Saturday, June 29, 2013


Ace Of Spades

612 Miles To Go

Motorhead Ace Of Spades

Motorhead drives a musical locomotive of thrash fury, after learning as much from the punk rockers as they did the metal heads.

And even after nearly 40 years of recording and performing, Ace Of Spades, the band's fourth release, remains their classic anthem and the opus of their extensive album collection.

Fronted by Lemmy Kilmister - the bassist, singer and legend of the "only one name needed" fraternity - Motorhead's Ace Of Spades is full of sex, sins, debauchery and destruction delivered with a power, speed and rage that continues to influence scores of bands three decades after its release.

Guitarist Fast Eddie Clark scorches the solos on every song, while "Philthy" Phil Taylor pounds the drums at breakneck speed throughout.

Lemmy's raspy roar is funeral bell clear, so you decide which lyrics are supposed to be funny and which ones are serious.

"The pleasure is to play/It makes no difference what you say/I don't share your greed/The only card I need is/The Ace Of Spades."

There's no gamble here.

Draw the Ace Of Spades from your deck every time you need the hammer to fall. You'll love it like a reptile.

Ace Of Spades Song For The Soundtrack: Ace Of Spades

Let There Be Rock

AC/DC Let There Be Rock

AC/DC blast their amps into overdrive with Let There Be Rock.

Chronologically, it's the band's fourth release, but the second for the U.S. (1977) following High Voltage (1976). T.N.T (1975) and Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (1976) preceded it as well but weren't released internationally until later.

On Let There Be Rock, the brothers Young, Angus and Malcolm, burn through song after song with their distinct blend of Chuck Berry/blues/metal guitar torching.

Original lead singer Bon Scott screeches and grins through the verses of one nighters and life in rock 'n' roll, two themes that dominate nearly every AC/DC album before and after.

And, there are no romantic power ballads allowed.

Five of the eight cuts are staples of AC/DC's live shows in both the Bon Scott and Brian Johnson eras - Let There Be Rock, Bad Boy Boogie, Problem Child, Hell Ain't A Bad Place To Be and Whole Lotta Rosie.

It's no small feat that all five songs maintain as much of their electricity on the studio cuts as they do live.

Plug in.

Turn on.

Turn it up.

Let there be rock.

Let There Be Rock Song For The Soundtrack: Problem Child

Van Halen

Van Halen Van Halen

Van Halen had us at: "I live my life like there's no tomorrow."

Then came the nuclear Eruption that made Eddie Van Halen an instant member of the Guitar God pantheon.

The deal was closed with their cover of the Kinks' Your Really Got Me.

They "ain't talkin' 'bout love" either. Van Halen is all about the hottest girls, backseat sex and Runnin' With The Devil.

Lead singer David Lee Roth delivers the lusty lyrics with a Tarzan shriek and physique. He knows the girls want to be with him and the boys will do anything for an invitation to the after-show party. Even if it never comes, they can argue among themselves about whether or not Eddie plays as well as Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page.

Bassist Michael Anthony and drummer Alex Van Halen romp the rhythms at ramming speed to launch what became a multi-platinum juggernaut.

Their on the road antics are as legendary as Led Zeppelin.

The eventual fallout between Diamond Dave and the band opened the mic for Sammy Hagar, only to have him depart and eventually Roth return. The one-album Gary Cherone era in between only merits a footnote.

Eddie's cemented his place in guitar lore. Now, the best bar argument is over which version of the band is better - the original line-up or Van Hagar.

I'll take David Lee Roth and the first Van Halen every time.

Van Halen Song For The Soundtrack: Ice Cream Man

Running Data For Saturday, June 1:
10.66 Miles

Mileage In The Change Jar: 0.12 Miles

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Analog Man

623 Miles To Go

Vinyl at 33 RPM.

Singles at 45 RPM.



Compact discs.


The Cloud.

Joe Walsh has seen each "replace" the other with one thing always remaining the same.

The 65-year-old wizard's music is smokin' no matter which format you choose to listen.

He became a guitar star after joining the James Gang in 1968, later going solo and ultimately soaring with the Eagles since the era-defining Hotel California.

Listen to any of the annual classic rock radio holiday countdowns of their top 500 songs and you will hear Walsh in all his incarnations (James Gang - Funk 49, Walk Away; solo - Rocky Mountain Way, Turn To Stone, Life's Been Good; Eagles - Hotel California, Life In The Fast Lane, New Kid In Town, Heartache Tonight).

Now in his sixth different decade of making music, Walsh always has played it with an "aw shucks" humbleness not often seen in rock's galaxy, especially from someone with such a long record of memorable tracks. The mushy drawl on his vocals accentuates his ever-present humility.

Even his albums sport titles that aren't taken too seriously - So What, You Bought It - You Name It, Got Any Gum?, Ordinary Average Guy.

Analog Man (2012) is Walsh's first solo effort in 20 years. It finds him in comfortable and familiar territory on this collection co-produced with Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra and Traveling Wilburys fame. He also plays on several songs.

The guest list includes several old friends and cronies such as Ringo Starr, Joe Vitale, David Crosby and Graham Nash.

The freshest influences include Walsh's sobriety and more settled family life since marrying Marjorie Bach in 2008, thus becoming a brother-in-law to Ringo and his actress wife Barbara.

The title track is a thematic update to 1983's Space Age Whiz Kids, when Walsh laughingly lamented pinball being replaced by video games. Now, "when something goes wrong, I don't have a clue/some 10-year-old smart-ass has to show me what to do."

Wrecking Ball and One Day At A Time are tributes and admissions to having a problem he now faces "one day at a time."

He says thank you to his friends and fans on the more acoustic Lucky That Way.

Family is a ballad of appreciation for having "a wife and a home and a family that matters" complete with his signature spacey guitar parts.

The intro to Spanish Dancer recalls Hotel California and Funk 50 makes it a trifecta started with Funk #48 (1969) and Funk #49 (1970). Not surprisingly, Funk #49 remains the vintage offering of the three.

Smokin' Joe may be "an analog man in a digital world," but his music will always be a hit regardless of how you hear it.

Song For The Soundtrack: Analog Man

Running Data For Wednesday, May 29:
4.49 Miles

Mileage In The Change Jar: 0.54 Miles

Thursday, June 20, 2013


Spirit In The Room

627 Miles To Go

Of all the legacy gifts Johnny Cash left us, his American Recordings series with Rick Rubin remains among his most influential.

In addition to reviving Cash's career, they inspired several of his contemporaries to pursue similar projects in which they stripped down the production to lay the vocals and lyrics as naked as possible.

Neil Diamond's 12 Songs and Home Before Dark (also produced by Rubin), Kris Kristofferson's trilogy of This Old Road, Closer To The Bone and Feeling Mortal, as well as Glen Campbell's Ghost On The Canvas all come to mind.

The latest to follow this path is Tom Jones with Spirit In The Room. Ethan Johns plays the role of Rubin, as well as guitar and other instruments on each of album's 13 songs.

Johns previously produced Jones' similarly rootsy Praise And Blame (2010), and worked with The Jayhawks, Ryan Adams, Ray LaMontagne and Kings of Leon among many others.

For Spirit In The Room, Jones and Johns also pull from the Tom Waits/Marc Ribot playbook to create an album full of moody, spooky arrangements and purposely scratchy backgrounds that would sound at home on the latest Waits releases.

Jones even polishes the vocals with a less garbled growl for an otherwise similar take on the title track to Waits' (with Ribot) Bad As Me (2011). 

The 73-year-old Welshman kicks off the album with a cover of Leonard Cohen's Tower Of Song that rates as 2013's most haunting song of the year. It leaves little doubt that when his time comes, Jones will get to ask Hank Williams himself, "How lonely does it get?"

Though Jones' fame comes as much for his abilities as an entertainer as a singer, he's not kidding when he croons, "I was born like this/I had no choice/I was born with the gift of a golden voice."

He spends the rest of Spirit In The Room showing it off.

From the atmospheric gospel of All Blues Hail Mary and Lone Pilgrim (an original written by Jones and Johns) to the dark blues of Blind Willie Johnson's Soul Of A Man to the slow ballads of Richard Thompson's Dimming Of The Day and Paul McCartney's (I Want To) Come Home, Jones sounds comfortable regardless of which room and which spirit he's singing with.

Other highlights include a Waits-fashioned stab at Just Dropped In and the closing Bob Dylan's When The Deal Goes Down, sung from the hymnal with merry-go-round music playing lightly behind the vocals.

On Hit Or Miss, Jones proclaims, "There ain't nobody just like this/I gotta be me, Baby/Hit or miss."

Spirit In The Room is all hit and no miss. Let's hope Jones pays attention to Cash and keeps swinging just like this for multiple sequels to come.

Song For The Soundtrack: Bad As Me

Running Data For Saturday, May 25:
4.52 Miles

Mileage In The Change Jar: 0.05 Miles

Monday, June 17, 2013


Ready To Die

632 Miles To Go

Iggy is an attitude.

It's physically aggressive, unflinchingly noisy and almost always shirtless.

He reigns in the exclusive rock 'n' roll hierarchy where only one name is needed.







The Weirdness
The cartoon anarchy of The Stooges is his Motor City madhouse of a masterpiece.

The band's trio of earliest releases - The Stooges (1969), Fun House (1970) and Raw Power (1973) - coupled with Iggy's singular stage mayhem made them legends, Godfathers to the punk movement and 2010 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees.

The Weirdness  (2007) reunited Iggy with the Asheton brothers, Ron (guitar) and Scott (drums), as well as saxophonist Scott MacKay. Bassist Mike Watt, previously of the Minutemen and Firehose rounded out the line-up.

Ron Asheton died in January 2009 and is replaced on Ready to Die with fellow early Stooges alum James Williamson. The rest of the roster remains the same as The Weirdness, but the name of the band changed to Iggy And The Stooges.

Both records possess all the qualities expected of an Iggy-fronted effort - a distrustful cynicism for authority (ATM, Greedy Awful People from The Weirdness, Job, Dirty Deal from Ready To Die), an unending appetite for sex (Trollin', She Took My Money from The Weirdness, Sex & Money, DD's from Ready To Die), and grinding guitar riffs throughout.

While The Weirdness never gets soft, Iggy turns on his best Leonard Cohen vocals for two quieter moments on the most recent release, Unfriendly World and The Departed.

Neither record makes a statement for the ages. This is after all the band whose greatest hit is the truly classic I Wanna Be Your Dog.

But, the lust for life burns. The raw power flows. And, make no mistake, the world will always be more fun with Iggy And The Stooges in it.

Ready To Die Song For The Soundtrack: Beat That Guy

The Weirdness Song For The Soundtrack: Free & Freaky

Running Data For Friday, May 24:
7.16 Miles

Mileage In The Change Jar: 0.53 Miles

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


Like A Rose

639 Miles To Go

Ashley Monroe is 100 percent Tennessee twang honey from Knoxville, who also stars in the sultry country trio - the Pistol Annies - with Miranda Lambert and Angaleena Presely.

Listening to her new solo record, Like A Rose, it's easy to hear where the giggles and tears are started on the Annies' efforts.

The 26-year-old Monroe has been playing guitar and singing since age 13, also the year her father died of pancreatic cancer.

The experience forced her to grow up quickly and music served as an outlet for the issues swirling around her.

At 17, her first album Satisfied was ready for release when she was told on tour the record company had changed its mind and it wouldn't be coming out as planned.

(Check out the fantastic interview by Twang Nation's Baron Lane with Monroe for more on her solo career and libations shootouts with the Pistol Annies.)

Now 26, Monroe co-writes all of the songs on Like a Rose, which is co-produced by Vince Gill. Guy Clark pitches in on writing the title track, while Gill makes the assist on the upbeat fiddle faddle Monroe Suede and You Ain't Dolly (And You Ain't Porter).

The later is an almost karaoke love affair done as a duet in which fellow Pistol Annie Miranda Lambert lends Monroe her husband Blake Shelton.

Her voice breathes life into comparisons with country's classic past and her songwriting does the same.

Some of the songs tell sad stories at ballad pace - Like A Rose, Used, She's Driving Me Out Of Your Mind. Meanwhile, You Got Me and The Morning After are fueled by lust, yearning, regret and in the case of the later, knowing better.

Two Weeks Late dances a familiar country waltz with Monroe's distinct sense of humor wagging the tale. Her man is gone. Her mother says she's putting on weight, and the landlord wants his rent check today.

"I know that the Bible says/That you're supposed to wait/Cause I'm a dollar short/And two weeks late."

Nonetheless, no song is rolling more waves than Weed Instead Of Roses, a sexy, smoky romp that stands as 2013's funniest shot of marital counseling, especially from a country singer.

"Give me weed instead of roses/Bring me whiskey 'stead of wine/Every puff, every shot you're looking better all the time/I don't need a card from Hallmark, box of candy Heaven knows."

Same Trailer Different Park
Kacey Musgraves raises a few shots of her own with marijuana references and the advice of "kiss lots of girls if that's what you're into" on Same Trailer Different Park.

And, like Monroe, there's way more to Musgraves than just a few lyrics not normally heard on country radio.

Monroe's approach leaves little doubt of her roots, while Musgraves bridges the gap between Taylor Swift, Jewel and Sheryl Crow.

The 24-year-old Texan previously self-released three albums and appeared on Season Five of Nashville Star in 2007, placing seventh.

But, if Musgraves and Same Trailer Different Park were presented as the major label debut of a new coffee house queen of the college radio circuit, it would be completely believable.

Her songs are equal parts sunny, cynical and hopeful. They're sometimes weary with a smile and almost always looking up.

Merry Go Round spins one of the most clever takes on Merry/Marry/Mary and the unbroken hometown twirl ever done.

"Mama's hooked on Mary Kay/Brother's hooked on Mary Jane/And Daddy's hooked on Mary two doors down/Mary Mary quite contrary/We get bored so we get married."

Follow Your Arrow zings more real irony than Alanis Morrisette's Ironic and anchors the live and let live philosophy that permeates Same Trailer Different Park.

"If you won't have a drink then you're a prude/But they'll call you a drunk as soon as you down the first one/If you can't lose the weight, then you're just fat/But if you lose too much, then you're on crack."

Like A Rose and Same Trailer Different Park should help Monroe and Musgraves bloom into even brighter flowers in fans' music gardens, country and beyond.

Monroe's exposure is growing exponentially with the Pistol Annies' fame. Meanwhile, Musgraves currently is opening for Kenny Chesney on his summer stadium/amphitheater tour.

Plant both of these in your collection today. There's a prickliness to the thorns in each that make the blooms that much more beautiful.

Like A Rose Song For The Soundtrack: Weed Instead Of Roses

Same Trailer Different Park Song For The Soundtrack: Merry Go Round

Running Data For Sunday, May 19:
7.08 Miles

Mileage In The Change Jar: 0.37 Miles