2024 news – #1

This spring saw the release of The High Street Project to streaming services. The High Street Project had its origin in a series of four events (“365 Live”) staged by WCUW-FM DJ Larry Haley in 2023. Larry commissioned a selection of cover songs, keyed to the original artists’ birthdays, to be presented at the events. For the songs on this album, I reimagined the music and invited some of my favorite local vocalists to bring their own interpretations to the project. Everything was recorded, mixed and mastered here at the studio. Here’s a list of the songs, the original artists, and the featured vocalists: Stop (Joe Henry) feat. Natasha Hanna Real People (Chic) feat. John Solaperto Manhattan Island Serenade (Leon Russell) feat. John Solaperto Golden Hours (Brian Eno) feat. Natasha Hanna Wing (Patti Smith) feat. Natasha Hanna Here Comes the Flood (Peter Gabriel) feat. John Solaperto Electric Green (Kim Richey) … Read more

The Nebulas Live at Ralph’s Diner, 1982

The Nebulas* were born in 1979, when Deb Penta and I started co-writing songs. The band was active in the Worcester/Boston area from 1980 to 1984, a great time and place for bands doing original material to play frequent shows and get radio airplay. One of the venues we played frequently was Ralph’s Diner in Worcester; I recorded this 7/25/82 set on my Sony Walkman cassette recorder. The sound quality leaves a lot to be desired, but I think the energy still comes across. Deb Penta, vocals; Charlie Blaum, guitar; Milton Gentry, bass; Tony Serrato, drums. *Not to be confused with the excellent (and current) surf/garage band of the same name from Rhode Island.

Steely Dan, “West of Hollywood”

Here’s another post of mine from Larry Haley’s The Bop Shop. Kid Clean is the antihero/narrator here, another of Steely Dan’s Beautiful Losers (“I’m way deep into nothing special”). He tells the tale of his and Anne de Siècle’s dissolute summer saga, possibly fueled by the ministrations of the shadowy Dr Warren Kruger. The song really takes off in the last half, with Chris Potter’s tenor sax solo. I never get tired of hearing him navigate his way through the slithering, Wagnerian key changes — anchorless, like the song’s starring duo. play Steely Dan’s “West of Hollywood” (1981) on YouTube

Vernon Reid & Masque, “Time”

Here’s another post of mine from Larry Haley’s The Bop Shop. For guitar players “shredding” refers to sustained passages of extremely fast runs. John McLaughlin and Eddie Van Halen can (or could) shred with feeling and in context, enhancing the experience of the song. Others seem to use shredding as an athletic display of skill. Vernon Reid can shred just as nice as you please, but all his playing is infused with soulfulness: his shred is like Charlie Parker’s flights and John Coltrane’s “sheets of sound” — expressions of freedom in music. (Vernon gets the writing credit, but this is pretty obviously an instrumental take on Sly Stone’s song of the same name from There’s a Riot Goin’ On.) play Vernon Reid & Masque’s “Time” (2004) on YouTube

Nona Hendryx & Material, “Bustin’ Out”

Here’s another post of mine from Larry Haley’s The Bop Shop. The late Ronny Drayton was a New York City guitarist who came up at the same time as his friend, Living Colour’s Vernon Reid (I remember a 1980s feature article about the pair in the great, long-gone Musician magazine). He was a solid branch on the Hendrix family tree (along with Eddie Hazel and Ernie Isley). In fact, when I saw Ronny in Nona’s band at The Living Room in Providence, ca. 1983, he was playing an old Stratocaster through a Marshall Plexi amp — the classic Jimi rig. “Bustin’ Out” is Nona’s great statement of pride, confidence, and even defiance. For the song’s second half, Nona passes the torch to Ronny, who answers her vocal with his own assertive, uplifting guitar solo. play Nona Hendryx & Material’s “Bustin’ Out” (1981) on YouTube

Tarnation, “Like A Ghost”

Here’s another post of mine from Larry Haley’s The Bop Shop. Greil Marcus’ Substack sometimes reprints articles and reviews he wrote in the 90s, and today’s featured kindred spirits Chris Isaak and Tarnation. I listened to the latter a lot back then — two albums and gone. In this song, spaghetti western guitar meets Vincent Price organ (Marcus made the House of Usher comparison). And always, Paula Frazer’s mournful, yet enticing voice. play Tarnation’s “Like A Ghost” (1997) on YouTube

Karla Bonoff, “Someone to Lay Down Beside Me”

Here’s another post of mine from Larry Haley’s The Bop Shop. Linda Ronstadt had an almost-hit with this song the year before its writer, Karla Bonoff, released it on her debut album. Linda’s version is kinda sweet, but Karla’s is one of my favorite songs from the seventies. Karla’s vocal has more emotional urgency, Waddy Wachtel’s guitar bites harder, and the chorus kicks it like the one in the Peter Asher-produced Ronstadt version only hints at. Now the thing is, this album was produced by former Stone Poney Kenny Edwards — a prolific session guitarist and songwriter, but with only a (literal) handful of album credits as producer (most of which were Karla Bonoff albums). He certainly got it right on this, his first try. play Karla Bonoff’s “Someone to Lay Down Beside Me” (1977) on YouTube

The Third Mind, “Groovin’ Is Easy”

Here’s another post of mine from Larry Haley’s The Bop Shop. The Third Mind continue to dig into 1960s classics with their slow-burn take on The Electric Flag’s “Groovin’ Is Easy”. I fell in love with Jessie Sykes’ voice on “Morning Dew” from the Mind’s first album, and here she turns what almost felt like mansplaining in the Flag’s version to something more… tender… Guitar note: on all Third Mind songs, Dave Alvin is in the left channel, Victor Krummenacher in the right. And the video, which conjures up what we used to see on the walls of the Boston Tea Party, was created by Victor. play The Third Mind’s “Groovin’ Is Easy” (2023) on YouTube

Tatiana, “Been a Fool”

Here’s another post of mine from Larry Haley’s The Bop Shop. Tatiana Okupnik’s big, bold vocal delivery and the twangy guitars recall Shirley Bassey’s great James Bond themes. Love the oh-so-Euro, polymorphously erotic video too — the way the facial expressions underscore the devastating lyrics. play Tatiana’s “Been a Fool” (2011) on YouTube

Eurythmics, “Julia”

Here’s another post of mine from Larry Haley’s The Bop Shop. A lost album of the eighties, and Eurythmics’ most experimental to date. Their label, Virgin, commissioned the duo to produce a soundtrack for the Michael Radford film (titled Nineteen Eighty-Four), the second one based on Orwell’s novel. However, Dominic Muldowney, working with the director, had already completed a full orchestral score. Chaos ensued, and Eurythmics were caught in the middle. Depending on which version of the film you view, there may or may not be any of their music included — except for “Julia”, which plays over the credits. play Eurythmics’ “Julia” (1984) on YouTube