Power pop begins at home: Richard X. Heyman

richard_x_heyman_photo (www.musoscribe.com)Back in the 1950s, five-year-old Richard X. Heyman “started banging on things.”* After becoming a full-fledged drummer, keyboardist, guitarist, songwriter, founding member of New Jersey garage-rock band the Doughboys, and occasional session musician for Brian Wilson, Jonathan Richman, Ben E. King, Link Wray, the Shangri-Las’ Mary Weiss, the Left Banke’s Michael Brown and others, thirty-something-year-old Richard X. Heyman recorded a six-song EP entitled Actual Size and a full album entitled Living Room!! in his…living room (well, his home recording studio). Both packed with quality power pop befitting someone who’s hung out and worked with those aforementioned artists.

Thirty years and eleven albums later, Mr. Heyman has released Incognito, a collection of 14 power pop gems that could only come from a true pop music craftsman. Described on his website as “one of the first ‘one man band’ recording artists, in the grand tradition of Paul McCartney, Emitt Rhodes and Todd Rundgren,” Richard X. Heyman is capable of churning out top-shelf tunes that rival any of those guys. The bright, melodic sounds on Incognito hearken back to when radio waves were full of such stuff, but without merely going “retro.” Just listen to the sparkling guitar that opens the title track, the flavorful vocal harmonies reminiscent of CSN&Y, the Beatlesque beauty “A Fool’s Errand,” the majestic, hook-laden “And Then,” and the album’s centerpiece, the bouncy, Byrds-ish love song “Gleam.”

Richard_X_Heyman-Incognito-cover

R&B horns make the scene on “So What,” Traffic-style psych is the order of the day on “Her Garden Path,” Heyman channels Dylan on “Miss Shenandoah Martin” and Bob Seger on the raucous “Terry Two Timer,” waxes philosophical (with just a hint of the late great Warren Zevon’s sound and sentiment) on “These Troubled Times,” then brings Incognito to a rousing close with the soulful call-to-arms “Everybody Get Wise.” Heyman’s extraordinary rock ‘n’ roll voice – a mix of Steve Winwood and Graham Parker with a touch of Tom Petty – is the meat ‘n’ potatoes of this album…so much so it’s a wonder the guy isn’t more of a household name by now.

And as if a new RXH solo album isn’t enough, the resurrected Doughboys continue to push out poppin’ fresh (sorry) material, with a new release due out very soon. The band is a regular favorite on the playlists of Little Steven’s Underground Garage channel on Sirius XM.

So until Mr. Heyman lines up some new gigs (hopefully soon!), let’s just stay home, lie on the couch…and remain (and listen to) Incognito.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA                     Richard X. Heyman…at home (image courtesy Soundbard.com; image up top                                     courtesy Musoscribe.com)

from Wikipedia

If David Allan Coe ain’t country, …

DAC-rasta-hat (panicstream.net)

When it comes to music, there’s country…and then there’s country. What might be termed “outlaw” country. The real deal. Not Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, Lady Antebellum, Brad Paisley. We’re talkin’ Merle Haggard, George Jones, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Paycheck. And underneath some of this music, there lies a songwriter, a poet – a grizzled guy buried in grizzled hair and beard who emerges from backstage at B.B. King’s Blues Club & Grill held up by a cane and a similarly-bearded assistant. The guy’s name is David Allan Coe. And he’s responsible for the legendary fuck-you-to-the boss anthem of Americana – “Take This Job and Shove It” – which rose to the top of the country charts in early 1978 as recorded by the notorious Johnny Paycheck. The song, introduced as “a song I wrote 52 years ago” (whoa) comes along about halfway through Mr. Coe’s incredible set at B.B. King’s this past July 13.

johnny-paycheck-take-this-job-and-shove-it-epic-2 (45cat.com)

But before David Allan Coe takes his drudgery job and shoves it in the foreman’s face, he kicks off with Merle Haggard’s “Ramblin’ Fever,” then lets loose with a medley of sorts…of drinkin’ songs (“Whiskey and Women,” “Jack Daniel’s If You Please,” “Tennessee Whiskey”), breakup songs (“If You’re Gonna Do Me Wrong (Do It Right),” “Chiseled in Stone”), breakup and drinkin’ songs (“This Bottle (In My Hand)”), and even breakup and drug songs (“Cocaine Carolina”). Oh, and a cover of the Dave Loggins 1974 classic, “Please Come to Boston.” All while seated with electric guitar in hand…and accompanied by trusty backing band the B.B. Lee 3: guitarist B.B. Lee, bassist Frizzy, and drummer D.O.G. With names like that, now that’s a trusty backing band.

DAC-black-suit-and-guitar (stageshottz.com)   DAC-white-suit-and-guitar (davidallancoe.com)
David Allan Coe in black…and white

The set continues with the endearing “Waltz Across Texas,” popularized by Ernest Tubb and written by Tubb’s nephew Billy Talmadge (with the most endearing – and most drunken – version coming from Alex Chilton on his 1979 album Like Flies On Sherbert), followed by the location-appropriate “N.Y.C. Streets” from Coe’s 2006 collaboration with heavy metal gods Pantera, Rebel Meets Rebel (Coe hit it off with Pantera’s late guitarist Dimebag Darrell). Then a bit of Dobie Gray’s ’73 hit “Drift Away” and a handful of Kid Rock numbers (another soul-mate of Coe’s). In between are song snippets – country music vignettes – as Mr. Coe the storyteller relates and reminisces.

To top the evening off, Coe tosses out the crowd-pleasin’ sing-along “If That Ain’t Country” (yeah, if that ain’t country, well…as he says, you can kiss my ass), the tale of a meetup with Hank Williams’ ghost entitled “The Ride,” and the top-ten hit penned by Steve Goodman and John Prine, “You Never Even Called Me by My Name.” At that point it’s time for David Allan Coe to take up his cane and – with the help of his, uh, helper – leave the stage. As the surprisingly not-that-rowdy crowd chants “D.A.C.! D.A.C.!”

DAC-arm-tattoo (bbkingblues.com)

David Allan Coe was born 78 years ago in Akron, Ohio, spent much of his early life in and out of prison, and has released over 40 albums in as many years. And if that ain’t country, you can…yup.

images courtesy panicstream.net, 45cat.com, stageshottz.com, davidallancoe.com, bbkingblues.com

The Middle East meets the South – the music of Lisa Said

“Some dudes wanna give me shelter

Some dudes just want helter skelter

Other dudes, they make me twist and shout”

LisaSaid-Estranged-cover (lisasaid.bandcamp.com)

With the come-here-then-kick-in-the-balls vocals pioneered by Chrissie Hynde and later Liz Phair, over a noisy, Stooges/Velvets guitar-fest, Lisa Said plows through her song “Some Dudes” like she owns the place, dropping more than a few classic rock references along the way: “Handy Man,” “Route 66,” “All the Young Dudes,” and “I Wanna Be Your Dog” also make it in there with the Beatles and Stones. “Some Dudes” is the rowdy opener on Lisa Said’s self-produced, brand new 4-song CD, Estranged. Things quiet down a bit with “Regular Guy” as the Phair vibe heads down a more alt-country, Lucinda Williams road, then collides with Sheryl Crow’s tour bus on the disc’s best track, “Peel the Moon.” And with some nice mandolin picking courtesy of Andrew Cox, Estranged comes to a close with the lovely “Up Not Down.”

So what’s all this about the Middle East meeting the South?

LisaSaid-1 (lisasaid.com)

Raised in an Egyptian family in Tennessee, Lisa Said (pronounced Sa’yeed) grew up surrounded by country music, 60s and 70s radio hits, and Arabic rhythms. After traveling up and down the East Coast, learning guitar and playing in several garage-rock-pop bands, she settled in Washington, DC, met up with drummer (and Middle Eastern percussionist) Andrew Toy, and forged a sound that basically blends all those genres. Yum! Shawarma with hummus and barbecued ribs!

Lisa and her band then released two CDs: 5-song EP First Time, Long Time in 2015 and full album No Turn Left Behind in 2016. Estranged is her latest, just out this month – you can pick it up and also check out “Some Dudes” here!

LisaSaid-tennessee_flag_1 (foothillsflagsandpoles.com)          LisaSaid+DC+Music+Rocks (dcmusicrocks.com)          LisaSaid-egypt-flag-std (theflagshop.co.uk)

images courtesy lisasaid.com, dcmusicrocks.com, foothillsflagsandpoles.com, theflagshop.co.uk

Giant heads, dancing cupcakes and Richard Strauss

Now there’s a shopping list you don’t see every day.  But these are some of the key ingredients in Whipped Cream, a new production by the American Ballet Theatre which recently played at the Metropolitan Opera in NYC.  Originally whipped up in 1924 as Schlagobers, the work is best enjoyed on a fairly empty stomach and probably not while under the influence of mind-altering substances.

whipped-cream-candy-shop-chef (Gene Schiavone)(nytimes.com)whipped-cream-doctor (latimes.com)
Most of the action centers around the main character, known as the Boy, and takes place against a Candyland board-game backdrop in a confectioner’s shop (run by a large-headed Chef) and a sinister, dimly-lit hospital room (run by a large-headed Doctor and his army of syringe-wielding Nurses). Along the way, behold Princess Tea Flower, Prince Coffee, Prince Cocoa, and Don Zucchero the sugar guy.

After a landscape of grayish, whipped-creamy hills and sixteen women in meringue-like white outfits representing, uh, Whipped Cream, the real fun begins as the Doctor gets drunk, invoking the appearance of three dancing booze bottles named – get ready – Mademoiselle Marianne Chartreuse, Ladislav Slivovitz, and Boris Wutki.  I think President Trump may know that last guy. Meanwhile the Boy – confined to an oversized hospital bed after ODing on whipped cream and contracting the world’s worst bellyache – is whisked away by Princess Praline and some Cupcake Children.  Had enough of these whimsical characters yet?  Well, hang on…

whipped-cream-characters (zealnyc.com)

In a scene out of some deranged comic book mishmash of Star Wars, Willy Wonka, and the Japanese art of just plain silliness, say hello to the Snow Yak, the Cake Ladies, the Gumball Lady, the Chocolate Chip Man, the Parfait Man, the Chef Head Man (yikes), the Long Neck Piggy (double yikes), the Cherry Head (okay), the Pink Yak (come on now), and – my favorite – the Worm Candy Man (omg).  The Boy and the various Princesses and Princes meet Nicolo, the towering, candy-encrusted emcee and – fantasy is now reality!  Or something.

whipped-cream-finale (ocregister.com)
Yes, this is a music blog… The music driving all this madness was composed in 1921-22 by Richard Strauss, and the work was premiered at the Vienna State Opera in 1924.  Not sure if the crazy sets and costumes in the current incarnation (courtesy of pop surrealist Mark Ryden) are anything like what audiences saw back in the roaring twenties, but the whole thing is a delightful distraction from the rest of 2017.

whipped-cream (pinterest.com)

images courtesy nytimes.com/Gene Schiavone, latimes.com/Allen J. Schaben, zealnyc.com, ocregister.com, pinterest.com

It was 44 years ago today…

Sgt._Pepper's_Lonely_Hearts_Club_Band (en.wikipedia.org)

sgt-pepper-rear-cover (beatlesblogger.com)

Well, 44 years and two months, April 23, 1973. Another birthday, another record album…from my cousins who I guess wanted to make sure my measly record collection at least contained the most iconic rock ‘n’ roll album of all-time. And so six years after everyone else, I’m sitting in my room listening to The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band for the first time on my little plastic phonograph, all but blinded by the bright red back cover as I try to follow the song lyrics.

sgt pepper side 1

Starting with the title track (completely new to me and in that fun/goofy Beatles vein a la “Yellow Submarine”), I’m off on a wild, no-space-between-songs journey – supposedly the first album ever made with no spaces between songs. A big applause-filled blast-off and suddenly it’s “With a Little Help from My Friends” – the “hit” that I’ve definitely heard before, most likely as a schmaltzy, television-variety-show rendition. “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” I recognize from a Muppets segment on Sesame Street. More new stuff follows, “Getting Better” and “Fixing a Hole,” both fine, optimistic tunes with perfect Beatles arrangements…then the melancholy “She’s Leaving Home,” which only a week or two before was a discussion subject in ninth-grade English class. And winding up side one, the magnificent “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” – my immediate favorite with its unconventional circus calliope sounds.

sgt pepper side 2

Side two brings on the rather lengthy “Within You, Without You” – with Indian instrumentation galore and without standard pop/rock fare…right into the jovial “When I’m Sixty-Four,” another fairly familiar tune from TV somewhere. “Lovely Rita” – never heard that one before but what a great piano solo…and dig that swirly psychedelic ending! A rooster signals the offbeat “Good Morning, Good Morning,” a barrage of barnyard animals transforms into the “Sgt. Pepper” reprise, and finally, the other lengthy one, “A Day in the Life.” What a story there…about car crashes, war films, daydreaming, and holes. And that crazy crescendo at the very end! Yikes!

Today these songs to me conjure up images and memories not of the proverbial 1967 Summer of Love, but of the equally-proverbial 1973 Summer of…what, Watergate? And lo and behold, here we are, on the 50th anniversary of the album’s actual, official appearance, poised to enter the (probably proverbial someday) 2017 Summer of…Trumpgate. Which brings us to a day in the life of President Tweet:

Trump doing his hair (pinterest.com)

 

Woke up, fell out of bed,
Dragged a comb across my head

 

 

Trump audience
It’s wonderful to be here
It’s certainly a thrill
You’re such a lovely audience

 

 

Trump nothing to say (democraticunderground.com)

 

I’ve got nothing to say but it’s okay

 

 

Trump correct! (twitter.com)

 

And it really doesn’t matter if I’m wrong, I’m right

 

 

 

Trump friends (inquisitr.com)

 

Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends

 

 

 

Album images courtesy en.wikipedia.org, beatlesblogger.com, 45worlds.com; Trump images courtesy pinterest.com, trofire.com, democraticunderground.com, twitter.com, inquisitr.com

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

New music road trip!

family-road-trip (ministry-to-children.com)Check the windows, wipe the oil, or whatever the Allman Brothers used to say… It’s time for the Schizomusica Summer Tour with stops at the hometowns of some noteworthy, newly- or soon-to-be-released music:

Long Island post card (RetroAmerica.com, pinterest.com)

the walk about (cdbaby.com)

Let’s start this journey off right here at home, with a band from my birthplace of Long Island, and with a real road trip theme song: “Traveler”! That song was already reviewed back in February, but now The Walk-A-Bout (notice the extra hyphen now) has brought-a-bout their 6-song mini-album, loaded with even more of Kevin Anderson’s sublime guitar stylings and Darren Sullivan’s hearty, heartfelt vocals. All held together with the rhythmic glue of bassist Mike Perrotta and drummer Drew Bertrand. Add to that the funky catchiness of “Broken Past” and “Shakin’ It Up,” the luxurious keyboard streaming through “Look at the Moon,” the majestic melodies and subtle percussion of “On the Bay,” the swaying rhythm and eerie sound effects (produced by a didgeridoo, an Australian wind instrument, played by Aussie guy Sullivan) of “Fortune Favors the Brave,” and you have one hell of an intense and enjoyable recording.

Wilmington, Del post card (flickr.com)

Spinto band-niceandnicelydone (wikipedia.org)

Hoppin’ on down to exotic Wilmington, Delaware…say hello to the Spinto Band and a new expanded double vinyl LP (!) release of 2005’s Nice and Nicely Done, the group’s first album. This is high-energy, quirky pop at its finest, taking the 60s (Beatles and Beach Boys hooks and harmonies), 70s (10cc twists and turns, Sparks theatrics), and 80s (those disquieting vocals of The Cure’s Robert Smith), and tossing it all into the twenty-first-century meat grinder that extruded The Strokes, Franz Ferdinand, and The Killers, with a seasoning of cute instrumentation like kazoos and ukulele. Check out first single/video “Oh Mandy.” The “expanded” part of the new package is 12 previously-unreleased bonus tracks/b-sides, featuring exploratory stuff like “When Things Are Placid,” “My Special Car,” the brilliant “Tractor,” and the fun, funky “People I Know.” The Spinto band (band name courtesy singer/guitarist Nick Krill’s grandfather Roy Spinto) will be at Rough Trade NYC on July 29 – great band, great venue.

Maryland post card (pinterest.com)

Vanessa Collier (amazon.com)Next stop, Clarksville, Maryland (by way of Boston’s Berklee College of Music)…here’s saxophonist Vanessa Collier. Vocalist and songwriter too (and keyboards and flute), her album Meeting My Shadow shows that off in eleven big, fat boilin’ pots of blues. Hot ‘n’ heavy numbers like “Dig A Little Deeper” and “Two Parts Sugar, One Part Lime” share the bill with slow-simmering soul (“You’re Gonna Make Me Cry”), hyper-gospel (“Up Above My Head, I Hear Music in the Air”), and haunting delta-blues (“Poisoned the Well,” “When It Don’t Come Easy”). Plus a cover of U2’s “When Love Comes To Town.” But of course…the original from 1988 featured Mr. B.B. King…and it’s the peak of the album, with Collier finally letting loose with that steaming sax.

New Orleans post card (pinterest.com)

King James & the Special Men (amazon.com)Coming into the city of New Orleans…look, it’s King James & The Special Men with their debut Act Like You Know. Here’s a six-pack of 1950s-style southern R&B smothered in a spicy 2017 sauce: opener and theme-song “Special Man Boogie” chugs along with Latin-flavored percussion; slow-cookin’ blues rules on “Baby Girl” and “Tell Me (What You Want Me To Do)”; horns-a-plenty do the work on “Eat That Chicken”; and Bo Diddley comes crashing back to life on the 14-minute grand finale “9th Ward Blues.” And hosting the party is the hard-boiled voice of founder/singer/guitarist Jimmy Horn, a legend of sorts who bounced around the country as a kid from Utah to Illinois to Washington State to Pennsylvania, finally landing in New Orleans. Talk about a road trip…

Denver post card (pinterest.com)

Slim Cessna (amazon.com)Heading out west to Denver, Colorado…behold “gothabilly” outfit Slim Cessna’s Auto Club. 2017 sees the re-release of their album Cipher, an explosion of alterna-Americana that takes the Wall of Voodoo sound (remember them?), injects it with some Jesus juice, and then hurls it off a crag high in the Colorado Rockies. Listen to “This Land Is Our Land Redux,” “Americadio,” “Children of the Lord,” or the zany “Magalina Hagalina Boom Boom,” and – if you were a new wave music fan in the early 80s – images of Wall of Voodoo vocalists Stan Ridgway and/or Andy Prieboy oughta go flying by. Other highlights include the glam-rock-infused “Red Pirate of the Prairie” and the jumpy folk-song-gone-haywire “Ladies in the Know.” Formed in 1992, Slim Cessna’s Auto Club (often acronym-ed SCAC) consists of Slim Cessna, Jay Munly, and an eclectic handful of other musicians who have come and gone through the years; Cipher was originally unleashed in 2008 on the Jello Biafra-founded label Alternative Tentacles.

Albuquerque post card (flickr.com)

Heather Trost (midheaven.com)Final destination, the alluring Albuquerque, New Mexico…meet violinist/vocalist – and one half of American/Turkish/Balkan/indie/folk (what?) duo A Hawk and a HacksawHeather Trost. Her first full-length album Agistri (named after a Greek Island) is a collection of eight surreal song sculptures…Stereolab fans take note…heavy on the vintage synths…with a 60s-70s-psychedelic sensibility…and Trost’s mellifluous voice, sometimes proclaiming lyrical lines like “Watching the moon go up and down with the waves” and “Thunder clouds roll over the mesa” (“Agistri”), sometimes blending into the mix as an angelic instrument (“Abiququ,” “Plastic Flowers”), other times doing both (“Agina,” “Real Me_Real You”), and on one track, not there at all, letting the sonorous synthesizers shine through (“Bloodmoon”). And don’t miss the lovely rendition of Harry Nilsson’s “Me and My Arrow.” Drums and bass by Trost’s partner in A Hawk and a Hacksaw, Jeremy Barnes; guitar by Deerhoof’s John Dieterich.

Ok, what’s the best part of going away? Coming home!

Road Trip VW bus (roadtripkc.com)

 

images courtesy ministry-to-children.com, RetroAmerica.com, pinterest.com, flickr.com, cdbaby.com, wikipedia.org, amazon.com, midheaven.com, roadtripkc.com

Sing loudly and carry a big shtick! Russell Wolinsky and Walter Lure

Max's-front-daytime (maxskansascity.orgOn May 25-27 the Bowery Electric hosted another rock ‘n’ roll extravaganza, this time a three-night “Max’s Kansas City Festival” – dedicated to the legendary NYC venue that existed from 1965 to 1981, and its equally legendary performers. On tap for night number one: a roster of acts, both new and old, two of which easily fall into the “legendary” category: The Sic F*cks and The Waldos. Starring two of the greatest punk rock front-men of all-time – two guys who not only know how to rock, but how to entertain. Performers who can make you dance one minute and laugh out loud the next: Russell Wolinsky, co-founder and lead singer of outrageous comic-punks The Sic F*cks, and Walter Lure, co-founder and guitarist of proto-punk band The Heartbreakers and, more recently, leader of The Waldos.

Russell 1         Walter 2The Sic F*cks (truly living up to their name at every performance, even now) were formed in 1977 by Bronx-born Wolinsky and sisters Eileen and Tish Bellomo – better known as Tish and Snooky and who had briefly been backup singers in Blondie. Recruiting a gaggle of guys who took stage names like Dick String, Bob Hopeless, Stink (the bassist – poking fun at Sting), and Harry Viderci (as in Italian for goodbye – haha), they were soon appearing regularly at Max’s and CBGB. Fun, tasteless numbers like “Insects Rule My World,” “Rock Or Die,” “Teenage Abortion,” “Spanish Bar Mitzvah,” and “Chop Up Your Mother” – coupled with wacky (to say the least) costumes and props (like Tish and Snooky’s coat hanger, plunger, and two-headed baby doll on “Teenage Abortion”) made their performances an evening to, uh, remember. And still do! A few of those songs even made it onto vinyl in 1982 on…ready?…Sozyamuda Records. Oy vey.

Russell 2

Meanwhile, Walter Lure formed The Heartbreakers with ex-New York Doll Johnny Thunders in 1975, and the band existed on and off (with numerous gigs at Max’s of course) until shortly before Thunders’ death in 1991. Lure and a few of the later Heartbreakers members re-named themselves The Waldos (after Walter’s occasional nickname), continued making noise in and around NYC, and in 1994 released an album, Rent Party. Nowadays the Waldos experience is bookended by Japanese axemen Ichiuji Takanori (aka EZ) on bass and Takto Nakai on guitar, drummer Joe Rizzo propelling everything along in the back…and master-of-ceremonies Mr. Lure providing off-the-cuff commentary between signature tunes “Damn Your Soul,” “Cry Baby,” “Sorry,” and Heartbreakers staples “One Track Mind,” “Chinese Rocks,” “Get Off the Phone,” “Let Go,” “Sad Vacation,” and “Too Much Junkie Business.”

Walter 1

And like some of the great entertainers of yore (Frankie S. anyone?), both Russell and Walter appear onstage in classy, if trashy, jacket-and-hat motifs (orange-ish jackets for both this evening), peppering their bands’ sets with corny jokes and hilarious anecdotes. Advice for lead singers everywhere: Sing loudly…and carry a big shtick!

Max’s photo courtesy maxskansascity.org
Videos courtesy YouTube/Alan Rand, YouTube/Nanchanger
Band photos by me

___________________________________

* Correction to the May 21 post:  the band in Vinyl was called the Nasty Bits (not the Naughty Bits).