Radio City With Jon Grayson & Rob Ross: Episode Thirty-Eight (Version 2.0)

Radio City with Jon Grayson and Rob Ross:  Episode Thirty Eight (Version 2.0) – “The .38 Special #2”

Due to an unexpected technical disaster, the originally-recorded edition of Episode 38 was lost – this was the “38 Special” because it came about in an unusual manner.  Episode 37 was interrupted by weather (!), which caused us to have reconvene later than usual – we record the show on Sundays; we had to do this over a Wednesday and Thursday night, instead.  Electrical storms halted 37 in the middle and we came to the conclusion we’d have to finish on the Sunday, which left little time to devise what topics would be discussed for the upcoming episode.  The show isn’t scripted, but we do trade ideas during the week as to what we’ll tackle but in this case, it was decided “let’s do an improvised show” – and so we did.  It was wonderful, ripe with astute observations and humor and…  it was lost.

Once the problems were worked out, it was decided to do it again – lo and behold, it was to be, again, a spontaneous show.  So with a great deal of pride, Jon and Rob present to you Version 2.0 of Radio City 38.  You may be awakened; you may be offended – but you’ll really enjoy this as much as we did.

Taken in or out of context, this is entertainment at its best, wisest and most forward thinking.

Radio City With Jon Grayson & Rob Ross: Episode Thirty Eight

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Popdose Exclusive Video Premiere: Kill My Coquette, “Rock & Roll Ain’t Dead”

Popdose is pleased to present a brand new video from Los Angeles’ Kill My Coquette, who we introduced you to a few years ago.  They’re back with their high-energy brand of neo-garage punk and are being aided and abetted by one of the original “garage” legends, Standells co-founder Tony Valentino.  If that wasn’t enough, New York ’77-era legend Clem Burke of Blondie is behind the drums.  “Rock & Roll Ain’t Dead” is in-your-face and to the point.
The track has gotten some early buzz from Rodney Bingenheimer, who debuted the track on his Sirius XM radio show, which can be heard as part of the “Little Steven’s Underground Garage” channel.
Give it a glimpse and let it sink in…

The single will be officially released on Friday, November 24th, 2017.

Soul Serenade: The Formations, “At the Top of the Stairs”

If it’s possible, less may be known about the Formations than about the Poets, who were featured in last week’s column. There is a not-so-great photo of them at least, as you will see below, but information is hard to come by regarding this Philadelphia vocal group. What is known is that they had a moderately-sized local hit single which became a Northern Soul classic in the U.K.

The Formations got together in 1966. The original lineup included Victor Drayton, Jerry Akins, Ernie Brooks, Reginald Turner, and Johnny Bellman. Their first recording was as backup singers on a Coed Records single called “Sad Illusion,” which was credited to Margie and the Formations.

The Formations

Their first single on their own was a song written by Akins along with the not-yet-legendary Leon Huff. The involvement of Huff, who would soon team with Kenny Gamble to create the Sound of Philadelphia, marked an early sign of what was to come. “At the Top of the Stairs” was released in 1967 on the Bank label and was a sizable enough hit locally that it convinced MGM Records to license the record for national distribution in 1968. Unfortunately, the record failed to make the charts in this country, although it was a Top 30 hit in the U.K. when it was re-released there in 1970 on Mojo Records.

Despite the lack of chart success, the Formations weren’t quite done yet. Their next single was “Love’s Not Only for the Heart.” It was produced by Huff who by that time was working with Gamble, making it one of the team’s earliest collaborations. Despite the inclusion of the two Philly Soul pioneers, the record failed to make a dent.

There was one last single, released at the end of 1968 on MGM. Although like its predecessors it was not a hit, “There’s No Room” really had that Philadelphia sound that would become so popular in the next few years. Interestingly, it had that sound even though Gamble and Huff were not involved with the record this time.

Gamble and Huff re-entered the picture when the Formations, by then known as the Corner Boys, released “Gang War (Don’t Make Sense)” in 1969 on Neptune, a Gamble and Huff imprint. Although the group soldiered on, the Formations name died. With the original lineup still intact, they changed their name to the Silent Majority in 1970, and then they became Hot Ice two years later. In all, there were three new names, and five record labels for the group including Atlantic Records and Hot Wax.

None of the name or label changes had any impact. The Formations never did find any chart success but they left us with a Northern Soul classic and a series of records that pointed the way forward for soul music in Philadelphia.

Album Review: Langhorne Slim, “Lost at Last Vol. 1”

Langhorne Slim fans old and new will be delighted with his new release, Lost at Last Vol. 1. The Pennsylvania native, born Sean Scolnick, is, in many ways, the quintessential modern American folk artist. His songs are full of genuine lyrics, uncluttered arrangements, and cover a range of roots/Americana styles.

Slim’s paid his dues — he’s appeared on Late Show With David Letterman and Conan and has played numerous festivals, including Newport Folk, Bonnaroo, and Lollapalooza. Lost at Last Vol. 1 marks his sixth studio album and includes tunes from three EPs released earlier this year, Never Break, Life Is Confusing, and Funny Feelin’.

The album opens with the string-laden “Life Is Confusing,” an understated take on a common theme. Lyrically, it sets the tone for the album: “Don’t think I see you anymore / At least not the way I saw you before / We’re caught up in traffic, the landscape changed / Life is confusing, and people are insane.”

Langhorne Slim (photo: Joshua Black Wilkins)

“Old Things,” coming in at a whopping minute forty-six, follows. It’s a sweet, old-fashioned tune — a search for simplicity — the kind of feel-good song you’d expect to hear in a TV commercial intended to give you the warm fuzzies. (Listening, Volkswagen?) Slim sings, “Old cars don’t go too fast, old dogs lying on the grass / Old homes full of ghosts, ooh, I love old things the most.”

He goes even further on “Never Break,” with the scandalous suggestion “Let’s fall in love with our telephones off.”

Other highlights include the cheerful “Bluebird,” an inspiring fiddle-driven barn dance, and “Lost This Time,” with Slim at his most introspective: “I tried to be the man I know that I can be / But I still find the child hiding inside of me / We got lost this time / We just need some time to find ourselves again.”

“Funny Feelin’” is the kind of song that appeals right off the bat, as if written for the encore sing-along at a live show. In his album notes, Slim explains that he wrote the song after listening to blues legends Junior Kimbrough and Ted Hawkins on a long ride home to Pennsylvania. It’s got a familiar “boy pursues girl” theme: “Meet me down in the city, I’m gonna’ have some fun, and if I had someone to love me, then I’d have somebody to love.”

Behind a minichorus, “Zombie” is another enchanting album highlight. The video, with clever references to iconic horror movies and even Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” shows why. The message? Be careful who you fall for:

She had an old suitcase
Full of skulls

She kissed my lips
My blood ran cold

Couldn’t wait to give my soul but
She didn’t want it

Lost at Last Vol. 1 is a joyride; more than just a collection of great songs, it calls for the listener to continue moving forward. Slim enlightens in the album notes: “The title Lost at Last is a hopeful, even joyful one. The only rule is to keep movin’. Perhaps if one feels found, they have nothing left to find. I’d prefer to stay a bit lost and continue searching. The tragedy, I find, is that we close & shield our hearts because life is hard. The journey, I think is not only to remain open but to continually break through in order to become more vulnerable and sensitive, and in that, strong and mighty! I wanna’ shake off the conditioning: to live from the heart and not be ruled by a system of existing that keeps us fat and tired.”

Indeed, this album challenges listeners to seize life — not a bad idea at all!

Find Lost at Last Vol. 1 at Dualtone Records or your favorite record store.

EP Review: DF, “abcdf”

I feel largely under-qualified to review abcdf, the new EP and accompanying visual experience from Montreal duo DF. While tenor saxophonist Dustin Finer employs some of the same looping methods as fellow Montreal act Alder & Ash – whose Clutched In The Maw of The World I liked very much – his tone is wholely, wholely, wholely other. The music, which is buoyant compared to Alder & Ash’s penitence, sits at the intersection of high-art klezmer-jazz and math-rock, and it dances around your ears with enough texture and melody to nail the delivery. The result is engaging, to be sure, but also makes you feel like you’re listening to something with few reference points in mainstream culture. If you like your music safe and processed, look elsewhere. But, if you’re in the mood for a different kind of cocktail, DF is ready to serve it right up.

Part of this musical maladjustment – and I use those words in as positive a sense as possible – can be found in the nature of Finer’s performance. A lot of times, especially in indie-rock, the saxophone is relegated to creating color or supplementing it; only have musicians like Zorn and his descendants employed it otherwise. Finer’s sax, carefully looped and layered throughout, on the contrary, plays as much with time and texture as it does sound-color. In other words, the sax punctuates a sentence or a phrase as much as it narrates. On the excellent “She’s Great And All,” all interwoven notes, it’s hardly even believable to hear the terrain this guy maps alongside pitch-perfect bass and percussion in just two minutes.

That says a lot about abcdf. The five songs on the EP are carefully composed and they also are alarmingly proficient. Finer is not one to fall prey to the Serious Artiste’s tendency to over-dwell on a certain rhythm or turn a careful melody into a drone. Even on the boozy jazz of “Moondling,” which could seduce the most stoic of your friend-group, he keeps it to about three minutes.

All in all, abcdf is a very fine outing. The visual component to the audio-visual presentation, care of the other DF — Daniel Freder – can be lyrical and, in its highly watchable teaser, toys with users’ familiarity with street-view technology to great effect. The reason you’re tuning in, though, is Finer and his sax – a textured and nuanced piece of industriousness that defies categorization and lays out an ambitious path for those addicted to working with loops.

Exit Lines: Circus Circus

What do you do with a problem play like Measure for Measure? In its first production of Shakespeare, Elevator Repair Service has gone for the “juggler”–not actual juggling, perhaps, but the clowns have been sent over to the Public Theater. The troupe is best known for its enactments of books, notably Gatz, a six-hour performance of The Great Gatsby. By contrast this was a speed-read version of one of the Bard’s least embraceable works, with words tumbling out of the ensemble’s mouths, and spilling onto the floors and walls via projections.

Understandably. The group knows this is no great Shakes, stingy on memorable lines and soliloquies, if longer on pertinent themes of law, justice, and private and public morality. At times it seems to be making fun of its tortured plotting and coincidences, in a boardroom setting. All the business makes concentration even more difficult, and there were plenty of sleepyheads in the audience in the early going. (Wisely, there’s no intermission during its two hours and ten minutes, though I’m sure some of the dozers around me found it a bit sadistic.) At midpoint, however, the funny stuff ceased, for a spellbindingly played sequence where the Viennese nobleman Claudio, soon to be executed, appealed to his sister Isabella to compromise her virtue to spare her life. All’s well that ends well, sayeth Shakespeare–but it’s close, and the tension redeemed the knockabout conception. Elevator was “up” from that point on.

Confinement is built into the crackling Signature Theater revival of Stephen Adly Guirgis’ Jesus Hopped the A Train. The two main characters, Angel (Sean Carvajal) and Lucian (Edi Gathegi) are prisoners, incarcerated in separate 23-hour isolation cells on New York’s Rikers Island. Angel is there, he says, by mistake–his attempt to rescue a friend from a Moonie-like cult, which involved “a shot in the ass” of its leader, ended in murder charges when the reverend died on the operating table. But  it’s no accident that Lucius, a serial killer with at least eight known victims, is there. Fancying himself a preacher, Lucius claims to be unafraid to die for his crimes, and attempts to school Angel in justice and the law.

For Guirgis, the author of the Broadway hit The Motherfucker with the Hat and the Pulitzer-winning Between Riverside and Crazy, words are the only means of escape. But words lie, wound, and disrupt. Angel’s public defender, Mary Jane (Stephanie DiMaggio) thinks she can explain her client out of prison to a sympathetic jury, but overreaches. The two guards assigned to the prisoners’ cellblock alternate in good cop-bad cop roles. Angel prays; Lucius expostulates. They argue, and banter, usually profanely, often hilariously. Words blot out the end of the line that awaits both men. It comes anyway.

I missed the original 2000 staging of this high-voltage play, and have tried not to miss anything by its author since. There’s a voice here, angry and rangy and pure, and Mark Brokaw’s clean and unfussy direction allows it to be heard. (The production design, highlighted by Riccardo Hernandez’s balefully instititutional cells, renders able assistance.) Amazingly, the two leads were late-arriving replacements, not that you would know it from their hard-edged, impassioned, boisterous performances. Jesus Hopped the A Train put theatergoers on notice that a distinctive talent had arrived, and its revival still packs a wallop.

I took my kids to see Big Apple Circus in 2014, when they were six and three. Money woes shut it down last year, and I despaired of ever taking them again. To our relief, it’s back, and smaller than ever in its 40th anniversary year.

I mean “smaller” lovingly. The beauty of Big Apple Circus is that its chapiteau is modest in size, so that every seat in the house is the best seat in the house. The talent is outsized, and this year includes the fabled Fabulous Wallendas, who close the show with their breathtaking seven-person pyramid. But everything is jaw-droppingly good, from the spritzer-in-the-face antics of Grandma the clown (those bits, performed with aplomb by Barry Lubin, never get old) to the horse and dog acts and the incredible trapeze antics. Brought over from Ringling Bros., which was not so lucky in this era of circus contraction, was its enthusiastic ringmaster, Ty McFarlan. The pace never faltered.

Best of all, the kids are now the exact right ages to enjoy the show, with attention spans that fully absorb the gorgeously produced and illuminated cavalcade. But the proverbial “kids of all ages” will love Big Apple Circus, long may it settle in Lincoln Center.

Reissue Review: The Who, “Maximum As & Bs: The Complete Singles”

If you’re thinking, “another Who compilation?  So what?”  you’d be both right and wrong.  Right, because there have been an extraordinary amount in the last few years – wrong, because this one does justice to a great, long-standing oversight.  Finally, all of The Who’s original singles (the U.K. releases) are compiled along with their corresponding B-sides in a single CD collection.  Something that (believe it or not) hasn’t been done in a single, cohesive unit.  What makes this an important release is that many of these songs are on CD for the first time or reappearing on CD after a brief, previous appearance – a good portion of these songs have been M.I.A.  And yes, this CD collection is, indeed, the CD gathering of the 4 boxsets that came out starting in 2015 on vinyl of the different singles-eras in The Who’s career – first with Brunswick Records, onto Reaction, Track and then Polydor proper.  But if you don’t buy vinyl/have a turntable, then this is the quintessential singles collection – and even if you’re just a casual Who fan, this could heighten your awareness and give you a greater love, appreciation and understanding of the greatest, most important rock band of all time.

There are, however, five glaring omissions that I would have included, if I were putting this boxset’s program together – to make it truly complete:  the American “edited” version of “Substitute” (“I try going forward but my feet walk back” in place of “I look all white but my dad was black” and shorter running time); “Anytime You Want Me”, the U.S. B-side to “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere”, the “electric” version of “Mary Anne With The Shaky Hands”, which appeared on the U.S. Decca single of “I Can See For Miles” and the two “extended” versions of “I’m A Boy” and “Magic Bus”, both of which were only available on the Meaty, Beaty, Big & Bouncy collection.  At least you get here both versions of “Circles” – the “original”/longer version recorded with Shel Talmy producing (for Brunswick) and the shorter, re-recorded version issued first as the flipside of “Substitute” and then on the Ready Steady Who E.P.; you get both Rolling Stones covers (“The Last Time” and “Under My Thumb”), recorded and released while Jagger and Richard were imprisoned and so on.

All the songs that made The Who so great; so special – certainly, to me – are here – “I Can’t Explain”, “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere”, the still-sounding as magnificent now as it did when first releases 52 years ago “My Generation” (easily one of the best singles ever produced, sonically speaking, in the 1960’s); “The Kids Are Alright” (which is highly personal and emotional for me, as it was the first song I ever learned how to play on guitar), “Substitute”, “Happy Jack”, “Disguises”, “Pictures Of Lily”, the exhilarating “I Can See For Miles” and a never-heard-before (re)mixed and “full” version of “Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde” – just the first two discs are worth the price of admission.  If you’re a fan of the later, more “serious” and “rock” period of The Who, it’s still an equal win-win:  “Pinball Wizard”, “5:15”, “Who Are You” and so on.

This is a perfect gift for any Who fan you may know and love; it may be you’re like me and a hardcore completist – it doesn’t matter.  The facts are simple and already etched in history:  these are the songs that cemented a true legend.  This is The Who.  The way they were and will forever remain:  powerful, brilliant and beautiful.


Maximum As & Bs:  The Complete Singles is currently available.

In Memoriam: Chuck Mosley (1959-2017)

Chuck Mosley – who died unexpectedly yesterday, age 57 – was a mess of contradictions.

He was an L.A. rock star and a Midwestern underground icon. He was audacious, yet amazingly self-conscious and self-effacing. His greatest work was behind him – Faith No More’s still-engaging Introduce Yourself, on which he sang in 1987, introduced him to the world and sold millions – and, if you believed that tugging aspiration behind his hoarse voice, it stood ahead of him and beckoned him onward, too. (In March, he played me excellent scratch tracks from Primitive Race’s Soul Pretender, which received glowing reviews just one week before his death, and was a kind ourobóros to his comeback story.)

For many, Chuck was the voice of Faith No More during its incubation, when it found its voice, when the guys hit their stride. But he later went on to release great music of note with Cement, tour with hardcore legends Bad Brains, and record excellent, if overlooked, “solo” outings with VUA. Today, we memorialize him. But it’s not the last we’ve heard from him. A Popdose article earlier this year rekindled contact between Chuck and producer Matt Wallace, a Faith No More standby; the two recorded several songs in Los Angeles with Chuck’s band during his recent “Reintroduce Yourself” tour. Chuck also talked about releasing a CD/DVD package with live cuts from an acoustic tour in the U.K. in 2016. All of it remains on the radar.

Chuck was an addict. Substance abuse had its hooks in him and anyone who watched him chain-smoke a pack of Marlboro Blacks could see it. He was sober for years, but he was always an addict. We talked about it at length this spring when I spent time with him at his Cleveland home, and I had to be careful about how I worded his experiences with drugs and what, if any, effect it had on his acrimonious firing from Faith No More when the band sat on the cusp on international superstardom.

I saw Chuck, again, his dreadlocks now dyed hot-pink, on tour when he came to Pittsburgh recently – I wrote my second piece on him of 2017 previewing the show in Pittsburgh CityPaper, in which he talked about memorializing a friend who recently died – and I could tell the road was weighing on him. I didn’t talk about it that night with Doug Esper, his friend and confidante, but the way Chuck vocally longed on-stage for a shot and a beer – “the strongest one they have” – echoed our conversations about substance abuse in Cleveland. Though I was really shaken by his family’s announcement today, I can’t say I’m entirely surprised.

Chuck wasn’t the best singer – though, in recent years, wearing his age well, his rusty croon developed a life of its own – but he was an incredible frontman and he knew how to read a crowd. He was bombastic. He did everything big. He lived by the seat of his pants. And, despite all the critical oohs and ahhs for Mike Patton, his Faith No More replacement, over the years, Chuck went out a well-loved critical darling.

I ended my piece on Chuck back in March with a look to the future, which, despite the adversities he faced, Chuck always plunged into headfirst.

“I was only ever focused on music basically. And girls. And skating. I split my focuses around. But I never became responsible, put away for a rainy day, ‘build a nest egg for your kids.’ That’s my one regret,” said Mosley, slipping into the tone he might adopt for the book he’s working on with Esper. “The book’s gonna be a tell-all but we don’t have the exact ending yet. I’ll either end up in prison or happily whistling down the road with playing shows. Hopefully, God forbid, it shouldn’t end with my death. The consensus has always been that I’m gonna be the one that hangs out longer than everybody.”

Today, we found out the end of Esper’s book. And we all wish we could rescript it.

Rest in peace, brother.

Album Review: Broke Royals, “Broke Royals”

A duo hailing from Washington, D.C., Broke Royals have an interesting sound and feel – for just two people, they mix in a lush, rich, full cornucopia of sounds.  They’ve been releasing a series of E.P.’s since 2014 and this is their first full length album.  Elements of dance and electronica, rock and pop with crisp guitars, harmonies – in a way, it’s a good question as to whether or not you could classify them as a “band” per se or if they’re a “musical project”.

“Falling Up” contains all of the aforementioned ingredients in its sound and the vocal arrangements are tight; “As Long As I Can See” is definitely ear-marked as a single – it has that modern radio friendly sound (and definitely would fit somewhere on a television show or commercial); “Holy War” has throttle and some very nice harmonies and at moments, reminds me a little of a U2-styled track and “Cold” is the album’s highlight – a nice pop piece that has a ’70’s classicism about it while being completely modern-sounding (listen to the sound, structure and melody).  “Heartless Come Around” goes to the next decade with an ’80’s synth-pop vibe but again, is catchy and upbeat; “Higher” has a quiet intensity and “On My Way” is one of those very familiar sounding “modern anthem” type songs.

Which is the one drawback of this album that makes me think it’s just “okay” – they rely too much on the “oh, whoa” riff throughout the majority of the songs.  And that, unfortunately does make them sound a little too much like those not-as-good bands you hear in commercials and on television.  But they’re on to something – they just need to refine and define who they are and what they want to be.

Broke Royals’ self-titled album will be released Friday, November 17th, 2017