Jack White Plays “Lazaretto”

Jack White LazarettoListen to this track by Third Man Records exec and wailin’ R&B-oriented rock ‘n’ roll firebrand of a different stripe altogether Jack White. It’s “Lazaretto”, the eponymous track from his newest solo record, Lazaretto.

White trumpeted something of an international sensation with this track. Not only does it deliver that for which White has always been known and celebrated as a singer-songwriter and record producer who bridges the gap between the blues and rock without stigmatizing either, it was also the center of a more universal story; no less than a Guinness World Record!

A live version of “Lazaretto” was recorded, pressed, and distributed inside of a single day, in mere hours. White has very often hearkened back to a more off-the-floor and hands-on approach to putting out songs. So this back to basics approach wasn’t entirely out of character. This is a man who created the White Stripes’ most successful record (Elephant) in three days. Hey! If it was good enough for Jesus …

So, what was the story in this case? And what should be the main takeaways for us as fans, and perhaps for other artists, too?

(more…)

Brook Benton Sings “Rainy Night In Georgia”

Brook Benton TodayListen to this track by smooth pop-soul crooner with the sonorous baritone voice, Brook Benton. It’s “Rainy Night In Georgia”, his biggest hit and something of a return to the top ten for a stretch of time after his prime period from the early 1960s. It appears on the album Brook Benton Today, released in 1970.

The song was written by Tony Joe White in 1962 around the time that Brook Benton was having his greatest successes as a songwriter and singer with material of his own. The song is taken from White’s time as a truck driver for the highway department in the titular state, often finding himself working alone on lonely nights in the days before he found success as a songwriter and performer.

By the time Brook Benton recorded the song, he’d not had a hit for some time. But this one would take him to the top ten on both the pop charts as well as the R&B charts, and become one of his best-known songs.

This could be because of the supreme gravitas of what Benton brings to his performance with a signature baritone voice that blurs the lines between pop and soul. The emotional depth in his voice brings this song to life, suggesting a whole novel’s worth of drama underneath a nocturnal landscape of desolation, and raw human loneliness. And with that, it becomes something more than just a tale of one man’s lonely journey, and approaches something more universal.  (more…)

Material Issue Plays “Diane”

Material Issue International Pop OverthrowListen to this track by effervescent Mid-Westerner power pop flame-keepers Material Issue. It’s “Diane”, a sugar rush of a track with a bitter aftertaste as it appears on their celebrated 1991 record International Pop Overthrow.

The year this came out, it was grunge this and Seattle that, which made it somewhat of a harder job getting noticed on the national scene being a power pop band in the Midwest. But, this band made up of singer, guitarist, and head songwriter Jim Ellison, along with bassist and vocalist Ted Asani, and drummer Mike Zelenko had quietly (and very inexpensively) worked up a record that captured the attention of music fans in the Chicago area, and managed to move units too.

It was thought that it would sell fewer than 100K worth of records. But, it ended up selling almost twice that; good news as they were on a major label (Mercury). This attracted the attention of the Billboard top 200, on which this record gained a respectable #86 showing.

So, what is it that made this band shine during a period of seemingly ubiquitous grunginess? And how does this song demonstrate the secret of their success? Well, I think it’s probably this; it dealt in classic rock n roll themes, and with a modern twist that had everything to do with a love of women, and not in the way you might think. (more…)

10 Musical Acts That Define The History Of The Apollo Theatre

The Apollo Theater, Harlem New York City (Source: Paul Lowry)

The Apollo Theater, Harlem New York City (Source: Paul Lowry)

There have been many vital legendary musical venues that have helped to shape the destiny of pop music. But, few have the pedigree of the immortal Apollo Theatre in Harlem, New York City.

Since it was founded in 1934, several of the musical acts that now stand as pioneers in jazz, blues, soul, funk, rock, and hip hop got their start in this otherwise humble theatre located at 253 West 125th Street. And while these artists developed from beginners, to practicioners, to exemplars, and onto immortality, the world changed as a result.

Their work helped in breaking down barriers between musical styles, and also between groups of people who had been separated by the oppressive social norms of their times. As these norms were torn down (and good riddance), the music they made has endured, and the lives of music fans everywhere have been enriched.

Listing every artist that came out of the Apollo Theatre, or had career-defining shows there, would make for a very long read, indeed. So, as is my custom here at the Delete Bin, here is a list of 10 that I hope will suggest the wide spectrum of talent they represent. Take a look!

*** (more…)

Hushdrops Play “Tomorrow”

Hushdrops Tomorrow LP coverListen to this track by Chicagoan power-psych trio and returning pop contenders Hushdrops. It’s “Tomorrow”,  the lead track from their most recent double-album, and long awaited follow-up to 2003’s Volume 1Tomorrow.

This new record is a double, and expands on the band’s well-observed synthesis of ’60s psych, orchestral pop, British Invasion-inspired power pop, and jagged MBV drone-distortion melodicism across a generous 21 tracks. Tomorrow was a long time coming (as it were!), with each member of the band involved in various side projects over the years, touching on other acts including Veruca Salt, Plush, and The Waco Brothers. As mentioned, a wide spectrum of rock music tradition is touched upon here.

This opening and eponymous track reflects an interest in riff-driven rock music from multi-instrumentalist and singer  John San Juan, singer and drummer Joe Camarillo, and bassist Jim Shapiro, and delivering what a listener might expect to hear when catching the band live on the floor. But, since that spectrum is pretty wide, it’s really only a part of the whole story.

I had the chance to talk with John San Juan and Joe Camarillo from Hushdrops via email about their return to the studio, about the creation of a follow-up record with a pretty wide span of time having passed, and about re-engaging and re-inventing what Hushdrops means in 2014. Here’s what they said.

*** (more…)

Crowded House Play “Kare Kare”

Crowded House Together AloneListen to this track by Antipodean heroes and top of the range pop song exporters Crowded House. It’s “Kare Kare”, the opening track to their fourth album Together Alone, released in October of 1993 and produced by Youth, he of Killing Joke and a very sought after producer at the time.

The record was something a transitional work for the band, losing Tim Finn as a full-time member who’d only been with them for 1991’s Woodface. He would appear as a supporting player on this record. By the time this song was recorded, they’d taken on a brand new member in American multi-instrumentalist Mark Hart to apply his skills as guitarist and keyboardist. Also, their stalwart collaborator Mitchell Froom’s signature production style, not to mention his keyboard work that had helped to define some of their most successful hits, was not to be heard on the sessions.

Possibly because of these changes, the work itself stands out from the rest of the band’s catalogue up until then. Where the songs that head writer Neil Finn wrote never dealt in absolute dark or light, the songs on this record were decidedly further along the spectrum toward the darker end.

So after seven years of being a band by this point, and a very successful one at that, why the long face, Crowded House?

(more…)

X-Ray Spex Performs “Plastic Bag”

X-Ray Spex Germ Free AdolescentsListen to this track by class of ’77 London punk band and shouty social commentators, X-Ray Spex. It’s “Plastic Bag” as taken from 1978’s Germ Free Adolescents, their debut full-length which would have no US release until the early ’90s, but helped to document their place in the UK punk pantheon.

The band forming at all was down to inspiration that came out of their regular attendance at shows by the Sex Pistols. But, unlike that band, X-Ray Spex incorporated a few changes to the British punk template by the time they’d put out their first single (“Oh Bondage, Up Yours”), and eventually this song and album.

One was the use of a saxophone, played here on this tune by one Rudi Thompson, giving their sound something of an R&B sort of feel. Another was a more ambitious approach to arrangements that includes changes in tempo and in tone, even if the rawness of punk is very much in place.

And perhaps the most important ingredient sprung from its lead singer, who was also the primary songwriter, Poly Styrene (neé Marianne Joan Elliott-Said).

(more…)