Friday, September 10, 2010

Michael Fremer Album Review

(new release)
Steve Earle
New West 5022 2 180g LPs
Produced by: Steve Earle
Engineered by: Steve Christensen and Ray Kennedy
Mixed by: Ray Kennedy
Mastered by: Kevin Gray at AcousTech Mastering



Earle Pays Tribute to Townes Van Zandt
by Michael Fremer
September 01, 2010

Steve Earle’s dusty, gritty tribute to his late friend Townes Van Zandt issued last year is about what you can usually expect from “tribute” albums. The two met when Earle was still a kid and Van Zandt was already established.

If you’re interested in Van Zandt you should pick up some of his originals or the vinyl reissues on Fat Possum. If you are an Earle fan you probably would prefer to listen to some of his older albums of original material, though he does pour everything he’s got into this.

I bought Townes on the recommendation of a friend and while the performances are okay, and certainly heartfelt (Earle’s connection to his friend was so deep he named his son, who appears on the album, Justin Townes), it doesn’t seem that Steve Earle brings anything new or useful in his interpretations of Van Zandt’s originals, though some work well.

Backed by a talented group of musicians including Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello and guitarist/mandolinist Tim O’Brien, Earle covers 15 Van Zandt songs, mostly filled with anguish, desperation and a lot of pain, using the backing musicians to fill in more than to bring light.

“Poncho and Lefty,” Van Zandt’s brush mainstream success thanks to being covered by Emmylou Harris and then Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard opens the album and listening to it here makes clear how much its melancholic melodic line resembles Jackson Browne’s bleak “Adam.” Both were originally written and recorded around the same time on albums issued in 1972. Van Zandt’s is about betrayal, Browne’s suicide.

The bluegrass “White Freightliner Blues” notches up the mood but given the songwriter, there’s less about feeling liberated and more about being trapped or used, aging, losing love and other hard scrapple story lines—all told with deeply felt poetry.

The double LP vinyl issue was carefully and expensively produced, including a full-color double gatefold jacket, mastering by Kevin Gray at AcousTech and pressing on 180g RTI vinyl.

Unfortunately none of that can compensate for what sounds like a Pro-Tools recording. If I’m wrong and it was analog, I’ll eat a SmartPhone. Even if Gray had a high-resolution file from which to work, Pro-Tools sonic fingerprints are all over this: it’s dark, dark, dark. The sound is congealed and transients are soft and at the same time have a gritty edge. What a combination!

It sounds as if you’re listening through a foam barrier or you’ve accidentally left your earplugs in after returning from a live concert. Mind you, it’s better than bright, edgy and crispy, but you’ll find yourself turning up the volume to extract more life from the recording and none will materialize.

Thanks to Michael over at  for the exclusive rights to reprint this material.

Copyright © 2008 & Michael Fremer - All rights reserved Reprinted by Permission



2010 will go down as the year that we lost one of hard rock/heavy metal’s all-time great vocalists, Ronnie James Dio (after a valiant battle with cancer). Throughout a career that saw Ronnie pen or co-pen classics with such legendary acts as Elf, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Heaven & Hell, and with his solo group, Dio, there are simply not enough words to describe the singer’s contribution to rock music worldwide. And to celebrate the life of the man that has become synonymous with metal, several new releases will soon be arriving, that are certain to please Dio’s large and loyal fanbase.

On November 9th, the double disc set, ‘Dio at Donington UK: Live 1983 & 1987′ will be released. The first disc was recorded at the first-ever UK performance by Dio’s solo group, while on tour supporting their classic debut, ‘Holy Diver.’ And the set-list does a superb job reflecting Dio’s debut (featuring such classics as “Rainbow in the Dark,” “Stand Up And Shout,” etc.), as well as classics from both Rainbow and Black Sabbath (“Man on the Silver Mountain,” “Heaven and Hell,” etc.) – resulting in a thoroughretrospective of Dio’s career, from Rainbow to Black Sabbath to solo hits.

The second disc of ‘Dio at Donington UK: Live 1983 & 1987′ features guitarist Craig Goldy’s debut – recorded in 1987, in support of the ‘Dream Evil’ album, and contains highlights from Dio’s career. ‘Dio at Donington UK: Live 1983 & 1987′ will be the very first release from the Niji Entertainment Group (which was formed by Ronnie James Dio and his wife/manager, Wendy Dio, in early 2010). The set will be released as a deluxe digipak including a booklet filled with rare photographs and liner notes, and original replica all access laminates from both shows.

Ronnie was the executive producer on the Donington project, and was very much looking forward to the release. The Niji Entertainment Group is a full service record label, and will be releasing rare and unreleased recordings from Dio and other artists.

November 23rd will see two additional releases from the Niji Entertainment Group – a deluxe limited edition picture disc of Dio’s classic solo debut, ‘Holy Diver,’ and ‘Bitten By The Beast’ from David “Rock” Feinstein. “Rock” is Ronnie’s cousin, and was a member of Elf, and the leader of the legendary NY band The Rods. ‘Bitten By The Beast,’ features the single “Metal Will Never Die,” with lead vocals by Ronnie James Dio. This single will be heavily worked to active rock and metal radio this fall.

In 2011, the Niji Entertainment Group has many other Dio-related projects planned, including an extensive vinyl box set (an idea that Ronnie himself came up with), ‘For The Record: The Complete Dio Vinyl Collection,’ which will feature 16 LP’s in a deluxe carrying case, with “all access tour laminates” from every tour. All of the LP’s will be on 180 gram colored vinyl. Also, being released for the first time on DVD will be ‘Super Rock Japan 1985′ (which was only ever released in Japan on VHS). Another forthcoming DVD release will be a collection of every Dio MTV promotional video, plus live concert footage including bonus features, including interviews with Ronnie, his band, and crew.

A Dio bootleg box set is on the horizon as well, featuring never-before-released sound board recordings and audience recordings. Other releases from the Niji Entertainment Group in 2011 will include all four Rainbow Dio-era LP’s in their original gatefold sleeves on 180 gram colored vinyl, and all three Elf LP’s will be issued on 180 gram colored vinyl. 2011 will also see deluxe reissues from Tim “Ripper” Owens, a fantastic new CD from Oni Logan (Lynch Mob vocalist), and Rowan Robertson (Dio guitarist), as well as live Elf.

Between Facebook, Myspace and Twitter, the Dio social media followers now numbers over one million. The Niji Entertainment Group is in the process of starting the official Dio webstore, which will give fans worldwide opportunity to purchase t-shirts, limited edition items, and CD’s/DVD’s that fans have been requesting.

While Ronnie was alive, he always wanted to have his own action figure/statue.

And now, this has become a reality – KnuckleBonz has created the Ronnie James Dio rock iconz statue, which will be available in late fall 2010.

These statues are only produced in limited edition runs of 3000, which make them highly collectible and sought after from fans. A portion from the sales of the Dio statue will go to the Stand Up And Shout Cancer Fund, in honor of Ronnie James Dio. Preorders available by visiting

For more information, please visit:

This Date In Music History - September 10


Artie Tripp - Mothers Of Invention (1939)

Jose Feliciano (1945)

Danny Hutton - Three Dog Night (1946)

Barrie Barlow - Jethro Tull (1949)

Don Powell - Slade (1950)

Joe Perry - Aerosmith (1950)

Peter Tolson - Pretty Things (1951)

Pat Mastelotto - Mr Mister (1955)

Johnnie 'Fingers' Moylett - Boomtown Rats (1956)

Siobhan Fahey - Bananarama, Shakespeare's Sister (1957)

David Lowery - Cracker, Camper Van Beethoven (1960)

Miles Zuniga - Fastball (1966)

Robin Goodridge - Bush (1966)

Mikey Way - My Chemical Romance (1980)

Matthew Followill - Kings of Leon (1984)

They Are Missed:

Music journalist Ray Coleman died of cancer in 1996. Coleman had worked with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones and had been the editor of the UK music weekly Melody Maker throughout the heyday of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, into the era of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.

Born on this day in 1898, Waldo Semon, invented vinyl in 1926, which was used to make LP and 45 records. Died on May 26, 1998 (age 100).


In 1956, record stores were swamped with requests for Elvis' "Love Me Tender" which had not been released yet.

The BBC banned Bobby 'Boris' Pickett and the Crypt Kickers single "Monster Mash" in 1962 saying it was offensive. However, the single went on to be a UK #3 hit in 1973.

During a chance meeting in 1963 between The Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney and John Lennon at Studio 51 Jazz Club in London, the two played the Stones a partly finished song "I Wanna Be Your Man," which the Stones later recorded.

The Daily Mirror published a two-page article about The Beatles in 1963. Written by Donald Zec, the feature is entitled ‘Four Frenzied Little Lord Fauntleroys Who Are Earning 5,000 Pounds A Week’ Zec, who had attended a Beatles concert in Luton on Sept. 6 and then invited them to his home to complete the interview, referred to The Beatles' haircuts as ‘A stone-age hair style’. The article provided a major boost to their career.

The Kinks third single "You Really Got Me," was at #1 on the UK singles chart in 1964. Amazingly, future Led Zeppelin founder and guitarist Jimmy Page played tambourine on the track.

Rod Stewart recorded his first single, a version of Willie Dixon's "Good Morning Little School Girl." And even more amazing - future Led Zeppelin bass player John Paul Jones played on the session.

The Byrds began recording "Turn! Turn! Turn!" in 1965. Unlike their first hit, "Mr. Tambourine Man," members of the group itself were permitted to play instead of session musicians.

The Beatles started a six-week run at #1 on the US album chart in 1966 with 'Revolver,' the group's ninth US chart topper and considered by some to be their best effort (me included).

The Supremes started a two week run at #1 on the US singles chart in 1966 with "You Can't Hurry Love," the group's sixth US #1 (it made #3 in the UK).

The Rolling Stones appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in 1966.

"The Last Train to Clarksville" was released by the Monkees in 1966.

Elvis Presley recorded ‘Guitar Man’ at RCA studio, Nashville, Tennessee in 1967.

In 1973, the BBC banned The Rolling Stones single "Star Star," from their Goat's Head Soup album because it contained the word "Star-fucker" in the chorus a dozen times.

The New York Dolls spit up in 1974. The influential American band formed in 1972 and made just two albums, the 1973 'New York Dolls' and 1974 'Too Much Too Soon'.

"Alive" was released by KISS in 1975. The album contained live performances from KISS' first three albums.

In 1979, Pattie Smith announced that she was performing her last show in front of 85,000 people in Florence, Italy. Thankfully, she returned to performing a decade later.

"She's So Cold" by the Rolling Stones was released in 1980.

Former Stevie Wonder guitarist Michael Sembello, started a two week run at #1 on the US singles chart in 1983 with "Maniac." The track was featured in the film 'Flashdance'.'

Guns N' Roses started a two week run at #1 on the US singles chart in 1988 with "Sweet Child O' Mine," the group's first US #1 hit.

Nirvana’s single "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was released in the US in 1991.

The Garth Brooks album "Ropin' the Wind" was released in 1991.

In 1992, Howard Stern appeared as Fartman on the MTV Video Music Awards.

In 1996, Wal-Mart banned Sheryl Crow's 2nd album because of the song "Love is A Good Thing." Really?

In 1997, an electric chair, which was used in Alcatraz and once owned by Andy Warhol, sold for over $7,000 at an auction in Bristol. Warhol used to sit in the chair and watch horror movies.

Paul McCartney made headline news in 1999 after being seen at a New York City party minus one of his front teeth after a crown broke off when he was eating. He'd lost the tooth in a motorcycle accident in 1967. And this made headline news?

In 2005, Green Day, U2, Linkin Park's Chester Bennington, Audioslave, 3 Doors Down, Staind, Kid Rock, Mötley Crüe, Dave Matthews Band and Nine Inch Nails (fronted by former New Orleans resident Trent Reznor) performed at ReAct Now: Music & Relief, for victims of Hurricane Katrina. The massively destructive hurricane rolled through New Orleans. The program airs live on MTV, MTV2, VH1, VH1 Classic and CMT. Viewers call-in donations to the American Red Cross and other relief organizations. "To see a place you have spent a good portion of your life in destroyed is overwhelming," writes Reznor. His performance of "Hurt" and Red Hot Chili Peppers' acoustic rendition of "Under the Bridge" are among the show's highlights.

In 2005, the 1967 Beatles track "A Day In The Life" from Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was voted the best British song of all time by music experts. The survey by Q magazine called the track "the ultimate sonic rendition of what it means to be British." The Kinks' song "Waterloo Sunset" came second in the poll and "Wonderwall" by Oasis was voted in third place.

An animated version of Metallica appeared on The Simpsons in 2006, as the comedy kicks off its 18th season. James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett and Robert Trujillo recorded their lines the previous year.

Linkin Park assist Friends & Helpers, a New Orleans charity, in handing out school supplies to needy students in 2006. Band members spend three days distributing goods to schools that were severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

Scissor Sisters were at #1 on the UK singles chart in 2006 with "I Don't Feel Like Dancin," the American's band first UK #1. The song was co-written with Elton John, who also played piano on the song.

In 2007, Pamela Anderson's ex-husband Kid Rock was involved in an alleged assault on drummer Tommy Lee, (who was also married to the actress up until 1998). Police interviewed witnesses to a tussle involving the pair at the MTV Music Video Awards in Las Vegas. Lee was removed from the ceremony while Rock, was allowed to stay.

A special tribute to Ozzy Osbourne launched the second annual Sunset Strip Music Festival in West Hollywood, CA in 2009. The singer is honored for his influence on the Strip's music scene. KoRn performs during the three-day event. "We intend on making it something fans remember for a long time," says KoRn frontman Jonathan Davis prior to the band’s performance.