Category Archives: Sounds

A Flock has landed again

It was there on Facebook for a flash, then gone as quickly in the scroll of the moment. When I thought to circle back and look for it, I couldn’t remember which of my follows had mentioned it, and the FB algorithms seemed to have rendered it invisible.

So I turned to Google and entered a most unlikely trio of search terms: “Flock of Seagulls” and “I Ran” and “orchestra.”

The combination of rock and symphonic sounds has always fascinated me, ever since spending three years playing standup bass in the grade school orchestra.

(A little story about that: As a 9-year-old fourth-grader in 1966, I chose the bass because I figured I wouldn’t have to practice because there was no way I could lug it home five blocks from school. I never imagined my parents could or would rent one to keep at the house. They did.)

Of course, we never played anything remotely close to rock. But once I heard the orchestration on the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life,” well, it was wonderful that such a thing was possible. Among my favorites when I got a little older: Pretty much anything by Electric Light Orchestra and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, with a little “Sabre Dance” by Dave Edmunds and Love Sculpture thrown in for good measure. I even went through a Rick Wakeman phase.

Fast forward to today, when I learned A Flock of Seagulls and the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra have teamed up to record new versions of some of the Flock’s most popular songs.

“Ascension” was released in July, but that was news to me.

A Flock of Seagulls was one of my favorite groups in the early days of MTV. I gained more respect for them after seeing them live in the summer of 2006.

That summer, A Flock of Seagulls was the headline act in an ’80s nostalgia tour that played in Green Bay. The opening acts were When In Rome, Gene Loves Jezebel, Animotion and Tommy Tutone. Five acts playing a show that had to end at a specific time. Casino rules. The early acts ran long. One of the middle acts got pissy about it, complaining on stage about having to play a shortened set.

When it came time for A Flock of Seagulls, they were up against the clock, robbed of some of their stage time. Their crew set up as quickly as possible. The Flock played as many of the crowd’s favorites as they could in the time that remained. They never complained. Total pros.

Mike Score, the Flock’s lead singer, remembers that tour.

“Twelve or so years ago we did a bit of a reunion, and that didn’t work out well for me,” he told Billboard magazine in May. He dabbled with a solo career in the wake of that tour but has always fronted A Flock of Seagulls, which has had 15 different lineups if its Wiki page is accurate.

Until “Ascension,” the four original members of A Flock of Seagulls — Mike Score, Ali Score, Frank Maudsley and Paul Reynolds — hadn’t recorded together since 1984. They really weren’t together for this one, either, save for a day spent shooting a promo video in Liverpool. They reworked their songs by email, sharing audio clips and then sending them to an orchestral arranger to assemble.

“What I heard sounded great. I would call it neo-retro-classical,” Mike Score told Billboard, laughing.

I agree. It sounds wonderful.

“I Ran,” A Flock of Seagulls with the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, from “Ascension,” 2018.

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Filed under 2018, September 2018, Sounds

A mea culpa for Aretha

2016 was a rough year. Before February was over, David Bowie had died, as had Paul Kantner, Maurice White, Otis Clay and Glenn Frey, among others.

So I put together a series of posts intended to show appreciation for some music greats while they were still with us: Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Tina Turner. Then I followed up with a post listing four more performers to be appreciated while they were still with us.

In none of those posts was there a mention of Aretha Franklin, who also was still with us at the time, and who certainly was worthy of appreciation. Now that she’s gone, I feel bad that I didn’t properly appreciate her tremendous talent.

In the wake of Aretha’s passing, Sirius XM turned its Soul Town channel into an Aretha Franklin tribute channel. For the past 11 days, it’s been all Aretha, all the time. I’ve heard deep cuts that go well beyond any of my few Aretha records.

After 11 days of Aretha, I’m exhausted. She has worn me out.

Ike and Tina proclaimed “We nevah, evah, do nothing nice and easy.”

Well, Aretha nevah, evah, did anything nice and easy, either.

Aretha testified! Aretha brought forth that gale force of a gospel voice in song after song, in style after style, in decade after decade. Aretha was relentless.

After 11 days of Aretha, I find myself in the same place as my friend Greg, who wrote this over at Echoes in the Wind on the day after she died.

“So why do I feel I have I so little to say? Because Aretha Franklin as a subject for eulogy, memoir or memorial is too damned big. She towers over the music world in a way that few artists do. So I don’t know where to start or to end or even what to put in or leave out.” 

I’ll try. Here is my testimony.

I first heard Aretha testify in the late ’60s, perhaps while listening to WLS radio out of Chicago as we drove around southern Wisconsin with our older cousins during the summer.

Perhaps I first saw Aretha testify while watching a variety show, the kind my dad loved. I would have been 10, 11, maybe 13. Was it two nights after Christmas 1967, when Aretha sang “Respect” on “The Kraft Music Hall” with Woody Allen as the host? Was it Saturday night, Nov. 2, 1968, when Aretha appeared on “The Hollywood Palace” with Sammy Davis Jr. delivering a most memorable introduction? Was it Friday night, Oct. 9, 1970, when Aretha sang “I Say A Little Prayer” on “The Tom Jones Show” and duetted with Tom?

“Spanish Harlem” was the first Aretha song I came to know well. I was 14 when that came out in the late summer of 1971, a year I spent glued to my AM radio, listening to WOKY radio out of Milwaukee.

Then Aretha fell off my radar until I was in my 20s. I dug her in “The Blues Brothers” in 1980 — as did everyone else — and then she roared back onto the charts in 1985. I loved Eurythmics, so of course I loved Aretha’s duet with Annie Lennox on “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves.”

About that time, I bought “Aretha’s Gold,” a greatest-hits comp from 1969, the stuff I knew from radio and TV. For probably 20 years, that was the only Aretha record I had. Then I sold it and started collecting and exploring some of her great LPs on Atlantic. Those are my records at the top of this mea culpa.

And now, Aretha testifies.

“Son Of A Preacher Man” and “The Weight,” Aretha Franklin, from “This Girl’s In Love With You,” 1970. Duane Allman plays guitar on “The Weight.”

 

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Filed under August 2018, Sounds

Bob Seger’s Cameo appearance

When it was announced that Bob Seger would be playing our local arena in 2013, my friend Larry in New Jersey suggested I “buy a front row seat and spend the whole concert screaming ‘EAST SIDE STORY!!!!!'”

Which is a song Seger won’t play live. It’s one of his best songs, but it’s from early in his career, a time he seemingly refuses to acknowledge. If you’ve spent any time reading this blog, you know we love Bob Seger’s early stuff. He was huge in Detroit and we heard him on the radio in Wisconsin long before he hit it big with the Silver Bullet Band in 1976.

But because Bob Seger won’t play most of his great early stuff live, I didn’t go see that 2013 show, nor did I go see him when he returned to Green Bay last August.

Which brings us to yesterday’s intriguing news that ABKCO Records is releasing a bunch of Bob Seger’s earliest singles on LP, in glorious mono, on September 7.

“East Side Story,” the song championed by Larry, is the second cut on the forthcoming “Heavy Music: The Complete Cameo Recordings 1966-1967.” It draws from singles released by the Cameo label out of Detroit in 1966 and 1967.

It’s intriguing because we’ve been down this road before and have been disappointed.

In 2009, Seger teased us with “Early Seger, Vol. 1,” a regional release comprised mostly of deep cuts from some of his earliest LPs. Ten of the 14 cuts were from “Smokin’ O.P.’s,” “Back In ’72” and “Seven,” all released from 1972 to 1974. I have those LPs, so I didn’t need the comp.

In 2011, Seger ignored his early days when he released “Ultimate Hits: Rock And Roll Never Forgets,” which was comprised entirely of songs from 1976 or later.

Those of us who dig Seger’s early work again felt a little left out. So we put together a blog post of Bob Seger’s other greatest hits.

Larry picked “East Side Story,” of course. “Heavy Music” was a consensus pick by our panel of experts. Appropriately, “Heavy Music” also is the first cut on the new release.

Still, I wonder. I find it hard to believe that Bob Seger, always so reluctant to let his early stuff see the light of day, signed off on this. Perhaps he got a sweet deal. Perhaps he doesn’t own the rights to these releases and has no say. ABKCO re-released two of the Last Heard singles in 1973, but billed them as Bob Seger only.

Whatever. I’ll be happy to get it when it lands in our local record stores come September, even if I’ve heard all but four of the 10 cuts.

I already had two of the cuts on “Michigan Brand Nuggets,” a compilation of early Detroit garage and psych rock “fortified with 7 very rare Bob Seger songs.” It was released in 1996 and re-released in 2016. The two cuts are both sides of a Cameo single released in February 1967 and re-released as an ABKCO single in 1973.

“Persecution Smith” was the A side. From the liner notes: “The follow-up to ‘East Side Story.’ Sounds more than a little like Bob Dylan circa ‘Bringing It All Back.'”

“Chain Smokin'” was the B side. From the liner notes: “A good spoof about the torments of tobacco addiction.”

 

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Filed under July 2018, Sounds

The summer of the Stones

Heard the other day that it’s been 40 years this month since the Rolling Stones’ “Some Girls” LP charted in America. That record always takes me right back to that summer. I wanted to write about that, to try to re-create that summer of 1978, but it’s been a challenge.

That was the first summer I lived away from home. I worked at the newspaper in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, the first of my 38 summers in the news business. Though a journalist, I never kept a journal. Nor can I find all of my old newspaper clips. Among what I can find, there are none from 40 years ago this week.

In the summer of 1978, when I was 21, I lived in a place called Beaver Lodge. One of my six roommates drove an old GTO. We had a spectacular accident with Johnny’s Goat one day. I didn’t have a girlfriend that summer, just as in all the summers that preceded it.

I started running that summer, wearing an old pair of adidas flats and pounding the streets near the base of the TV tower at the end of the block. I also often walked a couple of blocks to the park and shot baskets. I set my radio at the base of the pole. There, I heard “Miss You,” the first single from “Some Girls.”

The nice inner sleeve on my copy of “Some Girls” suggests I bought it at Inner Sleeve Records in my hometown of Wausau, Wisconsin. Probably did so during a visit home, perhaps for my birthday in June, just after it came out. Mike gave you a nice sleeve when you bought a new LP at the Sleeve.

My LP has the original die-cut cover that featured several celebrities who hadn’t approved of the use of their image.

40 years ago tonight, on Wednesday, July 19, 1978, the Rolling Stones brought the Some Girls Tour to the Sam Houston Coliseum in Houston. They played eight of the 10 cuts from “Some Girls” in the middle of the show. Nine days earlier, they’d played the St. Paul Civic Center, just 90 minutes from where I lived. But back then, going to shows was not something I did.

For as much as I’ve long loved this record, I’ve always been a Beatles man, and not a Stones man. I have only three Stones records. This one and the great live “Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!” plus the “Hot Rocks” comp. I’ve sold some others. I vividly recall the baffled and vaguely disgusted looks I got from co-workers when I passed on seeing the Stones at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison in 1994.

Yet what was the last song on the iPod as I finished working out yesterday?

Yep, the Stones. From that record. From that summer.

“Respectable,” the Rolling Stones, from “Some Girls,” 1978.

 

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Filed under July 2018, Sounds

Beyond the bathroom reading

Ace Frehley played at our local Memorial Day weekend festival on Friday night. I didn’t go. Didn’t want to stand for a few hours on a staggeringly hot evening. Besides, I’ve seen him twice already. Each time I was pleasantly surprised.

When KISS played in Milwaukee in 2000, Ace was a much better guitarist than I expected. “Astonishingly good,” I told a friend.

Likewise when I saw him at another summer festival in 2012. “Ace Frehley still one of the best guitarists I’ve seen live,” I posted to Facebook back then. That also was the night when Ace urged fans not to drink and drive, then laughed and said “This next song’s about alcohol.” His encore was “Cold Gin.”

A year earlier, in 2011, Rolling Stone put out “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time,” a so-called “special collectors edition.” I picked it up, probably as vacation reading. It has long since made for excellent bathroom reading.

Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to see 14 of that group of 100 great guitarists. In order of their ranking on that Rolling Stone list, they are Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Chuck Berry, Derek Trucks, Neil Young, Buddy Guy, Angus Young, Brian May, Stephen Stills, Joe Walsh, Slash, Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Springsteen and Lindsey Buckingham.

Of that group of 14, Chuck Berry, Angus Young, Brian May, Bonnie Raitt and — believe it or not — Lindsey Buckingham wowed me most.

There are, of course, other guitarists I’ve really enjoyed seeing. Perhaps they’re among the next 100 greatest guitarists. Or not. Here are three.

Ace Frehley is one. David Lindley, who plays a bunch of stringed instruments in his world music-tinged shows, is another. Then there’s Steve Stevens, who’s best known as Billy Idol’s guitarist. But he also plays a mean Spanish and flamenco guitar. That was something to see and hear. Who’d have thought?

However, the only Steve Stevens cut I have is his 1998 version of “Do You Hear What I Hear,” the familiar holiday song. It starts out gently and pleasantly enough, but devolves into shredding. So we’ll pass on that.

We’ll leave you with something in Stevens’ adventurous spirit. I picked up this record at the wonderful Mill City Sound in Hopkins, Minnesota, last summer. It’s a highly recommended digging spot if you’re in the Minneapolis area.

“A Hard Day’s Night,” Sonny Curtis, from “Beatle Hits Flamenco Guitar Style,” 1964.

This is the same Sonny Curtis who was in the Crickets. The same Sonny Curtis who wrote “I Fought The Law.” The same Sonny Curtis who wrote “Love Is All Around,” the theme to “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

He was 27 when this, his first LP, was released in 1964. It’s a fun listen.

 

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Filed under May 2018, Sounds

That night in Appleton

right now appleton 1

This is a photo from a tremendous set by The Right Now from their show in Appleton, Wisconsin, last month. Somehow, the old country club overlooking the Fox River was still standing after The Right Now scorched it that night.

Here’s how we got started.

The Right Now is a seven-piece pop-soul group out of Chicago. Heavy Soul Brotha Dave tipped me to them way back in 2010. Their first LP, “Carry Me Home,” had just come out.

I first saw The Right Now when they played an outdoor show on a gorgeous summer night in my hometown of Wausau, Wisconsin. Although it seems like just yesterday, it was 2012. Their second LP, “Gets Over You” had just come out.

Fast forward to February 2017. The Right Now was just out with their third LP, “Starlight.” I’d not seen them live since that summer night in Wausau five years earlier, but I’d followed their career from a distance via Facebook.

By the time their publicist contacted me, I’d already bought my vinyl copy. Mine was Order No. 6. Sure, I said, I’ll write about it. Then I didn’t. They were getting better and more influential reviews than anything they might have gotten from this lightly traveled corner of the web.

Then, last April, a death in the family. David Grinslade, the partner of lead singer Stefanie Berecz and the father of their two children, died by suicide.

The Right Now, tightly knit after almost 10 years together, halted their Midwest tour in support of “Starlight.” They took some time off.

When The Right Now returned to the summer festival circuit a few weeks later, they had a dual purpose.

One was to promote the new record, of course, one they’d self-funded, self-produced and self-released over two years. (They proudly announced in July that “Starlight” was paid for within five months of its release.)

The other was to say “It’s OK not to be OK,” advocating for suicide prevention via outreach and mental health education in the wake of David’s death. They’re doing so by raising funds for Hope For The Day, a Chicago-based non-profit organization.

Hope For The Day

Fast forward to last month’s show in Appleton. A most remarkable encore unfolded.

“Won’t you join us out in the lobby?” they asked from the stage. “We saw this beautiful grand piano out there.”

Brendan O’Connell, who plays guitar and keyboards, sat down at that grand piano. He started playing softly as a group of perhaps 50 people gathered, standing around the piano in a semicircle.

right now appleton 3

Stefanie stood to his left and started talking about David. When she said he’d died, roughly half the audience reflexively said “Awww” in sympathy. When she said he’d died by suicide, a few startled gasps punctuated a stunned silence.

Then, for the first time, they performed “Who Wrote The Book,” a new song written by Brendan, sung by Stefanie and drawn from the aftermath of David’s death.

“Stef gave me the idea for the title and, obviously, the sentiment of the song. After David died, she posted something on social media about how difficult it was to say goodbye,” Brendan told me.

It was a song so new that as Stefanie sang, she scrolled through the lyrics on a phone she’d set on the piano. Their intimate performance was breathtaking.

When they finished, Stefanie simply said “Thank you,” and the small group of listeners scattered in reverent silence. What a moment.

Now, we go forward. Looks like Appleton has embraced The Right Now, which is wonderful news for a friend of the band who lives a half-hour away.

They’ll return in June and again in August. The latter gig will be at Appleton’s Mile of Music festival. That’s a free four-day festival featuring 200 up-and-coming roots music performers and groups. They’re showcased at 70 venues over a mile-long stretch of downtown Appleton.

See you there.

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Filed under April 2018, Sounds

Getting Cozy at the club

Last month, I finished a three-year history project for which I live-tweeted, sort of, the Green Bay Packers’ back-to-back-to-back championship seasons of 1965, 1966 and 1967, day by day, exactly 50 years after it happened.

To do that, I went through the local paper on microfilm at the library. Along the way, I turned up all kinds of interesting material unrelated to my project. I started posting that stuff in a couple of Green Bay history groups on Facebook. It’s been fun, so I’m still doing it.

Which brings us to 50 years ago this weekend, the second weekend of March 1968.

Chicago sax man Cozy Eggleston and his swinging jazz combo played a four-night gig as the Club Coal Bin in downtown Green Bay had its grand opening. The club was in the basement of the Labor Temple. Its slogan, U.S.G.S.T., stood for “Us Swingers Gotta Stick Together.” The club apparently was trying to class up its act. It used to be the Coal Bin Bar, a strip joint. Six months earlier, it had featured Bobbie Page, “The Sex Bombshell” who was “known throughout Wisconsin and Iowa.”

Even though Cozy Eggleston had become the main attraction, it was unusual to see black performers at Green Bay nightclubs, even in 1968. Was he a big draw? No way of knowing, but he has an interesting story.

Cyril J. Eggleston was in his 20s when he joined the Army during World War II. He was a military policeman. He also started playing the sax. When he came home to Chicago after the war, he attended the Chicago Conservatory School of Music. After that, Cozy Eggleston gigged around Chicago, playing tenor sax with any number of jazz and R&B groups and at any number of long-gone nightclubs.

Cozy eventually formed a popular band featuring his wife Marie, whose stage name was Marie Stone. In 1949, while playing at the Manchester Grill on Chicago’s south side, she was described as a “blues singer, ace musician and the bombshell of the alto sax.” At the Club Evergreen in Chicago’s north side, they’d “leave the stand and come down to blow among the guests,” according to the Chicago Defender of Dec. 30, 1950. The photo at left is from a 1954 issue of Hue magazine, which was to sister publication Jet magazine as People magazine was to Time magazine.

On Saturday, Aug. 23, 1952, Cozy and his combo parlayed their popularity into a recording session for States Records, a Chicago label that specialized in black artists. They laid down a couple of instrumentals, “Big Heavy” and “Cozy’s Boogie.” Cozy and Marie played sax, with Jimmy Boyd on piano, Ellis Hunter on guitar, Curtis Ferguson on bass and Chuck Williams on drums.

States didn’t release the 7-inch until February 1954. When it finally came out, “Big Heavy” became the soundtrack to some of the East Coast’s biggest radio shows. It was the theme song for both George “Hound Dog” Lorenz on WKBW in Buffalo and Alan Freed on WINS in New York.

Fast forward to March 1968, when Cozy and his combo played the club in the basement of the Labor Temple in Green Bay. They were brought back two weeks later for a return engagement said to be “by popular demand.”

About this time, Cozy produced and released a soul-jazz LP, “Grand Slam,” on their Co-Egg label. I’ve seen it dated from 1967 to 1969. DownBeat columnist John Corbett, in his book “Vinyl Freak: Love Letters to a Dying Medium,” calls this record “an all-out soul blue flame” and a “classic.” It features Cozy, Marie, Karl Johnson on the Hammond organ and Ken Sampson on drums. You can find most of its seven cuts on YouTube.

In 1990, Cozy produced and released “Whammin & Slammin,” on his Co-Egg label, revisiting six of the seven cuts on “Grand Slam” and adds what Discogs calls some “leftover recordings.” Chicago Tribune reviewer John Litweiler called it “straight-ahead organ-sax band entertainment” from Cozy, whom they called “one of Gene Ammons’ many musical offspring.” It features a cover of the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” done as a fast waltz. Can’t find any of this one on YouTube, though.

Cozy Eggleston, who was 48 when he played that basement club in Green Bay in March 1968, kept playing for years. He also played the Chicago Jazz Festival and the Chicago Park District’s Summer Jazz Series. He was a member of the Chicago Federation of Musicians Local 10-208 for 67 years.

Cozy Eggleston died in Chicago in December 2012. He was 92. He left a large family that included two sons, two daughters, 10 grandchildren, 22 great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild.

 

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Filed under March 2018, Sounds