Author Archives: Michael H. Little

Graded on a Curve:
Damn Yankees,
Damn Yankees

Once a decade or so a major label release comes along that is so utterly devoid of redeeming qualities you just know it’s going to go double platinum.

Take, as object lesson, Damn Yankees, the 1990 debut album by the supposed supergroup of the same name, who took their name from a 1955 baseball film about a Washington Senators fan who sells his soul to the devil for a chance to beat the hated Yankees, and is promptly transformed into the hitting sensation Shoeless Joe Hardy.

Combining the gonzo hard rock stylings of Styx’s Tommy Shaw, the tender romantic sensibilities of Ted “I Kill Mammals” Nugent, and the nebulous contributions of Night Ranger’s Jack Blades, Damn Yankees were hardly nobody’s idea of a rock and roll dream team. But on Damn Yankees they demonstrate a commitment to the cliché that is positively awe-inspiring, and over 10 cuts ingeniously manage to say (or play) not a single original thing.

The end result? Two million units sold and counting. Talk about your deals with the devil. Let this be an object lesson to you, young bands!

Damn Yankees is purely a cookie-cutter affair; it’s as if the boys in the band went down a list of bad rock tropes and dutifully checked off the boxes. Mega-successful suck-ass power ballad? Check. Song about a little girl lost in the big bad city entitled “Runaway”? Check. Song with the generic words “rock city” (i.e., “Rock City”) in the title? Check. Song with delicate acoustic guitars and soulful vocals kinda along the lines of “Dust in the Wind” only shittier? Check.

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Graded on a Curve:
Gary Wright,
The Very Best of
Gary Wright

Namaste, fellow seekers! And welcome back to the Vedic District and your host, Michael Paramahansa Yogananda Little! On this week’s turn of the cosmic wheel we’ll be discussing New Age seer and synthesizer-around-the-neck avatar Gary Wright, whose chakra-cleansing songs and mystical crystal revelations make him the most spiritually evolved being on our astral plane.

Wright was, arguably, pop’s first New Age musician. Forget George Harrison–who turned Wright on to Eastern religions while they were recording 1970’s All Things Must Pass–he refused to give up on rock and roll. And compared to Wright, Van Morrison and Stevie Nicks are mere earthbound materialists–the Bertrand Russell and Ayn Rands of rock, respectively.

It’s all there on the cover of The Dream Weaver, where a blissed-out Wright rests his head against what is either a telepod to other dimensions or the Findhorn Community’s very own jukebox–the man was staking his claim as the first New Age technocrat, enlisting the aid of machines to further the cause of the Harmonic Convergence.

And, boy, did Wright make a splash. Who, my fellow theosophists, can forget the Annus Mirabilis 1976, when a cosmic convergence brought us both David Spangler’s book Revelation: The Birth of a New Age and Wright’s June 11th appearance on The Midnight Special, where he cast a magickal sorcerer’s spell on an entire nation with his mesmerizing performance of “Dream Weaver”? Surely the stars were coming into alignment at last, and the Age of the Enlightened Unicorn was nigh.

Of course that exalted age never arrived, nor did Wright’s success last. But if the former Spooky Tooth keyboardist’s fleshly fame was fleeting, he has accepted it with Buddhistic resignation–having parted the veil of Maya, he knows all too well that all we are is dust in the wind. Yet he continues to mould a new reality closer to the heart with his ecstatic ectoplasmic musical emanations, which make the ideal accompaniment to both Kundalini awakening and sweatless tantric sex.

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Graded on a Curve: Pete Townshend and Ronnie Lane, Rough Mix

Ronnie Lane is a hardly a household name, but he is one of my all-time favorite rockers. Whether with the Small Faces, the large Faces, or his own band Slim Chance, Lane’s lovely and wistful voice was always a pleasure, whether he was singing sublime ballads like The Faces’ “Debris” or “Oh La La” or knocking off a hard rocker like the hilarious Faces tune “You’re So Rude.” The world didn’t know what it lost when Lane died at 51 after suffering for 21 years from multiple sclerosis. But I can tell you what it lost; a soulful and sweet soul whose bass work and vocals had an integral impact on not just one, but two great rock’n’roll bands.

Lane was a frequent collaborator with the likes of Pete Townshend, Steve Marriott, and Ronnie Wood (the two of them recorded the soundtrack to the 1972 Canadian film Mahoney’s Last Stand, and it’s a tremendous series of rave-ups despite its almost total lack of vocals). He recorded four LPs between 1970 and 1977 with Townshend, but three of them are hard-to-find tributes to their spiritual mentor Meher Baba, who lent his name to the great “Baba O’Riley.” Their fourth collaboration was Rough Mix, which was released in 1977 and featured an all-star cast that included Eric Clapton, John Entwistle, Ian Stewart, Charlie Watts, King Crimson’s Boz Burrell, the ubiquitous John “Rabbit Bundrick, and Medicine Head’s Peter Hope Evans. Why, even Townshend’s father-in-law, the noted British TV and movie soundtrack composer Edwin Astley, makes an appearance. Sly Stone is right; this one’s a family affair.

Lane and Townshend eschew rock for the most part, opting instead to mine the folk-rock vein, and it works. Lane wanted to collaborate on songs with Townshend but Townshend declined, and this collection of songs by two separate songwriters has a disparate feel, which is another way of saying it’s stylistically all over the map. But what holds it together is the passion both men pour into the songs, which stray from pure folk ballads to a pair of rave-ups to a handful of songs that defy easy definition, but show that both men showed up at the sessions—this despite the fact that Lane had just discovered he was ill—at the top of their game. No throwaways, in other words, or songs they didn’t think were good enough for their primary bands—they came to record great music, not just fuck around and jam.

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Graded on a Curve:
Eric Clapton,
Unplugged

Well here you have it–the most feckless, no account, totally useless dog turd of an album it has ever been my displeasure to hear. On 1992’s Unplugged axe legend turned pop hack Eric Clapton plays the blues with far less passion and commitment than your average 94-year-old lady puts into a game of Mahjong, laying waste to “Layla” and adding his live version of “Tears in Heaven” to the short list of contenders for worst song ever in the process.

The joke’s on me, I suppose. Here I’d been begging somebody to unplug old Slowhand for years, and when they finally did I got… this monstrosity. Be careful what you wish for.

Robert Johnson–whose “Malted Milk” Clapton does a grave disservice to here–sold his soul to the devil; Clapton sold his soul–or what little was left of it–to MTV. As it turns out, one is much safer making deals with the Lord of the Underworld. But I’m not blaming MTV; its corporate heads didn’t force E.C. to go the adult contemporary, easy-listening route. The decision to sleepwalk his way through the LP’s assortment of hoary blues covers and lackluster originals was all his.

Champions of this bland excuse for an album–and there must be legion, given it’s the best-selling live album of all time–will no doubt argue that Clapton had every right to play like a guy who’s taken too many muscle relaxants, and they have a point; Clapton’s mid-1970s conversion to the easy-does-it Tulsa sound is a matter of historical record, and you can hardly fault a guy for digging the likes of Clyde Stacy and J.J. Cale.

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Graded on a Curve:
Bob Dylan,
Hard Rain

The most excellent Martin Scorsese Rolling Thunder Revue documentary on Netflix is most definitely a must see, but I won’t be buying the accompanying box set Bob DylanThe Rolling Thunder Revue: The 1975 Live Recordings; sitting down to listen to 14 discs and multiple versions of the same song (eight of “Isis” alone) is a fatiguing proposition.

There are, of course, two other ways of aurally reliving Dylan’s traveling folk-rock circus of a roadshow, which made the rounds of smaller halls in two legs in 1975 and 1976. Like the box set, 2002’s The Bootleg Series Vol. 5: Bob Dylan Live 1975, The Rolling Thunder Revue captures the roving band on merry minstrels on the first, Northeastern leg of the tour; 1976’s Hard Rain documents the second leg.

Hard Rain received poor reviews upon its release and never shows up on lists of great Dylan albums–as many have noted, the second, Southern leg of the Rolling Thunder tour did not go as well as the first. Call it road fatigue or a simple case of pushing a good thing too far, but the consensus is that Dylan and his band mates were tired; enervated is a word often used to describe these performances.

But–and you can call me a contrarian if you want–I enjoy Hard Rain, and would argue that, at least in parts, it’s better than the other two live recordings. Why? A simple case of song selection. No, Hard Rain does not include versions of the revved-up and extraordinary “Isis,” the impassioned and angry “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” or the divinely lovely “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine,” on which Dylan and Joan Baez’s vocals mesh so beautifully.

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Graded on a Curve:
Little Feat, Little Feat

Little Feat’s eponymous 1971 debut may not have changed the world, but to those who were listening it must have come as a revelation–here were four guys, two of ‘em Mothers of Invention alums, boldly staking their claim (and a decent claim it was) as America’s very own Rolling Stones. Not bad for a first outing.

Fronted by guitarist/vocalist and native Angeleno Lowell George–who with his gutbucket growl was the youngest white old black bluesman ever to graduate from Hollywood High School–Little Feat laid it on the line on their first LP. You get lysergic blues, trucker toons, some Sticky Fingers-school country honk–these guys took Gram Parsons’ concept of Cosmic American Music and ran with it. This is edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold music, the sound of the Mississippi Delta on hallucinogens–a mythical collaboration between Don Van Vliet, Dave Dudley, Mick & Keith, ZZ Top, Slim Harpo, and Harpo Marx.

Robert Christgau opined that these guys could “pass for” the Band, but he’s fulla shit. The Band always held things in check; they were as tightly wound as a clock, and clocks aren’t in the business of howling. They never hit as berserk a note as the Feat do on “Hamburger Midnight,” and there’s simply no mistaking the very agitated freak looking for safe harbor in “Strawberry Flats” to Levon Helm’s resigned drifter looking for a place to lay his head in “The Weight.” And the Americana-loving Robbie Robertson never could have come up with as song as bizarrely lovely as “Brides of Jesus,” which is set where exactly? In Lowell George’s LSD-scrambled mind?

No, the early Little Feat was a freak’s dream’s come true. Just check out the sorta Captain Beefheart-esque “Hamburger Midnight,” on which George plays some truly frenzied slide guitar and delivers the most unhinged performance of his career. Or “Strawberry Flats,” wherein poor Lowell (who’s been “ripped off and run out of town”) knocks on a friend’s door in search of succor only to discover: “His hair was cut off and he was wearing a suit/And he said not in my house, not in my house/”You look like you’re part of a conspiracy.”

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Graded on the Curve:
The Doobie Brothers,
Takin’ It to the Streets

Talk about your unholy alliances. Michael McDonald and The Doobie Brothers? If you’re a fan of neither, it can only be compared to a disastrous corporate merger (remember AOL and Time Warner?) or, if you’re really a hater, the Hitler-Stalin Pact.

Ah, but if you’re a proud Yacht Rock captain, their coupling was a dream come true–the McDoobies’ first album, 1976’s Takin’ It to the Streets, produced not one but two smooth rock classics in the form of the title cut and “It Keeps You Runnin’.”

It was ace guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter who recommended fellow Steely Dan alum McDonald to the Doobs when Tom Johnston took sick with stomach ulcers (the result, no doubt, of massive guilt), so blame the stink on the Skunk if you want. But no matter where you stand on the band, there’s no denying that Mc’D’s addition gave the Doobie Brothers a new lease on life–their previous LP, 1975’s Stampede, included only one hit, and it was a cover. Despite continuing album sales, the Doobie Formula was growing stale, and the band’s quantum leap into easy listening kept them on FM radio.

Takin’ It to the Streets didn’t win the Brothers any critical love; The Village Voice’s Robert Christgau, for one, famously dismissed it with the words, “You can lead a Doobie to the studio but you can’t make him think.” Oddly, Christgau seems not to have noticed the addition of McDonald and the band’s radical turn towards blue-eyed soul. No fan of either artist, he might have noted that their union was a laudatory thing, insofar as having them in the same place made it easier to keep an eye on both of them.

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Graded on a Curve:
James Taylor,
Greatest Hits

I went to Carolina in my mind once. It left me sitting by the side of the highway outside Richmond, Virginia. I probably should have been checked out by a mechanic before I left.

I’ve been reading David Browne’s Fire and Rain, which purports to tell the “lost story of 1970,” and he spends a lot of time talking about James Taylor. 1970 was the year Sweet Baby James rocketed Taylor to stardom, but what I simply cannot fathom is why. Taylor was (is) the archetype of the sensitive singer-songwriter, a folk rocker of modest gifts and zero charisma, the kind of guy who performs live while sitting on a chair.

Browne quotes some Taylor fans circa 1970 at Duke University, and their praise is… underwhelming. “It’s nice, relaxing stuff,” said one. “You don’t get too excited about it.” And from such stuff are musical legends made.

In troth, Taylor’s rise to popularity isn’t that hard to figure out. By 1970 the Love, Drugs and Protest Generation was burned out–on spooky acid trips, Charles Manson, My Lai, you name it–and acid rock was the last thing they wanted to hear. Taylor’s music was the perfect palliative for the ugly end of the sixties–his gentle voice, a harbor in the storm.

I’ve never understood why anyone would want to own a James Taylor record, but if you really must have one I suppose you’d be best of going for 1976’s Greatest Hits. It includes Taylor’s best known early songs–the truly indispensable “Fire and Rain,” the escapist tracks “Carolina in My Mind,” “Country Road,” and “Mexico,” and where else are you going to find them in one place? Unfortunately, it also includes such negligible rubbish as “Shower the People” and the criminally insipid “You’ve Got a Friend.” Talk about your devil’s bargains.

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Graded on a Curve:
Dr. John, Gris Gris

Once more we remember Dr. John—Mac Rebennack, the Night Tripper—who passed away yesterday, June 6, 2019 with a look back from our archives.Ed.

I am happy to report there is one town in this God-obsessed land that remains under the sway of the Devil. I am talking, of course, about N’Orleans, that spirit-haunted hotbed of hedonism and home to the legendary likes of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau, the prostitute Lulu White, and the never-captured Axeman of New Orleans. God has sent flood upon flood to destroy America’s most depraved and flat-out weird city—where else are you going to find public ordinances banning gargling in public and tying an alligator to a fire hydrant?—but in vain. Either God’s floods ain’t what they used to be, or sin has rendered the birthplace of Jazz, where Lucifer owns a winter home, indestructible.

The Big Easy is renowned for two things: music and voodoo. And no human being has ever combined the two with such funky finesse as Mac Rebennack, aka Dr. John Creaux the Night Tripper. Like most people, the only tune I knew by the good doctor was 1973’s funky “Right Place Wrong Time.” Then Kid Congo Powers—who honed his own voodoo chops with the late Jeffrey Lee Pierce’s Gun Club—suggested I check out the Night Tripper’s 1968 debut LP Gris Gris, and I promptly fell under its spooky Creole spell.

Its trance-inducing, doom-heavy grooves instantaneously transported me to a shadowy Louisiana swamp swarming with snakes and alligators, voodoo drums sounding in the distance, the Axeman of New Orleans hard on my heels. Then to an incense-choked, unpainted wooden shack on stilts situated deep in the bayou’s perpetual gloom, where I found myself shuffling and shaking to the sound of congas and the Night Tripper’s Muzippi-muddy growl. Suffice it to say Gris Gris is one the most haunting slices of hoodoo you’ll ever hear, and one of the most addictive.

A child model (his face appeared on Ivory Soap boxes) turned strip club musician and illegal teen sessions player for such legendary figures as Professor Longhair, Joe Tex, and Frankie Ford, Rebennack turned from the guitar to the piano following an altercation with a pistol-packing club owner that resulted in the near severing of his left index finger. Forced to relocate to LA in the mid-sixties due to the legal consequences of an ongoing heroin addiction, it was there Rebennack adopted his colorful voodoo-headdress-wearing Dr. John Creaux persona and stepped into the limelight with Gris Gris, that incantatory and utterly unique melange of Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Cuban, and Mardi Gras Indian-flavored R&B and psychedelia.

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Graded on a Curve:
John Denver,
An Evening with
John Denver

I met John Denver once. Wait, let me amend that. I met his ghost. Our meeting occurred in the summer of 2003, in the Rocky Mountains. I’m still not quite sure what I was doing there; I don’t much care for nature (like any good urban creature I would much sooner be mugged by a human than a grizzly bear), and suffer pangs of existential nausea whenever I find myself more than 100 yards from the nearest coffee shop.

There isn’t much to do in the mountains, and one dazzlingly dull day I did the unthinkable and took a hike. Between all that marching uphill and the thin air I was soon (I would say within 10 minutes) totally bushed, so I sat myself down for a smoke in a natural little woodland amphitheater lined with rocks.

Now I’d passed an “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires” sign with Smokey Bear’s face on it just a couple of minutes before, but I’ll be damned if I’ll let a bear wearing a hat tell me how to conduct my business. There I was, eyes wide shut in a blissful nicotine-induced revery, when I got this uncanny feeling I wasn’t alone. So I opened my eyes to discover I was surrounded by chipmunks. Dozens upon dozens of chipmunks. At first I thought they were grinning at me. But on second glance I realized what I was looking at was a collective show of teeth.

I just had time to think “I’m about to be ripped apart by the cutest creatures on God’s green earth” when the ghost of John Denver strolled into that glade, acoustic guitar slung around his neck, and said, “Stand down, boys. he’s a newbie.”

“Holy Henry John Deutschendorf!” I exclaimed, recoiling in shock. “It’s the ghost of John Denver! What are you doing here?”

“Well, it’s a funny story” says John. “When I died in that plane and met God he wasn’t happy. In fact he told me I would have to spend a couple of thousand years in purgatory, largely on account of my consorting with Muppets. Turns out God hates the Muppets. Anyway, he said I could do my purgatory stint here or in West Virginia, and no way was I going to West Virginia. The whole state’s a polluted, redneck-infested shithole.”

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Graded on a Curve:
Dr. John,
Dr. John’s Gumbo

Today we remember Dr. John—Mac Rebennack, the Night Tripper—who passed away yesterday, June 6, 2019 with a look back from our archives.Ed.

In my experience, New Orleans is like the sixties—if you can remember the damn town, you were never there. My first wife and I spent a remarkable night whose details totally elude me roaming Bourbon Street—everything after the first two hurricanes is a drink and drug-fueled blur. Wonderful town though—I would like to think I had a great time there.

New Orleans isn’t renowned simply as one of the fleshpots of Egypt—it boasts a remarkable musical history as well. And on 1972’s Dr. John’s Gumbo, the beloved Mac Rebennack looks backwards to New Orleans storied R&B, jazz, and boogie woogie past—and the work of such immortals as Huey “Piano” Smith, Professor Longhair, and Earl King—and puts his unique spin on some truly timeless songs.

Dr. John led a multitude of lives before he broke through to solo success in the late sixties. Session musician, record label A&R man and producer, narcotics dealer, and brothel operator are all on his resume, and you can add jailbird while you’re at it as Dr. John’s own long-time heroin addiction led to a two-year prison term in Texas. It speaks volumes about The Night Tripper’s rough and ready lifestyle that he was forced to switch from guitar to piano after catching a bullet left-handed while defending a friend, singer/keyboardist Ronnie Barron. I don’t know if you can hear Dr. John’s chequered past in his music, but I like to think I can.

From opening track “Iko Iko” Dr. John’s Gumbo swings, and the music never stops. As Bobby Christgau noted in his review of the LP, “If Huey Smith or Allen Toussaint captures more of the spirit of New Orleans they don’t do it in any album you can buy in a store.” “Iko Iko” is pure syncopated brilliance—between the Doctor’s marvelous piano playing and the great horn arrangement and the female backing vocalists, this one is a rich musical jambalaya that will leave you wanting seconds.

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Graded on a Curve:
Redd Kross,
Third Eye

Over the course of their long bubblegum meets indie rock career, cult faves Redd Kross have established two indisputable facts: (1) there’s nothing they love more than to sing about the signifiers of seventies kitsch, and (2) they are a power pop band of sublime brilliance who have never gotten their deserved props because they have consistently refused, as the Raspberries and Big Star did, to remove tongue from cheek, preferring to sing about elephant flares and tube tops at the mall to the serious love songs that make power pop, well, power pop.

Since 1980, when they were mere middle school kiddies opening for Black Flag, brothers Steve and Jeff McDonald of Hawthorne, California, home of the Beach Boys, have been cranking out songs about Linda Blair, “Dracula’s Daughter” (one of the most sublime power pop songs ever written), Frosted Flakes, 1976 (the year I graduated high school!), McKenzie Phillips, Lita Ford—and I could go on and on. They’ve also covered artists as varied as Charles Manson and The Carpenters—and that’s real breadth! And their early punk bona fides were established with Replacements-fuck-you-tunes like “I Hate My School” and the great “Notes and Chords Mean Nothing to Me.”

Their 1990 major label debut Third Eye followed upon the relative success of 1987’s Neurotica, but whereas Neurotica was all over the fucking place, and has even been cited as an inspiration for grunge, Third Eye sticks more to the power pop format exemplified by the wonderful “Bubblegum Factory,” which sounds like The Archies, especially when Jeff McDonald sings, “Take me on a tour of the bubblegum factory/I want to see where love is made,” backed by Susan Cowsill of sixties popsters (and Partridge Family inspiration) The Cowsills.

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Graded on a Curve:
Faith/Void,
Faith/Void Split

There are those who say this very influential 1982 Dischord split release changed the world, but I’m not one of them–the Faith side’s a hardcore snooze. No, what makes the LP worth owning is Void on the B side. Void blew skinhead minds when they hit the national scene, and I suspect a fair number of kids played the hell out of the Void side while using the Faith side as an oversized beer mat. I also suspect a lot of kids wracked their brains trying to figure out how to keep the Void and send the Faith side back for a refund.

The LP’s odd at the sub-atomic level, in so far as Faith and Void might as well be different species. The straightedgers in Faith came straight out of Georgetown and were harDCore clique faves; they were fronted by Ian MacKaye’s younger brother Alec, for Christ’s sake. Void, on the other hand, were outsiders in every sense of the word; they hailed from the uncool environs of Columbia, MD, eschewed straightedge orthodoxy in favor of gobbling LSD, and broke with hardcore orthodoxy by playing a high-octane hardcore/metal hybrid that would go on to influence a whole generation of thrash-happy metalheads.

What you get with Faith is your average set of Doc Martens–sui generis B-quality harDCore mated to angry high school kid notebook lyrics. Alec MacKaye’s world view is limited to the insular G-Town punk scene, and from the sounds of it everybody’s letting him down. I can handle his perpetually peeved punk shtick for a song or two, but the tantrums grow tiresome fast; I’m assuming the guy possesses a sense of humor, but you would never know it from these songs, which reinforce my conviction that walking around sober and serious is a horrible way to go through life.

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Graded on a Curve:
The Felice Brothers,
Undress

The Felice Brothers have released their first album in three years and all everybody’s talking about is how it’s this big POLITICAL STATEMENT. Hell, vocalist/guitarist Ian Felice has more or less said as much. But me, I don’t buy it. Sure, a couple of the songs on Undress address the deplorable state of the nation, but Ian ain’t (despite his declaring his candidacy for the job of President in “Special Announcement”) really a political guy, or a topical songwriter even. He’s just an empathetic soul who wants us all to get naked and love one another.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; the Felice Brothers are the most talented bunch of yokels to come out of the Hudson Valley since Bob Dylan and the Band, and unlike them the brothers are native sons. Ian Felice is a bona fide great American poet, one who has taken it upon himself to limn–with images and words that startle and dazzle–just how hard it is to live and love and ache in a world where half of your decisions have already been made for you and the ones you’re free to make on your own so often turn out to be bad ones. And he’s not blind to the joys of living either.

Ian Felice is a one-man tent revival meeting, and the band’s albums may as well be oversized communion wafers. I listen to them and I feel washed clean. Does that sound like bullshit? I don’t care. The simple truth is the Felice Brothers, both on record and as a live act, move me more than anybody playing music period. Lots of people say the same thing about Bruce Springsteen, but I’ve seen the Boss and listened to the Boss and these guys are better.

The Felice Brothers have been playing their unique brand of folk-rock for 13 years now, and Undress is something special, to wit, their most engaging effort since 2005’s The Felice Brothers. The band has a new bass player, and sadly fiddle player Greg Farley is gone, and the overall sound continues to grow more polished, but Ian Felice’s Hudson Valley hillbilly’s yowl is still one of a kind, the band whip-snap tight. And the new bunch of songs are stronger than ever.

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Graded on a Curve:
Frantix,
My Dad’s a Fuckin’ Alcoholic

Mention the Rocky Mountains and music, and people immediately think John Denver, the chipmunk-cheeked eco-folkie who sang about sunshine on his shoulder making him high and going crazy and trying to touch the sun. I don’t know why the man’s considered such a square commodity. He sounds like a raving acid casualty to me.

John Denver will always be Colorado’s most famous spiritual son, in part because he was all over your television set and in part because he liked to hang with such high-profile glamour set types as the Muppets. But Colorado was also home to one of my favorite hardcore bands, Frantix.

If you’ve never heard of Frantix, I get it; Colorado was barely a stopping point on the hardcore circuit, much less a breeding ground for indigenous bands. Denver was Deadsville, and Frantix didn’t even come out Denver–they were spawned in the sprawling Denver suburb of Aurora. But no surprise there; many of America’s greatest hardcore bands emerged from the teenage wastelands of suburbia, and in the early ’80s Aurora had the distinction of being the fastest growing suburb in the United States.

I like the John Denver-Frantix dichotomy–it speaks to a Colorado schism that is both geographical and spiritual. You have Denver seeking God and Inner Peace in the mountains, and Frantix finding nothing worth living for in the God-blasted cities of the plains below. In their own ways both Denver and Frantix were spiritual entities–Denver sought the divine in the sanctified heights, while Frantix cursed God’s absence in the urban sprawl of materialist America’s equivalent of Sodom and Gomorrah.

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