Thursday, June 18, 2009

Ventures member Bob Bogle dies

I was deeply and profoundly saddened to hear that Bob Bogle has passed away Tuesday. His lengthy illness meant his death was not unexpected, but I still found myself choking back tears when I heard the news.

Everyone above a certain age knows a Ventures song. They really are that ubiquitous a presence in pop culture. I ran my fingers off as a young guitarist trying to master "Walk Don't Run" and "Hawaii Five-O." Bogle and Wilson should have statues erected of them in Cleveland just for those two pieces alone...but there is so much more...the recorded output of the Ventures is voluminous and covers a great deal of stylistic ground.

Bob Bogle touched and inspired a tremendous number of musicians-including some of the world's finest players. They range from obvious instrumental player devotees like Gary Hoey to some of Nashville's finest studio cats and many more in between. I count myself fortunate to have been aquainted with the music of the Ventures. I know the house band in Rock and Roll Heaven has gained one hell of an axe-slinger.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

New release Tuesday overview

George Harrison-"Let It Roll" (The Songs of George Harrison)-This is the first attempt to do a comprehensive post-Beatles "best of" compilation of George Harrison's music. The collection highlights material from 1970's "All Things Must Pass" through 2002's "Brainwashed." It also notably includes live versions of three Beatles songs recorded at the Concert for Bangladesh in 1971.

Hank Williams Jr.
"127 Rose Avenue"

The legendary country music icon , who is the son of Hank Williams Sr. and the father of Hank Williams III, has finally released his first studio album since 2003's "I'm One of You."

The already released single is the song "Red, White and Pink-Slip Blues," which is already a hit single at radio. The song, written by Mark Stephen Jones and Arthur Tower, addresses the reality of the current economic crisis for working folk. Williams will tour from July into September.

Other new releases
Amorphis, "Skyforger" (Nuclear Blast)
Rodney Carrington, "El Nino Loco" (Capitol)
Will Downing, "Classique" (Concord)
Don Henley, "The Very Best of Don Henley" (Geffen)
Jill Hennessy, "Ghost in My Head" (Warner Bros.)
Incubus, "Monuments & Melodies" (Sony)
Laura Izibor, "Let the Truth Be Told" (Atlantic)
Davy Knowles, "Coming Up for Air" (Blix Street)
Spinal Tap, "Back from the Dead" (Label Industry)
Devin Townsend, "Ki" (Inside Out)
Various artists, "Chess in Concert" (Reprise)
Various artists, "Highlights from Chess in Concert" (Reprise)
Rhonda Vincent, "Destination Life" (Rounder)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Review-Oak Ridge Boys-The Boys are Back

I've been an Oak Ridge Boys fan since they first "went county" with Y'all Come Back Saloon (way) back in 1977. That's right...the year I couldn't stop spinning Fleetwood Mac's "Rumours" or escape anywhere from the behemoth that was "Star Wars." I've always had a weak spot for harmony...whether Fleetwood Mac's pitch perfect pop sheen or the Oak Ridge Boy's well crafted four part gospel style.

It seemed incongruous at first...Outlaw music sung in gospel harmony...but I knew from the moment "Y'all Come Back Saloon" was released and heard "Old Time Lovin'" featured on "The Dukes of Hazzard" that these fellas had taken a shot in the dark and hit a commercial bullseye. More success followed...with the Oaks having attained bona fide legend status by the release of "Monogahela" in 1988. Along the way they have dodged plenty of critical barbs and yet continued to be true to their vision at that moment. Through all of the attention, the Oaks have made their reputation as being some of the most genuine people in the business-a class act in every sense.

Fast forward to 2009. The Oaks have been making gospel albums since 1992. They've all navigated into the shallow waters of their senior years... and then the unthinkable..."The Boys are Back." By electing to make a secular country album after 17 years the Oaks have defied expectations...and reached #16 on the country charts.

The album itself is a mixed bag. The anthemic title track written by Shooter Jennings makes its point as intended...The Boys are Back. Unfortunately the song is a bit repetitive... it does clearly announce the new direction the Oaks are taking on this record. Shooter's lyrics bring some religion and politics to the table and this will no doubt cause some controversy. "Boom Boom" is a bit silly, but it actually works thanks to some well placed enthusiasm.

The production throughout is rough edged...the album was recorded in two weeks...clearly the intent was to capture the excitement the Oaks felt while working on their new sound with Dave Cobb at Waylon Jenning's old studio.

"Seven Nation Army" is a revelation. The guys sound like they were meant to sing this song...and it being chosen as the first single is absolutely right. This choice of a modern song by an aging country act invites inevitable comparison to Johnny Cash who selected a Nine Inch Nails song for his studio album "The Man Comes Around." In both cases, tackling a contemporary song provides wind for the artists sails...and the results are fantastic. I've no doubt that other critics will accuse the Oaks of "missing the point of the song" or some other such nonsense...the fact is the group identified with the song and made it their own.

Several tracks on the album evoke more traditional themes for the Oak Ridge Boys. Down home vibe abounds in "Mama's Table," "Live With Jesus," "God's Gonna Ease My Troublin' Mind," and "Hold Me Closely." Not surprisingly, these are among the album's best.

It is a bit uneven...but it is as compelling a comeback effort by a country act as I have ever heard. Go on out and buy this 'un y'hear!

"The Boys are Back" 3 1/2 out of 5 stars