2 Albums, 2 Artists, 5 Years, 1 Thread2 Albums, 2 Artists, 5 Years, 1 Thread

0 Comments 4:11 pm

~ Pulling on a shared musical thread & following it ~

It turns out that you can follow a musical theme across the years. And if that theme crosses different albums from different artists, then you get a much more satisfying and richer trip.

When I was in high school, The Georgia Satellites released “In the Land of Salvation and Sin.” Anyone who thinks they were just some one-hit wonder gimmick band from the 80s really needs to check out this album. It’s an absolutely epic showcase of expansive songwriting, quality riffs, clever lyrics that manage to surprise and delight while still retaining their blue-collar ethos, and a variety of musical styles that really showcase a band with much, much greater range than they were ever given credit for. There’s a reason that about 6 of the songs ended up on their Greatest Hits CD.

The opening tune sets the tone as well as any opening riff in any bar-band concert you’ve ever been to, and “Bottle of Tears” is a perfect second song, before they build toward “All Over But the Crying” and “Six Years Gone” — a pair of tour de force anthems that deserved the arena treatment the Satellites were never destined to get. The acoustic “Another Chance” at the end of side one showed that everyone in the band could sing, and if you parse out the lines from each of the singers and rearrange them by the guy singing them, really shows a new side of simple little song, as each singer gets to exhibit some personality cleverly interspersed throughout the song.

Sweet Blue Midnight” is the perfect redneck making-out-in-the-pickup-truck-after-a-sixer tune that’s probably responsible for a whole lot of broken bra clasps across the deep South (or at least it should be). “Days Gone By” feels like a more wistful “Six Years Gone” — as though Dan Baird didn’t quite get all the pain and longing out of his heart on the first song, and decided to get even more deeply personal and introspective in the second song. Not one to linger too much on sentimentality, Baird takes the band through a variety of formulaic-but-well-executed A-chord romps like “Bring Down the Hammer” and “Slaughterhouse” and “Crazy”; “Games People Play” is a perfect drunken-audience-singalong. The riff-laden escapist fantasy of “Dan Takes Five” isn’t just the band leader escaping a bad relationship, it’s a true valedictory sign-off from band as a whole, as it’s clear from the southbound dust-trails that they’re headed to nowhere and you’re not invited, with this album as their last love-letter to where they came from, and no clues where they’re going.

It’s funny that when I was in college, about 2–3 years after this album was released, I’d crank up the headphones with “Six Years Gone” and “Another Chance” and think back about occasional nights at the lake with a nostalgic eye toward a past that never really existed for me. But now, 20+ years later, those same songs will bring up the exact same mental pictures that never really existed, and never happened since then, either. It’s almost as if it’s the soundtrack to someone else’s youth that I just got to watch through occasional hazy videos.

While the Satellites never got around to following this one up, there was a musical cousin that plays out very much like the sequel they never quite recorded. When he left G’n’R, Izzy Stradlin put together the Ju-Ju Hounds as his backing band for his first album, and brought in ex-Sats fretman Rick Richards as the lead guitarist. Rick’s guitar sound, phrasing, chords, riffs, and general demeanor on Izzy’s first album are direct descendants of what he did on “In the Land of Salvation and Sin” and back-to-back, you’d almost think the same band just changed lead singers and decided to pay more homage to the Rolling Stones than Lynyrd Skynyrd. The long solos from “Take a Look at the Guy” and “Cutting a Rug” could almost serve a bridges between the two albums, and “Shuffle it All” is every bit as expansive and sweeping as “All Over But the Cryin”. “Train Tracks” sounds like someone threw a new motif over top of “I Dunno”s wild energy, “Time Gone By” crosses “Another Chance” with the motifs of “Six Years Gone” and “Days Gone By” and “Come on Now Inside” is the mellow send-off that offers a fade-out counterpoint to the“Dan Takes Five” burnout.

Two albums, two different bands, both terribly under-rated, and both infused with a common musical and thematic thread that almost makes them the incestual second-cousins-related-on-both-sides-of-the-family that everyone loves to tease about in the deep South. If you’re a fan of well-written, thoughtful, immaculately arranged Southern rock, you could do a lot worse than mixing these two albums into a playlist, and shuffling the iPod a bit. In fact, you should just Shuffle it All and think of Days Gone By.

Big City NightsBig City Nights

0 Comments 3:41 pm

by The Scorpions

~ Coiled springs and perfect timing ~

Solid riff, excellent lead lines under the verse, expansive lyrics that bring the big 80s back to life, and a drummer (Herman Rarebell) who knows how to hold a fill just a perfect half-beat longer than anyone else, creating a coiled spring of tension just waiting to explode into the next part of the song (like right before the first chorus).  Pure 80s hard rock magic.

Slow RideSlow Ride

0 Comments 3:36 pm

by Kenny Wayne Sheppard

~ Thank God for the bassist ~

Kenny Wayne Sheppard can play.  Seriously.  Dude can flat out wail on some blues, and while some of it might be a little derivative, when he settles into a groove it just carries you along, like Born With A Broken Heart.

On Slow Ride, however, he’s only kinda-sorta after that groove.  He’s just wailing.  He’s shredding.  It’s an end-to-end connection of riffs underneath the vocals, and while they’re living within a blues chord structure, the lead lines are all over the place.  Not only that, but the drummer is all over the place.  Hell, without the bassist holding things together, you’d have one repeating riff (right at the start of the chorus) and an extended late night jam showing off for the six not-completely-falling-down-drunk people left in the bar.

But it works.  It totally works.  You’ve got a solid vocal line over top of the guitar pyrotechnics, a drummer who manages to play an entire song with no hi-hat and fills everywhere but stays on beat, and a bass player who actually glues everything together and keeps the band honest.  So let the lead guy show off – it’s his name on the track, after all – and let the rest of the band bring their A-game, where they’re needed.  Even the bassist.

Honeysuckle BlueHoneysuckle Blue

0 Comments 4:43 pm

by Drivin ‘N’ Cryin

~ Carolina Rock & Roll ~

Some riffs just belong to a certain place & time. Yes, Drivin’ & Cryin’ are from Atlanta, and the Chattahoochee River doesn’t run thru Greensboro, but Honeysuckle Blue is a Carolina riff and I’ll fight anyone who says different.

D&C came out of the same Southeast college-town club circuit that gave us Dave Matthews, Superchunk, and Hootie & The Blowfish. But they always seem to be as much of a Carolinas band as most of the others on that circuit.

That opening riff is 1am at Jillian’s, and halftime at Carter-Finley, and the Wrightsville Beach pier, and now boarding for the west coast at CLT, and microbrews in Asheville, and walking around the Battery, and any of the coffeehouse-and-dorm-programming concerts I played in the early 90s. It’s instant high-fives and air guitars from a well-buzzed crowd and shout-along choruses at football games. 

Rocket QueenRocket Queen

0 Comments 4:21 pm

by Guns ‘n Roses

~ No one did codas like GnR did codas ~

From Sweet Child o’ Mine asking “where do we go now” to Locomotive insisting “love’s so strange” to the Vanishing Point soliloquy over the solo at the end of Breakdown, GnR knew how to give a listener an entirely new song tacked on at the end, to change your entire perspective on the one you were sure you were just listening to.  Rocket Queen kicks off with an erotic, forceful, borderline BDSM cock-in-your-face riff that weaves into a verse of just downright weird hanging chords with vocals that clearly put the girl in her place.  After all, if “I can turn on anyone / just like I turned on you” is supposed to be a sexually-charged boast, then clearly, you’re doing her a favor.

But if Axl can turn on her, instead of turning her on then suddenly the entire next line – “I’ve got a tongue like a razor” is cutting her down instead of pumping her up.  But by the time the guitar solo – and the orgasmic moaning solo accompanying it – fade back into the chorus, the arena rock staccato chords that launched a thousand fist pumps suddenly beget…  arpeggiated chords that offer the sweetest apology for the verbal assault just unleashed through through the first 4 minutes of the song.  “If you need a shoulder / or if you need a friend” are offered sincerely, not ironically, and “all I ever wanted / was for you / to know that I care” isn’t some idle thought tossed off by text message the morning after a one-night stand (as though texting even existed in 1987), but genuinely expressed to someone whose relationship with the singer is clearly more complex than any tune from Poison, Ratt, Motley Crue, Kiss, or Bon Jovi are going to express for us.

Remembering Shawn SmithRemembering Shawn Smith

0 Comments 4:00 pm

~ Unknown frontman with a voice of gold ~

Barely noticed by much of the public this day in 2019, singer Shawn Smith passed away. He fronted both Brad and Satchel, as well as Pigeonhed, and others. Brad was Stone Gossard’s side band, and Satchel was the name they played under when Stone wasn’t with them.

His tunes were featured in TV movies all over the place: Beautiful Girls, Elementary, Girl Next Door, and Coyote Ugly, among others.