Tag Archive | Seventies Rock

Recommended Listening: The Sheepdogs

Sheepdogs Self Titled Album Cover

Back when I used to eek out a few bucks writing about music, one particularly hard ass editor accused me of being “not a real Rock Critic.” This was likely due to my unwillingness to indulge in the widespread practice of pondering the sociopolitical leanings of a band in the context of a record review rather than just basing my critique on how the music sounded to me. I never really got that approach. I’m not interested in reading paragraphs of turgid, impenetrable prose and rock-crit wankery. Just tell me how the music sounds so I know if I want to buy the record.

Along those lines, The Sheepdogs are a band that’s easy for me to write about, because their music sounds amazing. This Canadian Classic Rock quartet (who in 2011 won a contest making them the first unsigned act ever to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine) have three independent albums under their belts and an EP released on Atlantic last year, but this record is their major label debut (produced by Patrick Carney of The Black Keys), and it’s beyond impressive.

“Laid Back” and “Feeling Good,” the first two tracks on the disc set the tone for the entire album: This is an exceptionally great feeling album of groove heavy tunes performed by a band that embraces an extremely lyrical approach to their playing. Lead singer Ewan Currie (whose voice has been compared to The Guess Who’s Burton Cummings) delivers the kind of quietly confident, effortlessly powerful vocal performance that is the mark of true natural talent. Guitarist Leot Hansen is doing wildly innovative stuff on the guitar while paying homage to tone masters such as George Harrison (“Never Gonna Get My Love”), Duane Allman (“Javelina!”) and of course Jimmy Page (“Sharp Sounds”). He’s amazing. Drummer Sam Corbett varies his drum feels to serve the song and his rhythm section partner, bassist Ryan Gullen holds down the bottom end while layering in adhesive hooks. This means that The Sheepdogs are just as vibrant and tight live as they are on disc, and you can’t say that about many acts these days.

What’s most impressive about The Sheepdogs is the band’s ability to integrate their influences so seamlessly that the songs are instantly familiar without sounding derivative. “Is Your Dream Worth Dying For?” feels pleasantly infused with tiny reminiscences of Todd Rundgren’s “I Saw The Light”, “While We’re Young” comes off like a revamped version of “Shapes of Things” and “In My Mind” captures the same kind of transcendent, euphoric quality as a song like Cream’s “Badge” without sounding anything like that song. As an aside, at least half these tracks indicate that The Sheepdogs should have a ready-made fan base in anyone who ever cited The Grateful Dead as a favorite band.

In their review of The Sheepdogs, Rolling Stone wrote, “Listening to the Sheepdogs is like having good luck finding classic rock stations on a long road trip.” I agree with that sentiment, but to me it feels fresher than that: as if it were possible travel back in time and actually hear new songs from a ‘70s band. It’s a refreshing reminder that the most vital benchmark of what constitutes good music is (or should be) that the music just sounds good.

Grade: A

Remembering Bob Welch

Fleetwood Mac Bob Welch
John McVie, Mick Fleetwood, Bob Welch, Christine McVie Circa 1970 (Image Source)

Bob Welch sang lead vocals on “Hypnotized” and “Silver Heels”: the two best Fleetwood Mac songs, ever, pre-Buckingham Nicks. And now he’s dead. Welch’s body was found by his wife in their home in Antioch, TN earlier today (June 7, 2012) with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. It is reported that he had been suffering from deteriorating health. Welch would have been 66 years old on July 31st.

Please enjoy this clip of Bob singing “Hypnotized” from the album Mystery to Me. RIP Bob Welch!

RIP Ronnie Montrose

Ronnie Montrose with Guitar
Image Source

It’s a huge bummer to have to report on the passing of legendary guitarist Ronnie Montrose, whose eponymous band — fronted by vocalist Sammy Hagar — released so many songs that I loved while growing up in the seventies. According to an article up now at Rolling Stone Dot Com, Montrose died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on Saturday, March 3rd, 2012, having suffered from clinical depression since childhood. A sad loss for music. Ronnie Montrose was 64 years old.

Recommended Listening: Take It Or Leave It, A Tribute to The Runaways

While the span of the band’s career was relatively short, The Runaways changed the landscape of rock and altered the perception of women making music forever. With The Runaways’ biopic just released last year, who would have imagined that their influence would continue to be topical several decades after their break up? I was around for the duration of their rise and fall and, the significant post-Runaways careers of Joan Jett and Lita Ford notwithstanding, I sure never thought we’d still be taking about them 30 years later. So it’s not surprising, really, that Main Man Records has compiled what can only be called the definitive Runaways tribute compilation; a two disc set called Take It Or Leave It. All you need to know is that this record fucking rocks.

If you were alive and digging rock music in the seventies, you don’t really need me – or anyone else for that matter – to sell you on this compilation/tribute. The collection sells itself by virtue of what it is: over fifty separate tracks of badass punk/metal/rock music and interview snippets that make me wish I were 15 years old again and could still get excited about a new band. Because, compared to anything that’s charted in the past 20 years, The Runways kick everyone’s ass. There a few songs here that aren’t “perfect” (really, guys; Bebe Buell may have slept with an impressive number of Rock Stars, but she can’t sing) but they all sound good, and most of the covers are amazing. It’s also fun to hear the brief sound bites from original Runaways members on how they joined the band and other memories. But the bottom line is that this record is Rock & Roll, or what it used to be before everything became emo and autotuned. Yawn city. That’s the most positive review I can give it. Here are a few more details about this faith restoring release.

Take It Or Leave It is a 2-disc collection with 36 tracks that span The Runaways entire catalog. Their best-known songs, like “Cherry Bomb” and “Queens Of Noise” are represented alongside more obscure tunes like “Hollywood” and “Born To Be Bad.” The fullness of the selection makes it evident how generations of artists, from L7 and The Go-Gos to Redd Kross and Guns n’ Roses, call back to the passion-fueled rock sensibility of The Runaways.

While the individual interpretations of each track explore the original contributions of Cherie Currie, Joan Jett, Lita Ford, Sandy West, Jackie Fox, Vicki Blue, Take It Or Leave It also includes two performances by original Runaways band members: lead vocalist Cherie Currie’s rocking remake of fan-favorite “American Nights,” and “Dirty Magazines,” the last recording made by drummer Sandy West (who passed away from lung cancer in 2006) with her band Blue Fox.

More Info, and Track/Band Listing after the Jump!

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Back to The Old House

Gail OHS 79

Me at Age 18. Best. ’70s. Hair. Ever.

Hey Kids! I’ll be heading out west for a few days to attend my one hundred million billionth High School Reunion out in the OC, so blog posts will be a little sparse. If  I can just stomach the deluge of Styx and Boston songs the DJ plays, I’m certainly expecting this shindig to be more hilarity than horror-show. But you never can tell.

Punky Meadows Found Lurking on Myspace

Punky Meadows Pout
’70s Rock God Punky Meadows and His World Famous Pout

I just about lost my mind the other day when I accidentally tripped over Punky Meadows Myspace Page! Back in the ’70s, where all of the best music comes from, Punky was the guitarist for the progressive, glam-metal, pomp rock band, Angel. These days he apparently lives comfortably in the past and runs a tanning salon. Myspace is the greatest thing ever!