Author Archives: JT

Stars and Strikes: Baseball and America in the Bicentennial Summer of ’76 by Dan Epstein

Stars and Strikes Dan Epstein

Stars and Strikes: Baseball and America in the Bicentennial Summer of ’76
by Dan Epstein
Thomas Dunne Books, 2014
400 pages

America celebrated 200 years in 1976, and baseball, as America’s pastime, played a central role in the country’s celebration. Author Dan Epstein chronicles the ups and downs of the season and the personalities that kept baseball in the headlines all year long in Stars and Strikes. From unassuming rookies like Mark Fidrych to sulking superstars like Reggie Jackson, over-the-top owners like Ted Turner and Charlie Finley, baseball had it all in 1976. The Yankees are prominently featured in Epstein’s book, with the booming personalities of George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin making their mark throughout the season.

Each chapter shares its title with a popular song from the era, from artists such as Boston, Thin Lizzy, and Parliament. Epstein does a wonderful job of weaving the spirit of ’76 throughout the baseball narrative, including Rick Monday‘s finest play on the field in Los Angeles when he rescued the American flag from a would-be arsonist. Reliving the wacky (Chicago’s shorts) and the wonderful (Birdmania), Epstein covers it all starting in November 1975 through the Reds’ second straight championship and the escalating contracts following the 1976 season. Baseball historians will love Stars and Strikes.

Learn more about Thomas Dunne Books.

Purchase Stars and Strikes: Baseball and America in the Bicentennial Summer of ’76 by Dan Epstein.

R.I.P. Dick Wagner

(December 14, 1942 – July 30, 2014)

Guitarist and songwriter Dick Wagner, best known for his work with Alice Cooper, has passed away of respiratory failure. Wagner co-wrote six of the songs on Cooper’s classic 1975 album, Welcome To My Nightmare, including the title track, “Only Women Bleed,” and concert staple “Department of Youth.” Wagner also contributed guitar work to KISS’ Destroyer and Revenge albums.

Photoset: Gogol Bordello (July 29, 2014 @ Bogart’s, Cincinnati OH)

Gogol Bordello live in Cincinnati Ohio Bogarts July 29 2014

The gypsy punks from Manhattan, Gogol Bordello stopped by Bogart’s in Cincinnati, Ohio, Tuesday night to promote their latest album, Pura Vida Conspiracy. Eugene Hütz was in top form, entertaining the crowd with every chord he strummed and every word he sang. Violinst Sergey Ryabtsev as a joy to watch on the stage, and the newest member of the group, Pasha Newmer, relished his time on stage playing accordion.

The group played several cuts from the latest album, including “We Rise Again,” “Dig Deep Enough,” “Lost Innocent World,” and “Amen.” The movement on stage was non-stop, and the audience was in a frenzy throughout the show.

Gogol Bordello live in Cincinnati Ohio Bogarts July 29 2014

Want to see more photos from the Gogol Bordello show? Read the rest of this entry

Photoset: Man Man (July 29, 2014 @ Bogart’s, Cincinnati OH)

Man Man live at Bogarts in Cincinnati Ohio July 29 2014

Man Man from Philadelphia invaded Cincinnati Tuesday night, opening for Gogol Bordello at Bogart’s. A high-energy group led by singer/pianist Honus Honus, the band played a lively 45-minute set to get the crowd warmed up for the headliners. Honus Honus, Pow Pow, and the others looked like they were having a ball on the stage, helping to amp up the audience’s enthusiasm.

Man Man live at Bogarts in Cincinnati Ohio July 29 2014

See more photos of Man Man’s performance… Read the rest of this entry

SATURN Premiere Song From Debut Album Ascending (Live in Space) on Decibel Magazine’s “Deciblog”

Out August 5th in North America on Rise Above Records

Saturn

SATURN will release their debut album Ascending (Live in Space) on August 5th in North America via Rise Above Records. The album can be pre-ordered from Amazon on Vinyl and CD. Today Decibel Magazine’s “Deciblog” unveils another track from the Swedes. The song called “So, You Have Chosen Death, can be exclusively streamed HERE.

Check out the song “Rokktori” HERE.

Heavy metal isn’t rocket science. The genre’s fundamental values and sonic staples may have been continually refined and redefined over the last four decades, but its core components remain the same as ever: volume, power, passion and imagination. And that’s where SATURN come in. While metal’s diversity has never been greater, there will always be something exhilarating about hearing a young band channeling the effervescent spirit of heavy music’s founding fathers; adding enough of their own identity to side-step dead-eyed repetition, but always exhibiting a profound love for and understanding of what makes the best music engage, endure and enlighten. SATURN’s debut album Ascending encapsulates that idea with exquisitely naturalistic fervor. This is sound of the past, present and future colliding in a shower of riffs, melodies and otherworldly magic.

Drawn from a steady diet of Sabbath, UFO, Budgie, Deep Purple, Rainbow and, perhaps most importantly, the Judas Priest of Sad Wings Of Destiny and Sin After Sin, the SATURN sound is one that declares a sincere and unapologetic debt to the greats of a bygone era, but this is no lazy exercise in retro posturing. Instead, Ascending conjures its own distinctive world of epic grandeur and gritty oomph via the dexterous weaving of ageless, hallowed ingredients and a jolting injection of contemporary exuberance and verve. Songs like “Rokktori” and “Tower Of Terror” exude both a deep affinity with the blues and an intuitive grasp of what occurred when metal’s original blueprint mutated into the tougher tirades of NWOBHM.

From the fiery clatter of opener “So, You Have Chosen Death”, through to astral mystery tour of the closing “Moonstone”, Ascending is an album that oozes a sense of timeless wonderment, as purity of intent and a fizzing, forceful delivery combine amid a batch of songs that revel in their mastery of hooks, grooves and hypnotic power. SATURN are dealing with universal truths, both in terms of their irresistibly classic gait and the conceptual blood flow that keeps the band’s collective heart pumping like a fleshy metronome.

Hailing from the cities of Boras and Ulricehamn in south western Sweden, SATURN are further proof that the Swedes have an uncanny knack for producing bands that skillfully harness the vibrant essence of metal’s early years while bringing something entirely new and invigorating to the table. Beyond that, Ascending is an album that proclaims its creators as true originals and dedicated servants of rock’n’roll itself. Raw, untutored and freewheeling, and yet effortlessly succinct and emotionally impactful, SATURN’s debut is a thrillingly accomplished statement of intent that also points to a cavernous well of future potential that these young diehards are eager to start delving into. One step at a time is the only way to go, and SATURN are striding forward with supreme confidence.

Ascending (Live in Space) Track Listing:
1. So, You Have Chosen Death
2. Rokktori
3. Over the Influence
4. Leadersheep
5. Peasant
6. Tower of Terror
7. Last Man in Space
8. Moonstone

For More Info Visit:
facebook.com/SaturnSweden
riseaboverecords.com
facebook.com/riseaboverecords

The newest Hall of Famers

HOF

Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and Frank Thomas were formally inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame today. Three of the best players during the 1990s all entered Cooperstown on their time on the ballot.

For a larger version of the above “fun cards,” visit TWJ cards on tumblr.

JT’s Ultimate Mixtape: Jimi Hendrix covers edition

Jimi Hendrix covers

Jimi Hendrix is one of the most innovative guitarists of all-time. Much of his music, which seemed otherworldly in the 1960s when first released, still seems futuristic today. It is timeless rock and roll, and his influence will forever be heard on rock radio.

Two of Hendrix’s well-known songs, “All Along the Watchtower” and “Hey Joe,” are actually cover songs. The left-handed axeman put his unmistakable stamp on both of them and the originals are all but forgotten; honestly, when is the last time you heard Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower”?

Not only did Hendrix take the music of other people and put his own spin on it, others have paid tribute to the fallen icon by covering his music over the past 45 years. Below are just a few of those covers. In creating this list, I have attempted to avoid “tribute albums,” focusing rather on bands who chose to include a Hendrix song on their own records. I have also limited each artist to only one cover song, so Stevie Ray Vaughan only appears once in the list. Further, each song is only represented once, so “Fire” does not appear 3,752 times.

Of course, none of them measure up to the greatness of Jimi Hendrix, but it is good to see such a diverse collection of artists offering up their versions of both classics and forgotten tracks and keeping the music of Hendrix alive for younger generations to discover.

Unbreakable – Knockout (2014)

Ubreakable

Unbreakable
Knockout
Dark Star Records, 2014
39 minutes

When Herman Rarebell is your producer and lyricist, it’s impossible to escape comparisons with Rarebell’s former band, Scorpions. The influence on Knockout is so overwhelming, it is sometimes difficult to tell if Unbreakable has a personality of their own. That said, this young German band does an excellent job of mimicking their idols, on both the rockers and ballads.

Rarebell—who wrote “Rock You Like A Hurricane”—writes or co-writes the lyrics on every song, while drummer Alex Ries shares duties on eight of the album’s tracks. There are some adult words sprinkled throughout the tracks. “Bad Blood” is a hard rocker that is diminished by such lyrics. Al Crespo’s handling of the vocals is good, though with a very strong accent that is difficult to comprehend at times (not unlike Klaus Meine).

The strongest songs are the lead single “Rock the Nightlife,” “Game of Life,” and the ballad “In Your Heart.” The lyrical content on “Crazy Cat Lady” is a little goofy and seems more suited to Weird Al Yankovic, but the rest of the album is solid in the hard rock tradition of the 1980s. Umbreakable’s Knockout is recommended for fans of Scorpions.

Tracklist:
1. Knockout
2. Rock the Nightlife
3. Come Back To Me
4. Bad Blood
5. Obsession
6. Crazy Cat Lady
7. In Your Heart
8. Good Times
9. Back to The Roots
10. Game of Life
11. We Are Dreamers

Unbreakable is:
Al Crespo – vocals
Martin Ries – guitaris
Pascal Alles – guitars, backing vocals
Alex Ries – drums
Lukas Mittler – bass

Learn more about Unbreakable.

Learn more about Dark Star Records.

Purchase Unbreakable – Knockout.

Mudhoney: The Sound and the Fury from Seattle by Keith Cameron (2014)

Mudhoney book

Mudhoney: The Sound and the Fury from Seattle
by Keith Cameron
Voyageur Press, 2014
304 pages

Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam. Those are the names most often associated with the Seattle music scene of the late 1980s and early 1990s. But there is another band, one that predated the explosion of Kurt Cobain in the mainstream and probably influenced him more than he would ever admit: Mudhoney, comprised of Mark Arm, Matt Lukin, Dan Peters, and Steve Peters. Largely forgotten by so-called fans of grunge music, Mudhoney never achieved the commercial success of their peers—which was never the band’s aim. “They’re four guys who got together and played music for fun, and the grand plan ended there.”

Author Keith Cameron’s definitive work on the overlooked grunge rockers covers it all, starting with each member’s upbringing and musical influences, early endeavors, and coming together to form the classic lineup. The band received critical accolades for their releases on Sub Pop, and disdain for the materials released by Reprise. Drug addiction and turmoil among the band members, dwindling crowds and IRS audits were among the many struggles the band faced during their career, ultimately leading to bassist Matt Lukin’s departure from the band. Soldiering on despite many difficulties, the band still exists today on a smaller scale, playing smaller venues, but still releasing new music for fans. While many of the grunge bands of the past have abandoned their roots, Mudhoney embraces them.

Whether you are a fan of the musical output or not, the story of Mudhoney deserves to be told. A story of realistic expectations and resilience through adversity. Cameron’s Mudhoney: The Sound and the Fury from Seattle leaves nothing out, and is a worthy addition to any rock fan’s bookshelf.

Learn more about Voyageur Press.

Purchase Mudhoney: The Sound and the Fury from Seattle by Keith Cameron.

No time for a “real” post today…

So check out this awesome short film by Nash Edgerton called “Spider.”

How Weird Are You?

Mandatory Fun Weird Al Yankovic

Every day since last Monday, Weird Al Yankovic has released a new music video to promote his latest album, Mandatory Fun. Have you been keeping up with the Weirdness? Not all of the videos are available on YouTube yet, so here are some links for you to check them out:

JT’s Ultimate Mixtape: Aerosmith edition

JTs Ultimate Mixtape Aerosmith edition

One of the greatest bands in the history of American rock and roll, Aerosmith is a name synonymous with classic rock. The group’s early catalog is vastly superior to the material they have produced in the last twenty years, but there are a few recent gems as well. Since the best band from Boston is coming to Cincinnati this Tuesday, I thought it only fitting to give them the “JT’s Ultimate Mixtape” treatment. If you’re not familiar with “JT’s Ultimate Mixtape,” there are a few rules:

  • Every studio album must be represented by one and only one song.
  • That song does not have to be an official “single” released by the band to promote said album.
  • Compilation albums can be included, but only songs that are new, previously unreleased, or remixes of songs from prior albums are eligible for the list.
  • As for live albums, well, I’ve changed my mind a bit over time. I used to say they were a waste of time, but when a band has several strong songs on one album, sometimes a live album is the only way to sneak more than one of them on the Ultimate Mixtape tracklist.

So let’s do this…

JT’s Ultimate Mistape: Aerosmith edition

Of course, every decent compilation needs a bonus disc. Aerosmith has been included on a number of movie soundtracks, while Joe Perry and Steven Tyler have several side projects and guest spots on other artists’ releases. Here are some of the more notable…

Bonus Tracks

Wow, that’s a lot of material there, both in the official release category and the “bonus tracks.” Did I miss anything important? What songs would you replace in your own Ultimate Mixtape?

Check out prior editions of “JT’s Ultimate Mixtape”:

Who should be next?

R.I.P. James Garner

(April 7, 1928 – July 19, 2014)

James Garner

A versatile actor whose credits include The Rockford Files, Maverick, Space Cowboys, and 8 Simple Rules, James Garner passed away Saturday night.

Random Awesomeness (part 167)

Random Awesomeness


Purchase Ed Sheeran – X.

Fun Cards Submission: 1983 Fleer “Superstar Special” Jersey Boys

Jersey Boys Trout and Frazier 2014 MLB All-Star Game

Paying tribute to the “Superstar Specials” that appeared in Fleer sets from 1983 onward, TWJ contributor Patrick sent over this nice “Jersey Boys” card featuring Angels outfielder (and future Hall of Famer) Mike Trout and Reds third baseman Todd Frazier. Trout hails from Millville, NJ, while Frazier grew up over an hour away in Toms River. They were born about five and a half years apart, so I doubt they ever faced each other in competitions growing up, but the connection is still there. It was great seeing Frazier having so much fun in Minneapolis this year, and I hope he gets to experience that for many years to come.

While he was at it, Patrick had a little fun with one of the 2014 TWJ originals…

Trout Subway

Trout is a paid spokeman for Subway, and appears in this hilarious commercial for the restaurant chain:

Patrick’s “improvement” to my card definitely brought a smile to my face. Thanks again for all your great work, Patrick!

Fun Cards Submission: 1977 Topps “Turn Back The Clock” Todd Frazier and Derek Jeter

Jeter Frazier

Long before Todd Frazier put on a major league uniform, he stood next to Derek Jeter on a baseball diamond. As a member of the Little League World Series champion in 1998, Frazier and his teammates got to stand next to their Yankee counterparts before a game in New York. But Jeter wasn’t Frazier’s favorite Yankee at the time; find out here who Frazier actually wanted to be standing next to that day.

TWJ contributor Patrick sent over this fantastic “fun card” in the style of the 1977 Topps “Turn Back The Clock” subset. It’s neat to see how much Frazier has grown, and how little Jeter has changed in sixteen years. Even though Frazier now plays third base rather than shortstop, he still shares one thing with Jeter: both are class acts.

R.I.P. Johnny Winter

(February 23, 1944 – July 16, 2014)

Legendary guitarist Johnny Winter passed away Wednesday at the age of 70. He was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 2003.

1954: The Year Willie Mays and the First Generation of Black Superstars Changed Major League Baseball Forever by Bill Madden (2014)

1954 Bill Madden

1954
by Bill Madden
Da Capo Press, 2014
320 pages

The Brooklyn debut of Jackie Robinson in 1947 ushered in a change in the way baseball owners thought about race, but it took several years for the impact to be seen. In 1954, baseball fans saw for the first time an abundance superstars at the top of their game who were not white. Larry Doby with the Cleveland Indians, Willie Mays with the San Francisco Giants, Ernie Banks of the Chicago Cubs, and Minnie Minoso of the Chicago White Sox all impacted the game in their own ways. Doby and Mays starred in the World Series that year, Banks thrilled audiences as a rookie, and Minoso was selected as an All-Star for the fourth time.

Author Bill Madden looks back through history in 1954: The Year Willie Mays and the First Generation of Black Superstars Changed Major League Baseball Forever. A recipient of the Hall of Fame’s J. G. Taylor Spink Award, the New York Daily News writer brings the pennant race to life, and shows how those black players provided a spark to their respective teams. Madden also writes about Yankees general manager George Weiss and his reluctance to sign black players, Bill Veeck and his shenanigans and feuds with other owners that ultimately cost him his St. Louis Browns franchise, and a handful of anecdotes about Casey Stengel‘s antics with the Yankees that season.

Madden’s style is part journalistic, part storytelling. The journalistic tone is difficult to get through at times in this longer format, but when he becomes conversational in tone the book reads very quickly. Baseball historians will love 1954 and the perspective presented as it relates not only to our national pastime, but to the subject of race relations in the game and how much those relations have changed in the past sixty years.

Learn more about Da Capo Press.

Purchase 1954: The Year Willie Mays and the First Generation of Black Superstars Changed Major League Baseball Forever by Bill Madden.

I see many MVP awards in this guy’s future

Trout MVP

Mike Trout is a beast.

Midsummer memories

ESPN recently published a piece entitled “Midsummer Memories,” prompting their writers and analysts (including former players Barry Larkin, Rick Sutcliffe, and John Kruk) to recall their favorite moments in the All-Star Game. Even fans have their favorite memories.

The first All-Star Game I remember watching was the 1987 affair in Oakland. I had to get special permission to stay at my neighbor Dan’s house to watch the whole game. Eric Davis started in left field; the Reds were also represented by catcher Bo Diaz and relief pitcher John Franco. Ozzie Virgil of the Braves was also named to the team; he was dating one of my sister’s friends at the time and had signed a few cards for me (in ballpoint pen! The horror!). The game itself was an extra-inning pitching contest, finally ending after thirteen innings. Tim Raines drove in Virgil and shortstop Hubie Brooks in the top of the 13th, and the Mets’ Sid Fernandez was awarded the save when he held the AL scoreless in the bottom half.

The next year, the All-Star Game was held in Cincinnati, and the Reds sent Larkin, rookie third baseman Chris Sabo, and pitcher Danny Jackson. I attended the work-out day and Home Run Derby, and let me tell you, it would have been awesome if it actually happened. That was the only time the day-berfore festivities were cancelled due to rain. I was extremely disappointed. I can’t remember who was supposed to appear in the HRD that year; I’m sure Davis was among the sluggers scheduled to participate, along with Darryl Strawberry and Jose Canseco, and maybe Mark McGwire. Our seats were in the top section of Riverfront Stadium, but with the weather, the crowd had thinned out and we were able to sneak down to the field level. We worked our way up to the edge of the field, but I hadn’t brought anything with me for autographs, so I had to settle for a handshake from Astros’ pitcher Bob Knepper, who did not play in the game the next day. Even though the Home Run Derby was rained out, I still enjoyed being in the park and seeing all the players from so many different teams.

What memories will be made tonight? Will Devin Mesoraco hit a home run? Will Todd Frazier make a spectacular dive along the third base line and rob a future Hall of Famer of a sure double?

What are some of your favorite All-Star Game memories?

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