June 10, 2009


I was shocked to read about the death of singer-songwriter, Kenny Rankin on Sunday due to a recently diagnosed, fast-moving lung cancer.  Kenny Rankin's career was a rich one.  His guitar skills invited him into the studios of some well known artists, while his Pop tunes songwriting skills enjoyed success with other artists including “Peaceful” for Helen Reddy, and “On and On” for Stephen Bishop.  Rankin was an artist in love with his craft.  He gathered fans from all walks and interests, eventually producing 13 albums beginning as early as Mind-Dusters from 1967. 

Kenny Rankin is a valuable piece to the entire Rock puzzle as his enduring music will reveal.  Some of his better known contributions may be better remembered by different voices, but his overall work will resonate forever.  While the Great Band will welcome him with open arms, we'll miss him with our hearts.

Kenny Rankin

The finish of the Alice Cooper Poll only yielded 46 votes, but the voting was decisive. It was very clear that the early years of Alice Cooper was favoured although many of the respondents clearly enjoyed the solo efforts of Alice Cooper (the man), just not as much as the original band era. Understood. I feel the same way. The original Alice Cooper band was easily the most enduring. The voting played out this way:

  • Billion Dollar Babies (13) - At this point in the band's career, they had musically shifted from a dark band recording tracks like "Halo of Flies (Killer), and "Ballad of Dwight Frye" (Love It to Death), to a more stage-oriented band. They had perfected what they started with School's Out. This album forged ahead with a string of hits, more than they had experienced before ("Hello, Hooray," "Elected," "Raped and Freezin'," "No More Mr Nice Guy") while still keeping a foot in that dark area that defined them ("Sick Things," "I Love the Dead"). Billion Dollar Babies is the quintessential Alice Cooper with its innovative and interactive cover, this one a wallet with a Billion Dollar Bill. But it also provided a pathway into decline for the band as they now could afford a depraved lifestyle.
  • Killer (7) - Killer entertained with some obvious light and acceptable hit material like "Under My Wheels" but thrilled with the dark "Halo of Flies." It provided a gory tear-off calendar of a hanged Alice and an edgy front-cover shot of a snake, a favoured prop of the band. Who could resist "Desperado," and the fantastic "Dead Babies," as well as "You Drive Me Nervous," and the title track, "Killer." Simply, the whole album rocked beginning to end.
  • Love It to Death (7) - This "first" album (so stated because Easy Action, and Pretties For You are so unknown by most fans) contained the big hit, "I'm Eighteen" that was quite dark all by itself making for an unusual hit for the times. Tracks like "The Ballad of Dwight Fry" set the stage for AC as a band of the macabre. It was this album that provided the stage for Alice Cooper that was later exploited by the likes of Marilyn Manson and others. Included the bold cover of "Sun Arise" that richly rocks out a Rolf Harris original from 1963.
  • School's Out - (5) - This was the album that really broke Alice Cooper as a concept. "Schools' Out" is a song that best defines Alice Cooper and would help lead to the grand stage show that would support Billion Dollar Babies. Consider School's Out as the embryonic beginnings of what Alice Cooper would become. Many great songs in this album.
  • Welcome to My Nightmare (5) - Alice Cooper had jettisoned his band by this point, and having legally changed his name (unwisely uncontested by the original band) to Alice Cooper, he could continue on the coattails of the fame already built. Welcome to my Nightmare was a pure stage extravaganza that utilized wild and outlandish props but was a hit regardless. It would bring Alice Cooper to the masses, an album for those that could not be fans of the original vision of the band. This album was bolstered by the ballad "Only Woman Bleed." It was musically delivered by Steve Hunter, Tony Levin, Prakash John, and Dick Wagner. even Vincent Price would get in on the fun.
  • From the Inside (5) - Alice Cooper hit a nerve with this album of very insightful personal experiences of his self-committed stay at an asylum to dry out from his serious alcoholism. It provided a very dark look that was also very real. Considered essential post-band material for Alice.
  • Goes to Hell (2) - Alice Cooper followed up Welcome to My Nightmare with this album that also gave hit status to the ballad, "I Never Cry," an unlikely Cooper tune. It has its fans. But not everyone loves it.
  • Muscle of Love (1) - Thi sfinal album by the original band feels like an attempt to get back to the basic style of the band's earlier material but without losing too much of a grip on the ground gained with Billion Dollar Babies. But the internal strife was too much and so, while songs like the single, "Teenage Lament '74," would show signs of genius, other tracks would not be as great. But still, it was a decent album, perhaps as fitting an end to AC, the band, as anything they could have recorded.
  • Greatest Hits (1) - This collection covers the original band's era and so introduced many people to the band. It also was as good a collection as could be assembled for the original band.

This Poll largely ignored most of Alice Cooper's post original band showing that the AC faithful LOVED the original band years more than the solo years. Remember, most respondents liked AC's solo years but given a choice, we know what rose to the top.

We have two reviews for you that include Time Must Have a Stop by Votum, a Prog band (reviewed by contributer, Douglas Bice, and my look at the DVD of Live at The Isle of Wight: 1970 with The Moody Blues. I've added a few Front Page Reviews today as well. They are for Done With the Devil from Jason Ricci and New Blood (Blues), and Siyotanka, an ambient album from Michael Brant DeMaria.

We're also launching a new Poll (for the fun of it and because I doubt I'll get much as results - but we'll try anyway). This one may date you but give us your favorite label art. For example, one of my memorable label designs was for Buddah Records. It had a psychedelic flavour that actually drew me to it. Here's a shot:

Now send me your favorite label designs. I'll post whatever results I get when I return on June 24. We'll see you then.

We have a new set of album covers from our recently launched Great Album Covers Poll. You can still vote for your favourites here and get them posted so that the rest of us can enjoy them. Here's the next four email lists:

"some of my all time favorites..."  - John O'M.

  • The Who - Tommy
  • Yes - Relayer
  • Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP) - Brain Salad Surgery
  • Pink Floyd - Animals
  • Asia - Asia
  • Rush - Grace Under Pressure
  • Queen - News of the World
  • Genesis - The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
  • Peter Gabriel - Security (IV)
  • Journey - Escape
  • The Cars - Candy-O
  • Roxy Music - Avalon
  • Keane - Under the Iron Sea

"I have to say, for me, that the most iconic 80's album cover was  Duran Duran's ' Rio'.  It was stylish, contemporary, romantic, sexy, and bold.  And somehow it completely mirrored the music that you got inside the cover.." - Craig E.

  • Duran Duran  – Rio

"How about his one from Foghat. I enjoy the column, thanks for taking the time to do it. Cheers!" - Bill S. [You're welcome, Bill!]

  • Foghat - Fool For the City

Zark P.

  • Jean-Michel Jarre - Oxygene
  • Midnight Oil - Red Sails in the Sunset
  • Oingo Boingo - Good For Your Soul







Reprise Records will reissue four remastered Neil Young titles on CD, scheduling for July 14. These titles include Neil Young, Harvest, After the Gold Rush, and Everybody Knows This is Nowhere. This should be interesting as I bet they emerge as LPs as well.

EMI Records will release the third album by Jet called Shaka Rock, planned for stores on August 25.

New Age Cowboys (NAC) Records will release the second album from J Seger, scheduling for August 14.  The new album will be called With His Hat On.

My First Earthquake will self-release their new album, Downstairs, on June 20.

The UK's rock magazine, the resilient and venerable NME, has announced that Oasis will have all of their albums reissued as vinyl LPs at some point this year.  Their B-sides collection from 1998 will also be reissued.

Concord Jazz Records will release the anticipated debut album from Spencer Day, scheduling for September 8.  The album will be called Vagabond.

Assjack will release a self-titled album in LP (w/BonusCD) and several CD versions (PA/Edited).  The album is slated for August 4.

Eagle Vision will release The 75th Birthday Celebration: Live at Montreux 2008 as a BD (Blu-ray) title as well as a standard DVD title from Quincy Jones.  This is expected on July 21.

Domo Records will be releasing four Kitaro titles in DD (Digital Download) as full-length albums on July 14.  The titles to be expected are: Sacred Journey of Ku-Kai, Volume 2; Sacred Journey of Ku-Kai, Volume Three; Spiritual Garden; and The Definitive CollectionDomo Records will also release a DD title called Essential Kitaro, Volume 2, also on July 14.

Chicago Independent will release a Metal S/T album from Alabaster Suns, planning the release for July 21.

Island Records will release Live on the BBC from Anthrax on August 18.

Varese Sarabande will release One Summer Dream for Jan and Dean, and Rock 'n' Roll Never Forgets for Jerry Lewis/Fats Domino, both on July 28.

I received word form a reader of TAP that the expected John Mellencamp set coming from Island Records on October 6 will be a Retrospective Box extending from the periods, 1976-2009.  The title of this set is On the Rural Route 7609.

Eagle Vision plan the release of two Earth, Wind & Fire DVDs on August 4.  They include In Concert, and Live in Japan.

Sanctuary will release a DD title for Donovan called What's Bin Did and What's Bin Hid on June 30.  In addition, a DD is planned for The Fixx on June 23, also by Sanctuary, called Then and Now, and American Hardcore for LA Guns, same date.

Decca Records will release a Pop title on LP for Gary Go.  The album is a S/T effort and will street on August 11.

Unicorn Digital will release Blue Note Ridge, an album of keyboard improvisations, from keyboardist Roger Powell, most notably of Utopia fame but engaged in stints with David Bowie, Meatloaf, and others.  It is slated for release on July 14.




Review - Michael Brant DeMaria - Siyotanka - CD

The instrumental tunes found on this album has a basis in the Lakota Indian legend.  As with most ambient-styled compositions, the music is expectably soothing using a Native American flute, itself an intended instrument of peace and comfort.  The whole of the album flows beautifully as it moves through the 12 tracks presented.  “Grandfather” introduces an Indian chant to accompany the music and it is fantastic.  I have to admit to being entranced by the music on this album.  There is a eerie sense of comfort that is achieved when you lose yourself within the music – and it's not hard to do.  I love this album and its uses of multiple styles of flutes.  Having heard this album, I've become a DeMaria fan. ****



Review - Jason Ricci and New Blood - Done With the Devil - CD

This album is a satisfying collection of classic blues-drenched music filled with the demonic force of Ricci's harmonica playing.  Ricci, backed with a seasoned group of Bluesmen who can sit with anyone, anywhere, has released an album that can be listened to over and over again.  Frankly, it could be even be considered near classic.  There isn't a broken or uninteresting song in the lot.  These boys are hell-bent for Blues perfection, and it shows.  The dust stirred up during the recording of this winner  likely just wanted to get up and move to these genuine tunes.  These boys have been at the crossroads.  Get it!  ****



Introduction - Heartless Bastards - Austin

This Austin, TX band by way of Dayton OH, has released their third album on Fat Possum Records in January of this year. Named The Mountain, it contains an exhilarating blend of styles to make this one of the more exciting albums of the year. We highly recommend you try Heartless Bastards out by sampling music at their MySpace page.










Copyright 2002-2009 Matthew Rowe.
All rights reserved.All trademarks are properties of their respective owners.
Disclaimer: various news pieces may state a specific media publication or program as a source. All other news is considered 'rumour' only. That goes double for release dates.

212 Frech

"Even though most of the people I knew in my youth are gone, I still reach out to them..." Norman Maclean - Paraphrase

"...we should enjoy every sandwich." -- Warren Zevon
"Buy the ticket, take the ride." -- Hunter S Thompson
"...you best wake up 'fore tomorrow comes creepin' in...: -- Mark Farner (Grand Funk Railroad)
"We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be." -- Kurt Vonnegut
"Because they wouldn't let me go for three..." -- Woody Hayes (OSU)
"Show me peaceful days before my youth has gone" -- Neil Diamond (Serenade)