Gary’s Nineteen Nineties

Still in a most list-ful mood, but this round-up certainly wasn’t a very easy one to compile, I’ll have everyone know. The pickin’s were extremely, uh, thin, to say the very least.

Nevertheless (or should I say Nevermind)…..

Number One: Mark Johnson12 in a room (1992)
Powerful pop most firmly rooted within the Brill Building anteroom.

Two: CowsillsGlobal (1998)
America’s once-and-forever First Family of Song leave no Partridge unspurned.

Three: Brian WilsonSweet Insanity (1991)
Just to make sure the Nineties weren’t ALL Pet Sounds re-issues.

Four: Dave Rave GroupValentino’s Pirates (1992)
Wherein the former Soviet Union signs its first Western act, then promptly dissolves.

Five: Johnny CashAmerican Recordings (1994)
Rick Rubin produces a Johnny we thought only Sam Phillips could.

Six: Tiny TimRock (1993)
Includes possibly definitive readings of “Eve of Destructionâ€Â and “Rebel Yell,â€Â I kid you not.

Seven: PuffyJet CD (1998)
Oh-so-effortlessly crosses ABBA, Sabbath, and Who’s Next …and all by way of Jellyfish.

Eight: MonkeesJustus (1996)
Those Prefabs go out on a very high note (which, I’ll have you know, they played ALL BY THEMSELVES).

Nine: Shane FaubertSan Blass (1993)
Former head Cheepskate most definitely goes for baroque.

Ten: NRBQYou Gotta Be Loose (1998)
Proof very positive: The greatest live r-n-r band In The World.

Eleven: EvaporatorsI Gotta Rash (1998)
Before Ali G, Baba Booey, and most definitely Tenacious D.

Twelve: Neil YoungArc (1991)
Truly too cool – not to mention loud – for (many) words.

Thirteen: Go-NutsThe World’s Greatest Super Hero Snak Rock And Gorilla Entertainment Revue (1997)
For once, the title says it all.

Fourteen: High LlamasGideon Gaye (1994)
More than filling that cavernous sonic gap between SMiLE and the XTC reunion.

Fifteen: Blue ShadowsLucky To Me (1995)
Hank Williams visits The Cavern by way of Big Pink.

Sixteen: Mojo NixonGadzooks!!! (1997)
Includes “Bring Me The Head of David Geffenâ€Â …and then some.

Seventeen: James Richard Oliver
The Mud, The Blood and The Beer
alt. Country with a capital “Oh!â€Â

Eighteen: Chesterfield Kings
Surfin’ Rampage
Upstate New York’s finest give their Stones cloning a rest whilst hanging all ten.

Nineteen: JandekTwelfth Apostle (1993)
So many Jandek albums; so little space.


   Those sorrowfully not as fully aware as they certainly should be now of those two most undersung American musical heroes known still as Rick Harper and Tom Staley at last have one fabulous chance to meet them both, right there squarely together again for the next time, on this single great CD from our friends over at HiVariety Recordings.


 1.  INSIDE OUT…..NRBQ head headstrong crosstown atop the (Guess Who?) “Bus Rider.”

 2.  RHINO IN THE ROOM…..startlingly, so subtly so very very R. Harperesque.

 3.  TIME BOMB…..sets every single one’a Jerry Reed’s kissful cousins straight off.

 4.  A THING CALLED LOVE…..Byrds, Buddy, Burritos even Beat big-time!

 5.  THE CANYON IN THE HEART…..If Chris Isaak’s dogs ran free…

 6.  BRAND NEW DAY… absolutely pitch ‘n’ picture-perfect three-minutes-forty-eight.

 7.  ONLY TO LOSE YOU…..the more we hear, the more we know.

 8.  WALKIE TALKIE ROAD…..taken wordlessly towards Papa Nez’s true magnetic southlands.

 9.  MR. SUIT…..and there’s two L’s in Halliburton, just remember… (he’s so heavy)      

10.  EVERY TRICK IN THE BOOK…..Magic City music !!

11.  WE NEED LOVE…..if they only knew…

12.  WAITING…..trippin’ round the good day sun.

13.  CALLING YOUR NAME…..while your song gently fades…


Despite an unfortunate one day delay we will now return to the topic at hand: NRBQ.
For those who did not follow my helpful and life-changing instructions to check out some NRBQ over the weekend, I will describe them the best way I can. Imagine interstellar jazz traveller Sun Ra fronting a rock band and you will get an idea (albeit small and one-dimensional)about NRBQ. Not only does the band play some of the catchiest bar-band rock around, the band can immediately stop on a dime and play humourous ditties or songs just so crazy and “out” that it almost turns you off of the band and makes you decide to not listen to them anymore. Then, almost magically, the band will play something so tuneful and McCartney-like as to make you wonder why they are not all over the radio. It is this dichotomy that has both endeared the band to its’ many, many fans and also kept the band out of the mainstream.
You will often find two camps of NRBQ fans: ones who like the band better in it’s most popular incarnation when guitarist/songwriter/ex-Wildweed Al Anderson was still in the band (there were a few other guitarists before Big Al – he didn’t join until 1974) and those who like his replacement, Johnny Spampinato, Joey’s brother, who took over in 1994. Being a talented songwriter (besides being a demon on guitar)Anderson had to always know he could write hits. Even while being criminally ignored by the general public while being in the ‘Q – his songs were often covered by other country and rock artists. Nashville eventually called Anderson and he jumped ship, leaving the lead guitar spot open. Luckily Johnny shares the same genetic musical genius as his bassist/songwriter/singer brother Joey and he easily slid into the replacement slot and has also found his songwriting legs with the band as well, contributing one of their best latter-day songs, Be Here Now.
There is much argument over which album is the band’s best. They’ve recorded over twenty albums and about half of those are live documents, building them a following today that is populated by many jam-band fans who are attracted to the band’s willingness to experiment onstage and their formidable improvisational abilities. Since I prefer studio albums to live ones (which I feel never quite fully captue a band’s true sound and the total live experience)I find the albums most talked about are At Yankee Stadium, Grooves In Orbit and Wild Weekend.
At Yankee Stadium (1977) is a classic by anyone’s standards, containing most of the songs people associate with NRBQ. The songs Ridin’ In My Car, Green Light, and Me and The Boys are on this CD and it is, in a word, great. Every song is killer and pop bands like Cheap Trick and the Cars would dream of releasing this CD.
Wild Weekend (1989) is probably their best late period album, and the last album for which they were signed to a major label deal. They got a lot of press for this CD and it’s lack of commercial success despite the ‘Q reigning in most of the crazy side of their personality, sealed their fate as an underground band forever. There were a lot of potential hits on this that would have sounded great on the radio. It’s too bad radio sucks.
My personal fave is Grooves in Orbit, which came out in 1982. Not only does it have the killer song Rain At The Drive In but, to me, the album has the best selection of classic NRBQ songs than any other CD they did. This CD delivers on the promise that At Yankee Stadium suggested and, for the most part, the band was never this good on album again. The love songs are tender and meaningful and the rockers rock like hell.
You can probably tell that I can’t say enough about this marvelous band. While this is a just a small smattering of info, I hope it is enough to get you a little psyched about trying a few of the band’s CDs. All are worth the money because there’s not a bad one in the bunch. Some are better than others but all of them have some gems on them.
Are you new to the ‘Q?

The Music Nerd Knows……


Not too much time to write today, unfortunately, so I will probably revisit the topic of NRBQ sometime in the near future. In fact, how about Monday? Right now, I just wanted to hip you to the band if you hadn’t heard of them.

Begun in 1967 and continuing to this day, the band originally known as the New Rythym and Blues Quartet keeps on rocking, putting out great albums on small labels that redefine the term bar-band rock and roll.

For the unitiated, the band has made its’ name being the most versatile musical unit ever created. Through the years the band has backed everyone from Carl Perkins to Skeeter Davis to wrestling legend Lou Albano (that’s right), Chuck Berry, Johnnie Johnson and just about everyone in between.

Rock legends such as Keith Richards, Paul McCartney and countless others constantly sing their praises and most record some of their songs as well. Blessed with three great song-writers, the band is never short of clever pop songs as well as obtuse, “out” songs most of the band’s fans come to adore more than the sing-along rockers.

The band has put out a ton of records on a ton of labels, most of which are still in print, believe it or not. That alone speaks volumes for the love people have for this semi-underground band.

Your homework for the weekend: go to your local CD hut and find an NRBQ CD or record. It will be well worth your money and will prime you for my next blog, which will be a more detailed discussion of the band and it’s best recordings.

The Music Nerd knows…….