Friday, December 29, 2023

Year In Review 2023 - Favorite Albums of 2023

Here are our all of our favorite albums of 2023. This is the year end review, all in one place.

Below are our picks for RtBE's favorite albums of the year. It starts with our honorable mentions then moves into our top ten albums of the year. There is a short blurb about the album and a song from it, click on the title to read our full review of the selected records. The focus here is on full albums, not singles, but long playing releases you can slap on and listen to all the way through.

We worked with the Glide Staff on their list as well, so there may be a few overlaps if you read that already. 

We also took some time to discuss our favorite album artwork, our favorite archive/live album releases and favorite live shows from the year if you are interested.   

Thanks for reading. Until next year....

Live Streams: Bob Weir and The Wolf Brothers December 29th, 30th, 31st @ Broward Center of Performing Arts

We are now heading into the new normal with live music during the Covid-19 and beyond era. Live shows will need to be flexible and live streaming is a great way to keep music going. Streams have become essential for live music junkies like RtBE. Things are (hopefully) improving on the pandemic front but live streams will be an option for artists during the foreseeable future. We will highlight various shows/streams/virtual events for your viewing and listening pleasure and as a way to help out the artists. You can check out our weekly Full Show Friday series for concerts from the past and as always, please support the artists any which way you can.

Today we feature: Bob Weir and The Wolf Brothers December 29th, 30th, 31st @ Broward Center of Performing Arts

The Wolf Brothers are streaming their New Years run on Fans starting tonight, so grab tix now.

To get in the mood here is some live Wolf Brothers from a few weeks back:

Full Show Friday: Wilco - Live From Brooklyn Steel - 10/13/2019 - Brooklyn, NY

We search the murky back waters of youtube to find full concerts and post them to the site weekly, come back every seven days to help us celebrate Full Show Friday's. These shows are of varying quality and may not be here for long so enjoy them while you can...As always, please support the artist every which way, but especially by seeing them live (if they are still playing)...This week...Wilco!

RtBE ends our Full Show Friday series for 2023 with Wilco - Live From Brooklyn Steel - 10/13/2019 - Brooklyn, NY. Enjoy!

01 - Bright Leaves - 02:04 02 - Before Us - 3:31 03 - Company In My Back - 7:02 04 - War On War - 11:03 05 - One and a Half Stars - 14:35 06 - Handshake Drugs - 18:44 07 - You and I - 25:18 08 -  Hummingbird - 28:48 Comedy act by Jeff - 32:26 09 - Someone to Lose - 33:48 10 - White Wooden Cross - 37:38 11 - Via Chicago - 41:00 12 - Laminated Cat - 46:35 13 - Random Name Generator - 53:58 14 - On and on and On - 58:19 15 - We Were Lucky - 1:02:50 16 - Love Is Everywhere (Beware) - 1:08:05 Comedy act by Jeff - 1:11:49 17 - Impossible Germany - 1:12:42 18 - Box Full of Letters - 1:22:00 Comedy act by Jeff - 1:25:24 19 - Everyone Hides - 1:26:22 20 - I’m Always in Love - 1:29:40 21 - Heavy Metal Drummer - 1:34:04 22 - I’m the Man Who Loves You - 1:37:10 Comedy act by Jeff - 1:41:30 23 - Hold Me Anyway - 1:43:01 24 - Misunderstood - 1:47:20 Encore 25 - En Empty Corner - 1:56:20 26 - Red-Eyed and Blue - 2:01:44 27 - I Got You (At the End of the Century) - 2:04:04 28 - Outta Mind (Outta Sight) - 2:07:57 29 - I’m a Wheel - 2:10:49

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Album Review: Neil Young - Before and After

Neil Young
Before and After
**and1/2 out of *****

After a few years of new music, 2023 was a retrospective year for Neil Young who released three albums and toured, yet, there were no new songs. One album was a live release with Crazy Horse from the mid-70's and two albums were reimagining's or sorts. The first, Chrome Dreams, just made official what longtime fans have already bootlegged/owned for years with no changes, while Before and After is an acoustic reworking of some songs from Young's immense back catalog

Played and recorded as an extension of his July solo tour, the album finds Neil playing straight through a few lesser loved numbers with just harmonica, guitar, piano, and pump organ as he ambulates with relaxed energy, singing in that same style. At 78 his voice is a bit distant and a touch shaky, but it was that same way when he was 28. 

The recording is personal and fresh, sounding live as he digs into some Buffalo Springfield songs like "Burned" and "On The Way Home" which work well in this fashion as bright acoustic strums mix with vibrating harmonica. "Homefires" is a quick workout while "Birds" loses a touch of it's majesty in this stripped down piano version. The pump organ gets a work out on the deep "If You Got Love" (which sounds like a sturdier Daniel Johnston tune) before "Mother Earth" groans and wobbles while "A Dream That Can Last" sounds bright with nimble piano work. 

Bob Rice adds vibraphone to both "My Heart" and "When I Hold You In My Arms" mixing up the sound a touch. "Comes A Time" is simple straight ahead folk like the original, while one of the oldest songs here, "Mr. Soul" starts ominously and never gets the garage rocking heights it has hit in the past, and it almost seems like it was recorded live, as those faint cheers in there, or just a creaking pump organ?  

The truth is, fans of Uncle Neil will tell you the originals of these songs are all better, so hopefully these scaled down versions will lead new listeners to those. Opener "I'm The Ocean" is the great underrated rocker in Neil's catalog that needs to be heard more than anything. Jack Irons drums the hell out of the original song and the rest of Pearl Jam give a whole different inspiration to Young than Crazy Horse that is vitally exciting as Young runs with it in this song directly into the unknown; check out the original. 

With the release of Before and After there are parallels that can be drawn to Bob Dylan's Shadow Kingdom, but with Dylan the changes/musicality were the draws, here things are scaled back intentionally. There is nothing inherently wrong with this album, yet nothing that needs to be heard either, it is just a pleasant acoustic stroll through some deeper cuts from one of the best to do it. 
Support the artist, buy the album, peep some video below:

Album Review: Bob Dylan - The Complete Budokan 1978

Bob Dylan 
The Complete Budokan 1978
***and1/2 out of *****

Time has a funny way of playing tricks on you. When I first started getting into Bob Dylan on a serious level, Live at Budokan was the first album I randomly grabbed from a record store. It was on sale...with stunk. 

Being new to Dylan, I filed it away and very rarely (meaning never) went back to it. Now comes The Complete Budokan 1978 and with decades of fandom, over thirty live shows, and countless hours listening to various iterations of the chameleon who is Bob Dylan, this release sounds immensely better. This is not for new fans, and will never be his best period of performing, but I no longer think it is his worst, which is a huge turnaround. 

Simply put Dylan needed money in 1978 after years of The Rolling Thunder tour, his failed movie Renaldo and Clara and his divorce. He hooked up with Jerry Weintraub who in the late 70's worked with Elvis to reinvigorate his career in Las Vegas and that is clearly where both Weintraub and Dylan took their inspiration. These songs, some of his most well known, are done with overblown pomp and circumstance on every level. 

The cheese factor is certainly high throughout, but now it is common place for Bob to completely re-work his songs each tour with varying degrees of success. It could be argued Rolling Thunder was the start of his reinvention and that this '78 tour captured here is the second iteration of those reinventions, with his third coming shortly after this release when he was born again. Listening to The Complete Budokan 1978 in that mind frame does elevate the proceedings a bit as this release captures a remixed, and remastered, two nights in Japan (February 28th and March 1st 1978).  

Dylan used a large, extended band for this tour: Steve Douglas — saxophone, flute, recorder Steven Soles — acoustic guitar, backing vocals David Mansfield — pedal steel guitar, violin, mandolin, dobro, guitar Billy Cross — lead guitar Alan Pasqua — keyboards Rob Stoner — bass, backing vocals Ian Wallace — drums Bobbye Hall — percussion Debi Dye, Jo Ann Harris, Helena Springs —backing vocals.  

This overloaded stage set up starts things each night with an upbeat, weird, instrumental version of "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall". This let's the listener know things are going to be a bit different throughout, what isn't that different is the two nights presented here. Just a few songs differ from night to night and overall the energy is much better from the first show, 2/28. As a release, it can be a bit repetitive, but the sound and remastering do brighten things up from the original. 

The second song from each set shows Bob stretching out already, each night finds the band playing a blues cover to get the show rolling. "Repossession Blues" is up first with scratchy guitars and strong, clear singing from Bob while the second night was "Love Her with a Feeling" which slowed the pace and got the band locked in. With Dylan's history, these more obscure numbers were probably where he would have liked to stay and explore with the band, but this tour was about the hits and those followed each night in vastly different forms from their original recordings.  

Some of the more successful iterations presented in this showtune format are a reimagined "Shelter From The Storm" that shines bright with Douglas' sax, "Ballad of a Thin Man" which ups the energy and intensity of the original, the gospel swelling of "I Shall Be Released", an upbeat string/flute filled take on "Love Minus Zero/No Limit", the crazy almost disco version of "Maggie's Farm" and "One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)" which threatens to go completely bonkers. The best of the whole bunch may just be "Oh Sister" which uses an ominous start, squirrely guitars, background ooh and aahs, hand drums, and a jamming sax solo, all in the vein of War.  

His finale on both nights also recalls another artist big in '78, Bruce Springsteen. Both "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" and "Forever Young" go heavily dramatic with theatrical musicality, over the top singing from Dylan, sax work and strings. It is odd to hear Dylan moving in a Springsteen direction and while unique versions, something just doesn't feel right about them.  

The majority of the performances here fall into that middle-of-the-road category with some pluses and minuses. "I Threw It All Away" has passionate singing and the sax work is nice, but overly is just a touch too cheesy, as is "You're a Big Girl Now" and "Is Your Love in Vain?". Dylan's mix of over singing and delicate passages almost works on "I Want You" while the light reggae and flute work of "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" and the mandolin lead on  "The Man In Me" are both interesting, but fall a bit short as complete efforts. The full on reggae, flutes, hand drums and insane percussion is also a bit much on "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" but the kitchen sink aspect of it all makes for a thought provoking listen.   

The glitzy white suits, flamboyant arraignments and overblown nonsense is obviously present throughout and that overkill sinks a few of his best known songs. Nothing can save this rendition of "Mr. Tambourine Man", "Blowin' in the Wind" is a complete drag in this arraignment, and "All I Really Want to Do" is Velveeta laced big band nonsense from the start; all pretty unlistenable and presented twice here. That said, longtime fans will still find enough interesting moments to make this remaster worth listening to. Efforts like "Going, Going, Gone" and "One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below)" have a work in progress feel, very much like his current touring rearrangements. 

Revisiting Dylan's more critically reviled releases have caused people to think about those albums differently. Another Self Portrait was eye opening and added depth to Self Portrait, Trouble No More showed Dylan's true passion during his Jesus years, and Springtime in New York added to his early 80's output. The beauty of Dylan is you can always find something new in his work. 

Sure, The Complete Budokan 1978 will probably not top anyone's list of Dylan albums, but it pulled the original off the bottom of mine and makes for a unique deviation in his career. Now, in a few years if Bob and company re-release and can get me to reevaluate Knocked Out Loaded and Down in the Groove they will have pulled off a miracle.   

Support the artist, buy the album, peep some video below:

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Album Review: Sonic Youth - Live in Brooklyn 2011

Sonic Youth
Live in Brooklyn 2011
**** out of *****

The final US show the fantastic Sonic Youth ever played is captured on this special release as the August 12th 2011 Williamsburg, NYC Waterfront set from the noise rock legends is now available on vinyl from Silver Current Records. 

Having attended this show, which at the time no one knew would be the bands last, there was a sense of something special in the air. The previous few years found the band revisiting past albums with strong shows, but this career ranging affair was unique and powerfully played. Lovingly captured here, this gorgeous night from the hometown band will now live on. 

The setlist was created by drummer Steve Shelley and as he explains it:
“This show was a culmination of a run of really special outdoor summertime shows in New York City for us, starting in ’92 with Summerstage in Central Park when we played with Sun Ra. For the Williamsburg Waterfront show I wrote out the set list to present to the band and it was a lot of material we hadn’t played in a while, a lot of deep cuts, so I wasn’t sure if everybody would feel like doing it. After worrying about which songs the band might say yes or no to, I threw those concerns out the window and I just made a list of songs that I thought would be a great set. We practiced the week of the show at our space in Hoboken and put the set together. First we’d try and make sure we had a guitar in the song’s tuning, then we’d try to remember the arrangement and try and put it together, sometimes re-learning bar by bar. In the end I think the whole song list made it through. Even as early as ’86 and ’87 we stopped playing ‘Death Valley 69’ and ‘Brave Men Run’ with any regularity. We’d just get excited about new material coming into the set and songs would get ‘retired’ and wouldn’t get played again for years. So on this particular night in Brooklyn a lot of those retired songs and deep cuts got dusted off and played for this show. It turned out to be a pretty special event with a really special song list.”
The band (Kim Gordon - voc, gtr Mark Ibold - Bass Thurston Moore - voc, gtr Lee Ranaldo - voc, gtr Steve Shelley - drums) tore into this old material right off the bat with that combo of "Brave Men Run (In My Family) > "Death Valley ’69" deploying scratchy layers of guitars, feedback, rumbling low end, and desperate vocals to recall the groups early noise days with passion and energy. 

Another old warhorse noise number "Kotton Krown" found Moore singing the prophetic words for this night, "New York City is forever, kitty I'm wasted in time and you're never ready Fading, fading, celebrating". Shelley puts his powerful drums to work with the head banging "Kill Yr. Idols" while Ranaldo gets the crowd revved up to go on "Eric's Trip". The muscle car guitars and motoring sounds continue for "Sacred Trickster", the cataclysmic "Calming The Snake", and the grooving "What We Know" all off of the bands final album (the underrated The Eternal), these were the newest song played on this evening, yet all fit in with the deep cuts/classics wonderfully.    

Speaking of deep cuts, "Starfield Road" is up next with crushing bass from Ibold, while the free jazz gets rolled out for the extended screeching and pounding of old school tunes "I Love Her All The Time" and "Ghost Bitch" from the early days of SY. The slow burn of "Tom Violence" builds with sexy power while the unhinged screaming guitars and Gordon's strong vocals slam on "Drunken Butterfly" ending the main set of tunes. 

The encores on this night were special as the group continued to delve into their past with feminist force of "Flower" and a rare "Psychic Heart" from Moore's solo career. Both were nice, but it was a gorgeous rendition of the band's "Sugar Kane" that really hit the sold out summer crowd squarely in the chest, the highlight of the whole night. 

Feeling extra giving the band returned for a second encore that saw them dig deep and unleash the chugging, noise rock blast of "Inhuman", ending the night, and basically their whole career, on loud clanging feedback, just the way these legends should.  

On a personal note, Sonic Youth are one of our all-time favorite acts, and  RtBE has owned an audience taped copy of this show since it happened, so the music is well loved to these ears. It is nice to now own a soundboard recording on vinyl, but it is also bitter sweet as the band was still kicking ass at such a high artistic level when they broke up. It is another reminder, like with the recently broken up Screaming Females, enjoy this amazing music live while you can. 

Support the artists, buy the album and peep some video below:

Album Review: Duane Betts - Wild & Precious Life

Duane Betts
Wild & Precious Life
*** out of *****

The debut solo album from Duane Betts, Wild & Precious Life is his throwback to the bygone days of rock, with obvious (and not so obvious) influences along the way.  

Depicted as a tribute album to the Florida sound he remembers in his youth, Betts and his touring band  (Johnny Stachela Guitars, Berry Duane Oakley Bass Guitar, Background Vocals, John Ginty Hammond B-3 Organ, Piano, Tyler Greenwell Drums, Percussion) set up shop in Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks Swamp Raga Studio in Jacksonville, recording everything live in studio and keeping the best takes. 

Even if you missed Betts' name, it would be impossible to miss The Allman Brothers Band's influence on these songs as Betts guitar playing, tone, and songwriting all recall the classic outfit. Betts' strength is his guitar playing, but he is never showy on Wild & Precious Life, wanting the songs to take center stage. It is a noble effort but Betts lives for the live stage and the jam, which is hard to capture on record.

The best efforts have that vital spark, starting with the opener "Evergreen" an upbeat southern rocker with great organ work from Ginty, that works well before an electric trumpet enters the scene from John Reid, pushing the song up to new levels; when it fades out it leaves you wanting more in this vein. The other album focal point is the extended "Saints To Sinners" which contains Betts best lyrics as well as some killer extended guitar takes. 

Those guitar excursions get some extra strength on the back of a few choice guests as Trucks helps out on "Stare at the Sun", which is also excellently pushed along by drums and bass, while Marcus King adds some roadhouse riffs to the bluesy rocker "Cold Dark World". Betts guitar highlights the easy rolling "Colors Fade" while the motoring "Waiting On A Song" pushes upbeat piano work and southern rock in very familiar fashion. 

The group delivers a few solid slices of songs in this style, but things can seem a bit redundant as "Forrest Lane" is fine, just not very exciting, while "Sacred Ground" never reaches the heights it is searching for. However, one of the more interesting shifts arrives on "Under The Bali Moon" which uses a different drum sound, in almost a drum machine/hip-hop fashion, around some very jazz inspired playing that clearly takes the Allmans inspiration and melds it in a new and interesting way.     

The album wraps with a shift in styles as acoustic guitars, weepy pedal steel, and more excellent piano work eases the record to close and showcases a lighter side of Betts and the band. Forging his own route with a clear foot in the sounds that shaped him, Duane Betts' Wild & Precious Life is a solid solo debut.   
Support the artist, buy the album and peep some video below:

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Album Review: Willie Nelson - Bluegrass

Willie Nelson 
*** out of *****

The second album released in 2023 from the 90 year old Willie Nelson is a reinterpretation of his back catalog in the vein of the title, Bluegrass. While not vital, it contains some sweet twists on classics, a few surprises, and overall is an easy rolling breeze of a listen with twang and soulfulness.   

Perhaps the most surprising thing about Bluegrass is that this is the first album Nelson has not played his trademark guitar Trigger on since he bought the acoustic warhorse. Nelson sticks to singing (and his 90 year old voice sounds fine), while the instrumentation was captured mostly live in Nashville by a crack band. They include, Barry Bales – upright bass, Wyatt Beard – background vocals, Ron Block – banjo, Buddy Cannon – background vocals, Melonie Cannon – background vocals, Aubrey Haynie – fiddle, Rob Ickes – dobro, Josh Martin – acoustic guitar, Mickey Raphael – harmonica, Seth Taylor – mandolin, Bobby Terry – acoustic guitar, gut string guitar, Dan Tyminski – mandolin. 

Opening with the smooth "No Love Around" the tone is set, twangy playing mixed with restrained singing of some of Nelson's classics. The swaying "Somebody Pick Up My Pieces" features nice picking around Nelsons great lyrics and softer vocals while "Good Hearted Woman" is a relaxed hoedown that proves to be an album highlight.  

Less successful is the slow, weepy fiddle and guitars of "Sad Songs and Waltzes" while "Bloody Mary Morning" is upbeat and pretty much the same, just with a touch more twang. It must also be said that this just may be the cheesiest album cover of Nelson's long career. The band does get bluesy with their grass for both "You Left Me a Long, Long Time Ago" which highlights the backup signing in almost duet fashion and "Home Motel" which features the most emotional singing from Nelson on this release. 

The pace picks up towards the end of the album as the players cut loose for the fast "Still Is Still Moving to Me" and the excellently quick take on "Slow Down Old World". The group picks a good one for the classic "On The Road Again" while "Man With The Blues" wraps things up on this pleasant jaunt (with a twist) through some of Nelson's tunes as the artist just keeps putting out good to great albums when most other artists are either dead or gone, cowboy hat's off to him.  
Support the legend, buy the album and peep some video below:

Album Review: The Iceman Special - Zycordia

The Iceman Special
*** out of *****

From the freaked out cover art of The Iceman Special's newest full length, Zycordia, a listener could get a pretty good sense of the trippy tunes before the needle even hits the vinyl. The New Orleans based jamband/psych/prog/swamp rockers deliver a collage of sounds throughout the interesting record that keep the listener on edge.  

The quartet of Will Murry: Vocals & Guitar, Steve Staples: Guitar, Charlie Murry: Bass, Hunter Romero: Drums, start things off with the albums title track that uses background singers laying into the unique title with levels of drama as the four piece deliver grooves containing scratchy effects around the edges; a common theme running throughout all the songs here. 

Even when things seem semi-straight ahead, such as on the slow groove of "Round Corners", the band uses enough noise, riffs and pedal effects to warble the edges, keeping an ominous sense of unease percolating on the fringes of the record. 

That sense of foreboding, floats into the hard swamp rock of "Lagniappe Love", which bubbles up from the bayou with help of Joe Krown's organ. Another guest, Mike Dillon (percussion/vibraphone) arrives to give the prog-inspired "Fourth Party" a sense of Caribbean percussion. 

The revved up psych rock of "Wig Splitter" stomps the pedal down with a slamming chorus to go with the tripped out tune while "Translation Fixation" goes in the different direction, floating blissfully with soft sounds, an added vibraphone from Dillon, and an overall feeling of easy going luxury. The album highlight arrives next as "Pressure Pleasure" uses the warbling sense of disorientation with loads of stop on a dime changes, punching beats, and a ripping solo; the short album could use more like this.  

The group close out things out with the instrumental "Zygomorphic Doctrine", again mixing up the sounds by starting off acoustic and light, before building up to a dramatic peak and then an easy sense of release to close. The young group is still evolving and Zycordia by the The Iceman Special is a solid start on a long, weird, journey.  
Support the artists, buy the album, peep some video below:

Album Review: Gina Birch - I Play My Bass Loud

Gina Birch
I Play My Bass Loud
***and1/2 out of *****

The solo debut from Gina Birch, I Play My Bass Loud is a mix of angst, rock, and electro-dance ready protest tunes. The founder of the post punk, influential outfit The Raincoats touches on a host of different feelings as she transverses these eleven efforts. 
Birch let's it all hang out here starting with the title track that hovers between groovy and trippy via weird echoes, digital flourishes and a deep bass line as Birch plays with that catchy/protesting/artsy trifetca throughout the album. Her sense of blurring lines and boundaries, staying experimental but still accessible, is a plus on I Play My Bass Loud as she never gets trapped into what is expected.

"And Then It Happened" uses Birch's bass as a foundation with odd digital noises around the edges and spoken word lyrics that acts as a long intro into "Wish I Was You", the most alt-rock sounding, bombastic, track here. Playing like a mix of The Breeders and Sleater-Kinney (two bands Birch inspired) the effort slams with big banging distortion and woolly charm.  

While Birch may have been able to produce a whole album of these alt-rock winners, her art takes her deeper into digital protest songs. The album centerpiece is "I Am Rage" as she calmly states her anger around marching drums and digital squiggles; the track is all the more affecting because she never blows her top, she just states the rage is there...waiting. She shifts gears for "Dance Like A Demon" which goes more artsy, but still manages to drop in a pretty ripping solo to end. 

Birch used different vocals of herself to create a group of catty friends on "Big Mouth" which discusses secrets and spats, ending friendships while "Pussy Riot" is a digital, dance hall influenced tribute to the band of the same name with lyrics like “We have to remember freedom’s not a given/It’s something to fight for every day/We have to remember it’s our duty to fight for those who’re still in chains.”. 

This idea of constant struggle is everywhere on I Play My Bass Loud from the subversive to the overt. The direct "I Will Never Wear Stiletto's" is dance music that states the obvious but infuriating threat of male on female violence with "I’m not saying the city is a warzone/But can you run in them?". Not everything is as successful, the dance hall reggae of "Digging Down" is hypnotic but goes on a bit long and the closing "Let's Go Crazy" is a tame closer, that relies too heavily on a trance like vibe. 

Birch delivers a lot for patriarchy to be scared of throughout I Play My Bass Loud as Birch sums up her thoughts with the pulsing "Feminist Song", a direct commentary as to how everyone should be mad and making real societal changes. Gina Birch continually does that through her art, and on I Play My Bass Loud she does it very successfully. 
Support the artist, buy the album and peep some video below:

Monday, December 25, 2023

Dylan Cover #612 Sinéad O'Connor "Property of Jesus"

In this ongoing Monday Series we will be exploring various artists versions of Bob Dylan song's. Today's tune is a cover by Sinéad O'Connor playing "Property of Jesus" 

This month we are doing another special focus in RtBE's Dylan Covers series.

For November and December we highlight covers from: Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International 

Thoughts on Original:
While Bob was moving back into his secular waters with his album Shot of Love, the first song recorded during those sessions was very closed to the church, and that was "Property of Jesus". Dylan was very much in his Saved phase when this tune was written and recorded. No smirking trickster in these lyrics, just straight ahead fire and brimstone with big late 70's early 80's layers of instrumentation and backing vocals. One of The Bard's better praise songs that walks the line between rock and gospel.   

Thoughts on Cover Artist:
A unique voice in modern pop music Sinéad O'Connor could flutter and float vocal or growl and rip your heart out with her singing. Troubled, opinionated, unfairly maligned, O'Connor has a lot of multitudes, and she unfortunately is gone too soon. While RtBE were never huge fans, we always respected her, her fierce determination and her majestic vocals.   

Thoughts on Cover:
O'Connor ups the snarl and turns on the folk/punk for this take on the tune. It moves along at a fast pace as she sings with a force and a touch of anger. It is an odd choice of a cover from O'Connor who always had a rocky relationship with religion (to say the least), as this one is straight ahead, but that was Sinéad, full of mystery.  

Merry Christmas.  

Merry Christmas from Rock The Body Electric

Have a Happy One on @RockBodyElec:

Click that read more for a few of our favorite holiday tunes!

Friday, December 22, 2023

Full Show Friday: The Brian Setzer Orchestra - Christmas Rocks!

We search the murky back waters of youtube to find full concerts and post them to the site weekly, come back every seven days to help us celebrate Full Show Friday's. These shows are of varying quality and may not be here for long so enjoy them while you can...As always, please support the artist every which way, but especially by seeing them live (if they are still playing)...This week...The Brian Setzer Orchestra!

Merry Christmas from RtBE. Let's spread good cheer with The Brian Setzer Orchestra's Christmas Rocks!

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Album Review: Neil Young - Odeon Budokan

Neil Young 
Odeon Budokan
***and1/2 out of *****

Mid 70's Neil Young was incredibly prolific, following his notoriously finicky muse anywhere it directed him.  After his Ditch Trilogy, Young reunited with a revamped Crazy Horse as Frank "Poncho" Sampedro took over the second guitar slot, and the band released the fantastic Zuma. The tour supporting that album took them across the globe, and this vinyl Record Store Day release captures the opening solo acoustic set at the Hammersmith Odeon on March 31st, 1976 and the second side features the closing full band electric sets at the Nippon Budokan Hall on March 10th and 11th, 1976.

Originally slated to be released in 1976, like many of Neil's albums it was shelved and the first time this show was official heard was in the large Archives Volume II Box Set,. Now, having been pulled out for a special vinyl release, it can be showcased individually. Both Young and the Horse are on top of their game here.

The opening acoustic outing finds Young in a playful mood, even telling the crowd they need to elect a spokesperson for requests. On the opener, "The Old Laughing Lady", Young sings additional lyrics, titled "Guilty Train" before the pristine solo version of "After The Gold Rush". Mixing hits like that and "Old Man" with lesser known acoustic numbers like "Too Far Gone" and "Stringman" really speak to Neil's range and his ability to show the crowd his individual talents. 

The second side finds the electricity crackling as Crazy Horse amps the wattage. A solid stomping version of "Don't Cry No Tears" kicks off the set that features a strong "Cowgirl In The Sand" a rare "Drive Back" and the album highlight, a meaty delivery of "Cortez The Killer". This first outing of a revamped Horse holds it's own. Even better is Sampedro's retelling of playing this show which is worth posting here:
"Billy and I both dropped acid because that night, after the show, we were flying to Copenhagen. We didn’t want to carry any drugs with us and I had these two tabs of acid. We each took one. It was so funny...everything was starting to get crazy. Psychedelic patterns and shit flying around. I didn’t talk to anybody all night on-stage. I kept my eyes closed most of the time. Only a couple of times I opened them. The first time was horrific. I hit my guitar strings and I saw them bounce off the floor and up to the ceiling in rainbow colors. I was just like, 'Oh, shit.' I kept feeling them on my arm! The vibrations coming off the strings "We did 'Cowgirl in the Sand' and Billy and Ralph went up to sing the backgrounds. I opened my eyes and saw big mandalas comin' out of the back of both their heads, all these colors and shit. I couldn't even look up, I was so high. I'd hit the strings of my guitar: they were like eighty different colors, and they bounced off the floors and hit the ceiling. At the end of the second song Neil came runnin' over, stuck his head between me and Billy and goes, 'Man, we're psychedelic tonight!' I just looked at Billy, thinkin', 'He told him, he told him.' The whole rest of the night I don’t even think we made a mistake. It was unbelievable."
While the record doesn't reach true psychedelia heights that Poncho experienced on stage, it is still a strong capturing of this mid-career Neil Young and Crazy Horse lineup and a solid edition to Young's already impressive official live albums

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Album Review: Rocket - Versions of You

Versions of You
***and1/2 out of *****

The Los Angeles based quartet Rocket toss it squarely back to alternative rock's mid 90's heyday with their debut EP, Versions of You

Rocket is comprised of Alithea Tuttle (bass and vocals), Baron Rinzler (guitar), Cooper Ladomade (drums) and Desi Scaglione (guitar) who do an admirable job of reaching  and delivering smoldering guitar driven rock around sweet vocals. Opening with the excellent "On Your Heels" the group eases into things with hip swaying sounds before dropping a heavier then hell breakdown/solo that dives into metal territory; this juxtaposition is dynamite from the young LA band. 

They mix the saccharine sounds and fuzzy, heaviness again on the dreamy/crashing "Pipe Dream" while "Sugarcoated" is a rich excursion into shoegaze as the two guitars layer and fuzz up blissfully. "Portrait Show" and "Trial Run" both stay on the peppier pop side of things with an easy going feeling that works well.    

The drums and bass push "Normal To Me" as the guitars go into scratching overdrive while "Future Memory" wraps up the debut release returning to their soft/loud/soft formula; if it's not broke why try to mess with it? 

Rocket are not breaking any new ground here, inspiration from acts like The Pixies, Dinosaur Jr. Veruca Salt (and more), can be glimpsed in their playing, but Versions of You is a granite solid collection of guitar driven alt-rock that any fan of that genre will enjoy. An impressively strong debut from this Los Angeles act.  
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Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Album Review: Heavy Blanket - Moon Is

Heavy Blanket
Moon Is
*** out of *****

The crushing psychedelic riffs return as Heavy Blanket's newest album, Moon Is, is the band's first new music since the live release of Earthless Meets Heavy Blanket - In A Dutch Haze back in 2014. 

The band behind Heavy Blanket is very suspect outside of the one known entity, J Mascis. Supposedly recorded with old friends ‘Pete Cougar’ and ‘Johnny Pancake’, the names and lack of any other info leads one to strongly believe that this is a J solo project; all be it one he just wants to shred on. No vocals, just guitar, bass, and drums delivering extended workouts of stoner influenced heavy rock.   

The opening "Danny" sets the tone for what is to follow as clean riffs mix with distortion and the drums slam forward. The cascading riffs and clean/fuzz tone recall a lot of late 70's influences as Thin Lizzy and Black Sabbath vibes mingle in the speaker cabinets. 

"Crushed" uses a cool mix of rumbling and distortion to push the energy forward while the title track feels the most Dinosaur Jr. sounding here; only if bass were the main instrument as the four strings lead the way while screeching guitar lines are secondary to the groove.

The stoner rock gets flushed out with the longest running effort, and album highlight, "String Along". The track uses layers of guitars, a slow marching drum beat, clinking piano, wooly distortion and lumbering bass to start, before multiple different guitar solos all fire at the same time, soaring to sonic heights that feel like they could just keep going forever.       

The very Earthless sounding metal crunch of "Eyedvoid" brings it back to solid ground and kicks into a cool tempo change halfway through while the guitar continues to rev on the heaviest effort on the album. Moon Is wraps up with "Say It To You" a plodding beat that has more screechy riffs and some distant and haunting almost vocalizations from J. While it ends on the the most demo sounding track here, fans of heavy stoner instrumental rock (reviewer included) will love the six elongated tracks on Moon Is.   

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Album Review: The Grateful Dead - Dave's Picks 48

The Grateful Dead
Dave's Picks 48
****and1/2 out of *****

2023 was a strong year for the Dave's Picks. As stated before, when reviewing the Dave's Picks series, and really any Grateful Dead release at this point, it needs to be noted that a lot of the truly great shows have already been professionally released. The selections are running thin when it comes to must own, professionally released shows.

That said, this series still exists for a reason, it continues to unearth rare gems like this release, which is the best of the four released this year. Dave's 48 contains the full show from November 20, 1971, at Pauley Pavilion UCLA in Los Angeles, California and a single disk from October 24, 1970, at Kiel Opera House in St. Louis, Missouri. 

The main chunk of Dave's 48 was recorded on the famed UCLA court and the linear notes were written by non-other than Bill Walton, who you can't help but enjoy. In late '71 the Dead were once again in transition, moving from the Pigpen lead 60's acid bluesmen, into the cosmic cowboys of '72, and this show finds them as a burning barroom rock band.  

Dave has released multiple shows from this era before (26 and 22) and the key component of this late '71 time frame is the arrival of Keith Godchaux on keyboards as Pigpen was off the road, sick. Being the new kid on the block, Godchaux wanted to prove his worth and played with more energy this run then he did at any other time in the band. This unique dynamic makes these shows outliers and worth hearing.

While Godchaux had reason to be excited, his enthusiasm must have been infectious on this night because the Grateful Dead play with more energy on the first two disks than you are libel to hear at any other time in the first ten years of the band. Jerry Garcia – guitar, vocals Keith Godchaux – keyboards Bill Kreutzmann – drums Phil Lesh – bass, vocals Bob Weir – guitar, vocals are all pumped up for the LA crowd.

That palpable sense of excitement hits with the first notes of "Bertha" as the groups energy is already sky high, not always the case with the Dead. One issue of note is with the sound of this release, the upfront and plinking piano of Godchaux is very high and may push some fans away (as might the slightly lacking low bass from Lesh) but overall it is worth sticking with as the band is on this evening and the sound evens out eventually. 

The whole first set cooks with joy as highlights roll out one after the other. "Sugaree" has powerful and engaged vocals from Garcia, "Big Railroad Blues" rips, "Beat It On Down The Line" finds Weir getting in on the act yelling with excitement, while Kreutzmann kicks it double time to end "Jack Straw". The band delivers a fairly tight version of the future warhorse "Playin' In The Band" that once again finds Godchaux driving the keys into the finale. The set then wraps up with two high octane outings as both "Casey Jones" and "One More Saturday Night" blow the roof off of the Pavilion as Garcia leads the charge, firing riffs while the band all joins behind, especially Kreutzmann who is blazing on the kit. 

The second set does not let the energy lag at all as the highlight of the whole release arrives right away with over forty minutes of straight up Grateful Dead goodness. "Truckin'" kicks things off and it is fairly contained, with the nice piano work from Keith, but here Garcia really gets to snaking his guitar around the sound, mixing it up with Phil as the group gets it rolling. A brief segue into "Drums" gives the band a short breather before they jump directly into a top notch version of "The Other One". 

While 1972 would find some otherworldly versions of the song, this night in late '71 found the band starting fluidly leading to the first verse with rocking ease, then things start shimmering and spacey around the seven minute mark, but that is not in the cards, as they go back into a rocky/funky/bluesy jam that reaches a halfway point where things could fall off the rails, but they manage to all solo while staying together; Grateful Dead magic. 

Billy and Phil drop out around the fifteen minute mark, but the spacey outings just don't stick as the rhythm returns for a full grooving adventure that melds directly into one of the best versions of "Ramble On Rose" the band ever delivered as they sang with energy and purpose. 

This passage alone makes Dave's 48 worth seeking out, but the band isn't done. After a false start "Sugar Magnolia" gets a pumped up workout, "You Win Again" is a dynamite country ballad from Garcia, and the classic combo of "Not Fade Away > Going Down The Road Feeling Bad > Not Fade Away" is cooking with a "China Cat Sunflower" tease dropped in the first section just for good measure. Far from your typical Dead show, yet great in it's own way.

Then there still is disk three, as we substitute Godchaux on keys for Ron "Pigpen" McKernan – organ, harmonica, vocals, transporting the listener to a fall night in 1970, and while it has some impressive moments, it is not as fully exciting as what came before. 

The best tune arrives first as this version of "Dancin' In The Streets" has a big bass sound from Phil as he leads the band into a very groovy outing. While Garcia and Weir are fine with Pigpen helping a bit on organ this is Phil and Billy's show as the two keep the groove moving, before Kreutzmann goes for a galloping drum section to wrap it up, worth checking out. 

Other highlights are the second half of "Good Lovin'" which starts with not one but two drum solos, dragging the energy down, but makes up for it with a hot jam to end that contains a full "St. Stephan" jam. The band then figured why not play it proper and go all out on this version with Garcia in particular shining with strong riffs. 

This is a fantastic entry into the Dave's Picks series, wrapping up a yet another strong year of releases from the Grateful Dead. 
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