EML’s Favorite Songs – SPENCER DAVIS GROUP: ” Gimme Some Lovin'”

Gimme Some Lovin' - LP

One of the most electrifying rock songs ever recorded has to be “Gimme Some Lovin‘” by British band Spencer Davis Group. After reading a recent post by fellow blogger Cincinnati Babyhead about Blind Faith, the short-lived supergroup of which Spencer Davis Group vocalist Steve Winwood was also a member, it reminded me of what an amazing talent he was, especially at such a young age. As a pre-teen who was only six years younger than Steve Winwood – he was 18 when he co-wrote and recorded “Gimme Some Lovin'”, I was blown away by his incredibly powerful and soulful vocals when I first heard the song back in late 1966.

Spencer Davis Group was formed in Birmingham, England in 1963, and consisted of Spencer Davis (rhythm guitar, backing vocals), brothers Steve Winwood (lead guitar, lead vocals, organ, piano) and Muff Winwood (bass) and Pete York (drums & percussion). Steve Winwood was only 14 at the time! They had two #1 singles in the UK with “Keep On Running” and “Somebody Help Me”, but their latest single “When I Come Home” had not performed well. Also, none of their singles up to that point had charted in the U.S. The band was under pressure to come up with another hit single but weren’t happy with songs submitted by Jackie Edwards, who’d written their previous singles. Finally, their manager Chris Blackwell took them to London, put them in a rehearsal room, and ordered them to come up with a new song. As quoted in the liner notes by John Bell for the 2-CD Island Records 1996 release Eight Gigs A Week: The Spencer David Group – The Steve Winwood Years, Muff Winwood recalled that “Gimme Some Lovin'” was conceived, arranged, and rehearsed in just half an hour. He elaborated about the song’s creation:

We started to mess about with riffs, and it must have been eleven o’clock in the morning. We hadn’t been there half an hour, and this idea just came. We thought, bloody hell, this sounds really good. We fitted it all together and by about twelve o’clock, we had the whole song. Steve had been singing ‘Gimme, gimme some loving’ – you know, just yelling anything, so we decided to call it that. We worked out the middle eight and then went to a cafe that’s still on the corner down the road. Blackwell came to see how we were going on, to find our equipment set up and us not there, and he storms into the cafe, absolutely screaming, ‘How can you do this?’ he screams. Don’t worry, we said. We were all really confident. We took him back, and said, how’s this for half an hour’s work, and we knocked off ‘Gimme Some Lovin’ and he couldn’t believe it. We cut it the following day and everything about it worked. That very night we played a North London club and tried it out on the public. It went down a storm. We knew we had another No. 1.

Well, they created quite an explosive banger of a tune! Opening with a heavy bass riff and ominously building percussion, Steve Winwood’s wailing organ arrives like an angry velociraptor, followed by his fiery, impassioned vocals that instantly cover me with goosebumps. The feral hunger in his vocals make us believe him when he practically screams “I’m so glad we made it, I’m so glad we made it! You’ve gotta gimme some lovin’!” From that point on, that sonic velociraptor rampages onward, laying waste to the airwaves and our eardrums. God, what a song!

“Gimme Some Lovin'” finally brought the Spencer Davis Group long-elusive success in the U.S. The song peaked at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming their highest-charting U.S. single (should have been #1). It reached #2 in UK, and is ranked #247 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It certainly ranks highly among my 500 favorite songs of all time.

In 1980, The Blues Brothers, who consisted of Dan Aykroyd and the late John Belushi, did a pretty good cover of “Gimme Some Lovin'”. The song was featured in their film The Blues Brothers, and was a sizable hit, reaching #18 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.

SPIRAL ROCKS – Single Review: “Raw Suicide”

Spiral Rocks Raw Suicide

This fantastic review was written by occasional guest reviewer David Thurling, a lover of music from Britain who graciously helps me with my crushing workload. I previously featured Spiral Rocks on this blog this past May when I reviewed their single “Know Your Weapon”.

Spiral Rocks is a UK band from England’s distinctly working-class North West.  This is a region of the country that is best known for its smoke billowing factories, Victorian era tenements and dark, overcast skies.  It is also home to two of the country’s most influential music cities, Manchester and Liverpool.  Perhaps the above imagery is a little unfair in this modern day, and in this writer’s experience, there is wonderful warmth that oozes out of the very pores of the North that is distinctly more genuine and charming than anywhere else in the country.  Yet it is from the very essence of this austere world that we have seen some of the greatest musicians and bands emerge over the last 50 years or so.  It is therefore appropriate that my first listen to Widnes-based Spiral Rocks is their latest haunting tune, “Raw Suicide”.

The single’s cover art reinforces the desperation and bleakness that permeates the 5:29-long track.  Yet the at the same time, the black and white photograph of menancing clouds overlooking a steel arch bridge reveals a hopeful sun fighting to breakthrough an ominous sky.  “Raw Suicide” begins with a measured lone guitar arpeggio that defies the aural take-off that comes later. Gently picked notes move up and down the guitar neck providing a wistful backdrop to a two part vocal that immediately sets a confronting tone both vocally and lyrically.  Lets not mince words here, “Raw Suicide” is a painful confession that is indeed, raw.

Thinking to myself
That I don’t like to die.
As I’m writing this old song
With a tear in my eye

“Raw Suicide’ continues in this vein with its anguished lead vocals but then something quite special happens, almost like a reward for having made it through the inherent sadness of the first half of the song. The band erupts into an exhilarating and extended guitar solo/bridge that seems to provide hope for the antagonist. It is a soaring moment with pounding drums and bass providing a magnificent platform on which a wailing guitar lead overwhelms the listener. To finish, we go back to the beginning with the gentle guitar picking being in this case, the calm AFTER the storm. There is something about this song that reminds me of Pink Floyd, especially the beginning guitar and vocal stylings.

Spiral Rocks is an interesting story. A band that has been gigging on and off together for many years. You get the sense that bands like Spiral Rocks are gems in the rough that in another era where autotune and drum sampling were thankfully absent, they may well be receiving the attention they deserve. A refreshing, unapologetic song that is worth a listen. Spiral Rocks is Antony Shone (vocals/guitar), Dave Baker (guitar), Stephen “Rowy” Rowe (bass) & Mark Bevan (drums).

Connect with Spiral Rocks:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / YouTube
Purchase their music on iTunes / Amazon / Google Play

Concert Review – THE HOLLYWOOD VAMPIRES

I hate to admit it, but I really didn’t know much about supergroup Hollywood Vampires until a few days ago, when a friend asked me if I wanted to go with her to see them perform at one of the local casinos. I knew that Alice Cooper and Johnny Depp were in the band, but not much else. I’m so glad I went, because they put on a fantastic show!

Hollywood_Vampires

For those as unaware as I was, Hollywood Vampires was formed in 2015 by rock legends Alice Cooper and Joe Perry (lead guitarist of Aerosmith), and actor Johnny Depp to honor the music of the rock stars who died from excessive lifestyles in the 1970s. The band name comes from the drinking club called The Hollywood Vampires that was created by Cooper in the early 1970s. The club, which besides Cooper included such rock legends as Elton John, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Keith Moon, Harry Nilsson and Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees, used to meet at the famed Rainbow Bar & Grill on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood. Their main objective was to drink until no one could stand up. Thankfully, Cooper and the other surviving members eventually cleaned up their act and are alive and well today.

Hollywood Vampires just completed a brief Spring Tour, which began in Las Vegas on May 10, and ended last night (Saturday, May 18) at the Fantasy Springs Resort & Casino in Indio, California (30 miles SE of Palm Springs). They were the only act on the bill, so we didn’t have to sit through any opening acts. They appeared on stage around 8:15 pm and played their asses off for nearly two hours, proving that age is only a number (Cooper is 71, Perry 68 and Depp will turn 56 in June). It was nice seeing a band where most of the members are older than me for a change LOL!

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Along with Cooper, Perry and Depp, the other touring band members included Chris Wyse on bass, Tommy Henriksen on rhythm guitar, Buck Johnson on keyboards and Glen Sobel on drums. They’re all seasoned musicians who played as a tight unit, and clearly enjoyed themselves on stage. Their infectious energy easily transferred to the audience.

They played a mix of classic songs and covers, original songs from their 2015 debut album Hollywood Vampires, and five new songs from their forthcoming second album Rise (set for release on June 21st), opening with “I Want My Now” from the new album. They followed with the head-banging “Raise the Dead” from their 2015 album, and now had the audience nicely worked up. Even though I wasn’t familiar with those first two songs, I was really digging them big time!

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Alice Cooper in action

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Joe Perry working his magic

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Is there anything Johnny Depp cannot do?

Cooper was very engaging, and talked with the audience a bit between songs, doing a bit of reminiscing as he introduced some of the old songs. Some of the highlights for me were their covers of the Doors’ “Break on Through (to the other side)”, Aerosmiths’ “Sweet Emotion”, The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” (during which drummer Glen Sobel blew us away with a phenomenal drum solo), and David Bowie’s “Heroes”, in which Johnny Depp did great justice to Bowie’s memory by doing a fantastic job singing lead vocals. He’s really a fine vocalist; I loved his singing in the film musical “Sweeney Todd”, and I think he’s also pretty good at singing rock too.

Here’s a terrific video of the band performing “Heroes” that was shot by Joe Schaeffer, a photographer/videographer who also happened to be at the concert, and has graciously allowed me to include it in this review.

And here’s some footage of the band performing “Baba O’Riley”, showcasing Sobel’s amazing drum solo. I apologize for the poor quality of the sound on my video.

Among the other new songs they performed from Rise was “The Boogieman Surprise” a great, hard-driving track. Here’s the official video of the band performing the song at another show:

The guys kept playing song after song with scarcely a break, finally ending with their cover of Tiny Bradshaw’s “The Train Kept A-Rollin'”, then walked off stage. The crowd applauded wildly and repeatedly yelled “oncore!” To our collective delight, the band returned to finish off with another new song “We Gotta Rise”, and a rousing medley of the crowd-pleasing Cooper classic “School’s Out” and Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall”. It was an awesome show, and we all left happy.

Set List
1.  I Want My Now
2.  Raise the Dead
3.  As Bad As I Am
4.  Five to One / Break On Through (to the Other Side) (The Doors cover)
5.  The Jack (AC/DC cover)
6.  Who’s Laughing Now
7.  The Boogieman Surprise
8.  You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory (Johnny Thunders cover)
9.  My Dead Drunk Friends
10. Baba O’Riley (The Who cover)
11. Sweet Emotion (Aerosmith cover)
12. Heroes (David Bowie cover)
13. Git From Round Me
14. I’m Eighteen (Alice Cooper cover)
15. People Who Died (The Jim Carroll Band cover)
16. The Train Kept A-Rollin’ (Tiny Bradshaw cover)

Encore:
17. We Gotta Rise
18. School’s Out / Another Brick in the Wall

GHOSTLY BEARD – Album Review: “Inward”

I’ve noted in previous posts that one of the things I like about Twitter is the huge amount of new music I’m exposed to from the many musicians and bands who follow me. And in addition to all the terrific music, I’ve also had the pleasure of getting to know some truly kind and generous people who I can call friends. They’ve not only supported me and my blog, they’ve also shown themselves to be strong supporters of other artists. One of those musicians is singer/songwriter Patrick Talbot, who goes by the artistic name Ghostly Beard.

Somewhat of an enigma, Ghostly Beard is originally from France but now calls Montréal, Québec, Canada home. Preferring the focus to be entirely on his music rather than him, he’s chosen to remain physically anonymous, so he never shows his image on any of his albums or social media, nor does he perform live. That said, he’s a creative and talented songwriter and multi-instrumentalist with a lot to tell us, which he expresses so beautifully through his intelligent lyrics, sublime vocals and dreamy, mellow soundscapes that draw from soft rock, jazz, pop, progressive rock and fusion, among other influences. When listening to his music, one can hear his inspiration from such legendary artists and bands as Steely Dan, Pink Floyd, Michael Franks, James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Genesis, XTC, and Weather Report.

Ghostly Beard has been a busy man, recording and releasing lots of music over the past year or so, including his superb album Invisible, which dropped last October (of 2017). More recently, he’s released two new songs that will be featured on his forthcoming album Inward, which is scheduled to drop on May 4th, and the subject of this review. The album contains ten tracks that have more of a soft-rock vibe than the jazzier Invisible, though jazz elements are still well-represented on Inward.

Like all his music, the album is entirely self-produced.  He wrote all the music and lyrics, played all instruments, and recorded, mixed and mastered the songs at his own Studio GB in Montréal. He sang all vocals, other than for guest vocals provided by Emma Caiman on “Night Train” and his daughter Sarah Talbot on “Going Away.” The imaginative album cover photography is courtesy of Pol Ùbeda. Also, it must be noted that all proceeds from album sales will be given to MusiCounts – https://www.musicounts.ca/ – a Canadian charity organization that promotes music education through a wide variety of programs, including scholarships and providing musical instruments and equipment to after-school music programs and other community non-profit organizations.

Inward Album

The album opens with “How Does It Feel?” a laid-back tune with rather pensive lyrics about feeling that your life hasn’t mattered…that your existence has made no impact on the world: “When you’re so invisible what do you do in the title role? And when you know it’s far too late to take your place again in the human race. How does it feel? To be less than real.” The gently strummed and chiming guitars, accentuated by just a hint of reverb, are really pleasing, and the electric guitar riff that begins in the bridge and continues through to the end adds a nice complexity to the track. The languid drumbeat is accompanied by lightly crashing cymbals and a sweet xylophone that’s heard throughout the track. Ghostly Beard’s smooth vocals are warm and comforting, and seem to lessen the sting of the unhappy lyrics.

The warmth of his vocals, a major characteristic of his overall sound, are strongly evident on the bittersweet “The Love in Your Eyes,” an easy-going song dedicated to his mother, Christiane. His words beautifully express his feelings of loss and missing her in a way that everyone who’s lost a loved one can identify with: “Out of the blue I felt your absence. And into my heart an empty place. I reached for your light, I couldn’t find it. What would I give to see you now! And I had to say goodbye when I knew it would be for the last time. However hard I tried I couldn’t see all the love in your eyes anymore.”


In addition to his smooth, comforting vocals, another signature element of Ghostly Beard’s music is his layered, multi-textured guitar work that imparts a rich, fuller sound. His skillful use of strummed acoustic guitar alongside chiming and distorted electric guitars, all grounded by subtle bass lines, are exquisitely showcased on tracks like the Country-tinged “Gone,” the soft-rock ballad “Let Go” and the jazzy “It Doesn’t Matter.”  And his ace guitar playing really shines on the sparkling instrumental track “Autumn Blues,” where his fantastic bluesy guitar work seems to channel Steely Dan.

One of my favorite tracks on the album is “Night Train.” The captivating song tells the story of two unhappy people on a train fantasizing about a chance encounter: “We were strangers on the night train riding in the dark. Going nowhere to speak of, just escaping from the past. / And the tears started falling down. Was it yours or was it mine? / As the train was heading north, I thought of all I’ve left behind. Who knows what crossed your mind when your eyes crossed mine?” The dream is disrupted by a explosive riff of distorted guitars, then the music calms back down to its previous languid pace as reality returns: “Never spoke and never will. It all happened in a dream. During that fleeting moment in the world that passed away. / We leave so little trace but a memory in the dark. Ooh, taking the life train. Ooh, riding the long way home.” I love the instrumentals on this track, and Ghostly Beard’s vocal harmonies with Emma Caiman are marvelous.

Another standout is the darkly beautiful “9 to 5 (Barely Alive).” Nearly eight minutes in length, the influence of Pink Floyd is clearly evident, with extended guitar riffs floating above a somber but lovely piano movement. The track opens and closes with the sounds of voices as if at a gathering, adding to the sense of isolation. Ghostly Beard sounds resigned as he wistfully sings of the soul-crushing tedium of a 9 to 5 job: “9 to 5, you leave your soul behind and drag your worried mind to earn your place back in the line. / You’re barely alive. Just another day to make it through. All you do is give your light away.

Let It Rain” is a pretty but very sad song about being heartbroken over a loved one’s betrayal:  “I’ll never trust another one. I need some time to be sane again. My whole being out of hand. Entire world just turned to sand.” Not wanting to end things on a down note, Ghostly Beard delivers upbeat feels on the bouncy album closer “Going Away.” With assistance from his daughter Sarah on backing vocals, he sings about the thrill of getting away from life’s daily routines and problems, and going off on an adventure filled with possibilities. It’s a fitting closing track to an aptly-titled album filled with beautiful, introspective songs.

Track listing:

1. How Does It Feel?
2. The Love in Your Eyes
3. Gone
4. Autumn Blues
5. Night Train
6. Let Go
7. It Doesn’t Matter
8. 9 to 5 (Barely Alive)
9. Let It Rain
10. Going Away

Connect with Ghostly Beard:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Purchase his existing music or pre-order Inward on iTunes / Bandcamp / Amazon