Saturday, June 30, 2012

Book Review: “Harbor Nocturne” by Joseph Wambaugh


Harbor Nocturne

There may just be no writer alive who more accurately writes L.A. in all its ravaged beauty. Told with grit, biting observations of the denizen that populated Los Angles and the surrounding area, and often with an extravagance that any Angelino could tell you isn’t extravagance at all. Los Angeles may just be the one place on earth where truth IS stranger that fiction. If his bad guys seem over the top to the reader, then the reader has never spent any significant time in L.A. because in L.A. over the top is a way of life.

Same with his portrayal of cops. And he should know, he spent fourteen years as one of those cops. This extravagance, often displayed in what might seem parody, with liberal doses of satire, dark humor and grit is especially apparent in his Hollywood Station series which began  in  2006 and  introduces the multiethnic mix of police characters in the Wilcox Avenue station as well as the roiling melting pot of the general population. He followed up Hollywood Station with 2008s Hollywood Crows , amazingly his first sequel. Harbor Nocturne continues the tale of those cynical, often humorous blue collar working stiffs whose job it is to police the wackiest city on earth. Where else would a street cop be required to referee a fight between Spiderman and Ironman after Captain America calls 911? Where else would a street cop hold an  in promptitude version of Jeopardy, complete with answers required in the form of questions, with a bunch of drunks as the contestants and the outcome determining which went to jail for the night?

“Harbor Nocturne” by Joseph Wambaugh

 Harbor Nocturne picks up this cast of co-protagonists which are many; the various cops, including the surfer dude cops, one of which has only one foot, the want to be movie star cop, the retired on active duty cop, the eastern European immigrant cop who’s accent is so indecipherable that perps shut up and try and figure out if they are being arrested, the mousy, quiet female rookie who turns out to be the most macho of the bunch, and so many more you’ll laugh at, cry with and get to love. Then, to follow suit, there are just as many co-antagonists of course; The Russian mafia gangster, who true to Hollywood, is actually a Serb, who changed his name because Serb gangsters just aren’t Hollywood enough. then there is the Italian wanna be gangster with a Mexican name, the Korean, who portrays himself as either a Japanese Yakuza or a Chinese Tong member and the collection of femme fatales whose stories are often fatal to only themselves.

But, and don’t miss this point, all of these characters are actually supporting characters, even Dinko Babich, the son of a Croat immigrant, a second generation longshoreman, and a dope smoking slacker, and his star crossed lover Lita Medina, an illegal Mexican exotic dancer who can’t dance, can’t speak English, but is oh so beautiful and probably needs saving. No, the real star of the book; the real hero – and villain - of the piece is Los Angles itself, and it’s step child of a suburb, San Pedro (pronounced by the cognizanti “San Pee-dro”, not “Pey-dro” ) which is only nominally connected to L.A. proper by that umbilicus of a freeway, The Harbor freeway.

Dinko is on suspension by the union and his employer for having gotten caught high and with pot while on the job. His money is running low and he still has a good number of weeks before he can go back to the job. He runs into a shady friend from high school, Hector Cozzo who sports a mullet haircut and  a comical Al Pacino look from “Scarface,”and carries business cards that say “Facilitator and Entrepreneur” and he tells Dinko he is a talent scout for strip clubs. He asks Dinko to do him a favor – for a couple hundred dollars. Pick up a new dancer, Lita, and deliver her to the Hollywood strip club owned by William Kim and his Serbian cum Russian business partner, Pavel Markov, himself an image conscious 70 year old with an Elvis pompadour. 

Kim and Markov have their finger in many criminal pies, one of which involves human slavery, smuggling women into the country in shipping containers, including the one found with the 13 dead Asians on the very same docks where Dinko usually earns his paycheck.

Joseph Wambaugh: Profile

Mean while, the men and women of Hollywood Station are on the trail of Kim/Markov for running a prostitution ring from a massage parlor, but when the sting goes totally wrong, and that avenue looks like a dead end, the cops start to think that the dead Asians in the shipping container might be connected to Kim and Markov. Especially when  a dancer whose sister was one of the girls in the container turns up dead after having been last seen with Kim. The dead girl was a roommate of Lita’s and Dinko sets out to save Lita.

The story, naturally is a police procedural, but in a way that only Wambaugh can, the genres get mixed. There is the romance that develops between Lita, a victim of circumstance trying to make money to send to her mother and younger siblings in an obscure Mexican village ravaged by drug gangs, then there is the many scenes of real life police work as they patrol the streets of Hollywood and Los Angles and uncover gambling, theft, and very odd sex trade in of all things, apotem-nophilia (the desire for the amputation of a healthy limb or limbs). There are elements of the typical mystery, elements of noir, which seems like it was invented for Los Angles in all of its cynical spot lights, and elements of the thriller genre as well.

Joseph Wambaugh 13th Annual Los Angeles Times cSzgcXuqtDilI don’t know that Wambaugh has ever written a weak book, but this surely is one of the best. It’s fast paced, the plot and story line are not just topical but cover many, many topical subjects. The characters, though they are many – and Wambaugh can probably keep this many characters juggling as well as anyone in the business, but they are all distinct, and marvelously drawn in all their quirky guises, the story is fast paced, which is in and of itself a feat considering all the many subplots and characters, and of course, the scenery, the sense of place, are displayed so well even a midwester who has never left their state will feel he or she knows it well. Wambaugh continues to prove that old adage that things get better with age and time. Everything but Los Angles.


Article first published as Book Review: Harbor Nocturne by Joseph Wambaugh on Blogcritics.


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Thursday, June 14, 2012

CD Review: Brian Bromberg “Compared To That”

“Virtuoso ensemble, ten piece horn section and full orchestra string section propel the eclectic mix of jazz”

Brian B

Compared to That

They’ll never play this one in an elevator unless Otis invents one with swinging doors. Brian Bromberg hasn’t made an album in awhile now that swings so hard, swings so audaciously  and quite so sweet. For this, his 20th solo collection, he has assembled a ten piece horn section that plays tight, play bright and struts it. The strings provide the canvas for Bromberg to paint on, but believe me, he doesn’t just color outside the lines, he gets some on the walls. It’s hard charging, straight ahead, flammable swing, but with a mix of hues, flavors and other delectable sensual pleasures from city-fied  to southern fried and  liberally sprinkled with funk and soulful balladry.

As you listen to this album, one thing becomes clear. Bromberg’s bass work is somewhere way north of marvelous. And, where did he find a guitar player that could keep up? Well, he didn’t. Everywhere you ‘think’ you’re hearing a guitar, that’s Bromberg playing a piccolo bass tuned to sound like a guitar. He plays both acoustic and electric basses and acoustic and steel string piccolo. It makes for great solo and melody translations.

“Compared To That” Brian Bromberg

To pull this swinging sensation off, it took a special group of musicians Alex Acuna, Gannin Arnold, Charlie Bisharat, Randy Brecker, Vinnie Colaiuta, George Duke, Bela Fleck, Mitch Forman, Larry Goldings, Jeff Lorber, Gary Meek and Tom Zink among them, and they cut the album live in the studio over a two day period.

For the project, which is only the first offering from Bromberg this summer, he composed 8 new tunes. The two cover tunes are great, and diverse; Chicago’s “Does Anybody Ever Really Know What Time It Is” is the first radio release and is done here in a snappy, snazzy fashion. The other is Funk Master, Rick James’ signature tune, “Give It To Me Baby” which Bromberg turns into a driving and imaginative swing number with a great walking bass line underneath the melody of the piccolo bass. Nice treatment and Bromberg delivers a bass master class with this one and a good portion of the rest of the album.

A few of the other tunes are fun in multiple ways. There are tongue in cheek titles and musical humor throughout; “Rory Lowery, Private Eye”, “If Ray Brown Was A Cowboy”, “A Little New Old School”, and “I’m Just Sayin’” are just a few of the high points. But it is the sound and the delivery that make the album stand out. It’s a unique blend of what is essentially a live, acoustic jazz ensemble with pop album production.

Behind the album “Compared To That” by Brian Bromberg 6/5/2012

On July 3, Bromberg will release two more projects which are artist inspired, and from the titles alone, build some anticipation. Bromberg Plays Hendrix and In The Spirit Of Jobim. Bromberg translating two giants of guitar in two diverse styles alone should make the listener set up and take notice. Bromberg’s ability to play music at a scholarly level and make it accessible to the casual jazz fan as well as appeal to the mainstream, simultaneously is unique, to state the obvious. And with these three releases promises to make it an interesting summer.


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

CD Review : Bill Evans “Live At Art D’Lugoff’s Top Of The Gate”

Historic Performances Captured More Than 40 Years Ago


Live at Art D'Lugoff's Top of the Gate

Art D'Lugoff opened The Village Gate in 1958 with the idea of  seeking out the the hottest talent, hosting prominent jazz artists, including Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Aretha Franklin, and Miles Davis, as well as the best in comedy, including Bill Cosby, Mort Sahl, Woody Allen, and John Belushi. he turned away Bob Dylan, but gave him practice space in the basement. He fired a young Dustin Hoffman for providing poor table service. Playwright Sam Shepard once bused tables. For the next 3 and a half decades ‘The Gate’ was a Jazz Mecca. If you got invited to play The Gate, you were somebody, or you were going to be somebody.

A few years after opening The Gate, and building on the success of the venue, he opened up a club upstairs, The Top Of The Gate. On a cool fall night in 1968, D’Lugoff had managed to book the great Thelonious Monk Quartet and The Charles Lloyd Quartet in The Village Gate. Upstairs, there was only one piano player that could top the legendary Thelonious Monk and that was Bill Evans. And on this same night Evans brought with him one of jazz’s greatest ever trios, bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Marty Morell.

Bill Evans Live at Art D’Lugoff’s Top Of The Gate

In the audience that night was a 22 year old George Klabin who was invited to come down to the club and record 2 sets of the trio. This wasn’t all that unheard of, a jazz lover being allowed to record live sets in clubs and as I have dozens of records to attest, it was usually disappointing at best and even disastrous on occasion.

I have dozens of “long lost live sets”, that sound like they were recorded by a microphone hidden in a trash can at the back of the room. I have terrible recordings of all the greats; Dizzy, Parker, Monk, and even Miles. It’s gotten to where I stopped buying live jazz recordings from the mid-seventies back without hearing them first. But Klabin, despite his age and maybe because of it, was driven to record the trio with the best technique a young budding recording engineer could at the time. Given unprecedented access to the stage and the artists by longtime manager, Helen Keane, Klabin meticulously placed separate mics  on each member of the trio. What he got was a mix that is so clean that it nearly sounds as if it was done in a studio. It really is the next best thing to front row seats. It may even be the cleanest, lushest live recording of Evans ever captured. 

Evans is perhaps the most important jazz pianist in post WWII jazz. He was known for reinterpreting jazz standards, but in a new way with liberal use of  impressionist harmony, and his trademark rhythmically independent, "singing" melodic lines. this is at the forefront from the opening notes in the intro to the standard, “Emily” which ring out with a quiet brilliance as the background murmurs and tinkling of silverware of the assembled diners can be heard quieting in  the background.

bill evans

When Evans played this date, the great Eddie Gomez had been with him for two years, but amazingly – as the two sets will prove out – Morell had quite literally joined the trio that week. As is apparent, the trio quickly meshed under Evans leadership and vision. Here, they are at the top of their game, both collectively and as individuals playing within the frame work of Evans interpretations. Just take a listen to the way the bass and drum lock onto each other, then interact on the second set (disk 2) “Autumn Leaves”. For more evidence check out the two versions of the three songs played in both sets on both disks; “Emily”, “Yesterdays” and “’Round Midnight”. It’s a rare opportunity to hear the diverging takes on the same tune on the same night.

As producer Zev Feldman points out, several selections offered here possess historic significance; both “My Funny Valentine” and “Here’s That Rainy Day” (and possibly “Mother Of Earl”) mark Evans first documented trio performances of those songs, while “Here’s That Rainy Day” may be the first time Evans recorded the piece, period.

If all that doesn’t entice you into acquiring this album, the take note. Feldman and Klabin have worked very hard to assemble the historic and never heard before music with important context. the packaging alone, along with it’s thick booklet  of photos, information, notes from the evening written by Klabin (who is the Executive Producer and worked on mixing and restoration of his tapes) as well as the reminiscences of the two surviving players; Gomez and Morell, offering reflections of not only that night, but their entire time with Evans. Klabin also explains his methods of recording the two sets and restoring the tapes and Raphael D’Lugoff looks back at growing up in the two monuments to jazz that his father created. The booklet alone is worth the price, and that may be perfect as the music is indeed, priceless.


Live at Art D'Lugoff's Top of the Gate went on sale yesterday, June 12 and is available in a 2-CD deluxe digi-pack with the 28 page booklet. You can also get a limited first edition pressing of 3,000 hand-numbered 3 LP 180 Gram vinyl box set , pressed by Record Technology Inc. (R.T.I.) that includes a 4-panel booklet featuring the same content as the CD booklet. The LPs are pressed at 45 RPMs for optimum sound. The entire package can also be had as a digital download with the eBooklet.


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Book Review: “Getaway” by Lisa Brackmann



Puerto Vallarta, a tropical destination with pristine, sandy beaches and funky little bars replete with thatched roofs where the tequila flows freely and your cares and woes melt away. A virtual paradise on the Mexican coast, surrounded by, yet untouched by the political and criminal chaos that is the rest of Mexico with it’s drug wars and rampant corruption. A place where dressing for dinner means putting on a shirt or wrapping a sarong over your bikini.

Michelle Mason, recently widowed and finding her husband has left her in financial ruin and socially scandalized, decides it is just the place to spend a week away from the bankers, debt collectors and lawyers before having to face an uncertain future that she is woefully unprepared to deal with. When she meets a handsome fellow American on the beach and they wind up in her hotel room, Michelle decides this night of sex is just what she needs before departing paradise for the daunting prospects awaiting her back in the states. But, awakened from the languid atmosphere of post coital bliss by two masked men who have broken into her room, beaten Daniel unconscious and left him bleeding on the floor, Michelle is shaken out of her tropical languor. the police tell her, Vallarta is still Mexico after all.

When Michelle finally decides to return the L.A. she her cab is stopped and conveniently the cop finds cocaine in her bag. She is thrown into a Mexican jail and not given a phone call or any explanation. The deplorable conditions are described in grizzly detail. After a day or so the mysterious Gary shows up, he claims to be a friend of Daniel’s and semi-officially attached to the American Embassy, but he refuses to give her her passport, and instead of taking her to the Embassy, he takes her to a back street hotel.

Gary has a proposition for Michelle. Watch Danny. Report back on who he sees, what they say. An don’t try and sabotage the operation or tip him off. Gary and his ‘organization’ will know if she does. In return, he’ll square her with the Mexican official, get her passport back, and perhaps even fix her financial situation back in L.A.

Michelle is plunged into a nether world of Puerto Vallarta expatriates, shady Mexican businessmen that seem to be Danny’s employers, smugglers and Mexican uber rich, upper crust wheelers and dealers. She doesn’t know who to trust, she can no longer trust her instincts to discern good guys from bad guys, and she come to realize that everybody is bad to one degree or another and that no one is entirely who they seem to be.

Brackmann tells the story in gritty prose, using all the black keys to set a noirish mood across the bright, sunny beaches of Vallarta. The book is a thriller, with a romantic theme and borders on noir with every character being tainted by life, greed or their surroundings. Even Michelle is not untainted, what does she have to go home to? And despite her suspicions of drug dealings and cartel involvement she plays his lover, all the while planning to take the Judas silver to destroy him and save herself.

Brackmann writes in a hazy engaging way that languidly draws the reader in, while driving the plot with the abandon of a Tijuana Taxi Driver. A great writer can often tell a story with the words he o she leaves out, without all the details but by immersing  the reader into the character of the characters and letting them finish scenes in their mind. Brackmann excels at this and as finally more and more of the main characters motives are revealed, to one degree or another, and the devils both the reader and the protagonist know and don’t know step into the light we finally see that everyone is tainted but not everyone is evil.

lisa brackmann

Getaway is Lisa Brackmann’s second novel after 2010s acclaimed Rock Paper Tiger which was set on the fringes of the Chinese art world, made several “Best of 2010″ lists, including Amazon’s Top 100 Novels and Top 10 Mystery/Thrillers, and was nominated for the Strand Magazine Critics Award for Best First Novel.

A San Diego native, she now resides in Venice, CA.She' has worked as an executive at a major motion picture studio, an issues researcher in a presidential campaign, and was the singer/songwriter/bassist in an LA rock band. In Junior High School, she settled on a career as Secretary of State. In college she finally set goals that were more realistic and settled on a career path of becoming an incredibly famous and wealthy Hollywood screenwriter.

Then came the unexpected: She found herself  in China shortly after the Cultural Revolution, at the beginning of Deng’s reform era. Upon returning to the state, she says, is when she experienced culture shock, China being such an alien experience. She embarked on a career of music and screenwriting that eventually lead her to write her first novel. Getwawy breaks the sophomore jinx and shows her to be a forced to be reckoned with in the Thriller World. She has an ability to tweak the genre, and pinch bits and pieces from others to create a niche that makes her story telling as distinctive as the aroma of a fine wine…or aged bottle of tequila.

Article first published as Book Review: Getaway by Lisa Brackmann on Blogcritics.


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

This Week at The Cornelia Street Cafe, June 12-19

Upcoming 35th Anniversary Events!

Cornelia outside

cornelia street cafe logo

The Cornelia Street Café, which celebrates its 35th Anniversary this July, is a true New York City landmark, an epicurean destination, an artist's café that cultivates and inspires, and one of the few remaining Greenwich Village bastions for creative music, spoken word, art, theatre, cabaret and much more

The Cornelia Street Cafe is Proud to Announce

"Spotlight On New Talent"

A NEW monthly series, dedicated to showcasing some of the most brilliant up-and-coming jazz musicians


Featuring Nancy Harms and Lucas Pino

# # # #  

This Week at The Cafe, June 12-19:

Tuesday, June 12, 8:30 PM 


Maria Christina, voice, songs; Matt Davis, guitar; James Shipp, vibraphone; Sam Anning, bass; Sean Hutchinson, drums

Tuesday, June 12, 10:00 PM 
Nate Wood, guitar, vocals; Jesske Hume, bass; Sean Wayland, rhodes; Arthur Hnatek, drums

Wednesday, June 13, 8:30 PM 
Joe Fiedler, trombone; John Hebert, bass; Michael Sarin, drums

Wednesday, June 13, 10:00 PM 
Michael Dessen, trombone, electronics; Christopher Tordini, bass; Dan Weiss, drums

Thursday, June 14, 8:30 PM 
Steve Swallow, electric bass; Ohad Talmor, tenor sax; Adam Nussbaum, drums

Friday, June 15, 9:00 PM

Kris Davis, piano; Michael Formanek, bass; Nasheet Waits, drums  

Saturday, June 16, 9:00 PM

Nate Wooley, trumpet; Matt Bauder, tenor sax; Chris Dingman, vibraphone; Garth Stevenson, bass; Harris Eisenstadt, drums, compositions 

Sunday, June 17, 8:30PM 

Kiranavali Vidyasankar, vocals; Arun Ramamurthy, violin; Akshay Anantapadmanabhan, mridangam

Tuesday, June 19, 8:30 PM 
Michael Blake, tenor sax; Loren Stillman, alto sax; Brad Shepik, guitar; Arthur Kell, bass; Mark Ferber, drums

# # # #  


NOW AVAILABLE - Click Here to check out live performances from The Cafe

Awards & Distinctions:


Proclamation, City of New York, 1987

One of Top 150 Jazz Venues in The World - DownBeat

Jazz Venue of The Year, 2004, 2008, 2010, 2011 

- The NYC Jazz Record 

Zagat Nightlife - Award of Distinction

New York Post's Must Bar

Poetry Calendar's Best Poetry Series in New York

Time Out's Top 100 Restaurants

The Village Voice's Best of New York Food

Village Arts Award Inspired Cuisine

Where Magazine Best Neighborhood Ambiance

Waterford Crystal Award of Distinction Best Wine-By-The-Glass Program.

Monday, June 11, 2012

CD Review: “WIXIW” by Liars

WIXIW_ Liars


All Liars records are dark, the only question is what kind of dark. But it’s a journey that you will enjoy and with this album, the dark is filled with their most electronica to date. Angus Andrews, Aaron Hemphill, and Julian Gross may have listened to David Bowie, Radiohead and beck growing up, but the music is 100% theirs and it is a dark, HP Lovecraft CS Lewis fairy tale they tell in art/Indies/noise/experimental prose. Its early Pink Floyd meets The Velvet Underground after the discovery of some 21st century electronic toys.

“No. 1 Against The Rush” by Liars from the album WIXIW
The first single, “No. 1 Against The Rush” is full of hooks backed by a quiet bouncy beat that sets the lie to trance like and subversive lyric about the the aftermath of a relationship spiraled out of control.

The album sounds like it was cut in a darkroom with rusty pipes and a bed best not seen in the daylight. The room has one bare light bulb and is situated above a head shop. Pealing wall paper, left over from the dark ages of some major metropolitan city. Only in the seedy, forgotten part of town where scarred lovers roam and prove that real loneliness is not confined to when you are alone.

That’s not far from the truth. Liars formed in L.A. six albums ago, but made a move to Brooklyn and making a name for themselves in the post-punk scene with their first album, They Threw Us In A Trench And Stuck A Monument On Top. After breaking out of that pigeon hole, they explored noisy concept compositions about German witches which, of course, lead to a move to Berlin to explore another concept album steeped in surrealism and brutal rhythms. Eventually, they migrated back to L.A. and holed up in a seedy neighborhood above a marijuana dispensary to create another dark and forbidding song cycle. WIXIW picks up from there.

“The Exact Color Of Doubt” Liars from the album WIXIW

The opening track, “The Exact Color Of Doubt” is a beautiful song in the way that a cobra has beautiful eyes. It lures you in, makes you relax, breathe and then sets its fangs deep into your soul. It’s a ballad in slow-mo, its seductive and if it was one of Homers Sirens, it would pull you to your destruction on the rocks of obsession.

And just before you get to thinking this is all trance, darkly drawn against the wreckage of a soul lost, Liars hits you with a 4/4 little ditty that almost feels like club music. But then Andrew’s distortion filled, an manic voice clears that thought from your mind, and only the truly demented remain on the dance floor. It’s electronica dance music run through hell.

“Brats” by Liars
there are some tracks that are accessible to the current sounds found in clubs, there are the twisted beats of “Octagon” and “IIIValley Prodigies” seems to flirt with the current fad of rough-hewn ‘90s sampling.

Its an interesting album, and despite its darkness, an appealing album. If nothing else you can shock the hell out of your ‘with-it’ giggle sisters when they crash your pad when the clubs close and want to dance and be oh, so hip.

The band will be taking the show on the road for most of the summer, starting on June 20 in Webster Hall in NYC, then back to L.A. on the 22nd at of all places The Henry Fonda Theater Formerly Known as The Music Box, then its up to San Francisco and The Fillmore. Check their web site for dates near you.


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

CD Review: King Washington “The Gears”


The Gears

Based out of L.A. these young rockers, made up rhythm guitarist/vocalist with the Lennon-esque pipes, Tyson Kelly, lead guitarist/vocalist George Krikes, bassist/vocalist and since he is the bass player, the cute one Dylan Cronin and drummer/vocalist Kyle Turek, makes some pretty impressive music. The easy way out is to say they were bitten by their parents Beatles records, but they are more than that. Their sound is powered by a diverse number of influences. One is a war veteran, another the son of a Hall Of Fame songwriter (Tom Kelly), they write some complex melodies, but they still feel at home in the pop/rock genre. As a band they mesh, well, like well oiled and precision made gears. Vocally, the harmonies are top drawer, and the tunes rock with a vintage groove – yes, you can dance to it – and the quirkiness pays homage to The Beatles, and many other bands that set a new direction, but it is all their own.

“Bawl and Changes” by King Washington from the album “The Gears” 6/5/2012

Co produced by Grammy Award Winning producer, Joe Puerta (Bruce Hornsby and the Range, Ambrosia) the album almost didn’t happen. After nearly finishing the album with a mid-west Indie label, they were forced to shut down when negotiations fell throughh. After a large Kickstarter campaign, they re-recorded a new and improved version over 12 days at Exchange Studios in Milwaukee, WI. And the result is the best news out of that state this year.

The vocals, almost entirely Beatles-like harmonies, are captivating. It’s an impressive debut that should give them a serious assault vehicle for the charts. But, they are not just about polished pop/rock gems. In places, there is a roadhouse, roots rock vibe happening amongst the swooning vocals and daring guitar work. But Tyson Kelly delivers a John Lennon like inflection, complete with quirky chord progressions and dips into dreamy psychedelic vibrato. Krikes lead guitar work is not three chord stuff. this guy is schooled, disciplined and knows when to color  outside the lines. he is a recent grad of USC's Thorton School of Music, and he takes the band to daring, but not dangerous ground. The drums and bass are rock solid inside the pocket, and on occasion, peeking outside, just to make things interesting.

“Animal” (Live at Molly Malones)

This is a strong debut from a young band that has the talent and universal appeal, capable of crossing generations, that should see them go far. Its all here, raw emotion, talented and marvelous songwriting, harmonies you don’t hear often in todays electro-centric, autotuned  music world, a discipline musically that transfers to live performances as well as to the studio, and an apparent vision as to where they want to take the music. It’ll be fun to follow them through the years and see just how far they can take it.


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

CD/DVD Review: Heart Strange Euphoria 3CD/1 DVD Box Set

Strange Euphoria

Strange Euphoria

It’s been close to 4o years that Ann and Nancy Wilson have been driving the rock band Heart. Thirteen studio albums from Dreamboat Annie, 1976,  through 2010s Red Velvet Car which became the groups tenth Top Ten album. The music was filled with emotion, an ability to connect on a personal level with an audience whether the song was heavy rock or tender dreamy ballads. The band initially found success in Canada. Formed out of an early ‘60s band, The Army,lead by  bassist Steve Fossen, They played for several years in and around the Bothell, Washington area (northeast of Seattle). In ‘69, the band changed lineups and names and White Heart (from Tales from the White Hart, a collection of short stories by Arthur C. Clarke) was born.

The Wilson sisters grew up in a military family in California and Taiwan before their Marine Corps father retired to a Seattle suburb.Ann met Roger's brother Mike in 1971, Mike was set to be drafted. Nancy Wilson has stated that when he did not report for duty, his home was raided, but he slipped out a rear window, escaped to Canada. One day in 1972, Mike crossed the border to visit family and, by chance, met Ann at a Hocus Pocus show and they fell in live and Ann joined the band. The band relocated to Canada by 1973, and had enough success to become known as a Canadian band.

Mean while, in Seattle, sister Nancy went to  college, majoring in art and German literature and playing solo gigs on the side. In  1974 when she quit college and moved to Canada to join Heart. After many one-night shows around their new home in Vancouver, the group recorded a demo tape with the assistance of producer Mike Flicker and session-guitarist and keyboard player, Howard Leese. Leese eventually became a full-time member and the debut album, Dreamboat Annie was recorded at Can-Base Studios in Vancouver.

Heart “Magic Man” 1976

Heart's first Mushroom Records single How Deep it Goes b/w Here Song  received little attention when released in Canada in 1975. But the second single Magic Man was picked up for radio airplay by a station in Montreal. The album Dreamboat Annie followed and sold an impressive 30,000 copies across Canada in its first few months. In the US, Shelly Siegel, Mushroom’s manager,  released the album first in the Seattle area on February 14, 1976where it quickly sold another 25,000 copies. With two hit singles, "Crazy on You" (number 35, 1976) and "Magic Man" (number 9, 1976), Dreamboat Annie eventually sold over 1 million copies.

President Jimmy Carter granted amnesty to Vietnam War draft evaders on his first day in office, January 21, 1977 and Mike Fisher was able to freely come back to the states.

By this time Heart had broken its contract with Mushroom and signed a contract with CBS subsidiary Portrait Records. This move resulted in a long series of law suits with Siegel, a former CBS employee. In 1977 Mushroom ran a full-page ad in Rolling Stone magazine showing the bare-shouldered Wilson sisters (as on the "Dreamboat Annie" album cover) with the suggestive caption, "It was only our first time!" When a reporter suggested that the sisters were sex partners, the infuriated Ann returned to her hotel room and began writing the lyrics to "Barracuda" to relieve her frustration. Mushroom released the partly completed album Magazine in early 1977 just before Portrait released Little Queen. Magazine was pulled off the shelves because of the law suits. Mushroom was eventually allowed to release Magazine by the courts, but only after Heart was allowed to remix the content. Little Queen, with the hit "Barracuda"  became Heart's second million-seller. Ann and Nancy made the cover of Rolling Stone in July 1977 (issue No. 244).

Heart “Even It Up” from Beebe Le Strange - 1980

Heart continued to have hit after hit and gold record albums throughout the late ‘70s but by 1982, with the breakup of romantic relationships within the band and the loss of producer Mike Flicker and manager Michael Fisher the bands popularity waned. Following the release of Private Audition in 1982, besides the Wilson sisters, most of the band members had left, and when Passionworks, also failed to reach Gold Record status, it seemed the band had run its course.

But Passionworks yielded the lone Number 1 Rock single "How Can I Refuse", which moved the band towards a more mainstream sound and in 1984 Ann Wilson recorded a duet, with Mike Reno of Loverboy, called "Almost Paradise". It was featured on the soundtrack of the movie Footloose. This was enough to keep the band in the public eye until 1985 when the next album and first for Capitol, simply titled Heart , turned out to be the biggest commercial success in the band's history. It yielded 4 Top Ten hits with "These Dreams" reaching number 1, 1986.

“These Dreams”

In the MTV era sex appeal was considered a major ingredient in the sisters’ resurgence and they definitely possessed sex appeal. Heart's next album, Bad Animals in 1987, continued the hair metal theme that defined much of 1980s rock music. it produced another number 1 hit, Alone, as well three other top 50 hits. The band entered the 1990s with Brigade, their sixth platinum record which produced 3 more top 25 songs. After the live album, Rock The House Live, the sisters seemed to change directions with the formation of an all acoustic band, The Lovemongers. Then they drifted through the middle of the decade by releasing a Christmas album.

In 1995 Nancy decided to take a break from music to concentrate on raising a family with husband Cameron Crowe. Ann toured that year with a band that was alternately called The Ann Wilson Band or Ann Wilson & the Ricola Brothers. Nancy joined them for a guest appearance sporadically for live shows. Once again, Heart as a musical vehicle, had seemed to run out of gas.

“All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You”

Between 1996 and 2001 Ann kept the car coasting along without Nancy and they both worked on a projects away from the band including Nancy’s husband Cameron Crowe’s  films Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous, Elizabethtown and Vanilla Sky. Then in 2002, Ann and Nancy returned to the road with a brand-new Heart lineup that included Scott Olson, Ben Smith, Alice in Chains bassist Mike Inez, and keyboardist Tom Kellock. This resulted in the concert DVD Alive in Seattle which went gold. 

In 2004, with the new lineup, Heart released Jupiter's Darling, their first studio album since 1993. It featured a variety of songs that included a return to Heart's original hard rock sound, as well as a blend of pop and new textures. Stand-out tracks included the singles "The Perfect Goodbye", "Oldest Story in the World" and "Lost Angel". On August 31, 2010 the band's long-awaited new studio album entitled Red Velvet Car was released.[29] The album featured 10 tracks, including a new working of the Lovemongers' song "Sand". It marked a stylistic return to Heart's melodic hard rock and folk sound. The album peaked at Number 10 on the charts and became the group's first top 10 album in 20 years.

Heart “WTF” from “Red Velvet Car” 2010

If you have been breathing air over the past nearly 40 years, then you have heard a Heart tune. Probably sang along. Probably danced. They set the scene for the Seattle Music bands to follow. Their legacy is undeniable. Among the groups who have recorded at their Bad Animals studio are R.E.M., Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden and Candlebox. Heart has achieved Top 10 albums on the Billboard charts in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2010s with chart singles in each decade. This span of over four decades places them among the most commercially enduring hard rock acts of all time.

Heart's diversity in music styles has been evident in their chart successes. The band has had singles chart success on Billboard's Hot 100, Mainstream Rock Tracks, and Adult Contemporary charts. Throughout history Heart has been labeled as Hard Rock, Folk, Easy Listening, Heavy Metal, and Hair Metal, many times demonstrating two or more of these styles on the same album. Their album title Dog and Butterfly was a symbol of their sometimes contradictory styles, with the "Dog" side of the album focusing on hard rock tunes and the "Butterfly" side made up of acoustic folk music. Their epic "Mistral Wind" from this album captured both styles in one song, starting as a mellow acoustic ballad and building to a metal crescendo. "Mistral Wind" is considered by many followers of Heart to be the band's finest studio recording.

Heart “Hey You’ from the album “Red Velvet Car” 2010

They are among the nominees for induction in the 2012 class for The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, and should be a shoo in for that honor. Strange Euphoria celebrates the success of perhaps the greatest female led rock band in history. It contains 3 CDs of carefully chosen material ; their biggest hits and best-loved songs, set next to catalog treasures, rarities, demos and live performances. It comes in a Box Set that also includes the DVD, “The Second Ending”. There’s a bunch of stuff in here that has never seen the light of day, or any ears besides these two icons of rock.

When taken as a whole, it chronicles a band that saw many trends in music come and go and more often than not set those trends. Other times, they seemed to ignore the trends and just stay true to their vision. they showed the world that women can rock, and rock with the best of them. They wrote the songs. They played the instruments. They lead the band and they rocked. they’re still rockin’. the Box Set hit the street on June 5, so get ‘em while they’re hot, because Heart was and is always hot.


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Saturday, June 9, 2012

CD/DVD Review: Paul Simon “Graceland” 25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition


Graceland: 25th Anniversary Edition

What can I write about Paul Simon. Partnering with Art Garfunkel, first in the late ‘50s as Tom and Jerry, they had a minor hit wit “Hey School Girl” the recording sold 100,000 copies hitting #49 on the Billboard charts. Greatly influenced by the Everly Brother which the song bares witness to. unable to follow up the minor success of “Hey School Girl”, the duo broke up and attended separate colleges. The duo eventually found some success performing live in the Greenwich Village folk scene. During this period, Simon had been penning folk songs, including "Sparrow", "Bleecker Street", and "He Was My Brother". the later was written for a childhood friend of the duos (who had met in grammar school), Andrew Goodman, who was one of three civil rights workers murdered in Neshoba County, Mississippi, on June 21, 1964.

These three efforts were among five original songs by Simon included on their first album for Columbia Records, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M., which initially flopped upon its release on October 19, 1964. With the flop of the album, the duo broke up again and Simon moved to the United Kingdom, where he recorded his first solo album, The Paul Simon Songbook in 1965. This album is kind of famous, and if you could get your hand on a copy, you pay a mint. Simon actually sued the record company to stop any future releases of it, stating that it was not "not representative of the performer's style." I managed to get my hands on a copy, while in the U.K. in the ‘70s, on vinyl of course, and sadly lost it years later. the album was in the vein of many folk albums from the early ‘60s, solo acoustic guitar, miced and recorded in a “live” feeling, very much like the early Bob Dylan albums, minus the harp.

In the summer of ‘65, while Simon was still in England,Florida radio stations started getting requests for songs from Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M., particularly "The Sound of Silence". Next thing you know, the song was being requested on Boston stations. Taking advantage of this late success, the duo's U.S. producer, Tom Wilson, inspired by the Byrds' hugely popular electric versions of Bob Dylan songs, used Dylan's studio band to dub electric guitars, bass and drums onto the original "Sound of Silence" track, and released it as a single, backed with "We've Got a Groovy Thing Goin'”The dubbing turned folk into folk rock, the debut of a new genre for the Top 40, much to Simon's surprise.

“Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes”

Simon and Garfunkel were reborn as pop stars and went on to record some of the most iconic folk rock songs of the ‘60s; "I Am a Rock" ( #3 in the summer of 1966), "Leaves That Are Green", "April Come She Will", "A Most Peculiar Man", and "Kathy's Song", "Homeward Bound" ( U.S. #5), "A Hazy Shade of Winter" (1966), "Mrs. Robinson" (1968), "Bridge over Troubled Water" (1969), "The Boxer" (1969), and "Cecilia" (1969) . Their sometimes rocky relationship led to their last album, Bridge Over Troubled Water, being delayed several times due to artistic disagreements. Eventually, in 1970 it proved to be their most successful album, peaking at number one around the world and being certified Platinum 8 times. Nevertheless, the duo parted ways only reuniting decades later on special occasions.

Simon began a successful solo career, recording three highly acclaimed albums over the next five years. then his career seemed to ebb, and the reception to the album, Hearts and Bones, seemed to mark the end of his popular success. Then in 1986, he recorded Graceland. It was his seventh studio album since the 1970 breakup. The album hit number 1 in the U.K. album charts and number 3 in the U.S. then won the 1986 Grammy Award for Album of the Year, while the title song won the 1987 Grammy for Record of the Year. But, beyond the commercial success, the album stands as perhaps the first recording to introduce ‘world music' to the pop charts and the ears of fans the world over. Simon, and members of the group Ladysmith Black Mambazo performed on “Saturday Night Live” in what turned out to be a landmark moment in broadcast history and in SNL history. The album generated three chart topping singles, including “You Can call Me Al” with its iconic video for the MTV crowd including Chevy Chase. the album kept Paul Simon and Graceland on tour for five years. to this day it continues to be a major force and a source of inspiration for musicians and fans alike.

“You Can Call Me Al”

but, initially, the album riled up politicians the world over. Much of the album was recorded in South Africa, and it features many South African musicians and groups. Simon faced accusations that he had broken the cultural boycott imposed by the rest of the world against the apartheid regime in South Africa.  Although supported by the United Nations Anti-Apartheid Committee, as the album showcased the talents of the black South African musicians while offering no support to the South African government, even the ANC protested the collaboration as a break in the cultural boycott. But, what the politicians the world over could not achieve through policy, Simon did through music. The worldwide success of the album introduced some of the musicians, especially the vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, to global audiences of their own. Simon included American 'roots' influences with tracks featuring Zydeco and Tex-Mex musicians. The Everly Brothers sing harmony on the title track. Linda Ronstadt appears on the track "Under African Skies", the second verse of which Simon wrote based on her childhood experiences.

This package, which is amazing to say the least – it comes in many pieces, available separately, but the Deluxe Box Set comes with 2CDs, 2DVDs, a Deluxe 80 Page Book chronicling everything you could want to know about the album, a Replica Lyric Pad and a Poster – includes the Documentary, “Under The African Sky’s” , which is receiving many big screen showings as well as Prime Time TV showings throughout the spring and early summer. The second DVD is the classic ‘87 concert film of the same title for the first time ever on DVD. The 2 CD set includes the remastered original Graceland plus the unissued Story Of Graceland narrated by Simon and unreleased demos of the songs, never heard before.

“The Story Of Graceland”

The Box Set is truly a must have in itself. It is the size of a medium size phone book, and weighs more than a laptop computer. I almost don’t want to play it, just looking at it is nearly enough and I can only thank the folks at Legacy Records and Sony Music for providing me with the review copies. I hadn’t listen to my original copy in ages, and so after putting on the CDs to put me in prospection, I was delighted at the quality. I had to compare them and the remastering is excellent and really makes the music come alive. There are videos included for “You Can Call me Al”, “Boy In The Bubble”, “Diamonds on the Soles Of Her Shoes” and a live version of the same that made me smile and somehow brought the meaning of the songs into focus.

Then I watched the DVDs, starting with Under The African Skis – Graceland Journey, which, as the title suggests, traces the history and evolution of the album in its cultural impact and the political climate that existed at the time. the film follows Simon as he goes back to South Africa, and remembers the people, places and music that inspired him to create the album. More than anything, I think the movie drives home the profound impact and importance of art on a society.The running time for this movie is 2 hours and 23 minutes.

“Under The African Skies”

The second DVD is The African Concert, recorded at Rufaro Stadium in Zimbabwe in 1987. It is a delight, the electricity felt in that stadium 25 years ago as western music mingled with African music and told the world that there is art in all cultures and at the end of the day, we can all find joy in that. That its not all about  charts and sales and suits on Madison Ave. but its about people, all people celebrating and sharing our world and our art. The musicians on stage for the concert included Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela and Ladysmith Black Mambazo. this DVD lasts for 90 minutes.

All  in all, this is a marvelous collection that gives you somewhere near 4 hours of entertainment, cultural and artistic explorations and ground breaking music that is still impacting the world today. It was a historical achievement in so many ways 25 years ago and here is celebrated and treated that way for the listener to own.

The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Kindle Deal of the Day: Ward Larsen’s “Stealing Trinity” from Oceanview Publishing

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Stealing Trinity


Ward Larsen 


About the book:

In the last days of WWII, the Third Reich makes a desperate grab to retrieve its most valuable asset - Die Wespe, a spy buried deep in the Manhattan Project. The man chosen for this mission is Alexander Braun---American born, Harvard educated, and a ruthless killer.

British Intelligence learns of the Nazi plan. Unable to convince their American counterparts of the magnitude of the threat, they dispatch Major Michael Thatcher to track down Braun.

The trail leads to Rhode Island, where Lydia Cole, a young heiress, has unwittingly taken Braun back into her life. Braun is forced to run, and there is one place where he must go--Los Alamos, home of the Manhattan Project. 

On July 16, 1945, the world's first atomic bomb is tested - code name Trinity. In the days that follow, four people - a tenacious British investigator, a determined young woman, a killer, and the spy who could compromise America's greatest scientific endeavor - will have a fateful rendezvous, all vying for control of the secret that will shape the world.


The Buzz

Independent Publishers IPPY Award Mystery/suspense/thriller Silver 

USA National Best Book Award Mystery/suspense Winner

ForeWord Book of the Year Mystery/Fiction Gold 

"An innovative, original plot marks Larsen as an author to watch."

Publishers Weekly

"Ward Larsen deftly fills in the historical blanks. Stealing Trinity gives a tragic event a plausible and honorable context."

ForeWord Magazine

"A well-written, well-researched, and compelling tale.

An easy and gripping read."

Library Journal

"For readers who can't get enough of the Manhattan Project in fiction, this is a serviceable thriller."

"Once in a while a great book comes along and the reader knows with the first page they've encountered something special, something worthwhile. Stealing Trinity is just that book."

Crime & Suspense Magazine

"A riveting and suspenseful thriller."


"A suspenseful, well told tale. Larsen knows how to spin a story that feels authentic."


"A compelling read. This is the kind of story that Hollywood blockbuster movies are made from."

Midwest Book Review

"A fantastical spy adventure. You won't be able to put Stealing Trinity down."

Armchair Interviews

"Stealing Trinity is an exceptional thriller that will captivate readers with its strong plot and even stronger characters. It is highly recommended."

Mysterious Reviews

"If you like spy stories and war stories, you should treat yourself to this fast-paced book."

Bismarck Tribune


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