Hot off the presses: new music! Better said, new music that is worth your time.
Neil Young – Tuscaloosa (Live 1973) – 11 tracks / 53 minutes
Neil takes a trip down south with The Stray Gators, his Harvest backing band, as he enters his dark period.
Recorded seven months after the death of Neil’s sidekick and Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten, Tuscaloosa marks the beginning of a dark time for Neil. Beyond that loss, he would soon lose his roadie and friend Bruce Berry and was dealing with strife and turmoil with his Stray Gators band that would not be together much longer. At this point, Neil is 27 and on top of the world, but things would get heavy before they would get better.
Similar to the way he tours to this day, he starts solo for two songs before welcoming the band onstage for the rest of the evening’s selections: on acoustic guitar for “Here We Are in the Years”, an ode to the slow and clean life of Middle America, and on piano for “After the Goldrush”. This recording is more jovial and lighthearted than the moody Time Fades Away from the same year (which also features his Stray Gators crew).
I didn’t realize just how much I adore “Out on the Weekend”, the leadoff track from Harvest and third song on this album, until I heard this version. Neil slows down his vocal delivery just a bit and it threw me off in a big way – I guess I must have heard the studio version about three thousand times and it got pretty engrained in my noggin. After the song ends Neil introduces the Stray Gators (Tim Drummond on bass, Kenny Buttrey on drums, Ben Keith on pedal steel, and Jack Nitzsche on piano). Neil commented as the release of this concert was nearing that it was especially poignant for him because all of those men have passed away.
Before starting into “Heart of Gold”, Neil tells a story of turning down an offer to use the song in a radio commercial for a fast food chain. When the audience applauses, he tells them “don’t clap for these stories, most of them I’m making up… but this one is true”. After this song, as Neil likes to do, the second half of the show is louder and faster than the beginning. “Time Fades Away” gets things rocking, and this is a tighter, livelier version of the song than on the album that would be released later that same year – and includes some heavy lifting by Neil on electric guitar.
“Lookout Joe” is introduced as a “song I wrote for all the soldiers coming home from Vietnam”, and after that comes an interesting up-tempo and electric version of “New Mama”, which would be released on Tonight’s the Night two years later. It doesn’t really work, and is probably why the acoustic and stripped down version that we know prevailed.
“Alabama” is a terrific song written both as a scathing condemnation of racial inequality in the Deep South as well as an invite for the good people of the south to change their ways. The fact that he decided to play this song in Alabama in 1973 shows some balls, even though, yes, this was at the University of Alabama where he encountered a more friendly audience. The audible applause as the song that features lyrics like “see the old folks tying white ropes, while the banjo gonna take you down home” begins shows that many in the next generation of Alabamans were ready to shed the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.
Basically an autobiography in song, “Don’t Be Denied” is the 8-minute highlight of this recording. Neil introcuces it as a “song about an aspiring young folk singer trying to make good in Hollywood”. He covers all of the bases: growing up in a broken home, changing addresses frequently, getting bullied in the schoolyard, meeting a friend who played guitar, dreaming of being a rockstar, moving out to LA, and dealing with managers, talent scouts, and other blood suckers. This album is mostly for hardcore Neil fans, since most of this material has been heard before, but “Don’t Be Denied” is a gem that everyone should hear.
Key Tracks: “Don’t Be Denied”, “Time Fades Away”, “Alabama”
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/06xFlLhfDdqrN76E2iMX9R?si=tIbCW3HtSuis_58JmxKxkA
Dylan LeBlanc – Renegade – 10 tracks / 36 minutes
The man with an almost too golden voice is back with more rock-influenced folk/Americana.
Three years ago when Mr. LeBlanc released Cautionary Tale, he found his sweet spot. After the first two albums showed more potential than deliverance, that record put him on the map, at least in my book. With his fourth album, Renegade, Dylan continues to hone in on the best use of his considerable talents, and this might be his best work yet.
The title track starts things off a bit heavy, with Dylan rocking out, which is how I most enjoy this talented young songwriter. Riffs, attitude, and great guitar solos dominate “Renegade” as well as “Bang Bang Bang”, before things mellow out a bit. Dylan’s voice is as dynamic as ever, and there is no doubting the man’s talents in both the songwriting and singing realms. Similar to his part work, I found myself drawn to about half of these songs, but there is more than enough here to consider this album a winner.
“Domino” finds Dylan telling off a would-be manipulator, saying “you take everybody down when you fall, still I ain’t the one that you’re gonna play”, and his wail on the last chorus is some vulnerable and raw goodness. The guy is at his best when he uses that pretty voice as a weapon, and there is no better example than this song.
The second half of the album peters out a bit, but there are a few more noteworthy tracks. Although a bit repetitive, “I See It In Your Eyes” is a good listen, as is the acoustic strumming prominent on the ominous drug and murder ballad “Sand and Stone”. The strings behind Dylan and his guitar add some depth and passion to the beautiful album closer “Honor Among Thieves”.
Key Tracks: “Bang Bang Bang”, “Renegade”, “Domino”
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/4JgEQ2lgKAZievIQsRh7lI?si=YJCZwZg4QBq671VOQ0L7hQ
Tim Heidecker – What the Brokenhearted Do – 11 tracks / 33 minutes
Is it hilarious comedy, or is it good music? As usual with this comedian, actor, and part-time musician, it’s a bit of both.
In the aftermath of Tim releasing his anti-Trump album Too Dumb for Suicide, some of the MAGA internet trolls didn’t take too kindly to it. A rumor that Tim’s wife had left him began to swirl, and when the happily married Tim saw this, he did what any comedian would do: used it as a muse to make some new material. In full on Andy Kaufman style, he began to feed the rumor, and eventually this became the muse for this latest album, What the Brokenhearted Do.
These eleven songs of heartbreak, anger, depression, and loneliness are not only a fuck you to the haters, but his best batch of songs to date. Oh, and for added giggles the album cover with its photoshopped bright blue tear is wonderful – and even better is his current Spotify profile picture, which makes it appear that he has spent approximately the last two months crying. Priceless.
“It should be illegal to be so cruel to me” is the chorus to leadoff track “Illegal”, and from the start Tim is all-in on playing angry and hurt. The music behind him is a fairly simple but catchy and inviting blend of keys and guitars, a theme on this album. Lead single “When I Get Up” is a perfect take on depression and losing the will to get up and face the day. The refrain “when I get up, all I wanna do is go to bed again (go to bed again)” is one that most of us have felt at some point or another, and his falsetto delivery of the last line is as awesome as it is funny.
The title track starts with Tim solo on the piano not so much singing as plainly stating “well it’s over, it’s finished, the ship has sailed; it’s done, for good, the checks in the mail; I loved her, she loved me but now that’s through, so now I’m doing whatever it is the broken hearted do”. A little tambourine gets added as he piles on about his fake heartache, complete with some more falsetto Tim backing vocals (which I seriously can’t get enough of). The man is both inspired by and mocking the cliché music he is copying, simultaneously.
Feelings of insufficiency rule the day on “I’m Not Good Enough”, with Tim telling his “ex” that he could have told her long ago that he didn’t deserve her. “Insomnia” is an almost gleeful up-tempo number that laments the fact that he can’t sleep, with descriptions of the various things he does instead, including “reading” books on tape and scratching the itch on his leg.
Another highlight is the tried and true tactic on “I Don’t Think About You (Much Anymore)”, where Tim declares that he is over the one who left, “except when it’s raining or there’s a knock on the door… when it’s sunny, or I’m out at the store”. What the Brokenhearted Do is a must-listen for Heidecker fans (and yes I know a couple of them), and a great intro to the man as a musician for those who don’t know that side of him (or any side of him, for that matter).
Key Tracks: “What the Brokenhearted Do”, “When I Get Up”, “I Don’t Think About You (Much Anymore)”
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/573YzEr3P3O5XkJEZWmOtP?si=ETWYnyztQb2SUpV08j3J6A
Cy Dune – Desert
Cy is still at his best when he shreds, as he does a bit here on this record, which is either a long EP or very short LP. “When You Pass Me” has that classic Cy Dune desert-rock stomp, and “Architect” and “Just Kids” are solid offerings as well.
Bob Dylan – The Rolling Thunder Revue (The 1975 Live Recordings)
I adore the man as much (and usually much more) as anyone, but on this batch there is little new or worth noting – at least on the Spotify Sampler version.
Together PANGEA – Dispassionate (EP)
“Bet You Wish I Would Call” and the rowdy title track are sweet jams from these L.A. punks, but I can’t label anything that has a run time under eleven minutes as a worthwhile release.
Eagles of Death Metal – Presents Boots Electric Performing the Best Songs We Never Wrote
Boots Electric is the name of the solo project of Jesse Hughes aka Baby Duck, who is one half of EODM (the other being Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age). This album has some interesting takes on classics from Kiss, The Ramones, AC/DC, Steve Miller, and others. I laughed out loud when I saw the album cover, which features a trophy for the first Boots Electric record with a note below it that says “certified bronze for giving away more copies than we sold”. Good stuff.
Santana – Africa Speaks
Perry Farrell – Kind Heaven