's ardent admirers with a power-packed outing, brimming with memorable melodies, drummer Terry Bozzio's often blistering rock drumming, and keyboardist Tony Hymas' effective synth textures. Here, Beck surges onward in altogether stunning fashion via his quirky lead lines, sweet-tempered slide guitar work, disfigured extended notes and deterministic mode of execution.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Released in 1976, Jeff Beck's Wired contains some of the best jazz-rock fusion of the period. Wired is generally more muscular, albeit less-unique than its predecessor, Blow by Blow. Within a two-year span, the twin towers Blow by Blow and Wired set a standard for instrumental rock that even Beck has found difficult to match. On Wired, with first-rate material and collaborators on hand, one of rock's most compelling guitarists is in top form.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Blow by Blow

Blow by Blow typifies Jeff Beck's wonderfully unpredictable career. Released in 1975, Beck's fifth effort as a leader and first instrumental album was a marked departure from its more rock-based predecessors. Beck's versatile soloing and diverse tones are clearly the album's focus, and he proves to be an adept rhythm player. Blow by Blow is balanced by open-ended jamming and crisp ensemble interaction as it sidesteps the bombast that sank much of the jazz-rock fusion of the period. One of the album's unique qualities is the sense of fun that permeates the performances. Blow by Blow signaled a new creative peak for Beck, and it proved to be a difficult act to follow. It is a testament to the power of effective collaboration and, given the circumstances, Beck clearly rose to the occasion. In addition to being a personal milestone, Blow by Blow ranks as one of the premiere recordings in the canon of instrumental rock music.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Beck, Bogart & Appice

One of the great things about Jeff Beck is his utter unpredictability. It's also one of the most maddening things about him, too, since it's as likely to lead to flights of genius as it is to weird detours like Beck, Bogart & Appice. It's hard to tell what exactly attracted Beck to the rhythm section of Vanilla Fudge and Cactus -- perhaps he just wanted to rock really loud and really hard, beating Led Zeppelin at their own game. Whatever the motivation, the end result was the same -- a leaden album, with occasional interesting guitar work smothered by heavy riffs and rhythms that don't succeed on a visceral level. It's a loud, lumbering record that may be of interest for Beck archivists, provided they want to hear absolutely everything he did.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Jeff Beck Group

Continuing with the same group lineup as on Rough and Ready, Jeff Beck Group was slagged off by critics for the admittedly lazy production. However, several of the songs hold up masterfully.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Rough and Ready

Recouping after a car crash and faced with the loss of Rod Stewart and Rod Wood, Jeff Beck redefined what the Jeff Beck Group was about, deciding to tone down the bluesy bombast, adding keyboardist Max Middleton for a jazz edge, then having Bob Tench sing to give it an overblown early-'70s AOR edge.

Monday, September 5, 2011


When it was originally released in June 1969, Beck-Ola, the Jeff Beck Group's second album, featured a famous sleeve note on its back cover: "Today, with all the hard competition in the music business, it's almost impossible to come up with anything totally original. So we haven't. However, this disc was made with the accent on heavy music. So sit back and listen and try and decide if you can find a small place in your heads for it." Beck was reacting to the success of peers and competitors like Cream and Led Zeppelin here, bands that had been all over the charts with a hard rock sound soon to be dubbed heavy metal, and indeed, his sound employs much the same brand of "heavy music" as theirs, with deliberate rhythms anchoring the beat, over which the guitar solos fiercely and the lead singer emotes. But he was also preparing listeners for the weakness of the material on an album that sounds somewhat thrown together.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Despite being the premiere of heavy metal, Jeff Beck's Truth has never quite carried its reputation the way the early albums by Led Zeppelin did, or even Cream's two most popular LPs, mostly as a result of the erratic nature of the guitarist's subsequent work. Time has muted some of its daring, radical nature, elements of which were appropriated by practically every metal band (and most arena rock bands) that followed. Truth was almost as groundbreaking and influential a record as the first Beatles, Rolling Stones, or Who albums.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Let It Be...Naked

Of all the Beatles albums, none has garnered as much controversy and speculation as Let It Be. Released as their final album in May 1970, the record began its life as a back-to-basics affair called Get Back, which was intended to show the Beatles as a stripped-down rock & roll band after the excesses of Sgt. Pepper's and The White Album. This is an interpretation of the Let It Be sessions, which has been marred by various producers. Let It Be...Naked is the stripped down version of it.

Friday, September 2, 2011


If there's any complaint, it's that even if it's nice to have something like this, it's not really essential. There's really no reason for anyone who owns all the records to get this too -- if you've lived happily without the red or blue albums, you'll live without this. But, if you give this to any six or seven year old, they'll be a pop fan, even fanatic, for life. And that's reason enough for it to exist.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Anthology 3

The final installment of the Anthology series has two discs of previously unreleased material from the White Album era through the group's demise in early 1970. In terms of sheer listenability, this may be the strongest volume of the three, if only because it focuses almost solely upon studio recordings rather than mixing live concerts/broadcasts and outtakes. Also, by this time The Beatles had perfected their approach to recording, meaning that even the early/alternate versions of many of their cuts were often of outstanding quality.