Were he still walking among us, today would’ve been Ronnie James Dio’s 72nd birthday, and there’s no question that it’s depressing to recall that, alas, he succumbed to stomach cancer on May 16, 2010, but with the release earlier this year of the all-star tribute album, This Is Your Life: Ronnie James Dio, it’s clear that the legendary heavy metal rocker is a far cry from being forgotten.
38 years ago today, Rod Stewart found himself sitting atop Billboard’s Top 200 album chart with A Night on the Town, an effort so beloved that it continues to be held up by fans as one of the reasons why they were able to tolerate him spending so much time on those damned Great American Songbook albums.
Although you kids with your CDs and MP3s won’t appreciate the fact that the album’s two sides were designated as “Slow” and “Fast,” surely anyone can appreciate the opening track of A Night on the Town: “Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright),” a romantic ballad written by Stewart which instantly became a dancefloor favorite for a generation, not to mention a #1 pop hit. From there, it’s onto another classic, with Stewart taking on Cat Stevens’ “The First Cut is the Deepest” and, as he’s done with so many other covers over the years, thoroughly putting his own stamp on the material. (He also took it to #21 on the singles charts.) The remainder of the “Slow” side is dedicated to two further Stewart originals: “Fool for You” and “The Killing of Georgie (Part I and II),” with the latter track – which made it to #30 on the Billboard Hot 100 – often held up as one of his finest ‘70s efforts.
19 years ago today, when Jerry Garcia stepped off the stage after the Grateful Dead’s performance at Soldier Field, neither he nor anyone else knew that he’d just completed what would prove to be his final concert as the band’s frontman. But he had.
In truth, though, Garcia hadn’t been in the best of health for some time – indeed, Phil Lesh observed in his memoir, Searching for the Sound: My Life with the Grateful Dead, that Garcia’s physical and mental acuity were both far less than 100% – and, although he’d been clean for several years, he returned to using drugs to help numb the pain, leading to a stint at the Betty Ford Center not long after his final show with the Dead, after which he moved to Serenity Knolls, a treatment center in Forest Knolls, California, which is where he died on August 9, 1995, having suffered a heart attack.
New this week in the Rhino Room at iTunes:
Big Daddy, Cruisin’ Through the Rhino Years: To call Big Daddy a cover band is to come nowhere close to describing how much fun it is to hear these guys tackle tunes by everyone from Bruce Springsteen and the Beatles to Survivor and Sir Mix-a-Lot in the style of rock ‘n’ roll artists from the ‘50s and early ‘60s. Their Wikipedia page suggests that they were “among the first groups to create mash-ups,” and while that phrasing makes them sound perhaps a bit more important to music history than they really are, Big Daddy certainly has a gift for melding the sounds of two disparate artists together. Take, for instance, their complete re-recording of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which found them crooning “With a Little Help from My Friends” like Johnny Mathis and “A Day in the Life” like a Buddy Holly song. If you’re a longtime fan, we’ll close by letting you know that this 21-track set features the 16 songs from their previous greatest-hits collection (The Best of Big Daddy) while also adding “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” “The Way You Make Me Feel,” “Baby Got Back,” “It’s So Hard to Say I Love You,” and “Addicted to Love.”
Luka Bloom, The Platinum Collection: It’s possible that those of you who came of age listening to Christy Moore may still only see Luka Bloom as Moore’s little brother, Barry – that’s how he was billed on his first few albums, you know – but for those who were introduced to Bloom in 1990 when he burst back onto the scene bearing a new name, a big-time American record deal (Reprise), and a cracking little single called “Delirious,” they’re more likely to wonder, “So who’s this Christy Moore guy?” This compilation isn’t completely career-spanning, as Bloom’s been relatively prolific over the years, but it’s a nice sampler for those looking for a simple one-disc distillation of his career. (Plus, it includes his truly fantastic cover of LL Cool J’s “I Need Love.”)
It’s not what you’d call a hard and fast rule, but when we post an entry in our “Doing a 180” feature to spotlight a new release on 180-gram vinyl, we generally tend to only spotlight one artist at a time. This week, though, we’re playing a little bit of catch-up, so we’re combining a couple of releases into a single piece, a la our weekly Digital Roundup, so hopefully you’ll forgive us for trying to condense what would ordinarily be a trio of posts into a single entry, and please trust us when we tell you that they’re all very much worthy of their own posts…particularly this first one.
Syd Barrett, The Madcap Laughs / Barrett / Opel – There are those whose knowledge of Pink Floyd starts and ends with whatever’s been forced down their throat by classic-rock radio, which means that there are countless casual fans that haven’t a clue about the decidedly psychedelic era when the band was fronted by someone other than Roger Waters or David Gilmour. That said, diving into the back catalog of Syd Barrett is an endeavor which should never, ever start with his solo work, because he’s definitely a musician whose story is best appreciated in chronological order. As such, you should first go check out Pink Floyd’s The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, A Saucerful of Secrets, and Relics, and then dive into Barrett’s own output, which really only consists of these three albums: the two studio efforts he released in 1970 – The Madcap Laughs and Barrett – and the 14-track compilation entitled Opel, which was originally released in 1988 and features alternate takes and previously-unreleased songs. They’re an acquired taste, to be certain, but they’re a part of Pink Floyd’s history that every fan of the band should hear.