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Tom & Howie Reviews 2016-02-05T18:10:27+00:00

Tom & Howie Reviews

Both Howie and I have way too many records, CDs, whatever. Sometimes we write reviews for the sufficient reason of liking things. We decided we are such paragons of good taste we should share them here – viola!

Prince – Art Official Age

Tom, December 16th, 2014

Ok, I’m a long time Prince fan. Saw him at the Tacoma Dome for the Purple Rain tour. That said, some of his recent albums have been in the “just okay” category. The purple one put out two new albums on the same day (neither of which included the rocking “Screwdriver”) and this one get the prize as far as I’m concerned. From minute one it just makes you want to get yer groove on. Nuthin’ ground breaking, just a delicious pleasure.


Julian Casablancas and the Voids – Tyranny

Tom, December 16th, 2014

I mostly get pushed toward Julian by Ben. He is a giant Strokes fan. Me, not so much, first album great, all that “Juicebox” stuff not my thing. This is horse of a different color. Or two. It roams from keyboard sample driven songs to fairly Strokesy guitar rock. In general, it’s pretty dense. At first I thought it was poorly recorded. It’s not. It is just choices made in the post-John Cage world where all sounds have musical validity. It all adds up to a pretty interesting pile of goo.


Sam Boshnack Quintet – Exploding Syndrome

Tom, December 16th, 2014

Don’t even remember how I came across this – I have one of Sam’s Reptet discs, which is quite good. So what you’ve got here is a straight up jazz quintet playing Sam’s compositions. I dig ‘em. This stuff is not exactly avant-ɡarde – it’s more like composition based openedness kinda like Mingus bands where they would have some clear, but a very interesting structure to get crazy in. They got an award for being a Northwest alternative jazz group. I have no idea what that even means. Floyd Reitsma did a great job recording this – it sounds warm and clear just like great jazz should. Very fine players.


The Tom Price Desert Classic – Hell

Tom, December 16th, 2014

I just got this recently from Tom down at Slim’s Chili Parlor so it is really new to me but, man, I think it is great. This despite the fact that it is a vinyl LP so lazy me had to go hook up el turntable to even hear it (turntable wanders between my living room and studio space, ok), further delaying my introduction. So what is it? Really basic, really great rock and roll. A little dark. A little fuzzy. Straightforward. Catchy tunes. Contains guitars using distortion. Tom was a U-man long ago as well as a long-time Gas Huffer and an occasional Monkeywrench. All those things kinda inform this, some of the same players, but this is its own thing. Available at local stores and from SubPop mail order. Did I mention really great? Tom Price is A Rock and Roll Devil.


Thumbscrew – Thumbscrew

Tom, December 16th, 2014

Straight up jazz guitar trio that plays the kinds of notes that I like. There is nothing particularly tricky about this album from a sound perspective, although I very much like the sounds here. Electric guitar, upright bass, drums that vary from “light” to “dense” whatever that means. Things resolve toward logical conclusions that are surprising . Distinctly pleasurable.


Jason Webley - Margaret

Jason Webley and Friends – Margaret

Tom, December 16th, 2014

Jason is an Everett, WA guy and this is a album in a small hard cover book about a long gone woman from Everett, Margaret Rucker, who’s scrap book was found in a dumpster in San Francisco. It is a good tale and that is what got me to buy it. The first time I listened to it I thought “eh, not so much”. But I am a ways past that now and I am quite taken with it. The music is made by Jason and a bunch of his musical friends (including the consistently interesting Jherek Bischoff), originally for a show to be performed in Everett. The music is gentle and thoughtful while deep and dramatic. They did a really good job on this.


Scott Walker + Sunn – Soused

Tom, December 16th, 2014

So you either hate this stuff or dig it (or you’ve just never even heard of it), because it ain’t pretty. It is totally art music. This one is a collaboration with metal guys Sunn who I know nothing about, but to me it sound like another Scott Walker album in the batch of his output over the last ten years or so. Not particularly melodic. Definitely challenging. Lyrically unique. I’m in.


Clipping – CLPPNG

Tom, December 16th, 2014

This album is less on the edge than their first download-only album, but it still isn’t what I would call pretty (am I sensing a theme?). It has plenty of “non-musical” (John Cage part 2!) sounds that carry the day – power tools! I am certainly no hip hop expert – what I like of current hip hop tends to be way over on the “art music” side, and this lands right dab in the center of that. A little weird, not dance music for sure, but pretty damn cool.


The Westerlies – Wish the Children Would Come On Home

Tom, December 16th, 2014

Read about this in the Sunday Seattle Times (old school). This is two trumpets and two trombones. Guys that went to Seattle high Schools, played in the school band went off to music college, graduated, became professional musicians and now here they are making this cool record. They are playing the compositions of Wayne Horowitz here (who adds keyboards and electronics on four tracks) which might make you think arty, but I would mostly call this lovely. Want something to listen to on a rainy Sunday morning while lounging on the couch and reading a book? This is gonna work pretty well.


Nels Cline Singers – Macroscope

Tom, December 16th, 2014

There are no singers in this group. Well okay, they do have “voice”. Instead highly proficient guitar, bass and drums, plus a couple buckets of extras. If you go to buy this in a record store, it goes in the jazz section. The free jazz section. Cepting the songs are all credited to to Nels Cline, so I don’t know how that works in free improv. But I do know how the music works. Works good. This is dynamic, fluid music that goes thru a pile levels and tonalities in a very short time. I am listening to “Hairy Mother” as I write. Seven minutes of throbbing goodness. There is nothing boring about this record.


Levi Fuller and The Library – The Wonders That There Are

Tom, December 16th, 2014

Levi is the fellow that puts out the Ball of Wax quarterly Audio journal thingy who always includes one of his tunes somewhere in the middle. This time he has a whole blessed album with his band The Library (take that, book reading Seattle). It ranges from the uber folkie to the fairly rocked out and outerspacey, keeping in mind that at his most rocking, no one will confuse the Library with AC/DC or Metallica. Nonetheless there is something about this album I find quite appealing. It is understated and quite tasty and well worth your attention.


Flamin’ Groovies – Grease (Import)

A Grease Fire!!, Howie July 31, 2014

If you’re looking for the Roy Loney Groovies, this ain’t it. If you’re looking for the Shake Some Action Groovies, you’re almost there. It’s the transition period between what was and what would be. Most of the material is just before Shake Some Action’s official version a year or 2 later on Sire Records and a few are from the early 1980’s just before they pull the plug.

It’s rough around the edges recording wise, but this rocks like there’s no tomorrow. A must have for the die hard Groovies fan.


The Sneetches – Obscure Years (Import)

Even their strays are great!, Howie November 4, 2013

I love the Sneetches and this CD filled in some holes in my collection. It is a collection of stray tracks done as E.P.’s, singles and/or tributes, and it holds together as an album surprisingly well. All 4 of the band members get a shot as front man and as the liner notes say, “…reflect the personalities within the outfit rather well.”
If you’re already a Sneetches fan, get this. If you’re not a Sneetches fan yet, this could be a nice place to start?


Jimi Hendrix -Merry Christmas And A Happy New Year

Hendrix & Christmas? I love it!, Howie, November 16, 2010

Geez you guys! Quit your whining! The cover this go around is from the original 12″ vinyl promotional copy that circulated in 1979 courtesy Alan Douglas & Reprise Records. The Jimi as Santa cover was cute, but now you get the rare promo cover.

As for the music on this CD, it’s as much fun as it was the first time I heard it in ’79. It’s just not Christmas without this tune on my Rockin’ Christmas compilation.


Stephan Tow -The Strangest Tribe

There is something pretty weird about being in history books when you are still alive. It is nice to have people notice that you did something, but you always have the feeling you are probably supposed to be dead already. Nonetheless, what we have here is a Seattle music history with very few dead people, mostly just living folks that probably did not expect to be geezers.

Stephen Tow has taken a look at the Seattle rock scene circa 1976 to 1993, basically from the beginnings of the punk rock scene until Nirvana blows up. Certainly this ground has been trod before, in Clark Humphrey’s “Loser” and Peter Blecha’s more recent “Sonic Boom”, but not in such narrow focus. To make it a spot more intriguing, Tow does not have a horse in this race. He is a historian from Philadelphia who thought there was a story here to tell and went digging. Perhaps in part due to his horselesssnes, I think he gets it right. Some might quibble over details, but it gives someone who was outside what was a fairly insular scene a reasonably decent feel of what the time was like. It rings of truth. And he can write. Tow does a nice job of pulling a pile of disparate characters together in a somewhat brief, but highly readable yarn. A fine read for a rainy NW afternoon.


The Zombies -Zombie Heaven

One of the best box sets ever!, Howie, May 29, 2011

I got way more than I expected. I was afraid I was just re-purchasing a bunch of stuff I already had.
The original mono mixes on the first CD were a revelation. I may have had a couple of singles way back when, but everything else I’d ever heard was the stereo re-mixes and did not know there was a difference until now. I did not know that was what I was getting until I played it.
There are tons of other rarities & unreleased tracks on the other 3 CD’s. The booklet was more like a book. It’s a great history of the band & the songs in the set.


British Invasion: Small Faces – All or Nothing, 1965-1968

WOW!!! More than I had hoped for, Howie May 26, 2010

It’s been along time coming for this way underrated British group. In the States they are a one hit wonder [Itchycoo Park], but what a hit! They sucked me in with that one & I’ve been a dedicated fan ever since. Searching high & low for everything & anything I could get my hands on.

This opens so many more doors to their talents. Steve Marriott shows why he influenced so many musicains with his powerhouse vocals, guitar & songwriting skills. Ronnie Laine also shows his considerable influence on the songwriting & vocals. What a team! This band ROCKS!

Half of these late 1960’s videos are new to me, but the real treat here is the [almost] all live TV performance of side 2 of Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake!! Priceless. I’m so glad this exists. This was the Small Faces entry in the psychedelic 60’s competition & a fine entry it is. It’s right up there with “Their Satantic Majesties Request”, “Magical Mystery Tour”, or “On The Threshold Of A Dream.”

The other great thing about this DVD is you can watch the documentary or just play back the performances depending on your mood.

You must remember that this was recorded in the 60’s & the video [or audio] quality is not up to current standards, but the historical significance of the Small Faces performances far out weighs these short comings. The band shines through.


David Folks Walker – Summoning the Possible

Highly Recommended, Tom July 24, 2009

I have been listening to this album for over a month and just can’t get it out of my head. Walker has produced a beautiful and mature work that that touches something essential in the nature of being human.

This music is largely religious in nature, an expression of the Baha’i faith with about half the song lyrics coming from scripture and other Baha’i writings. Musically, Walker starts from a folk/rock base in songs like “Hidden Word #44” with its simple arrangement and heartfelt vocal and takes it all the way to his upbeat Stax/Otis Redding groove-inspired “In the Willow” where he contemplates life were he a tree (and it sounds like an okay existence!).

Walker takes his basic guitar-song structures and adds enough diversity in percussion, mood and some downright tasty lead guitar to keep the album varied and interesting through its journey. His singing throughout is soulful, in the very broadest sense of that word.

I am not particularly familiar with the Baha’i or even religious, but I find “Summoning The Possible,” does for me what the best religious music does, it inspires and touches one’s heart with a yearning to know one’s creator. This is an album that will grow on you if you let it. I recommend it highly.


The Green Pajamas- Poison in the Russian Room

A Green Pajamas Masterpiece!, Tom June 14, 2009

Since 1984 Jeff Kelly has put out 24 albums with the Green Pajamas, 7 solo albums and 2 albums with Goblin Market, his band with Laura Vanderpool of the PJ’s and Capping Day. I’ve got them all. Some of them have been pivotal pieces in my musical life. In 1983, I bought their first cassette release, “Summer of Lust,” at a small Seattle record store, absolutely loved it, tracked them down and made a few records with Jeff on my little Green Monkey Records label. By 1997, I had long since moved on to other things when the PJs put out the brilliant “Strung Behind the Sun.” As I told Jeff, it made me want to listen to music again. In 2000 I had the pleasure of doing a little work on the fine “This Is Where We Disappear.” Along the way there have been many more albums, some better than others.

And now we arrive at “Poison in the Russian Room.” Plain and simple, this is a great record. It is one of their very best, on par with “Strung Behind the Sun,” “All Clues Lead to Megan’s Bed” and “Ghosts Of Love.” Or maybe even better.

So what makes it so damn good? Sound. Songs. Performance. Magic. At a sonic level, this album is roams between powerful and gorgeous. The album opens with the in-your-face guitar riff of “The Lonesome End of the Lake.” By the time you get to Craig Florey’s sax on “Who’s That Calling” the sound has become lush and pleasurable. There is an attention to detail and craft in the production of this album that draws you in.

Songs? A great record has great songs. This does. “This Angels on Fire.” “Some Pleasure Unknown.” “Suicide Subways.” “Queen of Broken Hearts.” Too many to count. This album delivers inventive and perfect playing and pacing. It dances from mood to mood as each three-minute minuet spins between the band’s three singers while remaining a united whole.

So what, at the end of the day, makes this great? It has all the same elements of every Green Pajamas record. Rocking pop-songs with a pinch of psychedelia and great guitar solos. I get it. I know those elements well. All I can tell you is that when it works it is magic and this is magic.

If music still matters to you in your life or ever did, you want this. It is a record for the ages.


Sonic Boom! The History of Northwest Rock: From Louie Louie to Smells Like Teen Spirit by Peter Blecha

The NW Gospel according to St. Peter, Tom May 6, 2009

To begin, this is, plain and simple, a highly enjoyable read (as is his “Rock and Roll Archaeologist”). Blecha has a clear love for his subject and has spent many years digging through the backwaters of the Pacific Northwest to accumulate the rich details that that make this volume such a concise yet pleasurable experience.

While the title cites a range from Louie Louie to Nirvana, Blecha’s prime focus is on the late 50’s and 60’s, which takes up 220 of the book’s 304 pages, a period largely glossed over in Clark Humphrey’s 1995 NW music tome, “Loser.” Blecha also creates a much broader and more insightful picture of that era than previously delivered in titles such as the memoirs of KJR uber-boss Pat O’Day, “It Was All Just Rock `n’ Roll” or James Bush’s “Encyclopedia of Northwest Music.”

This is not to belittle Blecha’s thoughts on the decades that follow. He was a member of the Debbies in post-punk 80’s Seattle and can speak with a first-hand authority on what that scene was about.

As a long time participant in and follower of the Northwest music scene, I say Blecha’s latest stands up with Charles Cross’s Hendrix bio as NW canon. Buy it. Enjoy. I did.


Mott the Hoople – Fairfield Halls, Live 1970

Buy or Die!, Tom November 26, 2007

Okay kids.

If you spent the last 30+ years contemplating the exploding “Keep a Knockin'” at the tail-end of Wild Life and wondering what happened to the rest, you have no life and are a total loser.

That aside, this is pretty damn cool. I have heard more crappy sounding live this-era Mott recordings than good ones. This gets the savage animal that was this band in its prime and sounds good enough to carry across their power and glory.

I think the CBS Ariel Bender-version-Mott live album is pretty dang mighty (single disc version was better!), but this is raw, bleeding and beautiful. It is the Mad Shadows/Brain Caper Kids pushed out over the edge. It’s the real deal.

If Mott the Hoople occupies the place in your universe that it should, crush, maim and kill to get it. You will be glad you did.


Lou Reed – Perfect Night

It was indeed a Perfect Night,Tom May 24, 2007

This is Lou’s finest live album. It is a thoughtful career overview that touches all the way back to Velvets (no “Heroin” this time, kids, been done enough), it has great sound, and is a great performance by the band. “I’ll Be Your Mirror” is both personal and beautiful. “New Sensations” rips the bleeding heart out of its pure adrenaline existence. All stops in between are met. This is intimate; this is satisfying. It is not pretty wimp rock for losers, it should only be listened to by those who hope for music to be in some way the balm and salvation for their discontent.


Dwight Twilley – All Access Live

Dwight Twilley – All Access Live, Howie March 20, 2007

Well, it’s about time for a live Twilley album. This one has the classic Twilley sound. Bill Pitcock IV, who has played guitar on just about every Twilley album, is there & though Phil Seymour can’t be there, Susan Cowsill is, on backing vocals.
I love Twilley & always will, but…my biggest complaint about this release is that the tracks don’t flow like a live cd should. the silent spaces between some of the tracks distract from the live feel.
Don’t get me wrong, the performances are great & you should buy this. I just hope that sometime in the future a proper Dwight Twilley Band [Philly 76?] or Dwight Twilley [live at Rockabilly’s dvd?] will be released.
Until then, Twilley don’t mind…


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