Book Review: Deanna M. Lehman, “Kinderwhore”

Let’s begin by making clear a disclaimer:  this is not an easy book, by any means.  Deanna M. Lehman’s Kinderwhore is one of the most harrowing things I’ve ever read, filled with a litany of real-life horrors that it makes your toes curl. It’s also one of the best, most powerful things I’ve read in many years – and the staggered facts are that this is from a first-time author and it is her own story.

I couldn’t put it down from the moment I began and finished it within 2 1/2 hours because I sat there, completely drawn in and wanting to know what happened next, always hoping for a better turn in the following chapter.  Although this is an autobiography, it’s also a highly graphic and visual series of snapshots and Ms. Lehman’s skill in melding the two is one of her underlying talents. While, if I’m being honest, I wish she didn’t have to write it, Kinderwhore is an emotionally gripping piece of work; riveting and yet, done without the slightest trace of victimization (considering the horrific nature of her experiences).  The events of her life are reported beautifully and eloquently in a matter-of-fact manner and it is to her credit that she is able to frame her story in such a way that it makes it have more impact; more punch.  I want it to be very clear:  this is a graphic tale of child abuse – physical, psychological and sexual; it shows a deeply flawed (so-called) child protection system and brings up intense emotions while reading – it’s impossible.

Ms. Lehman tells her story from birth to age 16; this is the first of a series and already we know she is a survivor.  If the next segment is anything like this one, I’m not sure how I will feel afterwards, as I’m guessing it will twist my emotions again.  That’s either a curse or a gift, but Deanna Lehman certainly knows the power of her words and Kinderwhore is a stunner of a debut.


Soul Serenade: The Holy Trinity of Soul (Isaac Hayes Vinyl Reissues)

Isaac Hayes began his career as a session musician. He was called on to sub for Booker T. Jones when Jones was at school, studying for his music degree at Indiana University. There were occasions, however, when both keyboard players appeared on the same record. Obviously, Hayes’ talent as a keyboard player was acknowledged by Stax management but I wonder if anyone knew at the time that one day he would be the savior, at least temporarily, of the company that he was playing occasional piano for.

For Hayes, there was a step in between his role as a session keyboard player and his ascent to the heights as a solo star. Before he made his own records he wrote hit songs for other artists, notably Sam & Dave. Teaming with David Porter, the pair penned smashes like “You Don’t Know Like I Know,” “Soul Man,” “When Something Is Wrong with My Baby,” and “Hold On, I’m Comin’.” Hayes and Porter also produced records by Sam & Dave, Carla Thomas, and other Stax artists.

By 1969, Otis Redding, the biggest star on the Stax roster, had been killed in a plane crash. Shortly after that, the label lost all of its master recordings when Atlantic was sold to Warner Bros.-Seven Arts and the distribution contract between Stax and Atlantic was terminated. According to the terms of that contract, if that contract was terminated the Stax master recordings would belong to Atlantic, now part of Warner Bros. Stax was left with nothing to sell and needed fresh product immediately.

Isaac Hayes - Hot Buttered Soul

Al Bell was an executive vice president at Stax at the time but in reality, he was running the show by then. He issued a call for a mind-boggling 27 new albums to be released by the label in 1969. The most successful of these new albums was Hot Buttered Soul, the second solo album (the first one hadn’t gotten much attention) by Isaac Hayes. Hot Buttered Soul featured a stunning cover photo and extended versions of songs like Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “Walk on By” (12:03) and Jimmy Webb’s “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” (18:42). The album topped the R&B chart and rose to #8 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Hayes’ success continued with subsequent album releases The Isaac Hayes Movement (#1 R&B, #1 Jazz, #8 pop) and …To Be Continued (#1 R&B, #1 Jazz, #11 pop). In 1971 Hayes wrote music for the blaxploitation film Shaft. If anything, his wah-wah (played by the late Skip Pitts) driven title song surpassed the film itself in terms of success. The single was #1 for two weeks on the Billboard pop chart. The other two vocal tracks on the album, “Soulsville” and “Do Your Thing” also became hit singles. “Theme from Shaft” won Hayes an Oscar for Best Original Song. He was also nominated by the Academy that year for Best Original Dramatic Score.

Hayes wasn’t done by a long shot, however. Later in 1971, he released a double album called Black Moses. The big hit single from that album was the Hayes take on the Jackson 5’s “Never Can Say Goodbye.” The album also included unique Hayes versions of Bacharach-David songs “(They Long to Be) Close to You” which had been a hit for the Carpenters, and “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again,” originally a hit for Dionne Warwick. The Friends of Distinction (“Going in Circles”) and Johnny Taylor (“Part Time Love”) were also covered. Hayes considered Black Moses to be his most personal album.

The three Hayes albums, Hot Buttered Soul, Shaft, and Black Moses, became known in some quarters as the “Holy Trinity of Soul.” It has been a long time since any of the three have been available on vinyl. A few weeks ago Craft Recordings released remastered (from the original analog tapes) versions of all three of the classic albums on 180-gram vinyl. The producers have faithfully reproduced the covers and all of the original artwork for the albums and the Black Moses album even includes the cross-shaped fold out that became legendary.

Purchase links:

Hot Buttered Soul 


Black Moses

The videos below feature remastering engineer Dave Cooley discussing his work on the project and Isaac Hayes III and Cooley discussing the legacy of Isaac Hayes.

Radio City With Jon Grayson & Rob Ross: Episode Fifty Four

Radio City With Jon Grayson & Rob Ross:  Episode Fifty Four

With the widening audience/following behind Radio City, the topics expand and there’s no shortage in conversation on this latest edition between Jon and Rob. HOWEVER…  it should be noted – the original taping of Episode 54 was lost for the ages, due the so-called infallibility of technology.  In a word, the recording equipment fucked us but good, so now, the show is, indeed, current (we record a week in advance; what would have been 55 is now 54 by default).
Nonetheless, there’s a plethora to digest here, including the NRA finally finding companies that say no as the Georgia governor tries to screw Delta Airlines; the Olympics are over, while Rob discusses the NHL trade deadline insanity; the self-righteous bullshit of the Oscars; Trump vs. Baldwin – are you 7?; Lisa Said’s new band, Piramid Scheme – video on Popdose; E.P. coming soon plus “In Our Heads” and STILL so much more
This is it – your one-stop shopping to keep fully apprised on what’s going on around you on both sides of the fence.  Brought to you, free of charge and out of the goodness of their hearts…

Radio City With Jon Grayson & Rob Ross: Episode Fifty Four (like Studio 54 – all the depravity; just none of the cocaine…)

The podcast will be on the site as well as for subscription via iTunes and other podcast aggregators. Subscribe and let people know about Radio City, as well as Popdose’s other great podcasts David Medsker’s Dizzy Heights and In:Sound with Michael Parr and Zack Stiegler.

Album Review: Jeffrey Gaines, “Alright”

Jeffrey Gaines is a name you should be familiar with because he’s been putting out thoughtful, soul-clenching, highly personal and rewarding music for over 25 years.  Alright is his first album is 15 years (!) and it’s a corker.  Recorded in Los Angeles with producer/multi-instrumentalist Chris Price (whose production resume includes acclaimed recent comeback efforts by Emitt Rhodes and Linda Perhacs, as well as his own widely celebrated second solo effort, Stop Talking), Alright features an all-star studio band consisting of guitarist Val McCallum (Jackson Browne, Sheryl Crow, Lucinda Williams), bassist Davey Faragher (Elvis Costello, Cracker, John Hiatt), and drummer Pete Thomas (Elvis Costello, Squeeze, Elliott Smith), who also record on their own as Jackshit.

“The whole experience of making this album was just a joy from beginning to end,” Gaines asserts. “We didn’t have a lot of time, so there was no fooling around. We just went in and knocked it out. Everybody played great, so it was an inspiring situation. The musicians have similar influences to me, so we were all on the same page, and I picked the songs I thought would suit this group of musicians. It was cool to have a structure, but at the same time it was also loose and organic.”

Alright’s title, Gaines explains, is a reflection of the mood in the studio during recording. “It’s just what everybody kept saying over and over again while we were making the record,” he says. “People would come into the studio and listen to a track and say ‘Hey, that’s alright!’”

Opening with the crisp, aptly titled “Feel Alright”, there’s an instant breeziness and, indeed, good feeling that washes over you, even before Mr. Gaines’ warm vocals begin.  The acoustic guitars are tasteful; the rhythm section tight and the countrified runs between the verses are the just-right touch; “Firefly Hollow” kicks along at that delightful on-the-road kind of gait; rolling with punchy rhythm and catchy to no end; at moments, it recalls Tom Petty during the immediate post-Full Moon Fever period and is an early, easy highpoint.  The yearning but never over-dramatic “No Longer” is a contemplative breakup song that doesn’t fall prey to the usual fodder of “why, oh why?” but looks at a split from both sides with wisdom and some wry perspective (listen closely to the lyrics…); “Promise Of Passion” is an explosive rocker that grabs you by the throat, reminiscent of Elvis Costello & The Attractions, circa This Year’s Model – frenetic, taut and driven by a hypnotic organ and cascading guitars (and is an absolute killer standout) and “I Will Be” is a perfect radio track – guitars galore, piano punches and, again, highly catchy – listen for the chorus.

Jeffrey Gaines may have been out of the game for a while, but he hasn’t lost a step.  His pairing up in the studio with Chris Price is a masterstroke – the sound of this album is glorious – and he’s in league with some absolutely stellar players.  And that combination has created a winning album that simply must not be overlooked, passed or missed.  That would be a crime – and that’s not alright.


Alright is currently available

Album Review: Tango With Lions, “The Light”

The acoustic guitar scales dance with trickles of piano and the occasional tip-tip-tapping of drums, singer-songwriter Katerina Papachristou’s breathy vocals leading the way. It is a magical stew, one concocted with ease, even with solemnity. And this is how we’re introduced to The Light, the newest offering from Tango With Lions, one of Greece’s most renowned English-language bands.

The record is amazingly accessible and goes down easy, a kind of ballad-heavy, pop or pop-rock record – in the classic sense – with gallons of substance to spare. But there’s also a richness and earthiness to the recording that lends even the most spare moments elements of indie-folk, and Papachristou’s vocals bely shades of her acoustic singer-songwriter roots.

On “Back To One,” the aforementioned opener, the gentle 1-2-3-4 roll of a snare fits in perfect time with the finger-picked acoustic measure, an ideal backdrop for Papachristou to gently push out her reverb-tinged harmonies. “Proof of Desire” is an impeccably recorded blues number (you can hear the fingers and guitar-pick scrape against the strings) whose most important moment is either the rock explosion at the end or, earlier on, the accompanying electric guitar, which wouldn’t be out of place in one of Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s songs. “Last Thrill” is a pop-rock gem, where bright guitars, tight drum-work and a bouncy bass are overshadowed only by a backing vocal track on the chorus – “ba-ba-BAH-BAH” – and some trumpet accompaniment that are simply, utterly delicious.

And this is just the first three songs.

We’ve known for nearly 10 years now that Tango With Lions was a force to be reckoned with. But, following A Long Walk, the band is geared up to show listeners just how sharp the musical knife cuts. “Phoenicia” is a brightly colored acoustic number that exudes charisma and positivity, while the title track goes Frisell-faux-electric to wondrous effect. On the other side of the spectrum (but only a few songs later) is the moody, gray “The Go Betweens,” which shows Black Heart Procession a thing or two about storm clouds and musical saws. (Between them is the rollicking acoustic-driven “What You’ve Become,” a single if the record has one.) They close the proceedings with the spare, found-sound-laced “L’Ombre,” an unusual curtain-call but a fitting end to a record that keeps you paying attention, never quite knowing what to expect lurking around the next corner.

Let it be said: Papachristou alone is reason enough for checking out the LP, out now on Inner Ear. She exudes a warmth but also a staggering command of the songs that helps drive the whole record. This is a woman who knows what she wants and knows how to deliver. But the band is not an afterthought and neither are the songs. The Light is a wondrous little record, at once vulnerable and assured in its presentation, and worth finding.

Breaking News: Tower Records founder Russ Solomon Dies At Age 92

Popdose is sad to report that legendary Tower Records founder Russ Solomon died at the age of 92, Sunday night, March 4th.

However, as it was reported by the Sacramento Bee, it was with a drink in his hand and a smart-aleck remark on his lips.  The visionary entrepreneur who built a global retailing empire and the most famous company in Sacramento history died of an apparent heart attack.

Solomon was watching the Academy Awards ceremony Sunday night at his Sacramento-area home when he was stricken, said his son, Michael Solomon, the former chief executive of Tower.  “Ironically, he was giving his opinion of what someone was wearing that he thought was ugly, then asked (his wife) Patti to refill his whiskey,” Solomon said. When she returned, he had died.

Tower went out of business in December 2006 after a second stint in bankruptcy.

As if to defy the digital forces that reshaped the music business, Solomon opened another music store just a few months later, on the very site of one of Tower’s flagship stores in Sacramento. But the encore fell flat, and he gave up after three years. Nonetheless, Solomon enjoyed a redemption of sorts as the star of “All Things Must Pass,” a poignant documentary on Tower’s history produced by actor and former Sacramentan Colin Hanks. The movie debuted in March 2015.

Thank you, Mr. Solomon – Tower Records was a haven for many of us in an earlier and easier time.

TV Review: “Everything Sucks!”

Peyton Kennedy and Jahi Di’Allo Winston star in the teen drama series “Everything Sucks! on Netflix

For those born in the early to mid-80s, the time is ripe for a show like “Everything Sucks! Nostalgia plays well for any generation eager to see itself dramatized on television or the movies — especially high school years. John Hughes, Judd Apatow, and even George Lucas with “American Graffiti” were able to do that in some of their work. Add to the list films like “Heathers,” MTV’s series “Awkward,” “The Wonder Years” and a whole host of other shows and you can see that, when done right, a high school drama series or film has the ability to capture the zeitgeist of an era — if not be downright iconic.

With “Everything Sucks!” creators Ben York Jones and Michael Mohran at times come close to the brilliance of Judd Apatow’s “Freaks and Geeks,” but often fall short by resorting to stock characters and unbelievable situations. However, the performances by the lead actors Jahi Di’Allo Winston (as Luke) and Peyton Kennedy (as Kate) keep the series compelling enough that one can overlook its flaws. Add to it subplot involving Luke and Kate’s parents (Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako as Sherry and Patch Darragh as Ken) and their nascent romantic involvement, and you have a show that treats adults like adults while the drama among the kids plays out in the foreground.

Patch Darragh and Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako find that certain teenage rituals aren’t just for kids.


 And what drama it is! Luke is starting high school and joins the A/V Club with his nerdy friends McQuaid and Tyler (Rio Mangini and Quinn Liebling). Yeah, A/V Club. Is there anything geekier than that? Maybe a computer club or chess club, but Luke and his friends are kids who seem to embrace technology in ways their cohorts wouldn’t until years (if not a decade) later with the rise of social media, the iPhone and the selfie culture that came with it.

The show opens with Luke developing an almost instant crush on Kate. Kate, though, is awkward, shy, and unaccustomed to attention from boys. She’s also unsure about her sexuality and is somewhat “untouchable” due to the fact that she’s the principal’s daughter. Throughout the course of 10 episodes, Luke and Kate’s relationship goes through twists and turns that lead to heartbreak (a couple of times). However, what propels the narrative isn’t really them trying to resolve the friend/ boyfriend divide, but rather the development of a student film as a way to stop getting bullied by Oliver and Emaline — a power couple who lead the Drama Club. Unfortunately, Elijah Stevenson and Sydney Sweeney play Oliver and Emaline as stock bully characters for the first few episodes, and they torture Luke, Kate, and their friends in ways that seems unrealistic. Drama kids being bullies? Drama students are usually the kids in high school who are bullied — not the other way around. However, Oliver and Emaline become more fully formed at the midpoint of the series, and their alpha male and queen bee personas start to drop as they show their vulnerabilities (i.e., they become more human).

Elijah Stevenson and Sydney Sweeney go to great lengths to bully the geek squad.

As far as the nostalgia factor goes, “Everything Sucks!” does a very good job of assembling a mid-90s playlist of pop, soul, and alternative music. Artists like Tori Amos are featured prominently in the show, not so much as transition music, but by showcasing her lyrics in ways central to Kate’s sexual awakening. Oasis, Tag Team, Ace of Base, The Verve Pipe, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Mary J. Blige, Elastica, and a number of other artists from that era also get woven into the series in effective (and sometimes comedic) ways. So as far as soundtracks go, this one quite good. Moreover, it’s clear whoever was tasked to put it together gave it a lot of thought and curated some very good deep cuts — in addition some obvious hits.

While the soundtrack is really well done, there were a couple of things I found odd about the show. First, the show takes place in Boring, Oregon in 1996. That was the year when large parts of the U.S. transitioned from the analog world to the greater use of the Internet — especially in metro areas outside of large and medium-sized cities. In the mid-’90s world depicted in “Everything Sucks,” computers weren’t all that integrated into the lives of the characters. Indeed, it was only about midway through the series when we see characters using the Internet in the school library. And yes, the Internet is shown in all its 14.4 modem slowness with a Netscape browser loading a page in about 20 seconds. While there were certainly many towns where people didn’t incorporate computers into their communities, the high school in “Everything Sucks!” is an oddity in that they have a state of the art TV production studio — complete with fairly good editing equipment — but seemed to lack the budget for computer courses. Maybe I’m splitting hairs here, but at times it felt like the show took place in 1986 (as far as technology goes) than 1996.

The second issue I have with the “Everything Sucks!” is the way the show treats race — or rather ignores it. Luke is a black teenager in an almost all-white suburban school outside of Portland. It’s only later revealed that his long-absent father is white, but I found it curious the lead character’s blackness isn’t mentioned or explored at all. Rather, Luke and his mother “act white” in terms of culture and interests. Now there’s nothing wrong with any of this, and I’m sure there are plenty of black folks who, for all intents and purposes, have assimilated into the dominant culture (in this case, it’s a white suburban one). But blacks experiencing racial prejudice in suburban enclaves is far more common than the blanket acceptance we see in “Everything Sucks!” In some ways, it’s refreshing, but for a show that explores gayness with far more complexity and sympathy it really is a stunning omission that a sense of “otherness” that comes with being black in a mostly all-white town simply does not exist.

While the series had some uneven episodes early on, it regained its footing for a satisfying conclusion — with a setup for a second season. So, if you’re like me and enjoy a good high school drama, you may not find “Everything Sucks!” perfect, but it’s good enough that whatever flaws present themselves through the course of the series become eclipsed by good acting and, at times, good storytelling.

Dizzy Heights #35: Going Back to Athens – Songs About Places, Vol. I

MASSIVE show this week. I had an idea about songs with the names of cities, or countries, states, etc. So I hit up my Facebook friends to crowdsource suggestions, and man, did they deliver. Easily the biggest community thread ever hatched from my page. They gave me so many ideas that I have two and a half pages of songs to play in future installments of this theme, so if I didn’t play your favorite song about London, I will make it up to you, I promise.

Much like the last show, LOTS of acts making their Dizzy Heights debuts, including Ace Frehley, Artists United Against Apartheid (bet you’ll never guess which songs of theirs I used), The B-52s, The Beautiful South, Def Leppard, Fluid Ounces, The Human League (wait what?), Jason and the Scorchers, Johnny Cash, Kim Wilde, Loretta Lynn, Missing Persons, Murray Head, The Presidents of the United States of America, Red Rockers, They Might Be Giants, and Todd Snider.

UPDATE: Thanks to loyal Mixcloud listener Lloyd Knight, I realized to my horror this morning (at work, where there is nothing I can do about it for a good 12 hours) that I in fact played the WRONG Jason & the Scorchers song in this show, putting my ignorance of the band’s catalog on full display. I deeply regret the error.

Thank you, as always, for listening. And I’m sorry for being a dumbass.