George Thorogood and The Destroyers

Self-Titled 1977 Debut

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”I grew up with rock ‘n’ roll but these blues won’t leave me alone.”

Vintage_Thorogood_Debut

After all the movie/TV cues and sporting events that have used his music, after all the yobbish behavior soundtracked by his hits, it can seem like George Thorogood is a bit of a cartoon. But that’s on us because what Thorogood and his Destroyers are is AC/DC reliable troopers for gutbucket blues-rock, and the resounding proof of that is abundantly obvious on the band’s self-titled 1977 debut album (reissued July 30 on Rounder Records mastered from the original analog tapes – it’s a noticeable difference, particularly in overall warmth and presence).

While one imagines there aren’t a lot of bluesmen from Delaware, there’s no question who the greatest of them all is in the modern era, and the kid (27 years old at the time) comes out swinging on his debut. And it’s not all haymakers either, Thorogood’s blistering technique also offering sharp jabs, strong legwork, and some impressive rope-a-dope. All the roadwork he and his rhythm team Jeff Simon (drums) and Billy Blough (bass) had put in is apparent in the timing and confidence of the trio (augmented on some cuts by rhythm guitarist Ron Smith, the material clearly audience tried and tested but still raw enough to keep plenty of country dirt in the mix.

This album utterly refutes the growing smoothness and sophistication overtaking mainstream blues at the time, gnawing on the material, most of it drawn from classic sources, like animals that have missed a few meals. Their take on Elmore James’ “Can’t Stop Lovin’” is even a bit punkish in the spirit of Joe Strummer’s 101ers. Thorogood, Blough and Simon flex as one muscle – and have continued to do so ever since – showing affection for and natural command of primal blues, be they boogie addled, electric cries, or even folk flecked and acoustic flavored (George’s readings of “John Hardy” and Robert Johnson’s “Kind Hearted Woman” are as good as they come). Obvious influence Chuck Berry gets a fine tip of the hat on album closer “Delaware Slide,” one of two solid originals here and likely a showstopper in the band’s early days.

Listening to George Thorogood and the Destroyers today makes an even greater case for its importance to the genre, as testifying a joint as Hound Dog Taylor and the HouseRockers’ debut earlier in the decade and powered by some of the hairiest ball guitar machismo this side of the mid-to-late-70s Ted Nugent. Thorogood’s inspired mangling of his instrument, awesome ancient-before-his-time voice, and thumping heartbeat accompaniment was just the burst of testosterone the blues needed at the time and really still does today.

Bert Jansch

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Bert Jansch

Bert Jansch was a towering figure in the modern folk-rock scene, a high water mark that everyone who’s ever strapped on an acoustic guitar and told stories to strangers aspires to emulate. But unlike many of his peers in the field, there was a quiet humility to the man despite his gigantic talent, something unmistakably wounded and inescapably human that makes his work resonate in such a timeless manner with each generation that discovers it. With a voice warm and earthy as good aged single malt whiskey and a deft picking style that unerringly melded direct simplicity with technical dexterity and abundant melody, Jansch represents the archetypal troubadour/bard running headlong into the complexities of modern man. This fascinating dichotomy has rarely been laid bare so well in his catalog as the wonderful 30th anniversary edition of long out-of-print 1982 album Heartbreak (released November 6 on Omnivore Recordings), where the original Los Angeles studio sessions are paired with a previously unreleased solo live performance from McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica from summer of 1981.

By juxtaposing one of Jansch’s most well-realized, contemporary sounding studio sets with the naked grace of his live experience allows the listener to revel in the two sides of this shiny silver coin, each inextricably melded to the other, a tension between past flavors and late 20th century tastes – a prickly conversation that chatters away in Jansch’s music from his early days in Pentangle on through his 21st century records Black Swan (2006) and Edge of a Dream (2002), whose nucleus one hears in Heartbreak, where Jansch’s nimble acoustic guitar fences with a particularly tasty Albert Lee, who wields electric and acoustic guitars as well as mandolin. A tight but relaxed rhythm team of Randy Tico (bass) and drummers Matt Betton and Jack Kelly provides an intuitive pulse to a strong set of originals and choice covers (Elvis nugget “Heartbreak Hotel” and traditionals “Blackwater Side” and “Wild Mountain Thyme,” the latter featuring a nice vocal turn from Jennifer Warnes). First time producers Rick and John Chelew were super fans who brought Jansch into a Silverlake studio and coaxed some lovely performances from the man during what were reportedly dark, drunken days where the once well-established musician was struggling to find his footing and relevance. The closest sonic relatives in Jansch’s catalog are the two stellar albums he made in California the previous decade – L.A. Turnaround (1974) and Santa Barbara Honeymoon (1975) – and Heartbreak feels like the sequel these gems never received in the 70s.

The live disc is a treasure, where it feels Jansch is singing right to us, telling us brief tales and offering funny quips as he weaves his way through tunes that would end up on Heartbreak as well as unique renditions of modern folk staples “If I Were A Carpenter” (Tim Hardin) and “Blues Run The Game” (Jackson C. Frank) as well as a gorgeous reading of Ewan MacColl’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” that neatly returns to tune to its folk roots after Roberta Flack made a pop hit of it. What this set makes clear is Jansch needed nothing but a single guitar and a microphone to mesmerize audiences, the proceedings filled with pin drop intimacy and good humor (including a ditty about the delights of potatoes to a hungry soul). While a whole new set of folks got turned onto Jansch from his extensive touring with Neil Young the past few years, this McCabe’s concert shows what he sounded like at his gently troubled, big hearted best – a gift to long time enthusiasts and a belated hello for anyone still discovering this international treasure after his passing last year.

Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band

Live Bullet/Nine Tonight

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Dirty Impound is giving away one copy of each of these reissues. To enter drawing, send an email to dennis@dirtyimpound.com telling us in 25 words or less why Bob Seger rocks. Best responses score the goods and will have their response published on DI.

Possessed of one of the manliest voices ever and backed up by one of the toughest, tightest road crews of all-time, Bob Seger has been serious rock ‘n’ roll business for over 40 years. However, it hasn’t always been big stages and fat paychecks for the Michigan native. After experiencing sudden stardom with his 1969 debut, Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man, Seger then spent the next six years honing his amazing (and often under-appreciated) songwriting prowess, barely a blip on the charts but a devastating sure-bet in concert, killing it regionally around Detroit and doing the nationwide legwork in clubs that forges true champions. Seger would soon be ubiquitous on FM radio and huge halls everywhere after 1976’s Night Moves but before that came Live Bullet (reissued September 13 on Capitol) , one of the great double vinyl live sets now offered up with much greater sonic clarity and punch in a new CD edition.

come on, beautiful losers!

The Doobie Brothers

Live At The Greek Theatre 1982

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The Doobie Brothers have had many eras in their 41 years of rockin’ down the highway. Initially, a gritty, groove-conscious mix of blues, folk and soul, the band grew smoother and more pop & fusion oriented as the 70s progressed, particularly after Michael McDonald joined as vocalist/keyboardist/songwriter in the mid-70s. Live At The Greek Theatre 1982 (released June 28 on Eagle Records) presents a night many Doobies fans wish they’d been in attendance at (and for the record, this writer in all his pre-pubescent glory was there in Berkeley for his first evening at the legendary Greek Theatre) for all their slick, jazzy, mega-hit era glory.

At the time, it seemed we were witnessing the last crackling embers of one of the giants of the past decade, bowing out at their commercial height just as the industry was shifting to video, a realm the real man musicians in this band weren’t exactly suited to. History, of course, shows that The Doobie Brothers didn’t take their final bow that night, and in recent years have seen a real return to form with last year’s World Gone Crazy and a still tight, entertaining live show.

However, the band and fans gathered inside the Greek’s stone shell didn’t know that, and this set is infused with an exuberant party atmosphere. While every version isn’t definitive, all the major milestones are hit, and the crowd energy is enormous. So is the electric charge coming off co-founder Patrick Simmons, who plays and sings his ass off throughout, balanced and sparked by John McFee, the string champ who continues to enliven the band’s music to this day. A brief late in the show guest appearance from co-founder Tom Johnston, who had left the band several years earlier, is a reminder of what the group had once been – and thankfully the first step towards Johnston’s eventual full return to the fold, where he co-leads the Doobie Brothers today with Simmons.

Like the concert itself, Live At The Greek Theatre 1982 is a right good time, powered by a rhythm section that gives old Santana a run for their money and a band obviously enjoying one last crack at their catalog before things changed for all of them. Four bonus cuts are nice perk for fans, including fine takes on late McDonald period gems “Little Darling (I Need You),” “One Step Closer” and “Dependin’ On You.” (Dennis Cook)

Twisted Sister

Club Daze Vol. 1: The Studio Sessions/ You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll/ Under The Blade/ Double Live

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When it comes to heavy metal on Long Island, it just doesn’t get any more recognizable than Twisted Sister.

But before they broke big in 1984 with their commercial breakthrough Stay Hungry and their monster MTV hit “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” they served nobly as one of the New York area’s most revered acts on the indie metal circuit for 12 years before Dee Snider’s blond mop of war-painted madness scarred the hearts and minds of the Reagan youth for the rest of their natural lives. Originally released on the old Spitfire label in 1999, Club Daze Vol. 1: The Studio Sessions (released January 25) chronicles these early days of the Twisted ones when they were just another local act vying for stage time at The Palladium and the Calderone Theatre. It is an entertaining and educational collection of the band’s first decade of studio action, starting with demos dating back to their Slade-copping early 70s salad days before Snider joined the fold on through to rough cuts of material that would appear on their debut LP, Under The Blade (reissued May 31), including raw takes on such faves as Shoot ‘Em Down and the epic title track. Club Daze Vol. 1 is a great look into the soul of the Sister before they allowed ego, image mongering and ill advice get the best of them.

Also available as part of Eagle Rock’s ongoing reissue series of the TS catalog are expanded editions of the group’s first two full-length LPs, the aforementioned Blade from 1982 and its 1983 follow-up You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll (reissued January 25).
further Twisted insights

Rory Gallagher

Notes From San Francisco

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Though Rory Gallagher thought fit to shelve the recordings he captured in the Bay Area in December 1977, it’s likely that Notes From San Francisco (released May 17 on Eagle Records) would have been regarded as one of his strongest, liveliest studio efforts. It takes only a couple tracks before one picks up on the musicians catching the mythical “pocket,” swinging spontaneously and collectively, chugging tough behind their mercurial, hard pounding leader’s big bear growl and relentless guitar invention. For blues-based rock, particularly in the waning hours of that decade, this represents as good as it gets, and though 33 years too late, we’re fortunate to finally be able to hear this lot.

While not a far cry from the albums that would have sat on either side of it – 1976’s Calling Card and 1978’s Photo-FinishNotes From San Francisco hits the mark more often from start-to-finish than anything else in the 70s for Rory besides 1973’s landmark Tatoo. Gallagher is at his barstool philosopher best here, a gruffer cousin to fellow Irishman and bittersweet tragedian Phil Lynott (Thin Lizzy). Much of this rattles and grinds, but “Wheels Within Wheels” is one of his finest slow numbers and even had the potential to puncture American FM-radio in the era alongside the tailored ennui of Fleetwood Mac and Gerry Rafferty. Elsewhere, there’s the Latin horns meet slide licks of “Brute Force & Ignorance,” the gypsy musician’s lament “Overnight Bag,” and electric violin perforated “Mississippi Sheiks,” strings courtesy of Joe O’Donnell (East of Eden, Mushroom) – the late, great, very missed Martin Fiero also contributes sax to two cuts. Yes, there are plenty of electric guitar workouts but unlike a lot of shredders, particularly of his generation, there’s not a lot of fat and more than a dollop of light-fingered delicacy and eloquent, carefully chosen sting, these last two traits displayed beautifully on the “Little Wing”-esque album closer “Fuel To The Fire.”

This posthumous release is bettered still by a second disc containing a live trio show captured at The Old Waldorf in San Francisco in December 1979. Gallagher had dropped his keyboard player after seeing the Sex Pistols burn down Winterland and attacks staples like “Shinkicker” and “Tattoo’d Lady” with feral energy. The rhythm section of Gerry McAvoy (bass) and Ted McKenna stay close to Gallagher’s wild movements from blazing opener “Follow Me” to the closing frenetic, lighthearted cover of Huey P. Smith’s “Sea Cruise.” There’s a lot of reasons many ardent Rory aficionados consider true Gallagher to be live Gallagher, and this set adds more heft to their argument, though I think he’s nearly equally lethal and sometimes more visibly tender in his studio work. Whichever setting you prefer, there’s much to enjoy on Notes From San Francisco, a rare archival gem that holds its own with the official catalog.

Bob Dylan

In Concert: Brandeis University 1963

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Who knows what Jeff Gold was expecting to discover amongst the treasure trove of memorabilia up for grabs by the estate of legendary music critic and Rolling Stone founder Ralph J. Gleason following the passing of his wife in 2009. Some unpublished writing? A couple of rare gems from the scribe’s legendary record collection? Maybe a cool old salt and pepper set? Regardless of what Mr. Gold may or may not have been hunting for whilst rummaging through Gleason’s worldly possessions, he couldn’t have expected to unearth a previously unreleased recording of an early Bob Dylan concert amidst the debris. But, there it was, a gorgeous mixing board feed capture on reel-to-reel inside of a tape box with the words “Dylan Brandeis” written in faded pencil.

find out what’s in the box

My Life In Vinyl

Space Ritual

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Welcome back to John Jordan’s reoccurring column where he’ll dig through his album collection to ruminate on the gold he’s accumulated over the years.

It is a tricky business using words to describe music. Trying to describe our reactions to and feelings about what we hear sometimes seems inexact, clumsy, and indirect, as if we are adding several steps to the process of perception. Music, by contrast, is a very effective and direct medium of transmitting feeling, at least in the hands of skilled artists. Think of the visceral connections between love and George Harrison’s “Something,” elation and the work of Earth, Wind, and Fire, or rage and the work of Minor Threat. Sometimes we are tuned to different wavelengths, but I don’t think anyone visiting the Impound will deny that music has this sort of immediate effect on them.

I had these thoughts as I was trying to get to grips with Hawkwind’s Space Ritual double live album from 1973. Recorded during an ambitious 1972 tour financed by the success of their single “Silver Machine,” Space Ritual should be filed with such seminal live albums as Live at Leeds and Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out, as it is surely the document of a band at the absolute height of their powers. The difference between The Who or The Rolling Stones and Hawkwind is that Hawkwind are madder than twice their weight in hatters (even accounting for Keith Moon). Their off-center and sometimes disturbing vibe resonates in their music. The feeling that everything is about to fall off the rails, that someone’s mind is humming just below the frequency that will cause it to snap, is omnipresent throughout Space Ritual.

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