Music from favs: Stones, Ringo, Neil Young

By Tom Von Malder | Oct 04, 2017
Photo by: Eagle Vision The Rolling Stones performed the whole of their "Sticky Fingers" album at just one show, which was captured on video.

Owls Head — Rolling Stones: From the Vault: Sticky Fingers Live at the Fonda Theatre 2015 (Eagle Vision, Blu-Ray + CD, 102 min., also DVD + CD and DVD + 3 LP). This release is a rare event as it features the only time the Rolling Stones have performed the  1971 "Sticky Fingers" LP in its entirety in concert. This is the fifth release in the "From the Vault" series of live concerts from the Rolling Stones' archives.

The original album, one of the Rolling Stones best, was their ninth British release, but 11th U.S. release, as releases in the two countries were not initially uniform. Recording started in December 1969, just before the band's appearance at the Altamont show tragedy. The album was not finished and released until April 1971.

Before launching into the album, the Rolling Stones open the show, as usual, with "Start Me Up," arguably the greatest opening song ever. They also play "When the Whip Comes Down" and "All Down the Line," which are included as bonus tracks on the Blu-ray disc, along with their fine cover of Otis Redding's "I Can't Turn You Loose," which was the concert's last encore.

The original album opened with "Brown Sugar," but that is moved to the last song in the performance, as it is such a high-energy number. Instead, the band opens with "Sway," a song they have rarely played live. It features very nice slide guitar by Ronnie Wood on his Gibson Les Paul. After this, the video intersperses interviews with the band members -- singer Mick Jagger, guitarists Wood and Keith Richards and drummer Charlie Watts -- between several of the songs. There even is a brief interview with Joe Dallesandro, who was the underwear and jeans model for the original album's cover. (Original vinyl copies had a working zipper on the front cover, which was replicated in the recent anniversary reissue box.)

Jagger occasionally plays guitar, including on the bluesy "Dead Flowers," which features Chuck Leavell on piano. After the countryish "Wild Horses" (a personal favorite), Richards and Jagger talk about the album's drug references, as a lead-in to "Sister Morphine," another rarely performed song. It was co-written with Marianne Faithfull, whose own version was banned in England. Again, Wood's slide guitar, dark and heavy, is highlighted. Richards plays 12-string guitar on the cover of Mississippi Fred McDowell's "You Gotta Move," with Jagger encouraging the crowd to sing the wordless part on an extended ending.

Jagger and Richards then talk about the contributions of late sax player Bobby Keyes to the album, particularly on the songs "Bitch" and "Can't You Hear Me Knocking," whose second half is an extended jam with a Latin jazz groove. The albums does have several slow songs, among them is "Moonlight Mile," on which Jagger plays guitar. Then comes "Brown Sugar," which Jagger said would be his one song to take along if he were stranded on an island. Personally, I prefer "Jumpin' Jack Flash," the second encore song, after the band plays tribute to B.B. King, who had died a week earlier, by performing his "Rock Me Baby." Grade: A+

Ringo: Give More Love (UMe CD, 52:44). The eternal optimist and former Beatle returns with another album of "up" tunes, backed by an all-star cast (many of whom tour or have toured as part of Ringo's All-Starrs), including former Beatles mate Paul McCartney on bass and backing vocals for tracks "We're on the Road Again" and "Show Me the Way." It is Ringo Starr's, aka Richard Starkey, 19th studio album, primarily recorded in his home studio in Los Angeles. The album has six standout tracks among the 14 and another four that are very good.

"We're on the Road Again" is a fast-paced, raucous number about touring, while "Show Me the Way" is more of a ballad. Ringo wrote both with Toto guitarist Steve Lukather, who plays guitar and keyboards on both. Timothy B. Schmit (Eagles, Poco) sings backup vocals on the latter, as well as on "Laughable" and the title track. Interestingly, Peter Frampton, who had a hit called "Show Me the Way," does not appear on that named track, but rather on "Laughable," which he co-wrote with Ringo. Frampton plays guitar and sings backup on the song, in which the singer asks if he should go back to bed because things are so bad. Both Frampton and Lukather play guitar on "Speed of Sound," another uptempo number, with Frampton doing his famous Talkbox guitar bit.

"King of the Kingdom," co-written with Van Dyke Parks (lyricist for the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson), is about a woman being the king of the kingdom. It features a very nice tenor sax solo by Edgar Winter, has a bit of a reggae beat and quotes Bob Marley's "One Love," albeit reversing the order of the two short phrases. Joe Walsh (also an Eagle) plays guitar on "Electricity," while Winter contributes piano to the old-timey rock of "Shake It Up." The title track is one of those songs one starts singing along with right away, while "So Wrong for So Long," co-written with Dave Stewart (ex-Eurythmics) leans toward country with Greg Leisz's pedal steel guitar.

The CD ends with Ringo revisiting four of his previous recordings, including a new version of "Back Off Boogaloo" that uses parts of his original demo version's vocals, placed in a new Jeff Lynne (ELO, the Traveling Wilburys with the just-passed Tom Petty) arrangement. Ringo added new drums and Walsh plays slide guitar. Also revisited are the hits, "Pass Me By" and "Photograph." Grade: A-

Dead Boys: Still Snotty: Young Loud and Snotty at 40 (Plowboy CD, 25:12). Speaking of revisiting the past, the Dead Boys have re-recorded their debut album. According to lead guitarist Cheetah Chrome in a press release, "The original album was actually a demo. None of us had been in a studio before, and we figured we would go back in and do it right, but the label said no. It has stood up, but 40 years later we can do a 'What if?' What would it have sounded like if we could have gone back in? So that’s what this is about. It’s not better. It’s just different."

Formed in 1976 in Cleveland, Ohio, the Dead Boys were one of the pioneers of American punk music, along with the New York Dolls, The Ramones and Richard Hell & the Voidoids. The original Dead Boys were led by the late Stiv Bators (lead vocals), with Chrome (lead guitar), Johnny Blitz (drums), Jimmy Zero (rhythm guitar) and Jeff Magnum (bass,) until the group broke up in 1979. Bators, in 1981, formed the successful The Lords of the New Church. The Dead Boys released two albums, 1977’s "Young Loud and Snotty" and the following year’s "We Have Come for Your Children." In the mid-1980s, the Dead Boys reunited for several gigs; but the band broke up again after Bators’ death in 1990. Two brief reunions took place in the mid-2000s.

Early this year, Chrome decided to re-form the band with Blitz and new members Jason Kottwitz (guitar), Ricky Rat (bass) and Jason Hout (lead vocals). They toured the album in its entirety. The audience response inspired Chrome and the band to re-record the album. The new version opens with the anthemic "Sonic Reducer," followed by "All This and More," one of two songs, along with "Down in Flames," that mention Dead Boys in the lyrics. "Not Anymore" lets up on the throttle, while the rocking "Ain't Nothin' To Do" is guitar filled. Two songs, "Caught with the Meat in Your Mouth" and "I Need Lunch," deal with food, the latter is filled with power chords. The album closes with the pounding beat of "Down in Flames." Grade: B

Neil Young: Hitchhiker (Reprise CD, 33:41). On Aug. 11, 1976, fueled with drugs and booze, Young spent an evening recording new songs with just his acoustic guitar and harmonica. That album has remained unreleased until now, as Young felt his vocals, which he said sounded "pretty stony," were not good enough. Eight of the 10 songs eventually found their way onto his future albums, between then and 2010. For example, both "Pocahontas" and "Ride My Llama" (aka the Alamo song) appeared nearly unchanged on 1979's "Rust Never Sleeps." However, this version of "Powderfinger is very stripped down and lacks the dominating electric guitar on the later version. The title track was not on an album until "Le Noise" (2010). It recalls "Tonight's the Night" with its weed- and cocaine-fueled drive around the country.

The two previously unreleased songs are "Hawaii," about an encounter with a stranger seeking directions and with the chorus of the title nearly yodeled, and "Give Me Strength," a heartsick ballad, which Young often played in his live shows. The disc also has a gentle "Human Highway," the solid "Campaigner" (with amusing lyric: "even Richard Nixon has got soul") and closes with "The Old Country Waltz," a plaintive song that would later open the album "American Stars 'n Bars." Grade: B+

Michael Jackson: Scream (Epic/Legacy CD, 69:31). This new compilation has sort of a Halloween theme, with 13 of the late pop star's most danceable tracks. This is particularly true of the first two, "This Place Hotel, " a Jacksons' track that features ghostly backing vocals, and the classic "Thriller," of the wonderful melody and Vincent Price narration. Later, "Threatened" uses some of Rod Serling's "Twilight Zone" narration, while "Blood on the Dance Floor" just sounds deadly. The only "new" track here is a White Panda mash-up of five songs, called "Blood on the Dance Floor X Dangerous." It is underwhelming, however.

Three other highlights are "Dirty Diana," with its down and dirty sound; The Jacksons' "Torture"; and Rockwell's hit, "Somebody's Watching Me," which features Jackson on the choruses. Jackson's only duet with his sister Janet, "Scream," is included. A glow-in-the-dark vinyl version will be available Oct. 27. The enclosed poster  and cover art conceal the first ever AR (augmented reality) experience created for a Michael Jackson project. Grade: A-

Sam Moore: An American Patriot (Bullseye Music CD, 36:33). Talk about good timing, Moore, who catapulted to international fame as the lead voice of the 1960s duo, Sam & Dave, a musical collaboration with long-time partner and fellow Georgia native, Dave Prater, issues an album of patriotic songs as controversy rages over NFL players and other athletes not standing at attention during the playing of "The Star Spangled Banner" prior to games. Of course, Moore includes that song, as well as an "America the Beautiful" that includes three of the four verses (he leaves out the one about pilgrims).

As Sam & Dave, the duo recorded and performed together for 20 years and produced a string of hit albums, with a tune written, arranged and produced by Isaac Hayes that cemented Moore’s place in music history. In 1967, 50 years ago, Hayes wrote "Soul Man," which Sam & Dave recorded that same year. The song became responsible for a resurgence in Moore’s popularity, after Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi assumed the characters of Elwood and Jake Blues, hopped into the Bluesmobile and took up a career singing the blues as The Blues Brothers, with "Soul Man" as their signature song.

After a storied career with Prater, Moore has spent the past 35 years enjoying a long solo career, recording with some of the biggest names in numerous genres of music, including Conway Twitty, with whom he recorded the hit, “Rainy Night in Georgia.” In 1992, Moore was inducted, along with the deceased Prater, into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, capping a career that included a Grammy, honors from the Vocal Music Hall of Fame, the Grammy Hall of Fame, and the Rhythm and Blues Foundation. Sam was the recipient of the first ever MOBO Living Legends Honor, and he received the NARAS Hero Award in 2003 and an AFTRA AMEE Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010.

In addition to "America the Beautiful," highlights include "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," which turns up the heat in the second half; the country-spanning lyrics of Lee Melvin Greenwood's "God Bless the USA"; a cover of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On"; and the new song, "Land of the Free," probably sung from the viewpoint of a soldier stationed overseas. Another new song is "Show for You," co-written with Tony Rogers. Moore's version of John Lennon's "Imagine" starts simply, and "Peace Please" has a bigger beat and horns, with a female shouting on the later chorus as it incorporates gospel music elements. Moore also sings Irving Berlin's "God Bless America," including the rarely used opening verse. The only disappointment for me was the rather bland arrangement of "The Star Spangled Banner." Grade: B+

Lynn Drury: Rise of the Fall (CSB Roxy Music CD, 54:29). This is Drury's eighth album overall, but first to see a national release. Recorded in New Orleans at Music Shed Studios, the 12-song collection of Mississippi grit and New Orleans groove encompasses country, folk, rock, pop and classic New Orleans R&B. "Different elements came out," Drury said in a press release. "A little folk and country. And the stuff we did at the end is more rocking, live-sounding."

Coining her music "NOLAmericana," the Mississippi native who has lived in New Orleans for more than a decade, Drury soaked up the Crescent City’s special vibe and tempo. "If you’re living in New Orleans," Drury said, "even if you’re a country artist or a folk artist, there’s a rhythm that infuses everything you do. When you walk down the street, you see brass bands, second line parades. All of that influences me."

Drury produced "Rise of the Fall" herself, a challenge she had not assumed since her early recordings. "I didn’t always get want I wanted from some of my earlier producers," she said. "It’s challenging being a woman in the industry. Communicating your wishes to a lot of males can be sometimes be tough." She later gave co-producer credit to René Coman, bassist with the New Orleans Latin-rock band the Iguanas and band leader for the "Rise of the Fall" sessions.

"René loves my music,” she said."Even if he wasn’t playing, he’d be there in the studio. He was my sounding board. He gave me the courage to do this."

Joining Drury (vocals/acoustic guitar/tambourine/clarinet) and Coman (bass) in the studio were Chris Adkins (lead guitars/slide/12-string), Chris Pylant (drums/backing vocals), Derek Huston (saxophone), Jack Craft (cello), Sam Craft (violin), Jake Gold (Hammond B3), Trevor Brooks (B3 on "Lifetime"/pianos), Arséne DeLay (backing vocals on "Water Your Words").

Highlights include "Lifetime of Living," with its rolling tempo and bit of organ towards the end; the bluesy "Anniversary," about a husband who forgets his; the countryish "Cold Feet" (also dipping into country are "Water Your Words" and "Taking All the Good People"); the nicely flowing "What Good is the Rain," with an appealing vocal; the melancholy, but nice title track; the jaunty "Tuesday Lover," which features more of a beat; and the very New Orleans-sounding "I Need You." The album closes with "Shutter," a call for one to let loose emotions that are being kept inside. Grade: B

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