New Peter Wolf album; Throwback video

peterwolfIt’s criminal, you know, that the J. Geils Band is not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  And it matters for one selfish reason: there is a credibility bump that translates to dollars available on the road. Simply put, you get in, your career gets better.

So selfishly – and correctly, I might add – the Boston band needs to get in.  They need to earn a spot for one main reason: so they will continue to play live as a band, and more fans (like me) can see Peter Wolf and the band blaze through the rock and blues and soul revue that they do so well.

Wolf, meanwhile, rolls right on along, all 135 pounds of him.  The 70 year-old singer, who has reunited with the Geils boys as recently as last year for the opening slot on the Bob Seger tour, has his own band, and they are set to hit the road for a tour. On April 8, Wolf released A Cure For Loneliness,  a followup to 2010s Midnight Souvenirs.  While the previous album leaned on a rootsy, country-ish Memphis groove, the new record is a soul album, lashed with country, with the always-present Boston R&B.  Plus, there is a reworked cover take on the J. Geils hit “Love Stinks”, tipped musically to bluegrass.

A couple links follow, one for the first single “Wastin’ Time”, one of the two or three best songs on the record, The second link is to a brilliant and unseen-outside-of-Boston PSA for the Boston library.  It is a bit of subversive video work before it was cool for libraries and NPR to play things a bit more hip.  Plus, a nice job of keeping the acting straight from the “Woofa Goofa”.

ADDENDUM: I got into a discussion at a music club one night with a friend, and we ended up trying to rank the top 5 rock and roll frontmen of all time. (Not the singer/songwriter Springsteen/Prince/Sly  Stone model – frontmen, you see,  can’t be known for playing instruments.  They sing.  They play some tambourine). I said Peter Wolf belongs on that top 5 list.  May have even said he was top 3.  We were drinking. I probably mentioned that if you really think about it, Wolf may be the most underrated frontman of all rock and roll time.  I think we agreed on Jagger at the top, and then it got murky real quick.  Freddie Mercury? Steven Tyler?  Eddie Vedder?  Roger Daltrey?  Paul Rodgers? Jim Morrison? Elvis?




Indiana Album Review: Pete Calacci – “Other Side”

Peter-CalaccialbumAbout halfway into his album Other Side, the debut effort from Indiana singer/songwriter and guitarist Pete Calacci, there’s a song called “Headed for the Stars.”

The cut is a big, fat, radio-friendly and familiar-sounding original piece of rock and roll – – effectively channeling a Tom Sholz-like guitar and the sound of late ’70s-era Boston. Who would have guessed this sonic homage to a nearly 40-year-old self-recorded iconic rock album would come out of Indiana?

Other Side‘s soundscape is both a product of how Calacci – – a carpenter who works at the BP Refinery in Whiting during the day – – recorded the album and played a lengthy musical stint in an Indianapolis cover band. This solo work was created in his apartment, and he played all the instruments – – other than a couple background vocals and a keyboard – – and mixed it himself.

Far from a lo-fi, sounds-like-he-used-a-boombox effort, the record is clean and loud and full of hooks and riffs that surface by surprise.

I hear Paul McCartney and Wings, some Beach Boys and Beatles harmonies. The pop of Matthew Sweet and Marshall Crenshaw. I hear The Band. I like what I hear. And this record sounds good loud.

Calacci spent his early twenties living on the Southside of Indy, playing in a band called Stage One at clubs like The Backstage, Bentley’s and The Vogue, so he came by his ’70s and ’80s influences honestly.

The Other Side is an album whose music hits harder than the lyrics, and Calacci uses his guitar to give the heart of the record a loud, electric, amped-up sound that never really goes away.

The opening “Cold Hearted Woman” rocks like The Cars and Matthew Sweet – – a power pop confection that enters into Tom Petty‘s neighborhood. But the record never strays far from its essence – – a full-on, “let’s-rock” guitar album.

Pete+Calacci+inside+leftCalacci’s voice sits just atop the guitar on most songs, aching and arching just enough to allow genuine and welcome cracks as he both reaches during the rockers and guides the ballads. An acoustic guitar and his own harmony (and double-tracked) vocals give the punchy electric guitar a pairing to nicely enable a marriage of power chords with ragged vocal sweetness.

“Secret” has an underlying gentleness swathed in a pair of pop/rock dueling guitars.

“Fear” echoes a soaring “Behind Blue Eyes” – era The Who.

Calacci’s acoustic duo bandmate Kelly Skaggs sings on “Carpe Diem” and “Want Me Too.”

This is an album that demands its loudness. Think about driving down the road in an old Buick Skylark with the cassette player turned up as loud as the damn Sparkomatic would go. That’s the sound of this album, guided by Calacci’s electric guitar playing, and his ability to create one of the fullest, play-it-loud rock albums of the new year – – by himself.

Hear “Headed for the Stars”

Gentlemen Hall: Midwest electro-pop from some Boston boys

Upon bestowing the “Best New Band” award in 2010 to Gentleman Hall, the Boston Phoenix wrote that “These songs sizzle and pop with resuscitated beats, bass lines and laser-booty synths that argue the last 20 years should be stricken from the record.”

The band that came back to Indianapolis for the WZPL Jingle Jam with Matt Nathenson and Christina Perri on December 3 at the Egyptian Room, is touring behind their new record When We All Disappear, and effectively mixing retro grooves with pop radio friendly production. Sort of like OK Go, without all the stunt videos.

Meeting at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, the gang of synth-pop rockers has crafted tunes that recall the ’80s – maybe a little Controversy-era Prince-and thump with an electronic backbeat that melds club-happy bottom end with a familiar grooves. Nuevo Duran Duran? Cars for the newbies? Some hidden Hall and Oates influence from their last big record (Big Bam Boom)? All of that.

I wanted to know more about the band, so I talked with singer/guitarist Gavin McDevitt, who had flute player Seth Hachen (from Indiana, by the way) at his side, helping with the answers.

ROB: There’s distinct ’80s flavor to what you do. Talk about where your sound comes from.
Gavin: We were never as big into the ’80s musically as we are into the ’80s as far as gear and instrumentation. A lot of our sound comes from a vintage analog synthesizer called the Juno 106 which was most prevalent in the 80s. But we try to keep as modern of an approach as possible!

ROB: Any influences from your city that you hear in your music. I hear the Cars…
G: We are a Boston band with deep roots in the Midwest. We believe all the great music being made in Boston creates strong vibrations and energy that go directly into our music. The current Boston music scene is amazing. We feel like this scene is something similar to the Seattle grunge scene in the ’90s. Bands are very supportive of each other, but are writing very unique music that is very now.

ROB: What has been the track of your career? Openers? Clubs? Writing more than playing? What has worked for you?
G: We definitely weigh all as equal. As many irons in the fire as possible, man! Although we do really believe a band will be remembered 100 years from now for one thing… The song. We write a lot. LOT.

ROB: You’ve played with some long-active bands and at some larger venues. Any moments that have seemed like a nice turning point for your progress?
G: It seems like in today’s day and age, it’s simply all about making real fans one at a time. The momentum has been building but there has been no “break,” if that makes sense. A lot of exposure may have given you a big record deal in the past, but today we just try to make fans and not be forgotten.

ROB: Ever been to Indianapolis?
G: Indianapolis is one of our fondest memories as a band. We opened for Muse at the Verizon Center. This was probably the most fans we’ve made at one show. Sold out of CDs and T’s. And Muse put on one of the best shows we’ve seen in a long time.

ROB: Anyone in the band have Midwest roots?
G: We wear our [Midwestern influence] with pride. Two of us are from Cleveland, one from Minneapolis, one (Seth) is a South Bender, not too far from you.

ROB: Anything I missed that you want to add? Shameless plugs or smart-ass remarks?
G: Big shout out to Boston’s beloved model @LoVeSeXnGIA. She is a taste maker in the city and we are lucky to be shooting our music video for the single “Gravity Will Break Our Bones” with her in a key role.

Our most popular post? Who would have guessed the J. Geils video…

As of this week, the Rockforward Music blog has posted 308 times since we started watching all things roots-rock back in mid-2009.  I’ve written and posted video about Indiana music, and bits from a more national perspective, that are either interesting to me, a bit odd, or maybe just some damn good, goosebump-inducing rock and roll that’s worth spending four minutes of your day on.

There ‘s been weeks when it has been all great rock video posts from YouTube.  There’s been weeks when I have posted my diatribe on the uselessness/irrelevence of MySpace.  Some weeks find me writing every day, some weeks produce one (though high-quality and award-winning) post.

And since we started, there have been two posts that reign as the most popular, day-after-day, stretching for months at a time.  Their daily traffic many times surpasses the roots-rock news updates, the concert previews, the album reviews, the show reviews and even the the behind-the-scenes peeks at the sleazy underbelly of rock music that get passed to you, the reader.

One of these two popular posts (I will write about the other next week) has been a ten-minute, three-song live video featuring the legendary R&B/rock stylings of the J.Geils Band, recorded with one camera, close to the Fenway Park stage as the band opened for Aerosmith in August, 2010. 

Why this video?  My guess? 

I don’t really know.  In the big rock picture, J. Geils is, for right or wrong, not a huge band (and still waiting to get into the R&R Hall of Fame), though they picked up a second generation of fans with the “Centerfold”/”Freeze Frame” punch. It is a pretty clean side-stage shot, though only slightly above-average sound.  A big, unique setup at an old baseball park, so that is intersting.  The bill is shared with Aerosmith.  It is a vintage, interesting, from-the-soul performance.   It is all those things.  But why this more traffic-worthy than of the other 307 entries, many of which took a whole lot more time to write than putting the one video on the blog. 

Truthfully? I have no fuckin’ idea. 

But I like it.

Peter Wolf at Fenway Park (photo: Boston Globe/click photo to read their review)

And the nicely trashy rumor at the show was that J. Geils singer Peter Wolf got into a heated argument with Aerosmith front dude Steven Tyler before the show after Wolf was told he couldn’t take his moves and romps onto the ramp that stretched into the crowd – only Tyler was going to be doing that.

Watch the video: Wolf uses the ramp.