Monday, November 17, 2014

Big Star / Teenage Fanclub 1993 split single

Earlier this month, Omnivore Recordings released a Big Star live recording titled Live In Memphis in both audio and visual formats. It captures the reformed '70's band in a concert from October of 1994, at the New Daisy Theatre in the city of Big Star's founding. Original singer-guitarist Alex Chilton and original drummer Jody Stephens were joined by Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow from the Posies (replacing Chris Bell and Andy Hummel). This concert was performed a year-and-a-half after the same lineup appeared at the University of Missouri for the official Big Star reunion in the spring of '93. Live In Memphis shows them in finer form, after they had more time to rehearse and develop better chemistry. Chilton still was not able to sing some of his old songs as well as he once could -- for example, "September Gurls" and "The Ballad Of El Goodo" might have been better handled by one of the two Posies guys. Otherwise, Live In Memphis is a long-overdue delight. It's particularly interesting to note that the band had added a few more songs from the third Big Star album to their repertoire at this point, as well as an unexpected cover of "Patty Girl", the Dick Campbell song made famous by Gary and the Hornets in 1966.

Big Star and "Patty Girl"...where have those two names been used together before? In 1993, there existed a 7-inch vinyl split single by Big Star (covering the Olympics' "Mine Exclusively") and Teenage Fanclub (covering the aforementioned "Patty Girl"). The single was sold in the U.K. through mail order by NME (New Musical Express) magazine, and was limited to 5,000 copies. Does that sound like a Record Store Day single before its time, or what?

Big Star's cover of the Olympics' 1966 soul song "Mine Exclusively" is faithful to the feeling of the original, and is reminiscent of the Grateful Dead's cover of the Olympics' song "Good Lovin' ". Alex Chilton sounds uncommonly enthusiastic here, delivering his lead vocal with considerable zest. Meanwhile, Teenage Fanclub's cover of "Patty Girl" (spelled "Patti Girl" for this single) sounds more Big Star-like than Big Star's side of the single. (This is really not surprising, considering that Fanclub's 1991 album Bandwagonesque is one of the best Big Star albums that Big Star never made). It almost sounds as if the Scottish band is covering Big Star's "September Gurls" instead, echoing that song's Byrds-like guitar jangle. The result is a "Patti Girl" rendition that makes a surprising amount of sense, even if the lead vocal sounds as though it is irreverently mocking the innocence of the Hornets version. This single is a tiny power pop gem.

Note: The single's songwriting credits are inaccurate. "Patti Girl" is credited to Gary and the Hornets, but it was actually written by Dick Campbell. Sherlie Mae Matthews is credited as the sole author of "Mine Exclusively", though it was actually co-written by Matthews and Bob Relf.

Big Star & Teenage Fanclub - Mine Exclusively / Patti Girl

Big Star & Teenage Fanclub "Mine Exclusively" (b/w "Patti Girl") single (New Musical Express NME FAN 1) 1993

Track Listing:

A. Big Star & Teenage Fanclub "Mine Exclusively"
AA. Teenage Fanclub & Big Star "Patti Girl"

Friday, November 07, 2014

Phil Rudd's 2014 solo album "Head Job"

Troubled times continue for the Australian metal band AC/DC. Earlier this year, founding member Malcolm Young was forced to retire due to illness. And now, the band’s long time drummer Phil Rudd has been arrested in New Zealand. Rudd was initially charged with attempting to hire someone to kill two people, but that charge has now been withdrawn due to insufficient evidence. (Insert your own “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” joke here). However, Rudd is still being charged with threatening to kill yet another person, and also faces drug-related charges.

The timing of this turn of events is very unfortunate, not only because AC/DC are about to release Rock Or Bust, their first album in six years, and are about to go on tour next year. (As of this writing, the band says that those plans will not be affected by Rudd’s arrest). But the timing is also odd because Rudd just recently released a solo album titled Head Job in Australia, just a few short months ago.

Head Job is the first-ever solo album from the 60-year-old drummer. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, it is the first official solo album recorded and released by any post-1974 member of AC/DC. (Geordie recordings that were billed as Brian Johnson albums don’t count). Head Job has only been released on CD in Australia, although it appears to be available digitally in some other territories, including the U.S.

Rudd produced the album, and he co-wrote and recorded all of the songs with New Zealand-based musicians Allan Badger (bass and vocals) and Geoffrey Martin (guitar). The album is mixed in such a way that the drums are usually no less prominent than the guitars – as you might expect from a self-produced solo album by a drummer – and that may be the album’s main drawback. The hard rock sound has less guitar fury than the famous AC/DC sound, resulting in less power and crunch. The gruff-voiced Badger sings more like Lemmy from Motorhead than like Brian Johnson or Bon Scott. The single “Repo Man” is the most AC/DC-like track, sounding as though it was written to be performed with Brian Johnson and the Young brothers. The closing track “When I Get My Hands On You” also comes close to duplicating the ferocity of Rudd’s usual band. Otherwise, Rudd and his collaborators opt for a more down-to-earth and less in-your-face metal approach. “Crazy” and “No Right” are surprisingly melodic; “Lonely Child” and the title track show substance, and allow the guitars to breathe more. “Lost In America” and “The Other Side” suggest that someone in this trio listens to the Foo Fighters. One bad move was the appropriately titled “Bad Move”, which has a too-stale arena rock sound reminiscent of ‘80’s hair metal.

Head Job is a fairly enjoyable side project, but it’s hardly an album that “matters”.

Phil Rudd - Head Job

Phil Rudd “Head Job” (Universal Music Australia PRCD001) 2014

Track Listing:

1. Head Job
2. Sun Goes Down
3. Lonely Child
4. Lost In America
5. Crazy
6. Bad Move
7. No Right
8. The Other Side
9. 40 Days
10. Repo Man
11. When I Get My Hands On You