Beatlesque Pop Goodies – Part 2

6 Hottest Picks From Upcoming Beatles Auction in Liverpool ... The Rutles Parody the Beatles - The New York Times

Here is part 2 of a multi-part series I want to do about some interesting Beatlesque music.  Last month was part 1 and if you missed it, please go back and start there as it talks about what that sort of music means.  Years ago when I used to play some of the pop music I purchased from places like Bruce Brodeen’s Not Lame website for my drummer pal Dan Campbell, he made the astute comment that nobody combined both of the main facets musically that The Beatles did.  What he meant was that they could play screaming rock and roll on one song then a gentle ballad on the next and do so with equal skill.  There is a fine line too between saccharine and sweet.  At any rate, here are 20 more songs reminiscent of the music of the Fab Four.

1.The Rutles – I Must Be In Love

Where Monty Python’s Eric Idle and other comic greats combine with musicians the like of Mick Jagger and even George Harrison to make a funny TV movie of the story of The Beatles er Rutles (All You Need Is Cash).  We learned that apparently their success was all due to their trousers and they were under the influence of tea in their later years.  Though it was done as a lovingly funny copy of the true Beatles story, it and the music were still great.  In 1978 with no new Beatles music since Let It Be in 1970 this was almost like getting a brand new album for Fab-starved fans.  That was the problem for the holder of the publishing of the real Beatles’ music at the time (ATV).  They sued writer Neil Innes for copying Beatles music and eventually received 50% of the royalties from Innes in an out of court settlement though he remained sole songwriter.

2.Spinal Tap – Rainy Day Sun

Another fictitious movie band from the 1984 metal parody This Is Spinal Tap.  The soundtrack album released for the movie showed the actors to have real musical talent.  Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer and lead singer Michael McKean do a credible psychedelic take-off on this song written by all three under the names Nigel Tufnel, Derek Smalls and David St. Hubbins.

3.The Heardsmen – She Knows It

Let’s make it a fake movie band troika with this fine song from the soundtrack to the spot-on film about a one-hit wonder ’60s U.S. band.  If Tom Hanks had never done another movie other than 1996’s That Thing You Do!, I would still love his work as this feels real and could only come from someone who loved the music.  Boy would I kill to talk to him about rock and roll one day (as if!).  The album included some nifty pop music that wasn’t actually in the movie such as this song by the fictitious Heardsmen which is the band that leader Jimmy supposedly formed after The Wonders act broke up in the movie.  The song is written by Scott Rogness and the late Rick Elias.

 

4.The Knickerbockers – Stick With Me

Though they had two other minor hits, this New Jersey band could very easily have been the true inspiration for the movie one hit Wonders.  In 1965 when “Lies” went to #20, folks wondered if they were really The Beatles.  The hit was written by band members Beau Charles and Buddy Randell (who had been in The Royal Teens of “Short Shorts” fame).  As an act they were chameleons sounding at times like The Four Seasons, but here doing a credible Beatles take-off.  Drummer Jimmy Walker replaced Bill Medley in The Righteous Brothers for a time.

5.Smash Palace – Another Man

After 14 years of inactivity, the New Jersey brothers Brian and Stephen Butler (the core of Smash Palace) recorded the album Fast, Long, Loud in 1999 which was available on the indie label Imagine.  In 1985 they had recorded for Epic with zero success and quit disillusioned with the biz.  The band is still going today under Steven’s leadership.  This song feels like the pre-Pepper Beatles.

6.Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Lullaby

A bit modern sounding, but a lovely dreamy ballad with a late-period Beatles feel.  This comes from the San Francisco band’s seventh album Specter At The Feast (2013).  The record was a bit of a mourning period for the loss of the father of their bassist who was also their producer and live soundman – Michael Been of the excellent band The Call.

7.Vox Pop – You Don’t Know Her

The early Beatles played their guitars through Vox amps.  As the owner of a vintage Vox Buckingham amp from my youth, the name Vox holds special meaning for your blogger as well.  This band was an offshoot of the fine power-poppers The Rubinoos (“I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend”).  Of this band, only bassist/vocalist John Seabury is not a current member of The Rubinoos.  The other Vox Poppers were Tommy Dunbar (guitar, vocals), Al Chan (vocals, guitar) and Donn Spindt (drums, vocals).  This was recorded in 1990 and was on their self-titled indie album on Sandbox Records.

8.Utopia – Take It Home

On their 1980 Bearsville album Deface The Music, Utopia set out to pay homage to the music of The Beatles.  Utopia was Todd Rundgren (guitar, vocals), Kasim Sulton (bass, vocals), Roger Powell (keyboards, vocals) and Willie Wilcox (drums, vocals).  Every song comes from a different Beatles era with “Take It Home” being a riff rocker like “Day Tripper”.

9.Emitt Rhodes – She’s Such A Beauty

With his band The Merry-Go-Round and as a solo act, Rhodes had a strong McCartney vibe and has been worshiped through the years by fans of pop music as a visionary (like Big Star) that never received the rewards he deserved.  He recorded his 1970 self-titled album much like Paul had playing all the music himself in his home studio.  This album yielded the minor Dunhill records hit “Fresh As A Daisy”.

10.Melanie C – Suddenly Monday

What is a Spice Girl doing here you may well be asking.  Well, the lady has talent.  This jaunty piano-driven tune feels like something Paul would have written for the Pepper album.  It was a Rick Rubin production from her first solo album Northern Star (1999) which was a big success just about everywhere except the U.S.  The song was also used in the 2000 movie Maybe Baby.

11.Martin Newell – Goodbye Dreaming Fields

His 1993 album from which this comes (The Greatest Living Englishman) is his best album, but he has been releasing fine music under his own name, with The Cleaners From Venus and with The Brotherhood Of Lizards since at least 1980.  Like XTC his music is a bit quirky with elements also taken from Pet Sounds era Beach Boys.  He has been prolific musically in England plus as an author and poet.

12.Smokie – Sunshine Avenue

Well they mention “Pepper’s band” in the lyrics so you know where they are coming from stylistically here.  This 1977 song sounds nothing like any of the other songs of this English band and comes from their album Bright Lights & Back Alleys.  They recorded a decent cover of The Searchers hit “Needles & Pins” as well.  Their biggest hits were “Lay Back Into The Arms Of Someone” and “Living Next Door To Alice”.  Lead vocalist Chris Norman is no longer with the band.

13.Jellyfish – The King If Half-Undressed

Power pop fans need no introduction to the San Francisco band Jellyfish who were sort of a U.S. XTC.  This song is from their 1990 debut Bellybutton.  Releasing only two albums as a band, the core members Andy Sturmer, Roger Manning and Jason Falkner (who was not on their second album Spilt Milk) have been active in pop ever since.  Their music was hopelessly out of sync with the prevailing trends of hair metal balladry and grunge so they didn’t stand a chance.  Still this song charted at #39 in the U.K. which has always been more open to good guitar-based music it seems.

14.Kaiser George & The Hi-Risers – I’d Rather Be With You

Well this is probably cheating, but so what – I like this song.  Yes, in the last post we already included The Kaisers from Scotland, but this is only one of them (George Miller – far right in video) with the U.S. band The Hi-Risers.  Guitarist Greg Townson – far left – is now in my fave instro band Los Straitjackets (whose one-time drummer Jason Smay – 2nd from left – was also in The Hi-Risers and now JD McPherson’s band).  The album Transatlantic Dynamite! (Spinout Records 2006) was termed by one as “like mixing John Lennon with Buddy Holly’s Crickets”.

15.The Posies – Richie Dagger’s Crime

Take a thrasher by punk band The Germs and have it played on a tribute album by one of the great U.S. power-pop bands (The Posies) who give it a Rubber Soul sort of arrangement = brilliant pop music.  A Small Circle Of Friends (a Tribute album to The Germs) came out on Grass Records in 1996 and likely isn’t as well-known as some of the other Posies songs like “Golden Blunders” and “Flavor Of The Month”.  Aged only 22, the lead singer (Darby Crash) of The Germs killed himself in 1980 (one day before John Lennon was shot) with an intentional heroin overdose.

16.The Red Button – Caught In The Middle

Sounding just like the early John Lennon-style harmonica-driven Beatles sound, The Red Button released this song on their second album As Far As Yesterday Goes (2011).  They are a two man band U.S. power-pop act (Seth Swirsky and Mike Ruekberg).  Reading about them online, since I am too cheap to pay for Sirius radio, I did not realize that this song was popular on Little Steven’s Underground Garage show proving that some folks still like good pop.

17.Julian Lennon – I Don’t Wanna Know

Was gonna include the psych song “Invisible”,but this video is such a great pastiche of The Beatles a la The Rutles that it demanded inclusion.  Perhaps a bit of a cheat again to include the son of John here, but he didn’t have to do a pop song that sounded like his dad’s band – yet he did so thanks to him.  Sadly his dad never saw his successful career but at least his mother Cynthia did.  Well it helped that his voice sounds much like his dad’s, but during the mid ’80s into the ’90s he managed to have a good number of international hit records.  This was from his 1998 album Photograph Smile, his fifth.

18.Arctic Monkeys – No. 1 Party Anthem

Another John Lennon sound-alike though more like solo John.  English indie Arctic Monkeys finally broke into the U.S. with their fifth studio album AM (2013) which included this song.  Frontman Alex Turner is also in another band we may soon see on this list.

19.The Last Shadow Puppets – The Dream Synopsis

Told you we would see Alex Turner from Arctic Monkeys again – this time with his side-project which also includes Miles Kane whose music is worth seeking out as well.  Once again this sounds more like “Mind Games” Lennon, but still needs to be here.  This was on the 2016 album Everything You’ve Come To Expect.

20.Kula Shaker – Shower Your Love

Perhaps if George Harrison’s Eastern musical styles would have continued to Abbey Road we would have gotten a song like this along with orchestration.  Those old-folk in the reading audience will remember actress Hayley Mills from movies like Pollyanna.  The fact that she couldn’t sing didn’t stop her from having a hit with “Let’s Get Together” (#8 in 1961 from the first Parent Trap movie).  Luckily her son Crispian can sing and his band Kula Shaker have released sporadically some excellent music since 1995.  This was on the 1999 Peasants, Pigs & Astronauts album, their second.  As a U.K. single this got to #14.

Beatleque Pop Goodies – Part 1

The bulk of this was written just before the shocking death of Adam Schlesinger from the horrible virus that has paralyzed the world.  Schlesinger’s name is likely not known by any but the biggest hard-core power-pop fans, but he was a fantastic talent.  As co-founder (and multi-instrumentalist/backing vocalist) with lead singer Chris Collingwood of the band Fountains Of Wayne, those 2 co-wrote some great songs.  You mostly know them from “Stacy’s Mom”, but they put out many more excellent songs on their 5 albums from 1996 – 2011.  Schlesinger wrote the song “That Thing You Do” for the Tom Hanks movie of the same name and also was the main producer on the surprising Monkees 2016 album Good Times! (he also wrote one of the best songs “Our Own World”).  He had a side pop music project (Tinted Windows) with Taylor Hanson, Bun E Carlos (Cheap Trick) and James Iha (Smashing Pumpkins).  Another of his bands was Ivy.  Adam also produced half the soundtrack album to the 2001 Josie & The Pussycats movie and did many other films as well (Shallow Hal, 2 Weeks Notice, etc.).  He co-wrote music for the John Waters play Cry-Baby.  Check out all these, but in tribute I am going to add a 21st song now to start the blog – the sadly lush Lennonesque “Prom Theme” from the 1999 album Utopia Parkway by Fountains Of Wayne.

Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne is ailing but 'improving ...

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Your humble Dentist loves Beatley pop music.  You may well ask, just what constitutes Beatlesque pop?  Well, let’s go to Merriam-Webster.  “Definition of Beatlesque: of, relating to, or suggestive of the musical style or technique of the Beatles.”  Okay, well that’s clear.  Of course that means, great pop songs with excellent vocal harmonies a la The Everly Brothers using sitars.  Ringing 12-string guitars, country flourishes with psychedelic lyrics and orchestrated balladry.  Gentle love songs and old-timey music-hall tunes with bombastic thrashing power guitar chording not to mention great piano rock and roll ballads.  Huh?  Hmmmm…  Well to co-opt the immortal 1964 words of Justice Potter Stewart about obscene material (but could have been about the definition of ‘Beatlesque’):  “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it…”- or in this case, hear it.  So what follows is part one of an on-going series of quality songs that just feel like The Beatles would have approved of them. The idea is to mostly include bands you likely are not familiar with or perhaps rarer songs by acts you are familiar with.  At any given time while it can change, my fave song ever is Badfinger’s “Day After Day” and being on the Beatles’ label Apple it is fitting that perhaps they are the ultimate in what would be considered Beatlesque.  The Raspberries, Klaatu, Big Star, Electric Light Orchestra/Jeff Lynne, Oasis, on and on – these are gold standards too.  Special mention should go out to Colorado based Not Lame Records and founder Bruce Brodeen who continues to fly the flag for all things pop music with Pop Geek Heaven.  If you want to get his emailed newsletter you should contact him at musicgeekheaven@gmail.com to see what is new in the world of pop music.  Thanks Bruce for your passion!

There is a lot here and I don’t expect you to listen to more then a few seconds of each song, but try to give these a chance as many grow on you as the song goes on.

1.The Kaisers – Time To Go

Frankly you could insert virtually anything by this outstanding group of Scots who sounded just like a Merseybeat ’64 band only in the decade from 1992 – 2002.  The albums like Beat It Up! and Wishing Street are worth looking for.  Some of their best material was recorded by Liam Watson at his Toe Rag Studios in the U.K. that used old analog gear including a mixing board from Abbey Road Studios.  Band stall-wort George Miller did several other projects over the years that we may explore later.

2.The Spongetones – Here I Go Again

Yet another band with multiple possible songs you could include on this list.  This North Carolina band formed in ’79 and are still going with most of the same players – Jamie Hoover, Steve Stoeckel and Pat Walters.  Highly recommended are the Beat & Torn compilation and the 1991 album Oh Yeah!.

3.The Weeklings – I’m In Love

Well, I have to say that the band name doesn’t do much for me, but all three of their albums are great Beatle-pop.  Former Beatlemania cast member (and current Orchestra bassist) Glen Burtnik is a member.  Others in this New Jersey-based band are Bob Burger, John Merjave and Joe Bellia.  Their newest album 3 includes a cover of the Beatles song “Baby You’re A Rich Man”.

4.Myracle Brah – Love Is

Short in length at 1:38, but long in power-pop punch.  While the rest of the oddly titled album Life On Planet Eartsnop is good, this song gives me chills every time I hear it.  Leader Andy Bopp from Baltimore has put out some really high quality sounding records since this 1998 indie release that deserve a listen.

5.Rosalie Cunningham – Butterflies

Recalling the pastoral acoustic ballads of the White Album, but with phasing and a middle eight from the psych Beatles era.  The one-woman band Cunningham formerly also lead Purson whose LPs were pretty much her as well.  This song comes from her self-titled album from 2019 and shows all things Beatlesque are not strictly male.

6.Liverpool – She’s My Little Girl

Scandinavian band Liverpool put out an album of mostly solo-era or Beatles band covers called In Our Own Way… in 1997.  This song was one of two band originals and certainly sounds of a piece with the early Fab Four.  Their album Love Is All was released in 2003 and was all originals.

7.Fastball – Behind The Sun

This Austin, Texas pop-rock trio is mostly known for their 1998 worldwide hit “The Way”.  They continue to release quality product including the 2017 album Step Into The Light from which this haunting Miles Zuniga guitar-ballad was taken.

8.Swag – She’s Deceiving

The members of this pop collective make for an interesting mix on this 2001 Yep Roc release – Catch-All.  They were Tom Petersson (Cheap Trick), Ken Coomer (Wilco), Doug Powell and two members of The Mavericks – Jerry Dale McFadden and Robert Reynolds.  Reynolds sang this later-era Lennon sounding plodder before getting ousted from The Mavericks for substance abuse issues.  Production was handled by well-known pop producer Brad Jones.

9.The Redwalls –  Hung Up On The Way I’m Feeling

Well if this song had been a hit, a case could have been made for adding a John Lennon songwriting credit as it sure sounds a lot like “Sun King” from Abbey Road.  On the cover of their 2005 album de nova, The Redwalls certainly looked the part of a ’70s power-pop band and were on the right label (Capitol).  At their core were the brothers Logan and Justin Baren from Deerfield, Illinois.

10.The Fraternal Order Of The All – Tomorrow Drop Dead

Could this be any more of an obvious tongue-in-cheek homage to “Tomorrow Never Knows” from Rubber Soul?  This was a loving tribute to ’60s psychedelia by the late Andrew Gold (“Thank You For Being A Friend”).  The album Greetings From Planet Love was essentially a Gold solo record under the name The Fraternal Order Of The All and came out in 1997.

11.Richard Barone – Nobody Knows Me

This is a very bright jangly tune with a George Harrison sort of vocal.  It was from the third solo album by the former lead singer of The Bongos (“Numbers With Wings”) – Clouds Over Eden (1993).   He continues to be active in music living in Greenwich Village.

12.Los Shakers – Won’t You Please

These guys proved just how far the music of The Beatles penetrated the rest of the world back in the ’60s.  Hugo, Osvaldo, Pelin & Caio doesn’t roll off the tongue like John, Paul, George & Ringo but in their own way they were ground-breakers in Montevideo, Uruguay.  With Beatles haircuts and singing in a language they didn’t speak (English), their debut single in 1965 (“Break It All”) was a hit in South America.  In 1966, the U.S. label Audio Fidelity took a chance and released an album titled after that single that included the song “Won’t You Please” (also a hit single) which has a nice swinging Help! era feel to it.  After breaking up in 1968 members moved into more Latin styles.

13.Vinyl Kings – I Took A Chance

The early 2000’s Vinyl Kings albums A Little Trip and Time Machine are both excellent tributes to the music of the Fabs and feature some interesting players.  Larry Byrom (Steppenwolf), Larry Lee (Ozark Mountain Daredevils), Jim Photoglo (writer for Alabama, HIghway 101, etc.), Josh Leo (writer for Alabama, Crystal Gayle, etc.) plus country bassist Michael Rhodes and drummer Harry Stinson.

14.Redd Kross – Saragon

These guys have put out some interesting if quirky pop dating back to the early ’80s with Hawthorne, CA brothers Jeff & Steve McDonald at their core.  Admittedly more power-pop than Beatlesque, however they deserve to be mentioned.  The brothers still lead a version of the band.  This is found on their Phaseshifter album from 1993.

 

15.Gregg Tripp – Time

What a shock it was to hear this song over the Muzak system playing at our local King Soopers Grocery a few years back (sounded pretty good, actually).  Tripp is mainly known as a songwriter for hair bands like Cinderella and Vixen, but did put out one solo album in 1991 – Tempus Edax Rerum on the defunct Impact label.  He likely made a few bucks by placing his song “I Don’t Want To Live Without You” in the Christian Slater movie Kuffs (though it wasn’t on the released soundtrack).

16.The Korgis – If I Had You

Well this is more George Harrison All Things Must Pass -like admittedly, but he was a member of the Fabs, right?  The only U.S. success these guys had was “Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometime” (#18 1980), but this earlier single hit #13 in the U.K. was on their American album Dumb Waiters.  Former Stackridge members Andy Davis (the tallest) and especially lead singer James Warren were essentially the Korgis.  They acknowledged their debt to JPG&R with their 2006 single “Something About The Beatles” which is also on youtube.

17.Pete Ham – Makes Me Feel Good

Of all the musical losses due to an early death, next to John Lennon at #1 the saddest would have to rank Pete Ham at #2 for your blogger.  This was taken from the second album of Ham demos released with added instrumentation to make them sound more like Badfinger songs (Golders Green – 1999).  At least they did have the sense to use a couple of Iveys/Badfinger musicians in Ron Griffiths and Bob Jackson.

18.Cheap Trick – Blackberry Way

Why Roy Wood and his band The Move did virtually nothing here in the U.S. while being mega-stars in the U.K. has always been puzzling.  Their offshoot band ELO at least became superstars but only after Wood left (sigh).  Cheap Trick are rightly THE most successful power-pop band and continue to release excellent material including their most recent non-holiday album We’re All Alright (2017).  For me, by far the best track was only on the deluxe version and was a fantastic cover of the #1 U.K. single by The Move from 1968.  The original psych-pop song was inspired by “Penny Lane” most certainly.  Cheap Trick have shown wonderful taste over the years in covering Wood’s “California Man” and The Beatles (“Day Tripper”, “Magical Mystery Tour”, etc.).  Thanks again, Rick, for the guitar pick (look at last month’s blog post for a picture of him giving it to me) – now why not cover “Turkish Tram Conductor Blues”?

19.The newno2 – Make It Home

Well if anybody is allowed to release a psychedelic Beatley song it would be George Harrison’s son Dhani, right?  Okay, so the background plodding beat sounds modern – well the rest of it is pure Magical Mystery Tour.  This came out in 2012 on his band The newno2’s second album thefearofmissingout.

20.Merrymouth – That Man

As our last entry for part 1 of Beatlesque music, here is one few folks in the U.S. will know as it is from a U.K.-only album by a side-project of Simon Fowler of another U.K.-only successful band – Ocean Colour Scene.  This psychedelic song is from their second album Wenlock Hill (2014) which also contains a sad remake of the old song “He Was A Friend Of Mine” with new lyrics about John Lennon.

Doc & The Mrs. Go Cruising 2020

So the 2019 On The Blue Cruise with Strawbs, Procol Harum, Steve Hackett, Alan Parsons, etc. was so outstanding that the decision was made to do another one in 2020.  For my review of last year’s OTBC, you should check out the Feb. 2019 post, but suffice it to say that the lineup was so amazing for yours truly that it will be hard for any other to top it.  The OTBC was on Royal Caribbean while the one we ended up choosing this year  (’70s Rock And Romance) was on Celebrity and there were definitely differences which we will get into in a bit.  If you are interested at all in doing a music themed cruise (and there are several), be certain to book early as many tend to sell out quickly (though you have to wonder what the global health scare will do to cruises).  Keep in mind, also, that they are not cheap – with airfare to Miami plus an overnight in a hotel and various fees it was at least 6500 smacks.  We made it a point to get great seats for all the shows by getting in line early and if you figure we had front row seating for 2 at 24 concerts, 10 Q&A/Interview sessions (plus autographing after), 2 trivia contests and all the food you could eat – it was worth the price.  The OTBC was 5 days and we crammed 25 concerts, etc. in a shorter time (so were exhausted) while the ’70s R&RC was 7 days so posed far fewer tough decisions (which shows to skip, when to eat & sleep, etc.).

We flew from Denver to Miami on a Frontier red-eye (ugh – that is such a miserable airline – no seating room though they did get us there at least).  Having done the Everglades, Key West, etc. last year we decided to hit the Frost Science Museum in the morning and Little Havana in the afternoon  After a wonderfully filling Cuban lunch neither of us were in the mood for a big Valentine’s dinner so walked from our hotel on Miami Beach to a Denny’s for crepes and ice cream that night (hey, don’t judge us).  The Lyft from the hotel to the jam-packed cruise port on Saturday AM was about 45 minutes as everybody else is doing the same thing to get to their ships before 2:30.  We opted for an 11:30 check-in so we could grab a free lunch and scope out the ship’s layout for concerts and eats. Leaving the harbor that night the seas got pretty rough and while in the dining room that night the wife was overcome with seasickness and opted to head to the room.  Luckily that was the only time for her headache and queasy stomach after we picked up some meds that did the trick (so if you think that will be a problem, bring your own Dramamine or the like).    The rooms on both cruises were compact, but nice and very comfortable. You are in pretty close quarters so it was a good idea to have brought some air freshener which the wife thought of in advance.  An extension cord was also a good idea.

The Food

We only went to the main dining room once on both cruises as it seemed like a big time waster having to wait to be served and frankly we found that the food wasn’t dramatically better than in the buffet. On last year’s OTBC run by Royal Caribbean, the food was simply okay till the very last day when it was outstanding.  This year’s cruise was Celebrity and the food was far better generally.  For breakfast, without a waffle it isn’t a vacation and they didn’t disappoint plus they had wonderful fruit, omelets, oatmeal, carved ham, etc.  For dinner they at least made an attempt to switch things up every day so it didn’t get boring.  There were some nice touches like a grill for steaks and chops, a fresh pasta station and even a chef making stir fry to order.   After late night shows we went to the grill to grab some ice cream and discovered that they also had some excellent goodies like sub sandwiches plus Chinese dumplings and spring rolls (so even with all the walking I still gained 2 pounds).  Man it was hard to skip the desserts too.

The Day Trips

After a Couple of days at sea, we hit land at San Juan, Puerto Rico where the wife and I managed to take in a charmingly historical walk that included the citadel El Morro that dates from the 16th to the 18th century and guarded the city. After an overnight sail, we next disembarked at Samana, Dominican Republic for a whale watch and some free time at the beach. Having gotten thoroughly drenched in the pitching waves, I can attest to the fact the sea is indeed salty.  The next stop for our ship (the Celebrity Infinity) was Labadee, Haiti which ended up being a day to swim in the ocean (it was a bit of an odd feeling to have small fish swimming around your feet while you are walking in the sand).  I never wear shorts and the following picture shows why (yikes!). Considering we (and many other folks) left the cold and snow, the heat, humidity and wind were quite the contrast.

 

The Music

Even though they supply you with a list every night of what is happening the next day , I found it useful to make my own master list before we left Denver to carry at all times so we had a good idea of where concerts were located and which ones we could skip if that act was performing another day at a more convenient time.  That being said, it is important to read the daily schedules they supply for any changes/additions not to mention time changes (one day we did indeed cross into another time zone and many folks nearly missed out on that detail – including us).   Before we boarded, Star Vista (who ran the music part) had assigned half the folks to an early concert (and late dinner if you chose) or vice versa.  That applied to the main shows which were in the large Celebrity Theater where we opted for the late show which seemed to be a good choice since that allowed some mixing of acts.  You always got a seat, but if you wanted to sit in the first couple of rows for the main shows you needed to get in line between 1 and 2 hours in advance. Always that allowed us to talk to some great like-minded music fans and share stories about growing up to this music plus their cruise experiences.  We managed to always get excellent seats.  The more casual shows either took place outdoors on the pool deck or in a smaller room with seating first come first served (Constellation Lounge, Rendezvous Lounge).  As the title of the cruise indicated, the music was rock and romance.  Frankly the raucous rock appealed to us far more then the quieter romance music.  Many couldn’t handle the crashing Cheap Trick rock (which we ate up) while we were sorta bored with acts like Stephen Bishop and Jason Scheff (a later lead singer with Chicago – Peter Cetera, please!).   Across the board, everybody we asked loved the Randy Bachman show (with his son Tal) as he played all the BTO and Guess Who hits (“You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet”, “American Woman”), but also told fun stories about how the songs were written.  We enjoyed that show so much that neither of us took enough pictures so all I really have is a washed out one and a blurry Gerry Beckley of America jamming on “Takin’ Care Of Business”.

We saw John Lodge of the Moody Blues twice and thought he was one of the highlights of the cruise.  He was the rockin’ opposite of his bandmate Justin Hayward who led last year’s OTBC and put me to sleep as he was so mellow (plus you NEVER saw him during the whole cruise while Mr. Lodge was everywhere and seemed happy to be there).  Hearing loud versions of songs like “Ride My See-Saw” and “Legend Of A Mind” brought goosebumps plus the current Yes lead-singer (Jon Davidson) had a great time singing songs like “Knights In White Satin”. America had memorable stories to tell as well as a back catalog of classic soft rock hits (“Sister Golden Hair”, “I Need You”). Don Felder is a fantastic guitarist and had some cool stories to tell while playing the hits of The Eagles.  Since he wasn’t the singer of any of those songs it was left to his bandmates to handle vocals on those while he sang solo songs like “Heavy Metal” and “American Rock ‘n’ Roll”.  The Jefferson Starship (Airplane) is down to just a couple of original members in drummer Donny Baldwin and 81 year old David Freiberg who still sings like an angel.  The new crew including vocalist Cathy Richardson (who fills in well for Grace Slick) did all the eras from “Somebody To Love” to “Miracles” to “We Built This City”.  During “White Rabbit”, Richardson came out in a top hat and cape and offered cookies to the front rows. Edgar Winter’s 4-piece band played a couple of shows high-lit by “Free Ride”, “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo” (from his late brother Johnny’s catalog) and a “Frankenstein” that had him playing keys, sax and drums.  The other two mainstage shows were a contrast in style musically, but both acts were intent on having fun.  While I like a lot of Todd Rundgren’s music, it was hard to tell from his set that he feels the same as he only did one hit grudgingly (“Hello It’s Me”) plus an assortment of a few album tracks (okay, I did love “One World”) and a bunch of odd covers like “Muskrat Love” and “Don’t Bogart Me”. This he did while mostly sitting and sipping on an alleged alcoholic beverage and being generally clever (and with a guitarist the cool image of John Lennon).

Rundgren also pulled a surprise guest shot with Cheap Trick on their opener “Hello There”. After that the guys blasted and bludgeoned their way through a rock and roll set that didn’t let up.  Their catalog is so extensive by now that it must be hard to choose what to play, but they pleased the crowd with “I Want You To Want Me” while pleasing the wife and me with “California Man”.  Bassist Tom did a Velvet Underground cover, drummer Daxx kept the beat pounding, but it’s singer Robin Zander and the goofy but great guitarist Rick Nielsen that are the main focus.   At one point Rick saw my coat in the front row and motioned for me to come to the stage. He shook my hand and gave me a guitar pick then after the song ended introduced me as “the man who wrote ‘Don’t Be Cruel'”for Elvis which of course is nonsense but had several in the audience convinced and me laughing hysterically (thanks Rick and thanks to Janice Burns for forwarding me the picture).  

On the other end of the musical spectrum was the excellent Rita Coolidge show which was an intimate affair in the Constellation lounge.  She charmed with her relaxed southern style and hits like “(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher And Higher” and “We’re All Alone”. Other name acts were Pablo Cruise, Peter Beckett’s Player, John Ford Coley and Ambrosia (without lead singer David Pack who we saw on last year’s cruise). Having never been a big fan of cover bands, it was surprising how much we enjoyed acts that impersonated Queen, The Who, The Bee Gees, Led Zeppelin and especially ABBA (all the way from Sweden).

This was in addition to various entertaining unknowns like The Newbees and the Bad Ass Horns , The LSB Experience and All You Need Is Love (who charmed us by playing T Rex, The Band & The Beatles).  Frankly we had a great time listening to the music on both the cruises we have been on – sort of a floating music festival.

The Other Stuff

There were plenty of other things you could do on the boat besides the concerts if you desired – drinking, casino gambling, shopping for high end items, sun and swim, karaoke, etc. – none of which we did.  Both cruises also had themes for each night and encouraged folks to dress accordingly – TV shows, school gear, ’70s, etc.  While the OTBC had fewer folks into that, this year there were some really great costumes – the Addams Family, the Blues Brothers, Wonder Woman, Alice Cooper, etc. Some of the really nice folks we met were from Canada and wore some great ’70s gear as you can see from the first picture in the blog (thanks for sharing, Dawna!).  Okay, we didn’t do much of that, but in addition to what I have already mentioned we did do a couple of trivia contests (we won both) and attend question & answer plus autograph sessions.  On last year’s OTBC, there were organized photo shoots, but aside from Steve Hackett nobody had autograph time scheduled.  This year was great as all the artists took time for pictures and autographs graciously (save Stephen Bishop who was funny in the Q&A but seemed like a real jerk for skipping the signing and Cheap Trick who really didn’t have the time as they were on the boat for only the day).  Heck, Maxine Nightingale (“Right Back Where We Started From”) wasn’t even scheduled to be on the cruise and signed anyway. 99 percent of the folks getting autographs are like us and only want to get a memory and a quick moment with the artist.  I saw on both cruises, however, the 1 percent who are obnoxious professional autograph seekers and frankly make me sick.  Those people who bring piles of albums and CDs then sell them after are scum and give the rest of us a bad name.  Now, here’s some random pix from those sessions in addition to the picture of John Lodge signing that was in the blog intro.

Pablo Cruise
Randy Bachman
John Ford Coley

America
Jefferson Starship
Todd Rundgren
Edgar Winter

Don Felder
Ambrosia & Peter Beckett (Player)
Rita Coolidge

The End

When we got our luggage from the ship (delivered slowly on carousels after you go through customs), there were shuttles available on the dock to take us to the airport for 10 bucks a head which was pretty painless.  Waiting at Miami’s airport for the United flight home got a bit dull, but we really did need the rest after a late night show followed by an early morning wake-up for breakfast. As you can see – it was a great fun time and frankly it was just beautiful to be on the water.

Doc’s Fave Music & Movies Decade Of The 2010s – Part 2

Hopefully by now you will have read part 1 of this topic in last month’s blog (Jan. 2020).  Just in case you haven’t, I will give you a few minutes to go back and catch up on my top movies and songs #26-50 from the decade of the 2010s.  …….Okay, now that you’re back, let’s dig into my fave 25 albums and then the rest of my fave songs from 2010-1019.  Note the word ‘fave’ as these lists don’t attempt to be profound while pretending that most of these are anything but music that appeals to an aging white dude who grew up on guitar-based pop/rock and roll.  If you want to chime in with your faves, I would love to hear your comments!

Doc’s 25 Fave Albums 2010-2019

1.Dave Kerzner – New World-Deluxe Edition (2015) – for those unfamiliar with keyboardist Kerzner, he is the guy with his arm around Steve Hackett in to above picture.  Okay, I own up to being a blubbering fool and interrupting his dinner on last year’s On The Blue Cruise to tell him how much I loved this album – sorry Dave.  This is a prog masterwork along the lines of classic Pink Floyd.

2.Federale – No Justice (2019) – going back to December you will see this atop the best albums of 2019.  Lee Hazelwood meets Ennio Morricone (Clint Eastwood spaghetti western music).

3.ABC – The Lexicon Of Love II (2016) – after an 8 year layoff, Martin Fry and his group released a followup of sorts to their first album from 1982 which was lush synth-pop.  It was a #5 in the U.K.

4.Robin Gibb – 50 St. Catherine’s Drive (2014) – a wonderful and emotional posthumous album from the late warbling Bee Gee.  The last song he recorded was “Sydney” in 2011.

5.The Pierces – You & I (2012) – 2 beautiful sisters (see the above picture – the females, idiot) who released some excellent music together, but are now pursuing solo careers.  While from the U.S., they found success in the U.K. with this album hitting #4.

6.Miles Kane – Don’t Forget Who You Are (2013) – Kane has made some excellent music with his band The Last Shadow Puppets and as a solo act.  He is inspired by ’60s mod music.  The album charted at #8 in the U.K.

7.Alan Doyle – A Weekend At The Warehouse (2017) – the third solo album by the former member of the Newfoundland folk band Great Big Sea.  Riproaring fiddle tunes to sing at your local pub.

8.Stone Temple Pilots – Stone Temple Pilots (2010) – this was their first album since 2001 and the last with the late original singer Scott Weiland who like Jim Morrison of the Doors seemed to always be doomed to an early death.  Guitar rock inspired by the ’60s and ’70s.

9.The Black Keys – El Camino (2011) – rockabilly, glam rock, ZZ Top, etc. inspired this record.  Co-production was by Danger Mouse.

10.J. D McPherson – Let The Good Times Roll (2015) – while not blessed with a standout track, this was a solid from top to bottom ’50s feeling rock album.   The best place to catch McPherson and his crack band is in a small club.

11.Beady Eye – Different Gear, Still Speeding (2011) – Liam Gallagher’s band after Oasis was pretty much Oasis without brother Noel.  One of the song titles sums up the influences: “Beatles & Stones”.

12.The Mavericks – In Time (2013) – after a long time away during which Raul Malo pursued a solo career, this was a solid return for the Tex-Mex country rockers.  Malo’s Orbison-like vocals belong with this fun band.

13.Steve Hackett – At The Edge Of Light (2019) – great prog guitarist and his 25th studio album is a winner.

14.Robbie Williams – The Heavy Entertainment Show (2016) – U.K. teen idol from the band Take That who has matured into a bombastically entertaining pop artist.  This album was a worldwide success everywhere except the U.S.

15.Nick Magnus – n’monix (2014) – great album from prog keyboardist Magnus who has worked with Steve Hackett among others.

16.Paul McCartney – New (2013) – some introspective history plus some excellent Paul pop.

17.Dragonette – Bodyparts (2012) – guilty pleasure Canadian dance pop and nominated for Dance Record Of The Year at the Juno awards.

18.Temples – Sun Structures (2014) – the debut and still best album by the U.K. neo-psych Temples.

19.Cashier No. 9 – To The Death Of Fun (2011) – they were a short-lived band from Belfast with echoey wall-of-sound pop.

20.The Rolling Stones – Blue & Lonesome (2016) – where the Stones got back to the gritty blues that started them 50 plus years ago.

21.Phideaux – Infidel (2018) – this is the best 2 CD indie prog album from an American TV director ever.

22.Bob Seger – Ride Out (2014) – after an 8 year layoff, this was a good rock and roll album including fine material such at Steve Earle’s “The Devil’s Right Hand”.

23.Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown – Wild Child (2013) – classic sounding Texas guitar rock.

24.Down ‘N Outz – This Is How We Roll (2019) – Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott’s side project owing a debt musically to Ian Hunter rock & roll.

25.Neil Diamond – Melody Road (2014) – I was never a fan of his schmaltzy hits after his early Bang Records years, so this came as a huge surprise.  Tuneful and well-sung memorable pop songs that would have been hits back in the day.

Doc’s 50 Fave Songs 2010-2019 (#1-25)

1.The Pierces – Glorious (2011) – a great song and an even better performance from the album You & I.  This song has rapidly become one of my top 10 songs of all-time.  The ethereal choral vocals and swelling instrumentation behind the sisters’ harmonies still gives me chills.

2.The Strawbs – We Have The Power (2017) – 50 years into their career, I would have never expected one of my fave prog bands to come up with a song and performance the equal of any of their early classics.  Great mellotron (though keyboardist Dave Bainbridge showed that it is a sample on synth when we saw them on the On The Blue Cruise).  From the album The Ferryman’s Curse.

3.Maurice Gibb – The Bridge (2010) – this may be a bit of a cheat calling this a new song since Maurice died in 2003 , but it wasn’t released till the 4 CD anthology set Mythology.  This song is by far the best thing ever done by the Bee Gee who was my fave of the trio.  It is a song about family relationships and includes his kids Adam and Samantha performing as well.  Props for the bagpipes.

4.Adele – Skyfall (2012) – boy did Adele ever knock it out of the park with this theme to the James Bond movie Skyfall.  It sounds like a classic early Bond theme instead of the usual contemporary track that doesn’t really feel respectful to the franchise.

5.The Mavericks – Brand New Day (2017) – for a band supposedly Tex-Mex country, this amazing song sounds like nothing they have ever done – sort of a Phil Spector Wall-Of-Sound homage.  Some songs demand that you crank up the volume.  It can be found on their Brand New Day album.

6.Nick Curran & The Lowlifes – Baby You Crazy (2010) – if you didn’t know it you would think this was 1956 with some wild black shouter.  Instead it is 2010 and a sadly now deceased (age 35) skinny white dude.  From the album Reform School Girl by the former Fabulous Thunderbird guitarist.

7.Paul McCartney – Hope For The Future (2014) – what a sad waste that one of the best songs Paul has done in many years was thrown away on a videogame soundtrack (Destiny).  Paul should have used this as the lead single to a new album of epic music like this.  That being said, it is pretty nifty he could come up with something this outstanding after all the other great music he has given us.

8.JD McPherson – Fire Bug (2012) – JD’s best song ever is a nasty ’50s rocker from his debut album Signs & Signifiers.  He has put out some good music since, but it would be great if he would cut loose again with a flat out rocker.

9.Steven Wilson – A Door Marked Summer (2017) – this classic prog mellotron song was only available on the expensive boxset version of his CD To The Bone which is too bad.  Perhaps some day he will see fit to collect his rarer tracks into a package we can all afford.

10.OneRepublic – Love Runs Out (2014) – this pounding song was added to a deluxe version of the Colorado Springs band’s Native album which came out originally in 2013.  It managed to sell over a million copies and charted at #15 in the U.S.

11.Rod Stewart – Blood Red Roses (2018) –  Rod managed to come up with a winning title track with driving fiddle work.  The late folk singer Ewan MacColl is given a co-writing credit.

12.Travis – The Magnificent Time (2016) – a very poppy song that conjures ’60s feel-good music a la a group like The Cowsills.  It can be found on the Everything At Once record.  Lead singer Fran Healy of this Scottish band co-wrote the song with the keyboard player from Keane – Tim Rice-Oxley.

13.Ghost – He Is (2015) – Meliora is a fine album from the cartoonish Swedish metal band Ghost that at times gets very prog as on this song.

14.John Ford – Perfect Day (2011) – the former Strawbs bassist has been recording independent music that can be purchased on bandcamp.  This progressive feeling version of the old Lou Reed song is on the Resurrected-The Best of And Then Some  CD and would have fit perfectly on a Strawbs or Hudson Ford album.

15.Bellowhead – Lillibulero (2012) – Bellowhead was an act somewhat in the tradition of bands like Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span though they had a much larger cast of players on tuba and the like.  This song dates to the 1600’s and was a marching jig.  The album Broadside managed a U.K. chart placing of #16 which was considered amazing for an independent folk album.

16.The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers (2014) – even though they have a terrible band name, these Canadian folks consistently release smart pop music.  This is the title track to their 6th studio record and has a great wall of vocals and layered instruments.

17.Keane – Silenced By The Night (2012) – Keane is different from many pop bands in that their primary instrumentation is keyboards and not guitars.  Their Strangeland album was a U.K. #1 hit.

18.Blondfire – Waves (2014) – the brother and sister team of Bruce and Erica Driscoll were Astaire till Fred’s heirs suggested a name change so Blondfire they became.  This track can be found on their 2nd album Young Heart.

19.Lonely Robot – Oubliette (2015) – prog guitarist/singer John Mitchell (Arena/It Bites) has released a trio of albums as Lonely Robot with this ethereal song found on their debut Please Come Home.

20.Dan Baird – Naughty Marie (2017) – since my rock and roll hero Dave Edmunds retired, Baird (Georgia Satellites) has supplied me with the 3 chord stoopid chunka chunka monkey-beat rock and roll that appeals to my lizard brain.  Found on his solo album SoLow.

21.Down ‘N Outz – Boys Don’t Cry (2019) – Joe Elliott of Def Leppard with members of The Quireboys making great Ian Hunter-type rock with pounding piano.  Grab the This Is How We Roll album when you can.

22.Steven Wilson – How Big The Space (2018) – between Porcupine Tree, Blackfield and his solo albums plus remixing classic prog LPs one wonders when he sleeps.  Once again he recorded one of his best songs then perversely only made it available on a limited record store day 12″.  Please, Steven, don’t make your music so hard to find when it is this good.

23.Adele – Rumour Has It (2011) – the juggernaut that was Adele 21 grabbed your Dentist’s hard earned cash just like nearly everyone else.  Basically the song isn’t much more than a gospel feeling vocal over a drum stomp.  It was written by Adele Adkins and OneRepublic leader Ryan Tedder.

24.Goo Goo Dolls – Indestructible (2019) – with the echoed keyboards on the intro this song starts out sounding alot like Keane but then the wall of guitars kick in. Johnny Rzeznik and Robby Takac included this on their recent album Miracle Pill.

25.Cashier No. 9 – To Make You Feel Better (2011) – an easy loping track with a lot of echo.  Their import album To The Death Of Fun sort of felt like Phil Spector producing the pastoral side of Pink Floyd.  After they broke up, they became Exmagician.

Doc’s Fave Music & Movies Decade Of The 2010s – Part 1

Related image Image result for the minions

For the January and February 2020 posts, we will dig in to the decade from 2010 – 2019 in movies and music that appealed to an aging white baby boomer.  Keeping that in mind, don’t expect to see any Beyonce or Kanye.  Your Dentist plans to drill down on the top 50 songs that filled the hole in his musical soul along with 25 albums and a like number of movies.  This month we will go through songs 26 – 50 plus list the movies that moved me while next month we hit songs 1 – 25 as well as albums.  I admit to being a big kid at heart so most of the films will be kid candy or quirky movies that don’t take themselves too seriously (with some exceptions).  Personal opinions are always in flux so please don’t sweat it if the order of the albums and songs might end up being slightly at odds with old year-end lists for fave music.  My second born, Hilary, gifted me a book by Daniel J. Levitin titled This Is Your Brain On Music-The Science Of A Human Obsession (thanks H).  In that book, Levitin explains why my fave lists of music tend to recall music from 40-50 years ago.  “…most people have formed their tastes by the age of 18 or 20…people tend to become less open to new experiences as they age.  The types of sounds, rhythms, and musical textures we find pleasing are generally extensions of previous positive experiences we’ve had with music in our lives.”  So there you go – my dopamine fix generally comes from 3 chord rock and roll, Beatley pop and progressive rock (especially when a mellotron is being played).

Doc’s 25 Fave Moving Pictures 2010-2019

1.Lincoln (2012) – Steven Spielberg did a masterful job of covering the final four months of Abraham Lincoln’s life with a Tony Kushner screenplay loosely based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s classic book Team Of Rivals.  Daniel Day-Lewis deservedly won the acting Oscar while the movie should have won for best picture but lost to the highly fictionalized Argo which I felt was a mistake.

2. Paddington (2015) – never having been a big fan of the Paddington Bear kids books by Michael Bond, it was a pleasant surprise how sweet and humorous this mix of live action and animation was.

3.The Lego Movie (2014) – Lego building blocks were not a toy of interest to your Dentist so this movie was a total surprise with just enough quirky oddness to keep the interest piqued.  A fun animated movie featuring the song “Everything Is Awesome”.

4.Ant-Man (2015) – your blogger is not a fan of the rash of superhero films unless they have a silly streak.  Someone whose superpower is they can become an ant is dopey to begin with plus it is a fun well-written movie with good actors including Michael Douglas.

5.Hugo (2011) – without my pal Mr. D in DC, I wouldn’t have known about this smart Martin Scorsese film that takes place largely in a Paris train station in 1931.  It is mainly about the relationship of a boy and Georges Méliès, a then largely forgotten groundbreaking early silent film maker.  It rightly was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and managed to win 5 of them.

6.Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014) – see the Ant-Man review.  The best part of the movie is the relationships that develop between the principals not unlike the first Star Wars main cast.

7.Paddington 2 (2017) – sequels can be a let-down so it was heartening how funny and sweet this movie was (actually making me like Hugh Grant as an actor – at least in this film – someone I usually can’t bear).

8.Thor Ragnorok (2017) – having never seen the previous serious Thor movies I can’t compare this to them, but this was silly and had me laughing nearly from the beginning.  The characters interact well and don’t let the plot get in the way of a fun film.

9.Wreck-It Ralph (2012) – Disney nailed it with a great movie about a video-game bad guy who rebels and goes in search of a game he can be a hero in.  Didn’t much like the sequel, sadly.

10.Isle Of Dogs (2018) – in the vein of the quirky stop motion Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), this Wes Anderson movie feels odd and often makes you ponder just what the heck in going on.  The story is about a dystopian future in Japan where dogs are banished.

11.The King’s Speech (2010) – the story is based on the true events of England around the beginnings of WWII when Edward abdicated the throne to marry Wallis Simpson.  George VI was elevated to King at that point and suffered from a stutter.  The main thrust of the movie is his work to overcome his defect with the help of speech therapist Lionel Logue.  Colin Firth as George VI won the Oscar for best actor and the film also won for best picture that year (among other awards).

12.Rango (2011) – I love movies where I can’t figure out what the heck is going on and the opening sequence of this show about a chameleon filled the bill.  Directed by Gore Verbinski who did the first 3 Pirates Of The Caribbean movies, it won the Oscar for best animated film.

13.Despicable Me (2010) – I went into this film not wanting to like it, but fell in love with the Minions.  Gru and the girls were icing on the cake, but give me more little yellow guys (with better stories than the sequels that were simply ok).

14.How To Train Your Dragon (2010) – much the same as the above film I wanted to hate it but ended up loving it. The relationship between the dragon and Hiccup was a winner though Toy Story 3 won the Oscar.

15.Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) – the characters from the first movie in this franchise continued to interact well in this funny sequel.  There will obviously be a third one judging by the cliffhanger ending.

16.Toy Story 4 (2019) – nearly as good as the first 2 Pixar animations about Woody and Buzz plus friends, it ends in such a way that you have to figure there won’t be a #5 but who knows.

17.The Sapphires (2013) – loosely based on a true story, the film follows 4 indigenous Aussie girls who form a singing group in 1968 and perform for the troops in Vietnam.

18.The Big Sick (2017) – this was a huge surprise that I wouldn’t have seen had we not been flying for 9 1/2 hours each way to London.  The movie is about the real life romance between comedian Kumail Nanjiani and his now wife.  With Ray Romano and Holly Hunter in the cast you knew it was good.

19.Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) – while not quite as good as the first GOTG, the chemistry of the cast pulls you through the slow parts.

20.The Martian (2015) – director Ridley Scott knows sci-fi having given us Alien and Blade Runner.  This movie doesn’t feel like fiction, crafting a plausible way to survive on an alien planet when a crew member is accidently left behind.  While nominated for 7 Academy Awards it was shut out.

21.Eddie The Eagle (2016) – this film is about Michael Edwards a novice who in 1988 became the first British ski jumper at the Olympics since 1928 (though he was terrible).  Schmaltzy and sweet with a fine cast including Hugh Jackman and Christopher Walken.

22.Saving Mr. Banks (2013) – Tom Hanks is good in just about every movie he does (and I would love to talk to him about music – especially The Dave Clark 5).  Here he portrays Walt Disney in his somewhat fictionalized negotiations with author P. L. Travers trying to bring Mary Poppins to the screen.

23.The Sessions (2012) – again a movie I didn’t expect to like, it is based on the true life story of a paralyzed poet with polio attempting to lose his virginity by hiring a sex surrogate.  Actress Helen Hunt was brave in taking on the role of the surrogate and was rewarded with an Academy Award nomination though she didn’t win.

24.The Jungle Book (2016) – well I have to admit that I never much liked the original Disney animated film from 1967 – guess I felt too hip as a high schooler back in the psychedelic era.   Generally the live action remakes of Disney classics feel like a money grab, but this one actually worked.  It looked fabulous and felt real.

25.War Horse (2011) – another Steven Spielberg movie, this time dealing with a horse during WWI and how it manages to survive being on the front lines and eventually is reunited with its original owner.  While it didn’t win any, the film was nominated for 6 Academy Awards.

Doc’s 50 Fave Songs 2010-2019 (#26-50)

26.Dragonette – Live In This City (2012) – definitely a guilty pleasure with girly vocals and a churning beat – from their third album Bodyparts.  They are from Toronto.

27.Enya – Echoes In Rain (2015) – if you have heard any of Irish singer Enya Brennan’s songs you know them all – growly vocals, heavy guitars and… okay maybe not.  Mellow layered lush harmonies and synths dominate.  A catchy song from her Dark Sky album (a hit in Belgium of all places).

28.The Mavericks – As Long As There’s Loving Tonight (2013) – Tex-Mex, Latino, Country, Rockabilly?  These guys are one of my fave bands especially in concert.  After an 8 year lay-off, Raul Malo and co. came together again for the acclaimed In Time record.  For some reason only live versions are available on youtube.

29.The Primitives – Petals (2014) – rockin’ girly-pop from the Spin-O-Rama CD.  They are best remembered for 1988’s “Crash”.

30.Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers – Best Love (2011) – we always knew comedian Steve Martin was a virtuoso banjo player, but who knew Paul McCartney could do Americana?  A nice gentle swinging track from the excellent album Rare Bird Alert.

31.Men Without Hats – Everybody Knows (2012) – if you recall Ivan Doroschuk’s  band it is because of “The Safety Dance” or “Pop Goes The World”.  After a long hiatus, Ivan released the Love In The Age Of War CD which sounded just like the old music – ’80s synth-pop.

32.Walk The Moon – Shut Up & Dance (2014) – this catchy modern dance track is from the Ohio band’s album Talking Is Hard.  It was a huge hit everywhere from Poland to Israel.

33.Collective Soul – Right As Rain (2019) – Ed Roland’s band is consistently good at releasing rockin’ guitar pop with catchy hooks.  This is from their most recent album Blood.

34.Chris Hillman – Here She Comes Again (2017) – the late lamented Tom Petty helped Hillman record the fine Bidin’ My Time album.  This was an old previously unrecorded song Hillman had written with his old Byrds bandmate Roger McGuinn.

35.Edenbridge – On The Other Side (2019) – metallic folk with hammered dulcimer and hammered guitar chords.  From the female led Austrian symphonic metal band’s Dynamind album.

36.New Politics – Harlem (2013) – electronic punk from the Danish band’s A Bad Girl In Harlem CD.

37.Lenny Kravitz – 5 More Days ‘Til Summer (2018) –  retro pop from his 11th album Raise Vibration.

38.Fitz & The Tantrums – Handclap (2017) – moronically catchy modern dance track from their self-titled third album.

39.Kim Wilde – Pop Don’t Stop (2018) – after a long layoff, it was great to see English pop singer Wilde and her brother Ricky release Here Come The Aliens.  You remember her from “Kids In America”.

40.The Rolling Stones – Doom & Gloom (2012) – classic 3-chord rockin’ riffage from Mick, Keith and co.  The song was from their compilation album Grrr! and was used in the newest Avengers movie.

41.Keane – The Way I Feel (2019) – intelligent pop from the English keyboard-fueled band’s recent album Cause & Effect.

42.The Feeling Rescue (2013) – this British pop band has too much of a old-style sound to crack the U.S. (think ’70s Supertramp).  Their 4th album Boy Cried Wolf was about the lead singer’s relationship break-up with his partner.

43.Mayer Hawthorne – Hooked (2011) – oh my does this ever sound like a classic R&B groover from the ’60s.  Andrew Mayer Cohen is in the sway of Curtis Mayfield, Smokey Robinson, etc.  This song is on his 2nd record How Do You Do.

44.The Click Five – I Quit! I Quit! I Quit! – (2011) – power pop wasn’t the style of the 2010’s so it makes sense that The Click Five did indeed quit as a band – too bad as they were good.  This was on their TCV album.

45.Paul McCartney – New (2013) – Paul had an up and down decade releasing some great music like this (from his New album) and some awful music (Kisses On The BottomEgypt Station).

46.Green Day – Carpe Diem (2012) – for some reason Billy Joe Armstrong and his punk compadres decided to release three okay new albums from September to December of 2012 when one great one would have been smarter.  This was on !Uno!.

47.Bruce Springsteen – We Take Care Of Our Own (2012) – just like “Born In The U.S.A.” the lyric was meant as irony but of course could be a patriotic flag waver if you want it to be.  This is on his Wrecking Ball album.

48.Ocean Colour Scene – Just A Little Bit Of Love (2010) – this power ballad is on the British band’s 9th album Saturday.  OCS is a guitar pop band that has never found any success in the U.S., but have charted 17 top 40 singles in the U.K.

49.Gotye – I Feel Better (2011) – in the U.S. Belgium born Aussie Wouter De Backer (Gotye) is mostly known for his big hit “Somebody That I Used to Know”, but on the album it came from (Making Mirrors) can be found this driving old-style R&B track.  Another Belgium hit.

50.Ringo Starr – Walk With You (2010) – okay so sue me, but this is a sentimental closer to our list from the Y Not album.  Van Dyke Parks (Beach Boys Smile) supplied the lyrics about friendship and when old Beatles Paul and Ringo sing the chorus together it still brings a catch to the old Dentist’s throat.

Doc Krieger’s 2019 Top 20 Albums & Orphan Songs

2019 was a pretty spiffy year for live music in our household. The amazing startup was the On The Blue Cruise which was almost like a floating Woodstock (check out my Feb. 2019 post if you haven’t read it).  The Nick Mason tribute to early Pink Floyd show at the Paramount was outstanding (thanks Paul!) and the Billy Joel stadium show was fine as well (thanks Stan!).  The year ended with the Trans Siberian Orchestra extravaganza which is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen – lasers, fireworks, graphics galore – wow.  On with 2020!

Yearly disclaimer: As a white male heading towards 70 I tend to like ’60s type pop/rock music, ’70s progressive and conventional guitar blues or rock which isn’t what is currently the vogue so won’t be found on the charts (sorry, but I still don’t get hiphop). As a pop fan, I fear I would rather listen to Abba than The Clash so this list doesn’t pretend to be the best albums of the year, but rather what I groove to.  An awful lot of this is conventional old white guy music, but there are some surprises I hope.  Most of these records & songs can be found on youtube if you want to sample any of the following.

Doc Krieger’s Top 20 Albums 2019

1.Federale – No Justice

Since 2014 this band has been putting out records that have owed a debt to 1960’s spaghetti western movie music – whistling and all.  This is by far their best record and their first album that doesn’t just feel like a pastiche of that genre.  Every song is memorable, Lee Hazelwood-like baritone male vocals with piercing female wailing, echoey moodiness, fantastic production with dramatic sounds throughout – it was hard to pick out a track to highlight.  The instro “Drums Of Death” is almost Native American-prog while the title track and “Heidi Theme” are the closest to their older music – but better.  Great title – “Unchained Malady” and “Talk Is Cheap” references the story of Richard Cory (check out the 1897 poem or Simon & Garfunkel’s song for context).  The band is from Portland, Oregon and was started by Collin Hegna of The Brian Jonestown Massacre.  Perhaps a good late night, turn the lights out and bath in the moodiness album and one of the best in years.

2.Steve Hackett – At the Edge Of Light

One of the high points of our On The Blue Cruise was seeing Steve Hackett in concert and meeting him.  The prog God of Guitar continues to be a font of meaningful music over 40 years after leaving Genesis.  How many nearly 70 year old artists put out albums that are as good as anything they have ever done?  From the obvious tribute to Yes and his late friend bassist Chris Squire “Under The Eye Of The Sun” to the best song on the album “Those Golden Wings” which is an over 11 minute long progressive masterwork with orchestra and choir to boot  (and one of his best songs ever), there isn’t a weak cut on the album.  “Descent” is an evil “Bolero” that leads to “Conflict” and finally the closing ballad “Peace”.

3.Down ‘N’ Outz – This Is How We Roll

Joe Elliott of Def Leppard is a big fan of Ian Hunter so in 2009 he assembled a band (mostly from The Quireboys) to open for Hunter’s reunited Mott The Hoople at London’s Hammersmith Apollo.  Up till now pretty much all they have released is Mott related covers so it was a huge surprise to get this excellent album of mostly originals sounding much like Mott Leppard.  The use of pounding pianos is what makes it so different from Def Leppard on tracks like “Boys Don’t Cry” plus “Another Man’s War”.  Frankly I like this way better than most Leppard as it harkens back to ’70s rock rather than hair-metal.  There are some fine Hunter-like ballads as well – “Goodnight Mr. Jones” and “Last Man Standing”.

4.Collective Soul – Blood

Ed Roland formed this Georgia band in 1992 with his guitarist brother Dean.  The other original member still there 27 years later on this their 10th studio record is bassist Will Turpin.   Their biggest hit was “Shine” and that was a pretty accurate template for their rock records since – guitar based hard pop loaded with hooks.  “Big Sky” has marching drums that pull you in, “Right As Rain” is classic arena rock while the ballads “Changed” and “Porch Swing” stand out as well.

5.Liam Gallagher – Why Me? Why Not.

While America has pretty much forgotten about the former Oasis lead singer, he still tops the U.K. charts with his Beatley vocals.  Looking at the cover photo, it appears the crabby Liam hasn’t gotten happier but no matter – the music is still fab.  The first chords to his Scottish #1 single “Shockwave” sound like The Who during the Mod era.  Since his brother Noel wrote the lion’s share of Oasis’ material, it is a surprise that Liam’s post-Oasis music has been far better than his brother’s.  “Halo” rocks while “The River” sounds very much like his old band.  The ballad “Once” could be off a Lennon record as could the flanged “Meadow” (with Harrison-like slide). The album title comes from the names of two John Lennon works of art Gallagher owns, by the way.

6.The Shelters – Jupiter Sidecar

Wow this is a great sounding record thanks to the legendary producer Joe Chiccarelli (U2, Elton John, Beck, etc.).  The band comes from L.A. and 2 of the 3 members played on Tom Petty’s Hypnotic Eye and Mudcrutch 2 records.    Chase Simpson sings fey Marc Bolan-like vocals over new wavish rock that is hard to categorize but is very catchy on this their 2nd LP.  “Down The Line” has an immediately recognizable EGA chord riff while “Kimberly” is a nice ballad like “Thank You” by Led Zep.  Best is “Can’t Go Home”.

7.Eclipse – Paradigm

For some reason a number of Swedish bands still play melodic hard rock with guitars like the 2000’s never happened – thankfully.  Leader of the band is Erik Mårtensson.  The best songs on the record are “Mary Leigh”, “The Masquerade” and “Viva La Victoria”.

8.Goo Goo Dolls – Miracle Pill

Johnny Rzeznik (vocals/guitar) and Robby Takac (bass/vocals) are all that remain from the original Buffalo, NY band formed in 1986.  They aren’t likely to have another hit the magnitude of “Iris” but they still make hooky guitar-pop.  The song “Indestructible” starts with gentle piano like a track by Keane then the walls of guitars and vocals take you to a memorable chorus.  The title track is a fave on the album with a Beatley-pop piano feel.  “Fearless” could be Imagine Dragons while “Autumn Leaves” is a nice ballad that builds in intensity.

9.Greg Townson – More! Travelin’ Guitar

Well this is a CD that certainly won’t be on any other year end best lists other than fans like me of instrumental guitar music a la The Ventures.  Townson of The Halibuts/The Hi-Risers has brought a new life to Los Straitjackets in concert filling in ably for Danny Amis on complimentary guitar to Eddie Angel.  In their summer Denver concert they did a cover of the old Shocking Blue track “Venus” and it is found on this album.  Nothing earth-shattering, but “Speed Bump” rocks as does the nice cover of the old Harry Belafonte hit “Day O (The Banana Boat Song)” which kinda sounds like The Bobby Fuller 4 on backing guitars.  Fans of The Little Mermaid will recognize “Part Of Your World”.

10.Rival Sons – Feral Roots

Classic Led Zeppelin-like nasty rock riffage describes the lead single “Do Your Worst”.  “Look Away” starts like a folky Led Zeppelin III track then gets heavy as does the title track from this their 6th album which recalls Free.  “All Directions” has later Zep style mellotron while the closer “Shooting Stars” is heavy gospel with a Paul Rodgers sort of vocal.

11.Lonely Robot – Under Stars

Of John Mitchell’s Lonely Robot trilogy, this is the weakest but it is still excellent progressive music.  “When Gravity Fails” has the odd time signature and dissonant guitars of a Robert Fripp track while “Icarus” is more poppy like The Alan Parson Project.  “Authorship Of Our Lives” and “Inside This Machine” are also memorable.

12.The Black Keys – “Let’s Rock”

Akron, Ohio band The Black Keys can always be counted on for growly hooky 3 chord rock.  After their last 4 CDs were produced by Danger Mouse, the band took over production on this their 9th studio record eschewing keyboards for a straight buzzy guitar sound.   “Sit Around & Miss You” could be Stealers Wheel while “Eagle Birds” has a TRex feel.  “Go” and “Lo/Hi” where also singles from the album.

13.Mary Fahl – Winter Songs & Carols

October Project’s 1993 self-title album is worth looking for if you haven’t heard it.  Their lead vocalist Mary Fahl is the best female singer currently out there if you like powerfully sung folk (keeping in the tradition of performers like Judy Collins and Sandy Denny).  This spare 11 song album mixes songs like “Have Yourself A Merry Christmas” with fine covers like Denny’s “No End” and Joni Mitchell’s “Urge For Going”.

14.Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band – The Traveler

The team of guitarist Shepherd and Noah Hunt on vocals continue to pump out quality blues-rock.  This, Shepherd’s 9th studio album, is less straight blues with covers like “Mr. Soul” (Buffalo Springfield) and “Turn To Stone” (Joe Walsh’s Barnstorm).  “Tailwind” feels like Warren Zevon while the original “Woman Like You” is the album highlight.

15.Keane – Cause And Effect

The British band Keane use keyboards as the lead instrument instead of guitars.  After 7 years since their last studio record (Strangeland), this is a welcome return.  This, their 5th studio release, charted at #2 in the U.K. (their previous LPs all topped the charts).  Tom Chaplin has an elegant style singing catchy songs like “The Way I Feel” and “Love Too Much”.

16.Alan Parsons – The Secret

Another highlight of our February cruise was Alan Parsons who was riding high after winning a Grammy.  At his concert he interspersed his Alan Parsons Project hits with songs from his upcoming release he said was going to be about magic.  While producer Parsons is not as good of a singer as his late partner Eric Woolfson, his new album is a fine facsimile of the progressive pop of his heyday and follows his old style of using guest vocalists on most of the songs.  This is his 5th solo album (1st in 15 years) and follows the tradition of starting with an instrumental – in this case a nifty version of the classical song “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” with Steve Hackett on guitar.  Parsons does a nice job on “As Lights Fall”, but he is not the singer that Jared Mahone is on “I Can’t Get There From Here” or Jason Mraz is on “Miracle”.  Other singers are Lou Gramm, P.J.Olsson, Mark Mikel, etc.

17.Pattern-Seeking Animals – Pattern-Seeking Animals

’70s style synth proggish pop (or poppish prog).  “No One Ever Died And Made Me King” is the most pop of all the songs while “No Land’s Man” had a catchy whistled hook.  These guys are an off-shoot of the prog band Spock’s Beard (Ted Leonard, Jimmy Keegan & Dave Meros with songwriter-producer John Boegehold), but with more accessible songs.

18.Fastball – The Help Machine

Anglophile pop that at times sounds like U.K. band Squeeze.  While I like Miles Zuniga’s songs like “Surprise, Surprise” and the title track, I prefer Tony Scalzo’s compositions like “White Collar”.  Formed in Austin in 1995, their biggest hit was “The Way”.  This is their 7th album.

19.Jimmy Eat World – Surviving

Mesa, Arizona band Jimmy Eat World have been pretty stable over their 10 studio album career, with only a different bassist on their first album in 1994.  Nothing here is as catchy as “The Middle”, but there are good guitar rock songs like “Delivery” and “Diamond” and the title track.

20.The Dark Element – Songs The Night Sings

Swede Anette Olzon had the difficult task of replacing Tarja as lead singer of the Finnish prog-metal band Nightwish and did so from 2007 – 2012.  This project teams her with former Sonata Arctica guitarist Jani Liimatainen and is more metal than prog but it is still interesting (more so if you don’t watch the guitarist thrash his hair according to daughter Hilary).  “Not Your Monster” starts things off well while “Songs The Night Sings” is a catchy chugging rocker.  Closer “I Have To Go” is a restrained ballad that shows off Olzon’s singing ability.

Doc Krieger’s Top Album Of Previously Recorded Material

Harry Nilsson – Losst & Fouund

Many of Ringo’s strongest albums were those produced by Mark Hudson so it is no surprise that Hudson worked miracles making an excellent pop album overdubbing Harry’s raw final performances from 1993 (he died the following year).  Though his voice is hoarser than on his earlier classics, it can feel world-weary at times (like Randy Newman) on a song like “U.C.L.A.” or “Woman Oh Woman”.  “Lost & Found” is classic Harry pop while “Lullaby” is a lovely ballad.  Harry tended to place at least one cringe-worthy song per album and this one has “What Does A Woman See In A Man” which has gentle piano behind awful Jimmy Webb lyrics – ugh.

Doc Krieger’s Top 20 Orphan Songs 2019 – Downloads, singles, isolated top tracks on LPs that didn’t make the cut on top albums.

1.Edenbridge – On The Other Side

Proving that not all female-led symphonic metal bands are from Scandinavia, Edenbridge are from Austria.  Most of their 10th album (Dynamind) is too metal for me, but this track (and “Taurengold”) are excellent.  The use of hammered dulcimer gives it a folk-metal feel.  Singer Sabine Edelsbacher and guitarist Arne “Lanvall” Stockhammer have been with the band since the beginning in 1998.

2.Work Of Art – Let Me Dream

More Swedish melodic rock that throws the music back to another era.  Your R N R Dentist hears Foreigner while my pal Ed the Country R N R Dentist hears The Alan Parsons Project.  Either way, it would have been a hit back in ’81.  From their album Exhibits.

3.Robert Johnson – I’m Alive

This is the title track of an independent power pop album and is an excellent amped up cover of the old Hollies song.  Johnson once auditioned to replace Mick Taylor in the Stones and indeed Taylor guests on the album.  Johnson released the album Close Personal Friend in 1979 which barely hit the charts.

4.Stray Cats – When Nothing’s Going Right

As a fan of rockabilly, it was cool to see the Cats reunite and release the decent album 40.  Brian Setzer’s voice is not my fave so it was great to see bassist Lee Rocker get a chance to write and sing this song on the new record as frankly I prefer his vocals.

5.Reese Wynans & Friends – Shape I’m In

Stevie Ray Vaughan’s old backing men Reese Wynans (keys) and Chris Layton reunite on the album Sweet Release behind a group of guests to play some of SRV’s old tunes, etc.  Frankly while the album is decent, it makes you miss Vaughan.  This is a rocker from the Arc Angels’ first self-titled album (1992) which also had Layton on drums.  The original is better as it features rockin’ guitar, but this version is pretty good too and with piano at the fore sounds like Jerry Lee Lewis or something.  Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Noah Hunt guest.

6.Business Of Dreams – Chasing That Feeling

Essentially a one man affair by Corey Cunningham, this sounds like a moody pop track by The Smiths.  The rest of the LP Ripe For Anarchy is so-so with so much echo you have to strain to get the lyrical content.

7.Jimmy Barnes – Money & Class

The former Cold Chisel singer has one of the best rock and roll voices ever, but has never really broken out of Australia where he is one of their most popular artists.  This nasty riff rocker comes from his album My Criminal Record, his 17th studio record.  This was his 12th LP to top the Aussie charts making him the first artist there with that distinction.

8.The Mavericks – Swingin’

This Tex-Mex country rockin’ band’s new CD Play The Hits is a collection of mostly country covers and is a bit of a letdown after “Brand New Day” which was my fave song in 2017 (and last year’s great Christmas record).  It’s okay as the band is always fun in concert and Raul Malo is an amazing singer, but this John Anderson 1982 song was the only one that moved your R N R Dentist.

9.The Abrams – Good Old Days

Joyful country-pop – “someday we’re gonna say these were the good old days” – nice sentiment.  Nothing else on this Canadian brother act’s album Reminder moved me.

10.The Hangmen – Man In Black’s Hand

This L.A. band’s new album Cactusville (their 7th) has 2 pretty good songs on it, the title track (sorta Tom Petty-like) and this Southern style rocker.  Their music is described as country-punk.

11.The Sherlocks – I Want It All

The Sherlocks are an English band made up of 2 sets of brothers.  Musically they sound like ’80s Brit-pop a la Echo & The Bunnymen et al.  This is the best track on their 2nd album Under Your Sky.

12.Ghost – Mary On The Cross

Cartoonish Swedish metal band Ghost only released the 2-song EP Seven Inches Of Satanic Panic this year.  The lead track “Kiss The Go-Goat” was okay, but this song sounded like a late ’70s Buck Dharma song from Blue Oyster Cult.  Lead singer Papa Emeritus Nihil wants you to believe these 2 come from 1969.  I was there and music didn’t sound like this in 1969.

13.Joe Jackson – Dave

New Waver Jackson’s new album Fool was okay, but this song stood out sorta sounding like a piano driven Andy Partridge XTC song.  Apparently the Germans still like him as the album hit #11 there.

14.The Head & The Heart – See You Through My Eyes

Too bad the rest of their 4th album Living Mirage isn’t as catchy as this lead track.  Coming out of Seattle, their music is described as indie folk.  I would call it low-key alternative.

15.Los Straitjackets – The Fishin’ Hole (Theme from The Andy Griffith Show)

You will need to groove to this excerpted live version by masked instrumentalists Los Straitjackets as the studio version from their new 4 song EP Channel Surfing is not on youtube.  The sentimental nature of the song puts it on the list plus the ‘jackets are excellent in concert as a masked version of ’60s instrumentalists The Ventures.  No whistling on this version, just 6 string guitars.

16.Alliance – Raise Your Glass

This is an ’80s style arena rocker from the Fire & Grace album that no doubt back then would have had kids shaking their fists in the air.  The leader of Alliance is Robert Berry who played guitar with prog organist Keith Emerson (ELP) in 3 back in 1988.

17.Allan Clarke – I’m Comin’ Home

It has been 20 years since Clarke retired from music (as lead singer with The Hollies) due to problems with his vocal cords.  He and everyone else assumed he would never be able to sing again so it comes as a big surprise that he regained enough vocal strength to release a new album (Resurgence).  It really is amazing to hear his voice again – admittedly a bit deeper in pitch, but still unmistakable.  This sounds very much like The Hollies and is about his journey back to singing.

18.The Neptune Power Federation – Pagan Inclinations

If Ghost can be a cartoonish satanic band with silly names (yeah, sure – like Alice Cooper is evil too – hah), then why not another band this time with a female singer?  They wanna be heavy psych sorta like Hawkwind from the ’70s.  The band comes from Australia and features singer Screamin’ Loz Sutch, the Imperial Princess (feel free to roll your eyes).  Their Memoirs Of A Rat Queen is okay.

19.Razzmatazz – Hallelujah

This is the title track from the 4th album by the German Bon Scott era ACDC sound-alike band.  Europe has a lot great bands that don’t know rap and hiphop exists thankfully.

20.Rosalie Cunningham – Butterflies

After a couple of fine albums as Purson (she essentially did all the music even though it was a band), Brit performer Cunningham has released her first solo album – self-titled.  Early Pink Floyd psych seems to be the style of most of the album, but this song is sort of Beatley.

 

25 Pop Flute Songs & Artists

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Two posts ago your RnR Dentist tackled the bagpipes in a rock music context.  Family flautists Brenna and Cheryl demanded equal time for their chosen instrument so this month we will look at the woodwind without a reed – the flute.  Crude flutes made from bone and tusks have been dated back as far as 35-42,000 years (at least a hollow tube with holes in it meant to be blown into).  There are myriad variations – the piccolo, fife, tin whistle, recorder, etc.  The kind of instrument we will look at exclusively has a hole meant to be blown over, not into and is categorized as a Western Concert Flute.   This list will be of known musicians which leaves out unknown session players otherwise a song like “Comin’ In The Back Door” by The Baja Marimba Band would be included (one of the Wrecking Crew played on it, but who?).  The songs are not all rock, but generally that is the category of the music included.  This expands a topic yours truly tackled years ago in a published article when it was posited by a reader in a magazine that there were very few rock flute players (indeed most music fans can only think of one).  Up for the challenge, there proved to be enough to make it difficult to limit the list to just 25 (sorry Herbie Mann).  Zaftig flute-playing rapper Lizzo didn’t quite make the cut, but let’s at least give her props for trying something new (one assumes James Galway never shook his rump while tootling).  My Uncle rightly pointed out another fine work that isn’t pop, but is kinda fun to listen to – “Suite For Flute & Jazz Piano Trio” by Rampal and Bolling.   Again, only one song by one artist is the rule here plus no recorders which nixes “Ruby Tuesday” and “The Fool On The Hill” and no piccolos which melts “Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead”.  I decided to leave out the fine work by Ted Cole with Colorado band Runaway Express since at this time you can’t find any of it on youtube.  The order is not terribly important after the first few songs.

1.Jethro Tull – Living In The Past

When one thinks of rock music and flute, the name Ian Anderson and his band Jethro Tull immediately come to mind.  Anderson is the Eric Clapton of rock flute music.  Would someone please explain why the r & r hall of fame has not inducted this game-changing band but considers non-rockers like The Notorius B.I.G. and Whitney Houston for induction?  “Living In The Past” was released in 1969 as a stand-alone single that reached #3 in the U.K., but had to wait till 1972 for U.S. success at #11 on the charts after lending its name to a double album of odds and ends.

2.Focus – House Of The King

Thijs Van Leer and his group Focus are mainly remembered in the U.S. for their crazy raver “Hocus Pocus” which is a pity as they continue to be a great mostly instrumental progressive band.  Their first Dutch single (1971) was this quasi-Tull sounding flute instrumental written by then guitarist Jan Akkerman and was a #10 hit in Holland.  It was finally released in the U.S. on the Focus 3 double album in late 1972 (on CD it has been tacked on to their first LP In And Out Of Focus).  Van Leer has also released some excellent solo albums including his 1972 classical flute album Introspection.

3.The Moody Blues – Legend Of A Mind

Likely the second most known rock flute player was the late Ray Thomas.  Certainly his best remembered song was this tribute to Timothy Leary and his LSD trips.  Appearing on the 1968 LP In Search Of The Lost Chord, this was always a popular showcase in concert for Thomas and his flute which comes in about 2:45 into the song.  Thomas’ songs and instrumentation were important contributions during the  ’60s and ’70s.  Unfortunately during their synth-pop hit era of the ’80s, Thomas was mostly relegated to backing vocals and tamborine shaking waiting in concert for his chance to perform this song.

4.Traffic – Hole In My Shoe

The late Chris Wood might have a case in challenging Ray Thomas for the title of second most remembered rock flautist.  Also contributing to other artists’ recordings such as “1983… (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)” by The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Traffic wind-man Wood was a versatile musician.  Wood’s flute playing on the traditional “John Barleycorn” might be his best work, but this early Dave Mason sung single from 1967 remains a psychedelic fave of your R&R Dentist.  Wood struggled with drugs and alcohol addiction finally passing away at age 39 in 1983.

5.The Guess Who – Undun

While guitarist Randy Bachman wrote this hit, singer Burton Cummings’ vocal and flute playing are what make the record great.  This jazzy song hit #22 in 1969 in the U.S. (note that the single was from the album Canned Wheat and edited off a solo guitar coda).  Supposedly the lyrics are about a girl dropping acid at a party and going in to a coma.  It is unfortunate that Cummings didn’t play flute more on the band’s records.  Quentin Tarantino used the song in the 1997 movie Jackie Brown.

6.Genesis – Dusk

One of the loveliest songs by Genesis was “Dusk” from their second album Trespass (1970) which may not be familiar to fans of the later pop juggernaut group.  John Mayhew was the drummer at this time pre-Phil Collins and Anthony Phillips played guitar pre-Steve Hackett.  Tony Banks (keys) and Michael Rutherford (bass/guitar) were led by singer Peter Gabriel who also played flute on this gentle song (coming in just after the 2 minute mark).

7.Firefall – You Are The Woman

The name David Muse may not be a household name to fans of soft ’70s pop, but his multi-instrumental talents in Colorado band Firefall made their songs interesting.  Muse was a late addition to the band and his flute work was prominent on their first big hit “You Are The Woman” (#9 in 1976 written by singer Rick Roberts).  Muse has been in and out of the band over the years while battling cancer along the way (he is currently a member of Firefall).

8.Camel – Air Born

Progressive rock bands more often than not have a woodwind player who at least doubles on sax and flute.  The U.K. band Camel was formed in 1971 and while never a huge success, they continue with only one original member – Andy Latimer who also sang and played flute plus guitars on this song.  This song was from their 1976 Moonmadness record (their fourth and last with the original lineup of the band which included Peter Bardens on keys).

9.The Beatles – You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away

While John Scott has had a long career as a composer of film and television scores along with classical music, rock fans know his work best from the end of “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away”.  The song is John Lennon as Dylan with flute replacing harmonica.  In the movie, the flute playing is mimed by George Harrison’s in-home gardener who also trims the grass with wind-up teeth.  Scott also played on records by The Hollies, Nelson Riddle, Tom Jones, etc.

10.King Crimson – I Talk To The Wind

Ian McDonald has a list as long as your arm of records he has played on (including the T Rex hit “Bang A Gong [Get It On]”) plus he was a founder of Foreigner.  For fans of progressive rock, he will be forever a founding member of King Crimson playing mellotron, keys and winds on the classic In The Court Of The Crimson King (1969) before leaving.  After the nasty album intro song of “21st Century Schizoid Man”, the gentle “I Talk To The Wind” is a jarring contrast.  McDonald duets with himself on flute to start to song.  McDonald also plays some nice flute on the song “Atmospheres” by the band Fireballet on their debut album Night On Bald Mountain.  The one song per group rule nixes some excellent work on flute by Mel Collins on later albums.

11.Canned Heat – Going Up The Country

Bluesman Henry Thomas recorded the song “Bulldoze Blues” in 1928 with the main riff of the song played by quills – a panpipes-like instrument.  In 1968 Al Wilson of blues band Canned Heat took that song’s tune and wrote a new title and new lyrics.  Taken from their LP Living The Blues, the single peaked at #11 in early 1969.  The most notable part of the single is the flute riff played by session musician Jim Horn that mimicked Thomas’ quills work.  Horn played sax and other winds on some pretty big rock records over the years including Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys, “Africa” by Toto and with the Rolling Stones, Ringo, George Harrison, etc.

12.The Mamas & The Papas – California Dreamin’

As this blog is being written on a record cold Colorado day while southern California is on fire and the bay area is having blackouts to prevent more flames, it is hard to choose either locale for a nice getaway.  John Phillips’ song is such a classic over 50 years later that it is hard to remember the time in late 1965 that this was a barely noticed new single for a brand new singing group.  The song built slowly and finally peaked at #4 in March of ’66.  The somber flute part was played by Bud Shank who had played sax for Stan Kenton and amassed a huge body of work over seven decades of work.  About the same time, Shank scored his only chart hit (#65) with a sax instrumental version of the song “Michelle” by The Beatles.

13.Chicago – Colour My World

Trombone player James Pankow has written some of the more important Chicago hits including this popular wedding/slow dance song.  Oddly he didn’t write a part for himself to play with the main instruments being Robert Lamm’s piano and Walter Parazaider’s flute solo which takes up the track’s last minute.  The song was originally found as part of an almost thirteen minute suite “Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon” from the 1970 album Chicago (their second LP).  It was given a single B-side release in 1970 (A-side “Make Me Smile”) then in 1971 appended again to “Beginnings” which hit #7.  The vocal is by the late guitarist Terry Kath.

14.Donovan – There Is A Mountain

Jamaican Zen Ska?  Donovan Leitch’s lyrics could be a bit obtuse, but the catchy island arrangement with a flute riff played by Harold McNair is simple and direct.  This was a #11 single in 1967 in the U.S. (#8 U.K.).  McNair who passed at age 39 in 1971 (lung cancer) was from Kingston, Jamaica and was mostly known for his jazz recordings.  As a session player he was found on many Donovan records plus Nick Drake’s Bryter Layter, etc.

15.Blodwyn Pig – Variations On Nainos

Guitarist Mick Abrahams left Jethro Tull after their first album This Was and started his own band Blodwyn Pig that put out two fine albums on A&M then disappeared.  Member Jack Lancaster mostly played sax (often two at once!), but on their second album Getting To This (1970) on the second track “Variations On Nainos” he made like Ian Anderson and played flute.  Mick Abrahams never captured the magic of those two albums again with his self-named band or with the reformed Pig.

16.Manfred Mann – Mighty Quinn (Quinn The Eskimo)

Okay so it isn’t a terribly tricky flute riff, but it is memorable as is the story of the band member who played it – Klaus Voormann.  Talk about a fascinating life – friend of the Beatles going back to their pre-fame days in Germany, album cover designer (including Revolver (The Beatles) and Bee Gees’ 1st) and musician having played bass with Manfred Mann and others.  The song itself is a Bob Dylan composition that was a #10 hit in the U.S. 1968 for the second main incarnation of Manfred Mann

17.John Mayall – Room To Move

After years of electric blues with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers (and some amazing guitarists in Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Mick Taylor), Mayall made a complete left turn with his 1969 live album The Turning Point.  On this album the sound was pretty much acoustic instruments with no drummer.  I admit that sitting in my buddy Dan’s basement playing records for each other, this one didn’t grab me back in high school as it wasn’t heavy enough.  Now I can appreciate the music, but then I wanted grinding guitar blues rock.  On this song (recorded at the Fillmore East in New York), Mayall’s vocals and blues harp are joined by Steve Thompson on bass, Jon Mark on acoustic guitar and Johnny Almond on flute.  Almond and Mayall get into some crazy mouth percussion in the middle, but it is the flute riff that makes the song (in tandem with the guitar and at times the harmonica).  “Room To Move” was not a U.S. chart hit, but received a lot of airplay on underground FM radio.  The late Almond had played sessions on sax previously with Mayall (and others like Chicken Shack) before joining Mayall’s band then after that he and Mark formed a duo (Mark-Almond).

18.Caravan – Love To Love You (And Tonight Pigs Will Fly)

In The Land Of Grey & Pink from 1971 is a high water mark for the Canterbury, England band Caravan.  This cheerfully poppy song is not at all typical of the band’s more progressive style, but is catchy and features some clanging cowbell (not normally a prog instrument).  The band still tour off and on with only one original member – Pye Hastings on vocals and guitar.  His brother Jimmy Hastings guested on many of Caravan’s records and played flute on this track coming in just before the two minute mark and soloing to the end.

19.Steve Hackett – The Virgin & The Gypsy

Perhaps a bit of a cheat as at least one of the dueling flutes here is a bamboo instrument, but it’s a nice flute part so…  While likely losing out on millions,  prog rock fans (like this writer) love and respect guitarist Hackett for staying true to the music and leaving Genesis as they were morphing into a pop band.  He has kept the music of the early Genesis alive while releasing one astounding prog rock album after another under his own name.  His third solo album Spectral Mornings from 1979 is arguably his best.  Throughout his career (and on his new album At The Edge Of Light), Steve’s brother John has been at his side to play flute.  John Hackett has released his own music plus guested on albums by Nick Magnus, Anthony Phillips, Symbiosis, etc.

20.Heart – Dreamboat Annie (Reprise)

Ann Wilson of Heart has played flute on a number of their songs including “Crazy On You” and “Love Alive”, but on this song she has a bit more of a role (though still not major).  While it would have been more illustrative of Ann’s flute prowess to use the song “Sing Child” (where she makes like Ian Anderson on the break), I frankly don’t like the track.  This song is from the debut album by Heart Dreamboat Annie (1976 in the U.S.).

21.Dan Fogelberg & Tim Weisberg – Tell Me To My Face

In 1978 the late AOR singer/songwriter Dan Fogelberg teamed up for an album with jazz flautist Tim Weisberg – Twin Sons Of Different Mothers.   The album was a #8 charter in the U.S. with the single taken from the LP “The Power Of Love” making it to #24.  This cover of the old Hollies composition (from 1966) received a fair amount of FM radio play back in the day as well.  Trivia buffs may find it interesting that Weisberg’s first recording was playing flute on “French Song” for the 1969 LP The Monkees Present.

22.Jade Warrior – A Prenormal Day In Brighton

Yet another discovery back in the day of my pal DC, this is another album that was slow to reveal its charms back in 1971 to a long-haired kid who wanted to rock.  On their debut album the band was Jon Field on flutes and percussion with Tony Duhig on guitars and Glyn Havard on bass, vocals.  Apparently Duhig and Field met in the ’60s while driving forklifts at a factory in the U.K. and bonded over a love of African music and jazz.

23.Van Morrison – Moondance

In early 1970 Van Morrison released his third solo album with “Moondance” as the title track.  When it belatedly came out as a single in 1977 the track barely registered hitting only #92 during a four week chart run.  In truth this jazzy song really spoke more to the singer/songwriter style of the early ’70s and its release in the disco era was guaranteed to fail.  As an LP, Moondance is one of the greatest albums to come out in that decade and did chart at #29 selling over three million copies.  Collin Tilton’s flute playing along with the walking bass of John Klingberg and the sax solo of John Schroer push the song along instrumentally complimenting Morrison’s vocal.

24.Moe Koffman Quartette – The Swingin’ Shepherd Blues

The late Canadian jazzman Morris “Moe” Koffman was a prolific jazz flute and sax player.  In the U.S. he had a #23 hit in 1958 with this cool groover of an instrumental that pushed the flute to the fore.

25.Eric Burdon & War – Spill The Wine

After leaving the British Invasion band The Animals, lead singer Eric Burdon hooked up with the California funk band War and scored a #3 hit in 1970 with this song.  It was on the album Eric Burdon Declares War and was the first hit for the long-lived band still going today with only one original member (Leroy “Lonnie” Jordan).  The flute part that becomes prominent at around the 1 1/2 minute mark of the song is played by Charles Miller who also contributed sax to the band.