Posted tagged ‘1983’

B is for Bowen, C is for Clemons

September 26, 2010

Some shuffling of things that usually are in the dining room has limited access to the LPs in the office. Only the top shelf in one of the racks is easy to reach, so tonight’s selection on The Midnight Tracker comes from the beginning of the alphabet.

In 1983, with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band between albums and tours, sax player Clarence Clemons put together a band on the side. Clarence Clemons and the Red Bank Rockers — named for Red Bank, New Jersey, where Clemons briefly owned a club in the early ’80s — put out one record.

“Rescue” is full of spirited, blue-collar R&B and rock, the kind you’d hear from a bar band. Which is exactly what the Red Bank Rockers appeared to be, albeit with one well-known sax player.

On this record, Clemons wisely leaves the lead vocals to John “J.T.” Bowen, whose wonderfully rough voice is reminiscent of Springsteen, Wilson Pickett and any number of R&B shouters.

We know plenty about Clemons, thanks to his work with Springsteen, but Bowen is a bit of a mystery man.

In this 1986 interview, Bowen discusses his career in a way that suggests a guy who’s struggling to make it, in any number of ways. He’s seemingly a guy regionally known — he says he’s from Crisfield, Maryland, crab capital of the world — who never got a bigger shot at the spotlight. Al-Vis, a veteran Asbury Park guitarist, wrote earlier this year that Bowen is believed to have died some years ago.

On “Rescue,” though, J.T. Bowen is young and vibrant, a strong complement to Clemons’ considerable talent.

That said, I hadn’t listened to it in a long time and couldn’t remember any of the cuts, save for “Resurrection Shuffle,” the old Ashton, Gardner and Dyke hit from 1971. Maybe that’s why I bought it all those years ago.

So how does “Rescue” hold up? Does it appeal to anyone besides Springsteen completists?

I’d say nicely and yes. After giving it another spin, “Rescue” is now what it was then — a pleasant way to spend 45 minutes. It’s the kind of energetic R&B and rock to which you can kick back and enjoy a cold one, or get up and dance if so inclined. Can’t ask for much more.

“A Man In Love,” “Heartache #99,” “Savin’ Up” and “Resurrection Shuffle,” Clarence Clemons and the Red Bank Rockers, from “Rescue,” 1983. This is Side 2. It runs 17:28. It’s out of print.

Clemons co-wrote the first two cuts. “Savin’ Up” is a Springsteen cover, with The Boss on rhythm guitar.

Clemons recorded three more solo LPs from 1985 to 1995, but never another with the Red Bank Rockers.

If you’d like to hear more of Clarence Clemons and the Red Bank Rockers, Wolfgang’s Vault has live shows from a Philadelphia club on Nov. 25, 1983 (early and late shows) and on Jan. 22, 1984.

All over the place

August 29, 2008

Pick up any Dave Edmunds album, and you’re likely to take a trip through a variety of classic rock, rockabilly, blues and country tunes, all rendered in a loving and distinctive style by the Welsh guitar great.

Interestingly, though, Edmunds is all too often remembered these days for his work with ELO’s Jeff Lynne during the mid-’80s. Lynne put his signature sound on two of Edmunds’ albums from that time — “Information” in 1983 and “Riff Raff” in 1984.

I’m sitting here listening to Side 1 of “Information.” Lynne produced two cuts, and it was the first time anyone else had produced even part of an album by Edmunds. But once you get past the first cut, it sounds like a fairly typical Edmunds album.

Side 1 starts with “Slipping Away,” which was written and produced by Lynne (and was Edmunds’ biggest U.S. hit since “I Hear You Knocking” in 1970, reaching No. 39 in the charts).

After that, Edmunds delivers a faithfully upbeat cover of NRBQ’s “I Want You Bad,” then channels Peter Wolf on a cover of “Wait,” one of the earliest originals by the J. Geils Band.

After a brief but interesting return to synth (and perhaps vocoder) on “The Watch On My Wrist,” Edmunds finishes the side with a Cajun-flavored cover of Otis Blackwell’s “The Shape I’m In.”

Listen to Side 1 for yourself.

“Slipping Away,” “Don’t You Double,” “I Want You Bad,” “Wait,” “The Watch On My Wrist” and “The Shape I’m In,” Dave Edmunds, from “Information,” 1983. It runs 18:42. (The album link is to a two-fer CD that also features “D.E. 7th,” his 1982 album.)

“Slipping Away” … “Slipping Away” … yeah, you know that one. Here’s why. Here’s the video from 1983.

Power pop’s enduring power

March 22, 2008

Cheap Trick usually is mentioned first when the phrase “Midwestern power pop” is thrown around. And rightly so.

Tonight, though, we have a somewhat more obscure, but no less tasty sampling of Midwestern power pop for you.

The Elvis Brothers — Rob, Graham and Brad — came out of Champaign, Ill., in 1981. They made a name for themselves in the early ’80s on the Midwest college and club circuit, playing early Elvis covers and their own songs.

With Rob on lead guitar and vocals, Graham on bass and vocals and Brad on the stand-up drum kit, the lads put on legendarily good-natured and energetic shows. Those shows deftly mixed original, Beatlesque pop and early Elvis-era rockabilly.

Graham Elvis offers some entertaining stories from their touring days in the notes about “Analog 88,” his 2006 solo release.

One remarkable show — an opening set for the Clash at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago during the Combat Rock tour — drew the attention of Cheap Trick manager Ken Adamany. So, of course, the Elvis Brothers started touring in support of Cheap Trick. Adamany also helped get them a record deal with CBS’ Portrait label.

In 1983, they debuted with “Movin’ Up.” Side 1, which we have for you tonight, is as bright, as energetic, as charming, as good as power pop got in the early ’80s. It received good reviews, radio airplay and some MTV exposure.

The Elvis Brothers did those two albums on Portrait — the other was “Adventure Time” in 1985 — and then an indie release, “Now Dig This,” in 1992. That was it.

I have only the debut album, but it’s a good memory from that time. I played it often. Give it a spin, and maybe you’ll dig it, too.

elvisbrosmovinuplp.jpg

“(I Know You) Shake It,” “It’s So Hard,” “Hidden in a Heartbeat,” “Hey Tina,” “Red Dress” and “Fire in the City,” the Elvis Brothers, from “Movin’ Up,” 1983. It runs 18:26.

“Movin’ Up” is out of print. Both of the Portrait albums were released on one CD in 1995, but that also is out of print. Six of the 12 cuts on “Movin’ Up” are available on “The Graham Elvis Brothers,” a 2007 release.