Friday, November 17, 2017

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: BLOODSHOT RECORDS' 13 DAYS OF XMAS!

    


     I’m either the right guy to be writing a review of a ‘new’ Christmas release… or I’m the wrong guy. You see, I’m a connoisseur of Christmas music and I’m extremely picky about the holiday music that I listen to.  I don’t care who performs the song or in what style – I’m looking for the FEELING of the season in the song. And for someone who loves Christmas music, there’s very little that has tickled my fancy since the ‘70s.  There are exceptions but my favorites tend to be random singles (XTC, Band Aid, Status Quo, etc.) and very few albums. Sure, I appreciate the attempts to create a new classic Christmas album but it is very obvious to me when it is merely a cash-grab by the artist or the label. Or almost as worse - when an artist is only interested in celebrating their own voice and not the holiday they sing so joyfully about. So, sadly, I now approach every Christmas album with trepidation and fear. And suddenly, Bloodshot Records’ 13 DAYS OF XMAS landed in my lap and I needed to take some anxiety medication before I could even listen to it….

LEWIS BLACK: An EXCLUSIVE Q&A


BLACK TO THE FUTURE:

An EXCLUSIVE Q&A 
with 
LEWIS BLACK

STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: BLACK TO THE FUTURE has just been released on DVD and CD. How are you feeling about the way the whole project turned out?
LEWIS BLACK: I am thrilled and couldn’t be happier, especially since this is the first time I’ve produced a DVD and CD on my own label.

SPAZ: Even though this show was taped before the election, I sense that you knew how it was going to turn out. As you imply during the show, the jokes write themselves. Did you realize just how crazy it was going to get?
LEWIS: I wish. I wish I’d actually began writing a book once he had started running. It would have been interesting to see if I could have really captured the crazy that was too follow. But I just didn’t have enough imagination to imagine it could really happen. Every step of the way I thought, “This can’t get more insane” and then it did.

SPAZ: Why do you think that humor helps people understand the way this world really works? Your humor is biting but your messages seem to stay with people.
LEWIS: I think it’s because it helps provide a framework for all of the nonsense and hoo-hah and B.S. that life throws at us. It allows folks to step back from the madness, as they laugh, even if it’s just for a moment and be able to realize that this too shall pass.

SPAZ: I believe that the reason you remain so relevant is that you never pretend you have all the answers because you seem just as befuddled by political shenanigans as the rest of us. Do you think that helps you to connect with your audience?
LEWIS: Yes, I do. I also think because as many folks have said to me throughout my career, “You’re just like my dad, only funnier.”

SPAZ: BLACK TO THE FUTURE’s bonus CD contains additional material that didn’t make it to the show. How much prep does it take to put together a show when you know it is going to be filmed for prosperity? And do you tend to cut a lot of material before that taped show?
LEWIS: Once I finish putting a special together and getting it filmed, I begin working on the next one. Sometimes, I already have new material that I have been working on and I start there. Other times, I am starting from scratch and so I set out trying to find what I want to basically yell about and find the arc of a story I can tell. Along the way I cut pounds and pounds of material and eventually when I feel I am getting close, I start to figure out where we will shoot the special.


SPAZ: A comedian’s stand up show must change and evolve at a rapid pace, especially when there’s so
much inspiration for new material. Do you tend to tape your shows right before you set aside (or retire) certain material? People don’t realize how difficult it must be for a comedian to constantly have to change his/her act in order to survive in this industry.
LEWIS: Actually, there are many comics who don’t change their material, they continue to hone it, which would drive me nuts but which other comics find satisfying. I tape every single one of my shows, probably because I am crazy.

SPAZ: After the laughs subside and the audience heads home, what is the most important thing you want them to remember after the show?
LEWIS: That they had a good time.

SPAZ: You’ve been doing segments for The Daily Show. One of my friends said that you should have taken over from Andy Rooney on 60 Minutes. Is that something you’d even think about doing or would you feel uncomfortable having to edit yourself to fit into that show’s tried and true format?
LEWIS: They were interested in me, but I wasn’t interested in dealing with the powers that be at CBS or the limitations imposed by the show itself.

SPAZ: The recent political climate has ripped friendships and families apart like never before. There’s so much finger pointing, name calling and shit slinging… and that’s just from the White House! Do you think that social media is to blame?
LEWIS: God only knows. What I know is that social is social and media is media and maybe the two shouldn’t have met.


SPAZ: In regard to those that influenced you in your career, are there any artists outside the comedic field that inspired you along the way?
LEWIS: If you mean outside of comedians I would say, writers such as Kurt Vonnegut, Joseph Heller, Paul Krassner, and Herb Gardner to name a few. Then there’s the Marx Brothers, Madeline Kahn, Judy Holiday, Ernie Kovacs, Steve Allen and Sid Caesar and his crew. I could go on and on and on.

SPAZ: What’s next for Lewis Black?
LEWIS: Another special sometime down the road, when I get a grip on what is going on these days. Hopefully some more voice-over work and maybe a couple of nice acting roles. I’d like to write another book or play if I could find the time.

SPAZ: What is currently spinning on your CD, DVD, Blu-ray or record players?
LEWIS: I’ll be watching all of the DVD’s of films and TV shows that I am sent to try and convince that they should get some sort of award or another. I like to play the brilliant CD’s of Jazz artist Jane Ira Bloom.

Thanks to Lewis Black
Special thanks to Larry Germack, Clint Weiler, Tim Elliot and Dave Rayburn


LEWIS BLACK
BLACK TO THE FUTURE
(2CD)

LEWIS BLACK
BLACK TO THE FUTURE
(DVD)

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

THE COUNTRY SIDE OF HARMONICA SAM: Introducing The Band



When one listens to contemporary Country Music these days, it bears little resemblance to the traditional sound that helped define the genre decades ago. When Hank Williams, Faron Young, Patsy Cline, George Jones and Johnny Cash sang, you could almost smell the beer-soaked wooden floorboards of the old honky tonks coming through your radio. Nowadays, when you listen to contemporary Country Music, all you can smell is the mall. For better or worse, Country Music has gone through many changes over the years and remains one of the most consistently popular – and profitable – genres of music in the U.S. However, while it has been pushed out of the limelight in the States, the traditional Country sound of the ’50s and ’60s remains hugely popular in Europe. Many iconic Country & Western artists that have long since been forgotten in their homeland are revered in countries they probably never set foot in. Ray Price, Marty Robbins, Don Gibson, Marvin Rainwater, Stonewall Jackson and Hank Snow are just a few of the pioneering artists that are seldom remembered by a generation of Americans who were born after the Urban Cowboy-inspired Country resurgence in the ’80s. We must now look to these European countries if we want deluxe reissues and box sets from these Trad Country acts, who seldom have more than a single disc ’hits’ collection available here in the U.S. of A.


Monday, November 13, 2017

SQUEEZE: Spaz reviews THE KNOWLEDGE!

SQUEEZE
THE KNOWLEDGE

Available NOW!

Up through their fourth album, EAST SIDE STORY, in 1981, Squeeze albums were usually pretty immediate, hook-wise. The band would hit you with a bunch of gloriously melodic songs - penned by Glenn Tilbrook (music) and Chris Difford (lyrics)- that you would fall in love with on first listen. However, things changed when SWEETS FROM A STRANGER was released the following year. There were certainly songs that grabbed your attention right away but roughly half the album took a few spins to sink into your system. It was as if the songs were meant to be absorbed instead of heard. For the most part, every Squeeze album since then (including the DIFFORD & TILBROOK album) has followed that very same pattern. The pay-off has always been the same – complete and utter joy - but Tilbrook’s melodies seem to have taken on much more depth as he matured as a songwriter.  The chord progressions are uniquely TIlbrookian and the later songs have many more layers than classic tracks like “Is That Love” or “Pulling Mussels (From The Shell)”. Revisionist history tells us that Squeeze albums were always great on the first listen but in all actuality, many have been ‘growers’. And that usually means that the album has legs and is not likely to fade from your consciousness anytime soon. Tilbrook’s ever-expanding box of chords, various producers and labels and a revolving line-up has made it difficult for some to keep up with Squeeze, but the journey has been worth it. So, how does their 2017 album THE KNOWLEDGE measure up?  Read on, my friends…

Friday, November 10, 2017

L7: An EXCLUSIVE Q&A with DONITA SPARKS!


L7: PRETEND WE'RE DEAD


(The Documentary)

Available NOW!


STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: L7: PRETEND WE’RE DEAD is finally available. How are you feeling about the project and the reaction to it so far?
DONITA SPARKS: Well, I’m relieved it’s going out into the world because a lot of work went into it, especially from the producers Blue Hats Creative: getting the footage and photos together, interviews with the band members and guest stars, music clearances, etc. This has been years in the making. I’m touched by the reaction to the film by those you have seen it. It hits home with a lot of different people. In the screenings that I’ve attended there’s laughter where there should be, and complete silence during the heavier stuff. Musicians in particular relate to the ride.

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: BUFFY SAINT-MARIE/MEDICINE SONGS

BUFFY SAINT-MARIE
MEDICINE SONGS

Available NOW!


When spinning singer/songwriter Buffy Saint-Marie’s 2017 album MEDICINE SONGS, you’ll realize that the art of protest music is NOT dead – it was just waiting for Buffy to release a new album! Mixing her early stark, acoustic Folk roots with Native American rhythms and a contemporary sound, this is an album that demonstrates her ability to remain true to her roots while also moving forward as an artist.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

PAUL CARRACK: Ten Reasons



Ten (Good) Reasons Why You Should Love:

PAUL CARRACK

     Pop, Rock and Soul vocalists are a dime a dozen these days thanks to televised talent contests, assembly line production, marketing dollars and Auto-Tune. Talent is no longer needed to scale the charts – you just need to hire Max Martin and kids will be streaming your hits in no time! It wasn’t always like that, you know.  Back in the day, luck may have been the key to chart success but you needed the talent to back it up.  And for over 40 years, British vocalist and musician Paul Carrack has revealed himself to be one of the most talented and hardest working artists in the business. You may not recognize his name but you have most definitely heard him sing. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, that is…