Creedence Clearwater Revival

Creedence Clearwater Revival. I recall sometime in the late eighties when compact disc players were just becoming reasonable to purchase I was gifted a Sony Discman from my parents for Christmas. I was pretty damn stoked. For me it was the holy grail of Christmas presents, it even had the Mega bass switch! The only drawback to cd player ownership at the time was the cost of media which went for near double what cassette tapes were going for at the time. My parents knew this when they bought me the player and to try to help me out they picked out a selection of titles to tide me over until I had the duckets saved up to make some purchases of my own. Yep, they bought me three discs. Three discs that couldn’t have been any further from what a tween would have been caught dead with at the time. Lynard Skinnard Nuthin’ Fancy, a Southern Rock compilation and a live Creedence Clearwater Revival album “The Concert”. My mom must have been feeling southern during Christmas that year. Anyway, I was disappointed, I was bummed. Here I was with this awesome Discman and all I had to play in it was these extremely uncool bands from my mother’s youth. Sheesh! Regardless I trudged through and found that I could find elements of this music that I enjoyed. I made the best of it. The Lynard Skinnard album was a lost cause, just couldn’t get into it. The other two weren’t so bad though. The Southern Rock comp had some rockin harmonica tunes on it but there were also some misses that I didn’t enjoy. That only left the Creedence Clearwater Revival album. I knew the name.

Creedence Clearewater Revival or CCR was a rock band from San Francisco California. They didn’t last long, only five years, from 1967 to 1972. Their music has been describes as southern rock but the band members themselves were anything but southern perhaps a more accurate later name given for their style is “roots rock”. Back in the late sixties there was crazy stuff going on in the popular music scene. Psychedelic rock was coming into popularity, the big acts like Jimmy Hendrix and Led Zeppelin were coming into their own. Given the environment you wouldn’t think a San Francisco based southern style band wouldn’t do too well. Perhaps their saving grace was signing with Fantasy records. At the time Fantasy was signing soul and jazz acts. CCR’s music was soul-ish so they fit in well on Fantasy’s roster. Unlike many of the major labels at the time Fantasy was a niche label and this allowed CCR to release music unfiltered from a major’s influence that may have attempted to steer them more towards the more popular sounds of the day.

CCR was a four piece, John Fogerty on vocals, Tom Fogerty on guitar, Stu Cook on bass and Doug Clifford on the drums. Despite John and Tom being brothers the band was originally formed around John, Stu and Doug. Tom, John’s older brother, was a vocalist or performed with various acts and was even backed by his little brother’s band from time to time. This early version of CCR was called The Blue Velvets but it wouldn’t last long. Shortly after they were signed to Fantasy and released their first album Tom joined up. Despite Tom’s vocal experience he took the role of guitarist admittingly stepping aside because he felt his brother had the better voice. This lineup would remain unchanged until five years later when inter-band fighting would force Tom out. The band would live on as a three piece for a short while before imploding on itself and disappearing forever. Tom died in the early nineties but you still hear of the other members from time to time. Mostly little side projects, nothing really of note.

I remembered back when I was really young there was a toy called the Pocket Rocker. I never owned a Pocket Rocker but it was some kind of music player for children that had it’s own proprietary tapes. The commercial was loop on television ad infinitum. It was just some piece of garbage marketed to kids, nothing of note, but the commercial itself had a version of a CCR song in it, the song was “Down on the Corner” and the lyrics went “Down on the corner out in the street Pocket Rockers are playing feel the music feel the beat”. It’s been probably 25 years since I’ve heard that song but damned if doesn’t get in my head every time I hear CCR. I don’t know what it is, it’s like musical cocaine.

I’m not terribly qualified to discuss Creedence Clearwater Revival’s discography but in reading about their releases I think it’s safe to say that any of their first four releases are good places to start. I’d probably pickup their second one “Bayou County” first. I think at the time of their second release they were just hitting their stride in terms of excellent song writing.

1) Creedence Clearwater Revival [1968]
2) Bayou Country [1969]
3) Green River [1969]
4) Willy and the Poor Boys [1969]
5) Cosmo’s Factory [1970]
6) Pendulum [1970]

Jawbreaker


Jawbreaker was a punk rock band from San Francisco California. Jawbreaker was a three piece comprised of Blake Schwarzenbach, Chris Bauermeister and Adam Pfahler. All in all the band lasted from 1988 to 1996, a total of eight years. In that time they amassed a pretty good size following while nothing like some of their colleagues of the day they still managed to do pretty well. In the beginning Jawbreaker was self managed. The band themselves shopped their first three albums around to indi labels on their own to some degree of success. However in the mid nineties when so many other bands of their stature were signed to majors Jawbreaker fell in line and followed suit. Their demise followed shortly after their first official major label debut on Geffen, “Dear You”.

Musically Jawbreaker pushed the limits of what was being done with punk rock music up until that time. Many of their songs were long and complicated, not just 3 minute jaunts about hating their job, these were eight minute interludes of raw emotion, typically gloomy emotion. Good stuff to listen to when you’re bummed. At least that’s the case with their first two albums. The band was forced to take a break in 1993 because Blake suffered damage to his throat(cancer?) and needed an operation. When the band reunited after Blake’s operation they were not the same. On their first album after his operation, “24 Hour Revenge Therapy”, Blake sang much different and their song structure had changed accordingly. Gone was his raspy gravelly voice and it was replaced by a more common traditional voice, with the song lengths and subjects also becoming slightly more traditional. I actually really enjoy his voice after the operation better then before and “24 Hour” is my favorite Jawbreaker album. I like their first two a great deal too and if I’m picking out a Jawbreaker album to bring in the car it’s usually a toss up between the first three.

I have plenty of Jawbreaker memories. My buddies had a band in high school that played around at many of the local venues, VFW’s and Elk’s Lodges mostly. That doesn’t sound like much but that’s plenty of venue for some budding young musicians. They never had an album or anything, I think they might have had a cassette demo that they distributed but that’s as far as it got. Anyway, after a year or so they got a little following and it was fun to go to their shows. At one such event a band opened for them, a handful of fellows I didn’t know very well, but this band played mostly just Jawbreaker covers. At the time Jawbreaker was very active and well known among the little punkers I hung around with so covering them wasn’t a terribly creative thing to do. You know what I did? I booed them. Yep, the little bastard I was I booed them. It wasn’t that I didn’t like Jawbreaker, in fact it was the opposite, I liked Jawbreaker too much to see their music represented in such a fasion. While they didn’t seem to pay any mind to my vocal protests to their song selection it still wasn’t a very nice thing for me to do. So nameless band, I’m sorry for booing you some seventeen years ago at a Elks Lodge somewhere in Morris County New Jersey.

1) Unfun [1990]
2) Bivouac [1992]
3) 24 Hour Revenge Therapy [1994]
4) Dear You [1995]

Blossom Dearie


Blossom Dearie was a jazz vocalist and pianist that began to make a name for herself in New York City during the fifties. Blossom is one of the old school style jazz singers that had to actually work for her fame by playing nightly at supper clubs. This was no lowly task as many of the big names of jazz played supper clubs. You may ask, what is a supper club? You know in those old black and white movies from the fifties when the main character is eating dinner some glitzy night club place and Sinatra comes out on the stage and performs, everybody wearing top notch suits, everybody on their best behavior, well that’s a supper club or what we think of today as a social club.

Born in 1924 in East Durham, New York Blossom grew up in the shadow of New York City. It must have been a glimmer in her eye from an early age to make it big in NYC. She moved to NYC shortly after graduating high school. After performing regularly there for around ten years she moved on to Paris France for a few years then returned. Paris also had a thriving jazz community, perhaps more so then any other European city at the time. Spending time there gave Blossom a unique take on the music and also allowed her to try things on new audiences. Her big break came after she returned to NYC when she did a radio ad for Hires Root Beer. This musical ad did was received really well and led to a Blossom Dearie album titled “Blossom Dearie Sings Rootin’ Songs” which she recorded for the beverage company. This album was distributed solely through Hires by way of a dollar and a proof of purchase. How’s that for a collectors item?

I gotta be honest I didn’t realize until I was doing research for this article that Blossom had quite so many albums. Simply said she has a shitload of albums. Not including her work with other artists, of which she did much, Blossom Dearie released something to the tune of thirty albums, I’ll list them below just so you can see the craziness. Of all of her albums I am familiar with one, “Once Upon a Summertime”, it really is a fantastic album when I initially listened to it I assumed it was a greatest hits but no, it’s just one of her typical releases. I’d strongly recommend it as a starting point.

1) Blossom Dearie Plays “April in Paris” [1956]
2) Blossom Dearie [1957]
3) Give Him the Ooh-La-La [1957]
4) Once Upon a Summertime [1958]
5) Blossom Dearie Sings Comden and Green [1959]
6) Soubrette Sings Broadway Hit Songs [1960]
7) My Gentleman Friend [1961]
8) Blossom Dearie Sings Rootin’ Songs [1963]
9) May I Come In? [1964]
10) Blossom Time at Ronnie Scott’s [1966] *live
11) Sweet Blossom Dearie [1967] *live
12) Soon It’s Gonna Rain [1967]
13) That’s Just the Way I Want to Be [1970]
14) Blossom Dearie Sings [1974]
15) 1975: From The Meticulous to the Sublime [1975]
16) My New Celebrity is You [1976]
17) Winchester in Apple Blossom Time [1977]
18) Needlepoint Magic [1979] *live
19) Simply [1983]
20) Positively [1983]
21) Et Tu, Bruce [1984] *live
22) Chez Wahlberg: Part One [1985]
23) Songs of Chelsea [1987]
24) Tweedledum & Tweedledee -Two People Who Resemble Each Other, in this Case Musically- [1991] *with Mike Renzi
25) Christmas Spice So Very Nice [1991] *with Mike Renzi
26) Our Favorite Songs (1996) *greatest hits
27) I’m Hip (1998) *greatest hits
28) Blossom’s Planet [2000]
29) It’s All Right to Be Afraid [2003] *single

Talking Heads


Talking Heads were an extremely influential band that was founded in 1974 in New York City. It’s three founding members David Byrne, Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth originally met while attending the Rhode Island School of Design but it wasn’t until they graduated and moved to NYC that the band to be known as Talking Heads took form. They were together hardly a year when they invited a forth person into the mix, guitarist Jerry Harrison. With the inclusion of Jerry they had attained a lineup that would last until the band’s breakup sixteen years later.

When I think of Talking Heads I remember the first time I consciously listened to them. A childhood friend of mine’s parents had recently become divorced. In the breakup his dad moved away and his mom bought a condo with the money from the settlement. It was kind of sad going there because his parents had a really nice thing going, in terms of their house and all that. The condo seemed like a big step down for his mom but she seemed chipper about it, never a frown on her face. She had her own career and her own activities to focus on so her life was moving on. Often times when I’d arrive at his house his mom would let me in and while I was waiting for my buddy to greet me I’d hang out with his mom for a short while. Quite a few times this slightly awkward moment was scored by the Talking Heads being played on her home audio system. It seemed to fit the mood perfectly, in a good way.

Talking Heads left their mark on many facets of the rock world. They were one of the first “alternative” rock groups to truly establish a niche for themselves. Their song writing was completely original, their instruments, vocals and the way they picked and chose from other genres create a situation where on first the listen to a Talking Heads album you can never be quite sure what the next song is going to sound like. I absolutely love David Byrne’s vocals they are my favorite part of the band. It’s crazy too just how strong of an impact they’ve had on future generations of music. A couple of examples, the popular present day band known as Radiohead actually lifted their band name from a Talking Heads song; the hippy band Phish has covered entire Talking Heads albums live, truly a testament to their respect for the band both of these bands are major major bands with huge followings, both considered present day trailblazers at what they do, yet they don’t hesitate to shine the spotlight back on their forefather, Talking Heads.

Talking Heads released eight full length albums while they were together. I gotta say they are pretty consistent although if I were picking up a first one I’d probably go with one if the first five. Or you could also get a greatest hits type deal, those are great starting points to get a feel for a band.

1) Talking Heads: 77 [1977]
2) More Songs About Buildings and Food [1978]
3) Fear of Music [1979]
4) Remain in Light [1980]
5) Speaking in Tongues [1983]
6) Little Creatures [1985]
7) True Stories [1986]
8) Naked [1988]

Jungle Brothers


Jungle Brothers are a East Coast hip hop group founded in 1986 in Queens, a section of New York City. The Jungle Brothers were a founding member of the Native Tongues posse and were the most popular group in Native Tongues for it’s early years helping to get NT off the ground and gain notoriety. As I mentioned in prior posts the Native Tongues posse had many influential acts in it’s stables, A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul to name a couple of which bot were good friends of JB’s with members of the JB’s even attending the same high school as A Tribe Called Quest. The JB’s helped A Tribe Called Quest come up with their name which goes to show just how lovey-dovey all these guys were.

Jungle Brothers had three members Mike Gee, Sammy B and Afrika Baby Bam. While they have never had officially broken up there have been no new studio albums since 2002, with all subsequent releases post 2002 being remixes and greatest hits type-deals. By all accounts it looks like there was a falling out with Afrika Baby Bam and it’s unlikely that any more new material will ever come from the original lineup of the Jungle Brothers. While that is sad I not a big fan of their later releases so for me their departure for the active hip hop community isn’t a huge loss.

Over the course of 14 years the JBs managed to put out six albums. My favorite by far is their second album “Done by the Forces of Nature”. I also enjoy their first album quite a bit. I find that their later albums, starting with their 1993 release “J Beez With the Remedy” are lacking something that their first two have. It’s like they started taking themselves too seriously. Their first two albums are playful and fun to listen to to, even comical at times. About 90% of hip hop acts play the serious angle what really set the JB’s apart for me was their playfulness and eagerness to step outside side of the popular hip hop formula.

1) Straight out the Jungle [1988]
2) Done by the Forces of Nature [1989]
3) J Beez Wit the Remedy [1993]
4) Raw Deluxe [1997]
5) V.I.P. [2000]
6) All That We Do [2002]