The Grouch grew up in Detroit Michigan where he was heavily influenced
by the sounds of Motown, Ted Nugent and Alice Cooper.
The Grouch currently resides in Sweden where he teaches academic writing
at Dalarna University. When not listening to, playing or writing about
music, he likes to tinker with Linux computers.
BACKROOM BLUES VOLUME TWO - REVIEW - May 12, 2016
Well folks, I am back and this time I am going to introduce the second album of Bongo Boy's Backroom Blues series.
In a nutshell, this is why American culture kicks ass all over the world. The music on this album just oozes cool, not just the "OK-that-was-cool" kind of cool, but the kind of cool that leaves you breathless and wondering what just happened.
I once heard that the first time Pete Townshend met Jimi Hendrix, Jimi proceeded to play his guitar AT Townshend. The message was undeniably clear. Jimi was letting him know that there was a new gun in town and there wasn't a thing Townshend could do about it.
Well, this album is full of new guns - and they ROCK.
Track 1 is titled Beg and Plead and it comes from Jeanne Lozier. Now, I do not know much about Jeanne, but I know this: Her guitar player can blaze and her harp player can blow. When you combine that with her Aretha Franklin style vocals you have something that is nothing short of spellbinding.
Track 2 is Shake Your Hips by Rocket 88. At first I thought this was a cover of La Grange, then the singer came in and I realized this is a cover of the Slim Harpo song. You can understand my confusion as ZZ Top borrowed from, and the Rolling Stones coved, Slim Harpo. Rocket 88 is keeping good company. The guitar on this track is outstanding, but it is the keyboards that really make me smile. This band's album cover should be in the dictionary under the definition of soul. I defy anyone to listen to this track and not feel the groove. It is just so infectious. I warn you though, look around before you do. You would hate to break out into a Billy Gibbons laugh while at work.
Track 3 is titled Wonder If and comes from B3 (The Red Bank Blues Band) out of New Jersey. Two things immediately stand out on this track. The first is the female singer has nothing short of a beautiful voice. She can go into a soulful screech for sure, but below the wail is a truly more-than-pleasant voice. The second stand-out feature is the harp player. He can definitely play. The man has some hefty lung control.
Track 4 is one of my favorite tracks on the album. Blind Lemon Pledge is back from Backroom Blues volume one. Their first track on this album is called Nag Nag Nag - and as a divorced guy all I can say is I feel your pain my brother. This song is one big lament from a guy who isn’t getting laid, but is getting bitched at incessantly. OK, musically the horn solo is really nice, but it is the lyrics that really make me smile. It sounds like he was at my house a couple of years ago...
Track 5 Trevor Sewel’s first track on the album is So Tired. I dig the funky groove. Trevor’s voice has a laid back kind of cool that I dig. The old-school female backup singers are a nice touch. Basically, Trevor has reproduced a formulaic classic R&B jam. This is the groove that lets a person wear sunglasses in a dark room and not look stupid. Well done Trevor.
Track 6 comes from Mike Daly & The Planets. The title is Broken, but it might as well be Fuzzy Guitar and Gnarly Vocals. The guitar (s) dominate this tune. The Planets employ an effective droning technique that keeps the listener’s mind occupied. This is enhanced by a grizzly, gravely voice and rhyming lyrics. The entire package is accentuated with dueling guitar licks that just make me smile. This is absolutely worth a listen
Track 7 - Blind Lemon Pledge is back. You have to respect these guys. The harp sounds wicked and the guitars are mesmerizing. BLP’s ultra-mellow singing style is nothing less that eerie as he describes how his Ex (the Nag in track 4?) broke his heart. I would love to see these guys live. I have a feeling that they put on a rocking show.
Track 8 is called Good Time Charlie and comes from Laurie Ann & The SaddleTones. Hands down, the best song on the album. Laurie Ann has a great voice! The music is just cool. The piano can swing and the slide guitar makes me smile! (I am a sucker for slide guitar.) Folks, this is an old time bad ass blues band - they have a singer with a great voice - keys and a guitar who can each solo comfortably or blend into the background and a rock solid rhythm section. You can easily imagine your grandfather digging this music before he had to ship out to give the Nazi’s a smack upside the head. The style may be old, but like fine wine, it ages well.
Track 9 is called Pretty Baby and comes from one of my favorite groups on Backroom Blues volume one. Big Bone Daddy. This ultra-simplistic jam is just fun. Dad’s voice sounds good and his band can make some noise. The thumping count of the drums is sure to get your head banging. Musically, the biggest treat is the guitar. Not the guitar you hear up front that plays the notes of the refrain, listen and you will hear a second guitar track just underneath that is soloing like crazy. It almost seems like Dad stuck that guitar in just to see if anyone was paying attention. All in all, this is a really good song, despite what seems to be its aqualung influenced lyrical content...
Track 10 is another offering from Trevor Sewell and is called Hollow Part 1. This song ROCKS. The guitar is just spectacular. Trevor spent a lot of time in the studio on this one. This track goes deep. It is filled with musical nooks and crannies that come together to make what sounds like a modern day Theme from an Imaginary Western.I can almost see Clint Eastwood in his Spaghetti Western days riding across the desert while this song plays in the background. The only problem with the song is the abrupt ending. I was enjoying a nice groove and then boom it was over. Trevor, Dude, not cool man that really messed with my...state of mind.
So, what is the bottom line? The bottom line is this album is a collection of really good songs by a bunch of bands you may not have heard of, but you should definitely know.
OUT OF THE GARAGE VOLUME ONE - REVIEW - April 20, 2016
OUT OF THE GARAGE VOLUME ONE - A Compilation series for 60s Rock | Bongo Boy Records.
The Bottom Line an Outstanding Album! Long Live The Garage! - Review by The Grouch | Sweden
I'm back and this time we are going to take a listen to an album called Out of the Garage. There must be something in the water over there in New Jersey, because Bongo Boy has a knack for finding really good songs and putting them on an album with a particular theme. I like to think of it as a playlist for those who know what vinyl is. (No, I do not simply mean a substance consisting of, or containing the monovalent group of atoms, CH 2). I mean records!
So what do we find on this album? The name implies that it may be some sort of Neo-hippie homage to flowers and drum circles, but wait it also says that this music is out of the garage...hmmmm this sounds interesting.
So it was with a hope, but no expectation that I cued-up these tracks. I was hoping for more garage and fewer hippies. (OK, Hendrix did some really cool stuff, but most of that peace and love nonsense just makes me want to go do something else...)
Well, what a pleasant surprise this album turned out to be. This is basically a collection of really good Punk/Punk-Pop tracks. Now, when I say Punk, I don't mean mindless noise, I mean basic three chord Rock and Roll played with ATTITUDE.
Attitude is something this album has an abundance of.
Track 1 Like Nothing That You've Seen by Mark Lindsay is WICKED. I was stunned to read that Mark Lindsay was the singer in Paul Revere & The Raiders. I mean, if I remember correctly they campaigned for Nixon and had songs about Leave It to Beaver stuff...Oh well, we all make mistakes when we are younger. (At one time I had a ullet.) The point is, this song is great! Mark's voice is good - really good. Combine his voice with the guitar riffs - the lead that begins 10 seconds into the song really makes me smile. All I can think is "Damn, this guy is cool!" This song is an infectious groove that sets the pace for the rest of the album - and the two string solo that starts at the 2 minute 10 second mark is just smoking hot.
Track 2, called You Gotta Work, by The WeeGees is a three minute rampage of sound dominated by some red hot horns. The horn section makes this song! I am reminded of the Geils band's horn section, the Uptown Horns. Very nice guys.
Track 3 is Nothing To Brag About by the Rage Of Angels. This is one of two songs on the album that remind me of the Go-Gos. (No, I don't mean the Belinda Carlisle solo years. I mean the stuff they did with Jane Wiedlin, when they were a rock and roll band that just happened to be comprised exclusively of women.) I hear the same new wave west coast groove in this track. Of course it also helps that their singer has a really good voice and the guitar player knows how to step up and take a solo.
Track 4 Take It Or Leave It, by The Accelerators is just a classic old Punk jam! Is the music technically difficult? No. It the singer fantastic? No. What it is, folks, is bad ass ROCK AND ROLL. Look, the guy can sing, well enough. The band is tight, enough. What they have that a lot of more polished bands lack, is PUNK ROCK SOUL and that makes this Grouch smile. Listen to this track. Tell me, honestly, that you don't feel it too. Of course you feel it, the idea that these guys are making some cool noise - and that you could do that too. Rock and Roll for the masses, here it is and it's in your face.
The Rage of Angels are back for track 5, Half A Mile Away. Listen to this song! Man, I love that raunchy guitar. OK, it's 2016 – does anyone still think women can't rock? Well, if you think so you have not heard The Rage of Angles. Man, this chick makes that guitar screen. I dig it.
Track 6 is called Spin and comes from a group called KickBend. I find myself wondering if these guys are out of Detroit. They sound a lot like a local band I dug back in the 1980s. The music is loud, the guitar rocks and the drummer seems to be having a really good time. This song is a gigging band's dream - it can be extended indefinitely and lends itself to a concert ending. Good job guys.
Track 7 Broken Record by The Catholic Girls is my favorite track on the album. The majority, based on the video of this song that I saw I do not think all, of the members are female. Here is the bottom line: I love this woman's voice - it just screams attitude (think the Gore Gore Girls) and the guitar is outrageous. The song reminds me both of Billy Idol and the Go-Gos. All in all this is an exceptional jam.
Track 8 is titled I Can't Let Go by the Chords UK. Good song – played well - with the right amount of energy. I'm a pretty big Mott fan, so that might influence my feelings about this track, but I dig it and I think you will too.
Track 9, Hey Little School Girl by the ZOMBIE GARDEN CLUB is old school rock and roll. This is the stuff that made middle class parents nervous back in the day. Based on what I've read it seems this band started in Toronto, you could have fooled me. This track has British Invasion written all over it. The snarl is just right! You have to check this out.
Track 10 is Sweet Sunshine by the Satisfactors. I first heard about the Satisfactors a few years ago. I dig what they do! This is a band made up of a bunch of guys who are bursting with in-your-face soul. The singer sings well. The rhythm section is rock solid and the guitars are on fire. I dare anyone to listen to this track and not be in a better mood by the end of the song. A long time ago, when the Walkman first came out, I had a friend who would say "Here, have a little Alice. You'll feel better." Then he would give you the headphones and Billion Dollar Babies would blast through your brain. Well, here, have a little Satisfactors. You'll feel better.
BACKROOM BLUES VOLUME ONE - REVIEW - April 9, 2016
Hej from Sweden, America! I’m the Grouch and I do music reviews. Now, you might wonder why I’m called the Grouch - I’ll give you a hint it isn’t because I am known for my diplomacy or subtle commentary. The words in these reviews are mine and mine alone, if I slam your band don’t bug Bongo Boy. You can send me hate mail at theheadgaijin AT grouchygaijin DOT com.
The other day Bongo Boy asked me to give a listen to some of their records and jot down my thoughts. Seeing as I have a soft spot in my old Grouchy heart for Blues and Blues based rock, I thought the album to start with would be Backroom Blues Volume One.
The album starts off with Miss Stacy by Plainfield Slim & The Groundhawgs: First of all, if you have even an ounce of soul you will feel the groove on this track. I mean the name of the band alone ought to peak your interest.
SO what is it that Plainfield Slim and his band of Groundhawgs do? The answer is simple; they blow the roof off. The guitars sound killer as they go into what sounds like a Texas influenced jam - then comes a wicked voice. I get a big goofy smile on my face everytime I hear that vocal snarl. The voice combined with the slide guitar and the harp in the background just scream bad ass rock and roll. I swear I even hear what could be a nod to Cab Calloway - although Plainfield Slim isn’t singing Heidi-Heidi-Heidi-Ho.
From here the album moves on Sugar Rush by Blind Lemon Pledge. This song is for the harp lovers. As an armature blues harp player, I respect this man’s ability. Well done, well done indeed.
Next up is a track by the Paula Boggs Band, Paula referes to their stuff as “soulgrass”, which is just a really cool word and reminds me of a band I used to be in - the guitar player insisted on calling our stuff “cow punk”, but I digress. So what it is that Paula does? She sings WELL in front of a band that just oozes cool and makes one very impressive amount of noise. Simply put if you want to hear the electric blues done right, you have to check out this band. Man, I hope these guys come to Sweden!
Big Bone Daddy follows up with another rocking track that compels the listener to feel the vibe. What can I say about this track other than the band is rock solid, the singer has a prototypical voice for bad ass blues and the guitar player can do some magic with his axe. Although the style is vastly different, I get the same feeling listening to this man that I got when I first heard Jeff Beck. The riffs are subtle yet incredibly powerful. Well done, Sir, well done.
Next on, what is clearly a great album, is Vin Matteo. His track Inside My Head is one of my favorite tracks on the album. Now, to be honest, aside from the chorus, I cannot really tell what he is singing - and I couldn’t care less. He could be singing nonsense and it would still sound great. Vin’s voice fits the genre well and his guitar rocks. What more can you ask for?
Track six is another offering from Big Bone Daddy. Dad doesn’t disappoint. You really have to listen to these guys. They come off like some laid back old souls who can just rip it up the and grin sardonically while mesmerizing the crowd. Did I mention that their guitar player rocks?
KickBend, a bunch of guys from near Chicago bring their track Gone. What can be said about these guys? They do what they do and they do it well. Coming out of Chicago, I would not expect any thing else from them. It is obvious that these guys were paying attention, because they know how to play.
Kimon and The Prophets contributes to the album with a somewhat subdued blues number called New York’s Finest. I enjoyed the slowed down tempo and the keyboard work combined with the slide guitar is emotion filled.
Vin Matteo is back with Rat Race. Man, I dig this guy. Again, I really don’t know what he is singing aside from frequent invocations of the words Rat Race - Dude, do you talk that way as well, or is it just your singing voice? In any case, it sounds great when backed by your guitar. Keep it up!
The album concludes with the Roadhouse Sons doing a track by the same name. I can see why Bongo Boy put this track last. It has everything an archetypical blues song needs. The music follows the blues formula to a T - the singer has a good voice and the guitar player has some lightening. When those qualities, given the importance of the Roadhouse in the blues mythos, are combined with the fact that the chorus is: We are the Roadhouse sons. We are the chosen ones, there is really no better way to end a blues album
So, what is the bottom line? If you dig blues and blues based rock you will enjoy this album. It is definitely worthy of inclusion in any serious collector’s stash.
Now if Bongo Boy would organize a Backroom Blues tour, then I would be really excited, until then I guess I’ll just have to dig the album. - The Grouch | Sweden