By Jacob Katel
By Laurie Charles
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
By Christina Henriques
Three rules: Never linger on one rhythm too long. A solo can never be too complex. And if something sounds too jazzy, immediately rock it out. The authors of this philosophy are C.P.R. and they're not what you might expect. (The initials, by the way, stand for Randy Coven on bass, Al Pitrelli on guitar, and John O. Reilly on drums.) Rooted in jazz but streamlined into rock, this eponymous debut is heavy on substance and appropriately named considering the trio seeks to resuscitate the dying art of instrumental rock.
The merry band of musicians' musicians offers some serious fodder for thought and some serious fun on the trivia front. The track "E-11" is named after the room Coven and famed ax slinger Steve Vai once practiced in while studying at Berklee. And "Sbass Secrets," dedicated to Coven's guitar column, begins with a sloppy lick that Coven cleaned up by experimenting with Vai's Eventide Harmonizer programs. And they're willing to throw in a vocal, as in their version of AC/DC's "Back in Black," which features singer Randy Jackson of Zebra, plus solos by Vito Bratta (White Lion), Zakk Wylde (Ozzy Osbourne), electric violinist Mark Wood, and session whiz Mark Hitt. Pitrelli himself reels out riffs that leave Angus's original solo at the starting gate.
They also brought in pal Steve Morse to abridge a song originally called "Hour Mouse" into "Minute Mouse." Nice editing when you can get him. And speaking of that, two of Morse's three solos were hacked out. Simon Says: Let's hear them.
What we're left with is either an album that will have other players intimidated to the point of never picking up their instruments again, or a welcome addendum to the instructional guides of Mel Bay.
The DiY Series
The Stiff Records Box Set
By Greg Baker
If I read one more critic's reiteration of the Meaning of Punk, or worse, the Meaning of New Wave, I'm gonna pull a Sid Vicious. The second half of the Seventies was not the second half of the Sixties, sports, and obnoxiousness, a talent though it may be, is not a virtue. Admittedly much of the music of those glory days is virtuous indeed, but even so the genre was never, as Rolling Stone critic Ira Robbins recently suggested, "a metronome for a chaotic world." That sort of aggrandizement is exactly what caused the music classified as "punk" and "new wave" to fade away long enough for the nostalgically correct to resurrect it. Punk and new wave, and any other form for that matter, was and is a bunch of people making songs, recording them, and other people buying and listening. I lent an ear to the Sex Pistols and Devo and the Ramones when they first came out. But at the same time I was also happily indulging in Springsteen and Seger and (God forgive me) Van Halen.
So can we please set aside the cultural tie-ins, the media creations, the alleged agendas, the bigger picture, and pop that safety pin out of our cheek? Just listen.
And be selective, because unlike the colorful singles and poster-included albums of the late Seventies' independent-label emergence, we're talking serious investment of cake with Rhino's packaging of (some of) the best of that era. The DiY series consists of nine CDs (173 songs), the Stiff Records Box Set crams 96 songs onto four discs. Frankly, I'm not sure anyone needs or wants to hear all of this, but that's a problem inherent to any compilation. On the other hand, if you grabbed up all that groovy import stuff way back then, you can now have a bunch of your fave music in the handy-dandy and wholly anti-punk CD configuration. If you're too young to have been there, here's your primer.
DiY features two CDs representing British punk from 1976-78, two of U.K. pop from 1976-79, two of American power pop from 1975-80, and three representing various scenes A Boston, L.A., and New York. Without nitpicking over what was chosen and what was neglected, I'll just say that Blank Generation, which culls from the Big Apple pie from 1975 to 1978, is the first of the nine I'd buy. No Talking Heads, true, but vintage takes by the Ramones, Blondie, Patti Smith, Television, Richard Hell and the Voidoids (yes, "Blank Generation"), Dead Boys, Heartbreakers, and others. The rest of the series is pretty much hit and miss, a matter of taste.
There is no such selective choice with the Stiff stuff, but the four slabs contained are more worthwhile than any four from DiY. Before going out of business in 1987, Stiff spawned and nurtured some of the major artists of any generation, blank or not: Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Graham Parker, Devo, and, of course, Pookiesnackenburger. Rhino smartly allotted the most slots to the almighty Ian Dury, who checks in with "What a Waste!," "Inbetweenies," "Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll," "Razzle in My Pocket," and "My Old Man." Hit me, hit me, hit me... .
I'm glad someone finally decided to mine a neglected aspect of one of my favorite musical eras, and no one does this sort of thing better than Rhino, whose Gary Stewart spent three years putting together the DiY project. Now if we can just violently overthrow the tired mores of a bloated and useless culture by creating anarchy in the streets as an anecdote to the dehumanization of a metronome for a chaotic society....